Amazon Prime review: Victor Fleming’s “Gone with the Wind” (1939)

Even though 1946 was commercially the most profitable year in film history as GIs came home from the war in a celebratory mood, 1939 was artistically the richest for classical Hollywood.

Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) exemplifies filmmaking as the great American art form; Ernst Lubitsch’s Ninotchka (1939) represents all the Western culture and history European refugees brought to Golden Age Hollywood in the wake of World War II; Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz (1939) did for color film what Alan Crosland’s The Jazz Singer (1927) did for talkies.

Conceivably, it was because it was the year Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, and the world, already in the throes of the Great Depression, needed an escape more than ever, so these creatives were inspired to lead the way to a more beautiful reality through the visceral medium that is cinema.

Whatever the case may be, it was Fleming’s own Gone with the Wind (1939) which took home the Academy Award for Best Picture that year.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Fleming’s other Technicolor classic is available on Amazon Prime.

The epic historical romance is an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1936 Margaret Mitchell novel of the same name (with scriptwriter Sidney Howard taking home the Oscar).

In addition to its ten Academy Awards, including Best Director, the film is also the highest-grossing movie of all time (when adjusted for inflation).

It’s 1861 Georgia, and sixteen-year-old Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Best Actress Vivien Leigh) has a crush on Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), who, despite leading her on, has eyes only for his cousin, Melanie Hamilton (Best Supporting Actress nominee Olivia de Havilland).

As Scarlett manipulates her way closer to Ashely over the next twelve years, she encounters the Charlestonian rogue Rhett Butler (Best Actor nominee Clark Gable), who loves her as obsessively as she loves Ashley.

All around them, the American Civil War and Reconstruction take the torch to the only way of life Scarlett has ever known, until, like the passage of time, it, too, is gone with the wind.

No other anecdote from the tempestuous production better encapsulates the contradictory cinematic importance as well as intersectional regression of the feature than Hattie McDaniel’s Best Supporting Actress win for the role of Mammy, the O’Hara family’s housemaid.

Though she was the first black person to win an Oscar in the history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (and a woman at that), she was segregated from the rest of the white attendees.

Furthermore, the “Mammy” media stereotype, named for her character, is not a positive representation.

The gender politics are just as turbulent. The iconic image of Rhett sweeping Scarlett off her feet immediately precedes a rape.

Bracketing this mis-romanticized moment in filmic history are scene after scene of the entitled leading man threatening or otherwise verbally abusing  the strong, financially independent leading lady, and worse still, it’s almost as if Scarlett deserves it because she’s such an antihero.

The nearly four-hour affair is technically dated as well. It belongs more to its producer, David O. Selznick of Selznick International Pictures, than it does its filmmaker.

Indeed, Oscar notwithstanding, Fleming’s directorial style is dwarfed next to Selznick’s megalomaniacal sweep.

Gone with the Wind is very much of its time, between its thesis that liberated American slaves were happier in subservient roles, Rhett’s spectacularized, brutal “punishment” of Scarlett, and its self-indulgent, melodramatic production value, but it is still a cinephilic must-watch.

Without it, Selznick might not have been able to recruit Sir Alfred Hitchcock stateside for Rebecca (1940), the auteur’s only Best Picture winner, and we might not have borne witness to the greatest Hollywood works ever created.

And without Hitchcock, we wouldn’t have auteur theory as we know it today.

Then again, the part the producer plays in a picture’s success is frequently overlooked and underappreciated (especially up against the director).

Darryl F. Zanuck, for instance, is the wunderkind behind many of the studio system’s early successes, such as William A. Wellman’s The Public Enemy (1931). As pedestrian as Fleming is here, Selznick’s genius makes up for it and then some.

Even under Fleming’s studio-interfered direction, Leigh delivers the first of two companion pieces which define her star persona. The second is Blanche DuBois in Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), for which she earned her second Oscar.

Her progression from the vital, self-preservationalistic Scarlett to the poorly aged, defeated Blanche mirrors the multifacetedness of her artistry, personalized by the bipolar disorder she lived with all her life; truly, she was a worthy equal to her spouse, Sir Laurence Olivier (whose classicalism is as esteemed as Marlon Brando’s Method in A Streetcar Named Desire, and who starred in Rebecca alongside de Havilland’s sister, Joan Fontaine).

