36. The Silence of the Lambs

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Movie: The Silence of the Lambs

Release Date: February 14, 1991

Director: Jonathan Demme

Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine.

Tag Lines: “Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Brilliant. Cunning. Psychotic. In his mind lies the clue to a ruthless killer. Clarice Starling, FBI. Brilliant. Vulnerable. Alone. She must trust him to stop the killer.”

“Prepare yourself for the most exciting, mesmerizing and terrifying two hours of your life!”

“To enter the mind of a killer she must challenge the mind of a madman.”

“May The Silence Be Broken!”

“From the terrifying best seller.”

Relevance: One weekend in late February of 1991 during my second year of college, I traveled home to visit family and friends. Over that weekend I went to the movies with some of those friends to see ‘The Silence of the Lambs.’ Included in that group was a girl who had already seen the film but insisted that we all go see it. She loved it and not only wanted so badly to see it again but make sure we saw what she called “the best movie ever.” Little did I know at that time that I would also be seeing the movie in theaters twice, the second time with a very unwilling participant.

‘The Silence of the Lambs’ was released in theaters on Valentine’s Day in 1991. It instantly received critical acclaim with critics calling it “a taut thriller” and “one of the best of the year.” As far as box office was concerned, the film was more of a sleeper hit and gradually became a commercial success. Thanks to strong word of mouth, it remained in theaters for months and eventually became the fifth highest grossing film in the world that year. It has since become an award winning cultural phenomenon that has spawned sequels, prequels, a television series as well as many spoofs and parodies.

I spent that first time in the theater literally on the edge of my seat. It was such a wonderfully produced and acted thriller that teetered on horror and I loved every minute of it. It was equally entertaining and terrifying. After the movie, the friend that drove us to the theater checked his trunk saying, “I just wanted to make sure Hannibal wasn’t in there.” It was a bit over the top, but the film freaked him out, as it did a lot of people.

A couple weeks later in March, I returned home for Spring Break. My girlfriend at the time (who eventually became my fiancé/wife/ex-wife) traveled with me to spend a few days with me and my family. One of those nights while we were visiting my paternal Grandfather’s house, my parents decided to treat us to a movie. My dad and girlfriend wanted to see ‘The Silence of the Lambs,’ but my mother loathed horror. She despised being scared in every way shape and form. Thankfully, she was not aware of the movie so, I told her it was a comedy. She bought it, and we were on our way.

On the car ride to the theater, my mom started asking questions about the movie as well as piecing things together in her head. By the time we arrived, she knew exactly what she was getting into and was none to pleased. However, I told her that I had already seen the movie and if she sat by me, I would tell her when to look and when not to look. And that’s exactly what happened. My mom sat in the theater, hands clenched to the chair the entire two hours, closing her eyes every time I whispered her to do so. Despite being terrified, my mom did enjoy the movie although she said she would never, ever watch it again. She had a history of going to movies she didn’t want to see for the love of her family (see 58. Psycho). She was always such a good sport.

My mom stood by her word and never once watched Hannibal Lecter again in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ or any other incarnation. I on the other hand, became a true blue fan. I bought the movie on VHS, eventually DVD, and have traveled to the theater to see all of its sequels and prequels. I have even read all of the novels by Thomas Harris of which they are based. I enjoyed the books, although after reading the ending of “Hannibal” I flung it across the room. (I hated the ending and thankfully they changed it when adapting it on film.) I just finally watched the TV show “Hannibal” via Netflix and enjoyed that as well. Despite its controversies and boycotts by the LGBTQ community and feminist groups, ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ has remained one of my favorite movies of all time. There is never a day that goes by where it is not referenced, quoted or thought about. Those lambs will never be silenced.

Today’s Thoughts: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

Nothing says “Happy Thanksgiving” like ‘The Silence of the Lambs.’ Today, we woke up to a flood in our kitchen that leaked down to out basement thanks to my husband. He was trying to hurry along the thawing of our turkey and left the water running on it in our sink for hours. I was none to pleased. So a horror movie seemed a perfect continuation to an already disrupted holiday.

‘The Silence of the Lambs’ has to be one of the best thrillers ever produced for the screen. After almost thirty years, it is still terrifying to watch. Jonathan Demme was a fantastic director and was really at the top of his game for this film. Winning the top five Oscars is no easy task, but this movie deserved every single one it received in 1991. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins are superb as is the rest of the ensemble cast. I have watched this movie so many times, I could lip sync along to it and that’s exactly what I did.

I am sure this film is not everyone’s cup of tea. It definitely was not my mom’s. But if she could watch it and appreciate it, everyone can and should. It comes highly recommended, even on a holiday. Happy Thanksgiving to all and enjoy passing the mashed potatoes and gravy as well as the liver, fava beans and a nice chianti.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Picture (winner), Academy Award for Best Director, Jonathan Demme (winner), Academy Award for Best Actor, Anthony Hopkins (winner), Academy Award for Best Actress, Jodie Foster (winner), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Ted Tally (winner), Academy Award for Best Sound, Tom Fleischman, Christopher Newman (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Craig McKay (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, Jodie Foster (winner), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Jonathan Demme (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Anthony Hopkins (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Ted Tally (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Actor, Anthony Hopkins (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Actress, Jodie Foster (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Jonathan Demme (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay – Adapted, Ted Tally (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography, Tak Fujimoto (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Editing, Craig McKay (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Original Film Score, Howard Shore (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Sound, Skip Lievsay, Christopher Newman, Tom Fleischman (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Jonathan Demme (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Music, Howard Shore (nomination), National Board of Review Award for Best Film (winner), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Director, Jonathan Demme (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor, Anthony Hopkins (winner), National Film Registry (2011), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, Jonathan Demme (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor, Anthony Hopkins (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, Jodie Foster (winner), PGA Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, Edward Saxon, Kenneth Utt, Ron Bozman (winner), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Ted Tally (winner).

Ways to Watch: fuboTV, Philo, YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Vudu, DVD Availability.

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