A defense of M. Night Shyamalamadingdong.

11 June, 2008

Not my defense but somebody else’s: Link.

Thought I’d post it because it does make an interesting case for why M. Night Shyamalamadingdong doesn’t deserve to be loathed. On the one hand, I’ll concede that he is no different from great American filmmakers like P.T. Anderson or the Coen Brothers, fighting to bring their visions to the screen in a system that doesn’t automatically welcome them. I’ll concede that hacks like Michael Bay are ten times worse and therefore much worth loathing.

On the other hand, I’m not buying the argument that Shyamalamadingdong takes risks. Name one picture of his that isn’t a thriller besides the one with Rosie O’Donnell (That’s right, he made a movie with Rosie. IMDb it.) He blew everyone away with the plot twist at the end of The Sixth Sense and has structured every picture around a twist ever since, be it narrative or thematic, which the author tries to distinguish. Of course every good story needs to feel fresh and surprising but what Shyamalamadingdong does is rely on gimmicks. Take The Village, for example. What could have been his best work was ruined by an ending so gimmicky that it overshadowed what was actually a reasonably intelligent point about the politics of fear. You easily could’ve kept that idea without the ending. Signs was even worse because the twist at the end made no sense (70% of Earth is water. Why would aliens even think about coming here!?)

Then there’s the arrogance factor. Another article I read today argued that Shyamalamadingdong is even less arrogant than the many celebrated filmmakers portrayed in Peter Biskind’s work. Now, there is some truth in this. Having recently finished Easy Riders, Raging Bulls — in which everyone but (ironically) Brian DePalma comes across as either a maniac or a schmuck (sometimes both) — I can freely admit that artists, good or bad, are often capable of the worst kind of behavior. Robert Altman is one of my favorites and some of the stories about him are flat-out appalling, like mocking Louise Fletcher while she signed to her mother during her Oscars acceptance speech.

The question is whether or not the arrogance comes across in the work. The weakest art in my opinion is work so wrapped up in self-indulgence that it overshadows the content. In other words, “much ado about nothing.” That’s why I feel Magnolia is Anderson’s weakest film; the style is far bigger than the substance, while in the case of There Will Be Blood, it was appropriate to make the film as big as possible. However, in all of Shyamalamadingdong’s films since Unbreakable, he’s trying too hard to make points that aren’t all that amazing. In The Village I didn’t mind it so much, even though I believe that was the case. But in Lady in the Water it all came out.

As Manhola Dargis perfectly put it, “Initially it’s rather foggy as to what precisely we are supposed to hear — the crash of the waves, the songs of the sirens, the voice of God — until we realize that of course we’re meant to cup our ear to an even higher power: Mr. Shyamalan.” This was also the film in which he cast himself in his biggest role to date. But unlike Polanski, Huston, or even Scorsese, Shyamalamadingdong can’t act his way out of a paper bag. He might be a worse actor than Tarantino and that’s saying something. And that’s where the loathing comes in. He’s not just a flawed filmmaker or a one-trick pony, he’s a man who thinks he is God’s gift to cinema even though he is short on tricks, ideas, and most of all, talent. At least The Sixth Sense was entertaining. But now what could have been the most refreshing genre director has become the ultimate poor man’s Spielberg, a director whose output is now mostly marked by self-righteous Oscar-bait drivel. The difference is that Spielberg is infinitely more talented and even at his schlockiest (Amistad, anyone?) isn’t nearly as transparent as M. Night Shyamalamadingdong.

And yet I’m still going to see The Happening. A very nice, very talented friend of mine is in the picture and it’s only right that I support her and her career. Also, another friend read some spoilers and informs me that Mark Wahlberg has a race with the wind in one scene. Ok, maybe Shyamalamadingdong isn’t totally worthless. This could dethrone Neil LaBute’s Wicker Man remake as the best bad movie of the decade.

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2 Responses to “A defense of M. Night Shyamalamadingdong.”

  1. Rob said

    The Happening also has an R rating, should be interesting.

  2. anonymous4488 said

    He blows. That is all.

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