Tuesday, December 6, 2011

AFI Top 100 Countdown #89: THE SIXTH SENSE


Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Written by M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Bruse Willis, Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette

AFI Top 100 Criteria:

Critical Recognition: Formal commendation in print, television, and digital media.

*85% on Rottentomatoes.com

*"An effectively understated and moodily engrossing ghost film with a surprisingly satisfying jolt at the end." -Andrew Sarris, New York Observer

*"The story doesn't cheat by resorting to action or scare clichés. It sticks right to the main conflict and it keeps it in human terms." -Robert Roten, Laramie Movie Scope

Major Award Winner: Recognition from competitive events including awards from peer groups, critics, guilds, and major film festivals.

*Academy: 6 nominations including Best Support Actor, Supporting Actress,  Director, Editing, Writing and Picture.

*SAGs: nomination for Actor in a Supporting Role

*Golden Globes: nomination for Best Screenplay and Actor in a Supporting Role

Popularity Over Time: Includes success at the box office, television and cable airings, and DVD/VHS sales and rentals.

*Budget: $55,000,000

*Gross: $672,806,292 (worldwide)

Historical Significance: A film's mark on the history of the moving image through visionary narrative devices, technical innovation or other groundbreaking achievements.

*By vote of the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, The Sixth Sense was awarded the Nebula Award for Best Script in 1999.

Cultural Impact: A film's mark on American society in matters of style and substance.

*The line "I see dead people" from the film became a popular catchphrase after its release, reaching #44 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes.


Wow. That’s all I kept thinking while I was watching this movie for the first time since about 6 years ago. This movie was made by the same director and writer that dared show the world THE HAPPENING, THE LADY IN THE WATER, and most criminally, THE LAST AIRBENDER. It was a pretty sad feeling indeed. I remember originally watching this movie when it first came out and being freaked out by it. I remember the thing that made the difference was that in a weird way the movie was scarier due to the events being slightly bit more plausible than say, Child’s Play or even Terminator.

As a more critical adult, the movie hit on a more personal level. I was moved by the sense of tension, atmosphere, and sheer emotion that the movie was able to get across. From passing shots of the Philadelphia architecture to the surprisingly restrained performance of Bruce Willis, of the likes we have not seen since. I was just marveled at the movie and its efficiency. The performance by Osment is something to be commended, as Cole, he makes you feel for him and his trouble, and they eventually become your own. 

Regardless, the movie did pose a few logistical issues to me that I could not tear away from. The big one for me wasn’t that SPOILER that Bruce Wllis was dead; it is that he was able to survive as a ghost until the events of the film. How did he go out and about and buy groceries? Surely, in order for the currently depicted marital issue to be portrayed properly, the marriage would have had to go from a point where they were talking to a place very similar to the one depicted in the movie. Plus, I refuse to believe that the character of Malcolm could have only taken a single case in the X months that transpired since the initial shooting. 

This movie as a very influential American horror movie because it ushered the era of horror movies not being just a monsters with huge blades and iconic masks. It showed that horror could be more cerebral and thought provoking and not nearly as bloody as they sued to bed. Unfortunately, if we think of the trajectory of Shyamalan’s career and the subsequent trend of PG-13 horror movies, this movie in a way has done more harm than good. 

Jonesy: I remember seeing this movie like it was yesterday. A group of girl friends and I went the weekend it was released and could not stop talking about it on the way home (for the obvious reason). I had never seen anything like this before. I had never really been a fan of horror, and not because of any bad experiences, I just didn't care for the genre. I thought men running around in masks was silly and watching some of the older movies didn't scare me, so I just let the genre be.

When I saw this made the countdown, I was stoked. I hadn't visited it since high school, and I was really curious how it would hold up given my strong initial memory. And I was pleasantly surprised how well the story held up. Now of course the pay off doesn't have the drama as it does when you first see the movie, but the performances that Shyamalan was able to draw out of his actors is stunning. Makes one wonder what happened to the poor man.

Some plot points are a bit fuzzy once you really break down the story. For example, are we to believe Willis and his wife literally never talked? And how did Osment's case end up in his lap if he was dead? But all can be forgiven because the characters and (most) of the story is solid. Shyamalan's use of atmosphere and mood is what has set this movie over the edge and continues to be a classic thriller throughout all these years.

THE SIXTH SENSE was nominated for best picture at the Oscars, which, as we all know, generally doesn't care for "scary movies". However, the film ushered in the new sub-genre of psychological thrillers to the modern era. It certainly changed the way I look at the horror/thriller genre nowadays.

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