Saturday, June 26, 2010

M. Night Shyamalan

The biggest dumb, jackass move I've made in my relationship with Kimberly Rae - although sadly not the only one - was when I agreed to watch The Happening.

You see, I don't like M. Night Shyamalan.

Mind you, I really enjoyed The Sixth Sense when I saw it, although I couldn't help being glad that the ending twist beforehand, because I think it would likely have annoyed me as either a surprise or a "surprise". Certainly the painful obviousness of the "twist" made Unbreakable a pretty painful experience, despite the fact that I thought the familial relationships were excellent.

Signs basically replicated that experience for me, and afterward I made one of those stubborn promises never to watch another sci-fi/fantasy/horror movie by him.

But at that point, I really only had the quibble that he'd made a few chickenshit remarks distancing himself from the "horror" label against him as a person, and that could have been a simple rookie mistake. Right?

I only paid so much attention to the Lady in the Water controversies, but however exactly the The Man Who Heard Voices book came about, it certainly came across as a prima donna director with one solid hit and a couple of other movies of varying quality and modest commercial success jumped ship from a studio that had been very supportive, despite some commercial missteps, after receiving notes on his script and even goes so far as essentially commissioning a book to give his puffed up ego story on how he was wronged.

Look, I'm a big artist supporter, but I honestly couldn't find anything in any of the - admittedly limited - reading I've done on the subject that suggests - as much as it pains me to say - that Disney/Touchstone did anything but try to build a better movie through constructive criticism, which seems to me the proper role for studios/producers to take.

So, here I am a few years later, in a relatively new relationship, and being recommended a movie by a moviemaker about whom I am ambivalent, and breaking a commitment I'd made semi-publicly not to see another sci-fi/fantasy/horror by Mr. Shyamalan because she has an affection for his work and this movie specifically.

Well, as you all may or may not know, I hate Creationists!

Honestly, I don't hate them as long as they keep their religion out of my science and especially science classes, real and imagined. It doesn't feel unreasonable to me. I don't go and read The Threat of Creationism by Isaac Asimov at their churches, brilliant though it is, and only ask them to offer me the same respect.

So, we're starting off the movie and Mark Wahlberg is teaching a science class. He's playing a science teacher.

And he begins giving this speech about how there are some things science just isn't capable of explaining. They're just beyond the realm of possible explanation.

As Asimov wrote, "There are many aspects of the universe that still cannot be explained satisfactorily by science; but ignorance only implies ignorance that may someday be conquered. To surrender to ignorance... has always been premature, and it remains premature today."

Well, I was not so eloquent as he. I did what I've done too many times in my life... I went off on a rant about this. Son of bitch Shyamalan trying to stuff the seeds of some "sneaky" Creationist Bullshit into a commercial movie.

I should have handled it better.

And, unlike in my previous relationships, I think I have most of the time since then.

But then this is going to live with me until the day I die.

I'm sorry, Kim. That was rude and obnoxious.

I should have waited until the movie was over, gotten a chance to see what it was that you appreciated so much in the movie, and expressed my opinions in a decent fashion after the movie was over.

But, as much as I regret my actions and the missed opportunity at better understanding and communication involved, it did come pretty close to cementing my view of Shyamalan as someone who does indeed have some talent as a moviemaker, but as a human being, I'm unable to find a single thing upon which to build the tiniest iota of respect.

I've always intended to write a long, full piece on the separation of respect for the artist and respect for the art. It's a complex relationship that's often difficult sort out. Sometimes it comes down to having discovered the art before learning about the more contemptible qualities of the artist. Sometimes it simply comes down to just how great the art itself is.

My opinion of the art was, perhaps unfortunately, already to mixed for me to find a way to overlook the failings of the artist in this case.

And so, while The Last Airbender could have been a point to turn around for me, it too seems to show off his inability to avoid jackassery.

I had an occasional interest in checking out Avatar: The Last Airbender over the years. Not strong enough to have bothered yet, but one I'd assumed I'd eventually follow up on, and a big budget tent-pole movie may have, on the right day, seemed like just the right jumping in point.

But then comes the controversy surrounding the whitewashing of the cast. I think The Last Airbender Movie by Gene Luen Yang captures the concerns better than anything else I've seen.

I admit, in the case of a moviemaker I had confidence in, I might have been willing to assume in their favor. I could have assumed it was a compromise he needed to make in order to make the movie at all or to make it at the standard he demanded.

But I don't have that. I only have one movie that I've fully enjoyed and it's hardly a long-time favorite. It's one that's begun to seem more and more like a fluke as time goes on.

And now the article on Simultaneous release quotes him going off on how I should have to enjoy movies.

Fuck this guy! Can he just go away already? He just seems intent on embarrassing himself and everyone who finds themselves looking in his direction.

What used to at least offer me some sense of Schadenfreude is now just uncomfortable to look at.


Greg said...

I wasn't going to comment on this because I figured it was personal but it's been over 24 hours now and no comment from Kim so...

I TOTALLY agree with you! I haven't seen THE HAPPENING but know I'd have the same reaction (I'm not saying what you did or what I would also - and inevitably - do is right, just that I understand).

Neil Sarver said...

Nah, I can see how it seems personal, and I guess the personal anecdote part of it does take up a substantial part of things, because it's told in and around everything else, but I meant the post for the more general subject matter.

It just didn't seem appropriate to discuss at such length without including the apology.

But it is good that someone understands. Believe me.

And it'll be good when I lay on my deathbed and she has to bring it up just one more time.

CupcakeDoom said...

I havent mentioned it in like two days lmao. I won't mention it again babe. <3 I understand why it upset you. You rock. I am sorry i subjected you to that.

Neil Sarver said...

I know. I was just teasing you back, because, as you joked, you'd bring it up on my deathbed. I wasn't really trying to make myself out the henpecked husband.

I also know you understand, but, in the end, I still wish I'd gotten a chance to see what it is you got from that movie, enough that you wanted to share it.

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