Tag Archives: awards

“Felt wrong not to swing.”

I know that this next one is WAY past the 90s. In fact, I did not expect to do this post in quite some time. I hope that all of you are ready for an experiment.

My tweep (for those of you not on twitter the translation is twitter friend i.e. twitter + peep = tweep) Tyrone Bruinsma Films @TBruinsmaFilms (for my other tweeps, if you’re not following him, your loss) thought it would be great to have us write about a film that we disagree on. Point, Counter-Point.

I felt that it should be two as I would like to venture into writing a post on a movie that I did not particularly like as well since that would be something new for me.

This week, I am writing my positive review on “Signs,” and I will share Tyrone’s critical review of “Signs” along with it.

Stay tuned for next week’s. It will be my first critical review…

SIGNS –TWO OPPOSING VIEWS

 

Click here for the link to Tyrone’s Article on his Blog!

WHY SIGNS WAS A SIGNAL OF M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN’S FAILINGS

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

It’s been often touted that director M. Night Shyamalan made 3 stone cold classics in rapid succession: The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs. Unfortunately I think M. Night’s ONLY good films are The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Split.

To fully summarise: The Sixth Sense was the rare film that was good, financially successful and still a classic, Unbreakable is a completely underrated and better than you thought masterpiece and Split was a junky fun film. And I’m aware A LOT of people love Signs, I mean if you want to watch a video on why Signs apparently works so well: check out this Chris Stuckmann video that I respect but disagree with (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3Ju05PuiyQ). But I’m not the only one who thinks it’s lacking film, many critics even at its initial release had major issues and seeing as how I heard good and bad things, seeing it a few months before Split and after seeing the god awful The Visit-I was open to it being bad or good…and it’s bad.

Before I get into why Signs doesn’t work and was actually a signal of M. Night’s deteriorating skillset-let me recap the 11 years which M. Night spent on worst years’ lists. Even if you liked Signs:
-2004’s The Village was a completely non-functional film whose story ONLY served for the sake of a twist and didn’t make sense upon re-visitation.

-Then in 2006 he released The Lady in the Water (A film which Disney didn’t’ understand but would green light regardless and he had a nonsensical hissy fit and took the film to another company saying “Disney hates auteurs) which was basically M. Night making fun of critics who called out his issues, made no real scares, had the dumbest and overly contrived plots AND framed M. Night as some Messianic figure whose works would save the world and make him leader of it…yeah…that’s totally not ego-stroking.

-2008 saw the release of The Happening, a laughably bad (To the point it’s a “So bad it’s good film) “horror” film about killer plants that M. Night first said would be a disturbing horror film and immediately ret-coned as a “B-Movie”. This is movie is so broken and dumb that Mark Walberg hates it and during filming, asked M. Night about plot holes and M. Night acted arrogantly about it.

-In 2010 we got one of the worst adaptations ever in the form of a 103 minute version of the first season of The Last Airbender. The movie failed because M. Night’s writing and execution was not fit for this series at all, blaming critic’s for not letting his “art-house mentality” make the movie better. The movie just doesn’t’ work and is pretty much racist for having all the good main characters be white despite the cultures presented in the film. That same year, M. Night produced Devil: another stupidly hilarious film only serving one of the worst twists and history.

-2013 gave us the embarrassing misfire that was After Earth: a sci fi film whose story doesn’t work, has actors giving their worst performances and is completely nonsensical.
-And before he made the ACTUALLY good Split: he made the found footage abomination The Visit which is basically a meta-textual where M. Night tries to explain that ALL the stuff he does and that critics and audiences hate him for is actually genius and hating him makes you an evil, idiot person.

No, I’m not kidding. And ALL of this horrible stuff was set up in his alien invasion film-Signs.

