Saturday, June 14, 2008

Something to Talk About

Blogging has been scarce lately, and not just because I'm shy. With a dearth of interesting movies (Mongol, a bio of Jenghiz Khan, a half-intriguing exception) and the TV season on hiatus (with one notable exception), it seems like a good time for a breather now and then. And in between, perhaps time for a game of coulda, shoulda, woulda.

I would have been writing more about Battlestar Galactica, but the sad truth is I've been forgetting when it's on. (Friday nights at 10, it turns out.) I did catch last night's half-season finale, however, and it was as exciting as others have opined. I'm not a sci-fi fan by any means, so that this show can capture my interest at all is no small feat. I chalk it up to the actors, a mix of both old reliables (Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Lucy Lawless) and captivating performers I don't recall seeing before the series began (Michael Hogan, Aaron Douglas, James Callis). The entire ensemble makes the world of the show dramatic and real.

I should (or so it seems, judging by some of my frothing male colleagues) tell you how much I loathe Sex and the City, but while I haven't see the movie (and probably won't, at least until DVD), the truth is I'm pleased that a film starring women and made for women is cleaning up at the box office. Hopefully this will dispel the actresses-can't-open-a-movie meme that has been making the rounds in Hollywood of late. Relatedly, I also hope to see more female directors get their props. When a proven hit-maker like Amy Heckerling can't get a picture released, or a distinctive talent like Kimberly Peirce gets largely ignored, something is very wrong.

Last and certainly least, I could tell you how much I despise M. Night Shyamalan, how delighted I am to have called him a charlatan even back in his Sixth Sense glory days, but it hardly seems worth the effort anymore. Then again, it is kinda fun. The Happening, his latest pseudo-horror metaphysical crock, may become a hit, but it's already generating the same hostile buzz that greeted The Village and Lady in the Water, so I doubt it. What's aggravating about Shyamalan is he has genuine visual style (most notably in Unbreakable, the movie of his I hate the least), and in the abstract I admire his goal to be a classical storyteller. The problem is his stories suck, at best recycled hash of Twilight Zone episodes or lifted from authors no longer in the American lit canon (e.g., Ambrose Bierce). Another issue is his ego, which even by Hollywood standards had inflated to ridiculous proportions (or at least before The Happening, his first film to reek of desperation). The egregious comparisons to Hitchcock and Spielberg, encouraged by Shyamalan himself, always leave out a vital element: Hitch and Spielberg were/are funny. Even Vertigo and Munich have more bonhomie than the disproportionate gravitas and faux deep thoughts that define Shyamalan's schlock. Entirely fitting that the joke is now on him.

No comments: