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Lady in the Water Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, M. Night Shyalaman, Bob Balaban. Director and Screenwriter: M. Night Shyalaman.
This is a pretty difficult film to say anything about.  I liked it, and enjoyed it, but I can see how someone else might loathe it and find it boring, stupid or contrived. 

I didn’t find it any of those things, but I think that’s because this film doesn’t really fall under the usual aspects of good or bad, well- or poorly-made.  This is a film that depends entirely on how you personally respond to it.   If you respond to it positively, you’ll like it; if, only the other, equally valid hand, you respond to it negatively, you’ll hate it.

As I said, I liked it, but I have to admit the movie started out badly.  Slow, underlit, and terribly self-conscious; one scene, when Paul Giamatti wakes up in the wee small hours, was so blurry that I felt like yelling, “Focus!” in hopes that a projectionist would respond.  But then Giamatti raises his arm, and we see that his watch is perfectly in focus.  So, rather than use a simple rack- or deep-focus, Mr. Shyalaman has to show us that he was completely in charge of everything…to the exclusion of clear story-telling.

I thought, this is going to be rough going.  Fortunately, when Story appeared, the film seemed to step a bit more in the direction of (so to speak) story-telling, and I warmed to it and began to enjoy it for what it was.   Even to the point, at the end, that a similarly blurry shot (from within a swimming pool) seemed like the perfect choice.  It was even moving in its own way.

One of the plot-points is that Story is somehow able to unlock people’s minds, to free them of internal barriers and enhance their creativity, their willingness to believe.  Perhaps that’s how I came to like the film too.  Much criticism has been leveled at the fact that everyone seems to accept the situation as it is told to them; I think this can be laid as well to her mind-freeing ability.   I for one found it refreshing that there weren’t any scenes of “she needs a psychiatrist!” or “no, Cleveland needs a psychiatrist!” type stuff.   

One scene I enjoyed was when Bob Balaban, who plays a film critic, confronts a monster in the hallway.  He tries to gauge his survivability based on horror movie clichés, with a result he doesn’t expect.  A message about seeing clichés in everything?  Could be.

So, I recommend this one.   It’s not really necessary to see it on the big screen (it won’t be staying there long anyway—it’s a boxoffice disaster) but I think it’s definitely worth seeing. 

Will you like it or not?  That really depends on you.


Office Space
Starring: Ron Livingston, Gary Cole, Stephen Root, Jennifer Anniston. Directors and Screenwriter: Mike Judge.
Some people say that if you don’t like Office Space, you’re not cool and they don’t like you. 

Well, at the risk of being uncool and unlikable, I only liked most of the film.  Particularly, the first two thirds or so, when (as a result of a hypnotherapy session gone wrong), Peter Gibbons ceases to care about his job, and finds himself suddenly the star of the office, on his way up.  The whole idea being that perception is much more important than performance or results, and that the hierarchy of work is formed more by accident and luck than by talent or hard work.  Brilliant, and brilliantly done.

It’s in the last part of the film, when the caper is hatched, that I think the film starts to fall apart.  It becomes almost a completely different movie, and a far less interesting or funny one.  The narrative becomes one of doing the right thing. 

I certainly don’t want to give the impression that doing the right thing is a bad thing, or makes bad entertainment.  But that’s not what this movie was about.  And the contrast is so jarring that it snapped the comedy out of it for me.  It almost feels like someone spliced the ending of another film onto this one, except that the actors and characters are all the same. 

Perhaps Mike Judge felt that there was nowhere else to go with hypnotized Peter, and had to find somewhere else for the film to go; perhaps the decision was forced on him by studio heads, nervously watching themselves on screen; or perhaps it was there from the beginning and I simply don’t have the perception to see how it follows logically.

Still and all, this is a funny film, well worth seeing, and well deserving of its cult.   Be warned that there’s a ton of profanity, largely from the soundtrack but still there in large amount.  I don’t think it hurts the film, but it’s kind of off-putting.  The cast is pretty good, with particularly funny performances from Gary Cole (smarmy boss from Hell Lumbergh) and Stephen Root (creepy mental case Milton).  Probably the most famous name here, other than Mike Judge (and maybe Michael Bolton) is Jennifer Anniston.  I’ve never really found her much of an actress, and she doesn’t change my mind here.  She’s passable as a pretty girl but that’s about the extent of her impact.

If you’ve ever worked in an office environment, you will no doubt recognize many of the types gathered here.  I’ve worked with many of them myself; I once had a co-worker who was the exact copy of Bill Lumbergh.  He had the same level of popularity, too, but he was eventually shown the door.   Which proves, in the words of another character here, that “good things can happen in this world."

Recommended.  Just remember the proper cover page for the TPS reports and you should do fine.