Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bing Bang Shyamalama Ding Dong

Steve, Addy, and I went to see Lady in the Water at the historic Majestic Bay Theater in downtown Ballard last week.
I’ll admit we were a bit nervous. Reports from all fronts were not entirely… complimentary. However, true to my usual form, I can happily report: those idiots are… erm… idiots.

Lady in the Water was unique, visually interesting, and complexly allegorical, while retaining a simplicity that modern movies generally lack. The acting was believable and at some points quite moving. The message that everyone is unique and important in spite of their appearances was mixed throughout the film only to appear at the perfect moments.

Critics lambasted the film for Shyamalan casting himself in a Christ-like role. His acting was good and, in fact, his chemistry with the actress playing his sister was perfect. Sadly, I think that critics’ obsessions with analyzing Shyamalan got in the way of the entire theme of the movie: that even the seemingly least important person holds promise. Many people direct themselves in movies, and perhaps Shyamalan is a bit arrogant, but I don’t think that is a very unusual trait in actors or directors. He certainly did not cast himself in a staring role.

They also said the film was lazily created. I think people today have expectations for Shyamalan’s films, which do not match his vision. His famous twist endings may have become his downfall. True, I did know what would happen in Signs and The Village, but that didn’t make them bad movies. I was awfully sure that Meg Ryan wouldn’t encounter Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle, only to find out that he was a gay serial killer outerspace tentacle monster. I enjoy the whimsy and creativity with which his movies are made. Furthermore, I felt that as I was making predictions about what would happen next in Lady of the Water, I was constantly being forced to revise them. I’m kind of tired of all these supermovies- so complicated and twisty. I worry that because we base so many movies on books, rather than plays, the movies become over-complex and are not easily understood. It wouldn’t be a far stretch to say we are likely over-stimulated with continuous high-pace romps and dozens of plot-twists. This was an extremely well-presented folk-tale with Aesopian overtones, unusual and a delight to see. I don’t need Lost, 24, and Alias all the time. I would rather have a good story, well done, than a hundred The Island-style movies.

The movie was visually stunning. I found the cinematography, lighting, costuming, color-choice, every piece, artful and intentional. The special effects were tasteful and well rendered.

One thing I adored in the movie was the mix of characters. Living in a building like this you have tons of different types of people. They reminded me of people that we lived near when I was young. They were funny, interesting, realistic, and better developed than most characters in movies today- in spite of being an ensemble cast. I also enjoyed seeing Six Feet Under’s Freddy Rodriguez (Frederico) in such a whimsical part. Paul Giamatti was amazing and Bryce Dallas Howard (whose name is apparently entirely constructed of unfortunate male first names) looked and acted ephemeral and every bit the fantasy creature.

The dialogue in Lady in the Water was very well-crafted, both planned but seemingly unplanned. The last line was excellent (in contrast to the last line of King Kong, which actually elicited groans from the audience).

Shyamalan was also criticized for his political commentary. I find it interesting that coming forward and saying that war is not necessarily the best thing has gained him poor scores from the very people who eat up the left-ist propaganda forwarded by blow-hards like Michael Moore (incidentally, I’m quite confused about why MM’s UofM degree makes him qualified to pretty much make up shit and call it fact and Shyamalan’s NYU degree does not entitle him to say that war is not a good thing). I think that saying that we humans are war-mongering and violent is certainly not the craziest thing I’ve heard today. If watching today’s news didn’t make you a little nervous then you need to get your head checked.

I guess my real point is that this movie had a distinctly character-driven kind of indie feel to it. If Shyamalan had made this before the Sixth Sense, he would be “the next big thing.”
If you are looking for a complex 6 course meal then this is not it. But if you are looking for the absolute best chicken pot pie you’ll ever taste, Lady in the Water is for you.

Ok, ok, there was one thing. The lingo. Narfs and Scrunts and Tartutics. This is supposed to be a Chinese bed-time story. Well, Narf (is what Pinky of “and the Brain” fame says), Scrunt (sounds like my two most used euphemisms for lady-bits blended together), and Tartutic (merely awkward) are in no way Chinese words- not even Chinese-esque words. Even if this is what the water-folk call things, the Chinese are not going to be walking around narfing their scunts… if you get my linguistic drift.

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