Twilight (2008)

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TWILIGHT, whatever its qualities as an entertainment, could serve as a beacon for the value of having a really neat dream and hitting the keyboard before it evaporates into breakfast. In 2003, 29-year old former receptionist Stephenie Meyer had a dream so vivid and captivating she wrote it down. Faithfully adding to it she ended up with a first-time novel, published in 2005. By the time it and its sequels had generated over 100,000,000 sales, the prey-heightened senses of movie predators, already licking fangs since ’04, produced this 2008 blockbuster, the first of five over four years. There is no truth to the vicious rumor that the working title was I Was A Teenage Vampire Slut. *

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Catherine Hardwicke, a gifted Production Designer-turned-director who’d proven chops handling teen angst (Thirteen, Lords Of Dogtown), worked off a screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, culling Meyer’s 544-page book into 126 minutes of running time. A studio executive told Hardwicke the movie, done for a trim $37,000,000, “might be interesting, at most, to about 400 girls in Salt Lake City.” It grossed $393,600,000. The executive was last seen carrying lamps into the freight elevator.

While the crush-on-dreamy-undead-guy-with-special-powers angle obviously drew OMG hordes of pre-adult girls, it would be too easy of a jaded grownups sneer (and a caddish sexist insult) to dismiss this lovingly crafted fantasy-romance-thriller as something with limited appeal. The moody and beautiful NW Washington/Oregon settings are unusual, the sleek camerawork, deft editing, walloping stunts and sensitive music score (Carter Burwell) are all noteworthy, the direction is sharp and the casting is flawless. So it isn’t Shakespeare. It’s a neat story. What’s with the silly hostility?  Love that baseball game.

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Though set in and around Forks, Washington, on that state’s Olympic Peninsula, only some filming was done there; most was accomplished on locations down the road in Oregon.

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With—as if a generation needs to be told—Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattison, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Billy Burke, Anna Kendrick, Taylor Lautner, Cam Gigandet, Rachel Levefre, Kelly Reed, Edi Gathegi, Kellen Lutz, Elizabeth Reaser, Jackson Rathbone, Sarah Clarke, Gil Birmingham.

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* The success of Twilight and Co, and the young adult-tilted franchises that followed, like The Hunger Games and Divergent, can also be an object lesson in entrenched gender inequality at work. After Catherine Hardwicke’s loving and capable handling of this huge hit, every sequel was directed by a man, as were all in those other series.

**Dumping on this lush, clever, enjoyable and harmless tale, usually from sourballs who haven’t bothered to see it, is akin to that smug carping on Titanic as just a big ‘chick flick’: sometimes “smart” people are too much, really. Just crawl away somewhere. Fessing: your diligent host, aware of the whole Twilight situation for a decade, never got around to partaking the first bite until recently. Was pleasantly surprised, and am not averse to getting round to the sequels when the time is right. Balance in all things. Plus, who’s kidding—hot babe vampires and I’m intellectually offended?

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