Thursday, August 06, 2009

Ten Years Ago Today...We First Saw Dead People

Hello, all. Kieran here (aka the Know nothing Know it All). Ten years ago today, M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense hit multiplexes to massive audience and critical acclaim. Massive (it bears repeating). Shyamalan was essentially unknown, as was little Haley Joel Osment (the film's star, even though he landed a supporting actor Oscar nod). Still, the film spent five weeks at number one spot at the box office—no small feat these days for films not about Batman. 2009 is more than half over, and only two films have managed to remain number one for two or more consecutive weeks—Paul Blart and Transformers (yikes). The Sixth Sense achieved a lot of cultural capital.

Revisit it. It's still utterly watchable, not for the moments where it genuinely scares you (of which, there are plenty) but for its moments of true human drama. Plus, I love a film that's both a zeitgeist hit and a showcase for its actors. The scene where Osment talks to Toni Collette about her dead mother still brings tears to my eyes a decade later (and probably brought Collette her Oscar nod). Alas, Shyamalan has been struggling to find the magic again. He has yet to match its success, both critically and financially. Will he find it again? His next effort, The Last Airbender, due out sometime in July 2010 doesn't look promising. But who knows? The Sixth Sense showcased Shyamalan as a gifted storyteller, and though he may continue to disappoint, I'm thankful for an industry that allows him to try, rather than turning him into Michael Cimino.

Another 1999 horror offering, The Blair Witch Project, which had its ten year anniversary sometime last week, may not have aged as well, but they both remain clear cultural markers for the movie industry, n'est pas? Blair Witch is credited as the first film to utilize Internet marketing on a grand scale, and there was even talk of how said technology would reinvent the film industry (yawn). It definitely helps to spread the word about smaller films that might have been a just-miss otherwise, but viral marketing is now so commonplace that (like all marketing) it mostly helps those with a lot of money make...more money. Where were you in 1999 when you first saw The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project?

P.S. Can anyone think of a year in recent memory besides 1999 that was a bigger year for event moviemaking? 1999 brought us the two aforementioned hits, plus (deep breath now) Fight Club, The Matrix, American Beauty, Being John Malkovich, Magnolia and the beginning of the new Star Wars trilogy, each cinematic events in their own right. Kind of makes you wonder how The Cider House Rules and The Green Mile managed to worm their way onto the best picture shortlist that year...

25 comments:

Beau said...

'The Blair Witch Project' is the greatest horror film in the history of cinema.

Bar none.

That thing does not age.

JA said...

I popped in to defend Blair Witch too, but Beau went and blew any of my defenses outta the water. Greatest Horror Film... I won't say that. But I think it's a Great Horror Film, a Great Film in its own right, and I think it's aged wonderfully. It's still pretty divisive, people either find it scary or they don't. But it scares the hell outta me still and I've seen it a dozen times over.

1999 was one of the greatest years for cinema of all time. I even did a whole series on it ages and ages ago.

Beau said...

There's very little that can compare to it, honestly. I can watch 'Shining', original 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre', 'Rosemary's Baby', 'The Mist', 'Halloween', 'Scream', all great horror films in their own right, but none of them have ever left me with that feeling of complete utter dread and fright that this did. It's just amazing to me, the power of this remarkably simple film.

The dark is always scarier than anything that might lurk in there.

Joe Shetina said...

Hmmm...I don't think Blair Witch is the greatest at all, but it's certainly up there. The Mist is not even close. I'm on the fence about Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I really don't know what to think of it.

I cry every time I watch Toni Collette in that scene. Absolutely love her.

Kelsy said...

I adore the Sixth Sense. Like most of his films, he manages to let his actors bring some genuine emotion to the screen.

And The Blair Witch Project, I've only seen on TV several years ago--which is pretty much the worst way to watch a horror movie, with commercial breaks that break the mood completely. So maybe I'll rent it sometime and watch by myself in a dark room and see if it scares me.

Wayne B. said...

Agree that "Sixth Sense" is still great. I wish Election, Go or Sleepy Hollow would've gotten some more love though.

Ben said...

I remember seeing these two movies back to back at my local drive-in theater. Blair Witch scared the crap out of me, and I was very moved and impressed by The Sixth Sense.

I have seen The Sixth Sense several times and love it-for me it is easily the best of the Best Picture nominees of 1999. What a year of great movies that weren't nominated- Malkovich, Magnolia, Election, Topsy-Turvy, Toy Story 2, Boys Don't Cry, All About My Mother, Run Lola Run. ALL better than the anemic Best Picture lineup.

Jose said...

My mom spoiled "The Sixth Sense" finale for me, so when I saw it, it was just another Bruce Willis movie with a freaky kid.
As for Blair Witch it still gives me goosebumps.
And let's not forget 99 also gave us "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "The End of the Affair" two of the best films made by their directors which I believe have remained shamefully underrated.

Glendon said...

