The guys recap the Academy Awards hosted by Seth MacFarlane and express a lack of understanding over the humorless reactions from much of the blogosphere. Then they discuss the new movie from Shane Carruth, UPSTREAM COLOR, and tell why you should definitely drink lots of coffee before sitting down for Abbas Kiarostami’s new film LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE.
by Michael Neelsen
SPOILER ALERT: The following article goes into detail on certain elements of the new film Super 8, so if you wish to know nothing about the movie before seeing it, read no further until you’ve seen the film.
I have been looking forward to Super 8 ever since I saw the first trailer some time ago. I have never been much of a J.J. Abrams fan, but Steven Spielberg’s work from the 80′s and 90′s was supposedly the primary influence behind this film and I adore those films (E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jaws, Jurassic Park, etc.). Super 8 was going to bring me right back to my childhood and, according to critics, remind me “why I go to the movies” in the first place. It was going to have that magic feeling that you felt watching the ending to Close Encounters for the first time, or when E.T. first started to fly.
I began to expect something of a Quentin Tarantino-ization of Spielberg films. When Tarantino made Kill Bill (or almost every other movie in his oeuvre), he was taking elements of past films he loved and forging them into something new. For example, there’s a shot in Kill Bill Volume 2 which is taken right out of The Searchers, but it’s given a new context and new life in Tarantino’s universe. Everyone is inspired by things. Seems natural to pay homage to those who paved the way for you.
So I was pumped to see Super 8.
I’ll start with what I liked about the movie (because if you haven’t anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, right?). It got the 80′s Spielbergian tone down pat. This movie genuinely feels like a lost movie from the 80′s that’s been locked away in a vault all this time and just discovered, dusted off and tossed into multiplexes. I think the acting by the children is wonderful. It isn’t a small thing that these child actors can act genuinely well on camera, and then when they are acting within the film for their own little movie, they act terribly like any normal kid. That actually takes some talent. I thought the cinematography was very nice (not counting those horribly invasive lens flares every five minutes). Overall, it was a perfectly entertaining way to spend an evening at the movies. It’s certainly better than the majority of crap that comes out of Hollywood today.
But I wasn’t transported back to my childhood. I wasn’t reminded “why I go to the movies” as the critics have promised. In fact, I was reminded why I don’t go to the movies as much as I once did.
J.J. Abrams doesn’t seem comfortable merely paying homage to the Spielberg universe. He wants to take all Spielberg’s films, toss them in a blender, and literally pour out the exact same ingredients in a different order – but make no mistake, they are the same ingredients. Nothing new. And they don’t taste nearly as good as the original recipe.
As I was watching Super 8 as an embodiment of the film’s target demographic (film geeks and Spielberg fans), my brain kept interrupting the action on the screen and whispering to me, “Okay, we’re doing Jaws now. Okay, now we’re doing E.T. Now we’re doing The Goonies.” Once the inciting incident of the insanely masturbatory train crash everyone has seen (and laughed at) in the trailer takes place, as a fan of Spielberg films, you can’t stop seeing the ingredients pop up in every scene – and not in a good way. It’s like you’re on “Steven Spielberg – The Amusement Park Ride”.
Look! There’s a group of flashlights in the distance running towards us through tall grass (E.T.). Oh, haha, that family of kids is so chaotic, just like the family in Close Encounters (only on steroids – the Close Encounters family was never this obnoxious). Listen to the wind blow through those tree branches as that man stands by the telephone wires and we hear giant footsteps in the background – it’s just like Jurassic Park! Oh, watch that cop run around town, talk to angry townspeople and resist the authorities in his quest to “find out what’s going on” just like the sheriff in Jaws! Oh, now the kids are in some creepy cave and putting together childish plans using toys to trick the baddie – just like in The Goonies!
I felt like Abrams was sitting next to me elbowing me in the ribs every scene and whispering, “Remember this one? Remember that?” After a while, I wanted to punch Abrams in the face and say, “Dude, if I wanted to watch those movies, I would just go watch those movies.“
In my opinion, this is not an homage to Spielberg films. This is a ripoff of Spielberg films. Let me explain using the example of Kill Bill again.
