What if there are no coincidences?
Mike and Casey count their sick days, stock up on hotdogs, and run from gently swaying trees with returning panelist and artist, Roslyn Townsend and Ask an Atheist‘s Rebecca Friedman! This month, we’re diving into the meteoric rise, and precipitious fall of a promising filmmaker whose career trajectory still confuses us, M. Night Shyamalan.
We discuss his brief absolute dominance of both Hollywood and the box office with the Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. We explore his current status as the cinematic butt of many jokes with the Happening and After Earth. And we look at how the writer-director’s legacy remains a subject of debate, speculation, schadenfreude and commiseration.
“Mr. Glass” from Unbreakable by James Newton Howard
Previously titled: “Swing Away, M. Night”
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That was a really great conversation; great job, everyone.
Personally, I have to say that with the exception of Unbreakable, I really don’t like his films (although I’ve never seen the Sixth Sense, so in case that happens at some point I may revise my opinion). However, I think Rebecca really nailed it early on when she pointed out that his films, good or bad, tend to be really compelling – he really creates this atmosphere that sucks you in. But as you all noted, that’s just not enough to save pretentious and overwrought bombs like the Village or the Happening.
Just wanted to say that I was never particularly impressed with Shayamalan’s twistiness. The only one that seems to have a twist was The Sixth Sense, which I previewed the night before its release and predicted to my coworker 20 minutes in that Bruce Willis’s character was a ghost. The rest, well, the ones that had an outlandish element going in (aliens for Signs, superheroes for Unbreakable) didn’t have twists so much as that outlandish element was simply paid off. The others I’ve seen (The Village and The Happening) simply had stupidity shoehorned in, especially in the case of The Village with the ending reveal hamfisted on the last five minutes, not twists. A twist is something like the reveal in Fight Club, or in The Matrix. Frankly, I found it bizarre that this director was selected.
Specifically on The Village, though, I have an extreme issue with the founders (I haven’t finished the podcast if you covered this already.) They are portrayed as being sympathetic, but I don’t see how they can be interpreted as anything other than moral monsters. We all understand the pain of the loss of a loved one, but their collective reaction smacks of emotional immaturity, even instability, as well as a mind-boggling narcissism. It is very possible that the protagonist is blind because of the conditions that the founders chose to put them in, i.e. lacking modern medicine. We can only begin to guess at what other atrocities have occurred because of their decisions, not to mention the emotional abuse inherent in the whole ‘monster’ hoax. Furthermore, denying their descendants across to knowledge and history is a gross evil on their parts.
Continuing on The Village for a moment (I really hate the founder characters), the movie uses the tired old idiocy of idolizing the past. People do this all the time personally (‘things were better back in my day’) as well as historically (‘people back in X were more moral and industrious’) but this is almost always so laughably easy to disprove (or even prove the contrary) that I find it an incredibly infuriating. This retrospective on the attitude of the founders at the end, coupled with what I have already mentioned, makes this movie into simply trying to tell the child abusers’ side of things and make it sound good and valid, which is just stomach-turning.
Also, in a brief aside about Signs, I find the religious aspects of the movie a huge turn-off. While I am an atheist like the other panelists that mentioned disliking it, my reasons are slightly different. I disliked it because it portrays faith as being virtuous, which it most certainly is not, and while it is certainly was Chekov’s Arsenal it was also central that faith was necessary for it to work and that the rekindling of the protagonist’s faith is tied to the success of the family following the ‘prophecy.’
Regarding The Avatar Movie.
It was well reported when he started the project that he watched the cartoon series with his kids and they all loved it. His attempt to make that film was seemingly as an artist and a fan.
That said as a fan of the series, the movie is in my list of worst Adaptations (films!?) of all time. I’m more angry at him over this failure, then any of his other. Because now it’s unlikely we will ever see a proper fan service film to Avatar.