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Lady in the Water

Film critic David Edelstein reviews M. Night Shymalan's new film, Lady in the Water.

05:54

Other segments from the episode on July 21, 2006

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, July 21, 2006: Obituary for Mickey Spillane; Commentary on Mickey Spillane; Interview with Ray Price; Review of the film "Lady in the water."

Transcript

DATE July 21, 2006 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
been omitted from this transcript

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Analysis: Maureen Corrigan considers Mickey Spillane's place
in the genre of detective fiction

DAVE DAVIES, host:

How could a nice girl fall for a trench-coated tough guy who treats women like
dirt and ridicules book reading sissies? Book critic Maureen Corrigan tries
to fathom the appeal of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer.

Ms. MAUREEN CORRIGAN: If you want the inside dope on Mickey Spillane,
specifically why he's such a problematic writer for somebody like me, a dame
who loves detective fiction and defends its literary value, you need look no
further than his first Mike Hammer novel, "I the Jury," published in 1947. In
fact, look no further than the infamous original cover of the paperback
edition of that novel. The artwork depicts a man pointing a gun at a zaftig
woman who's in the process of stripping. Her breasts are jutting out of an
unbuttoned blouse and they so distract the eye that it takes a moment to
register exactly where that gun is pointing, at the woman's uterus.

"I the Jury" is credited with a lot of firsts: introducing, in the thuggish
character of Mike Hammer, the first real anti-hero detective; ushering a new
level of graphic violence and sexuality into hard-boiled mystery fiction; and
inaugurating the paperback revolution in publishing. But another first that
"I the Jury" pioneered isn't usually mentioned. Critics say it's the first
mystery novel in which the femme fatale is, so to speak, fatally impregnated
by the detective by a bullet.

As a social critic, Spillane was about as nuanced as a can of Raid. Even in a
genre not traditionally known for its enlightened views toward women,
Spillane's novels were standouts in their fear and loathing of female
sexuality. And temptresses weren't the only targets of Mike Hammer's social
cleansing program, he mowed down sissies, commies, foreigners, psychoanalysts,
rich people, bookworms, and basically anybody who wasn't a manly man like Mike
himself. The only reason his longtime secretary and occasional sidekick,
Velda, lasted as long as she did was because, as we're told from the outset,
she just missed in the sex appeal department. Lucky for her.

As a literary stylist, Spillane wasn't anything to sing about either. He
grabbed hold of the detection fiction formula, drained out the hard-boiled
poetry of Hammett and Chandler, and left only a brute bluntness behind.
Here's Mike explaining the crude code of justice he lives by:

(Reading) "After the war I'd been almost anxious to get to some of the rats
that make up the section of humanity that prey on people. People, how
incredibly stupid they could be sometimes. A trial by law for a killer. A
loophole in the phrasing that lets a killer crawl out. But in the end, the
people have their justice. They get it through me once in a while. They
crack down on society and I crack down on them. I shoot them, like the mad
dogs they are."

Writing like that earns Spillane shudders from the critics. Malcolm Cowley in
the New Republic threw the book at Spillane in 1952, calling him a homicidal
paranoic as well as a sadist and a masochist. Spillane shot back at his
detractors, saying, `I don't give a hoot about reading reviews. What I want
to read is the royalty checks.' And what jolly reading they must have been.
The novels that repulsed critics delighted a hell of a lot of readers,
including his most famous fan Ayn Rand. Spillane is among the top
best-selling and most widely translated authors of all time, by some tallies,
only outsold by the novels of Agatha Christie and the Bible.

There's certainly a darkly nostalgic attraction about the Hammer novels.
Since the late 1960s, the politics of American detective fiction have been
happily reversed. Crusading detectives like Robert B. Parker's Spenser and
Sara Paretsky's V. I. Warshawski championed the forces of feminism and
cultural diversity. Amidst this crowd of socially progressive gumshoes, Mike
Hammer seems like a trench-coated dinosaur. And yet, as students in my
detective fiction courses complain, the newer enlightened detectives talk too
much. Many of my students prefer Mike because he's the spare embodiment of
the hard-boiled formula. A loner detective who just acts, without cluttering
up his investigation with fancy metaphors.

