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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Day of the Night: ungrateful Manoj Shyamalan dumps on Disney; craps on Manny Farber

Pissing on Disney as well as the great film cricket Manny Farber in one fell swoop? That’s our Manoj! Rich, powerful, and with an ego apparently larger than the state of Pennsylvania, Malvern, PA’s leading auteur M. Night ShyamalanHarryFarber23_345.jpg lets rip with an authorized, as-told-to, 278-page epic of ingratitude, writes Claudia Eller in LA Times, one “that offers something very rare, indeed: a candid recounting, complete with tears and recriminations, of a messy divorce between a movie studio and one of the world’s most famous writer-directors. In “The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale,” the 35-year-old filmmaker whose name has become synonymous with spooky suspense thrillers crucifies the top executives at the company he long had considered his artistic home since his 1999 surprise hit The Sixth Sense: Walt Disney Studios.” The book, written by Sports Illustrated’s Michael Bamberger, is published July 20, the day before Shyamalan latest labor of labor opens, the $70 million dumpy-building-super-meets-sea-nymph fairy tale Lady in the Water. “Disney production President Nina Jacobson… and Shyamalan enjoyed a close, albeit sometimes combative, relationship. Over six years, she shepherded his four Disney films including Unbreakable, Signs and The Village… At a disastrous dinner in Philadelphia last year, Jacobson delivered a frank critique of the [latest] script. When she told him that she and her boss, studio Chairman Dick Cook, didn’t “get” the idea, Shyamalan was heartbroken. Things got only worse when she lambasted his inclusion of a mauling of a film critic in the story line and told Shyamalan his decision to cast himself as a visionary writer out to change the world bordered on self-serving… “Sometimes Night would close his eyes and see little oval black and white head shots of Nina Jacobson and Oren Aviv and Dick Cook floating around in his head, unwanted houseguests that would not leave,” Bamberger writes. “The Disney people had gotten deep inside his head, interfering with the good work the voices were supposed to do—and it would be hell to get them out.”… “Night really let me get inside his head,” Bamberger said. “He told me what he was thinking, and I wrote it.” … “You said [Lady in the Water] was funny; I didn’t laugh,” the book quotes [Jacobson] as saying. “You’re going to let a critic get attacked? They’ll kill you for that … Your part’s too big; you’ll get killed again … What’s with the names? Scrunt? Narf? Tartutic? Not working … Don’t get it … Not buying it. Not getting it. Not working.” In an interview for the article, Jacobson is reticent, but allows: “Different people have different ideas about respect. For us, being honest is the greatest show of respect for a filmmaker.” An anecdote about Harvey Weinstein and the recutting of the dreadful 1998 Wide Awake is included with the price of the link; Mr. Shyamalan’s limited exposure to pre-release interviews includes a fan, erm, phone chat with Harry Knowles, which contains this exchange: “H: … I’ve heard that you have a film critic-type character that’s living in this apartment complex. Is that true? tinycricket.gifM: Yeah, the movie’s about how we relate to this story that’s being told and there’s a very kind-of cynical person in the building who relates to it on that close-minded level. H: Somebody… told me that he’s somebody who’s always trying to second guess where their story is going, and it just sounded fun to me. The playful poke at some of your critics out there. M: (Japanese school girl-esque laughter) Well, let’s say this, I’m definitely not playing it safe in this movie (more laughing). H: Just out of curiosity, is that who Bob Balaban is playing? M: Haha, yes. H: OK cool… the guy I would have cast as a baffoonishy [sic] sort of critic type. I would have cast Bob Balaban.” In a shitty fit of philistinism, Mr. Shyamalan has dubbed the ill-fated cricket Harry Farber, an unfortunate, even unpleasant slam against the influential and gifted painter and film cricket Manny Farber, who turns 89 this year. [Click for an additional definition of the not-neologism “scrunt.”]

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“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
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“Netflix has spent the past couple years attempting to brute-force jailbreak this law. Its counter-theory has seemed to be, sure, a billion dollars doesn’t guarantee quality but how about three billion dollars? How about five billion dollars? Seven?

“This week’s latest cinematic opus to run across no-man’s-land into the machine-gun emplacements has been the Jared Leto yakuza movie ‘The Outsider.’ Once again, debuting on Netflix, another thing called a movie that at one glance doesn’t look like any kind of movie anyone has ever seen before, outside of off-prime time screenings at the AFM.

“If you’re working at a normal studio, you have one or two of these total misfires in a year and people start calling for your head. How many is Netflix going on? Fifteen? Twenty? This quarter? Any normal company would be getting murdered over results like that.”
~ Richard Rushfield