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I don’t think there are five directors in history who have had as unusual of a career as M. Night Shyamalan. He came out of the gate with two hit movies and everyone was anointing him the next Steven Spielberg. He’s since directed six films that the majority of people consider to be really bad (with the exception of maybe Signs). That’s resulted in a huge backlash against him. But I think the real reason there are so many M. Night haters is that he’s so defiant about his script’s problems. While he never comes out and says it, his m.o. after a flop is to insinuate that critics and audiences don’t “get it.” Maybe if M. Night had some humility and took himself a little less seriously, he’d endear a lot of those fans to come back to his side (or at least not spend half their day pounding him on message boards). I picked “Lady In The Water” to analyze because I believe it’s the moment audiences first began to realize that M. Night may be a one-trick pony. Sure, his next film (The Happening), was worse. But I think this one represents a lot of what’s wrong with Night as a writer. I remember watching it and just thinking, “What WAS that??” For those who didn’t see the film, it’s about a middle-aged sclumpy apartment building manager (“Cleveland,” played by Paul Giamatti) who’s visited by a strange girl (named “Story” – no, I’m not kidding) who seems to have arrived via the pool in the middle of the complex. In order to get her back to her world (the “Blue World”), Cleveland will need to learn about her strange universe and enlist the help of all the tenants in the building. It’s really bad! Let’s dig in.

1) Never place symbolism or theme above story – This is Night’s Achilles heal. He’s said in the past that a story must meet something like 7 criteria for him to make it, and most of that criteria involves theme and symbolism. Let me make something clear to you: If you ever write something where theme or symbolism is more important than story, you will never sell your script. You may impress your old English professor. But you will not sell the spec. With specs, story ALWAYS comes first. Write a good story, and then have theme and symbolism SUPPLEMENT that.

2) Listen to criticism – For some odd reason, Night continues to make the same mistakes over and over again (prioritizing theme and symbolism being one of those mistakes), despite nobody going to see his films anymore. As a writer, it’s your job to LISTEN to what somebody is saying when they critique your screenplay. Too many young writers blow this off, believing the reader “didn’t get it.” It may not be that they didn’t get it. It may be that you didn’t present the information in a way that allowed them to get it. So always listen to criticism and even if you don’t agree with the critic, try to understand why they’re saying what they’re saying.

3) Criticism Example – Let me give you an example. A long time ago, I wrote a script about a guy who was dying of brain cancer who had to jump into the future to get it fixed. Things don’t go cleanly when he gets there. There’s a lot of chasing around – double-crossing – that kind of thing. Almost everyone who read the script felt that the hero was too selfish. A producer eventually suggested, “Instead of him trying to save himself, why not have him try to save someone else?” I immediately dismissed his suggestion. I couldn’t imagine it. I just couldn’t. I’d built this character from the ground up and there was no way in my mind I could see him as someone other than what I created. So I stubbornly wrote a few more drafts MY WAY, but that same criticism kept coming back. I eventually put the script down, picked it back up a year later, and saw exactly what everyone was talking about. The hero was definitely too selfish. So I changed it from him going to the future to save himself to him going to the future to save his wife. The script instantly got better. I’m not saying that every critique will be right. But if you’re hearing the same thing over and over again, get away from the script (maybe not for a whole year, but for a little bit) come back, and try to see that critique through fresh eyes.

4) Don’t drown your story in mythology – Mythology is the world and rules behind that story you’ve created. If you try and make your mythology too extensive, it will become bigger than the story, and begin to drown it. This was the downfall of Lady In The Water. There were narfs and scrats and water people and tree people and eagles and madame narfs and rules upon rules upon rules of how this universe was supposed to work. It was too much. Too confusing. And eventually the audience checked out because they couldn’t keep up with it all. I’m not saying extensive mythology can’t be done. That Harry Potter franchise did okay. But, it’s very hard to do well. Focus on keeping only the relevant aspects of the mythology in the script. And if it’s still too much, consider simplifying it.

