M. Night Shyamalan

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therewillbeblus
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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#101 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Jul 26, 2021 12:14 pm

knives wrote:
Mon Jul 26, 2021 11:51 am
Yeah, that’s not a good one, though the source show is really good and I highly recommend it to all humans.
That's what I've heard and will eventually, hopefully, make the time for it. I should have specified that I've seen everything he's done other than his first two pre-Sixth Sense films, and The Last Airbender and After Earth, which I've heard are both the bottom of the barrel (oh, and The Visit, but I have that on reserve from the lib so I'll be filling that gap shortly). Neither of those middle films appeal to me so I doubt I'll ever check them out, but even if they are abominable, there's something that bothers me far less about full-tilt fantasy/sci-fi awfulness than a film like Old or The Happening, that is sincerely trying to connect itself to our world on a human level, and just missing the target by a mile. People don't talk that way, deliver lines in robotic tones, arrive at conclusions so swiftly and unemotionally, or issue economical attempts at cathartic expressions like that. I don't need a film to be fully believable but it's especially upsetting when Shyamalan has proven to have a knack for getting good performances and writing a decent script to make time for these emotional meditations extracted from the characters in The Sixth Sense-The Village run, and even recently with Split, even though I didn't personally like the film very much. It really does make me wonder if he's being intentional with his poor directing of actors/script writing, as was the buzz around The Happening (especially since this cast in particular is so strong that I feel that they need to actively try to give such terrible line deliveries) but I still don't buy it.

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#102 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Oct 15, 2021 4:48 pm

Shyamalan announced on Twitter that his next film will be titled Knock at the Cabin, and currently has a release date of 2/3/23 (which, in the spirit of his audience-nudging approach, sounds like a knock pattern)

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#103 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Dec 16, 2021 3:57 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Fri Oct 15, 2021 4:48 pm
Shyamalan announced on Twitter that his next film will be titled Knock at the Cabin, and currently has a release date of 2/3/23 (which, in the spirit of his audience-nudging approach, sounds like a knock pattern)
This film will reportedly be presented as "one long take"- though it's unclear whether it'll be shot that way or edited together to give this feel (obviously one is more likely than the other)

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#104 Post by black&huge » Thu Dec 16, 2021 4:48 pm

if that's the gimmick then it's even lower than his coast-on-a-twist phase that singlehandedly catapulted him only to fall hard.

Can he just do a normal by-the-numbers movie? Tarantino and P.T. Anderson have done that with their recents and it's worked greatly.
Last edited by black&huge on Thu Dec 16, 2021 5:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#105 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Dec 16, 2021 4:53 pm

Unbreakable, and I'd even argue The Village and Signs, were "normal" movies that didn't rely on their twists to service the intentions or power of the narrative punch

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#106 Post by black&huge » Thu Dec 16, 2021 5:02 pm

I would agree on Unbreakable which is the best he came to writing any sort of characters (and he actually did so that's nice) but I diasgree on The Village and Signs. I felt those through and through were relying on the twist too much.

That all being said I'm probably one of the very few people who actually enjoyed Old.

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#107 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Dec 16, 2021 6:45 pm

Both of those films absolutely hinge their action on the twist, particularly to tie up a neat script with planted cues, but the films themselves don't feel like they're constantly building to a twist or only useful in service of some inevitable twist, like, say, Old does. I didn't care much for The Village my first watch through, but every time I see the film I love it more. It's very layered divorced from the simplified reveal- to the point where for me the revelation's specific implication doesn't make as much of an impact as the stark visualization of unaware people going about their routine contrasted with what we've just watched people endure, which I'm not even convinced is the purpose of its function (but if it is, it's Shyamalan recontextualizing his own brand to both minimize his gimmicks' worth and propel their consequences further into the realm of empathy- always his intention, but not always successful).

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#108 Post by domino harvey » Thu Dec 16, 2021 7:33 pm

I maintain that the Village is not built on a twist but rather a reveal, especially considering we find out what’s going on well before the film ends

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#109 Post by RIP Film » Thu Dec 16, 2021 9:00 pm

The Village is definitely his best; probably the peak of his talents before he allowed the public’s mawkish opinions to get to his head and turn him into such a reactionary filmmaker. People really did not like that ending, which its 43% score on Rotten Tomatoes provides a window into. But it’s funny, would it do better if it came out today? In our current era of preppers, rosy reverence for the past and rich weirdos, the scenario seems like it’s something playing out somewhere in Utah.

