Thursday, June 12, 2008

Never Confuse Box Office With Talent

Maybe you don't know this, but I don't care much for M. Night Shyamalan.

My problem with M. Night has less to do with his movies (although I have not seen Lady In The Water) and a lot more to do with the man. Ego bothers me. It generally bothers everyone, but I believe that it bothers me even more so than the Average Joe. I'm more forgiving of ego when there's talent to back it up. But ego that far outweighs talent really, really bothers me. And that is my problem with M. Night Shyamalan. His falling out with Disney is now infamous and may or may not have cost Excecutive Nina Jacobsen her job because she dared to request changes on his Lady In The Water script. I can only hope that she got the last laugh when the final film was delivered.

Not unlike the Bret Ratners' and Michael Bays' of the world, M. Night has confused box office success with true talent. He was quoted as saying "except for Pixar, I have made the four most successful original movies in a row of all time." No doubt the guy can write and direct but he's certainly not the second coming in the filmmaking world. Take for example that M. Night was 29 years old when he made The Sixth Sense. Now compare that with Steven Soderbergh who was 26 when he wrote and directed Sex, Lies and Videotape or P.T. Anderson who was 28 when he wrote and directed Boogie Nights. When you start to compare the career of M. Night with those two, you start to get a sense of how average he really is.

I will say that M. Night's best work would have to be in his most forgotten film, Unbreakable. A character study comic book movie long before Sam Raimi, Christopher Nolan and Jon Favreau made it hip to examine the man behind the mask. And I did enjoy Signs, but my enjoyment of most of his movies has always been that of a really good made for TV movie. If I happen upon it, I'll sit and watch it - but I wouldn't seek it out otherwise. The fact that M. Night has been running from the label of "films with a twist" most of his career only shows that he hasn't given his audience any reason not to give him any other title. So in effect, he's a gimmick rather than a real artist.

Now he is going to deliver The Happening on Friday, which I can only assume was once the working title Green Planet, which he had a hard time selling to a studio. From the interviews of the actors, you can feel that past failures have done nothing to rock M. Night's confidence. Mark Wahlberg was quoted as saying that "M. Night is going to make it (his film) one way. Without concession." I don't know, maybe it's time for M. Night to do a little conceding.


Ray said...

Amen, Piper!!!

Lately, a series of articles have appeared on various blogs and in various media which attempt to defend Shyamalan against the hordes of critics who have, according to them, unfairly singled him out for criticism.

Bullshit. Anyone who speaks like this about himself is absolutely BEGGING to be knocked on his ass. It really helps that this latest movies were terrible as well.

Someone needs to remind Shyamalan that Orson Welles was a baby at 25 when he made the greatest film of all time, and that Spielberg has had longer and more successful runs of films than he has ever imagined.

I think Shyamalan is a capable director, although thus far he has limited himself to thrillers and horror films generally in his career. He is an awful writer, though, with THE SIXTH SENSE getting a pass only for its novelty. As long as he writes his own material, he will continue to fail.

Piper said...

Good points all around Ray.

The only reason I beat up on this guy is that he's so damn arrogant. There are plenty of very talented directors out there making movies and keeping their mouths shut.

And I hadn't really thought about it, but he really isn't that good of a writer. A good writer from the creative standpoint, but not one as far as character development and dialogue. We can pretty much count on him failing because I doubt he would ever relinquish writing control, or any control for that matter.

Ibetolis said...

Thank you for saying it out loud.

It's always amazed by the accolades tht follow him everywhere, what happened to people backing up their claims?

I agree Unbreakable has probably been his best film, I care little for Sixth Sense and simply laughed at The Village.

I also agree with the above post that he is a capable director who may one day give us something worth a damn. He should realise that he's still learning his trade and if he got his head out of his arse long enough maybe he'd deliver the goods.

Moviezzz said...

I have only really liked one Night film, UNBREAKABLE. Hated SIGNS ("Swing Away" has to be one of the most embarrassing moments in film in recent years) and THE VILLAGE.

BUT, I still am interested in seeing his films as he is definitely talented. I mean, you really can't compare him to Bay as they are opposites filmmaking wise. Bay is all quick cutting, headache inducing, too fast paced. Night is all about the long shots. You have to admire that style today.

Fletch said...

If we're talking about the man himself, I don't really care. Sure, he may be an ass, but it's pretty naive to think that 2/3 of Hollywood isn't the exact same way. I mean, lots of people (myself included) like Ed Norton, but judging from the press surrounding American History X and the new Hulk, there's a good chance that he's a demanding prick who fights to the death until he gets his way. But I'll still watch the guys' films.

