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    Seven Days of Shyamalan: Day 4 (The Village)

    Hey there, folks, and welcome to Day 4 of Seven Days of Shyamalan. If you haven't yet, be sure to check out the previous recaps on Wide Awake, The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs. If this is your first article in the series, the basic premise is to take a look at the strangest downturn in the history of film by looking back on the selected filmography of M. Night Shyamalan.

    Today, it's time to get to The Village.

    As with Signs, this was my first viewing of The Village. Going in, I didn't really know much aside from that Adrien Brody and Bryce Dallas Howard were in it and that a lot of people were frustrated with the ending. As with all of Shyamalan's movies, I tried to go in with a fresh perspective and let the film speak for itself.

    As a period piece set in 19th century America, on land that I can only assume is close to Philadelphia, The Village tells the story of a small town surrounded by a thick forest. The Town Elders, a group of older villagers who seem to run things, have held up a truce with supposed creatures who live in this forest, the terms being that as long as no one trespasses into the forest, the village will be safe from attacks.

    After the death of a local boy who may have been saved, were it not for the limited medicine supply, Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) volunteers to travel to the neighboring towns to get more. Thinking that he'll be seen as pure of heart by the woodland creatures, he won't have any trouble getting there and back. The Town Elders don't want to risk it, however, and his request is denied.

    Not easily deterred, Lucius brings the issue up again after spending some time with a local blind girl, Ivy (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) and her "simple" friend, Noah (played by Adrien Brody). Lucius sees Noah pull red berries out of his pocket and give them to Ivy. It seems that red is the color associated with the forest creatures, and that berries of this color primarily only grow in the forest itself.

    Lucius reasons that if the creatures let Noah come and go due to his innocent nature, his pure heart should grant him the same leeway. After his request is denied yet again, Lucius ventures into the forest anyway, though he quickly returns after seeing one of the creatures nearby.

    Later on, the villagers are alerted by their warning bell that the creatures are among them. They all run to their homes and hide in their cellars, but Ivy won't hide with the rest of her family as long as she thinks Lucius might still be out there. Just before a creature makes it to her house, though, Lucius appears and leads her down to the cellar.

    This puts the town on high alert, and one night, Ivy finds Lucius sitting on her porch keeping guard. Asking him why he's so worried about her, they have a frustrating conversation, which leads to them revealing that they're in love with each other. The next morning, they announce it to the Town Elders and, before long, the whole town knows.

    This, of course, upsets Noah, who visits Lucius. Taking pity on him, Lucius starts telling him that he knows Ivy likes him quite a bit, and that there are different kinds of love. He doesn't finish his sentence, though, because as he turns around, Noah stabs him in the stomach. He stabs him a few more times in the chest and leaves him for dead.

    Heartbroken, Ivy visits Noah in the house he's locked up in and slaps him around a bit. Luckily, Lucius isn't dead, but he won't last long unless the town doctor gets some new medicine to treat the infection. With this, Ivy decides to head to the towns and get it herself. She only needs permission from her father, one of the main elders, played by William Hurt.

    Hurt agrees to let her go, but before he does, he takes her to a shed to show her something that he feels tremendous guilt over. As the camera slowsly pans over, we think it's a creature's carcass, but Ivy soon realizes it's just a suit. There are no actual creatures - her father and the rest of the elders had just taken an old superstition about monsters in the woods and put on some suits to scare them into staying away from the forest that leads to the towns. Throughout the film, various elders relate how one of their family members had been killed in the towns, and that they're full of evil. Inventing the creatures was their twisted way of scaring their children into the safety of the village.

    Now knowing that there's nothing to fear, Ivy makes her way through the forest and onto an old dirt road that leads to a giant wall of wood and leaves. After climbing over it, she sees oddly modern pavement... and then a fucking Range Rover. It's a woodland preserve ranger, and he's asking her why she's messing around out there.