Gone with the Wind is nothing if not a technical magnum opus, even if it only redeems itself dramatically through Leigh.

Its cinematography, editing, and art direction were also showered with statuettes, and two honorary awards were set aside for the film’s use of coordinated equipment and color.

Sherman’s burning of Atlanta is an ode to practical effects – at eighty years old, the setpiece is more gracefully aged than many of the computer-generated fantasias churned out in our time.

And Gone with the Wind, as socio-politically indefensible as it is, is still a towering cinematic triumph. It is as watchable now as it was in 1939, all five acts of it, and it does illuminate how the penal code substituted slave labor for Scarlett.

Between this and D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915), another influential (and problematic) Civil War epic, Gone with the Wind and the survivalistic woman at its core marks the superior film.

It is a treasure from a lost moment in filmmaking, back when the studios were dream factories crafting fantasies with all the dependency of a Fordist assembly line, long before they became conglomerate-owned toy manufacturers rebooting and remaking focus group nostalgia.

It is a totem of a bygone era that united strangers all across the globe by the millions in a time of diplomatic and economic strife. It is a product of its time in all the worst and best ways, a filmmaking gilded age gone with the wind.

Amazon Prime review: HBO’s “Sharp Objects” (2018)

The 2012 novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn should have won the Pulitzer Prize, or, at the very least, a National Book Award, for its postmodern black comedy of manners on marriage and relationships.

David Fincher’s 2014 adaptation of the same title, from a script by Flynn herself, was likewise snubbed at that year’s Academy Awards.

Flynn, a hybrid between Stephen King and Sir Alfred Hitchcock, Missouri’s answer to King’s Maine, debuted in 2006 with Sharp Objects, and mainstream literature as well as popular genre fiction have found a lovechild in her, too.

If you don’t know what to watch next, HBO’s Sharp Objects (2018) is available on Amazon Prime.

Marti Nixon’s psychological thriller miniseries was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series of Movie for Amy Adams, Outstanding Supporting Actress for Patricia Clarkson, and Outstanding Limited Series.

Flynn herself executive produced.

Recently released out of a Chicago hospital for self-mutilation, alcoholic crime journalist Camille Preaker (Adams) is assigned to cover multiple child murders in her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri.

The visit forces her to reunite with her estranged mother, Adora Crellin (Clarkson), a small-town socialite.

As the mystery unfolds, the troubled Camille finds herself losing the battle with the demons from her past.

Camille is one of the great antiheroes in the Golden Age of Television, as desperately needed a woman for this archetype as Norma Bates.

Across a pseudo-feminist landscape of problematic superwomen who do not so much empower women with humanization as pander to their pocketbooks for corporate fat cats who run Hollywood from the other side of the glass ceiling, Adams’s turn is a breath of fresh air.

She is as flawed as any noir protagonist, but not at the expense of an ethical characterization.

What makes her a sympathetic leading lady are her faults, for she is as much a victim of Wind Gap’s violent misogyny (which is symptomatic of the slave state’s Confederate history) as the girls whose murders she’s compromising her own mental health to help investigate.

A contemporary Southern Gothic murder mystery in the same vein as William Faulkner and Daphne du Maurier, the quasi-Italian neorealistic setting calls to mind the juxtaposition of ancient Roman artifacts against postwar modernization in the aestheticism of Federico Fellini.

The production constructs a morose tone through the overexposed lighting of the cinematography and the suffocating diegesis of the soundtrack, provoking the same numbing mood as the traumatized main character between her broken interactions and dark flashbacks.

The Crellin family is the most dysfunctional this side of Tennessee Williams, even though they’re just as picture perfect. Anchoring this dichotomous image is Clarkson.

Adora recalls Blanche DuBois in the tradition of Scarlett O’Hara herself, Vivien Leigh, the aging Southern belle in a changing world, using her fading beauty to dress up the ugliness of Southern American culture in moth-eaten clothes.

Clarkson is an icy Hitchcock blonde where Adams is a psychologically tortured noir antihero.

But a filmic adaptation of Flynn’s book might have been stronger.

The episodic format of the miniseries pads some scenes for runtime until they’re filler, with subplots from secondary characters who pale in comparison to Camille’s character study and the murder mystery as a framing device.

