Tuesday, February 8, 2011

30 Days of Oscar - Day 12: Silence of the Lambs

Movie: Silence of the Lambs
Year: 1992
Nominations: Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster), Best Director (Jonathan Demme),
Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound
Wins/Snubs:  It won the big ones, Actor, Actress, Director, Picture, and screenplay.  Terminator 2: Judgement Day took Sound, and JFK took editing (something I don't necessarily call foul on.)

This was actually the first time I saw this.  I've made no secret that the trailer scared the crap out of my 12-year-old self, so I had no desire to find this.  But once upon a time (perhaps when he was a guest on Reel Insight), the Mad Hatter suggested I watch the AMC version (which presumably is a bit edited down to reduce its R rating a bit for television, "and to run in the time allotted"), which is what I did.  So, if I missed something important, now that I've survived it once, I might watch the full version someday.

In my opinion, the stars of the film were Jodie Foster's constantly scared expression and the "scare-the-shit-out-of-you" sound.  So the fact that Terminator 2: Judgement Day took the Oscar for sound is crap.  If they considered all that sound actually a score, then the fact that it wasn't nominated for best Score is crap.  If you put that music/sound over WALL*E you'd have a thriller.  Otherwise, I'm happy to agree that this is one of the best movies of all time.  Did it scare the crap out of me? YES!  Would is scare the average person, probably not, but is it a great thriller with an unconventional story, definitely.  I don't think there has even been another serial killer movie that got close to creating the tension of Silence of the Lambs.  It turns out, Hannibal Lecter is not the scary part of the movie.  His terror comes from his restraint so that when he lets loose, you jump in your seat, but you're not scared in the same way you are in both the discussion of and scenes with Buffalo Bill.
Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill and Leland Stottlemeyer

One thing, when you see an actor in a particular role, it's hard to see them in other roles that flip your idea of them on its head.  Sometimes it works great (I loved seeing Jim Carrey attempt serious roles because you're never sure he can avoid his zaniness), and other times it fails (lots of examples).  I already knew Ted Levine from his wonderful role as Captain Leland Stollemeyer on the TV show "MONK".  So when I saw his name show up in the opening credits, I was happy to see him.  And then to have him turn out to be the bad guy made him a little less scary.  His voice is distinctive enough (a la Sean Connery) that it's hard to separate how you know his voice from the current character he's trying to play. I had that problem the first time I watched a Connery James Bond movie, right around the year I saw The Hunt for Red October so I kept thinking, why is this old man's voice coming out of this young hot spy.  I think this actually helped me enjoy Silence of the Lambs because he wasn't quite as terrifying for me.  However, he was pretty unknown when the movie came out, so I bet other people had the flip experience when they saw him on "MONK".

Anyway, this is a freakin' awesome movie that if you're a scaredy-cat like me, should only be watched on AMC in the morning, preferably not in an empty house.  5 of 5 stars/lambs


Jack L said...

This film also scared me a lot, I'm very faint hearted when it comes to Horror and even some Thrillers...
But this is one of the few I have seen and I loved it, great film and full of fantastic performances.

Excellent review!

The Mad Hatter said...

Funny that you know Levine from such a different role, as he's gone on record many times saying that this film ended up typecasting him for a very long time into playing the creepy guy.

(Hell, he gave me the heebie-jeebies in SHUTTER ISLAND, and I think he only has the one line)

There's some gore cut out of the AMC version (I've watched it from time-to-time) but the overall creep factor is intact. If you could handle that, then take a deep breath and watch the big-girl version sometime.

Great post - truly one of Oscar's best moments.

cinemasights said...

It certainly is an effective thriller and a well crafted one, but most of what I like about this film centers around the Jodie Foster character. I'm far more interested when the film is about her and less so when it's Lecter and Bill stealing the spotlight.

Rick T. said...

Great post! You are spot on about the sound. Sound was a heavyweight element in this film and sets the mood like no other.

Jess said...

Okay, I'll confess, I had to sleep with the lights on. This movie scared me a bit more than I thought. I think it's a terrific movie - and I can see why people would have wanted sequels (which I'll never watch). Foster was terrific and I wish she made more movies. I'm sure I'll see Ted Levine differently now - though only when he doesn't have that huge 'stache from MONK.