I, too, get an undeniable kick from reading about the big palooka's
adventures, the way he takes matters into his own calloused hands. Thinking
about Hammer and the passing of Mickey Spillane this week made me realize what
was crucially absent from "The Devil Wears Prada," a movie I found
exasperating. The movie needed a climactic walk-on by Mike Hammer. Working
girl Anne Hathaway kowtowed and even came to admire her awful boss, Meryl
Streep. Whatever Mike would have done to Streep's snooty character would have
been immoral and illegal. But at least, unlike the supine Hathaway, he
wouldn't have licked her designer heels. Mike may have been a barbarian and
his deadly misogynist streak definitely required therapeutic intervention, but
his class politics were always as golden as a freshly drawn mug of beer.

DAVIES: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. I'm
Dave Davies and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of movie)

Unidentified Woman: Kiss me, Mike. I want you to kiss me. Kiss me. The
liar's kiss that says "I love you," but means something else. You're good at
giving such kisses. Kiss me.

(Soundbite of gun firing and body dropping)

(End of soundbite)

(Announcements)

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Interview: Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit to feature Ray
Price

DAVE DAVIES, guest host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies filling in for Terry Gross.

When Ray Price was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996, he
was described by Kris Kristofferson as a living link from Hank Williams to the
country music of today. Price was Hank Williams' protege and roommate in the
early '50s after Price moved to Nashville. Soon after, Price helped give
several country performers their starts. Early in their careers Willie
Nelson, Roger Miller, Johnny Paycheck and Johnny Bush played in Price's band
the Cherokee Cowboys. Price was born in Cherokee County, Texas, in 1926. His
country hits have included "Crazy Arms," "Release Me," "Heartaches by the
Number," and "For the Good Times." Price is still performing, and next month
the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville will honor the 80-year-old
honky-tonk singer with an exhibit devoted to his life and music. The exhibit
will run until next June.

Terry spoke with Ray Price in 1999. Before we hear their conversation, here's
Ray Price's version of "Ramblin' Rose."

(Soundbite of "Ramblin' Rose")

Mr. RAY PRICE: (Singing)
Ramblin' Rose, Ramblin' Rose
Why you ramble no one knows
Wild and wind blown, that's how you've grown
Who can cling to a Ramblin' Rose?

Ramble on, ramble on
When you're ramblin days are gone
Who will love you, with a love true
When you're ramblin' days are gone?

Ramblin' Rose, Ramblin' Rose
Why I want you...

(End of soundbite)

TERRY GROSS, host:

Let's talk a little bit about your past. I know you grew up in Texas. Where
did you grow up and what was that community like?

Mr. RAY PRICE: Well, I was--I came from northeast Texas, which was then Wood
Country and Upshur County. It's rural area, and my family, we're all farmers
on both sides. And then my mother and dad moved to Dallas, and of course I
went to Dallas with them, and I was raised in Dallas, went to college in
Arlington, Texas. So it's a pretty part of the state.

GROSS: One of the people who helped you a lot early in your career was Hank
Williams...

Mr. PRICE: Right.

GROSS: ...the great country singer. How did you meet him?

Mr. PRICE: Well, the music publisher in Nashville who got me a contract with
Columbia Records got me on one of Hank's radio shows. Every Friday night in
Nashville they would, if the stars were in town, they would be on their own
radio shows at WSM in Nashville. And I was a guest. The music publisher
Charlie Martin had gotten me a spot on his show. And I met him and we became
real close friends. And he got me on the Grand Ole Opry. And he and his wife
were getting divorced and I lived with him...

GROSS: Hank Williams got you on the Grand Ole Opry?

Mr. PRICE: Yes.

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. PRICE: And then we lived together. We had a house there in Nashville
and I would stay--I had the upstairs, he had the lower, for about a year, and
then of course he passed away.

GROSS: And you were saying that you started living together after he and his
wife separated?

Mr. PRICE: Oh, yeah. He had to have somebody. He had a problem with
alcohol, and we were real close. I'd take care of him. Everything was fine.

GROSS: What would you do for him?

Mr. PRICE: Oh, just whatever needed to be done. I might go to the store and
things like that.

GROSS: Would you try to keep him from alcohol or keep him comfortable with it
or...

Mr. PRICE: Well, yeah, but you just don't--no, no, I wouldn't give him
anything. No way. But, yeah. Like any of your friends, if they got into it
too far, you'd try to help them if they were ill.

GROSS: Now I read someplace--and you can tell me if this is true, because
there's so many legends surrounding famous people--but I read that Hank
Williams tried to shoot you a couple of times, that he shot at you a couple of
times.