    So, as it turns out, the elders had convinced all of their children that it was actually the mid-19th century, when in reality, it was modern times. Ivy is freaked out by all of the modern technology, but manages to give the ranger the list of medical supplies she needs. Confused, the ranger takes the list of supplies and gets it for her, not really understanding that Ivy isn't just a whacko who needs first aid for her other whacko friends who are living in the whacko forest.

    Meanwhile, back at the village, William Hurt's character opens his secret box (all of the elders have one), which contains photographs and other remnants of their old lives in society. It was true that they'd all suffered terrible loss in "the towns," and they really only wanted to preserve the innocence that they'd found out here in the middle of nowhere. Eventually, Ivy makes her way back to the village, and everyone pretty much goes on with their business. The end.

    The Village is a giant mixed bag. There are a lot of things to like here. Chiefly, Roger Deakins is a brilliant cinematographer, and as a result, this film is downright gorgeous. It's easily the most visually interesting movie I've seen yet from Shyamalan. Furthermore, the movie's got an amazing cast, with Adrien Brody, Joaquin Phoenix, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver (she plays Phoenix's mother), Brendan Gleason and a really solid early performance by Bryce Dallas Howard. We even get a few scenes with a very young Jesse Eisenberg.

    Shyamalan has a gift for creating suspense, and for the most part, it's utilized very well here. Before we're told that the creatures are fake, they come off as really spooky. Throughout the entire first two acts of the movie, the atmosphere is practically dripping in intensity.

    As with Signs, The Village's strength is in its emotional plot and not its fantasy. Unfortunately, the love story between Lucius and Ivy just isn't compelling enough to make up for the serious ho-hum storytelling associated with the creatures being nothing but disguises, and then the reveal that it's really the 21st century. I'll admit that I didn't see the twist coming a mile away, but it still wasn't very satisfying. It'd be as if, at the end of Bambi, they revealed that the hunter who killed Bambi's mom was actually Bambi's dad. Sure, you might not have expected it, but you probably wouldn't have enjoyed it, either.

    Worse still, after the reveal (which happens at about 85 minutes into the film), Shyamalan spends the next 15 minutes dumping exposition down our throats about how planes don't fly over these particular woods, and how the rangers aren't supposed to talk to anyone. It all felt really sloppy.

    After Signs, I'd begun to think that Shyamalan was moving away from the kind of "Gotcha!" stuff we saw in The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable and was focusing more on creating emotional tales of internal journeys with fantastical settings. The Village barely has any sort of internal struggle. William Hurt's guilty conscience over lying to everyone outside of the Town Elders had some promise, but it's barely explored. As it is, with its lack of emotional depth, the film's weak twist just left a bad taste in my mouth.

    All right, guys. That's The Village. Come back tomorrow for Lady in the Water.


    Seven Days of Shyamalan: Day 3 (Signs)

    Hey there, folks, and welcome to Day 3 of Seven Days of Shyamalan here at If you haven't yet, make sure you check out the Prologue and Days 1 and 2, which covers Wide Awake, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, respectively.

    Today, though, we're going to be talking about 2002's Signs.

    Before I begin, I'd like to mention that Signs is the first movie for this feature that I haven't seen previously (well, aside from Wide Awake). With The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, I already knew what to expect, and was able to really judge the film as a piece of work. With Signs, I found myself getting more caught up in the story and can only really critique it as a watching experience.

    With that out of the way, let's begin.

    Signs opens on a serene day in Buck County, Pennsylvania (45 miles outside of Philadelphia). Suddenly, our protagonist, Graham (played by Mel Gibson) is woken up by the screams of one of his children. As he races outside, he sees that his brother Merrill has been alerted to the cry for help, and they both run into the corn field that their property overlooks. They first find Graham's daughter Bo, who seems to be fine. Graham continues running through the corn field until he finds his son, Morgan, who points out an entire patch of corn stalks that have been flattened. The camera pans upward and we see that there are other patches that've been flattened, as well. Eventually, we see that they make a giant crop circle.