5) Quirky for quirk’s sake is a recipe for disaster – In Lady in the Water, we’ve got a guy who only works out with one arm!!! So he’s got a tiny left arm but a really big muscular right arm. There is no story reason for this to happen other than it makes him WACKY and QUIRKY. When you do this, the reader feels the writing. He notices you, the writer, typing away. If you’re doing your job right, the reader will never think of you. He will be so wrapped up in your story that he isn’t aware its even been written.

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6) Beware coincidences when writing screenplays – A woman from another world shows up in an apartment complex pool, and it just so happens that a couple of Korean residents in that complex know an obscure Korean fairytale that contains all the details of this woman’s past and what she needs to do to get back home. Coincidental? Of course. And again, it makes us think of the writer. Stay away from coincidences. They are bad and do terrible things to your story.

7) The “fate” excuse isn’t good enough – “But no,” the writer says, “The Korean residents knew the fairy tale because fate brought the lady in the water in touch with them!” Whenever you’re using the “fate” reason to explain story holes or fill in story gaps, the script begins to feel LAZY. Think about it. It’s such an easy solution. It gives you carte blanche to have a million coincidences happen, which kills any suspense your story may have.  The “fate” angle can work if it’s used selectively and cleverly, but when it’s used lazily, it kills your story.

8) Beware the close cousin of coincidence: convenience – When the story needs to move quickly, our water nymph girl knows the exact answers to all the tough questions about her world (“Oh yeah, a scrat? This is how you defeat it.”). Other times, when we need to give Cleveland something to do, she all of a sudden has no clue of what’s going on (“Which person am I supposed to meet here?  Beats me!”). How convenient, right? Convenience is yet another sign of lazy writing.

9) Use gas on your emotional beats, not nuclear power – Night has a real problem with this. His moments can’t just be sweet emotional connections between people. They have to have an added element that REALLY. HITS. YOU. OVER. THE HEAD. So there’s this potentially nice scene where Cleveland must heal Story. He’s on the ground with her in his arms. She’s dying. And as he’s about to talk her back, the seven women behind him all place their hands on his back! Give. Me. A break! Your emotional beats should be powered by gasoline. Not a nuclear reactor.

10) Silly/goofy choices – I don’t really know how to convey this tip in a way that will help people. Because we all live in our own reality. What’s amazing to us may be boring to Joe in Kansas. What’s cool to us may be lame to our best friend. Having said that, I read so many amateur scripts where writers make the goofiest silliest choices, and they don’t seem to realize it for whatever reason. M. Night suffers from a really bad case of this. He had a scene in The Happening where characters ran from the wind! He had a scene here where a ten year old boy extracts key story information from a cabinet full of cereal boxes! He’s got a character here who has one huge muscled arm and one regular one! Obviously, in Night’s universe these choices aren’t goofy. But the rest of the world disagrees. So to avoid this mistake, you have to step out of your shoes, read through your plot, and ask, “Would people perceive this choice as silly?” And be honest with yourself. Even better, ask your friends (only the ones who tell you the truth). Because I see things like this ALL THE TIME and I ask, “What were they THINKING?” Not enough writers scrutinize their choices. Don’t be one of those writers.

  • Steve

    Where is my comment?

    • carsonreeves1

      look below.

  • carsonreeves1

    lol, I felt like someone might say that. The site’s actually changed a lot since it first came out. There’s been a lot of compromise with the industry.

    • Guest90210

      I actually find this site to be very helpful. It is a great community, the comments contribute as much to the experience as the articles, and Ive learned alot since I came here.

      Before I discovered it, I read alot of harsh criticisms (well mainly the reviewing early drafts issue) but since Ive been here I have yet to find anything I personally have an issue with. I just read fucking articles and comments… whats there to have an issue with?

      Re Steve’s “phrasing your critiques as rules instead of what they really are — just your opinions.” — Has there ever been anyone giving advice on ANYTHING that starts off with “10 things in MY OPINION that you should do for x y and z” ?