Mr. PRICE: No, honey, that is a real big prevarication.

GROSS: OK.

Mr. PRICE: Real big. No way.

GROSS: OK.

Mr. PRICE: It had to come from somebody that may have been a little envious
back there somewhere.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. PRICE: It really didn't happen. The reason why that Hank and I stopped
living together right at the last was the fact that he was in the hospital so
many times and having so much trouble, and one of the times I was ordered by
the man Jim Denny, who ran the Artists Service Bureau at Nashville and handled
Hank, to take him to the hospital. And Hank got a little ill at me for that
and so I moved. And but we never lost the friendship we had.

GROSS: Did he help you get on the Grand Ole Opry the first time?

Mr. PRICE: Sure did.

GROSS: What did he do to get you on there? Were you performing in his act or
opening for him or...

Mr. PRICE: No. It was one Saturday night, Red Foley, who was one of the big
stars and star of the Prince Albert, which was the network show, wife had
died. And Hank had took the host position on the show, and he wanted me for
his guest. And you didn't get on the Grand Ole Opry back then without a hit
record, and I was years away from a hit record. So but he got me on and they
sent me to take care of him on a trip one time, and everything worked out all
right so they signed me to a contract.

GROSS: What do you mean they sent you to take care of him on a trip? They
knew that he was having problems and he needed kind of like a guardian?

Mr. PRICE: Yeah, and he needed somebody to get up there and sing in case he
didn't make it...

GROSS: Oh.

Mr. PRICE: ...and that was hard to do. That happened to me in Norfolk on
New Year's Day. And I didn't know what to do because they come running in and
said, `Well, you're gonna have to take Hank's place.' And here I was, nobody
knew who I was. And I said, `Well, there's no way I can do that.' But,
anyway, they put me out there with Hank's band and we made it all right. And
the people kind of liked me cause I had made a mistake by naming one of the
songs in a higher key than I ought to have been, and I let them know about it.
So it turned kind of amusing for a while, and from then on Norfolk was one of
the best towns for me.

GROSS: How would you explain it to the audience that Hank Williams couldn't
make it?

Mr. PRICE: Well, you let the promoter do that. And there were other stars
on the show: Johnny and Jack, Kitty Wells. We were all trying to cover up
the fact cause it was 10 or 12,000 people there. And the promoter went out
and I forget what he said, that Hank was ill or something. But some of the
times, Hank wouldn't even be drinking and the promoters would get him to drink
and so they didn't have to pay him.

GROSS: You're kidding.

Mr. PRICE: No, I'm not kidding, honey.

GROSS: So this way they'd get--they'd get all the ticket sales but they
wouldn't have to pay him?

Mr. PRICE: Well, they wouldn't have to pay him cause he'd breech his
contract. He'd come in there and got drunk and didn't do a good show. Then
they'd put him on the stage while he was inebriated, and nobody can get on the
stage and sing drunk.

GROSS: Uh-huh. But in the meanwhile, the promoter would have had maybe a
full house and made all the money in ticket sales...

Mr. PRICE: Well, take 50 or $60,000, put it in his pocket and go home.

GROSS: Huh. Let's pause here for some music and hear one of your early hits.
In fact, this was your first number one recording. This is called "Crazy
Arms." It was recorded in 1956. Do you want to say anything about the
recording before we hear it?

Mr. PRICE: Well, it was in 1956 and the--Bob Martin, disc jockey in Tampa,
Florida, had found a record of "Crazy Arms." It wasn't a very good record, but
he was intrigued by the song, and he played it for me and I was too. And then
when I recorded it, it became a monster. It was my first million seller, and
it crossed over. And at that time they didn't know what a crossover was. So
but it was the first big one that I had. You're right.

GROSS: Let's hear it. This is my guest, Ray Price, recorded in 1956.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PRICE: (Singing)
Now blue ain't the way
for the way that I feel
And the storm's brewing in this heart of mine
This ain't no crazy dream
I know that it's real
You're someone else's love now
You're not mine

Mr. PRICE and Unidentified Singer #1: (Singing)
Crazy arms that reach to hold somebody new
Or my yearning heart keeps saying you're not mine
My troubled mind knows soon to another you'll be with
And that's why I'm lonely all the time.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: What was the impact of having a number one hit?