Signs does have a few good elements before I start bashing it. The cinematography is fine (though it’s off and even his films with good cinematography are bad), Mel Gibson’s performance is good and the initial story is good enough. And yes I’m aware about the themes of faith, grief and suffering as religious martyrdom…but the movie truly fails to make that work for me. Wanna know the funniest thing? There’s a filmmaker who makes the theme of faith, suffering and religious sacrifice work and makes it work to emotional effect: Mel Gibson. Yeah, who’d have thought Mel Gibson would be good making films about that? (Obvious Sarcasm is Obvious) But it’s true: Braveheart, Passion of the Christ and Hacksaw Ridge all share the same themes, but unlike Signs…actually have a point to it. Braveheart was about sacrificing yourself for the freedom of your people, Passion of the Christ was about the love Jesus had for humanity and the suffering he endured for it and Hacksaw Ridge was about the punishing trauma a man is willing to go through to save his fellow man’s life. That’s powerful stuff…but Signs doesn’t’ get that emotional, that deep or that impactful, I’ll get to that later but first…everything else.

First of all, the movie isn’t scary. Opening on a blue credit screen with black titles and “horror music” isn’t exactly a good sign (no pun intended). I mean…think of classic ways horror movies have opened: jaws, Sinister, The Thing, Jurassic Park, The Shallows or Zodiac. And if you just wanna talk about title credit openings well…Alien still did it best. But I think I was only scared in the loosest terms twice: once was the alien leg in the cornfield and the other time was the alien on the roof. Any other time there was an attempt at fear or showing the aliens was lame, and even in the alien on the roof scare was made dumb by the little girl’s line about wanting water. And I could tell very clearly from Split that M. Night likes to mix humour with horror, but that doesn’t’ work here…or in any of his other films. Also…the alien’s aren’t scary and don’t have any presence or…sensible biology.

Now-let’s get on to the child actors. Now child actors tend to get a bad wrap…mostly because they’re kids. But in this movie, we have a girl who seems oblivious to everything around her…and a boy who talks like he’s Danny from The Shining, Henry from the Book of Henry and Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. The main problem is we’ve inconsistent child characters (something that’s common in M. Night’s work) with one that doesn’t seem to do anything or know anything and another who acts like a mature adult who knows everything he’s talking about. And considering Joaquin Phoenix acts like a dumb teen…this is a very weird thing to do. The Happening also had younger characters talk about serious issues and adults acting like children. I don’t know why this is a thing M. Night does…but it doesn’t make sense.

Next is the cinematography, now yes: I did say it’s good…but that comes with a caveat. See M. Night loves long takes and sometimes (like in Unbreakable) it works…however-in this film and in many others: it doesn’t. See instead of having a shot reverse shot sequence for dialogue conversation, he uses and long, drawn out and slow single shot that goes from one side of the long table to the other…but it’s boring, slow and draws attention to itself too much. Considering M. Night’s ego…it wouldn’t surprise me.

That’s the thing: M. Night’s ego is his biggest downfall…along with any other director who gets to that state. Similar to how George Lucas (Only because mentors advised against his worst aspects) made Star Wars and then years later got to make the prequel trilogy with unlimited resources and only yes men

serving him. Well a similar thing happened with M. Night: because the Sixth Sense was a financial, cultural and critical success in one go…he kind of just bought into his own ego and genius. And this means that most of his works (but mostly Lady in the Water and The Visit) are ego trips meant to be these “high class think pieces” that are amazing because he experimented with genre. But here’s the thing: JUST being different without a creative element to back it up doesn’t make it genius. Using terrible framing and over choreographed movements in The Last Airbender wasn’t “being art house”. Having Will Smith act as the least engaging performance he’s given wasn’t “defying genre expectations”. And having the twist in the Village make no sense in universe wasn’t “unappealing to the critics”. Simply put, they were bad creative misfires and you should own up to them-stop blaming everyone else. You’re such an auteur and creative individual, but won’t admit that your choices fail-it’s just everyone else who’s wrong for not liking it.

But now we get to the big, stupid reason this movie doesn’t work-the marriage of plot and theme. The entire theme of this movie is about “Everything happens for a reason”. Mel Gibson’s entire character in this movie is basically learning to accept the pain of his past, the quirks of his family and trust in God that everything will be ok. Now aside from the fact that the loss Mel Gibson suffers basically reduces a female character to a plot point and not…a character, the main issue I gave is that Mel’s character already seems to accept everything. Like his daughter constantly wanting water and leaving it half full everywhere isn’t’ that weird to him, nor his son’s weird maturity. In fact, the only real arch is that he has to see all the coincidences come together at the end to make him a Man of the Cloth again. I’m not against religious stories: like I said-Mel Gibson himself makes them better. But the whole time: the film tells us not to question anything, to just go with it and that eventually everything works out with you coming on top. It might be fine for M. Night who had two failed movies before making it big…but that’s a bad message to tell those who’ve genuinely suffered that “if you just go with everything-it’ll be fine”. There’s no nuance or greyness proposed, it’s just blatantly stated. And all of this comes down to…yes- the “twist”. The fact that we learn the aliens have a weakness to water and that because Mel’s daughter constantly leaves half cups of water on everything…the alien bumps into one and it shows damage…ok…where do I start?

