Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SHYAMALANATHON!

I've been on a confessional streak. There was this phase I had, you know the one, the teenage angst one. During the late 90's where I disavowed everything that came out then and onward for a few years? Yeah! That one. Oh, look at me now. Well, I've made an effort to try to make amends with myself. I've listened to The Marshall Mathers LP, danced to Aqua, watched Fight Club, not to mention a couple of episodes of TRL (on youtube), and as a symbolic gesture, I've sought, bought, drank, and pissed out a 12oz can of SURGE. I'M SORRY. Okay, so this expression of self pity might seem unhealthy, and it may not be true, but let's entertain this notion shall we?

I have never seen a film from M. Night Shyamalan. I've deliberately ignored The Sixth Sense, glossed over Unbreakable, dismissed Signs, and have never even heard of The Village. Well, I do know that the kid sees dead people and they're already dead and Shammy likes his twists. But that's about as trivial as Keyzer Soze being Edward Norton's imaginary sled. You might find my obliviousness to be something to be proud of, considering that as of now, Shyamalan is at his lowest critical point. His latest film, The Last Airbender, was basically the critical scapegoat for all things things wrong with cinema in 2010. The public and critical opinion is that he's taken all of the goodwill built upon The Sixth Sense and other films, and beat it senseless with contrived, twisty plots and shameless self promotion. Giving M. Night Shyamalan a clean retrospective is not something most would find appetizing. Except for me.

I have to admit that he has an intriguing persona. I recall his American Express commercial, it's about two minutes long. It features ghosts, reptilian human behavior, the occult, M. Night himself, and a waitress fangirl. He closes it with meaningless wisdom: "My life is about finding time to dream. That's why my card is American Express." That left me conflicted. A part of me caught his whimsical affinity for the mysterious, much like the young Steven Spielberg. Another part of me wanted to smack him. Is this how all of his films are? He has an undeniably iconic body of work. The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, even the films everyone considers 'bad', all maintain high cultural endurance, much like the works of his artistic muse, Spielberg. Doesn't that say a lot, especially in an era where someone like J.J. Abrams can make a film that apes Spielberg for nostalgia's sake and offers nothing else? Clearly the man is very talented, and on to some things, and perhaps completely off on others. But let's not get too ahead of ourselves...

Thus, I declare a Shyamalanathon! Over the next few days, I'll try my best to briefly go through the entirety of M. Night's work, from his budding NYU debut Praying With Anger, and all the way through the ending credits of The Last Airbender. I want to know what makes him tick. Some might consider such an endeavor to be cynical in nature, considering the public and critical opinion, but I'm trying hard not to consider any preconceived notions! But we are ranking these films on the scale of one to five twists, designated:


Just sayin'.


1. Praying With Anger (1992)
2. Wide Awake (1995/1998)
3. The Sixth Sense (1999)
4. Unbreakable (2000)
5. Signs (2002)
6. The Village (2004)
7. Lady In The Water (2006)
8. The Happening (2008)
9. The Last Airbender (2010)

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