Mr. PRICE: Well, I got to eat pretty regular.

GROSS: Were you having trouble doing that before?

Mr. PRICE: Oh, yeah. All young ones have trouble. In fact, Lefty Frizzell
and I started out together, and we used to split a bowl of stew in Dallas when
we were first starting. But everything got better, like it always does. And
I don't know. That's about all I can say. It just--it gave me an opportunity
to do things that I hadn't been able to do up to that point.

DAVIES: Country singer Ray Price speaking with Terry Gross. We'll hear more
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

DAVIES: Let's get back to Terry's 1999 interview with country music legend
Ray Price.

GROSS: Now I believe after Hank Williams died, you used his band for a while.

Mr. PRICE: I used his band for about two years, and there's two or three of
them that's passed on now. But the rest of us--we're all dear friends--but I
got to sounding too much like Hank on records.

GROSS: Mm-hm.

Mr. PRICE: It was because the music was so locked in, it had to sound like
Hank and we had to break up, and broke up in Grand Junction, Colorado, if I
remember correctly.

GROSS: Did you feel that your singing style changed when you got your own
band?

Mr. PRICE: Oh, yeah. Absolutely .

GROSS: How did it change?

Mr. PRICE: Well, it--I went back to singing Texas-style, and not the way
Hank and the band played. He had no drums or anything like that, and of
course I brought a Texas swing band to Nashville to go to work with me. And
from then on that's the way it was. That's where I earned the title as the
number one honky-tonk player, cause that's the only place you could play at
the time was in the nightclubs.

GROSS: You mentioned western swing. You did an album, I think it was in the
late 1950s, of songs that were first recorded by Bob Wells, the kind of father
of western swing. Did you ever know him?

Mr. PRICE: Oh, yeah. I knew Bob real well. When I was first starting in
Dallas, he had a nightclub called Bob Wells' Ranch House. It later became
another nightclub after he left it. But when he was on the road with his
band, he would always let me and the band play in his place. He did me a big
favor, and of course that was my tribute to him was that album.

GROSS: Well, this album features the band that you put together after you
used the Hank Williams band, or one of the versions of the band you put
together, and Willie Nelson is in this band. You had quite a--you had several
really great people in your band. Johnny Bush was in your band for a while,
the great singer.

Mr. PRICE: Roger Miller was a front man.

GROSS: Yeah. How did you find these people who became so famous in their own
right? How did you end up having them as side men in your band?

Mr. PRICE: Well, they were all looking for a job. Everything was tough back
there. And I heard Roger, he was working in the fire department in Amarillo,
Texas. And I needed a fiddle player and he came out to play fiddle with me.
And his fiddle playing was terrible, you know, and he got through he said,
`How'd you like that?' And I said, `Well, can you sing and play guitar?' And
it kind of shook him and he said, `Yeah.' So I hired him as a front man.

GROSS: Hm.

Mr. PRICE: And he did real well. He's--Roger and I were real close. Just
like Willie and I are still close.

GROSS: It sounded like you were determined to hire him whether he was good or
not.

Mr. PRICE: Well, I had heard him sing, you know, yeah.

GROSS: Oh, OK. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And had you heard Willie Nelson sing
before you hired him?

Mr. PRICE: Well, Willie worked for my publishing company, Pamper Music.

GROSS: Oh, so you knew his songs?

Mr. PRICE: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. All of them. And, of course, Willie was
having a hard time, too. And Johnny Paycheck had gone out on his own, and
Willie replaced Johnny Paycheck on base and then he would play guitar
sometimes.

GROSS: So let's here something from this Bob Wells tribute album, the one
where Willie Nelson's featured in the band. And I just looked at the
recording date on this. It was recorded in 1961, and I thought we'd hear
"Time Changes Everything." You want to say anything about it?

Mr. PRICE: Just a great song.

GROSS: It is.

Mr. PRICE: Mm-hm.

GROSS: OK. Here we go. This is...

Mr. PRICE: Country-wise.

GROSS: This is Ray Price.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PRICE: (Singing)
There was a time when I thought of no other
And we sang our own love's refrain
Our hearts beat as one as we had our fun

Mr. PRICE and Unidentified Singer #2: (Singing)
But time changes everything.