-One: why would an alien race EVER want to invade a planet that’s 70% water and is accessible to every human being in major areas? Fire trucks would be our tanks.
-Two: it’s convenient that the alien just happened to be in the right room with the right cup in the right place at the right time. What if Mel had moved the cups away or the alien got into the basement? -Three: what were the aliens ACTUALLY doing? They showed up, ran around a bit and left. They blew up nothing, showed no interest in humans and mostly acted like cliché monsters not written properly in an alien invasion movie.

-Four: did Mel Gibson’s daughter ONLY do this when her mother died? Will she keep doing it or has it stopped? Because…that just feels like M. Night failing to write an actual female character…again…in the same movie.
-Five: I realised while writing this that Mel Gibson really is M. Night’s insert character and that if M. Night changes nothing an goes with it-he’s coincidentally achieve greatness and become amazing…just like how he directly wrote himself in Lady in the Water.

And that’s really the major problem: M. Night making a wish fulfilment movie about himself. He even makes basic thematic connections by not tying the water to anything. It’s not holy water to imply the aliens as demons metaphor and the wife who died in the movie as Mel Gibson’s loss didn’t die in water- so there’s no thematic tie. If you wanted a better story: Mel Gibson should’ve accidentally killed his wife by accidentally driving her into a lake and she drowns or something and he spends the entire film hating himself and hating his daughter’s problem. We don’t get that…instead we have M. Night inserting himself as the man who killed Mel’s wife…and that’s LITERALLY obstructs the film. It LITERALLY has Signs as a good movie being obstructed by his egotism blocking an actually good film. His unnecessary character, his coincidental plot and narrative framing as a misuse of faith as a story and his overly obsessed showy direction only prevents the film from being good. M. Night-ever since Signs has made egotistical works where HE blocks their growth and only recently with Split.

Overall, if you like Signs: it’s understandable. But I find the pretentious (and M.Night is very pretentious) style and execution for what should be a powerful story about faith is a waste. In my opinion: if you want a crazy alien movie with a twist and very powerful theme-watch Arrival.

signs-crop-circle

I remember hoping that M. Night had another one in him. I was fresh out of college and living in Pullman, WA. We moved there in June and I had been jobless for a couple of months (that never  feels good). I finally got a job as a donut fryer at Dissmores just before the release of this film and I had not gone to a movie for two months (UNHEARD OF)!

This would be the first film that I saw off my dry spell.

I have found that the mood we are in when we see a movie has SO much to do with our enjoyment of it. I’m pretty sure there are some good movies out there that I saw when I was sour and have not revisited. It seems unfair, as it was not the films fault that I was not in the best place mentally to watch it.

The opposite end of that spectrum can be the same.

I was off movies for two months (including Netflix–DVDizzles at the time). I finally had enough money to take my then wife on a date. School was about to start in a few weeks and we had a steady income to help supplement her TA-ship. I was feeling really good and that emotion stayed with me through the experience of this movie.

You all know by now (I hope) that I am a fan of Hitch’s films. His films were rarely about “the explosion.” They were about letting the audience know that the bomb was under a table, but our hero had no clue as the time ticked down…rarely did his bombs go off, but we found ourselves uneasy in our seats watching our hero about to explode.

When I watched “Signs,” I felt those same feelings watching “The Birds,” and “Strangers on a Train,” and “Shadow of a Doubt,” for the first time.

Signs” is not a horror movie.  If it was horror that you wanted, this was not the film for you. It is truly a movie about a man that has found himself in a spiritual trough, who finds a way to dig himself back out again with the help of his family. The “visitors” just give him the motivation to make his life (and his families) relevant for him again.