      People already know its your opinion, whether you call them rules, axioms or dictum

      • Acarl

        Since finding this site in ’11, I personally can’t express enough how much Carson and the community here have helped my growth as a writer. I learn something EVERY DAY.

  • jlugozjr

    I never understood why there was a passage/tunnel from Story’s world to the swimming pool. Like who dug it and why? Was this ever explained?

    If not, this was probably the biggest example of coincidence/convenience in the entire movie. Without the passage, there would be no movie.

    • carsonreeves1

      That was the thing. It was probably explained somewhere. But there was so much mythology and so much exposition b/c of that mythology, that all important information got lost in the information blob.

  • Adam Bernstein

    He came out of the gate with two hit movies? I didn’t know PRAYING WITH ANGER and WIDE AWAKE were hits.

    • Lenny

    • Andrew Mullen

      As far as I know Praying with Anger wasn’t ever officially released. And I think Wide Awake went straight to video, maybe really limited release. So I think that’s why most people don’t take them into consideration when they talk about his movies.

      I saw Wide Awake when I was working at Blockbuster and watched everything. It’s not a bad movie, but it was my first encounter with the M. Night Twist. And it’s even more eyerollingly obvious and lame than The Village’s twist.

  • carsonreeves1

    The compromise includes that I used to review scripts and include links to those scripts every day on this site. I no longer do that.

  • Lenny

    ‘So to avoid this mistake, you have to step out of your shoes, read through your plot, and ask, “Would people perceive this choice as silly?” And be honest with yourself. Even better, ask your friends (only the ones who tell you the truth).’

    That’s the problem. Shyamalan has such an ego he thinks is the new Orson Welles, and his words on the paper come from the lips or God. Erase that: SHYAMALAN THINKS HE’S GOD! Take a look at his character in Lady In The Water and tell me I’m wrong. And please, don’t make me talk about his hatred of critics who have committed the audacity to point out that maybe, possibly, perhaps Manoj Neliyatu Shyamalan is not the cinematic genius that would like to believe it’s him. Two words, M. Night: After Earth. You’re the Diet Coke of cinema, dude. Not the Blue Meth.

    • Andrew Mullen

      Now now. His character in Lady in Water isn’t GOD.

      He’s just the greatest writer who will ever live.

      And his words will create some sort of cornfed Messiah who is going to save all mankind.

      And if the character dies before he finishes the greatest book ever written, then all mankind is doomed for eternity.

      Thus making him the most important person who will ever live.

      That’s like totes different. :p

      • Guest90210

        M.Night’s ego could just be the only one that rivals Kanye West’s

        • Lenny

          Kanye West and M. Night Shyamalan can’t be in the same room, because the sum of their inflated egos could launch Earth out of its orbit.

      • Fistacuffs

        M.Night is the Kim Jong Il of the cinema world.

  • gazrow

    Hey Steve – Quick question.

    Are you the same Steve that occasionally turns up here uninvited and unwanted? The one who never has anything good to say about this site, ever? The one who wrote that crazy ‘Master’ sermon or whatever the hell it was when Grendl’s Real Monsters script was reviewed? A piece of writing so bad that it mercifully seems to have disappeared!

    If so, could you please go back to Done Deal (or wherever the hell it is you came from) and take your fellow down voters with you?

  • Alex Palmer

    11) Scrunt is not an appropriate name for an imposing creature.

    • Citizen M

      When I hear “scrunt” I think of someone who keeps punching down arrows.

      • Alex Palmer

        M Night Shyamalan is trolling the comments again.

    • Deaf Ears

      To amuse myself while watching this godawful debacle ( and I think this is M. Night’s very worst film – THE HAPPENING at least had some amusing death scenes ) I started calling them something else in my head – I just had to remove two letters, guess which ones?

      • Guest90210

        I was going to put a comment earlier about that “scrunt” word and how it

        might as well be… But your comment just nails it.

