The Nanny – Movie Review

The Nanny

The Nanny (1965)

Nanny (Bette Davis), a London family’s live-in maid, brings morbid 10-year-old Joey (William Dix) back from the psychiatric ward he’s been in for two years, since the death of his younger sister. Joey refuses to eat any food Nanny’s prepared or take a bath with her in the room. He also demands to sleep in a room with a lock. Joey’s parents — workaholic Bill (James Villiers) and neurotic Virgie (Wendy Craig) — are sure Joey is disturbed, but he may have good reason to be terrified of Nanny.

It’s October, and you know what that means… bring on the horror flicks. With Halloween just around the corner, it seems many are ready to get their frights in. This may not be a typical ‘horror’ film, suspense yes, but not horror. Still, when I stumbled upon this black & white movie on TCM, I felt compelled to watch it – and boy did it shake me to the bone!

The movie starts out innocently enough. There’s a traumatized mother, still morning over the death of her daughter even though her husband and Nanny are to bring home her son from boarding school. The son, Joey, a brat in every sense of the word. We see him pulling a particular nasty prank at the institution before he leaves – of pretending to hang himself in his room to frighten one of the older women watching over the boys. You get the sense that even Joey is disturbed on some level, but the details don’t get discovered until later in the movie.

It’s when Joey sees Nanny that you get the impression that he really dislikes her. At first you just put it towards him being too old to have a Nanny and wanting to prove to his parents that he can be independent. He takes this to a new level when he returns home and refuses to use the new updated room they designed for him, instead taking the spare room that has a fire escape. He refuses to eat anything Nanny cooks, and even makes it clear that he doesn’t want to have Nanny in the bathroom when he’s taking a bath. At first his requests and attitude seem rude and mean, then again he at this early stage he just seems like a bratty kid.

You have to ask why the Nanny is there at all with a kid aged 10… but you see the mother having problems, unable to grasp her emotions, getting overly worked up and relying heavily on Nanny still at her age. We learn that Nanny not only serves Joey (and his late sister) but was also their mother’s Nanny too. There’s a connection that I can understand that the family wanted to keep her on as she’s part of the family.

Joey, in turn makes friends with a 14-year-old girl who lives on one of the top floors of the building. Her father’s a doctor, and she has this ‘Maniac Pixy Girl’ vibe going on. She smokes, flirts with older men and engages Joey in his accusations that his Nanny is a mean person and – lo and behold – trying to kill him. It’s an accusation both Nanny and his mother disregard and really begin to grow concern over Joey’s own mental state. It’s a paranoia that Joey refuses to have. It’s when Joey reveals how his sister died, even though the girl questions his truthfulness of it – you start to wonder if the Nanny is really out to get him after all.

Throughout the movie you’re questioning everything Joey says. He sounds like he’s making this up, but there’s a real fear in him whenever Nanny is around. You think he’s just being a brat but near the end of the movie the truth comes out…. In a devastating and suspenseful way. You learn what happened to Nanny that day the little sister died, the truth she had in the matter and her own attempts at hiding all she did – including trying to hush Joey up in a number of ways.

For a horror flick there’s no bloodshed, no maniac – well maybe one in this movie. Either way it’s a great build up with a disturbing ending regarding a Nanny whom people must trust with their children. For anyone who enjoys old movies and the old style of tension and build up, this movie is great to watch. I highly recommend it.

Advertisements

Ghost In The Shell

MPW-119450

I’ve been debating on writing this post for a couple of weeks now. Debating because when I saw the movie – and enjoyed it. I’m a huge fan of the original anime and I wanted to watch the movie to see how well they handled it. There are several issues surrounding GITS including the ‘whitewashing’ and the ‘westernization’ of it. I understand and agree with it all and there is enough to fill another blog post, but I wanted to focus this post on the plot, visualization and themes the movie explores. At least at this point. I may work on a second related post talking about whitewashing in Hollywood cinema, but there are several of those out right now that are more informative, researched and presented than I could ever write.

Before I continue, please be aware there are spoilers! Many of the points I’m writing about deals with knowledge of both the original anime and the live action version. If you haven’t seen them and want to – avoid reading this post until you do.

HO00003940
Plot:
In the live-action Ghost In The Shell the plot revolves around The Major, a cybernetic body with a human mind inside. Placed on a task-force called Section 9 that deals with terrorism and stopping terrorists, they face a new threat called ‘The Puppet Master’. While tracking down this terrorist, the Major faces her own suppressed memories and questions her existence and learns that Haka Robotics lied to her about her past.

This plot differs slightly from the original anime version. Though elements are the same, there is enough of a difference to change the outcome of the movie. In the original there was never any ‘origin’ moment. There is a well animated opening sequence of the Major’s body in development, but when the movie begins with the Major taking down a terrorist attack, we are to accept everything without explanation. We learn throughout the movie of her cybernetic body and Haka’s involvement with that but there was no story arc in that regards. She works for Section 9 and in all honesty there is little character development with the Major other than her curiosity over the identity of the Puppet Master that borders on obsession.

The new plot for the live-action GITS is interesting, once it gets to the point about the Major’s memories. In the early stages of the movie there are scenes with Major in her apartment injecting herself with Haka Robotics approved packets in the back of her neck (where she connects to devices and uploads information) to help her mind accept her cybernetic body and not reject it. At first it makes sense, but as Major has more and more memories surface – those that don’t line up with the story Haka Robotics told her what happened, she questions everything and also the Puppet Master. These sensations and flashbacks get stronger after the Major ‘dives’ into a robot the Puppet Master had hacked and taken control of in the earlier terrorist attack to find the Puppet Master, his identity and where he’s holding up. It is through this first connection and a few others later on that we get the pieces of the Major’s real past and the secrets behind Haka Robotics and her own existence.