I am a sucker for movies that make a “full circle.” I like subtle hints that are dropped at the start of films that end up being the tape that keeps the fragmented film together.

Signs” delivered that feeling for me.

I found the tone of the film to be very balanced with its ability to trickle in humor between scenes of suspenseful silence and the rigid unknown.

The persons in charge of casting rarely get the credit they deserve. There are no awards for casting, and if you fail at that, your movie will fail. If you make it work, you’ve made the director’s job SO easy. I feel that M. Night probably had an “easy” production on the shoot of this film.

gibson signs

Gibson’s Graham Hess is played with the right kind of quiet torture that a man who has recently lost his wife would have to hold as he has two kids he needs to keep it together in front of.

Joaquin Signs

Joaquin Phoenix as his brother Merrill steals every scene that he is in, both with humor and the expression of fear that comes with suspense projects.

I think another thing that helped me enjoy the film was how quickly they dispelled the possibility of the “crop circles” being anything other than extra terrestrial. I was skeptical of this when I first saw a trailer, as I knew how people made crop circles…it was dealt with and I was able to enjoy the rest of the movie.

If you can find a creative way to grab my attention and make me jump a little, you sell me.

That damn rotary telephone sold me. Add an intelligent script, great actors, fragments of film, sprinkle with aliens, and a pinch of tape…you’ve gone full crop circle.

Please give @TBruinsmaFilms a follow on the Twits and check out his amazing blog as well.

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“I’m having a thought. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I’m gonna have a thought. It’s coming… It’s gone.”

I have a confession.  I think the Oscars are bullshit and they were put on this earth for two reasons.  One, to make really rich people feel like they’ve accomplished even more in their lives. Two, to ignite a fire of rage and debate in all of us.

I used to think the Academy Awards meant something.  I mean, it was peers determining which of them had the best performance, directing, writing, picture, etc.  They should know, right?  They’re the professionals.  Then you go back and look at the past winners over time and realize that the “true” winners with lasting power were never picked.

I ramble on…

1990 was an amazing year for film:

Goodfellas” (I’ll get to this one down the road…)

Home Alone” (Thank you John Hughes)

Edward Scissorhands

Pretty Woman

Awakenings

Misery

Ghost

Lord of the Flies

Miller’s Crossing

I didn’t even list the ones I’ve already written about.  Trust me, there are plenty.  But…some things I cannot understand.  How did “Dick Tracy” get left out of the best picture mix…?  How did Al Pacino win for “Scent of a Woman,” but get stiffed for his role as Big Boy Caprice in “Dick Tracy?”  Rhetorical really…but I continue to ponder…

To my mind, “Dick Tracy” is the most underrated “comic book” movie of all time.  I did not say it was the best.  I said it was the most underrated.  You know, the one that is G-R-E-A-T great, but you always forget about it when you are thinking about Superman, Batman, Captain America, Spiderman, Iron Man, etc.

Warren Beatty’s vision was a marvel (pun/jab intended) and deserves all the credit that has been thrown it’s way–and more–over the years.

It was visually stunning (throughout every frame).  It was perfectly cast, had a great script, and stayed true to the source material.  I don’t know if it is true, but in my mind, I like to believe that when Warren was a child he grew up reading Dick Tracy just like I grew up reading about Wolverine and Gambit.  He had to.  The attention to detail was incredible.  The lighting, the costumes, the makeup, the sets, the props…it truly was a world that existed in the pictures of a comic book.

The characters were all larger than life and the photos I’ve added don’t display a quarter of all of the great ones.

“Dick Tracy” was a tricky movie for my mom.  It was rated PG.  I was old enough to watch it.  I had seen way worse in terms of violence and gore at that point in my life…but this picture had one thing in it that my mother had a hard time with.

MADONNA

Yes.  My mother is not a fan of Madonna.  She was a very “controversial” figure in the 80s. I grew up in a small conservative town…Madonna wasn’t very popular to anyone over 30 in  Blackfoot, ID in 1990.  She was skeptical and encouraged me not to watch it, but she relented.  She, however, refused to watch it with me.

Her loss.