  • ripleyy

    I bought the DVD when it came out and watched it 5 times but I do remember there were some silly moments in it. Good breakdown, though!

    That being said, I still have hope for M, Night. I still think he has what it takes to make a hit again.

  • Citizen M

    M. Night “Lady in the Water” trivia from IMDb…

    Shyamalan demanded that the set be within 45 minutes of his Pennsylvania home. He timed the trip which took 43 minutes.

    Disney president of development Nina Jacobsen took her son to a party instead of staying home to read the script for Lady in the Water. Shyamalan had it personally couriered to her, and to add insult to injury, she didn’t like it anyway. Shyamalan went off in a huff, and … took the script to Warner Bros instead

    Is this the guy with the strong right arm?

    • A Tribe Called Guest

      Shoot just saw this now- read “The Man who Heard Voices”. It’s filled with more in-depth examples of stuff like that Jacobsen story.

      • Fistacuffs

        Is the book good? Think it’s worth the read?

        • A Tribe Called Guest

          Really depends on your preferences. I love reading B-T-S stories (corporate, Cold war, etc) and this is one of them. It had me shaking my head at times at Shyamalan’s actions.

          • Fistacuffs

            Yeah I love BTS stories. Just finished Chainsaw Confidential, so I think this one might be next! Thanks.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Not sure that’s the whole story.
      M. Knight is very protective of his scripts. I understand he often uses couriers
      who stand around and wait while the script is being read.
      The story I heard is that they were so concerned about the script (for good reasons)
      that she and another executive went to his house and explained why they didn’t want
      to make the movie. (One of the objections — the script seemed to be making up the rules as it went along.)

      Of course, all this could have been a cover story.
      Will have to read The Man Who Heard Voices.

  • Guest90210

    “What surprises me even more is that there is still people financing his movies”

    Ive been saying the same thing for fucking ever.
    Then I just gave up and said these Hollywood rules are maybe more convoluted than I thought — I have no idea how this shit works.

  • Matthew Garry

    Well, if you’re going to be smarmy and quote someone’s words back at him, you should really get your facts straight.

    What problems ?

    “permission to review” is explicitly granted by the fair use limitation and exception to copyright as it protects commentary, criticism, research, teaching–take a pick.

    Humility ?

    “Things I learned” not “Things you should know”

    Arrogance ?

    Well. over-opinionated at times (take a dip into French week and the disagreeing comments). But then again, who isn’t at times, and more importantly, voicing disagreement in the comments doesn’t get deleted or dismissed; it gets discussed (like now).

    I’m not seeing any merits in your claims, apart from maybe a strong personal distaste for ScriptShadow and how it’s run and/or Carson personally. That’s cool, but it does beg the question of why one would come here to comment on it specifically, since the easiest way to avoid aggravation is by not being here.

    • filmklassik

      Well, smarmyness and quoting someone’s words back at them aren’t necessarily the same thing. I mean maybe they are in this case, but in general I think people need to be held accountable for what they say, and it drives me bonkers when they’re not. (It’s one of my pet peeves, actually).

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    1) Never place symbolism or theme above story: I think the Wachowskies with the Matrix 2,3 suffered from that to a noticeable degree.

    6) Beware coincidences when writing screenplays:

    Getting your characters in trouble by coincidence: GOOD
    Getting your characters out of trouble by coincidence: BAD,BAD,BAD

  • cjob3

    I never saw this, but for some reason, I always gave it the benefit of the doubt. Until now. A guy only works out one arm? Why? That’s stupid and annoying.

  • A Tribe Called Guest

    Anyone who’s interested should read “The Man Who Heard Voices”. A sports reporter follows Shyamalan around during the highs and lows as the Lady script is being developed, pitched, and then put into production. It’s a fascinating read.

    • Kirk Diggler

      A Tribe Called Quest, meet Nick Yarbs.

