Monday, January 18, 2010

Best Picture: Did Avatar Deserve It?

I had the chance to see Avatar over the Christmas break, just after Christmas, in 3-D. I didn't go for the IMAX version of it (I had to leave The Hurt Locker because the motion was making me sick, so IMAX probably isn't my friend) but the 3-D version was pretty spectacular.

This is a movie where, when I saw the trailer, I said to my husband, "Who the hell would want to see THAT?!" It looked boring. Then people started going, and word of mouth was getting around that I absolutely HAD to see this film. So, trusting some of them, I went. And I'm not disappointed that I went, and would recommend it to anyone.

With a caveat, of course. I think Entertainment Weekly said it best when they described Avatar as being like a rollercoaster ride: when you're on it, it's exhilarating, and as soon as you get off, that's it. It's over. Nothing more to say, nothing really to think about, and you move on. Or you go and experience it again.

The look of Avatar is extraordinary. The LOTR trilogy are three of my all-time favourite films, and after seeing Avatar I wished WETA had had the technology they gave Avatar when Jackson was making those movies (let's just say I'm even MORE excited for The Hobbit now than I was before!) The CGI is unparalleled. Watching the blue avatars blending with the Na'vi, I was entranced. You cannot figure out where the actor ends and the computer takes over. It was like James Cameron had really found this tribe of blue people and asked them to be in his movie.

There is a scene when the protagonist, Jake, is stuck in Pandora overnight by accident, and these things that look like a cross between a jellyfish and a puffy seedling of a dandelion come floating through the air and land all around him. It's incredible to watch (and with the 3-D, many people were reaching out to try to grab them) and the lights and the music and his facial expressions were mesmerizing. I loved the idea of scientists creating avatars of themselves that were controlled by their minds, but separate from themselves physically (yet if something happens to the avatar, the real body suffers as well). There's a scene where Ana Lucia the pilot played by Michelle Rodriguez flies them up into the floating mountains that is breathtaking, and is worth the entire movie.

So yes, this is a movie to go and SEE. Take it in, imagine what it would be like to live in such a dangerous glorious paradise, and just be awed by the sheer brilliance of the look of it.

But as for the story? Ugh. As my husband said, "It's like Dances With Wolves... with blue people." Exactly. And a friend of mine (right before the big controversy erupted) told me that as he watched the movie, he was stunned by the sheer post-colonial ignorance of it all. White man goes in, becomes "native" and is the white knight to save these "noble savages" because they're too stupid to do it themselves. Think Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves. Think Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. Both great movies, but they both shared this same inherent "white man must save those who cannot save themselves" mentality.

Now, I'm not trying to be controversial or political; this was just my thinking as I watched it. The Na'vi come across as more intelligent than the typical stereotype, I'll give it that. But, quite simply, James Cameron is a mediocre writer. We all marveled, jaw-dropped, as the Titanic went down. It was spectacular and mind-blowing. Aaaaaand... then a crazed Billy Zane with a gun is rushing through the sinking ship trying to kill Leonardo diCaprio. I mean, come ON. Really? You thought the boat going down wasn't going to create enough tension or suspense? You REALLY needed such an OBVIOUS bad guy to do it? Well, at least Cameron learned his less- oh wait. No. There's Giovanni Ribisi standing at the deck, looking at these people living in their beautiful land and growling from the side of his mouth, "Tear it ALL DOWN, boys!!"

I DID enjoy the idea of the people being connected to the Earth (connecting the strands of their hair to the animals or to the tree was a very unique stroke I hadn't seen before). So I will give Cameron kudos for that.

But... the metal the "bad guys" are about to destroy Pandora to find? It's called "unobtanium." SERIOUSLY. I laughed out loud when they said that. It's a word that's often used as a JOKE in sci-fi, and he goes and actually calls the stuff that. It's like he skipped creative writing class when they were doing the "subtlety in writing" subsection of the curriculum. I'm surprised he didn't send in all of the redshirts who get blown out of the sky in ACTUAL RED SHIRTS.

A friend of mine described James Cameron's writing as like that of a little boy. It's full of adventure, clumsy romance, and bad guys dressed in black and white guys dressed in white, and it's like he's never matured beyond the age of 14.

So. Last night when James Cameron took Best Director, my husband (who actually would disagree with the positive stuff I said above, because he REALLY disliked the movie) said he didn't deserve it. I argued that he absolutely did. Avatar is the best directed film of the year. He had to coordinate thousands of people. He brought his vision of Pandora to life. He pulled together the actors, the CGI, the music, the story. This has nothing to do with the writing of the script, the over-acting, etc., this has to do with the look of the movie. So I argued that he 100% deserved that award.

My husband, on the other hand, said a director's job is to weed out the crap of a script, to bring in the best performances of his actors, and to make all of the elements perfect. I said no, that would be a Best Picture award: to give a movie that indicates that everything worked well together, that it was well written, well acted, and well directed. I said I thought Cameron deserved the Director award, but not Picture (this was before he won that). Hubby disagreed.

(And when he DID win Best Picture, hubby simply got up and left the room. Angrily. We get a little too involved in our pop culture.)

So do I think Avatar deserved Best Picture? No. Did it deserve Best Director? Absolutely. And would I recommend it to people? Yes, but go because you want to be bowled over by a visual masterpiece. Just ignore the silliness of the story, and you'll still enjoy yourself.

Your thoughts? Do you agree with me or my husband? Or do you disagree with both of us and you thought the story was well told?

34 comments:

RT said...

Here's one for the hubby. He's one smart and insightful dude.

humanebean said...