Forget about the technical aspects.  We all know the makeup, costumes, lighting, sets, etc. were amazing.  The performance by Al Pacino is the glue that keeps this picture rolling.  Has there ever been a character that is so dangerous in one second and hilarious in the next?  He boogied with Madonna as Breathless Mahoney, which is meant to be a funny scene…but as you watch the scene unfold, you know that Big Boy Caprice is unpredictable and could snap and break her neck for singing out of key if he felt like it.

There is drama, suspense, humor, action, and a little romance too.  I feel that it is a movie that deserves to be in my top 10 list, but I never count it among those.  It’s probably that guilt from enjoying a movie so much that I know my mother didn’t want me to ever see.

Totally worth it…

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“Here’s to swimm’n’ with bow-legged women.”

This film is my favorite “horror” film of all time.

I probably saw it when I was too little, but what are you going to do.  It was on HBO all of the time in the early 80s.

After “Ghostbusters” this has to be the film I have seen the second most in my life.  It isn’t just me that loves this film.  My family loves it and once we had a copy of it, we probably watched it together in the summer time once a month after dinner when the kids could stay up late and finish movies with mom and dad.

The open “boating accident” in the film was the hardest for me.  I remember after viewing it once, whenever we would sit down to watch it again, I would conveniently go do the dishes or find a need to make water.  Next to the climactic kill, it is one of the hardest scenes for me to watch presently.  The fact that it is a woman screaming in terror in the dark with no hope and the length of time at which it takes for her to finally be annihilated is what sets the horror tones in the movie.  The actress was amazing and what a way to open a film.  No blood, no murderer, no special effects–plenty of terror.

I say “horror” because a great majority of the film is action packed with a sea voyage on the hunt to save a small island from this very real monster.  The first half of the film is horror at it’s finest (I am biased).  We get slight glimpses of the beast for scale purposes, but we never get a full shot of the scope of the creature until approximately an hour and fifteen minutes in.  This builds tension and drama and when we finally do see “it,” the pay off is sufficient due to a perfectly delivered line by the lead character to the captain of the Orca.  I think everybody knows that line or has heard someone reference it.

This film gave me nightmares, and I had to slightly talk my mother into seeing it.  She was a huge fan of the film though and she was torn between protecting me from nightmares or allowing me to experience a masterpiece of suspense and horror the way she had.

Mom was not aware of “Poltergeist” yet, so she didn’t know I already had years of experience keeping my nightmares to myself.  That helped prepare my parents to allow me to keep watching horror movies as they never thought that I was effected by nightmares.  Little did they know I was just trained at hiding it. My imagination is too great to escape nightmares.  It’s a curse, but I can’t stop.

My therapist and I are working through it.

The nightmares I remember always made me feel like my blankets were constricting me from escaping the monster under the blankets with me at the foot of my bed as it latched onto my feet with it’s “Jaws.”  Just like when you are under water or treading water.  The shark totally has the advantage as it is their world we’re encroaching on.

I remember loving the thrills and the little bits of humor sprinkled throughout the film by Hooper and Quint.  Chief ends up being the butt of a lot of jokes as well and Roy Scheider delivered a fine performance as a lead character trying to protect the commerce of his new home.

Spielberg has a way with pacing an action film so that it doesn’t feel like we are jumping from set piece to set piece.  The writing and the acting have a lot to do with that and I give him credit for allowing his actors and writers to create entertaining dialogue that keeps the audience focused throughout with a clear flow from scene to scene.  This is evident in his films that really work.

You cannot talk about this film and NOT mention the score.  I know that it has now become a major cliche.  I can’t think of another score that we hear that makes us know exactly what the setting is and who we are sharing that setting with (you hear it and you know I am under water and I am going to get eaten).  Think about prior to 1975 however.  No one had heard that score before.  I have only lived in a time after that score and cannot imagine a world without that pop culture reference. Immediately that score became the cliche that it is and it’s a major contributor to the sense of terror that makes the movie work.

Just like being unable to live in a world without that score, I am thankful that I have watched that film and know what that pop culture reference is all about.

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“If we’re about to die anyway, I’d rather die fighting!”

I feel slightly embarrassed and giddy at the same time when I think about this next one.

