Tuesday, July 29, 2008

 

Plant Paranoia Cinema

My wife and kids left for the Bay Area, so I'll be batching it over the next few days. Working late I decided to go see the local movie. Kung Fu Panda having left town, The Happening opened tonight. I read a summary and figured it would be good for some decent entertainment. 3 stars I guess. More on the movie with spoilers, so you might want to stop reading if you're really looking forward to it.

I didn't quite finish my work until just about 7:00. I figured I'd grab a quick sandwich somewhere, but almost everything is closed by seven. Flavors. Paradise Grill. Nacho Mama's. Giddyup. Even Flavors! It'd be nice if some sort of coffee house was open until late so teenagers can talk there instead if in movie theaters, but I'll discuss that shortly.

What's open, besides the fried food/microwave options at the gas stations and the sit-down restaurants for which I didn't have the time before the 7:30 movie start, is Calico's. Fine. I went there for a simple sandwich. Unfortunately I got caught behind a woman (probably a very nice woman) who is probably one of those who hasn't made up her mind whom she is going to vote for yet - in the primary. I mean Calico's has like 50 items. You'd think something would reach out to her. But her family was going hungry at their table as she scrutinized the menu and asked question after question, most of which I couldn't make out over Tanya's beautiful live violin music you can hear there most Tuesday nights. She would look up at the board menu, then down at the paper one, moving her finger down the list. Asking questions. After seven minutes and just about 20 seconds I ran out of time. So I decided to wait until after the movie and went for a walk towards the south end of town. On my way back, she had apparently ordered, but her family was sitting at one of the outside tables and she was standing up studying the menu in the window, intensely as before. As I said, I'm sure she's a very nice woman.

So I got to the movie theater. If I anticipate a movie will be under 4 stars (this one was 3, did I mention that?) I treat myself to a box of Junior Mints (the phrase in my family for B grade movies is "a Junior Mints movie"). So I'm waiting for the movie to start and I'm staring at my box of candy and I'm kind of hungry. My mother pushed this rule as a kid that we don't start eating our candies until the start of the movie. And not the previews. The actual movie. I don't know why I continue to follow that rule. But I did tonight. They were gone by the time the people in the park started killing themselves. But I'm not discussing the movie quite yet.

So the movie started. And on the opposite side of the theater there's a group of about six bored kids yacking up a storm. Someone else cleared his throat loudly, but they missed the cue. The manager, before the start of the movie, asked us not to talk and to turn off our cell phones (one went off near the end of the move anyway, but by then I was kind of looking for distractions - more on that shortly). Anyway, I walked over to ask the kids to shut up. Nicely. They did. I'm sure they're very nice kids.

So the movie is The Happening. It's by that director with the name that sounds like it's East Indian (probably because it's East Indian). He peaked with The Sixth Sense. So it starts with, oh, did I mention there would be spoilers? There will be. I mean, the movie's predictable from moment one, so maybe there are no spoilers. So it starts with people in Central Park (that's in New York City) stopping. The wind blows through the trees (trees, that's important - trees) and the people all freeze, start walking backwards, then start killing themselves. So, there are lots of scenes of people killing themselves. Their brains aren't working, but they come up with some very creative ways of killing themselves throughout the movie.

Yeah, it gets tedious. See, that's why I mentioned the part about the cell phone. I forget the word for the cinematic technique of prepping the audience for something later in the movie. You know, like a character pointing out a haystack under a barn loft so you won't be too skeptical when the hero falls out of the loft during a fight scene only to fall on a haystack instead of breaking his bones. Well, this move gives you plenty of those, whatever they're called, early on. The hero, in his classroom, asks his class to speculate as to why the bees are disappearing across the continent. And one seemingly dumb student shows his hidden depth by suggesting it's one of those "mysteries of nature which we'll never figure out." I guess that's the Indian guy's (or the Indian sounding name guy's) way of telling us we're never going to really learn why the people are killing themselves when the wind blows through the leaves.

We get another one of those cinematic revealing thingies when somebody talks about how tobacco plants have evolved a defense where they release some chemicals to attract crickets to eat the caterpillars. See, the plants are defending themselves. Only, they aren't walking around like triffids. They're using psychotropic chemicals to create wind which makes people walk backwards and kill themselves.

Oh, and there's this couple. The main two characters. They have a troubled marriage (she had dessert with another man. Dessert. Really!). But as we know from the other 500 apocalyptic movies we've seen, when the chips are down they get to see the real person in their partners, the personas that truly matter. And by the time the crisis is over, millions of people may be dead, but it's a happy ending because love conquers all.

