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“I’m Ready to Communicate With You Now”: The Millennial Anxieties of “The Sixth Sense”, and Feeling Alone in the City of Brotherly Love…

This Saturday, I’ll be discussing The Sixth Sense on The 250, the weekly podcast that I co-host discussing the IMDb’s Top 250 Movies of All-Time. However, I had some thoughts on the film that I wanted to jot down first.

What do you think these ghosts want when they talk to you? I want you to think about it, Cole. I want you to think about it really carefully. What do you think they want?

Just help.

That’s right. That’s what I think too. They just want help, even the scary ones. I think I might know a way to make them go away.

How?

Listen to them.

The Sixth Sense is a remarkable film, for many reasons.

These days, The Sixth Sense is perhaps best known for its central twist. The film’s powerhouse emotional ending has become a pop cultural touchstone, anchoring jokes in everything from Fifty First Dates to the viral video sensation Jizz in my Pants. Of course, this also complicates the legacy of The Sixth Sense by serving as ground zero for director M. Night Shyamalan’s subsequent dependence upon these sorts of twists in movies like The Village or The Happening. Nevertheless, The Sixth Sense has endured in the popular memory as one of the rare twist-driven films that stands up to repeat viewings.

A Cole’d open.

However, it is much more than that. Even beyond that, The Sixth Sense is a lavish production that looks beautiful. Of course, Shyamalan’s ego has done his reputations few favours, from his own cameo as a writer-messiah in The Lady in the Water to his role in a Sci-Fi Channel documentary The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan to the famous Newsweek cover crowning him “the next Spielberg.” Still, The Sixth Sense is visually stunning. Although it is tempting to think of The Sixth Sense as a “small” movie by modern standards, it was actually produced on a budget of $40m.

Rewatching The Sixth Sense twenty years later, it is amazing how much of the film’s visual storytelling lingers. Shyamalan might not have been the next Spielberg, but he had a wonderful eye for composition; that shot of a red balloon drifting up the inside of a spiral staircase, those eerie sequences of Malcolm and Cole wandering through a surprisingly quiet Philadelphia, even the conversations at that church with Cole towering over Malcolm from the balcony as he plays with his toy soldiers.

Pew pew!

However, even more than all of that, The Sixth Sense remains the rare film that is both specifically rooted in its cultural moment and profoundly universal. The story that drives The Sixth Sense is surprisingly straightforward – helpfully encapsulated in Cole’s trailer-friendly assertion that he sees “dead people.” However, Shyamalan understands that ghost stories are about more than just the recently deceased. Ghost stories translate a sense of longing and regret, of disconnect and isolation. The Sixth Sense is fundamentally a story about how difficult it is to meaningfully communicate in the modern world, with or without a pulse.

The Sixth Sense is a story of existential ennui, wrapped up in a set of late nineties anxieties.

M. Night Shyamalan had to eat Crowe on his next few films.

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Glass Houses: The Music of Philip Glass

I have the pleasure of checking out Philip Glass at the National Concert Hall tonight. Despite the fact that I know next-to-nothing about music, I’m quite fond of Glass’ rather wonderful compositions – mostly through pop culture osmosis. It seems that Glass is the go-to guy if you need something wonderfully emotional and catchy, yet grandiose and sweeping to accompany a given film. He’s done countless soundtracks, but these are the big “on-screen” moments which I think of when I think of Glass.

First up, Watchmen. There’s a wonderful sequence on Mars scored to Glass’ Prophecies and Pruitt Igoe, which is perhaps the best scene in the entire jumbled up and deeply flawed film, as the past and present collide to the ominous soundtrack and narration. However, I can’t find that, so watch the trailer instead.

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Desert Island Discs

The ever wonderful Andy over at Fandango Groovers has put together a rather excellent little project among film bloggers where we’re all essentially playing ‘desert island discs’. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, it sees the person in question stranded on a desert island somewhere with only a handful of items – in this case films. Each person will then choose their own eight films that will presumably see them through the rest of their lives in something resembling tranquility. Of course, the kicker is if we arrive on the island and there’s no DVD player.   

The Losties were less than pleased when Darren phoned ahead with his movie choices...

Note: I’ve also compiled a list of movies and bloggers, so you can see if anyone else shared your picks.

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Non-Review Review: The Truman Show

One of the very few movies to get even more relevent after it was made, The Truman Show is one of the best movies Hollywood has produced in the past two decades. One part mythical fable about identity and control and another part biting satire on consumerism and reality television, it is one of those rare movies that deserves the description ‘masterpiece’.

For the world is hallow and I have touched the sky...

For the world is hollow and I have touched the sky...

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