Granted, at two and a half hours, Gone Girl still makes a meal of its source material, but not one frame of the final product belongs on the cutting room floor; the same can’t be said about Sharp Objects.

But if Sharp Objects is guilty of any sin, it’s being too much of a good thing.

Some would call it and its writer misogynistic, and the case could be made against the “false accusation” narrative in Gone Girl (though one could argue it’s a critique of “white woman gone missing” feminism), but Sharp Objects is not unsympathetic toward Camille, or even Adora.

To the critical viewer, it is more an indictment of its setting than its cast (like many Great American Writers, Gillian Flynn trained in the unsentimental, lowest-common-denominator mass appeal of commercial journalistic storytelling).

She is possessed of a Hitchcockian pragmatism for dolling up such universal themes of the human condition as sex and death with timeless craftsmanship and mastery, casting all her Tarantinoesque pulp fiction through the same literary lens as her masterpiece.

Amazon Prime review: Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964)

Between Iran, North Korea, Russia, and the United States, the threat of nuclear holocaust needs to be laughed at again.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) is available on Amazon Prime. The political satire black comedy was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

As producer, director, and co-adapter, the filmmaker himself was up for three out of the four.

Paranoid that the Soviet Union is fluoridating American water supplies to poison our “precious bodily fluids,” General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden), the Burpelson Air Force Base commander, circumnavigates the Pentagon and orders a nuclear strike against the USSR.

In the War Room, General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott), President Merkin Muffley (Oscar nominee Peter Sellers), and their scientific adviser, the former Nazi German Doctor Strangelove (also Sellers), scramble to stop Jack from triggering the Soviets’ “doomsday machine.”

Meanwhile, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (once more Sellers), a Royal Air Force exchange officer, discovers the general’s code to call off the mission, but only after a surface-to-air missile destroys the radio equipment for Major T.J. “King” Kong’s (Slim Pickens) B-52.

In keeping with his style of adapting literary works, Dr. Strangelove is Kubrick’s interpretation of Red Alert by Peter George.

The Writers Guild of America ranked it as the twelfth greatest screenplay ever written, and it was among the first films selected for preservation at the United States Library of Congress’s National Film Registry in 1989.

With ninety-eight percent of critical reviews aggregated through Rotten Tomatoes praising the movie, it is Kubrick’s highest-rated title on the site.

Although this critic still regards A Clockwork Orange (1971) as the auteur’s masterpiece, Kubrick’s versatility with genres is readily apparent in this dark comedy, listed as number three on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years… 100 Laughs.”

A unifying theme throughout all of Kubrick’s works, despite their diversity, is a cerebral, pessimistic take on the human condition. The picture’s resemblance to the nuclear brinkmanship coloring international diplomacy today immortalizes Kubrick’s Cold War art.

But that he can alchemically make of it an entertainment suggests there is hope to be found, even if we must create it ourselves.

The signature Kubrickian style exists not only in the topical fabric of the text, but also in the aesthetical presentation.

The crazy-eyed “Kubrick stare” will never make you laugh more nervously than when you see Sellers construct it via the titular Doctor Strangelove, transcending across genres.

Each frame is blocked as rigidly (which isn’t to say “lifelessly”) as a painting, summoning a cold, sterile, perfectionistic mise en scène.

And the performances under Kubrick’s direction are equally controlled according to his genius; just ask Malcolm McDowell from A Clockwork Orange or Shelley Duvall from The Shining (1980) how “method” a filmmaker he was.

Neither Scott nor Pickens knew their performances were being played for laughs, conflicting a tension against the absurdity of their material, and Sellers makes the most out of his three roles, even though he was only cast in them because of studio interference and not authorial intent.

Scott refused to ever work with Kubrick again when he saw the final product.

Kubrick’s dramatic immersion could be physically as well as psychologically abusive, but it’s only because he was a creative obsessively devoted to fine-tuning his craft, with an ear for soundtracking and an eye for literature, who did so much for filmmaking with so few films.

That said, the representation in this film (or lack thereof) dates it somewhat. Buck’s secretary and mistress, the unnamed Miss Scott (Tracy Reed), is the only female character in the cast, and even then, again, she’s his nameless assistant and lover.

As the only person of color, King’s lieutenant, Lothar Zogg (James Earl Jones), plays second fiddle, too.

