Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I would never have guessed

M. Night Shyamalan's new movie is awful. I'll probably catch it on DVD when the Rifftrax comes out for it, as at this point there's no other way to actually watch a Shyamalan film.

What's been interesting about Shyamalan is that his career has been a slow slide toward oblivion. Each movie of his is slightly worse than his last, and each movie relies progressively more on contrived scenarios and plots, and each one shows a growing estrangement from how actual people live, act, and talk. The Sixth Sense wasn't what I would call grittily realistic, but it was believable enough. By The Happening, though, the guy had completely lost any sense of what people are like. Perhaps it was because he was saddled with a not-so-impressive cast, but I don't think you can blame Mark Wahlberg alone for this.

I find it rather ironic that George Lucas is one of his big influences (though Spielberg is the biggest one, clearly) because his career is eerily beginning to parallel Lucas's. The Happening features lousy writing, bad acting, a story that makes no sense and muddled messaging, all of which are hallmarks of late-period Lucas, but the weirdest thing is how completely Shyamalan was unable to set a tone, create a mood, or even string together an impressive visual sequence. Those used to be M. Night's strengths, by the way, and Lucas's too. Remember the end of Raiders of the Lost Arc? That was all Lucas. And both the Star Wars films and the Indiana Jones movies (1-3, anyway) all displayed a good command of how to tell a rousing adventure story. But these talents have seemingly withered away from both men, leaving pretty much nothing left there, except a desire to replicate what will probably never come again, with increasingly desperate applications of effort that try to hard to reproduce something that had earlier been instinctive. I feel some sympathy for these guys, despite Shamylan's legendarily prickly persona. How can you not? They've peaked. At least Lucas seems to have accepted it.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.