Watch M. Night Shyamalan's Deeply Delusional Take On Why American Critics Despise His Movies
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Watch M. Night Shyamalan's Deeply Delusional Take On Why American Critics Despise His Movies

By Joanna Robinson | Videos | September 12, 2013 | Comments ()


Okay this video is a bit old but the lovely folks at io9 posted it yesterday and since I just started watching Avatar: The Legend Of Korra, it reawakened all my The Last Airbender trauma. I am astounded by Shyamalan’s ability to defend what was, in my opinion, one of the most egregious on-screen atrocities in recent memory. I’m not over-stating. The source material is that good and Shyamalan’s effort that egregiously bad. In this interview, M. Night claims “I’ve always had a European sensibility to my movies so that pacing is, like a little bit off for them and it feels a little bit stilted and they need more electricity.” To be fair. That’s rather diplomatic. He could have said that the American audience is comprised of a bunch of slack-jawed, drooling idiots who need their brains zapped by the cattle prod of “splodey boom” action every few minutes or they’ll get too bored. Come for the delusions, stay for the endearingly racist Japanese accent.

Did you like the part where Shyamalan claimed the reason his films are so unapproachably “European” is because “Hitchcock and Kurosawa and Stanley Kubrick these are my teachers.” You know, Stanley Kubrick, that famous European. Now I’m not trying to re-write history. I drank deeply of the Shyamalan kool-aid when Sixth Sense came out. (Saw it three times in the theaters.) I’d still argue that Mischa Barton Vomiting is one of the scariest moments in film history. I’m a fan of Unbreakable, a staunch defender of the problematic Signs and am even moved by some scenes The Village. But I’m inclined to give a lot of the credit there to Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard and some well-placed mist because, boy howdy, is The Village dumb.

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 11.53.36 AM.png

But things just got worse from there, didn’t they? To the point where when I saw the trailer for 2010’s Devil in the theater, the whole crowd erupted in a chorus of hiss-boo-laughter at the “Story By M. Night Shyamalan” credit. So, yeah, when the guy gets asked in an interview “what’s up with the bad reviews,” he is, of course, going to defend himself. I get that. And making a bad movie or two? That could happen to anyone. But bungling something so good as the Avatar series? That’s unforgivable. This is one of the richest, most delightful stories in recent television memory. Forget that it’s a cartoon. It’s really that good. And Korra? Oh Korra is the best. It’s the second coming of Buffy The Vampire Slayer I’ve been waiting for. The new season premieres tomorrow night on Nickelodeon, and I can’t recommend it enough.

In the meantime, never forget what Shyamalan has done. Nor that he’s threatening us with an Airbender sequel. His sins are many. These are but a few.

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 6.22.35 AM.png

Because It Was The Trees…Oh God…The Trees

Narfs? Narfs?! NARFS!?!

That Time He Let The Scientologists Win
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Crimes Against Adrien Brody

All Of This. Just. All Of It.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • It's the Tisch, people

    In his defense, Kubrick was born in the Bronx but DID relocate to England because he saw the American film industry as unsalvageably idiotic.

    This said, Shyamalan seems to suffer, like Lady Gaga and James Franco after him, from NYU Disease: insufferable wealthy-parents-based twattery compounded by sudden unmerited fame, and with little real talent to back it up. Walk through Tisch and there are a thousand other pretentious future celebs-to-be there just like them, chirping loudly on phones about how fabulous they are while really working as unpaid MTV interns.

    Perhaps the problem is not M. Night, and is not James Franco, and is not The Olsen Twins, and is not even Lady Gaga, but a dull, bored media that actually believes having attended NYU Tisch confers magical implied talent instead of just having been a legacy kid whose mom or dad donated a few grand to that gold-lettered plaque you see on the south Tisch lobby wall. This would be that media that wandtapped Gaga a star simply for knowing how to play third grade piano: "Cause. She. Went. To. Tisch11!"

    Allow this NYU alum, who will not reveal my name, to inform that media and the world of the following truth which both badly near to hear:

    (a) Tisch is the NYU arts school for rich brats who like to announce they have talent.

    (b) Steinhardt is the NYU arts school for those students of all economic backgrounds who really do.

    Seriously: let's demystify Tisch, people. Step one is get rid of Lady Gaga. Step two: shut M. Night up.

    I vote send him where his teachers currently are for more study.

  • Lewis

    Don't cry, M. Night. I've heard 7-Eleven is hiring people for the night shift.