    Oddly enough, it appears that this is just one circle of many occurring all around the world, instigating discussion that it might be alien invaders of some sort. Graham laughs it off until the following night when he hears someone walking around the house. He and Merrill intend to ambush the interloper, but he escapes onto the top of their roof before they can catch him. Unfortunately, all they see is a shadowy black figure.

    With no description to go on, one of the local deputies can't really help them, but she does mention that strange things have been occurring recently (i.e. animals have been acting confused and hostile). She repeatedly calls Graham, "Father," and it's eventually revealed to us that he was a man of the cloth before the violent and untimely death of his wife.

    From here, Graham's family becomes more and more enraptured by the idea of aliens coming to Earth, which is only exacerbated by news stations reporting on crop circles and found-video of supposed proof that aliens are among us. Merrill and Graham have a heart to heart about the idea of aliens invading Earth with the intent to conquer it, and Merrill asks Graham to say something hopeful. Graham asks him if he's the kind of person who believes in miracles, and Merrill relates a night where he avoided kissing a girl who was about to vomit and that miracles must exist because of that. The conversation takes a dark turn when Graham reveals that he doesn't believe in any sort of higher power and that after the random, meaningless last words of his wife, he knows we're truly alone in the world.

    We're then shown via flashbacks what actually happened to Graham's wife. She was walking on the side of the road one night when a local vet named Ray fell asleep at the wheel and pinned her to a tree. Graham made it to the scene of the accident in time to be with her for her last moments, but her death has haunted him ever since, leaving him a broken man.

    Graham decides to visit Ray one day, and manages to catch him just before he leaves in his truck, "to get near water," he says. Ray apologizes to Graham for mistakenly killing his wife, and comes to terms with his ultimate fate with God. With all of the alien craziness happening, he feels that we're headed toward the end of the world. Before pulling away, he tells Graham to stay away from his pantry closet. "I've got one of 'em trapped in there," he says.

    Graham hesitantly makes his way to the pantry, and uses a kitchen knife to slide under the door and act as a mirror. Before he gets a good look at what's inside, a hand slides out, and in a panic, Graham cuts off two of the outstretched fingers before running out of Ray's house and back to his own.

    The film comes to a head when the news relates that several UFOs are hovering and moving around, and that they seem to be using the aforementioned crop circles as focal points. Knowing that it's only a matter of time before they come for them, Graham and Merrill board up the house and hide with Bo and Morgan. Eventually the aliens break in, so they run down to the cellar as a last resort. Of course, this is only a temporary solution, and it's made a whole lot worse when Morgan suffers a severe asthma attack. Graham's able to coach him through it, but without his inhaler (which is upstairs), he won't live through another attack.

    Suddenly, numerous aliens are heard upstairs, including one that's trying to break down the door. All of the exits are boarded up and blocked, but Graham knows it's only a matter of time before they're found and killed. Merrill looks into Graham's eyes and sees that he's lost all faith, believing that he and his whole family are going to die. The noise lasts into the night, and eventually, Graham falls asleep.

    When he wakes up, Merrill informs him that "it's all over," and that someone must have figured out a way to beat the aliens. They hear on the radio, however, that some of the wounded have been left behind, and that they still might be out there. They see that Morgan is still asleep, but they need to get his medicine from upstairs before he has another attack. The whole family heads upstairs, and when they do, they find the alien who'd been stuck in the pantry from earlier waiting in their living room. He's able to take Morgan hostage, extending a stinger from his wrist.

    At this point, we flash back to Graham witnessing his wife's passing, and we see her final words. She tells Graham to "see," and to tell Merrill to "swing away." This memory alerts Graham to the souvenir bat from one of Merrill's games during his baseball years. So he tells Merrill to swing away, prompting the alien to secrete poisonous gas into Morgan's face before letting him fall to the ground. Merrill hits him a few times with a baseball bat, but there doesn't seem to be much of an effect. He eventually knocks him into a glass of water, which burns the alien like acid. Taking this as a sign of their weakness, Merrill's able to kill the alien by dousing it in more and more water.