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#110 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Dec 16, 2021 10:51 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Thu Dec 16, 2021 7:33 pm
I maintain that the Village is not built on a twist but rather a reveal, especially considering we find out what’s going on well before the film ends
Yes, that's a better way of putting it. As an aside, this is the only film I engage with in the deja vu pattern of thinking, "Why don't I own it yet on blu-ray?", checking online, and being reminded and surprised it has no HD release, like every couple months. It just seems so inexplicable

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#111 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Sep 22, 2022 8:42 am


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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#112 Post by Never Cursed » Mon Nov 21, 2022 9:44 pm

A breakdown of the entire production budget of The Village, down to each individual expenditure. One item of note: the insane salary discrepancy between Joaquin Phoenix ($5 million) and Bryce Dallas Howard ($150,000).

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#113 Post by The Narrator Returns » Mon Nov 21, 2022 9:47 pm

Phoenix was already a star and this was Howard's first movie, it makes sense here even if it would be plainly unacceptable just a few years later.

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#114 Post by Never Cursed » Mon Nov 21, 2022 9:54 pm

Oh I didn't think anything nefarious or explicitly sexist was going on, the difference just surprised me - they spent more on the raw film stock alone (no lab or processing fees) than they did her salary! Just think that's an interesting number

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#115 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Feb 03, 2023 3:35 pm

It's been clear for a while that Shyamalan is a much stronger director than he is a writer, so it comes as little surprise that adapting strong source material and focusing his efforts on orchestrating suspense have resulted in his best film in many years. A sad yet hopeful response to the atmosphere of impending doom and apocalyptic imagery we've been inundated with for years, Knock at the Cabin is a tight, character-focused chamber piece that makes investments in character detail whose payoffs elevate what could have been a high concept thriller to something more provocative — and even sneakily profound — than it might have been.

Loving couple Andrew and Eric take their young daughter Wen on a trip to a cabin deep in some scenic Pennsylvania woods, only to have their idyllic vacation interrupted by Dave Bautista's Leonard (I assume the name is a cute reference to Of Mice and Men's own incongruously gentle giant) and three other seemingly disconnected people who appear at their door with bizarre homemade weapons and an even more surreal proclamation: they've been given visions of the end of the world, and believe the only way to prevent it is for the three members of this family to choose to sacrifice one of their own to save humanity — and to do the sacrificing themselves. Hardened by his work as a human rights lawyer and the homophobic abuse he's suffered in the past, Ben Aldridge's Andrew both refuses to believe the visionaries and rejects the premise of their proposition, while the more spiritually inclined Eric (Jonathan Groff) begins to suspect that there might be something real driving this preposterous situation. The tension between the two and their views of the world only deepens as more and more inexplicable — yet not definitive — events seem to support the intruders' claims.

Bautista has been deservedly drawing a lot of praise for his work here while Groff is expectedly very good, but the real surprise here for me is Aldridge — he's primarily worked in TV and I've never caught a performance of his before, but he does remarkably excellent work at simultaneously conveying desperation and despair, his character's straining for rationality in a fundamentally irrational situation, and the wounded determination driving an unwillingness to be victimized by anyone for any reason.
SpoilerShow
As it becomes clear that there isn't one of Shyamalan's signature twists here and the foretold apocalypse is real, I was surprised at how my perspective shifted over the course of the narrative: where my view going in very much aligned with Andrew's initial perspective — the evil god(s) that might demand such a sacrifice and the unfair world such a deity created can go fuck themselves — I was surprised how much I eventually felt the weight of the idea that we have to continue suffering and striving through even an unjust and venal existence and be willing to sacrifice even the precious love and happiness we've managed to carve out for ourselves at great cost so that our children have the opportunity for such happiness themselves.
Spoiler for Cabin in the WoodsShow
It's interesting how the principled nihilism of the youthful protagonists of Cabin in the Woods made plenty of sense to me at the time (before I had kids) — why would they let a murderous, unjust system grind on at the cost of untold lives to appease the dumb bloodlust of ancient gods rather than just end it all? — while Shyamalan took the very similar premise of this film and expertly led me to the opposite conclusion a dozen years later.
Given that someone my age has spent more or less their entire adult lives watching a near-uninterrupted stream of disruptive, paradigm-shifting catastrophes — natural, manmade, political, economic, climate, moral — unfold live on television with relentless regularity, the Groff character's ultimate willingness to accept all that chaos and injustice and argue for perseverance through it was far more moving a conclusion than I ever would have expected from this filmmaker.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the relatively small budget Shyamalan is working with here, there are some distracting issues with the production values around the apocalyptic effects — it's really starting to bother me that a burning building, one of the simplest yet most exciting visual effects a film can utilize, is apparently impossible to execute these days without total reliance on CGI — but the actors and the concept offer more than enough value to make this an easy recommendation, especially for those who already appreciate this director's facility with visual storytelling.