The Puppet Master:
The main ‘villain’ of the movie is the Puppet Master. Believed to be a super hacker with the ability to ‘ghost hack’ – taking control of a cyberized person’s body without their knowledge.

Even the identity of the Puppet Master changed between the original anime and the new live-action version. In the new version, we discover the Puppet Master is just like the Major, a previous test subject of Haka Robotics by placing a human mind in a cybernetic body. To control them, they give them the same fake story of them being a sole survivor of a terrorist attack. Thus giving them a purpose to use their new power towards fighting terrorism for them. The story gets much deeper than that!
It turns out that to find the test subjects for this process, Haka Robotics took several runaway kids, the Major and the Puppet Master are just two of them. Once Haka learns that Major is rebelling against them, they order her termination, and threaten Section 9 with closing down their division if they don’t give up the Major. The Chief of Section 9 sides with the Major and against the president of Haka Robotics and we see some amazing scenes the show how bad-ass members of Section 9 are!

In the original anime, the Puppet Master is a program created by Section 6 called Project 2501. An advance AI that went rogue, escaping it’s firewall confines that Section 6 put in place by using a factory produced robot body. After being hit in the road by a truck and sent to Section 9, it surprises everyone by asking for asylum as a sentient creature. Claiming self-preservation of its programming does not differ from DNA. At the end of the anime movie Major links or dive with the Puppet Master and converses with it, learning it wishes to pass on its ideas and evolve like any other biological creature instead of just making copies. Before Section 6 shoots both the robot body of the Puppet Master AND Major, Major agrees and merges. Having her own body shot up and destroyed along with the Puppet Master, she wakes up in a new prosthetic body – a new body for a new being.

Ending:
As you can see above, by changing the identity of the Puppet Master the endings of the live action movie is different. Where Major gets a new body and a new identity in the anime, the live action avoids that and we see Major in her original body all fixed. How that happens when she’s on the black list of Haka Robotics – I don’t know. Yes, she has her original memories, a mother, but does that count as a new identity? Sorry, as you can tell I prefer the anime’s ending over the live action one. Maybe, just maybe had they placed her in a new body, made it Asian… could that have saved the movie from the onslaught of bad reviews?

Ghost Hacking:
The main theme, idea that struck me the strongest throughout the movie (both anime and live action) is the ‘ghost-hacking’ the ability or potential ability to hack a person’s mind. In the GITS setting, we are in this futurist world where cyber implants is everywhere and all the rave. Not just physical parts, but also it seems mental parts, downloading holographic images of the mind and so forth. But with that comes the potential of being hacked. In particular in this movie, the people don’t know their hacked. The only way to tell is the alternating of memories.
Given the way technology is moving, this feels like something to worry about. Not to mention how frightening it could be to not even be able to trust your own memories! How could you defend against that?
thumbnail_25981

Visuals:
The visuals of the live action movie was amazing. Full of large holographic images on sides of buildings for ads – the new build boards, the depiction of diving or linking with robotic programs, and the creation of the Major’s body – and to add to that the way the body is mended after being cut/broken. The entire live action movie had a brighter-cleaner sleekness to it. It was a little different from what I remember from the anime, both my boyfriend and I agree the original anime seemed to depict more of a ‘Blade Runner’ feel, so a little dirtier, worn in feel. But still, the bright lights and look of the technology used in the movie is spectacular.

Themes:
In the live action movie the main theme that seemed to come out is that of identity, and what a ‘ghost’ means. In the movie we hear reference to the Major to trust her ghost, or her soul. But being in a full cybernetic body with only a human mind, were does the soul come from, or where is it stored? I’m using ‘ghost’ and ‘soul’ interchangeably thinking they are meaning the same thing. So as the Major discovers the meaning behind her dreams, and her real identity she is also forced to deal with herself, whom she become and who she wants to be. Basic questions that hall humans experience and goes through. It is a better story arch than the anime – at lest in my opinion, but they could have gone further.

In the movie we learn that the Major was in fact Asian, and her mind placed in a Caucasian looking body. There could have been a theme surrounding that aspect – but I understand by then there was no time for her to dwell on that one aspect as the climax was approaching and ending in sight.

Another theme I wanted to touch on was the roles of woman in technological fields. I hear a lot about the lack of women in science fields and the lack of role models to help young girls get interested in such studies and fields. In this movie we see at least two prominent women in leading cybernetic and robotic fields. Dr. Ouelet and Dr. Dahlin. Outlet had direct correspondence with Major and deals with both her psyche and body, and shares almost a mentor/student or mother/daughter relationship. Although I still understand the issues surrounding the whitewashing, I still like seeing at least two female scientists in the movie with lines and a personality.

In Conclusion:
I enjoyed the movie, the visual and themes within the movie. As much as there are problems with the live action movie, if wish to avoid that, at least find the anime and watch it that way. There are now several new versions of anime relating to Ghost in the Shell, and I’m sure there will be other new versions like this western one. I hope if there will be a next live-action movie the makers of the first will learn their lesson and listen to the fans and treat their audience with respect.