  • Wigamer

    It's not just that the "trees did it" (which was bad enough). When the trees/vegetation/etc. decide to poison your asses with poisonous gases, that shit's going to be invisible and omnipresent just like that invisible oxygen they produce. You can't really DRIVE to the next TOWN and hide in a BARN to avoid oxygen, M. Night, can you? And you so thoughtfully decided to indicate when those trees were up to their nefarious poisonin' by showing their branches blowing in the wind. Like TREES make WIND in order to more successfully spread their toxic gases?

    I hate that g-d movie.

  • googergieger

    I can definitely see a Kurosawa influence in Shamalalamalaman. You know how like they both made movies.

  • John G.

    Most people like Unbreakable, and don't count the downfall until Signs. I hated Unbreakable. It was a huge step down from The Sixth Sense, but people (read: boy men) get so excited by the idea of discovering that you're a superhero that people didn't realize that there were so many other problems with that film, the ridiculous third act just being the most obvious. He got progressively worse with every film after that, except for one.

    And I'll defend Signs to my dying day. I don't care what anyone says.

  • jennp421

    Really? It seemed like most people didn't really like Unbreakable when it came out. Of course, that was before I spent much time on the internet (and before there was much internet :p ) so I'm just speaking about my small circle of friends and family. I liked it, though.

  • AlexaCastro

    I'm a 28 year old woman and I loved Unbreakable. Oh well.

  • BrokenWindows

    Bryce Howard was the only good thing about The Village.

  • crispin

    Not true. The first 2/3'rds was BRILLIANT. Mind-numbingly creepy. Then, not only does he give the awful twist that the things in the woods were not real, he sets it up AGAIN that they might actually be real and then fucks us TWICE!

    I've never been angrier at a movie before in my life.

  • PDamian

    She was terrific, but the movie pretty much left me cold ... except for the soundtrack. Hillary Hahn as lead violin, performing a score by James Newton Howard. Brilliant.

  • apsutter

    Devil wasn't actually too bad but I think that's just because he was a producer.

  • 'Devil' is his best(read: only watchable) movie since 'Unbreakable.' I really liked that one.

  • JoannaRobinson

    Well, Messina makes everything better.

  • In watching Lady in the Water, every single time somebody said "narf," my thoughts immediately went to Pinky.

  • foolsage

    Ohhh, thanks for the heads-up on the new Korra season.

    Seriously… anyone who has not yet seen The Last Airbender (the cartoon) is missing out. It's honestly among the very finest TV shows I've ever seen. There are absolutely no wasted or filler episodes. Everything fits, and everything leads inexorably to the conclusion.

    And then once you've drunk all of that joy and wonder in, there's a whole new Avatar in Korra.

  • Ben

    Look I loved The Last Air Bender? But no wasted or filler episodes? You're drunk right? The Great Divide?

  • Lovely Bones

    The Great Divide is retroactively justified by that joke in The Ember Island Players, and thus is not a completely wasted episode.

  • foolsage

    "The Great Divide" was a character development episode. You're right that it did little to advance the overall plot (Aang vs Ozai), but it helped Aang learn the value of diplomacy. Well, and lies. ;)

    And no, I'm not drunk at this time, nor was I drunk when I posted the above. There's room for a difference of opinions without insulting people who don't agree with you.

  • Ben

    Ang never needed to learn about the power of diplomacy though, he wasn't exactly a hot headed kill everyone all the time dude untill the episode. He was exactly the same after the episode as he was before it. The episode could be completly removed and nothing in the series would change.

    Also sorry, didn't mean the drunk thing as an insult just a jest. My bad.

  • foolsage

    Aang didn't take being the Avatar seriously, and couldn't come to grips with his responsibility at first. His whole character arc was about him growing - not in power (though he did that as well) - but in maturity. Remember, when he first met Sokka and Katara, all Aang wanted to do was fly to various extreme sports locations so he could do things like ride the backs of giant water monsters. At the start of the series, Aang was a little kid with incredible powers, which he used solely to amuse himself. He didn't care about the problems of other people, and didn't involve himself in solving those problems. That, however, is the Avatar's job.

    So, sure, episodes showing him learning to care about random strangers, and to solve their problems by talking to people instead of flinging power around are important, too.

    No offense was taken. There's nothing wrong with being drunk. S'all good. I was just being prickly; long week. ;)

  • sanity fair

    I realize this could get me banned from Pajiba, but here goes...

    I must have drunk the Shyamalan Kool-Aid far more deeply than others because the only movie of his that I found completely unwatchable was The Last Airbender. And I've never seen the source material. I just couldn't get through the movie. Period.