    Graham rushes Morgan outside the house and sticks him with an epinephrine needle to administer his medication. Reasoning that he might not be dead (since he wasn't breathing correctly, he might not have ingested much of the gas), he pleads with God to let his son live. Thankfully, Morgan soon wakes up, and asks if someone saved him. "Someone did," Graham answers.

    The movie then fast-forwards to the following winter. We find Graham dressed in his old reverend attire, heading off to church. His faith in God restored, he moves on from the death of his wife toward a brighter future. The end.

    Typing out that synopsis, it's easy to see why some people don't like Signs. It's tremendously melodramatic, and if you put it under a microscope, a lot of the logic falls apart. There's no denying that it's not a very smart movie, and yet I can't help but profess that I enjoyed it immensely.

    I think it's because Signs leans much more heavily on its emotional storyline than its fantastical premise. Where with The Sixth Sense - and even moreso with Unbreakable - the climax is all about something supernatural, Signs finds most of its intensity in Graham's hatred of God, and his bitterness over his wife's death. This isn't a movie about a kid who can see dead people or a man who can't be harmed. Signs is about someone experiencing a crisis of faith. It just happens to be happening around an alien invasion.

    I suppose, because of that, Signs' biggest weakness is in its science fiction. Aliens coming to a planet that's mostly covered in a substance that's toxic to them (especially if they're here to harvest) seems incredibly stupid - the aliens are treated exclusively as "the other," and never as actual characters. They're a plot device, and little else.

    As always, Shyamalan turned in some very competent direction and genuine scares. He's extremely gifted at creating tension, and it's utilized incredibly here. There are also some great visual gags and comedy thrown in, which was surprising after Unbreakable was so bleak and humorless.

    So again, I can appreciate and understand why some people were frustrated by Signs' gaps in logic, and especially its melodrama; but it's the heart that Shyamalan displays that makes me forget all of that and enjoy Graham's journey. It might be flawed, but I was really impressed with it.

    So that's Signs. Come back tomorrow for The Village.


    Seven Days of Shyamalan: Day 2 (Unbreakable)

    Hello and welcome to Day 2 of Seven Days of Shyamalan. In case you've missed them, be sure to head back and read the prologue, as well as Day 1, which covers Wide Awake and The Sixth Sense, respectively. As you probably already know, the whole point of this weeklong series is to recap and critique the selected filmography of one of the strangest downturns in the history of the medium.

    Today we'll be doing that with 2000's Unbreakable.

    Starring Bruce Willis as David Dunn, Unbreakable gives us a look at the origin of an unlikely hero and his journey to come to terms with his gifts (a theme carried over from The Sixth Sense). Working a dead-end security job and dealing with a shaky marriage, David seems like your average, run-of-the-mill schmuck, but that all changes on a train ride back to Philadelphia from New York. The conductor loses control, and all 131 passengers on said train die.

    Except for David. Not only is he alive, he's completely unhurt. He doesn't have a scratch on him and he can't explain why.

    Elsewhere in Philadelphia we find Elijah, played by Samuel L. Jackson, a man with Type 1 osteogenesis imperfecta, making his bones extremely fragile. He owns an art gallery dedicated to comic books, and believes that comics are the last remnants of passing myths down from generation to generation via pictures (citing hieroglyphics and the like). Not only that - he also believes that a hero of extraordinary abilities must exist somewhere - he only needs to find him.

    You can probably guess where this is going.

    Elijah contacts David after hearing about his miraculous survival and begins asking him questions about his past, looking for past injuries or holes in his theory that David is somehow superhuman. Thinking Elijah insane, David politely removes himself from the conversation. Something that Elijah says sticks, however, when he asks David about the last time he was sick. David can't remember. Not even his estranged wife can remember.

    You can probably guess where this is going.