  • NickYarbs

    Just to expand on similar comments, the book “The Man Who Heard Voices” goes into great depth detailing Shyamalan’s process throughout the writing, production, and postproduction during his time on “Lady in the Water.” It’s an absolutely fascinating book and highly recommended for any inspiring filmmaker.

    • Kirk Diggler

      Nick Yarbs, meet A Tribe Called Quest.

      • A Tribe Called Guest

        TWINS! Ha ha nicely done, Kirk.

  • JW

    Yo C, I think you missed the boat with what could have been an M. Night week of reviews of how not to be a douchebag writer. I think what it comes down to with M. Night is pure ego. Also, and I’m not defending the guy, but when you have an early film of yours get as big as ‘Sense’ did there is a level of that, that I believe anyone, no matter how grounded, could let it get to their head. In addition, we see this quite a bit, where we hear very little from a writer / director and then all of a sudden their first effort to hit a mainstream audience is really, really well liked and they play catch-up to that for the next few years. Another writer that comes to mind is Cody, where obviously a lot of people liked Juno and what has there been since? Not a whole lot. I think situations like this also go to show you how much of a crap shoot this actually is. You could turn out something like The Sixth Sense, Juno, Seven, Fight Club and then disappear as relatively quick as you came.

    • craigfead

      Interestingly enough, M. Night ripped off the idea and original twist for THE SIXTH SENSE from a script written years earlier by Ronald Bass, called MANHATTAN GHOST STORY (Julia Roberts was even cast as the Willis protagonist). It also went into turn around at the same studio, and Shyamalan took all the credit for it. I asked Ronald why he didn’t sue M. Night, given he’s also an attorney, and he said it was more trouble than it was worth, water under the bridge. Pretty much says it all about Shyamalan’s true colors and character!

      • JW

        I don’t know. It’s incredibly hard to say who stole what from whom when you’re talking about ideas (especially in a town like Hollywood). Even when something comes out simultaneously or one before another. Case in point, C’s recent interview with Fogelman where he explains how he wrote Last Vegas before The Hangover, but because it came out after, it looks like a copycat. It’s all in perception and when you’re dealing with ideas that don’t exactly have copyright applicability, then it often comes down to who beats whom to the punch and I think anyone in the industry finds themselves to be okay with that because ideas are infinite and you have to take the approach of moving on if something like that happens.

      • filmklassik

        I’ve heard various nominees for the stories that “inspired” THE SIXTH SENSE, from an episode of the children’s show GOOSEBUMPS (I’m not kidding) to the low budget 60s shocker CARNIVAL OF SOULS.

        But the real precedent may be the inaugural episode of the radio series SUSPENSE, from 1942, with an episode titled THE HITCHHIKER (starring Orson Welles!) and written by Lucille Fletcher who also wrote the classic SORRY WRONG NUMBER.

        Here ‘s the show, in case you’re interested. It’s the fifth episode on the list.

        https://archive.org/details/OTRR_Suspense_Singles

        • brenkilco

          And the same story turned up later not surprisingly as a Twilight Zone episode. But honestly the “You mean, I/we are really dead?” plot goes back at least as far as the twenties play Outward Bound and probably farther than that,

  • drifting in space

    That’s how my arm looks.

  • Frankie Hollywood

    Night should’ve at least made Reggie (Freddy R) a professional Arm wrestler :)

  • brenkilco

    I thought when I first saw it and still do that The Sixth Sense is a tremendous cheat. I know I’m in the minority on that. Unbreakable seemed like the attenuated first act of a movie. Signs was silly and thematically dubious(The world suffers a cataclysm just so Mel G. can get his spiritual mojo back) The rest of his output is risible. BUT his inadequacies as a writer tend to obscure the fact that given decent material M. Night is really a very fine director. He cuts and frames with deliberation and care. He knows how to create a mood. He has the patience and nerve to stand back and let his actors carry a scene without the need to fall back on frantic cutting and camera moves. If someone would hand him a first rate script -not his own- he might yet make a comeback.