Mr. PRICE: (Singing)
When you left me my poor heart was broken
Our romance seemed all in vain
The dark clouds are gone and there's blue skies again

Mr. PRICE and Singer #2: (Singing)
How time changes everything.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Ray Price from his 1961 album "San Antonio Rose." It's a
tribute to Bob Wells, and it's been reissued in the past couple of years.

Was that Willie Nelson singing harmony, by the way?

Mr. PRICE: Could have been. Willie and I recorded "San Antonio Rose" album
in 19--around 1979, I think.

GROSS: Yeah. That was a big hit on the country charts.

Mr. PRICE: Was a big one. Real big.

GROSS: Yeah. Yeah. I know that there's a lot of country music performers
who are, you know, acknowledged as being, you know, among the greats who don't
get played much on country music radio anymore, including Johnny Cash, Willie
Nelson. Do you feel that you're in that predicament as well?

Mr. PRICE: Well, yeah. I'm in the same box. That all is brought down from
the higher-ups in the industry, which I guess would be New York or LA, and
they felt like they could make a whole lot money--more money with young kids
playing rock music. But they had to name it something besides rock or it
wouldn't sell, and so they named it country music, but it's really rock music.
It's the old Beatles sound.

GROSS: So is this--I take it it's a sound you don't much like or don't feel
that you'd perform anyways.

Mr. PRICE: I like the Beatles. I like the Beatles. I think they ought to
play the Beatles. They don't need to play the rest of them. The Beatles have
already done it. (Long pause) Now that sounds hateful and I'm sorry for that.

GROSS: In the mid-'60s or so you started using more heavily arranged
settings, you know, strings and orchestras, moving away from a more honky-tonk
kind of sound. What led you in that direction?

Mr. PRICE: The honky-tonks.

GROSS: What do you mean?

Mr. PRICE: Yeah. It wasn't fun playing honky-tonks and I was trying to
broaden my audience out and...

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. PRICE: Also I thought that if country music was going to really win
approval all over the country, they had to do something to kind of fix it
where the people that listened to the Tony Bennetts and the Frank Sinatras and
those people could--would like the song with the music. And country music
songs are great. I think they're beautiful songs. And to put the strings
with them, that's my idea of how to make one really great song.

GROSS: Now did that work for you? Did it get you where you wanted to be, in
venues that other pop singers were singing?

Mr. PRICE: Well, it got me onto a lot of places, yeah. It sure did. I
became one of Johnny Carson's favorite singers, which I'm very proud of. And
I did a lot of things with him in New York before he moved to California and
afterwards. But, yeah, it got me where I wanted to be and it--I got out of
the honky-tonks. And I still play dances every now and then for some of my
old fans, but I'm not really into that anymore.

DAVIES: Ray Price, speaking with Terry Gross in 1999. Next month, the
Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville opens an exhibit devoted to his life
and music.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PRICE: (singing)
Tonight in a barroom I'm sitting
Apart from the laughter and the cheer
The scenes of my life pass before me

Mr. PRICE and Unidentified Singer #3: (Singing)
While watching the bubbles in my beer.

Mr. PRICE: (Singing)
A vision of someone who loved me
Brings a lone silent tear to my eye
I know that my life's been a failure

Mr. PRICE and Singer #3: (Singing)
Just watching the bubbles in my beer

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: Coming up, a review of the new M. Night Shyamalan film "Lady in the
Water." This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

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Review: David Edelstein thinks M. Night Shyamalan's "Lady in the
Water" story stinks

DAVE DAVIES, guest host:

After his blockbuster "The Sixth Sense," writer and director M. Night
Shyamalan has earned mixed reviews from critics but made big money at the box
office with "Unbreakable," "Signs" and "The Village." He says his new fantasy,
"Lady in the Water," is his most heartfelt work. He even left his long-time
studio Disney when executives there didn't share his enthusiasm for the
project. David Edelstein has this review.

Mr. DAVID EDELSTEIN: It's been a tough week for film critics. "Clerks II"
director Kevin Smith publicly lambasted ABC's Joel Siegel, who swore loudly
and walked out of a screening during a scene in which characters discuss
having sex with a donkey. Now, I know I'm being disloyal to a brother critic,
but, Joel, dude, Kevin's right. That was way uncool.