    Ever persistent, Elijah continues to look into David's life, discovering that he has an acute sense of intuition when it comes to violence (it starts as hunches during his security job, but later develops into brief psychic flashes, where he's able to see the misdeeds of others when he makes physical contact). David also comes to realize that he has a vast reservoir of strength that he had no idea about, enabling him to lift over 350 pounds. He insists that he's just a normal man, but Elijah says (and thinks) otherwise.

    Stop me if I've said this before, but you can probably guess where this is going.

    It all finally clicks for David when he has a sudden flashback from his early days of dating his wife, Audrey. He'd been a talented college football player with a seemingly bright future in the sport, but Audrey hated the idea of him getting hurt. One night during a drive, they crash on the side of the road. David is flung from the vehicle, but sees that Audrey is stuck inside. A fire is starting to build, so acting quickly, he's able to rip the door off of the car and pull her to safety. After flagging a passerby down, he's asked if he's hurt. He doesn't answer during the flashback, but we're shown earlier in the movie that he claims he was critically injured, ending his football career, but ensuring that his relationship would continue with Audrey.

    Thus, David decides to try out being a hero. Extending his hands out into a crowd, he sees their wrongdoings via his psychic flashes, with each impact yielding a more violent result. Eventually, he comes into contact with a janitor holding a family hostage in their home. He decides to follow him, and is able to free the two children before moving towards the parents. Despite falling into a pool tarp (David has a severe weakness to water - if any gets in his lungs, he can easily drown, and is shown to be a poor swimmer), he manages to get back out with some assistance from the aforementioned children. Strangling the home intruder, he finds the parents dead, but goes home having made a difference.

    The emotional journey of our protagonist ends here, but much like The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan decides to throw in a "Gotcha!" pertaining to our supporting lead. Thanking Elijah for his help in realizing who he is, David has another psychic flash. It turns out Elijah had been orchestrating all kinds of disasters (a plane crash, a building burning down, and the train accident that David walked away from) in order to expedite his search for a hero.

    Horrified, David stumbles back, and we get an "Evil, motherfucker! Do you speak it?!" speech from Sam Jackson. He finally realizes that his role in the world is to be David's opposite - his archenemy. He notes that he should have known all along after being teased as a child for his brittle bones and being given the nickname, Mr. Glass.

    We're then treated to some haphazard exposition (via freeze-frames and text) as to what happened to David and Elijah, with the former moving on with his life for the better and the latter currently being held in a psychiatric facility for the criminally insane. The end.

    There's no easy way to say it so I'll just say it: the problem with Unbreakable is that it's just boring. Whether it's the muted color palette or the unbelievably dry and un-compelling performance by Bruce Willis or the constant, "Hey, you're special," "Nah, man, you've got me confused with someone else," "No, but really, you are special," I felt like I was ready for the plot to move forward far before the movie did.

    And unlike The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable's grounded, emotional plot, David and Andrea's shitty marriage, just sort of plays out without any catharsis or point. Andrea enters as a woman who can't connect to her quiet, emotionless husband and she leaves as a woman who, all of a sudden, can accept the fact that she can't connect to her quiet, emotionless husband. One night, she approaches David and just announces that it'd be okay if he wanted to take her to dinner. And from then on out, she just seems to get along with him. We're told that it's because they're re-connecting, but we're never shown why it's different this time around.

    As a fan of comics, I can appreciate Shyamalan borrowing comic book tropes and using them cleverly in film. Elijah, for example, shows up many, many times as a reflection in glass (mirrors, television sets, etc), and wears distinctly purple clothing in contrast to David's green. These are all nice touches, and aside from Unbreakable's pacing issues (which have more to do with the story itself), I didn't have any problems with the direction.

    I suppose what makes watching Unbreakable so difficult is watching it back to back with The Sixth Sense, which has the exact same theme of an unhappy protagonist who finds his way to happiness by accepting his gifts and not running away from them, and just does it so much better. Unbreakable isn't a bad movie - far from it, but it is very disappointing.

    So that's Unbreakable, folks. Come back tomorrow for Signs.