    All scripts rely on contrivance to a degree. But if a contrived element is planted as a natural part of your world early on and its story necessity is paid off late enough I think the charge of coincidence can be avoided. The audience may even get satisfaction from some extraneous detail suddenly being made relevant. Remember what Anton Checkov said. If you tell your audience at the beginning of the story that there’s a gun hanging on the wall, then before the end of the story it had better go off.

    • fragglewriter

      I think it’s hard to not to write a contrived element, unless it’s organic to the character’s persona. I have a “contrived” element that I’m plotting early in Act 2, that probably won’t come into use until middle to the end of Act 2. I could also avoid this contrivance by putting it into Act 1, but then, that would be contrived so go figure LOL

      I think if M. Knight goes back to the drawing, story, he will make a huge comeback. Look at Hitchcock. He went through slumps and comeback with a vengeance. I think if M. Knight was to work on an independent film or contracted to work on scale (for the right script of course) he would jump to it.

      • brenkilco

        I’d put your contrivance in act one. The audience will buy most anything early on. There’s a big snake in the plane. Indiana Jones hates snakes. Why? Who cares. Jimmy Stewart discovers that he has acrophobia when he nearly falls from a building roof. But if he already had it how did he manage to climb to the roof he nearly fell off of. Or are we still supposed to believe that a scary experience can create a disabling phobia and how exactly does that work? Who cares. He has vertigo and its act one.

        • fragglewriter

          I will do. But I’m actually doing a 4-Act structure (Act II into 2 parts), it makes it easier for me when it is comes to structure. (I was reading how Terminator 2 was done this way also)

          Do you think it would still be considered a contrivance if this was to happen by page 20?

          • brenkilco

            As I’m not sure exactly what it is we’re talking about I cant really comment intelligently. As a general rule I’d say anything you plant in the first twenty pages that doesn’t have to pay off until deep in the second act should be ok. But it helps if the planting can be managed with a little finesse.

            “I heard one word. Applecore”
            “Applecore?”

            If you get the reference you’ll recall that this meaningless exchange in the first fifteen or twenty minutes of the picture pays off an hour later with a fish design pennant sewn into a quilt. Plotting for really good writers is real sleight of hand stuff.

          • fragglewriter

            I sort of remember that, but there was an old Donald Duck cartoon that uses Applecore, and the joke worked LOL

            So thanking for refreshing my memory.

  • Poe_Serling

    Like fellow commenter Ripleyy, I think M. Night probably has ‘what it takes’ to churn out one or two more decent films in the next few years or so.

    If not, he probably could work forever as a producer/writer in the low-budget horror niche. The film Devil, which was produced through his The Night Chronicles banner, had a 10 million dollar budget and went on to gross close to 65 million.

    In fact, the next film from this shingle sounds kinda interesting to me.

    Twelve Strangers

    “While deciding the fate of an accused murderer, a jury is haunted by supernatural forces that hold the key to the case.”

    • Acarl

      Ah, Poe, I’d forgotten about Devil. I enjoyed that one very much. Talk about contained horror.

    • andyjaxfl

      I hope he has a few more decent movies in him, but I don’t think he does. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t actively wish failure on anyone, but his best work may be well behind him. And there’s nothing wrong with that because The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and even Signs are pretty impressive movies that most would be proud to have in their filmography.

  • successor

    On the first point, there’s a spelling error. It’s spelled Achilles’ heel and not “heal” as in heal a wound. You may want to have another person spell check your articles before you post them.

    • Lenny

      Heal! In the name of Jesus! HEAL!

  • ColinJ

    Well, they gave him $150 million to completely destroy THE LAST AIRBENDER, a wonderful piece of source material that could have been the new STAR WARS if done right.

    And even after that fiasco he got Will Smith and probably even more money for AFTER EARTH.

    It boggles the mind.

  • fragglewriter

    This is the only movie by M. Night that I watched (I hated the Sixth Sense cause I couldn’t understand what the hoopla was about. Maybe I watched too many Twilight Zone, Dark Shadows and Alfred Hitchcock with my mom growing).

