‘Silence’ smack-down

Posted by · 11:04 am · April 28th, 2009

(from left) Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster in The Silence of the LambsI stumbled onto Noah Forrest’s ribbing of Jonathan Demme’s “The Silence of the Lambs” over at Movie City News today toward the end of this piece, and frankly, I found little I could argue with.

Here’s the key graph:

I think seeing Bill Hader’s brilliant impression of Jame Gumb on a recent SNL made me question a lot of things about The Silence of the Lambs. First off, Jodie Foster is plain old not good in that film. Her accent is awful and she over-emotes constantly. Secondly, Ted Levine’s performance as Jame Gumb has turned out to be the most memorable thing about that film (“Is she a great big fat person?”). Thirdly, that film is really not that great and it pains me to say that because I always held it in high esteem. In fact, it plays better as an unintentional comedy than as a thriller.

Ever since the film was released back in February of 1991, I’ve found myself scratching my head at its somewhat over-elevated status as a modern classic.  I fully agree with Forrest’s assessment of Jodie Foster’s Oscar-winning performance, for starters, and beyond the sheer thrill-factor of the film (it can’t be said that it’s not a solid genre entry), I never…ever…understood the awards train it dominated in the fall of that year.

First and foremost there is the idea that Oliver Stone’s “JFK” and Barry Levinson’s “Bugsy” were FAR AND AWAY more deserving of the year’s Best Picture honors.  I think the Oscar run had a lot to do with money, to be honest, as “Silence” was the highest grossing adult drama of the year (coming in #4 domestically behind “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and fellow Best Picture nominee “Beauty and the Beast”).  That and Anthony Hopkin’s brilliant (supporting) performance, one for the ages.  The film also maintained a popularity for the full year between release and the Oscar ceremony.

But Best Picture of the year?  My mind still boggles.  To think the film shares the famed Oscar quintet distinction with “It Happened One Night” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”  Shocking.

Anyway, that’s a mini rant.  Here’s Forrest’s full take.  He’s taken some shots in the past for going against the grain on this or that (an anti-Ridely Scott rant early on, for instance), but I think he’s close ont his one.

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57 responses so far

  • 1 4-29-2009 at 7:49 am

    Cory Rivard said...

    With all due respect, longevity may be considered a test but so can those ridiculous facebook quizzes that have labeled 3/4 of my friends the next Sylvia Plath. This test tells more about the audience than the picture. This is how the audience has shifted in the last ten years, or at least the critics. I don’t know very many regular folk that have a bad word to say about ‘Gump’. This can also happen in reverse. ‘Scarface’ has all of a sudden become a masterpiece, apparently. U2 and Jay-Z are now suddenly able to call themselves legends. This is more of a test in self-promotion and the mind of the audience.
    On that note, you say that you have NEVER understood the big deal with ‘Silence’. That’s a whole different ball game. I can relate. That feeling of this “masterpiece” being highly overrated has never subsided with me. You seem to feel the same way.
    I’m not saying that everyone that has something bad to say about ‘Forrest Gump’ is trying to go against the grain. I’m saying that there are a lot of people who see that happening that do in fact jump on that band wagon because it is different.

  • 2 4-29-2009 at 11:13 am

    chad said...

    The best movie of 1991 is Rover Dangerfield.

  • 3 4-29-2009 at 12:27 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Popular post.

  • 4 4-29-2009 at 2:49 pm

    Gary of WeHO said...

    Are you kidding me? SOTL is one of the best movies I’ve seen in my entire life!!!! It’s pure brilliance! I never get tired watching it, that is the trademark of a true classic!

    With Jodie Foster? Next to Meryl, she is one of the greatest actress of our generation! Not, Hillary Swank.

  • 5 4-29-2009 at 3:40 pm

    bmcintire said...

    Noah – you’ve got a right to your opinion, as does everyone. It does seems a bit of an odd stab (especially since MCN chose to use a Silence photo for your entire article) to randomly take a shit on this movie at this point, but to each his own. Obviously, taste and opinion are supremely subjective, but I, for one, find no problems whatsoever with any of the performances (accents and all). The most ridiculous aspect is, granted, Hannibal Lecter’s name, but that was contractually iron-clad with Robert Harris. MANHUNTER (a film that has really not aged well at all) got unintentional laughs for the same reason.
    I will, however, have to call you out on the juvenile “rest my case” YouTube links. There is probably not a single iconic/great performance that has not or could not suffer the same fate. Daniel Day Lewis’s “Milkshake,” Marlon Brando’s “The horror, the horror” and Robert DeNiro’s “You talkin’ to me?” come immediatley to mind.
    And I’m terribly sorry that Buffalo Bill doesn’t continue to scare you as much as it did when you were nine.

  • 6 4-29-2009 at 4:03 pm

    Chris said...

    I like Silence of the Lambs. Anthony Hopkins is certainly one of the most memorable screen villains in movie history.

  • 7 4-29-2009 at 4:13 pm

    limeymcfrog said...

    Congrats Kris, your provocative comment stirred up a hornet’s nest of comments.

    Foster’s perf is a tad overwrought at times (mostly in reaction shots to Lecter) and Demme loves the straight on close up just a little too much… but come on. It’s more than just one click above Kiss the Girls.

    The acting, the screenplay, it’s all top notch. Silence of the Lambs was never going to be the greatest film ever made, but it’s a pretty unassailable thriller. I’d put it in the same tier with “The Exorcist” as a deftly made, envelope pushing genre entry.