I consider myself a fan of M. Night Shyamalan's films, and it's not just because we're both Philly guys. Despite the popular backlash, I still think The Sixth Sense is a pretty darn good movie. I also feel that Unbreakable is borderline brilliant and that Signs works well enough, even if it doesn't exactly stand up to repeat viewings. I'm also of the opinion that The Village is an indulgent mess, and it's the first M. Night movie that I actively disliked. I've not yet seen Lady in the Water, so obviously I cannot even venture an opinion on the flick ... but I've spoken to a lot of film critics (Shyama-fans and non-fans alike) and they assure me it's pretty darn terrible. (It's currently wooing a 19% approval rate at Rotten Tomatoes, and neither Kim nor Ryan was all that thrilled with the flick.)

So I thought I'd transplant one of my recent geeky phone conversations into blog form and pose the following query: Is M. Night Shyamalan a fine filmmaker who's currently going through a rough spot in his career ... or is he a one-trick pony -- an emperor, as they say, with no clothes?

One of the most common opinions regarding the guy's last two films is a pretty logical one: That the filmmaker became so popular and so powerful so fast that now he's working in a virtual vacuum, a one-man filmmaking machine that's become insular, isolated, and beholden to no one -- and that includes the producers and studio execs who just might be able to contribute something important to the process. Or is M. Night a brilliant renegade of a big-budget filmmaker, a guy who tells the exact stories he wants to tell, and damn it all if the audiences and/or critics don't "get it"?

So what do you think? Are we dealing with a filmmaker who's "hit the wall," creatively-speaking? Did the guy only have two or three good movies in him? Or will he bounce back from the criticisms of The Village and Lady in the Water and deliver another movie that recaptures some of that Sixth Sense magic? And by "magic," I don't just mean the $293 million in domestic box office.