#296. Osteogenesis Imperfecta

Disabilities aren’t what they used to be. What was once a death sentence for many people has become mostly an inconvenience today due to the advancements of medical science and pharmacological solutions. Still, even the technological advancements in medicine haven’t yet solved some of the rarer diseases. If anything, providing a comfortable way to live life is the closest some people will ever get to obtaining a cure. Despite a handful of diseases being so rare that there aren’t enough subjects to study for a cure, a few have symptoms just interesting enough to raise awareness. Cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are mostly understood, but what if someone has brittle bones? What type of life could someone with Osteogenesis Imperfecta live? This week’s two films highlight characters who have Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease.

Unbreakable
Year: 2000
Rating: PG-13
Length: 106 minutes / 1.76 hours

Osteogenesis Imperfecta is seen in about one in every 20,000 births, which calculates out to a 0.005% chance a newborn would have this disability. While there are a number of different types of this disease, most involve a deficiency of collagen. There are a few types of Osteogenesis Imperfecta which are fatal, but there are also a number of types of this disease which can be survived. As with any severe disease, a person’s attitude can often determine their quality of life while enduring the symptoms. Some are likely to “give up”, but those with strong wills can find ways to live with their ailment, sometimes even making it a part of their identity. The more people who live with a rare disease and are able to educate the public on it, the more accepting society will become of these cases. Unfortunately, sometimes the means to do this are a little . . . misguided.

Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) was born in the 1960’s with a mild type of Osteogenesis Imperfecta. Because of his fragile nature, he spent a large amount of time sitting quietly and reading comic books. While this led to his eventual career as an art dealer specializing in comics, it also gave him an idea. What if, somewhere out there, a person with an equally opposite body existed? What if there was someone who was “unbreakable”? When he learns of David Dunn (Bruce Willis), the sole survivor of a train crash, he immediately gets in touch with the man to explain his theory. Of course, this theory follows all the tropes of comic books, including the weakness of the hero being something simple, like David’s inability to swim. As Elijah learns more about David’s powers, David soon realizes Elijah has some secrets of his own.

AmélieAmélie
Year: 2001
Rating: R
Length: 122 minutes / 2.03 hours

The people who have a rare disease like Osteogenesis Imperfecta have a choice to make: they can live their life in pity of their condition, or they can live their life to the fullest extent possible. Granted, with a limiting disease like Osteogenesis Imperfecta, the “fullest extent” isn’t the same as for people who do not have the disease. Still, introverts may thrive with such a disease, since it allows for a very low-impact lifestyle, often spent indoors reading or painting. The key to understanding these diseases is in the people who have them. They are still people, with hopes and dreams. Just because they have a disability doesn’t make them any less of a person. In fact, the less we focus on people’s limitations and focus more on their passions; often we’ll find that we all have something relatable inside of us.

Because of an incorrect diagnosis of a heart defect, Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) was homeschooled by her parents. Consequently, her loneliness spurred her to develop an active and disruptive imagination. After the death of her parents, she obtained a job as a waitress and moved into an apartment where she eventually meets her neighbor, Raymond Dufayel (Serge Merlin). While he is quite reclusive due to his Osteogenesis Imperfecta, he allows her into his apartment where it is revealed he is recreating a Renoir painting. As he continues to paint for the next few weeks, he watches as the young woman manipulates the people around her at the cost of ignoring her own loneliness. Now fast friends, Raymond and Amélie meet often as he finishes his painting. With a gentle nudge in the right direction, Ray sends Amélie out into the world to find love.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 broken bones

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#295. M. Night Shyamalan

Being a recognizable name in Hollywood is sometimes a double-edged sword. If an actor’s name is recognizable, most people will usually know what type of movie the actor appears in and will either attend or avoid accordingly. The challenge with this is sometimes actors will branch out into different genres, thus making the name recognition a little unreliable. Directors, however, are usually pretty consistent with their genres and styles. While this can help give audiences an indication as to whether or not they’d want to see a movie or not, sometimes a running track record for a director can help them gain ticket sales, especially after a particularly well-received film. Unfortunately, what if a director peaked after their second or third film? This week’s two films will examine the early, successful films of M. Night Shyamalan.

The Sixth SenseThe Sixth Sense
Year: 1999
Rating: PG-13
Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours

Even though Shyamalan directed two films before The Sixth Sense (1999), neither Praying with Anger (1992) or Wide Awake (1998) gave him the recognition The Sixth Sense did. Consequently, most consider The Sixth Sense to be his “first” film insomuch as it was his breakthrough into Hollywood. While it did not win any Oscars, it was nominated for six. M. Night Shyamalan could have walked away with Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, along with his film winning Best Picture, if it were not for American Beauty (1999). Nevertheless, The Sixth Sense has remained a key part of American popular culture, ranking at #89 of the American Film Institute’s latest list of the top 100 films. It is clear from this film; many people had high hopes for the future directorial efforts of M. Night Shyamalan.

Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) finds himself hesitant to continue his job as a child psychologist after a former patient of his claimed Malcom failed him and shot the doctor as a result. However, when Dr. Crowe comes across Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) and recognizes many traits of his former patient, he decides it’s time to try again. While the former patient suffered from hallucinations, Cole admits to seeing dead people, even if said dead people don’t realize they’re dead. Through Malcom’s encouragement, Cole helps a young girl obtain closure for her wrongful death. Cole even gains enough confidence to return to school, as well as admit to his mother that his gift has allowed him to communicate with his dead grandmother. Feeling his work with Cole is now complete, Malcom returns home to his wife only to discover that she has moved on from him; the twist comes in revealing why.

Unbreakable
Year: 2000
Rating: PG-13
Length: 106 minutes / 1.76 hours

Because of the strong twist ending in The Sixth Sense, people were not surprised when his next film, Unbreakable (2000), had a twist ending as well. In fact, even the film after that, Signs (2002), had a twist for an ending. Some would consider Signs to be his last successful film, as the expectation of a twist ending would haunt his next many films. Critical reception of Shyamalan’s films sharply dropped over the next decade, with such flops as The Village (2004), Lady in the Water (2006), The Happening (2008), The Last Airbender (2010), and After Earth (2013) earning him more Golden Raspberries than Oscar statues. Despite his name being tied to disappointment after disappointment, he eventually found the core of his success again with The Visit (2015) and this year’s Split (2017). Perhaps now we can expect great films from M. Night Shyamalan once again.

In a stroke of what could only be unfortunate luck, David Dunn (Bruce Willis) finds himself the sole survivor of a train wreck that killed every other passenger on board, but left him without a scratch. Through this tragic event, he is sought out by Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a collector of rare comic books who was intrigued by David’s survival. Elijah posits the theory that, since he has a rare disease which makes his bones fragile, someone out there must possess the opposite physical flaw. David initially scoffs at Elijah’s hypothesis that he is an indestructible superhero, but once he begins to test this theory, he finds he’s stronger than he ever imagined. Suddenly, incidents from David’s past have deeper meaning. Elijah encourages David to explore some of his superpowers, which eventually leads the hero to learn of the sinister force behind some of the tragic events in his life.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Shyamalan sensations

Bacon #: 2 (Split (directed) / James McAvoy -> X-Men: First Class / Kevin Bacon)