Lisa Reviews on Oscar Nominated Horror Film: The Sixth Sense (dir by M. Night Shyamalan)


Before I talk about the 1999 best picture nominee, The Sixth Sense, I have to ask — is it really necessary to give a spoiler warning?  I mean, everyone knows that this film has a big twist at the end and everyone’s aware of what that twist is, right?  I’m going to assume that’s the case because, quite frankly, it’s kind of pointless to talk about this film without talking about the twist.  I mean, the Sixth Sense has been around for 16 years and it’s still a film that people seem to frequently talk about.  (For instance, “Why aren’t any of M. Night Shyamalan’s other films as good as The Sixth Sense?”)  If you’re over the age of 20, you really have no excuse for not knowing the twist ending of The Sixth Sense.


Anyway!  The Sixth Sense is the story of a 9 year-old named Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment).  Cole lives in Philadelphia with his harried but devoted mother, Lynn (Toni Collette).  Cole is a withdrawn child, haunted by the fact that he’s constantly seeing and hearing people that nobody else can hear.  As Cole explains it to his psychologist, Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), “I see dead people.”

(And you know what?  That line has been quoted and parodied a thousand times since The Sixth Sense was released but that’s because it’s a great movie moment.  Haley Joel Osment was a great child actor and did deserve the Oscar nomination that he received for his performance in this film.)

Malcolm has some issues of his own.  The previous year, one of his former patients (Donnie Wahlberg) broke into his house and shot him, while Malcolm’s terrified wife (Olivia Williams) watched.  Malcolm feels that he was shot because he failed that patient and that he can achieve some sort of redemption by helping Cole.  Of course, as Malcolm devotes more and more time to Cole, he finds it harder and harder to speak to his wife.  In one scene, Malcolm sits down across from her and tells her all about Cole.  She responds by ignoring him and then standing up and walking out of the room.

And when she does that, your natural response is to go, “What a bitch!” and feel sorry for Malcolm.  Except, of course, Cole really does see dead people.  And, as we discover in the film’s twist ending, Malcolm is one of them.  If his wife seemed distant, it was because she didn’t know he was there.  If she seemed emotionally withdrawn, it was because she was deeply mourning him.  Everyone — including Cole — knew that Malcolm was dead.  Everyone but Malcolm.

And you know what?  Film bloggers like me spend a lot of time making snarky comments about M. Night Shyamalan and his twist endings but the ending of The Sixth Sense works beautifully.  It worked when I first saw it and it has worked every time that I’ve seen it since.  Even knowing that Malcolm is dead, it’s still incredibly poignant to watch him realize it.

And that’s why I’d love to have a time machine.  I would love to be able to hop into my time machine and go back to 1999 and see what it was like for the very first audience that watched this film.  How did they react when they discovered — for the very first time — that Bruce Willis was a ghost?  I’d love to find out.

But, even without that time machine, The Sixth Sense holds up surprisingly well.  Haley Joel Osment and Bruce Willis tend to get so much attention for their excellent performances that I’m instead going to praise Toni Collette, who does great work as Cole’s loving but overwhelmed mother.  She didn’t get a great catch phrase nor was she a part of a huge twist but the heart of the film is to be found in her performance.

The Sixth Sense was nominated for best picture of 1999.  It lost to one of the worst films to ever win an Oscar, American Beauty.


Guilty Pleasure No. 19: Tart (dir by Christina Wayne)

Dominique Swain in Tart

Dominique Swain in Tart

If you’ve watched Encore over the last few month, you may have come across a 2001 film called Tart.  I did and, despite some pretty glaring flaws, I enjoyed the film.  However, I then checked out a few of the reviews that have been posted online and I discovered that I may very well be the only person in the world who doesn’t hate this movie.

Tart is a coming-of-age story.  Teenage Cat (Dominique Swain) lives in Manhattan with her divorced mother and her bratty younger brother.  Cat attends an exclusive private school with her best friend Delilah (Bijou Phillips) and has a huge crush on William (Brad Renfro).  After Delilah is expelled from school, Cat befriends the snobby Gracie (Mischa Barton) and starts to reinvent herself as one of the popular kids.  Along with being popular comes drugs, sex, and, eventually, violence.

