How my wife and I married the Lady in the Water

Last night, Spouse and I unexpectedly ended up in a brief hiatus from our ongoing search for a new homeland that will satisfy the Known Requirements and Specifications for the Kingdom of Juniorvania.

This unexpected little time windfall prompted a spirited discussion concerning its proper and appropriate use, the history of which I shall detail for you below.

Option #1 – rapidly conceived, brilliant in its simplicity – was to go to the movies. this plan might have seemed like a no-brainer slam-dunk success to many an objective observer, given the sheer length of time since Spouse and I last actually attended the local Famous Players Gazillio-Plex and the fact that there is actually something playing there that we would both like to see (thus providing us with motive to undertake this operation). Those more discerning and observant readers among you will be familiar, however, with our general suspicion of, and discomfiture within, crowds of people, and might therefore rightly be suspicious of the chances of this plan’s successful implementation. Further, the insiders among you familiar with the lack of time recently spent by us in the immediate company of Popeye and Henry (our dog and his lawyer cat) would have immediately discounted this as a likely solution. Fundamentally incompatible with us, we had to break up with option #1 – though we shared some good times together – and move on.

Option #2 – breathtaking in its lack of ambition, perhaps over-hastily suggested for consideration in the immediate aftermath of the demise of our brief dalliance with Option #1 (making #2 a “rebound” option) – was to just watch whatever might be on TV. The combination of the ongoing WGA strike, leaving precious little televised entertainment available save and except for sports and “reality” tv and the abysmal recent performance of the Toronto Maple Leafs (two wins since approximately the time Roosevelt was president, and I’m talking about Teddy here) strongly suggested this option would suffer from certain inherent and fatal flaws. Sorry, option #2; you looked hot in that come-hither dress, bein’ all slothful and simple and stuff, but we were really only ever in it with you for the physical stuff – no long-term commitment was seriously ever considered. Sorry, option #2: we wish you the best, though, and want to remain friends.

Option #3 – the complete package – was to select and watch a movie in the comfort of our own home, thus simultaneously making use of DVD players, televisions, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound home theatre equipment (i.e. lots of things with wires), spending time with the dog and cat (at least until the inevitable explosions/gunfire/shouting in the movie, at which time the dog would certainly advise that he would prefer to lie alone outside in relative peace), and avoiding not only any exposure to incompetent hockey play, but also the madding crowds. This option also suggested strongly a certain amount of snacking in front of the TV, always a nice feature. Clearly, we had a winner here, and in short order, we proposed marriage to option #3. The ceremony was tasteful and restrained; I am sorry you could not be there, but only close family were invited to attend.

The complication introduced by life with option #3, of course, was the subsequent need to select a mutually agreeable movie that would satisfy our current (definitely capricious, somewhat ephemeral, possibly idiosyncratic) entertainment needs. Now, sometimes making a decision by committee (even a committee of two) is just a stone-cold certain recipe for general disappointment, and choosing a movie in this way seems to be especially prone to failure. Nevertheless, perhaps blinded by love, we forged ahead. The Entertainment Committee reviewed the available physical plant constraints, striking a sub-committee to research and report back on the issue of “what movies do we have*?”). We reviewed the goals and concerns of the various stakeholders, striking a sub-committee to ascertain and report back upon the views of those directly affected by the plan. We reviewed the data concerning additional relevant environmental and external factors, such as time constraints (the outer envelope of our available time window was 100-120 minutes) and the existence of spouse’s standing (unduly restrictive, in my opinion) “No Star Wars” policy.

At the intersection of all of these curves, we found our solution set: Lady in the Water.Paul Giamatti and M. Night Shama-lama-ding-dong, how could you do me so wrong?  Hey, there's a song in that...

Not a good night for the committee. I have seen and very much enjoyed both Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense; I also saw Signs, which was a little sillier and a lot less compelling than either of the other two, in my opinion. I have not seen any of M. Night Shyamalan’s other work. Advertised as a “classic bedtime story for a new generation”, I found it to be a complete failure on all fronts. Shyamalan is a talented director, conversant stylistically with a wide breadth of shot styles, angles and camera movement techniques that strongly suggest a Hitchcockian level of mastery, at least in the suspense/horror genre. Many of the shots were cinematically beautiful and interesting but I found that, especially early in the film, I was aware of the number of different “techniques” that were being thrown at me as a viewer, one after the other in rapid succession. I was consciously aware of the director trying to manipulate me, and as a result became distracted by that rather than involved in the film. This is a particularly unfortunate result in the context of this film’s narrative because as it happens, early in the film there is a tremendous amount of important plot setup information also being shovelled at the viewer. In addition to the usual character introductions and situational setup, there is the matter of the “legend” (wholly unique to this film) around which the later action entirely revolves. Factoring in the heavily accented speech of one important expositional character (Cindy Cheung) and the propensity of the other major expositional character (Bryce Dallas Howard) to hiss her lines in a breathless (no doubt “dramatic”, but also “highly annoying”) whisper, the end result is a fully distracted viewer who has absolutely no idea what is going on. If I were to tell you, without spoiling any of the plot, that you must be prepared to unquestioningly and unhesitatingly accept the existence of certain mythical justice-dispensing tree-monkeys and their presence in the immediate vicinity of Philadelphia for this tale to work, would you understand how this level of distraction and confusion might be problematic?

There is a minor character in the film named Farber who is supposed to be a film critic. At one point in the film, he speaks about a movie that he had seen in which the characters were walking around speaking aloud their thoughts; Farber expresses the view that nobody does that in real life and that this fictional film was therefore artificial and strained. About twenty minutes later, the character of Farber does exactly that – while alone on screen, he walks around speaking aloud his thoughts so that we, the viewer, can hear what he’s thinking. At that point, I thought that this could not be unintentional, and surely we would be in for an excellent payoff in which some central, previously disguised conceit of the film is revealed and all would be made plain – that the characters and the story itself were in fact a comment upon, or a metaphor for…something. I won’t – um, “spoil” – the ending for you, but suffice to say that I’m still waiting for the big reveal.


* Please note that, for various reasons related very strongly to our near complete lack of apparent responsibility and maturity, renting a movie is strictly prohibited as a matter of policy in our household. This policy introduces certain constraints upon us, from time to time, but the end result of purchasing the DVDs from Blockbuster’s “previously viewed” section for between 5 and 10 bucks is that we’ve never yet (at least since the adoption of the policy) paid fifty-two dollars in late return fees to (not) see Ernest Needs a Kidney.

Categorized as Movies

By junior

Guitar owner and silly person.

1 comment

  1. Yes yes yes — Lady in the Water earned one of our rare TiVo “Thumbs Down” ratings. And exactly, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable cut “Night” a bunch of slack that had eroded a little with Signs, a little more with The Village and completely-shot-to-pieces by Lady.

    What bothered me is how he keeps inserting himself into the movies in ever-larger roles, to the point where, in Lady, he’s a central figure, and it just doesn’t work. Grotesquely, he hired a guy to follow him around and fill his head with fluff and overblown praise. No wonder it turned out so terrible.

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