Almost Great Films


I think we should create a list of films that could have been great…but are not!


For example, the Director M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable would be on such a list.  He not only directs, he wrote and has a bit part in the movie.  My concern about this very talented director is that he has a need for less arrogance and needs to realize that he is not as good as he thinks he is….hey!  He needs to slow down and write better screenplays before putting them on film.  The directing is very good, the acting is outstanding.  He has a great cast: Samuel L. Jackson as a lunatic suffering from brittle bone disease, Bruce Willis as the man who can’t be hurt…the opposite of Jackson, and Robin Wright Penn as Willis’ wife. 


It has a clever trick ending where we find out things at the last minute that we were given no earlier clues about….this is cute but not good scriptwriting.  You need to see the clues so that it all fits in at the end.


But more than anything, Shyamalan introduces a very fascinating topic and never effectively explores it by the end of the film.  At the end of the film he has some words come on the screen explaining the ending…hey!  That is not good film making.


In the final scene he has Jackson’s character say the following: “Do you know what the scariest thing is?  To not know your place in this world.  To not know why you are here.”  Remember this is coming from a man who has lived a very very difficult life since the moment he was born with broken legs and arms due to his brittle bone disease.  He has spent years trying to find out if a superman really exists and has committed terrible crimes in his effort to find that out.  He has made many sacrifices to find the superman that Willis’ character plays.  He tells him: “Now that we know who you are, I know who I am.  I’m not a mistake.  It all makes sense.”  This kernel of philosophical wisdom could have been far more effectively explored and if it had been this movie could have gone from a mediocre effort to a great film. (See the film Simon Birch for another very different way a human being handles his handicap.)


Another example of this is Frogs for Snakes which also has a great cast led by Barbara Hershey.  This time it is Amos Poe who both writes and directs the effort.  Here again I think he needs to recognize that he is not up to both tasks.  But like the other film above, he plays with a wonderful idea.  In this film we have a loan shark who employs a group of people who have to go around threatening and sometimes shooting those people who have not paid back the money on time…or have done some other wrong to the loan shark.  Soooo….just another crime story?  Anything but!  All the crooks are into being actors.  The loan shark is a producer and sometimes his employees kill (literally) to get a part.  He is in the process of producing American Buffalo (which has also been made into a movie) and they speak some of the parts from this play.  A crazy fun and dangerous black comedy that almost rises to greatness but falls short because it lacks the power of a great screenplay.  If better written, it could have made its point more powerfully and the point is a very important one.  It is obviously not worth literally killing someone just to get a role in a play.  But what the viewer needs to appreciate is that we often do just that…we kill to get ahead.  We kill others and we kill ourselves, not quickly, not dramatically with a gun, but all the same we are murderers and this could have become a wonderful message in this film if it had been better developed.


Lesson:  Movies are by their nature collaborative efforts.  Life by its nature is a collaborative effort.  Therefore, when we try to do too much without effective support, we can expect that our efforts will not turn out as well as they could.


Think about that lesson and how it applies to you in our highly individualistic American culture.  Are you collaborating effectively with others in order to make your life work successful?  This applies to all forms of work: your marriage, your being a parent, your spiritual development, your professional efforts.  How might you be more effectively collaborating?  Are you collaborating with the right group of individuals?


This is a topic well worth your exploration and considerable thought should go into it.