Quentin Tarantino has mastered the art of the homage. He takes elements from different films and filmmakers and forges them into something which bears the stamp of those influences, but stands anew as its own work. Kill Bill is fused together from spaghetti westerns, kung fu films, American pop culture, etc. Using the example I stated earlier about the shot taken from The Searchers, Tarantino doesn’t literally lift that shot. First, he makes his black-and-white (The Searchers is in color). He doesn’t have cowboys in the frame – rather, he has a pregnant woman in a wedding dress. He doesn’t have “The Sons of the Pioneers” playing on the soundtrack — instead, he uses the score from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
My point is, he has mixed the shot from The Searchers with various other elements from other films along with his own new additions to the work. It now stands as a uniquely Kill Bill moment. You don’t watch that scene and feel as though Tarantino is nudging you to remember The Searchers (if anything, you feel as though Tarantino would rather you didn’t notice the reference at all).
This is not the case with Abrams and Super 8. Abrams is taking all his ingredients from one filmmaker, one genre, one era in cinema, and trying his hand at replicating it. And since its roots are so easily traced, in our minds we are constantly comparing them, and it’s just flat-out not as good as the original stuff, which then begs the question, “Why do it in the first place?”
As the SlashFilm review points out, Spielberg’s films are so much more focused and simple than Super 8, and they allow us more time to become endeared to the characters and their struggles. When Super 8 tries to cram more plotlines than are necessary into the running time, we start to question why things are the way they are. We start to ask ourselves, “What does Abrams take us for?” I don’t buy for one second that the father character is that uninterested in the well-being of his only child to be more concerned with the townspeople during a massive military takeover of the town and a mysterious (but not too mysterious) monster attack. He actually needs to be reminded that he has a son by a friend? Please. Give me a break. Abrams may be trying to create a child’s perspective on parents in his treatment of this character (that parents don’t really care about kids), but it insults our intelligence and gives the whole story the stench of childishness.
And oh, Lord, the humor in the film (or at times, lack thereof). I’ll sum up the entire approach to comedy in this film in one word: inappropriateness. That is the core of every single joke. “Oh, that guy just asked the kid if he’d like to buy pot from him. It’s funny ’cause it’s inappropriate!” “Oh, that child is beating the hell out of the kitchen table with a bat. It’s funny ’cause it’s inappropriate!” “Oh, the kid calls his friend fat in front of a waitress. It’s funny ’cause it’s inappropriate!”
Also, the ending to the film makes ZERO sense. Again, spoiler alert. So this monster/alien has been trapped here on Earth, a’la E.T. right? And we know that all he wants is to go home (like E.T.). The way we know this is because whenever he touches someone, that person feels the alien’s feelings and can read its thoughts (like E.T.). Okay. But then in the end, all that it takes to get the monster/alien to leave Earth is a little boy yelling at him, “Just go!” and having a ham-fisted meeting of the hearts with lines like, “Sometimes bad things happen. I understand. But you have to go on living.” (Psst! He’s talking about his mom! Do you get it yet?! Huh?! Huh?!)
After this exchange, the alien just decides it’s time to leave and builds his ship out of all the metal in the town in, like, thirty seconds and just takes off. Wait… WHAT?! I thought the alien’s number one objective was to leave Earth. So why didn’t he just leave before the movie even started? What’s the purpose of all the kidnapping, killing and destruction? Obviously, the creature was more interested in destroying humanity than leaving, or else he would’ve just assembled his ship and left before the movie even started. I can almost hear Abrams’ response… “But then we wouldn’t have a movie.”
Exactly. Abrams, what do you take us for?
Oh, and of course, the ship can’t be completed without the boy’s little locket left to him from his dead mother. The whole town and ship stands in silence and waits as the boy desperately holds onto his locket, not sure if he wants to let go of it (or the memory of his mother, in case Abrams’ heavy-handedness didn’t get the message through to you). Finally, the boy lets go of the locket and as soon as it joins the hunk of junk that makes up the alien spacecraft, it is then fully operational and launches into space. I’d like to see the movie that happens if the boy refuses to let go of the locket and the alien is forced to hang around and convince him to let it go (Alien: “Dude, it’s just a freakin’ locket. I can’t finish my ship without it.” Boy: “No! It reminds me of my mommy!” Ad nauseam).
All this said, overall the movie is still a lot of fun. But I can’t call it a really good movie. It’s far too content just ripping off the elements from past works of the producer for a new audience that may not be Spielberg-literate enough to understand that they’re literally being fed last night’s reheated meatloaf (and it never tastes as good as the first meal).
Sometime in the late eighties to early nineties, Hollywood screenwriter/producer Christopher Vogler wrote a memo for Disney Studios entitled “A Practical Guide to The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” This title is referring to the seminal 1949 non-fiction book by renowned mythographer Joseph Campbell in which he breaks down his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero found in world mythologies, commonly referred to as the monomyth. Campbell’s theory later became the primary inspiration for George Lucas’ Star Wars.