    Seven Days of Shyamalan: Day 1 (The Sixth Sense)

    Hello and welcome to Day 1 of Seven Days of Shyamalan. In case you missed it, be sure to hit up yesterday's entry on Wide Awake which, while an M. Night Shyamalan movie, doesn't share a lot of the same traits as the movies that I'll be focusing on, and thus I decided it'd be best to talk about it as a prologue.

    Today, though, we'll be talking about 1999's The Sixth Sense.

    I should mention right off the bat that I'll be discussing key plot points during this overview, so if you're on of the four people on the planet who haven't seen this movie, come back after watching it, or read on ahead at your own peril. Here there be spoilers.

    The Sixth Sense tells the story of a young boy in Philadelphia (we've seen this before) named Cole, played by Haley Joel Osment, who's experienced quite a bit of loss recently (this, too), what with his father moving out of the house and the implied-to-be-recent death of his grandmother. He doesn't fit in at school and has strange cuts and bruises all over his arm. His mother loves him dearly, but he's too scared of what she might think if he truly opened up to her. Cole truly has no one to confide in.

    That is, until he meets Malcolm, a middle-aged children's psychologist, played by Bruce Willis, who's recently been through some trauma of his own. Months prior to the events of the film, Malcolm and his wife are shocked to find one of Malcolm's former patients, now an adult, sobbing in their bathroom. Violently unstable and claiming that Malcolm "failed" him, he shoots Malcolm several times before turning the gun the other way, killing himself instantly.

    Though physically fine, Malcolm feels like he's lost his edge after this encounter. He questions his skills as a psychologist, and with his relationship with his wife seemingly going down the tube, he latches onto Cole being his second chance. He figures that if he can help this boy (who exhibits similar behavioral patterns to his former patient), he can get his mojo back, so to speak.

    As Malcolm and Cole bond more and the latter begins to open up, we find out why he's afraid to be alone, and why he's afraid of confiding in his mother: he can see and communicate with the dead. Apparently hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of lost souls are walking around every day, not even aware that they're dead. They see only what they want to see, and can get stuck in the same patterns that lead to their (usually untimely) deaths. For whatever reason, they flock to Cole, sometimes confusing him with someone from their lives, sometimes asking him for help and sometimes lashing out at him with violence (thus the strange scratches and bruises).

    After some initial disbelief that something like this could be possible, Malcolm realizes that Cole is telling the truth (it turns out his old patient had the same ability, and by listening to his old session tapes, audible ghost-speak could be heard by turning the volume all the way up). With the idea that the only way to keep these ghosts sated is to approach them and help them, Malcolm convinces Cole to try and see what one of them wants, and to see if he can assist them with moving on.

    After solving the murder of a young girl whose mother was poisoning her every day to keep her sick, Cole seems to be on the up-and-up. He gets a leading part in the school play, and for the first time in the film, seems to act like a kid. He and Malcolm say their goodbyes. Our disheveled shrink's done his bit. It's time to get back to that wife of his to let her know that he still loves her and he's not ready to give up on them.

    Well, too late. This is probably the most famous part about The Sixth Sense: Malcolm was a ghost the whole time. His former patient actually killed him when he shot him during the opening of the film, and while we've seen him converse with Cole throughout the movie, he never directly interacts with anyone else. Coming to grips with this reality, Malcolm says some final words to his wife (who can apparently hear him provided she's asleep) and "moves on."

    Meanwhile, Cole decides to finally confide in his mother, and after relaying a message from the aforementioned dead grandmother, she comes to believe him, too. They embrace, a mother and son finally communicating.  The end.

    The Sixth Sense is more than ten years old, and in that time it's received numerous accolades, parodies and as with all successes, disparaging remarks about how it's overrated. I'll go on record by saying that The Sixth Sense is a really good (if perhaps not great) movie. There's plenty of sincere and genuine affection between Cole's mother, played by Toni Colette and her son, and even though Bruce Willis is physically incapable of playing a character as anything but understated, even he manages to get worked up and shed a tear or two. And it never feels forced. The pain these characters exhibit feels real.