Just saw American Movie yesterday; another gem from 1999.

Ryan T. said...

Haven't seen either films. I feel really really deprived. Oh and someone spoiled the ending of Sixth Sense for me... which is why I never got around to seeing it. Sad.

Katie said...

The Matrix --- I get goosebumps remembering 1999 for this movie alone. Loved this movie so much. 1999 was indeed delicious, not so much as a year for truly great films, but a year - like no other - for pop culture history.

Katie said...

Ryan T. ; you should really see it anyway. The mood and story is still intact, even if the ending is destroyed.

Glenn said...

The Sixth Sense is so good you don't NEED to not know the ending. It's just good ol' fashioned solid filmmaking that one.

The Blair Witch Project? Scariest movie I've ever seen. I always end up in the featal position when I watch that one, terrified out of my mind.

...which begs the question, why do I watch it a lot?

Victor S said...

The Cider House Rules got the best picture nomination the same way Chocolat did in 2000 and The Reader last year: Mr. Harvey Weinstein.
For The Green Mile, the Academy still was in love with The Shawshank Redemption, a little guilty that it didn't won any awards the first time and gave Darabont a second, since it was basicly the same movie.

Anonymous said...

i thought 2003 was the last good movie year. It's the last year I could remember having watched and actually loved all five Best Pic nominations - Return of the King, Mystic River, Lost in Translation, Master and Commander, and Seabiscuit, four of five which are personal favorites. Finding Nemo, the first Pirates, both of which are now family classics, Big Fish, Kill Bill, even the comedies were decent (Bruce Almighty, Love Actually). Maybe not all GREAT films but a few classics among them. I think the last few years have been pretty blah, with a few exceptions.

JS said...

1999 was a great year for films, that was American Beauty's year too, right?

I also loved Cruel Intentions, even though it didn't win any Oscars, it was a fun ride. I also thought SMG gave a great performance, unfortunately she never topped it in any other films. Reese became the movie star...

Runs Like A Gay said...

I hate to be the one to mention this, however I'm pedant so there you go.

Tyler Perry's Madea goes to Jail also had 2 weeks at the top of the US box office in late February.

WRT The Sixth Sense I blagged some free tickets for me and the team who worked for me in a bar when it came out and we saw an advance screening a couple of weeks before it opened. I remember not talking about it in front of the customers (and keeping the staff from talking about it) nearly drove me crazy.

Davey said...

I remember going to see "The Sixth Sense" with a friend in college. We were actually supposed to see "Stigmata" instead (yeah, that gem of a film starring Patricia Arquette), but either it was sold out or we arrived at the theater too late. Can't remember which. So then we had to "settle" on seeing "The Sixth Sense" instead. It had been out for a couple of weeks at that point, and thankfully I hadn't been spoiled about THE TWIST at that point pre-Internet spoiler days. I left the theater transfixed and was debating all of the tell-tale clues with my friend on the ride back to the dorm and wondering if they played fair or not with the details. It's been a few years since I've watched it since, but damn if it doesn't hold up wonderfully, and this is the only reason I've given M. Night as many passes as I have (though he almost lost me for good after "The Village"). I just saw "The Happening" a while back, and yeah, the less said about that film the better. But I'll be a "Sixth Sense" fan for life though, and hopefully M. Night will return to that level of greatness one of these days.

Marcello Talone said...
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Janice said...

Has it really been ten years? i know that sounds idiotic but it still feels on some levels like I just saw The Sixth Sense the other day. It's certainly one of the few films that I was so impressed with that I actually paid to see twice at the theater.

kin said...

The Sixth Sense is just awesome. Probably my favorite of all time. And if nothing else, the film introduced us to the immense talents of Haley Joel Osment. I really wish we could see a great performance from him again. Or really any performance. It has been six years!

Bernardo said...

1999 was also a brilliant year for Supporting Actresses.

Thora Birch
Jessica Campbell
Toni Collette
Cameron Diaz
Angelina Jolie
Catherine Keener
Samantha Morton
Chlöe Sevigny

...to name just a few

Simply brilliant!

Max said...

I saw The Blair Witch Project right when it came out (and I was 14) before I realized that it wasn't real. I of course figured it out after the fact, but that doesn't mean it doesn't still give me the creeps. Most people are solidly in one camp on that movie: freaked out or think it's lamesauce. That shit still gives me the shivers.

NATHANIEL R said...

i loved both of the movies covered here. blair witch project is one of my most vivid moviegoing memories (i went with friends and all of us were scared and shivering -- the air conditioning in the theater was crazy overactive) and i agree with every commenter here that The Sixth Sense holds up even if you know the twist. I didn't know it the first time through but it didn't love any of its power on a second viewing which is saying something for a "twist" film

RC said...

Nice post --- 1999 is my favorite year in film.

I agree, 6th Sense, totally still watchable. it's an exceptionally shot film, with great story telling, and perfect time and chemistry between all the characters.