    Otherwise, I haven't hated anything else of his. No, not even The Happening, though I can definitely see why so many people DO hate it. I love Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Signs and The Village were OK, even though I guessed the "twist" at the end of The Village 5 minutes into the movie and aliens are defeated by WATER. And I have a deeply personal, unabiding love for Lady in the Water, even though I need to be in the right mood to actually sit down and watch it.

    In full disclosure, I haven't seen the latest one with Will and Jaden Smith, so I can't say one way or the other about that.

  • I really love "Signs". Up until the stupid "reveal", it's a beautifully atmospheric movie that's creepy as hell. It's just frustrating that it ends so stupidly, but I think the rest of the movie is so good.

  • sanity fair

    I really enjoyed it the first time I saw it. I agree with you on the atmospheric element, but I just don't consider it something I'd watch again.

  • phofascinating

    Do I need to have seen the original Avatar series to watch Korra?

  • Tinkerville

    Watch the original Avatar series. Not because you need to in order to see Korra, but because it is without a doubt one of the best television series I've ever seen.

  • Ben

    Also the original Avatar series is awesome, and you should watch it just beause you like good tv.

  • foolsage

    No, but you'll enjoy it more if you have. It's a completely new plotline and almost all the characters are new, but there are numerous callbacks to the first series.

  • AlexaCastro


  • foolsage

    Exactly. Good example. :)

    Or, for something less amusing but still kinda cool, there's the origin of metalbending and what happens to the art over time. And there are characters like Tenzin, who perfectly embodies what I'd expect the child of his parents to be.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    I think you're right, but could you please stop linking to the "Everything wrong with..." troll? He's an asshole.

  • Robert

    Total tangent. Nickelodeon is breaking tradition and actually releasing Legend of Korra on Bluray, not just DVD. I wouldn't have believed if I didn't see it at a press event today and asked if they were lying to me. Pretty pretty pretty cartoon gets super pretty home release.

  • AlexaCastro

    Oh it is pretty pretty indeed. And the commentaries on each episode are fabulous.

  • Ian Fay

    Dear Mr. "What a Twist!"

  • Martin Holterman

    Are you seriously claiming Kubrick for America? He made all his good movies after he moved to the UK in 1962.

  • Becks

    He was born and educated in America and lived there until he was 35. More importantly, he never considered himself an expatriate and loved America, living in the UK only because it was a safer and calmer place for his family and he faced less censorship. From everything I've ever read of the man he liked the UK but always considered the US home.

    Also, Spartacus was clearly the film that elevated him in Hollywood and he made that before '62.

    I'm confused. Are Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow Brits as well?

  • It's the Tisch, people

    Hold it.

    I'm a Kubrick scholar and friends with the man who authored his most respected biography. Stanley Kubrick was born in the Bronx, NYC, and was not "educated" in America. He briefly attended City College then dropped out. He suffered terrible setbacks in school and was actually considered learning disabled. His father brought him a chessboard and a camera to bring him out of his shell. Many today in fact believe Kubrick may have had Asperger's Syndrome. I agree with that assessment.

    Kubrick moved to the UK to escape what he viewed as the distinct inability of the Hollywood industry to understand or support his meticulous approach to filmmaking, and because he in fact did view American audiences as plebeian and stupid. You can wish otherwise all you like, Becks, but you cannot reinvent a fabulist version of Kubrick's biography, and I'm catching you here. Hate M. Night all you want -- I share your dislike of his work -- but on this point he's right: Kubrick left the US for the exact reason Shyamalan cites. Shyamalan is correct. Until you've attended NYU Film School like he and I did, and taken the correct classes, avoid debating it.

    Kubrick despised the United States the rest of his life and went out of his way to not return, even for a brief visit, right up to his death. He firmly considered himself an Englishman.

    You might also want to know two Canadians were instrumental in supporting the young Kubrick during the dissolution of his first marriage, and keeping him warm, fed, sheltered and motivated. Canadian-American animators John and Faith Hubley allowed him to live with them in the Village as he recovered from his divorce and tried to figure out what next to do. This was before Spartacus.

    Kubrick was NOT happy with Spartacus or how critics and the studio responded to it, despite your assertions. He fled to Britain to escape what he saw as a certain bland, Midwestern stupidity among Americans. Pity that Stan cannot read this and realize that same malady now apparently has spread northward into Canada.

    And to answer your final question: any American who renounces their citizenship to become a British subject and remains a legal, naturalized resident of the United Kingdom until death, while keeping up with their taxes to the Crown, is considered British.

    Neither "Madonna" nor "Gwyneth Paltrow" meet these conditions, but Stanley Kubrick did. His body is buried beneath a tree on his English farm.