However, Vogler’s memo to Disney influenced the creation of such films as Aladdin, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. Vogler later expanded the memo and published it as the book The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, which became the inspiration for a number of successful Hollywood films and is believed to have been used in the development of the Wachowski Brothers’ The Matrix.
This memo has become part of Hollywood lore, and I felt that its historical impact on cinematic storytelling made it perfect food for thought for the readers of ATA. Enjoy!
A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO “THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES”
by Christopher Vogler
In the long run, the most influential book of the 20th Century may turn out to be Joseph Campbell’s THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES.
It’s certainly true that the book is having a major impact on writing and story-telling, but above all on movie-making. Aware or not, filmmakers like John Boorman, George Miller, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Francis Coppola owe their successes to the ageless pattern that Joseph Campbell identifies in the book.
The ideas in the book are an excellent set of analytical tools.
With them you can compose a story to meet any situation, a story that will be dramatic, entertaining, and psychologically true.
With them you can always determine what’s wrong with a story that’s floundering, and you can find a better solution to almost any story problem by examining the pattern laid out in the book.
There’s nothing new in the book. The ideas in it are older than the Pyramids, older than Stonehenge, older than the earliest cave painting.
Campbell’s contribution was to gather the ideas together, recognize them, articulate them, name them. He exposed the pattern for the first time, the pattern that lies behind every story ever told.
Campbell is a mythographer — he writes about myths. What he discovered in his study of world myths is that THEY ARE ALL BASICALLY THE SAME STORY — retold endlessly in infinite variation.
He discovered that all story-telling, consciously or not, follows the ancient patterns of myth, and that all stories, from the crudest jokes to the highest flights of literature, can be understood in terms of the “HERO MYTH”; the “MONOMYTH” whose principles he lays out in the book.
Campbell was a student of the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, and the ideas in THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES are often described as Jungian.
The book is based on Jung’s idea of the “Archetypes” constantly repeating characters who occur in the dreams of all people and the myths of all cultures.
Jung believed that these archetypes are reflections of the human mind — that our minds divide themselves into these characters to play out the drama of our lives.
The repeating characters of the hero myth, such as the young hero, the wise old man, the shape-shifting woman, and the shadowy nemesis, are identical with the archetypes of the human mind, as shown in dreams. That’s why myths, and stories constructed on the mythological model, are always psychologically true.
Such stories are true models of the workings of the human mind, true maps of the psyche. They are psychologically valid and realistic even when they portray fantastic, impossible, unreal events.
This accounts for the universal power of such stories. Stories built on the model of THE HERO OF A THOUSAND FACES have an appeal that can be felt by everyone, because they spring from a universal source in the collective unconscious, and because they reflect universal concerns. They deal with universal questions like “Why was I born?” “What happens when I die?” “How can I overcome my life problems and be happy?”
The ideas in the book can be applied to understanding any human problem. They are a great key to life as well as being a major tool for dealing more effectively with a mass audience.
Christ, Hitler, Mohammed, and Buddha all understood the principles in the book and applied them to influence millions.
If you want to understand the ideas behind the HERO MYTH, there’s no substitute for actually reading the book. It’s an experience that has a way of changing people. It’s also a good idea to read a lot of myths, but it amounts to the same thing since Campbell spends most of the book illustrating his point by re-telling old myths.
Campbell gives a condensed version of the hero myth on p. 245.
However, since he uses some specialized technical terms that require going back to his examples in earlier chapters to find out what he’s talking about, I’ve taken the liberty of amending his outline slightly, re-telling the hero myth in my own way. Feel free to do the same. Every story-teller bends the myth to his own purpose.
That’s why THE HERO HAS A THOUSAND FACES
The stages of the HERO are:
1) THE HERO IS INTRODUCED IN HIS ORDINARY WORLD.
Most stories take place in a special world, a world that is new and alien to its hero. If you’re going to tell a story about a fish out of his customary element, you first have to create a contrast by showing him in his mundane, ordinary world. In WITNESS you see both the Amish boy and the policeman in their ordinary worlds before they are thrust into alien worlds — the farmboy into the city, and the city cop into the unfamiliar countryside. In STAR WARS you see Luke Skywalker bored to death as a farmboy before he takes on the universe.
2) THE CALL TO ADVENTURE.