    Furthermore, Shyamalan shows some spectacular aptitude for building tension. A few of the ghost-related scares fall flat, but their build-up is almost always expertly crafted. I don't really have any issues with his direction or his storytelling. It's the story itself that I have a few problems with.

    Primarily, I don't feel like the Bruce Willis "Gotcha!" is anything more than a "Gotcha!" It's a clever that Shyamalan was able to pull it off, but after the first viewing, all it gives us are a lot of pointless scenes meant to draw our attention away from the fact that Malcolm's dead. If he was alive and able to reconcile with his wife, it really only would've changed about three minutes of the film. There just wouldn't be a "Gotcha!"

    The fact is this movie is about Cole, and his journey to come to terms with his gifts. Malcolm's side-story isn't really compelling at all once you get past the twist ending. Going forward with Shyamalan's filmography, I have the feeling that he's going to focus more on the "Gotcha!" moments of supernatural twists and less on the human, emotional scenes like the one that takes place between Cole and his mother. Shyamalan put a lot of heart into this movie, and that's what I enjoyed about it. The big reveal is all flash and little substance.

    So that's Day 1 of Seven Days of Shyamalan. Come back tomorrow when I critique Unbreakable!


    Rough Draught: Episode 4

    After an all too long wait, Rough Draught, the beer appreciation show, is back with a brand new episode. This month, Karl and Jon invited our buddy Antonio (who guested on Episode 2) back onto the program to check out three new brews, including:

    Lobster Lovers Beer (Blue Label)

    St. Peter's Old-Style Porter

    And Lagunitas Little Sumpin Wild Ale.

    As always, once you're done listening, take the brand new Crosstawk Listener Survey on, follow us on Twitter (@crosstawk), send in your emails to and last, but certainly not least, rate and review us on iTunes.

    Direct Download

    Thanks for listening, folks! See you next week!


    Seven Days of Shyamalan: Prologue

    Hey there, folks, and welcome to Seven Days of Shyamalan, a look back on the filmography of one of the strangest downturns in the history of film. Today's entry is actually the Prologue, where we'll be looking at a film that, while it predates The Sixth Sense, doesn't really fit the usual tropes associated with the releases that would follow.

    That film is 1998's Wide Awake, written and directed by none other than M. Night Shyamalan.

    I should note that he actually directed one film before this, titled Praying With Anger, but it wasn't a major release, and it's pretty much impossible to find on DVD. It's really a shame, too, because in addition to being the movie's writer and director, M. Night also starred in the story of an American man with Indian ancestory going back to his family's homeland and discovering his spirituality. You can tell by watching this short segment that the source material likely meant a lot to Shyamalan, and I hope to track it down one day.

    Having said that, let's get to Wide Awake.

    The movie tells the tale of Joshua Beal, a fifth-grader in a Philadelphia suburb who's recently lost his grandfather. Finding himself grief-stricken, and hoping to find out what actually happens when someone dies, he embarks on a year-long "mission" to find God and ask him if his grandfather is being taken care of.

    The "mission" itself ultimately ends up ranging from speaking to the priest at his all-boys Catholic school to learning about and practicing a plethora of other religions from around the world to simply praying for any sort of sign that God actually exists. Frequently disheartened with his lack of results, there's a surprising amount of agnosticism to be found, usually in Joshua's best friend, David, who eloquently says, "Is there a God? I drink chocolate milk through my nose. What do you I know?"

    Mostly due to the light, orchestral score, you can never really escape that "90s Kid Movie" feel, which is a shame, because there are some genuinely touching and heartfelt moments to be found, especially between Joshua and his grandfather in various flashbacks scattered throughout the film. Needless to say, this is not a movie you'd ever suspect M. Night Shyamalan to be behind.

