I liked Peter Labuza’s The Cinephiliacs podcast right from the very first episode, and covered its creation here on Criticwire. Labuza describes the show as a sort of “WTF With Marc Maron for cinephiles” — in-depth interviews with festival programmers, film distributors, professors, historians, and critics — although so far the guest list has leaned pretty heavily on the latter. Not that I’m complaining; if you want to hear film critics talk at length about their craft, there are few better places on the Internet. I like the name of the show, too: “The Cinephiliacs,” which makes me think of hemophiliacs, as if movie love is a disease, and once you start you can’t stop. Sounds about right to me.
Peter was nice enough to invite me on the show, and after I postponed on him about thirty-five times, we were finally able to get together for a lively, enjoyable discussion. About half the show is devoted to me and my career path, so if you’re curious how I was drawn to criticism, where I studied, what my earliest cinematic memories are, you’ll definitely want to listen. That stuff was a bit surreal for me; I’m old but I’m not that old, and hearing Peter, who does an impressive job with his research, lay out all these parts of my resume made me feel like I was about to receive my gold watch and pension. As I joked several times during our recording, I kept waiting for my college film professor to pop out from behind the studio door like “This is Your Life.” (Wait, I just made a “This is Your Life” reference. Maybe I am that old.)
The second half of each episode of The Cinephiliacs is devoted to a discussion of a movie of the guest’s choosing. I figured I might as well pick something no other critic would ever even consider selecting. That’s why I went with one of my recent movie obsessions, the head-scratchingly bizarre mockumentary “The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan.” My motives were less than pure. Since I watched “The Buried Secret” for the first time on impulse last year simply because I find Shyamalan a fascinating figure (if not always a maker of fascinating films), I have become obsessed with it. But because almost no one saw this mini-series when it aired originally on SyFy (back when it was still called Sci-Fi Channel), I’ve got no one to talk to about it. Picking it for The Cinephiliacs meant Peter would have to watch it.
“The Buried Secret” became infamous at the time of its original airing because Sci-Fi tried to pass it off as a real, unauthorized documentary and, for a brief moment, the Associated Press actually bought it, even writing an article about its “controversial” content, even though this film is about how M. Night Shyamalan has literal supernatural powers. A few days later, the AP figured out the truth and published another story, admitting that they were duped and featuring apologetic quotes from some of the executives behind the ruse. Before it ever aired, the film was already joke. It was quickly buried, along with its subject’s secrets.
As a result, very few people have seen what I think is one of the most fascinatingly insane movies of the past decade, one that also speaks to the increasingly blurry line between actual reality and televised “reality” and our culture’s (and celebrities’) obsession with celebrity. M. Night Shyamalan comes across as a man more interested in being seen as a “great director” than actually directing great movies. “The Buried Secret” was produced at the height of his fame and power, right before his career went into a tail spin, and as I say on the podcast, it seems to represent his attempt to cast himself as the hero in his own M. Night Shyamalan movie — right down to the poster art for the film (seen above) in which he replaces Haley Joel Osment in the logo for “The Sixth Sense” with himself. It’s almost as if Shyamalan began to lose sight of the difference between himself and his characters. It’s so weird.
In any event, it was a lot of fun to appear on the show and to finally get to discuss “The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan” with a fellow film critic. Go listen to the podcast at the link below. Maybe I’ll convince you to see the movie too (you can find it cheap on eBay; I got my copy for $2). I hope so. I haven’t gotten sick of talking about it yet.