The hero is presented with a problem, challenge, or adventure. Maybe the land is dying, as in the Arthur stories about the search for the Holy Grail. In STAR WARS again, it’s Princess Leia’s holographic message to Obi Wan Kenobi, who asks Luke to join in the quest. In detective stories, it’s the hero accepting a new case. In romantic comedies it could be the first sight of that special — but annoying someone the hero or heroine will be pursuing/sparring with the remainder of the story.
3) THE HERO IS RELUCTANT AT FIRST.
Often at this point, the hero balks at the threshold of adventure. After all, he or she is facing the greatest of all fears — fear of the unknown. At this point Luke refuses Obi Wan’s call to adventure, and returns to his aunt and uncle’s farmhouse, only to find they have been barbecued by the Emperor’s stormtroopers. Suddenly Luke is no longer reluctant, and is eager to undertake the adventure. He is motivated.
4) THE HERO IS ENCOURAGED BY THE WISE OLD MAN OR WOMAN.
By this time many stories will have introduced a Merlin-like character who is the hero’s mentor. In JAWS it’s the crusty Robert Shaw character who knows all about sharks; in the mythology of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, it’s Lou Grant. The mentor gives advice and sometimes magical weapons. This is Obi Wan Kenobi giving Luke Skywalker his father’s light sabre.
The mentor can only go so far with the hero. Eventually the hero must face the unknown by himself. Sometimes the wise old man is required to give the hero a swift kick in the pants to get the adventure going.
5) THE HERO PASSES THE FIRST THRESHOLD.
He fully enters the special world of his story for the first time. This is the moment at which the story takes off and the adventure gets going. The balloon goes up, the romance begins, the plane or spaceship blasts off, the wagon train gets rolling. Dorothy sets out on the Yellow Brick Road. The hero is now committed to his journey… and there’s no turning back.
6) THE HERO ENCOUNTERS TESTS AND HELPERS.
The hero is forced to make allies and enemies in the special world, and to pass certain tests and challenges that are part of his training. In STAR WARS, the cantina is the setting for the forging of an important alliance with Han Solo, and the start of an important enmity with Jabba The Hut. In CASABLANCA, Rick’s Cafe is the setting for the “alliances and enmities” phase, and in many westersn it’s the saloon where these relationships are established.
The tests and challenges phase is represented in STAR WARS by the scene of Obi Wan teaching Luke about the Force, as Luke is made to learn by fighting blindfolded. The early laser battles with the Imperial Fighters are another test which Luke passes successfully.
7) THE HERO REACHES THE INNERMOST CAVE
The hero comes at last to a dangerous place, often deep underground, where the object of his quest is hidden. In the Arthurian stories the Chapel Perilous is the dangerous chamber where the seeker finds the Grail. In many myths the hero has to descend into hell to retrieve a loved one, or into a cave to fight a dragon and gain a treasure. It’s Theseus going into the Labyrinth to face the Minotaur. In STAR WARS it’s Luke and company being sucked into the Death Star where they will rescue Princess Leia. Sometimes it’s the hero entering the headquarters of his nemesis; and sometimes it’s just the hero going into his or her own dream world to confront his or hers worst fears… and overcome them.
8 ) THE HERO ENDURES THE SUPREME ORDEAL.
This is the moment at which the hero touches bottom. He faces the possibility of death, brought to the brink in a fight with a mythical beast. For us, the audience standing outside the cave waiting for the victor to emerge, it’s a black moment. In STAR WARS, it’s the harrowing moment in the bowels of the Death Star, where Luke, Leia and company are trapped in the giant trash-masher. Luke is pulled under by the tentacled monster that lives in the sewage, and is held down so long the audience begins to wonder if he’s dead. E.T. momentarily appears to die on the operating table.
This is a critical moment in any story, an ordeal in which the hero appears to die and is born again. It’s a major source of the magic of the hero myth. What happens is that the audience has been led to identify with the hero. We are encouraged to experience the brink-of-death feeling with the hero. We are temporarily depressed, and then we are revived by the hero’s return from death.
This is the magic of any well-designed amusement park thrill ride. Space Mountain or The Great White Knuckler make the passengers feel like they’re going to die, and there’s a great thrill that comes from surviving a moment like that. This is also the trick of rites of passage and rites of initiation into fraternities and secret societies. The initiate is forced to taste death and experience resurrection. You’re never more alive than when you think you’re going to die.
9) THE HERO SIEZES THE SWORD.