    And yet, he wrote it and directed it. It's hard to deny that this was probably his vision. I suppose there is a little bit of Joshua's precosiousness and soft nature that was brought into The Sixth Sense's Cole, but that's a tenuous link at best. I suppose the best compliment I can give this movie is that it handles a child's crisis of faith subtlely enough to not be heavy-handed. Wide Awake is a thoroughly light-hearted movie, from David's antics in driving the nuns at school insane to Joshua's doughy classmate Frank, who constantly thinks "today" is "tomorrow."

    So is Wide Awake a good movie? It's a very competent children's movie that explores some mature themes, but it hardly ever elevates itself to being genuinely great. Joshua's actor, Joseph Cross, is adorable and charming in his own way, and there are a few funny casting choices (Joshua's father is played by Dennis Leary, and two of his teachers are played by Rosie O'Donnel and Camyrn Manheim), but it's hardly a classic, and you're not missing anything by skipping over it. I can't even really recommend it to die-hards, since it doesn't have anything close to the same tone to Shyaman's later works.

    Oddly enough, Wide Awake was actually filmed in 1995, even though it wasn't released until 1998, and after watching the movie, I can understand why it was shelved. The fact that it only took in a little over a quarter of a million dollars (on a six-million dollar budget, no less) proves the fact that this movie has no audience. The crisis of faith moments are too heady for children, but still too simple for adults.

    So that's Wide Awake. Come back tomorrow for Day 1, where I'll be going to town on 1999's The Sixth Sense.


    Discover Music Project: Episode 3

    DMP returns to give you a spotlight on one of the all-time great independent rock bands: Pavement!

    Guest-starring Rough Draught's Jon Rind, our two Jonathans go to town on one of the most under-the-radar bands in the history of alternative. And for your convenience, here's the set list with runtimes:

    Silence Kit (Crooked Rain) - 3:01
    Gold Soundz (Crooked Rain) - 2:40
    Range Life (Crooked Rain) - 4:55
    Grounded (Wowee Zowee) - 4:16
    Father to a Sister of a Thought (Wowee Zowee) - 3:30
    Kennel District (Wowee Zowee) - 3:00
    Pueblo (Wowee Zowee) - 3:25
    Spit on a Stranger (Terror Twilight) - 3:04
    Stereo (Brighten The Corners) - 3:08
    Summer Babe [Winter Version] (Slanted and Enchanted) - 3:17
    Here (Slanted and Enchanted) - 3:58

    Total - 38:12

    Encore: Hopscotch Willie (Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks) - 6:56

    As always, be sure to send all of your questions and concerns to, take our brand new listener survey on and follow us on Twitter (@crosstawk).

    Come back on Friday for a new episode of Rough Draught!

    Direct Download


    Box Office Poison: Episode 4

    The crews' back with more movies and movie things! Once again, Evan Burchfield couldn't take time away from school, but we're still a five man team thanks to Rough Draugh's Jon Rind, who stepped in to guest star. This month there are a bunch of movies to talk about, from The Social Network to Biodome to Henry V to a Lifetime Original Movie (yep - that's right!).

    Our Movie of the Month this episode is 2007's I'm Not There. Telling stories in and around the mythology of Bob Dylan, there were a lot of different opinions, and I definitely think you'll enjoy the conversation. Next month we'll be tackling The Third man.

    As always, send all of your thoughts and concerns to, follow us on Twitter (@crosstawk) and head over to iTunes to rate/review us.

    See you next week when Rough Draught returns!

    Direct Download


    Check it Out: Fourmile Canyon Revival Write-Up

    This past weekend, the Fourmile Canyon Revival benefit concert was held to raise funds to help those affected by the September wildfire that burned down over 6000 square acres in Fourmile County. Our own Jonny Metts happened to be there, and wrote a dynamite recap over at With a line-up that included several members of Phish, Leftover Salmon, String Cheese Incident and more, you'd do well to head on over and give it a look-see.


    Take the Crosstawk Listener Poll, Get a New Series Before Anyone Else

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