It featured a mainly child cast, with a sprinkle of a few adults here and there as fill in characters and voices for animated/puppet characters. The story is told through the mind of a child in modern day (1984) America while he is reading a book that a crotchety old book store owner gave him when he sneaked in while running away from bullies before school.

The names of the characters are what stuck with me all of these years:

Bastian, Atreyu, Artax (the horse), Falkor, and G’mork to name a few.

Basically, he finds a nice quiet place to read this book all day while skipping out on school, as the story in the book becomes the movie within the movie (even more so than anticipated as the movie draws to its climax).

As a child, I loved the story and the characters. The scale at which the creators chose to tell this story was rather brave considering the main character within the movie of the movie has to continually jump from one setting to the next while trying to piece together the puzzle that will save his world and everyone that lives in it. There are a ton of set pieces, each with their own unique look and feel and it worked because I was captivated by all of them.

As an adult looking back I feel that this is another story told in the 80s that fed the egos of Gen Xers like myself. Our baby boomer parents loved to tell us that we could be president some day if we worked hard enough and they kept telling us that because we wanted to believe them oh so much. With this film we have children doing adult things again: going on a quest, solving riddles, surviving near death, killing villains, and this time not just saving a town, ultimately saving an entire WORLD.

Vanity, much?

So why embarrassment with the giddy?

I’m afraid that this film won’t stand the test of time. For 1984, it was great, but the puppeteering and the special effects just won’t hold up to what we are used to today, even just on television. I will try this movie out with my son when he is a little older (not much) and gauge it from his reactions. I think if children see it early enough, it could still hold for a period of time with them as they won’t be jaded. Kids in junior high these days would most likely be bored with this in the first act.

Do I get sucked into the theme that we need to stick with our dreams? Absolutely.  So much so, hey, I started a blog in order to continue to keep writing as a major part of my life.  I am a sucker for that kind of story and I did like the plot device of tying both worlds together when the climax draws near.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves for our children’s sake of the responsibility we have to continue to pursue that happiness our forefathers were talking about.  It’s through our dreams that we can achieve this–even if they don’t work out the way we want them to. Having the pursuit of the dream on the forefront for them to see is a most important thing.

The Neverending Story” bleeds that expectation throughout it’s action.

So, yes.  My son will see it.

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One Lovely Blog Award-WHAT?!

Okay.

So I woke up two days ago to this amazing news. I have been traveling for work all week and this pick-me-up was way better than any latte (mmmm lattes….I do love lattes) anyways, thank you Angela from MY COLLEGE ODYSSEY. I am flattered that a young writer with your talent would ever think my meager blog would be decent enough for such a nomination. Yours is TOTALLY “One Lovely Blog worthy.”

Thinking just that, I was flattered, but felt foolish trying to think of what to write for my nomination and pretty much decided not to….

Until…..

Brooks P. Weaver was kind enough to mention me again.

Okay, papa’s gotta write one now.

My apologies for what you’re about to get. Even I don’t know what I’m going to do.

Let’s get to the rat killi’n’ as my grandpa always said.

7 facts about myself:

1. I have a 2 (almost 3) year old son. He has made my life relevant over the last 3 years in ways I would’ve never thought possible and I am blessed to be the molder of such a pleasant young child.

2. I am twice divorced before 40. Yep ladies, this guy’s single. Look out!

3. My girlfriend is going to kick my ass for number 2.

4. You all know I love movies. I like to read as well. Weird, I know. I generally enjoy “great” science fiction and fantasy but I LOVE the classics (Twilight, 50 Shades, etc.)

5. That last part of 4 was bullshit. Not the reading part, the “what I like to consider classics” part. I consider Gone with the Wind, anything by Mark Twain (My favorite), and The Idiot classics.

6. I used to play soccer in high school and college. Love it. Miss it.

7. I work full time at an agency in which we support person’s diagnosed with intellectual disabilities and I love it.

Okay 15 to nominate. Here we go:

1. jordanandeddie
2. Kevin J. Hotter
3. razorbackwriteraus
4. penshift
5. ToddMedicii
6. risahlymbicky
7. mstoywhisperer
8. inspiredbyabook
9. The Black Hat Writer
10. meohmila
11. Mike Fuller Author
12. januarygray
13. c0ral33
14. AlexF
15. Gratuitous Rex