Watch And/Or Listen to This: Hozier’s “Dinner & Diatribes”

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CREDIT: Hozier/YouTube

Here’s another great song/music video I discovered while walking around the Sony Building. Hozier vs. Anya Taylor-Joy is the Great Psychological Battle of 2019: who’d a thunk it? (I’m in love with the lone “ah” that Hozier lets out at 3:26.)

This Is a Movie Review: Glass

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CREDIT: Jessica Kourkounis/Universal Pictures

This post was originally published on News Cult in January 2019.

Starring: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard, Luke Kirby, Adam David Thompson

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Running Time: 128 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Popping Veins, Sharp Objects, and Bodies Thrown Violently

Release Date: January 18, 2019

With Glass, M. Night Shyamalan is attempting a sort of Grand Unified Theory of Superheroes. According to this particular model, the stories told in comic books are based on the exploits of real people. We only think they are myths because they have had to live in the shadows. I’m pretty sure that Shyamalan does not actually believe that there are superheroes and supervillains in the real world, but the wonder that infuses those stories is very real. It is what drives us to understand the unbelievable. It is also what drives Shyamalan to deconstruct the entire superhero genre at its most atomic level.

Picking up nearly two decades after the events of Unbreakable and soon after those of Split, Glass kicks off with Bruce Willis’ super-strong guardian David Dunn tracking down James McAvoy’s ravenous multi-personality villain Kevin Wendell Crumb. They are both subdued by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychiatrist who specializes in patients with delusions that they are superpowered, a condition that she assures us many people are suffering from. They end up at the same institution that has been housing Sam Jackson’s Elijah Price, a.k.a. Mr. Glass, the man who engineered a series of terrorist attacks to uncover a superhuman like David. Also returning are Spencer Treat Clark as David’s son Joseph, Charlayne Woodard as Elijah’s mother, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey, Kevin’s surviving kidnapped victim. Oddly enough, most of the film takes place within the institution, making this mainly a battle of wits between Dr. Ellie and her charges. It is a surprisingly talky approach to what is ostensibly an action film, but it is profoundly part and parcel of what Shyamalan is doing.

As Glass reveals what it is all about, much of the dialogue turns into language that only ever appears in comic books. That is to say, it is the language of comic book narration, of the variety that goes “the bad guys are teaming up” and “this is an origin story, but not for the character you thought.” Not only do real people not talk like this, neither do movie characters, and neither do comic book characters. The only actor who manages to deliver any of it with any gravitas is Jackson. Clark, Woodard, and Taylor-Joy, on the other hand, sound as unnatural as possible. However, as disorienting as all that is, I am not eager to write this element off as a failure.

The film’s structure also leads me to question some things, particularly the revelation of Dr. Ellie’s true nature. I did not find it to be a huge shock, and I wonder if Shyamalan would have benefited from revealing it to the audience earlier to really explore the consequences of what her character represents. But even with the reveal at the end, that point can retroactively click into gear. And as for all the unnatural acting, I could say that maybe that is the point, and that this is a highly affected world, or at least these are highly affected people. That would be generous, though, especially considering that Clark, Woodard, and Taylor-Joy sounded like much more typical humans in Unbreakable and Split. But even if I choose to have the least generous interpretation of every questionable element, I remain utterly fascinated by Glass. This is not Shyamalan at his most straightforwardly powerful, but it is also not him at his most insufferable. He is on a cloud of thinking that most people would never think to go to, but he has found insights there that I am very happy we now have.

Glass is Recommended If You Like: The Village, The Happening, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Grade: 4 out of 5 Origin Stories

This Is a Movie Review: Thoroughbreds

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CREDIT: Claire Folger/Focus Features

I give Thoroughbreds 3 out of 5 Practice Smiles:

This Is a Movie Review: Split

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Split is basically M. Night Shyamalan’s version of an X-Men movie. Kevin (James McAvoy), with his 23 personalities (X-23?), is like Legion crossed with Wolverine, and “the Beast” is about to emerge. And let’s throw some Professor X in for good measure, since McAvoy plays both after all. (BTW, Legion is Prof. X’s son.)

The last X-Men film, Apocalypse, was not that well-received, but I liked it a lot, and the similarities are instructive. Just as that mutant film was, for better or worse, unapologetically over-the-top, so is Split relentlessly blunt with its dialogue. Sometimes that means characters thuddingly explain exactly what is happening and exactly how they are feeling, and we say, “Nobody talks like that.” But then, that is also the appeal. Kevin talks and acts like nobody else, and that is what makes him so spellbinding.

There is a series of flashbacks from the childhood of the main kidnapping victim (Anya Taylor-Joy, always a wonder to behold), which is largely unnecessary. The point they make is demonstrated more subtly and just as effectively towards the end, but they are compelling and in keeping with the unsettling tone.

Yeah, there’s a twist (or two). There are hints that we should have seen all along, but also plenty of misdirection, so it works, beyond all odds and all sense.

And for my Early 2017 Oscar Wish List, I of course like McAvoy for Lead Actor, Mike Gioulakis for his expressionistic Cinematography, are opening and closing credits considered part of Production Design?, and Shyamalan himself for Supporting Actor in the best one-scene performance I have seen in some time.

I give Split 20 out of 24 Personalities.