But not all representation is good representation, and only white men could be fragile enough to end the world over a pissing contest.

Amazon Prime review: Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960)

The essentiality of this film cannot be understated.

Not only did it popularize the slasher subgenre, the 1950s gimmickry its marketing genius of a filmmaker employed to promote it also changed our theatergoing habits to what we know them as today, coming in at the beginning and taking care not to spoil the end.

It is such an unflawed project, Gus Van Sant had to reshoot it shot for shot when he remade it in 1998.

And it still isn’t the Master of Suspense’s greatest work.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) is available on Amazon Prime. Hitchcock himself produced this adaptation of the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch.

The psychological horror piece was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actress for Janet Leigh, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, and Best Art Direction – Interior Decoration, Black-and-White.

Marion Crane (Leigh) is a real estate secretary in Arizona who wants to marry a divorced California hardware store owner, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), but can’t because of his alimony debts.

When Marion’s boss, George Lowery (Vaughn Taylor), asks her to deposit forty thousand dollars for a client, Tom Cassidy (Frank Albertson), Marion takes the cash and runs.

During a dark and stormy night, she stops at the Bates Motel outside of Sam’s town, where the proprietor, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), lives with his mentally ill mother, Norma (Virginia Gregg, Paul Jasmin, and Jeanette Nolan).

After Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Vertigo (1958), underperformed at the box office, he filmed the far more commercial North by Northwest (1959).

Its success saw him personally bankroll the sexualized, bloody Psycho because the studios were still governed under the waning, puritanical censors of the era.

Hitch is an auteur who authors more with less, and he cut costs by using the television production crew for CBS and NBC’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1965).

Resultingly, Psycho was released in black and white at a time when Hollywood was photographing its motion pictures with Technicolor CinemaScope to compete against TV, but it snagged the movie its two black-and-white Oscar nods.

Yet another reason why Hitchcock’s Psycho humiliates Van Sant’s is because Van Sant cinematographed it in color, but Psycho is a story which aches to be told in black and white, all looming shadows and German Expressionistic contrasts.

It externalizes for the viewer the antisocial psyche that the Gothic Bates Motel is a metaphor for.

And Hitchcock’s classical training in European art history groomed him to curate the iconic “shower setpiece.” It is to Western montage what Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925) is to the East.

And he did it all without one line of spoken dialogue, harkening back to his studentship in silent, “pure” cinema, visceral sight and sound, conjured through his creative partnerships with editor George Tomansini as well as composer Bernard Herrmann.

The Master’s laissez-faire direction for his actors gets Leigh to deliver a performance which speaks to her acting chops and star power.

Her false protagonist is so devastatingly characterized, so effectively publicized as the star of the show, the shock value behind her exit stage left at the end of the first act humanizes her three-dimensionally.

The bolt of lightning that is Marion Crane courses across generations.

Leigh’s own daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, turns in the prototypical scream queen for John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) because of her mother’s tour de force, and the top-billed Drew Barrymore is killed off in the first scene of Wes Craven’s Scream (1996).

But Leigh’s lungpower is not what develops Marion into a sympathetic antihero.

The most suspenseful moments of the film are the least violent: when Marion is lying to the highway patrol officer (Mort Mills); and when Norman is fibbing to Private Investigator Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam).

They stammer their way along their interrogations while we know what they’re trying to hide and what’s at stake for these audience surrogates if the authorities figure out what we already know.

This communal guilt between character and consumer is a verisimilitude the artist perfected in Rear Window (1954), with James Stewart’s voyeuristic protagonist caught in the act by Raymond Burr’s villain.

We all carry secrets we would die to protect, even the most polite company we would least suspect, and Hitchcock, with his well-documented phobia of authority figures, knows how to manipulate and exploit this universal right of passage for the human condition.

Psycho is even progressive for its time. Its depiction of Marion’s sister, Lila Crane (Vera Miles, who inspired Vertigo after Hitchcock’s muse, Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, chose marriage over her collaboration with the Master), is proto-feministic.

Lila is an independent, intelligent deuteragonist who doesn’t use her sex appeal to get ahead.

Even according to queer theory, the text holds up more so than some of its genre fellows, like Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill (1980), making it clear the homicidal, perverted Norman is not “trans” just because one of his dissociative identities happens to be his mother.