Oh, damn! I've spoiled the ending!

Three stars. One for Zooey Deschanel's piercing bratty eyes. Another for the Indian guy's willingness to avoid sugar coating his tragedy by killing off kids as well as adults. And a third star for the performance of the old woman in the last part of the movie who was creepy even without the plant-induced evil and really was the scariest part of the movie. I don't know what inspired that sequence, but I could have seen that alone and come away satisfied. Basically, the Indian guy introduced his own Deliverance theme as the characters fled to the most rural corner of Pennsylvania they could find.

Did anybody watching the film come away afraid of trees and grass?

I never did see The Lady in the Water.

Comments:
I am utterly sick of people being seen as either unnatural or as a virus in regards to this planet. This is OUR HOME! We've been here millenia and will be for even longer. We were BORN HERE!

You ecofreaks and fundiefreaks who think mankind is a diseas can go soak your heads in sulpher for all I care! Just stop trying to tell me that the earth isn't the only home I'll ever have!
 
Huh?
 
The virus predates humanity by probably a billion years.
 
WOW! anon 12:24 and 12:46 have got a pretty thick skull between the two of them. Look at the glut of films that portray humanity as a virus to be neutralized. It's SICKENING how you leftists hate humanity! BUT I know your secret, the secret is you want the earth all to yourself! You want the population reduced and are stupid enough to think you'll be among the ones left on the planet.
 
Many environmentalists won't bath or wash their hair because they value the bugs living on them more than they value themselves.
 
Eric... See what happens when you review a dull movie! How about a string on the Hospital Board election and Cherney's remarks? Something real, OK?
 
Trolls don't like movie reviews with spoilers.
 
Look at the glut of films that portray humanity as a virus to be neutralized.

Can you name some? I'm not aware of any, but I'd love to see one of them. Sounds like an interesting theme.
 
gramps - one cannot live on politics alone. That being said, I'm not aware of Darryl's statement. I know he wants people to run for the Hospital board. Can you direct me to his statement?
 
WOW! anon 12:24 and 12:46 have got a pretty thick skull between the two of them. Look at the glut of films that portray humanity as a virus to be neutralized. It's SICKENING how you leftists hate humanity! BUT I know your secret, the secret is you want the earth all to yourself! You want the population reduced and are stupid enough to think you'll be among the ones left on the planet.

Or, we can just export a lot of cigarettes to the humanity we really need to neutralize so they can all get lung cancer and die slow painful deaths.Ha Ha Ha!
 
Plants getting revenge in real life!
 
Eric, Darryl's statement is the at last of friday newscast at 6:00PM
Darryl
 
Fore-shadowing, that is the term used in literature, at least.

McKinleyville Kris
 
Fore-shadowing sounds good to me. Everything was telegraphed in the movie last night. Sometimes you were even reminded afterward.
 
The Happening is almost as bad as Signs.
 
It was like the Birds only not as good.
 
POPEYE (WITH SPINACH) VS DARRYL CHERNEY
 
Saw The Happening last night and found it far, far better than Signs, which I though an inferior version of Day of the Triffids. That and I can't stand Mel Gibson. The Happening was actually quite creepy and yes, Mrs. Jones was the scariest part of the movie and, yes, she was in there for no apparent reason.

I was hooked from the first suicide, with the chignon stick. Aieee! That's not something you see every day.

Great suspense, but yes, no resolution. (And if telegraphing information bugs you I guess you can't read Stephen King without gnashing your teeth in frustration.)

I didn't find it as good as Sixth Sense, which was elegantly done, but I was very grateful that it was still light out when I left the theater and it took two glasses of wine at my friends' to convince me that my green beans wouldn't rise up and strangle me the next morning when I went into the garden. (We sat in the garden for five minutes before we agreed the wind in the trees was too much at the moment and retreated inside.)
 
Great suspense, but yes, no resolution. (And if telegraphing information bugs you I guess you can't read Stephen King without gnashing your teeth in frustration.)

I don't mind the no resolution part. Years of watching John Sayles movies have prepped me for that. But the telegraphing is annoying when it's heavy handed. When Mrs. Jones brought up, for no apparent reason, the tube between the house and the shed (which used to be a hiding place from "slave chasers"), well, any 5 year old could have written the end of that sequence at that point.

I also thought that the scene before that, with the teenagers and the crazies boarded up in the house, was overdone and the actions of the teenagers just weren't plausible.
 
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