Same goes for Night. I (blasphemy!) have enjoyed everything I've seen from him, short of Lady in the Water, which was pretty terrible. I think, had The Village been his first (major) film, people would have eaten it up just like they did with the Sixth Sense. Be that as it may, I still liked it (and Signs, and Unbreakable).

He's not the next coming of Spielberg (like he thinks he is), and I surely have my doubts about both The Happening and his long-term career, but I have few complaints about his past works.

Piper said...


I don't necessarily compare Night with Bay on styles, just attitude.


It's hard for me to separate the two unfortunately. If someone is going to be so outspoken about how good they are, then they better be damn good or I'm going to call bullshit. His movies are watchable, but they're far from brilliant.

And there's no doubt that 2/3 of Hollywood is exactly like that, they just happen to keep their mouths shut for the most part.

But the good ones. The really, really good ones don't talk much. They just do.

I've worked with a lot of directors on the commercial side. I've worked with pricks and I've worked with great people. And it's the gods honest truth that the truly talented ones are good people.

Emily Blake said...

Agree about Unbreakable. That movie was something he felt a passion for I think, more than any other film he's done, which is why it was so good. Everything else has been him believing his own hype and trying to mold the story to his reputation rather than letting the story tell itself.

Burbanked said...

It's too easy to come down hard on M. Night because he's an arrogant ass - and I know it's easy because I've done so myself. Nice job, Piper, in keeping the discussion rational while still making your point.

For me, I never made it past UNBREAKABLE. I liked it, liked SIXTH SENSE, but all the crap I've read about him since then has kept me out of the multiplex when his films come around. I've since watched bits and pieces of his movies on TV, but never the whole things. I simply can't stand a filmmaker who insists on giving himself the Most! Important! Cameo! in the movie. He can blather all he wants to the media about how great he is, but when the ego ambushes the story's narrative I have a real hard time tolerating it.

Still, I was contemplating an experiment this weekend in which I'd try to get out and see TWO movies - HULK and HAPPENING - that I am predisposed to hating, just to test my theory that either 1) a stubborn mind can be changed by great filmmaking or 2) I am an insufferable prick.

Or maybe I'll just mow the lawn. Either way.

Piper said...


Let me guess. A father's day gift right? I am allowed to watch movies all day long. In theory, it's wonderful. In reality, it's not that fun. But I could do back to back. I myself am going to try to sneak away and catch something.

Burbanked said...

Oh dear Piper, how emasculated you've become: you're "allowed" to watch movies and you're "trying" to sneak away.

I assure you I don't need a Hallmark holiday to go out to any movie, any time, any place that I choose. I'm master of my house, the king of the castle and I wield broad and awesome powers -

Ah crap. Yeah, I just asked for permission this morning. And it's more likely I'll be loading a dishwasher or helping plant some flowers instead.

Bob Turnbull said...

I stopped at "Unbreakable" as well. I quite liked "Sixth Sense" (yep, I was one of those who did NOT see the ending coming) and very much liked "Unbreakable" (nice to see others find it his best). Largely I haven't seen any of his others because either the stories just don't interest me or the reviews I've read (even positive ones) just don't give me the warm fuzzies. I'd still like to see those films one day, but I'm in no rush.

I certainly try not to let the personal lives or attitudes of actors/directors affect how I view their work, but it really is difficult sometimes - at least in getting over the hump of watching something they've done. If it ends up being good, I can accept it. But if it's bad - then they will suffer at the hands of my unending wrath. Or I'll write a scathing post that perhaps a handful of people will see - either way.

As for the Father's Day film viewing - I've made it a bit of a tradition now to take my son to a movie on Father's Day (usually accompanied by his best friend in the entire universe). It's been great - I get the theatre viewing experience and get to see the two boys chuckle as they stuff their faces with snacks. I'm actually kind of looking forward to seeing Kung-Fu Panda this weekend.

Or maybe "The Children of Huang Shi". War torn China or animated pandas - I'll flip a coin.

Piper said...


Yeah, I got turned down for a movie or movies on Sunday because I'm going to a MLS game on Saturday night with the boy. Damn! I might work that a bit more and see what happens. You know, put my manly foot down.


I've been thinking about your "swing away" comment and you're absolutely right. It is fricking terrible and I'm embarrassed that I've seen it now a couple of times and never really thought about how stupid it is.

Garrett Sorrels said...

I'm probabaly alone here, but I have to say I think all of his movies have been entertaining so far- "Lady in the Water" has been the least impressive.

They're imaginative, interesting, stories which is a big reason why I go to the have a few hours to escape. Also, still love the "swing away" line. Its cheesy as shit, but i like it. I really did want to dislike "Signs" because the one thing you knew going into this movie was that there were crop circles involved but I walked away being pleased.

I'm looking forward to The Happening. Piper are you going?

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