But for everything Psycho gets right about its Freudian character study, that it subscribes to Freud at all counts against it. Norman’s mother is not to blame for his Oedipus complex, no matter how much she smothered him.

His personality would be much more nuanced and developed if the spoon-fed exposition delivered as dated psychoanalysis by Doctor Fred Richman (Simon Oakland) were more subtextualized.

If anything, though, it goes to show that Freudianism makes for better fiction than it does psychology.

Psycho is a study in the craft and technique that made Hitchcock’s cult of personality among the first to inspire the school of thought known as auteur theory.

The fact that Vertigo bests it is because only he could create something greater than perfection.

Amazon Prime review: HBO’s “Chernobyl” (2019)

Between AMC’s Mad Men (2007-2015) and HBO’s Chernobyl (2019), Jared Harris specializes in playing characters who meet a very specific fate.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Chernobyl is available on Amazon Prime. Showrunner Craig Mazin also wrote the historical drama, with Johan Renck directing. Both of them won Primetime Emmy Awards for their efforts, as well as Outstanding Limited Series.

The crux of the miniseries is the April 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in Pripyat, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The characters encompass the bureaucrats behind the scenes of the meltdown in addition to its aftermath on the ground.

First responders, volunteers, and miners digging a tunnel under the compromised reactor are all spoken for here.

This USSR fable is altogether Hollywood in its presentation, not only for its production value, but also its characterization.

It is a post-September 11 American imagery to cast the firefighters on the scene, their health forever tainted from their own self-sacrifice, failed by the very government they serve.

Moreover, such dramatic democratization calls to mind Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1958) as popularized through George Lucas’s Star Wars (1977), with commoners leading us across this epic narrative of institutional corruption and environmental apocalypse.

The aestheticism hums with an intoxicating foreboding as punishing as the decay which both literally and figurative eats away at the characters.

This verisimilitude bridges the temporal and geographic gulf between the Soviet Union and the contemporary United States, and, with the political and natural degradation facing us today, the themes of the show are allegorical in their implications.

Bearing witness to the ruination of these historical figures may make the audience wish to turn away, but its import to our own cultural trajectory is impossible to ignore.

It has always struck this critic as silly, though, when English-speaking actors play non-English-speaking roles (especially when it’s accented). In our shrinking world, the network had the resources to cast Eastern European players.

Modern viewers are media-savvy enough to read subtitles.

But it can be read as a textualization of the rhyme this team is conducting between East and West, between past and present, a way to set the tragedy in a world which more closely resembles our own.

Amazon Prime review: Colin Trevorrow’s “Jurassic World” (2015)

Who knew one of the pop artistic masterpieces of our time would be about Bryce Dallas Howard running through a jungle in high heels?

If you don’t know what to watch next, Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World (2015) is available on Amazon Prime. The filmmaker cowrote the science fiction adventure film, the closest to authorship one is apt to come across in the blockbuster landscape.

Indeed, it ranks among the top ten highest-grossing pictures of all time.

Zach Mitchell (Nick Robinson) and his brother, Gray (Ty Simpkins), travel to Isla Nublar to visit their aunt, Claire Dearing (Howard), the overworked operations manager for Jurassic World who foists them off onto her assistant, Zara (Katie McGrath).

During their visit, a genetically engineered dinosaur called the Indominus rex makes its escape and terrorizes the theme park. Together with her ex-lover, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), the Velociraptor handler, Claire must find her nephews before the Indominus rex does.

Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017) is to its respective series what Jurassic World is to its own. In a world where we grow up knowing Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father, how is a director to subvert our expectations again?

Correspondingly, for a generation raised on Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993), is it possible to feel what it’s like to lay eyes on dinosaurs for the first time again, as contemporaneous viewers did?

In the eyes of audience surrogate Zach, a bored teenager stuck babysitting his brother, more interested in the girls around him (even though he has an offscreen girlfriend) than he is in the dinosaurs, Jurassic World is old news.

As a result of such indifference, the park modifies a never-before-seen attraction, the Indominus rex. But, as always with Jurassic Park, playing God and exploiting nature for capital come at a devastating price.

The Indominus rex is as postmodern a villain as Catherine Tramell, Ghostface, and Heath Ledger’s Joker, killing for the sake of itself, creating conflict because life would be a static, existential purgatory without it.

