Sunday, July 23, 2006

The ‘Lady’ to See

Lady in the Water is simply beautiful.

When I first heard word of the film back in November 2005, I was automatically anticipating this summer flick. However, it is by no means your average film.

From the creative genius that is M. Night Shyamalan, Lady in the Water brings a twist to the bedtime story we know and love. Though, I probably shouldn’t use the term “twist” and Shyamalan together for this movie. The writer-actor-director is known for his shocking plot changes towards the end of the film which ultimately help explain the entire feature; however, he neither employs this ending nor does he expect audiences to anticipate it.

This, I believe, is one of the reasons why film critics across America do not appreciate this film. Movie critics, like the one ironically portrayed in the film, know plots and cannot get around Lady’s basic simplicity. A heart, even with Shyamalan’s added complexity, the film is a fairytale, a bedtime story. The teaser trailer and poster from the beginning of the year (or maybe even earlier) said Lady in the Water was a “bedtime story.” I do not understand what critics were looking for.

Movie critics have become increasingly like weather forecasters in my mind. In recent years, I have stopped listening to specifics given by meteorologists, especially on local television news. For example, in the winter, they will say snow is expected for the next day, and there is no snow to be seen. With movie critics, if they say a movie is… for example “a muddle” (as Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called Lady), I find the opposite. Most critics found excellence in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation; however, what I found was a movie without plot or progression.

A ladylike creature (a narf called Story, and played mystically by Bryce Dallas Howard) from the Blue World is stranded at a Philadelphia apartment complex called The Cove. Superintendent Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) discovers this creature in the complex’s swimming pool and makes it his job to return Story back to the world from which she came. The apartment dwellers come together to help Heep get her back. The story about Story resembles a traditional – and sometimes twisted – version of a fairytale, such as The Wizard of Oz or Peter Pan.

This is all I will say about the movie because, going into the movie, I felt that I knew too much about the story because of the film critics. Wouldn’t it be nice one day to just go to the movies, see a film and know nothing about the film before you go? I know this is pretty much impossible in today’s over-the-top marketing world, but just a thought.

One of my favorite qualities of Shyamalan’s films is the development of each character, specifically their faith. While it is hard to deeply develop every resident in The Cove, Shyamalan does a good job of encompassing one idea into many characters. Heep doubts himself and does not belief his is the right person to help Story return to her Blue World. The movie focuses on Heep’s personal faith, and even Story does not always believe she will be Blue World bound.

The music – composed by the brilliant James Howard Newton – echoes that test of faith and the hard question every resident must answer: is this fairytale real?

The question the audience must answer: do I still believe in the traditional fairytale? This film debuts with conflict around the world: Iraq, the Middle East, North Korea, and other hotspots in the news. That very conflict is shown in the film and the ending, which I do not believe I’m revealing anything here, shows that conflict can be resolved, a faith tested and restored.

My faith in M. Night Shyamalan as a moviemaker is only stronger after this bedtime story. I was watching an interview with Shyamalan and a quote that stood in my mind follows: “Lady in the Water is a very hopeful story. I guess its moral is about finding your voice and that we each have something to offer the world. And if we can awaken that thing in us, we can contribute on a significant level…”

My grade: AB or 9/10 Stars

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Stalking the Emotions

Currently, I have been using my journalistic ability to stalk my friends around the Internet. It's not a bad thing, really. I find people I know and learn about their lives.

Two and a half weeks ago, I started my first summer internship at a local television affiliate (I would give details, but I myself don't like to give too many in case someone might be stalking me). I was looking at my usual Web site when I spotted someone whom I know. Next thing I know I’m reading a Web log (“blog”) by one of my colleagues at the affiliate.

I read for about half an hour. The details. The photographs. The emotion. I felt as if I was reading a journal. And then I realized that my colleague – I would call him a friend but I have only known him a short time and do not believe we have befriended one another – is pouring out his soul and feelings while typing.

Expressing emotion with others has always been something that is hard for me, but I do believe sometimes expressing what is inside you can be self-fulfilling and also fulfilling to those who experiences the expressions. While this might not sound logical, I believe that while reading his “blog” I have learned something that will forever change our relationship. I now know what lies beneath his seemingly happy and pleased facade.

One of the other parts of his “blog” that also amazed me was the up-to-date nature of it. The latest post was recorded less than three hours ago, chronicling his Fourth of July festivities.

I have always been someone (aforementioned) who does not like to reveal much about myself, especially when it comes to my emotions. While I am not as stoic as I once was, I still feel I do not truly express how I feel for my friends, family and other about whom I dearly care.

Earlier in the evening – actually early this morning – I returned home with my mother from my own family get-together for the Fourth and turned on the television. I looked through the menu guide and found “Flight 93” on the History Channel (The Flight 93 Memorial Site). I had wanted to see the film in April when it debuted on A&E but never saw it.

I was immediately drawn into the emotion and feeling of that Tuesday morning in September: the fear in the air, on the ground and around the world. It was very difficult to watch the harrowing tale – one that must be told – of the brave men and women who gave their lives for the fight against those terrorists.

A husband and father talking to his wife for the last time, saying goodbye. The daughter calling her mother, who said that she was with her and embracing her. The operator who prayed with a man named Todd. My heart dropped as I watched every second of the well-made TV movie.

After the film, there was a special documentary of three people whose lives were forever changing by coincidence when they decided to take a later flight or not to leave on United Flight 93 at all.

This left me thinking of when I do not always express my love and affection to my family and friends. I do sometimes take my life for granted, not living up to my full potential or not being true to the ones whom I love.

So as I wrap up my first “blog” of 2006, I would like to send my love out to my mother and father, grandmother and sister, my entire family and collection of friends and colleagues from around the U.S. and even the world. I also pray for all of those who serve our country daily (at home and abroad) in the war that unfolded from the events on that tragic Tuesday morning.

God Bless America. By the way: Happy Belated Birthday, America.