Having survived death, beaten the dragon, slain the Minotaur, the hero now takes possession of the treasure he’s come seeking. Sometimes it’s a special weapon like a magic sword, or it may be a token like the Grail or some elixer which can heal the wounded land. Sometimes the “sword” is knowledge and experience that leads to greater understanding and a reconciliation with hostile forces.
The hero may settle a conflict with his father or with his shadowy nemesis. In RETURN OF THE JEDI, Luke is reconciled with both, as he discovers that the dying Darth Vader is his father, and not such a bad guy after all.
The hero may also be reconciled with a woman. Often she is the treasure he’s come to win or rescue, and there is often a love scene or sacred marriage at this point. Women in these stories (or men if the hero is female) tend to be SHAPE-SHIFTERS. They appear to change in form or age, reflecting the confusing and constantly changing aspects of the opposite sex as seen from the hero’s point of view. The hero’s supreme ordeal may grant him a better understanding of women, leading to a reconciliation with the opposite sex.
10) THE ROAD BACK.
The hero’s not out of the woods yet. Some of the best chase scenes come at this point, as the hero is pursued by the vengeful forces from whom he has stolen the elixir or the treasure. This is the chase as Luke and friends escape from the Death Star, with Princess Leia and the plans that will bring down Darth Vader.
If the hero has not yet managed to reconcile with his father or the gods, they may come raging after him at this point. This is the moonlight bicycle flight of Elliott and E.T. as they escape from “Keys” (Peter Coyote), a force representing governmental authority. By the end of the movie, Keys and Elliott have been reconciled, and it even looks like Keys will end up as Elliott’s father. (The script not the final cut, guys).
The hero emerges from the special world, transformed by his experience. There is often a replay here of the mock death-and-rebirth of stage 8, as the hero once again faces death and survives. Each ordeal wins him new command over the Force. He is transformed into a new being by his experience.
12) RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR.
The hero comes back to his ordinary world, but his adventure would be meaningless unless he brought back the elixir, treasure, or some lesson from the special world. Sometimes it’s just knowledge or experience, but unless he comes back with the exlixir or some boon to mankind, he’s doomed to repeat the adventure until he does. Many comedies use this ending, as a foolish character refuses to learn his lesson and embarks on the same folly that got him in trouble in the first place.
Sometimes the boon is treasure won on the quest, or love, or just the knowledge that the special world exists and can be survived. Sometimes it’s just coming home with a good story to tell.
THE SHORT FORM OF THE HERO STORY:
The hero is introduced in his ordinary world, where he receives the call to adventure. He is reluctant at first but is encouraged by the wise old man or woman to cross the first threshold, where he encounters tests and helpers. He reaches the innermost cave, where he endures the supreme ordeal. He seizes the sword or the treasure and is pursued on the road back to his world. He is resurrected and transformed by his experience. He returns to his ordinary world with a treasure, boon, or elixir to benefit his world.
As with any formula, there are pitfalls to be avoided. Following the guidelines of myth too rigidly can lead to a stiff, unnatural structure, and there is danger of being too obvious.
The HERO MYTH is a skeleton that should be masked with the details of the individual story, and the structure should not call attention to itself. The order of the hero’s stages as given here is only one of many variations. The stages can be deleted, added to, and drastically reshuffled without losing their power.
The values of the myth are what’s important. The images of the basic version — young heroes seeking magic swords from old wizards, fighting evil dragons in deep caves, etc., — are just symbols, and can be changed infinitely to suit the story at hand.
The myth is easily translated to contemporary dramas, comedies, romances, or action-adventures by substituting modern equivalents for the symbolic figures and props of the hero story. The Wise Old Man may be a real shaman or Wizard, but he can also be any kind of mentor or teacher, doctor or therapist, crusty but benign boss, tough but fair top sargeant, parent, grandfather, etc. Modern heroes may not be going into caves and labyrinths to fight their mythical beasts, but they do enter an innermost cave by going into space, to the bottom of the sea, into their own minds, or into the depths of a modern city.
The myth can be used to tell the simplest comic book story or the most sophisticated drama. It grows and matures as new experiments are tried within its basic framework. Changing the sex and ages of the basic characters only makes it more interesting, and allows ever more complex webs of understanding to be spun among them. The basic characters can be combined, or divided into several figures to show different aspects of the same idea. The myth is infinitely flexible, capable of endless variation without sacrificing any of its magic.
And it will outlive us all.
by Jared Gores
We’ve all seen bad movies. Sometimes we have high expectations that are sorely not met.
Either way, we can generally forget about a bad film.