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#116 Post by The Narrator Returns » Fri Feb 03, 2023 10:23 pm

I love all of Shyamalan's eccentricities that drive others up the wall so I preferred Old to this (it's smart to make this story sans almost any of his usual levity, but I still missed his dad jokes outside of his very funny cameo), but both are great and the closest Shyamalan has come to complete hopelessness. His empathy for all his characters keeps him from quite getting there, and I've read some very moving reactions about how this finds its tiny amount of grace, but coming out of it I just felt extraordinarily sad and numbed, Shyamalan plumbs some serious depths here and never cops out. There's an early Miyazaki reference that delighted me in the moment and has haunted me ever since, I think Shyamalan is tapping into something similar to the darkest Miyazakis, where everybody (including kids) needs to be exposed to the worst of both apocalypses and man-made evils if they want to then find some level of beauty within them.

Everyone's great in it but I was most impressed by Abby Quinn, who does an incredible amount to sell the awfulness of the central dilemma.
SpoilerShow
When Aldridge claims he never believed her when she talked about her child, all you needed to do was look in her eyes to see that he's wrong, you can't fake pain and terror to that degree.

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#117 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Feb 03, 2023 11:44 pm

I have a strange complex with Shyamalan where every time he comes out with something new, I feel tremendous intrigue and a sense of urgency to see his latest work immediately, but I've still hated just about everything he's done since The Village and reject any notions of the career resurgence many noticed starting with The Visit (Split was fine, but far from the "return to form" everyone seemed to agree upon). Old was the worst thing he's ever done, and yet I'll be seeing this ASAP. What's the definition of insanity again? I suppose I find him to be something of an auteurist enigma, where the only constant is his confident commitment to his work, but his application of 'skills' are varying and at times indefinable in failing to reach a consensus (DI says he's a better director than writer, which might be true over 50% of the time, but Old's direction of actors was so much worse than anything in the script; same with The Happening - and they have awful scripts), so I hope against hope that he'll nail it again on both cylinders one of these days. Maybe this is that film.

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#118 Post by The Narrator Returns » Sat Feb 04, 2023 12:02 am

Knock is absent of most of the things people like to ding him over, and I don't think anyone could argue in their right mind that the performances are mismatched to Shyamalan's approach or less than great on their own (but I also think all the Old performances are great, even/especially the ones that are silly on the face of it). If anything, this is more of a performance showcase than it is a visual one (and it looks terrific, as always), the emotional weight of it hinges entirely on these actors playing impossible states of mind and making them believable.

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Re: M. Night Shyamalan

#119 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Feb 05, 2023 6:45 pm

Knack at the Cabin is easily Shyamalan's best film since The Village, and earns its completely sincere commitment to its premise, with strong performances (everyone involved here is fantastic - Bautista should be nominated for a supporting actor Oscar next awards season, and particularly Quinn and Aldridge both pledge every ounce of talent and energy into their respective roles) and excellent craftsmanship from Shyamalan (formally, this might be his best-directed, and certainly edited, film to date) that conversely imploded into pathetic grains of sand in his last feature. I lean way more in favor of The Narrator Returns' impressions than DarkImbecile's regarding any shred of "hope" we're supposed to glean from this movie - which essentially exists to construct the ultimate narcissistic paradox we can't escape from, no matter how motivated we are to repress it
SpoilerShow
The film works as a hybrid of fantasy and horror where each side reveals itself to be synonymous with the ostensible-opposite. How wonderful would it be to have a tangible sense of control, to be specially chosen, to have a reason for the uncertain and overwhelming collective tragedies flooding us ubiquitously? And yet, how terrible would to it be to have to actually be in the seat of God, making decisions on behalf of all, or even confronting the depths of the social apocalypses facing us from every corner?

