Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

In defence of my top 12 - parts 3 and 4

3 Signs

Can't sufficiently break down in one's not about aliens...

One could say Sixth Sense was the first film I ever saw properly. They just don’t make that many good quality kids films. I mean genuinely well directed, well acted kid-friendly masterpieces. You don’t see the likes of Kevin Spacey and Baz Luhrmann introducing those of a tender age to the big wide world of decent film making. Perhaps they should?

Anyway, Sixth Sense was one of those films which changed my life. To start with, I began doing a running leap towards my bed at night in case a ghost was hiding under there to grab my ankle; but more importantly, it was staggeringly well made. What sort of trash had I been watching for the first 12 years of my life?! I don’t know, but that was the one which introduced me to great moviemaking.

But I never really loved it (too busy hiding behind cushions), and it was left to his second effort to sweep me off in such a way I still cry every time I see it. A student of Hitchcock, his films are one long Maguffin. Take Signs. About aliens? You couldn’t be more wrong. The existence of aliens is merely the trigger that sets the ball rolling. It’s about faith, and love, and hope and destiny and lots of other wonderful wonderful emotions, and that’s what makes his films so beautiful. Sixth Sense scared the hell out of me (as it still does), but when you look at it it’s really about how we deal with loss and letting go. This is what makes me so cross about MNS’ detractors who complain Signs wasn’t scary – it wasn’t meant to be. Anyone who thought Sixth Sense was just about dead people is missing the point. And perhaps, then, that was the problem with The Village. It had no deeper message. I liked it a lot more than the majority, but I still felt something wasn’t quite there. The title “Signs” sums up what he’s been saying all along.

MNS is best known for films which can only be seen for the first time once. After you get to the end and he’s revealed his latest ace, you never see it in quite the same way again. Most notably, in Sixth Sense, yes but Signs is as neatly plotted, and I don’t just mean introducing Morgan’s asthma and Bo’s water tick early on. When the dog gets ill, Graham mentions he’ll call so-and-so the doctor (implying not a vet). I forget how the rest goes, but it’s a tiny scene I’ve never seen the importance of, never even noticed, until today – when Graham visits Ray, there’s an establishing shot of his house. His mail box reads “R. Reddy – vetenarian”. It’s an afterthought of an observation. More crucially, Merrel’s throwaway remark near the end that they were gone, only leaving their wounded behind requires a second think after they go back upstairs. Every moment in this film counts – either it’s advancing the characters, or the plot. Period. No plotlets unresolved, no pointless conversation. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you script a movie (see: Reservoir Dogs, starring in a later post)

Apparently there’s a lot of religious imagery in here too. I’ve only ever thought “last supper” when they’re picking what to eat, but I’m sure there are more. It’s a tribute to his skill he can put it in without banging you over the head with it.

What most impressed me the first time I saw this was the balance. It’s about as scary as I can handle, but there’s deep humanity there as well. It’s sad in places, tense, there’s even the odd amusing moment. It’s not about the scares dammit! In every other alien film I’d seen, the hero went out to save the world from invasion. The idea that someone was treating the genre seriously! And the hero just stays at home taking care of his own family?! I’d never seen anything like it. And it runs you through all the emotions, which are always sincere and never feel forced.

Everyone always talks about the twist. It’s become a guessing game to spot it beforehand. And there is a strange turn of sorts at the end of this, but you’ll feel cheated if you go in expecting it to be mindblowing. It’s a perfect reflection of the rest of the film – if you’re hating it, you’ll be pretty sceptical – but at that moment, I, for one, was ready to believe whatever he threw at me. Graham’s a secret crossdresser? Yeh. Totally. The aliens are a product of his split mind? That too.

I’m very suceptible to criticism. I don’t have that much faith in my own opinions, which is why I never read bad reviews of films I’ve loved, always end up agreeing with the opposition when arguing and haven’t seen this film for three years since Friends 1 and 4 mocked the hell out of it. The reason I watched it today was I wanted to know if it was actually all that good…three years is a long time, I’ve changed, and I feared it was on my list out of habit rather than genuine affection. Fret no more. I wrote an entire two pages about it, which looks like enthusiasm to me. It’s stunningly well made (cripes, I haven’t even mentioned the acting yet), and there are very very few films that still make me cry every time

Sum up the film in a moment: "Is it possible there are no coincidences?"
Best scene: Ray Reddy in the car. You may, at this moment, quote Ed Wood. “I write, direct, act and produce” “Nobody does all that.” “Just two people – me and Orson Welles”. And MNS. And me, as it happens, but I’m obviously lining up with Ed as opposed to Orson. He’s definitely attempting auteurdom. Here's some clues:
  • He’s worked with the same composer 5 films running - James Newton Howard, long may it remain!
  • He follows the auteur-actor continuation rule (Signs->Village = joaquin Phoenix. Village-> Lady in the Water = Bruce Dallas Howard etc).
  • His films have a definite style and number of identifiable traits and ideas – the twist, yeh, but has anyone else ever noticed the theme of redemption through the supernatural? Or the inclusion of virtually unimportant sub-mystical traits (Bo’s “feelings” in Signs, Ivy’s ability to see auras.)

And now he’s appearing in his own films. I’ve heard a fair few detractors, but I don’t think that’s quite fair. Even before I knew it was his somewhat extended director’s cameo, I loved it. I just have a thing for the guilty, and his despairing delivery of “people who kill reverend’s wives don’t exactly get ushered to the front of the line in heaven” breaks my heart every time.

Best line: “Excluding the possibility that a female, Scandinavian Olimpiad was running around our house last night, what else could be a possibility?”
Favourite character: Bo Hess is so sweet, but I really did like Ray, on account of the scene.
Nerdy observation: fearing a nasty death, the Hess family all eat their favourite foods the night before. But did anybody notice that Bo had put on her prettiest party frock? It might even have been a fancy dress Disney Princess costume, I’m not sure. Still…very sweet…
Special mention: the music. Those three notes become your best friends during this movie. They dash from curious, to creepy, to sensitive, to all out wonder. Most impressively in the final song, where it actually does all that within two minutes without feeling messy. MNS says he always makes sure a film can work on its own before even considering music, which is commendable, but I’m sure it’s the tune as much as the images I’m sobbing over.
Best watched: when you’ve given up all hope in life.

4 Fellowship of the Ring
Nine heroes set out to destroy a ring which, in the wrong hands, would enslave the world

Sixth Sense changed my moviewatching life. FOTR actually genuinely changed my life. I was snotty before I saw it – and for a fair while afterwards, it must be said – but all that goodness had a positive effect on my personality. Which is why I’m not trying to condense it into best scene etc. It just IS. I just can’t analyse it the way other people can. I refuse to get drawn into conversations about its cinematic merit, because for me it’s always been more than just a film.

You can tell I’m one of the people who speak two dialects of elven, can’t you?

In other news... getting rather paniced about PJ being sacked. OK, I'm sure someone else will do the job well, but there's no one else I trust to do it as faithfully. Friend 3 has come up with a genius plan - she's taken out an Total Film subscription. I've had Empire for a year - we're going to swap them once we've finished. Last night I watched Pulp Fiction again while doing homework - it's really comforting. The pace is slow, the cinematography calm and it's thoroughly pleasant to have the words and music wash over while you work. Out of three friends on MSN messenger, only one asked whether I wanted to be left alone when I said I was watching it. I said no, but I think I need better friends...


Copyright 2009 Cinecism. All rights reserved.
Free WordPress Themes Presented by EZwpthemes.
Bloggerized by Miss Dothy