Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Christopher Nolan vs. M. Night Shyamalan - Who's The Real Genius? (Hype vs. Substance)

Consider this a followup to my last blog - this is a story about two directors born in 1970 who show the danger of premature hype and the satisfaction of slow building success.

Back in the fall of 1999, a little monster called The Sixth Sense came out. It had a lot of buzz and I remember going to see it with my Dad and sister. It scared the crap out of me and I don't scare easily. It was a thriller that played on your mind and had a twist you didn't see coming.

It also became one of the highest grossing films of all time as well as one of the most critically acclaimed with 6 Oscar Nominations. It now ranks at 89 on AFI's 100 Top Films of All Time and is hailed as one of the greatest thrillers ever. It's also one of my favorite movies.

The new director/writer/producer was hailed as the next Spielberg or Kubrick. M. Night Shyamalan became the new Hollywood wunderkind at 29 and bright things were expected of him.

Two years later, an indie film came out called Memento. I remember hearing a crazy buzz about the inventive plot and it seemed like everybody said it was one of the most original movies around (And I'm still waiting to see it)

Although it made 1/10th of what Sixth Sense, it too was nominated for some Oscars (Best Original Screenplay and Editing) and it's hailed as one of the best films of the 2000's. The director, Christopher Nolan, was called the next David Lynch for the psychological nature of his filmmaking.

Who knew that 10 years later, both Shyamalan and Nolan's careers would converge this summer with expensive projects. Yet they're going in two wildly different directions that makes me wonder who's really the genius.

Shyamalan hasn't made a decent movie since Signs - I remember watching that on a date a few days before I started college. The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening all gave me high hopes that this would be the film that would be a return to form. Never saw them because the buzz turned into negative reviews that made me think I'd be wasting my time.

And with Last Airbender being the worst reviewed blockbuster in years, it's safe to say that it's time to say Good "Night" to his respectability (Shout to my Cali Tweep @merc80 for that piece). He's still probably a great screenwriter but it's going to take a minor film to slowly rebuild the goodwill he earned a decade ago. The fumes from 6th Sense are just empty vapors now.

Meanwhile Nolan has only reinvigorated the Batman series with Batman Begins, forever changed the superhero film genre with The Dark Knight, and made one of the most original psychological thrillers in some time with Inception. I still want to see The Prestige and I remember hearing Insomnia was another great movie.

Nolan's star has risen meteorically and he's far overdue for a Best Director Oscar nomination. His films are multilayered experiences that satisfy the viewer, make money and challenge the conventions of what films can do.

Basically he's doing what Shyamalan hasn't done since Signs. Challenge the viewer and make good movies. Like I said in my previous blog. He's the most consistent filmmaker in Hollywood right now. Inception will be his 5th consecutive movie to gross $100M and will be in line for award gold come next winter or else Hollywood is a joke.

Predictions are funny - nobody could have seen this coming and it's a sign that hype is a killer. Shyamalan was hailed as a genius before he turned 30 or proved his merit besides one film. But it's Nolan who should be hailed as a true genius before he turns 40 with his best days ahead of him because of his track record.

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