Chicken, corn bread and collard greens may be what you’re gearing up to lay the smackdown on come this Thanksgiving, but on a recent expedition to Philadelphia, I learned that not only does a certain acclaimed writer-director-producer have a lil’ soul in him, he may just have fooled the powers that be into opening the doors up for black Hollywood to sneak in.
Yours truly was given an unique experience unlike most of the trips that I’ve been on. Don’t Lose Your Day Job has afforded me some pretty cool trips to some fly places like Los Angeles, San Diego and Puerto Rico. But on this particular day, Philadelphia was the scene and The Happening was what was happenin’. For anyone familiar with M. Night Shyamalan and his work, you know that it’s a huge stretch of the imagination in order to get his “twists.” His track record speaks for himself – 8 films, 7 Oscar nomination and one HUGE project that hopes to add his name amongst the greats like Jackson, Spielberg and Lucas.
I made it into the City of Brotherly Love via Amtrak. It was my first time ever riding the train. A fun endeavor in itself, I’d truly rather ride the train down the East Coast instead of taking a flight. Fox was so good to me by putting me in the famed Rittenhouse Hotel where a young guy by the name of Ludacris stayed down the hall from me. He was in town to help promote his new movie Max Payne.
Once I met up with Kavita Smith and our caravan made its way to its destined location, a million thoughts flooded my mind. Having been an avid Shyamalan watcher it became apparent that I really didn’t know too much about the guy. I never really watched the DVD extras until I watched The Happening the night before I left for Philly and I never paid attention to the guy outside noticing that he really likes to put himself in his movies.
So, I took the tone of his movies, added it with the fact that he must be a weird guy and came to the conclusion that the best thing about this trip was the fact that I can get some sightseeing in. But once the 38-year-old filmmaker stepped in the room to do his on-camera interview in front of the press, I learned that no one on the corner got swagger like Shyamalan.
The Indian-American brotha came in with a united-we-stand type outfit and immediately had the press perked up. Homeboy had a uniqueness to himself that hinted at how he could come up with some of the weird shiite that he could get greenlighted from Hollywood. Over the course of 25-minutes, homie spit his ‘mation about the new flick, his extensive knowledge on the habits of Kubrick, Hitchcock and Spielberg.
Once the guy wrapped up, he made his way to prepare for the one-on-one, but seeing yours truly on his way out, son gave me the soul pound and kept it moving. Confused I wrote it off on my being the only black guy at the event. Time went by (my interview was set for 2:00pm) and after going over what I was going to say in my head I finally met M. Night Shyamalan. It was almost like we had a secret handshake (it took at least a minute to go through) and we smiled this hood appreciative smile.
It was then when I figured that Shyamalan was fooling Hollywood with his “uniqueness.”
I brought up the topic of how black filmmakers other than Singleton, Spike Lee and Fuqua can break out of their marketplace and make a better statement with their projects. “Kev… The black filmmakers have an already hard time making it in Hollywood and there needs to be no limits,” he muses. “I say this because we have already been through all the ins and outs of Hollywood and that’s a pain unlike anything else.” The “we” kept coming up. Respect was definitely due to realize that Shyamalan saw himself as an “us” man, instead of an “I” mentality.
We laughed about Obama subliminally clowning McCain, he explained his plans on Jay-Z conquering the business world like he has the entertainment world and elaborated on how Avatar: The Last Airbender will be his best work – placing him amongst his peers: Kubrick, Spielberg and Spike Lee.
All in all, The Happening may not be what’s happenin’ – according to critics – but no one the corner got swagger like Shyamalan. Word to Haley Joel Osment!
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