The most interesting aspect of the film is in that last bit. Andrew represents many if not most left-leaning Americans. He is exhausted from having existed for half a lifetime within a climate of aggressive reminders of the lacking reciprocity received when expelling 'other'-focused resources, and has retreated into the natural Me and Mine mentality of survivalism that's only been reinforced by conditioned resentment. Leonard represents something different- in part, the desperate need to rationalize his purpose, existence, and the harm already done once completed (regardless of what winds up being 'right', his dismissal of the significance of Grint's identity potentially manipulating their mission as a 'distraction' for their aims is simultaneously rooted in a frighteningly devoted solipsism that's all too familiar..; and also his and his groups' psychological need to dedicate so much trust into a vision without considering its delusional and likely-abnormal diagnostic nature says a lot more about how hungry we are for meaning than it does produce some internal spiritual logic for us to consider), and also a liberal sense of utilitarianism that's so alien at this point that it has to look like this to pronounce itself. So the narrative presents an impossibly cathartic trap of narcissistic irony, standing in for actual attitudes we tend to hold as sociopolitically-driven behavior becomes increasingly driven into binary groups: Either we diffuse responsibility because we are the 'most important' people in our own lives and can't be bothered with a collective responsibility, or we take on that responsibility because we are so important that our agenda is the 'right' one to coerce others into believing.

And then there's the actual situation at hand, the literal predicament that sets the trap, compelling the two adult victims to engage with the problem that shatters their illusory cocoon. These characters must embrace some side of their prominent roles by the nature of being forced into being labeled and given choices that grant them supremacy by the collective group in their vicinity; so they can choose to act as literally holier than thou, which we as people partially despise and are afraid of believing, or they can recommit to selfishness, neglecting the outside world that already feels estranged, formidable, and abstract.

But, to choose faith (a faith directed at our micro-level powers, or in the philosophical value of utilitarianism, it doesn't really matter) also necessitates letting go of the most precious asset we have: the comfort and manageable energy we harness when we focus internally on the Me and Mine bubble. Andrew cannot come out of this okay, not just because he has to kill his husband and best friend and alter the family system that comprises his 'Me and Mine bubble' forever, but because he has to sober up to the pervasive suffering and triggering stimuli that he and we spend so much time protecting ourselves from by limiting our attention to what's in front of us. The film feels like it's rooted less in a question of hope vs. cynicism about the roles we can play in our current climate (which I suppose could be read as optimistic through compromise.. but like Tarantino, Shyamalan seems to be indicating that only in the magic of the movies can we actualize such control, and even then, it comes at great cost - despite the 'maybe families have been doing this forever' "revelation," which frankly comes off as empty and cheaply vague). It felt more like a parable about our fatalistic insatiability to be God or to evade Godliness; to issue total control over our destinies or hide from responsibilities we don't want or are afraid of confronting; to attend to every issue we care about or to ignore everything and find relief in permanent complacency.

Even in the fantastical projection of this movie, the realization that we've all been disengaging from collective possibility, a true commitment to moral action, or spiritual access is incredibly depressing. Shyamalan knows that skepticism and faith are both healthy, and that we've reached a point where most of us are gravitating to the polar extreme of one of them, myopically blinding us to existential and socially-intimate potential. He's just leaving that there, and dispenses the most respectful intervention possible in doing so - which is not sugar coating the most painful truth on an individual level most people can relate to: That even if we awaken from our insular perspectives and see the light, the implications of that whiplash and what we've lost in the process will inevitably haunt and destroy us.
All that said, on a pure level of horror, this worked for me exactly like Dutchman does - concocting a situation of 'social horror' where activated and aggressive agents intrude in on our laconic ones, rendering us and our control impotent to stop it (even if it's in the service of giving us a control we don't want!) but also poses an attractive prospect by which we can govern fate with the means available to us if we accept the intruder on its terms. Just sub in a dilemma of faith/will for Shirley Knight's sexuality

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