    In brevis finalis: the fact you can bring up "Madonna" and "Gwyneth Paltrow" in the same conversation and breath as Kubrick is a kind of sick proof Shymalan and Kubrick both were right, except instead of "America" the correct place meant must have been "North America".

    tl:dr version:


  • Martin Holterman

    Oh no, you can keep them.

  • Becks

    Well, I'm Canadian so I'm afraid I have no ownership over any of them but my point is that as a Brit, neither do you.

  • t


  • Tinkerville

    "In the meantime, never forget what Shyamalan has done. Nor that he’s threatening us with an Airbender sequel."

    NO! No, no, no, no, no, no, no! The thought of him going anywhere near that perfect series ever again will give me an aneurysm. Someone make him stop.

  • Ruby

    Shyamalan's version of the Last Air Bender is like someone who brings you an amazing cake, right before they give it to you, they drop it on the floor, stomp on it, literally shit all over it, and then give it back to you. After you call them out on their bullshit, they blame you for not liking it.

    It's a good thing he didn't get a sequel. He'd probably make Toph white and get rid of her blindness.

  • Wrestling Fan

    Obviously you're looking at this from an American point of view. Because thanks to the efforts of chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Guy Fierri, the Europeans have a more refined palate, and can appreciate a Fecal Stomp Cake.

  • Tinkerville

    Your point on description of the movie made me laugh really hard, and then I kept going and once I got to the last sentence I felt a dagger go through my heart.

    Because you're right, the stupid jackhole would do that to Toph and just the thought of it is heartbreaking. He'd also cast the latest Disney twit as the amazing Ty Lee.

  • fuzzwuzz

    Oohhh that Phoenix/Howard/Mist scene. First movie that ever made me want to buy an OST.

  • hippyherb

    We bought the soundtrack and still listen to it. Very beautiful.

    My daughter and I love Signs and The Village. We watch them a couple of times a year. No shame here.

  • fuzzwuzz

    Nor here :)

  • Bigzilla

    Just to be clear, non-Japanese actors using Japanese accents in The Last Airbender is not "racist". It's stereotyping, sure, but it does nothing to indicate that Shyamalan believes white people are superior to Asians. People need to understand what the word "racist" actually means and stop using it so casually.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    do non-Japanese actors using Japanese accents in a movie where no one is actually Japanese because Japan doesn't exist count as racist?

  • Bigzilla


  • cgthegeek

    Racism is only when someone burns a cross on your front yard or when they wear white robes donned with swastikas. Racism is never prejudice (feelings of dislike for a racial group and the belief that your dislike is justified) plus discrimination (actions that harm those you have prejudice against) plus the institutionalization of said discrimination and prejudice, which is then perpetuated in society.


  • Bigzilla

    And the relevance here is...

  • JoannaRobinson

    I was talking about Shyamalan's accent in the interview. But I'm not sure I agree with your point anyway.

  • Bigzilla

    Oh, come on! If he had done a cheap British accent imitation there, would anyone care? No, they'd just say it wasn't funny. But if it's a non-white group of people being imitated, then we go into full "this is offensive" mode? That's a horrible double standard. Even if you're right though, what he did there would be stereotyping, not racism. Unless you honestly believe Shyamalan hates Japanese people, THEN you could call it racist.

    My point is simply that racism has a meaning, and it isn't today's frequent internet definition of "anything controversial involving race". Racism involves active hatred. It shouldn't be used as frequently as it is today.

  • Mark

    Might be because there are no morally ugly Warner Bros cartoons from the 1930s-1950s depicting the British as subhuman rats, monkeys and vermin.

    Could be because there are no food products from the 1800s through today depicting white people as cruel caricatures, e.g. Uncle Ben's, Aunt Jemina. You let me know the day you buy and eat some Crackerhead Oysters with a freckled Caucasian cretin leering dopily with bucked teeth on the label. Or Aunt Kimber waffles with an anorexic, limp-haired, fake-breasted blonde on the front of the box. Or "white people food" made by Chinese people at a Chinese company and advertised in China showing a large golden labrador retriever lumbering around in a grocery store, "because all white people love dogs" (all Asians like dragons). Or a large carved wooden white man outside a syphilis clinic the way you see Native American men carved outside tobacco stores. Ya know. Because party one was known for bringing party two one thing, and the party two was known for bringing party one the other. Or MGM cartoons from the 1950s made by Latinos showing white people are grinning, two-faced, dance rhythmless, murderous, bloodthirsty yeehaws with guns blowing people away.

