Friday, July 21, 2006
Movies I Have No Intention Of Seeing, #37

The Lady in the Water

starring Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, M. Night Shyamalan(!)

directed by M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village)

written by M. Night Shyamalan

catering by M. Night Shyamalan

props, lighting, costumes, set-construction, Giamatti scalp massage by M. Night Shyamalan

An M. Night Shyamalan Production

Back in the early days of both the internets and my career as a Failed Writer, I used to belong to this online writing workshop thing hosted by Del Rey books.

I'm going to get right out in front of this one and admit that Del Rey prints science fiction and fantasy novels. I was interested in that at the time. Yes, I am a dork. No, I've never worn prosthetic pointy ears (at least not in a non-bedroom setting, winky winky), no I've never been to a fan convention of ANY KIND, no I do not knit my own chain-mail out of silver-spray-painted yarn or build my own helmets out of cardboard. Seriously, there are sites you can order that stuff from.

Ha, I kid. I am a geek, but I have limits. Most of them involve contact with other geeks as a group. To me, squatting in a field of a summer afternoon dressed in fake armor so that me and my trusty cohort of chaotic-neutral paladins might ambush an oncoming band of fat people in orc make-up is not a recipe for a good time. First of all, I don't like to be hot. Secondly, I like my social groups to include at least one girl. Thirdly, I know it's make-believe, but you start swinging weapons around like that and someone could die. Most likely from an asthma attack. Not a robust group as a rule, your typical Live Action Role Players.

Anyway, I've said it here before, but the first grown-up book I ever read (pages in the hundreds, standard-size type, no pictures, descriptions of heads being chopped off, etc.) was The Fellowship of the Ring. Shortly thereafter I decided I was going to be JRR Tolkien. Or a fireman. But remember from above, I don't like to be hot. So the Tolkien thing stuck with me. I immediately started wearing tweed and smoking a pipe. Mom was not pleased.

That's how I found myself at this Del Rey writer's workshop. Eventually they got wise and started charging for the privilege, so I stopped going. But what I did while I was there was a) submit your own writing samples b) review OTHER people's writing samples and c) wait for the big fat checks to start rolling in.

Somehow my obvious genius went largely unrecognized, but I did get the opportunity to read a couple of good things by other people, in progress, and a whole lot of ABSOLUTE SHIT BY PEOPLE WHO HAVE NO BUSINESS TRYING TO WRITE. Man, I've been holding on to that for like 7 or 8 years. Felt good to finally say.

The forum had some guidelines, like warning people about adult content (the amount of dwarf/elf sex going on was disturbing), use proper grammar and punctuation, show-don't-tell, avoid clich├ęs, etc.

Further, as a stylistic point, they SPECIFICALLY DISALLOWED certain plots as played out, overdone, amateurish and uninteresting. There were three, and I remember this specifically. I am not making these up.

1) Protagonist walks into a antique store/curio shop run by an odd little old man and unknowingly buys something... magical!

2) Private detective story for fantasy/fairy tale creatures.

3) Stories where at the end, it is revealed that the main character has been dead the whole time!

People don't understand why I didn't love The Sixth Sense. Sure, it was stylistically very strong, high production values, great acting, some genuinely scary/disturbing stuff in it, but in the end, the giant "plot twist" is something that amateur writers get made fun of for.

Not saying I saw it coming, not saying it wasn't well done, not saying I didn't run from all the tow-headed 8-year-old boys I'd see on the street for months after, I'm just saying I wasn't necessarily on the "M. Night Shyamalan is a genius!" bandwagon from Day 1.

First of all, the guy's name is Manoj. I know a couple of people (honestly I do) named Manoj. It's not a bad name. Sure, in English it kind of sounds like Foghorn Leghorn saying "My nose!", but that's OK. Most kids don't even know who Foghorn Leghorn is and further, as far as I could tell, he had no nose.

Manoj renamed himself "Night" because... well, I can't think of a single good earthly reason for it. I do suspect it has to do with Live Action Role Playing. You can't have a Level 27 Neutral Good Half-Orc Thief named "Manoj." Seriously, try it in a sentence: "Manoj puts on his +4 Dexterity Gloves of Kleptomancy!" It sounds stupid. Now substitute "Night" for "Manoj" and... yeah, OK, it's still stupid, but at least it's thematically consistent.

I really loved Unbreakable. Signs I saw and couldn't tell you a single thing about it. It's all just gone from my memory. The Village I couldn't watch because it was all so affected and puffed up.

The Lady in the Water he wrote for Disney. He insisted it was great. Disney thought it sucked. So he walked out in a huff and got it made over at Warner Bros. Now the critics have seen it and the verdict is unanimous: it sucks!

Here, let me share one plot point with you and see how you feel about it afterward: this magical creature named Story is sent out amongst people so she can inspire a writer to write a story (!) that will one day save the world. The magical creature is played by Bryce Dallas Howard, Ron's daughter. Fine.

The writer whose story will save the world is played by M. Night Shyamalan.

I may sound funny to say after so many words committed to it, but I refuse to talk about this shit any more.

Manoj gets:
ZERO (out of Three) on the Hot Babysitter Scale. The Dreaded Andrew Shue.

Go see Clerks II instead. No Paul Giamatti or Jeffrey Wright, but it's not about Silent Bob saving the fucking world either.



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