Sometimes a film is so bad you just. can’t. get. it. out. of. your. head.
Enter The Happening. This is M. Night Shyamalan’s 8th feature-length film (or his 6th, depending on when you started paying attention) and, undoubtedly, his worst. Let me preface my analysis of the film by stating that this flick falls in the latter of the two categories of bad movies I listed above–my respect for Shyamalan has undeniably diminished over time, and I have no enthusiasm for his next picture, The Last Airbender, due out in July. But not even I could have anticipated the wretchedness of the most recent entry in the Shyamalan filmography.
Let us count the ways. [POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT HELPFUL WARNING]
1) The story. “Mother Nature has had enough of man’s destruction of the planet so it fights back.” (Wait, was this idea dreamed up by MNS or Greenpeace?) To be honest, the concept has a bit of potential. Unfortunately, MNS has decided to drain any kind of intrigue by (a) making it painfully obvious very early on who/what is behind the weird events, (b) doing exactly what we expect him to do with the idea, and (c) populating the story with dull, undeveloped characters. The protagonist is an everyman (as is required in a horror film), but at no point in the course of the film do we generate any connection with this character or truly care about his plight. But perhaps this is due in part to…
2) The acting. Good lord. Mark Wahlberg isn’t known for his acting prowess, but he has been able to turn in a surprisingly good performance on occasion (e.g. The Departed, I Heart Huckabees). But his turn as Elliot Moore in this piece of garbage is not one of them. Of course, he has been miscast in the first place. Moore is a high school teacher. He’s a man of science, intelligence, and foresight–three things no one associates with Wahlberg. Nevertheless, he does his absolute worst at attempting to make you believe he’s at least one of them. His boyish line delivery and naive facial expressions worked perfectly in Boogie Nights but not here. I’m almost inclined to think that Wahlberg’s silly performance is a result of his inability to determine the seriousness of the script. Perhaps he thought MNS was going for camp with this flick. Most of the performances of the supporting cast would make you believe they thought the same thing. Zooey Deschanel, on the other hand, doesn’t even offer an interpretation of the script or her character. She sleepwalks through the film, which was clearly just a paycheck for her. John Leguizamo has little screen time, but at least he adopts the correct tone for the film MNS was supposedly trying to make. You know what? Maybe the actors signed on before a script was fleshed out, and they hadn’t had a chance to examine…
3) The dialogue. Wow. MNS has never demonstrated the verbal eloquence of, say, Tarantino, Mamet, Wilder, or Schrader, but come on. This is juvenile screenwriting at best. I would post a fair number of lines here, but I found a nice little sample in this YouTube video:
And as much as I like movie references within movies, sometimes they just do not work at all, as is the case with this gem:
Alma Moore: [to Joey] You have got to stop calling me. You’re acting like the Fatal Attraction guy here. I feel like I’m going to take a shower and see your silhouette on the shower curtain!
(I don’t think I need to specify the problem here, banality aside.)
A second look at that video may also exemplify…
4) The lack of suspense. Know what a good thriller/horror film always needs? Tension. The Happening makes My Dinner with Andre look like Jaws. Actually, that’s not really true. Because here, it’s as if MNS is actually trying to undermine any attempt to get your heart racing. The editing is loose, the shots are still, the compositions are perfunctory, and the lighting is flat. Hate to break it to you, M., but stationary, long shots of the wind blowing through flora in broad daylight are not frightening. Every time a hint of suspense is about to build, MNS stamps it out with something silly, whether it be an inane comment, an absurd plot point, or a scene change. I would have been more frustrated had I not been so bored. Well, actually, it went beyond boredom.
More than anything, I was mad. Mad that MNS would shit on his own film. Mad that a producer thought this excrement was worthy of a theatrical release. Mad that it still made $30 million on its opening weekend. Mad that I paid $5 to rent it. Mad that I will never get those 90 minutes back.
What happened to the talented filmmaker who ratcheted up the suspense with The Sixth Sense? Or who captivated us with one man’s self-discovery in Unbreakable (maybe I was the only one)?
In July 2002, just before the release of Signs, Newsweek did a feature story about Shyamalan. On the cover of the issue was an image of MNS with the words, “The Next Spielberg.” Whoops. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but perhaps we jumped the gun there, hmm?
Signs, The Village, Lady in the Water, and now The Happening. I think I speak for everyone when I ask, “What the hell, man?!”
Editor’s Note: If you’re a film geek and haven’t seen it, you absolutely must watch the following video clip from the Comedy Central series South Park.