There’s no telling how many dirty old men were shocked to discover that DVD cover art is often misleading.

I will be the first to admit that a lot of the negative criticism of Tart is justified.

Is the film largely plotless?  It is indeed but so is life.

Are all of the film’s adults presented as being one-dimensional jerks?  Yes but then again, we are seeing them and their actions through the eyes of a teenage girl and, when you’re a teenager, most adults do seem to be jerks.

Does the film get a bit heavy-handed when it comes to dealing with casual anti-Semitism?  It sure does but then again, anyone who thinks that anti-Semitism isn’t on the rise in this country obviously hasn’t been paying attention to the news.

Does the film’s melodramatic conclusion seem to come out of nowhere?  Yes, it does.  However, when you’re a teenager, everything eventually becomes a melodrama.

Does Brad Renfro seem to spend the entire film wishing he was somewhere else?  Yes, he does.  In many ways, his performance is painful to watch,  both because his character is fighting the same battle with drugs that would ultimately cost Brad his life and the fact that he doesn’t appear to be all that invested in his performance.  Watching the film, you’re struck by just how detached Renfro is from the material.  It’s easy to criticize the lack of chemistry between Brad Renfro and Dominique Swain but then again, who hasn’t had a crush on a self-destructive bad boy?  Who hasn’t thought that she — and she alone — could see something hidden away inside a damaged soul that only she could understand?  Who hasn’t dreamed of understanding (and saving) an enigma?  Sometimes, detachment is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

Does Bijou Phillips play the same role that she seems to play every time she shows up on screen?  Yes, she is playing another wild best friend here but then again, she plays the role well and who hasn’t had a friend who refused to conform?

Does Mischa Barton give a rather broad and over-the-top performance in this film?  Yes, she does but then again …. well, sorry.  I can’t really think of any way to turn that into a positive.

Shoplifting is fun!

Shoplifting is fun!

And yet, despite all of the film’s many flaws, I couldn’t dislike Tart.  Tart is one of those films that totally misses the big picture and but manages to get so many of the small details right that I couldn’t help but relate to Dominique Swain’s character.

It was the little scenes that worked for me, like the scene where Cat shoplifts for the first time and runs out of the store knowing she’s done something wrong and yet still feeling exhilarated to have gotten away with something or the painfully (for this viewer, at least) accurate scenes of Cat waiting for her father to call on her birthday and then spitefully lashing out at her mother when he doesn’t.  I’ve had best friends like Delilah and it was impossible for me not to wince a little at the scenes where Cat and Delilah argue over Cat’s new friends because, seriously, I’ve been there.  Even the scene during the opening credits, in which Cat’s skirt is blown upward just as she happens to walk by the boy she likes, felt painfully familiar.  Who hasn’t been embarrassed in front of a crush?

It’s the little details that allowed me to relate to this massively flawed film.  It’s the little details that make Tart a guilty pleasure.

My bedroom used to look a lot like this.

My bedroom used to look a lot like this.

Previous Guilty Pleasures:

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class

Trailer: Homefront (Official)


Lisa Marie posted earlier that 2013 was the Year of Franco. She may just be right since there’s another film coming out this year that has him starring.

Homefront has James Franco going mano y mano with another name who seems to be in at least a couple films every year for the past ten years. It’s Statham vs. Franco and while this awkward yet awesome match-up looks like it should be something that went Direct-to-Video there’s a weird vibe around the trailer that looks like it’s the better remake of Peckinpan’s Straw Dogs. We even have Kate Bosworth all up in this film though she’s definitely looking like she may have went a tad bit too method in portraying a meth-head mother.

The cast alone tells me that I must see this when it comes out: Statham, Franco, Bosworth, Winona Ryder, Clancy Brown, Vince D’Onofrio, Frank Grillo and Mischa Barton. One could almost see “guilty pleasure” waving in the background.

So, if there’s nothing else to say about Homefront other than Statham going all Transporter on a meth-dealing biker gang from the bayou it’s the fact that this film will be Hollywood’s birthday gift to me when it comes out on November 27, 2013. Just in time for my birthday.

Franco may have just met his match in Statham.