    Because there's just so much of that history, you know? Other races have always had the power to define what white people are to white people, and still do, right?

    Because how other races have treated white people and how white people have in fact treated other races, steadily, pathologically, since their arrival to loot those other races' shores, are the exact same.


    Telling nonwhites how best to discuss their pain in order not to offend you, the white, if at all, reminds me a little bit of a rapist instructing his victim to speak about the rape carefully, if at all, because after all, rape gets talked about too much AND IT KIND OF OFFENDS HIM.


  • Bigzilla

    I'm sure it'll shock you to learn that I'm not white, but nice try. Not all of us colored folk are as easily offended as many guilty white liberals claim to be on our behalf. I also respect the English language and the fact that words have specific meanings.

    Either way, your thesis basically boils down to excusing bad behavior by pointing to other bad behavior. That is, in one word...weak.


  • PDamian

    I have a deep and abiding fondness for Lady in the Water and its multitudinous flaws. I don't care. I have to be in a particular mood to watch it, and it requires a tremendous suspension of disbelief on my part, but there's a trippy vibe to it, and a dreamy sort of unreality, that just makes me love it. Signs is also good, if only for Joaquin Phoenix's performance as a barely adult, hapless-but-loving uncle, although the whole water thing left me cold (the aliens can travel immense distances over space, but can't tell when a planet is abundant in a substance that's toxic to them?). Otherwise, I've never been all that keen on M. Night's stuff.

  • BrokenWindows

    I was put off by the whole, "I'm going to cast myself as a writer who saves the world" thing. We all know a successful director is going to have a sizeable ego, but he takes it to the next level.

    I wanted to like that movie, but god, it was hard.

  • MarTeaNi

    Those poor misunderstood geniuses Hitchcock, Kurasawa and Kubrick, none of whom ever found an audience or critical acclaim in the States.

    Why just the other day I was trying to tell a friend about ol' Alfie and he said, "Hitchwho? Is he the guy that directed that Will Smith movie?" Then he adjusted his giant belt buckle, shot his gun in the air and pulled a couple cheeseburgers out of his 10-gallon hat for lunch, all while humming the Star-Spangled Banner.

  • Bert_McGurt

    You're friends with THIS guy?

  • MarTeaNi

    Ah! So you know Dan. Or that could be Jim. Hard to say. All Americans look alike.

  • calliope1975

    i'm going to refrain from raging about that "fear is a choice" quote. I'll just clench my jaw angrily.

    My favorite people-leaving-the-theatre movie review was for Avatar (not that one). The anger and disappointment from these die-hard fans was palpable.

  • Bryan

    Allow me then:
    FEAR IS NOT A CHOICE. Fear is an INSTINCT. It's literally a chemical/psycological reaction that is completely uncontrollable. COURAGE is the choice. You F&%(ing HACK, stick to making sh!tty movies and leave the inner workings of the human mind to the professionals.
    Phew. Been waiting to get that off my chest. Seriously, that line has bugged the crap out of me since the first time I heard it.

  • calliope1975

    I had to pass a billboard every day with that quote. Pissed me off every single. time.

  • AlexaCastro

    As one of those die-hard fans it was like seeing a writhing, adorable pile of kittens and puppies thrown into a ditch, have good expensive bourbon I would've drank thrown on them, then promptly lit on fire while their screams echoed in the night. How he managed to fuck up one of the greatest television shows (nevermind it's a cartoon) that entirely is just mind-blowing.

  • LucyKlein

    Not only does he completely fail to understand the TV show. He whitewashed the cast (Zuko was originally going to be played by white actor who pulled out) with the *worst* actors. It's like the filmed it Ed Wood style with everything being done in one take. Everything was so stilted and awkward, even the attempts at humor.
    I love how M. Night plays the "cultural inferiority" card after taking a white washing the cast, making the all the villains Indian, then having a montage of a the white actors saving several non-white villages.... all while sitting on Appa. They're literally high up, looking down on the stock African/Asian people they just rescued.

    I hated the changed ending. Aang dancing on a wall is not nearly as powerful as the spirit world using him to massacre the Fire Nation army in retaliation to the moon spirit being killed. M.Night made a point that he changed it because Aang shouldn't kill people.... which is the point of the scene, Aang regrets what he was forced to do and struggles with how to deal with Emperor.

  • Tinkerville

    That finale was stunning and so complex, and it paved the way for a lot of Aang's inner turmoil throughout the series, including his reluctance to go into the Avatar State.

    The fact that M. Night didn't understand the importance of such amazing storytelling like that episode shows how little he understood about the series and what made it so beautiful and profound.

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