Doctor Henry Wu (franchise alum B.D. Wong) designs a predator to kill not for survival, but because it can, to entertain an overstimulated public. To quote Ghostface himself, “Motives are incidental.”

And in a Tarantinoesque gesture, Trevorrow incorporates his product placement into his world-building. Brand names from our popular culture have plastered their logos throughout the storefronts of Jurassic World, despite the tragedies of the past, or even because of them.

In other words, the text knows it’s a text, and the Indominus rex exists because all watchable cinema has need of an Indominus rex, and Jurassic World the subject and Jurassic World the representation are both in the business of turning a profit.

As self-referential as the movie is, its storytelling still leaves a lot to be desired. Zach and Gray off-handedly introduce a divorce plot thread between their parents, Scott Mitchell (Andy Buckley) and Karen Dearing (Judy Greer), amounting to exactly nothing.

In addition to Howard’s infamously impractical shoes, it would have been more feministic if Claire’s relationship with Owen were platonic, as an alternative to the male-gaze wish fulfillment of the patriarchal hero getting the damsel in distress at the end.

These offenses are nowhere near as egregious as the fate of Zara. It is a gratuitous sequence, and worse, played for laughs. As unsympathetic a character as Zara is, she doesn’t deserve to be “punished” as women too often are in media.

Still, part of this popcorn flick’s wizardry is that it isn’t so much “style over substance” as the style IS the substance, and, if mainstream Hollywood fetishizes violence, then Jurassic World is only giving the people what they want.

Amazon Prime review: M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” (2019)

M. Night Shyamalan enjoyed somewhat of a revival since The Visit (2015) and Split (2016), never quite meeting the triumphs of The Sixth Sense (1999) and Unbreakable (2000), but still at least becoming watchable again.

As for Glass (2019), the third in a trilogy with Unbreakable and Split, the faults of his authorship stand in relief against these two stronger entries.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Glass is available on Amazon Prime. The psychological superhero thriller got largely negative reviews, with only thirty-seven percent of critics aggregated via Rotten Tomatoes praising the film.

The filmmaker also wrote, co-produced, and made a cameo appearance in the picture.

Unbreakable hero David “The Overseer” Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Split villain Kevin Wendell “The Horde” Crumb (James McAvoy) are institutionalized at the same Philadelphia facility as The Overseer’s nemesis, Elijah “Mister Glass” Price (Samuel L. Jackson).

There, Doctor Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychiatrist who specializes in treating patients who believe they’re superheroes or otherwise superhuman, studies the three characters.

But Mister Glass has a plan for escape, and with The Horde in his reach, an alliance between the two could spell doom for the city The Overseer can no longer protect.

The premise is the highlight of the movie – three of Shyamalan’s finest creations conflicting against one another in a setting evocative of the ambiguous realism making Unbreakable a masterstroke of suspense.

It would’ve done the same for Split, if not for a denouement which decisively answers the question, “Does The Beast exist?” when no answer is what gives Unbreakable its staying power.

For the first time since Unbreakable, the audience asks themselves if The Overseer, The Horde, and Mister Glass really are players in a comic book, or if they’re suffering from a collective delusion of grandeur; debating the truth of the text warrants devoted re-watches.

But Shyamalan makes the same miscalculation at the end of Glass as at the end of Split, except worse, unleashing a veritable Pandora’s box of absurdity onto his world-building that no amount of mystery could ever close again.

And he might not have made this error if he hadn’t marketed himself as a brand after the success of The Sixth Sense, the Wellesian wunderkind, the lovechild of Sir Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg whose signature style orbits the climactic twist (even at its most contrived).

It’s the reason why auteur theory, developed in postwar Europe as part of the French New Wave by early film critics obsessed with studying Hollywood directors, is problematic and borderline fallacious in the inherently collaborative world of moviemaking.

Shyamalan is indisputably talented – The Sixth Sense is one of the best of all time – but The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable are greater than their twists, and even Hitchcock knew his limits. Hitch cast himself in cameos, but he never delivered a line, and he didn’t pen a word of dialogue.

His greatness lay in knowing when to take “no” for an answer.

If Shyamalan had an executive to answer to, or a seasoned screenwriter to ground his concepts into the dramatically satisfying, Glass might have lived up to its “super” potential.

What it is instead, is a delusion of grandeur.