    I watched “Year of the Dragon” (MIchael Cimino & Oliver Stone) over the weekend, and that movie was so horrible on so many levels. This is the second time that I had to struggle watching this movie. M. Knight is not the only writer who is one-sided and preach theme over story (Spike Lee, Oliver Stone and Scorcese) and he will not be the last.

    I’m speaking for myself, but as a writer/person, who is not sensitive when it comes to their work? I’m the say way at work where I try to justify my reason for doing something a certain way instead of saying outright “I’m Wrong Your Right.” But as I get older, I’m a much better person.

    I think theme should be plotted like tension throughout the script and in subtleties. “Year of the Dragon”, it seemed that Oliver Stone forgot he was writing a movie and decided to screw dialogue and try to give me a history lesson or plant an idea of how I said feel or think. It was overbearing and annoying because it never felt like I got into any of the character’s worlds. Just their actions.

    So my takeaway is to utilize these screenwriting tips and remember, story first, then everything else.

    • brenkilco

      If you think up a story worth telling, I think you’ll find it has a sufficient theme. No need to shoehorn one in. And Mickey Rourke’s obsessed cop from Year of the Dragon is high in the running for most monotonously obnoxious movie character ever.

      • fragglewriter

        I’ve noticed that a few of the Oliver Stone’s movies always has at least one character who is overly obsessed and the other characters are obnoxious. I never could relate to any of his characters because their not people. Their just there to recite lines.

        That is one ego I would never want to be in the same room.

    • Mike.H

      You liked LADY IN THE WATER?? So you were the one out of 40 people in total. I beg to differ but respect your opinion, sir.

  • garrett_h

    For better or worse, he’s crossed over from being just a Director to a Brand. Just slap his name on the top of the poster, “M. Night Shyamalan presents…,” and you’re guaranteed $100M+. It’s starting to backfire a bit I guess in recent years. Some of us see his name and groan. But there’s no denying he has a following.

    • Lenny

      Sorry, but is: “The visionary director, writer and producer M. Night Shyamalan humbly presents… Hey! Where is my cappucino, Consuelo? I can’t work this under pressure. I’ll be in my trailer.”

  • Illimani Ferreira

    Great article, Carson! I agree that Shyamalan ruined himself and most of your points nailed why. I actually just strongly disagree with #1: the problem is not placing subtext over story but, in the particular case of this horrible movie, the fact that the subtext is silly and tops a bad story.

    I would take the risk to say that when subtext is placed over story we get a fable: that’s true for literature and film. Shyamalan was quite the pioneer as he dared to tell fables using the film language, but that doesn’t mean that he knows how to do it right. It’s still important to pay attention to his works since more and more fables to the commercial circuit: Gravity was a really nicely told fable (heavy subtext, simple story and characters). I didn’t read the script of Snowpiercer like you, but based on what I read it seems to be another fable that we will need to wait to see if it will work or not.

    Thinking that way, it’s interesting to notice that those fable-tellers are all foreigners (Shyamalan, Cuarón, Joon Ho-Bong). On my book that’s called freshness.

  • successor

    You’re right. I made a mistake. However, I do stand by what I said. Carson should get someone to proof read the articles and catch such errors like you did with me. Otherwise it’s like reading an article from Ain’t It Cool News. And I’m not doing it to be a grammar Nazi. I’m just trying to help out.

    P.S. You made a mistake by not putting an apostrophe in “Internet’s,” but I’ll pretend not to notice it. LOL.

    • Gue$t

      You’re right. I also made a mistake.

      And it’s “Lady in the Water” (kinda like the poster says), not “The Lady in the Water.” Proofreader might’ve caught that too.

  • Montana Gillis

    i loved “The Sixth Sense”… then I watched “The Village” and thought that I’d seen better “monsters” on the original Star Trek Series. It was the last snore-fest of M. Night I’ve watched.