On the other hand, M. Night Shyamalan's hostility to critics seems
unwarranted. In the "Lady in the Water," he gives us a pasty little prisspot
of a critic who gets torn to shreds by a rogue scrunt. Even if you don't know
what a scrunt is, you've got to know it's nasty. See, in Shyamalan's
universe, the critic represents the doubter, the underminer of childlike
spirituality and fantasy. I don't want to get too Freudian, but in interviews
Shyamalan says his parents did that, too. So what is this, some kind of
Oedipal revolt?

We know from Michael Bamberger's new book "The Man Who Heard Voices" that
Shyamalan won't work with people who don't love him unconditionally. Their
doubt brings him down, the way the jaded arrogant critic, played by Bob
Balaban, nearly brings down the narf, played by Bryce Dallas Howard.

Let me backtrack. The "Lady in the Water" is like "Splash" reworked by a
grandiose Sunday School teacher. It centers on a traumatized apartment
complex superintendent called Cleveland Heep, played by Paul Giametti, who
finds himself the caretaker of a sort or sea nymph, a narf from an ancient
water realm called the Blue World. In a prologue, we learn that narfs and man
were once linked, but man became greedy and the species parted ways. But
narfs occasionally still reach out to humans. This one--she's called
Story--has come to impart a message to a writer, played by the "Shamster"
himself. He must keep writing, she says, because the book he's struggling to
finish will inspire a child who will one day transform the world.

Cleveland learns about narfs and scrunts--they're the hell-hounds who try to
eat narfs--from a Korean grandmother tenant. And he realizes he needs a whole
entourage to protect Story. But who, he wonders, could fill the prescribed
roles? Ah, the critic knows about storytelling. Let's ask the critic.

(Soundbite of "Lady in the Water")

Mr. BOB BALABAN: (As critic) What is it you want anyway?

Mr. PAUL GIAMATTI: (As Cleveland) Well, I had a question. You're an expect
on plots, right? You know who's going to do what in a book or a movie, even
at the beginning. Yes?

Mr. BALABAN: (As critic) There is no originality left in the world, Mr.
Heep. That is a sad fact I've come to live with.

Mr. GIAMATTI: (As Cleveland) Well, if there was a mystery, and a guy had to
figure out who some people were, like he had to find a symbol guy, someone who
can figure out messages, and a guild of people who are going to be important
at the end as a group, how would you figure that out?

Mr. BALABAN: (As critic) The symbol person should be simple. Look for any
character who is doing something mundane but required analysis, someone who
was skilled at puzzles.

As for the guild, look for any group of characters that are always seen
together and have seemingly irrelevant and tedious dialogue that seems to
regurgitate forever. Is there anything further I can assist you with during
my nap time.

Mr. GIAMATTI: (As Cleveland) No. No, Mr. Farber. Thank you.

(Sound of door closing)

(End of soundbite)

Mr. EDELSTEIN: The critic, of course, gets it all wrong, and that's why he's
reviled and ripped to shreds. He should have known not to be such a
know-it-all creep. OK, let's be fair. Critics dish it out, critics should be
able to take it. The problem is that the "Lady in the Water" is so adolescent
in the way it conflates spiritual doubt with doubt of Shyamalan. There's no
place in his universe even for dramatic tension, which is why the movie is
boring you silly when it's not making you snicker. Every member of the
apartment complex surrogate family jumps right on board the narf express,
instantly committed to beating back scrunts with the power of their faith,
while the audience stares dumbly at the screen.

Movies like Spielberg's "ET" are adolescent fantasies, too, but Shyamalan
can't stir your emotions the way Spielberg does. Shyamalan is good at
alienation and flat out horror, but there isn't much warmth or romance on his
palette. When Bryce Dallas Howard huddles semi-clothed in a shower, there's
little going on in her lovely chiseled face. She's a beatific lump.

I know in trashing Shyamalan's fairy tale, I'm aligning myself with the critic
in the film. But the critic in the film makes a big mistake. He tries to
make sense of the hero's ravings. This critic would just have said, `Sorry,
pal. Your story stinks.'

DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine.

(Credits)

DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.
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07:28

'Luster' Combines Nicely Tailored Prose With A Stinging Sense Of Humor

Raven Leilani's novel centers on a young woman with a free-range libido who dreams of being a painter. Luster is a crackling debut about sex, art and the inescapable workings of race.

43:07

'Ghosting The News' Author Says Local Journalism 'Freefall' Is Accelerating

More than 2,000 newspapers have shut down in recent years, and some regions have become news deserts. Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan says the collapse of local news undermines democracy.

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