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Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest Forrest@moviecitynews.com

How the Mighty Have Fallen…

Two times in the past week, I’ve gone to the movie theater and seen the preview for Devil.  Both times,  I thought the trailer was well-cut, moody, and effective.  And both times, the audience started giggling as soon as they saw M. Night Shyamalan’s name on the screen.  By no means am I a fan of the man’s recent output – in fact, I’d go so far as to say that the films he’s made since Signs have all been somewhat embarrassing travesties – but I don’t root for anyone’s failure.  I think Shyamalan is clearly a talented individual who has made at least one excellent film (Unbreakable) and one very good one (The Sixth Sense), but I don’t think anything has really changed in him.  I don’t think he’s a different kind of storyteller now, I just think he hasn’t evolved as a filmmaker.  Some chalk it up to an out-sized ego – and certainly there’s proof of that – but I’m not going to play amateur psychologist and assume that’s the case.  I think he is very comfortable making films the way he makes them and doesn’t see that much of a need to listen to outside opinions.

Having said all that, Universal should be more aware of what has happened to the M. Night Shyamalan over the last few years.  I don’t think it’s right that people are laughing at Shyamalan’s producer credit on Devil, but I also don’t think it’s smart for the marketing folks to prominently display the name of a man who has tarnished his brand in the eyes of most moviegoers.  One could point to the $130 million that The Last Airbender grossed, but that film had a built-in audience and still couldn’t make its budget back.

Devil is a smaller film that needs word of mouth and positive buzz.  It seems to be set almost entirely in an elevator with an outlandish premise, but the trailer is cut so well that it intrigued me and I don’t know why the studio would risk putting Shyamalan’s name in lights.  Let’s all hope the film is good and that it is step one in Shyamalan getting back into our good graces.  Step two is letting someone else write his scripts.

One Response to “How the Mighty Have Fallen…”

  1. Jeremy says:

    I have seen this trailer in theatres 5 or 6 times and it is true, every time his name comes up, the audience laughs or boos. And I’m always the guy in the back row screaming “The twist is that he’s been a shitty director the whole time!” I liked Sixth Sense and Unbreakable too, and thought Signs was a guilty pleasure, but the rest have been junk. I saw The Happening opening night, and the audience treated it like it was The Room–no joke. They didn’t throw spoons, but they hurled insults at the screen whenever they could.

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Tsangari: With my next film, White Knuckles, it comes with a budget — it’s going to be a huge new world for me. As always when I enter into a new thing, don’t you wonder how it’s going to be and how much of yourself you are going to have to sacrifice? The ballet of all of this. I’m already imaging the choreography — not of the camera, but the choreography of actually bringing it to life. It is as fascinating as the shooting itself. I find the producing as exciting as the directing. The one informs the other. There is this producer-director hat that I constantly wear. I’ve been thinking about these early auteurs, like Howard Hawks and John Ford and Preston Sturges—all of these guys basically were hired by the studio, and I doubt they had final cut, and somehow they had films that now we can say they had their signatures.  There are different ways of being creative within the parameters and limitations of production. The only thing you cannot negotiate is stupidity.
Filmmaker: And unfortunately, there is an abundance of that in the world.
Tsangari: This is the only big risk: stupidity. Everything else is completely worked out in the end.
~ Chevalier‘s Rachel Athina Tsangari

“The middle-range movies that I was doing have largely either stopped being made, or they’ve moved to television, now that television is a go-to medium for directors who can’t get work in theatricals, because there are so few theatricals being made. But also with the new miniseries concept, you can tell a long story in detail without having to cram it all into 90 minutes. You don’t have to cut the characters and take out the secondary people. You can actually put them all on a big canvas. And it is a big canvas, because people have bigger screens now, so there’s no aesthetic difference between the way you shoot a movie and the way you shoot a TV show.

“Which is all for the good. But what’s happened in the interim is that theatrical movies being a spectacle business are now either giant blockbuster movies that run three hours—even superhero movies run three hours, they used to run like 58 minutes!—and the others, which are dysfunctional family independent movies or the slob comedy or the kiddie movie, and those are all low-budget. So the middle ground of movies that were about things, they’re just gone. Or else they’re on HBO. Like the Bryan Cranston LBJ movie, which years ago would’ve been made for theaters.

“You’ve got people like Paul Schrader and Walter Hill who can’t get their movies theatrically distributed because there’s no market for it. So they end up going to VOD, and VOD is a model from which no one makes any money, because most of the time, as soon as they get on the site, they’re pirated. So the whole model of the system right now is completely broken. And whether or not anybody’s going to try to fix, or if it even can be fixed, I don’t know. But it’s certainly not the same business that I got into in the ’70s.”
~ Joe Dante

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