  • rocksuddhi

    The only good thing about this film must’ve been James Newton Howard’s score. Everything else sucked.

  • Mike.H

    …listen M. Night. When Lady in the Water creature came out of the pool and started communicating with Giamatti, I looked at my watch probably only 20 minutes into the flick, as I said to myself, “major plot mistake!”.

    How in the world could the movie sustain mystery and drama for the next 1.5 hr haul? Then the kooky story beats went on and on with the lame, weird odd ball cast and cockamamie story line bloated with weird names and loopy explanations… I then fell asleep and wondered how this movie ever got green lit.

  • Mike.H

    Reply to J.E.B. Great post on the Box Office info. But the mathematician in me noticed the slope on M. Night’s box office return is on a massively DOWNWARD SLOPE in profitability.

    Only about 55% of Box office is kept after factoring cost split with the theaters with the massive 24 screens — 100,000 sq ft space to fork over rent to. With downward slope, M Night’s HEAT INDEX is melting fast… [ pun intended ]

    — signed The Comedian.

  • Trek

    One of your best top 10’s in a long time Carson. You nailed it! Thanks!

  • brenkilco

    I don’t want to beat the drum to hard for him, since I haven’t really liked any of his movies. But clearly he is not the sort of director who shoots a scene with twelve different cameras running at six different speeds plus a handheld and a shaky cam and then tosses the whole mountain of film or massive digital file to an editor to sort out. I don’t know that he cuts in the camera but Id suspect his style is something close to that. He has the nerve to plant the camera in one spot he judges right and let his scene play. Often he shows too much respect for his material. But he also exhibits a sort of old time directorial confidence that you don’t see much of today.

    • Kirk Diggler

      If you compare him to a Hitchcock (unfair I know), he certainly was not afraid of long takes and letting the scene play out. But Hitchcock respected the writing process, helped plan his films out with the writer down to the last detail.

      Night thinks he’s an auteur, he seems to live in a vacuum, and writers (as this site can attest to) should never ever live in a vacuum.

      The idea of casting himself as the writer who changes the world….UGH! He has no one to tell him UGH! That’s the problem.

      • brenkilco

        God. On his best day Night couldn’t match Hitchcock on his worst. And yes Hitchcock had the luck or clout to choose really talented writers: Hect, Chandler, Steinbeck, Thornton Wilder, Ernest Lehman. The cream of the crop. And he had tremendous influence on the shape of his scripts. But as far as I know he never wrote a word of any of them. A lesson Night could stand to learn.

  • Film_Shark

    I’m wondering if any screenwriters out there focus on the romantic comedy genre. Sure, they are not as profitable as other genres but they are endearing if done well. It seems like the offerings are always sci-fi, horror and thrillers. I’m one of the few who like a good rom-com. Films like ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ ‘Silver Linings Playbook,’ or ‘500 Days of Summer’ stick out as lasting romantic comedies. I think they still can be successful if they strike a chord with female audiences. One that opened this weekend and is extremely well-crafted is Richard Curtis’ ‘About Time.’ It uses the premise of time travel to tell a love story between a nerdy British guy and an American expatriate Rachel McAdams.

    In the hands of a novice screenwriter, this story has mush written all over it but Curtis is such a good writer that he finds the right balance of wit and sentimentality. Not an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination. Some of his writing credits include ‘Love Actually,’ ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral,’ ‘Bridget Jone’s Diary’ and ‘Notting Hill.’ His voice is so unique in his films that they stand out well after you leave the movie theater. I’m sure many of you will see ‘Thor’ this weekend but I guarantee if you take your girlfriend or wife to see ‘About Time,’ she will appreciate it more than dragging her to another comic book movie with a formulaic, lame plot.

  • Lucid Walk

    Speaking of M. Night, Carson, would you consider Ten Mistakes to Avoid via The Last Airbender? One of the most acclaimed TV shows ever produced adapted into one of the worst films ever produced