Your analysis is spot on, Nik. I felt exactly the same way as I watched the awards last night. I looked forward to and enjoyed the experience of watching Avatar but found it flawed. Yes, Cameron did deserve the Best Director award for his success in translating his vision into the film - but Best Picture? No way, José.

It was interesting to watch the reactions of people in the audience last night to Cameron's two successive acceptance speeches. By the time he rambled on a SECOND time, you could just feel the room thinking, "shut UP, already".

I felt that the category of Best Picture was amongst the weakest field nominated in recent memory. I was just glad that Inglorious Basterds didn't win for either Best Director or Best Picture. I have serious issues with that film and would have thrown something at the TV set had it won.

Meanwhile, Ricky Gervais was quite good (although George Lucas in the front row looked a bit unhappy that Ricky opened with penis jokes) and his jab at Mel Gibson was the highlight of the evening for me!

Jenn said...

@humanebean

Agree! Ricky Gervais' dig at Mel Gibson was priceless!

@Nikki

Hmmm...I really liked Avatar, but I do agree that it's a rather unoriginal (or timeless?) story. I know that some people are extremely unhappy with Cameron and Avatar because of the whole "Great White Saviour" arc. But I found more than anything that his environmental message was more clearly and strongly stated.

As far as best director goes, I agree with you. As for best film, I couldn't say because I haven't seen all of the nominees. That being said, did anyone else find Cameron a little pompous during his acceptance speeches?

Just sayin.

Oh yeah, and I was pumped that Glee won an award!

Nikki Stafford said...

RT: Hey, hubby. Get off this blog. ;)

Nikki Stafford said...

humanebean: I totally agree with you! And look, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are two of my favourite films of all time (I saw PF in the theatre 5 times). But Quentin Tarantino is such a smug bastard I can't believe his ego fit in the same room as Cameron's. Actually, Cameron looks humble next to Tarantino.

My highlights of the night: DEFINITELY the Mel Gibson jab. At work today I was telling everyone who didn't watch it about that brilliant line. Loved it.

Actually, Ricky Gervais, period, was the highlight. Though I felt he wasn't used enough. There just wasn't enough of him.

Thrilled that:
-Glee won Best Comedy
-Michael C. Hall FINALLY won Best Actor (he's deserved it every year). I didn't realize the cancer treatment had made him lose all of his hair, but he looked amazing considering what he's been through lately.
-John Lithgow winning Best Supporting. I know, I know, I'm a traitor for saying that -- how dare I call myself Michael Emerson's biggest fan -- but Lithgow just made my skin crawl every time he was on screen. He's BRILLIANT and his speech was a class act.
-Drew Barrymore's speech. O.M.Frakkin'.G. If anyone finds a transcript of it, please send it to me. I said to my husband, "Holy crap, someone needs to turn that into poetry." It was brilliant in its surreal, stream-of-conscious loopiness.
-The Hangover winning. I mean, come on, sometimes we just have to award pure joy. ;)

Chris in NF said...

I know I should go see Avatar while it's in the theatre, but I am so OVER the White Messiah narrative. The best summary I've heard for Avatar is "We must fight the giant blue Amerindian cat people over there do we don't have to fight the giant blue Amerindian cat people over here."

Sagacious Penguin said...

Jenn, I'm with you on the timeless aspect. There's a difference between timelessness and originality, and when someone sets out to tell a narrative as classic as Avatar's they're not trying to invent a new plot. They're simply not. And I, among many moviegoers clearly, am fine with that. There's something valuable about a classic story retold well with new clothes.

I'm not saying Avatar was the best movie in cinematic history or anything, but I DO think it was a success as a story (and not just avisual ride) because of the simplicty of the narrative. It had enough universality to it that a great variety of viewer-types were able to walk away satisfied.

Nikki, you mention rolling your eyes when anything in a movie gets to "simple/obvious" (i.e. psycho Billy Zane in Titanic), but personally I find that certain movies/shows/stories are tailored to fit these kinds of obvious types and use them in straight-forward ways that keep the types going strong. I'm all about the subtler films out there, and often prefer them, but simultaneously I don't see anything wrong with mining the classic character tropes, themes, and cycles from time to time to tell a story like Avatar's.

If it's not your thing, then that's that and that's fine, but this is the reason why the movie has been so widely embraced. You say that Cameron as a writer hasn't progressed beyond the level of a teenage boy, but I'd argue (and I think the box office and Golden Globe voters might agree) that he's simply writing things straight and uncluttered. Perhaps that's not particularly impressive, and there's a reason Avatar won't win any screenplay awards, but it IS a viable option and one that can lead to a fun, moving, ACCESSIBLE action adventure that anyone can potentially identify with.

It's a successful film to more people than those to whom it's a failure. And the reason is not that it's dumb or mindless. The reason is that it's uncomplex. And there IS a difference. You want dumb and mindless, see Transformers 2 and try to make sense of the plot and character motivations in that mess of a narrative. Avatar is straight forward, and in my book, as long as you've got enough else new going on to support a simple plot, there's nothing wrong with having one.

Cheers!

(Oh, and a few quick thoughts on the "white man savior" complex. The movie IS guilty of tapping into this and could have done a better job of showing that it's not that a WHITE man has to be the savior of an opressed group, but that it helps if the savior is an OUTSIDER(granting a fresh perspective to the group) and even more helpful if he/she is ONE OF THE ENEMY (granting insight into how one defeats the technologically superior foe). That the hero in these kinds of films always seems to be a white guy probably has something to do with A) the director/writer is a white guy and people default to writing about themselves, and B) the white race sure seems to have more to atone for colonially than any other on this planet, and it's a wake-up call of sorts to viewers to try to be shown one of their own embracing and joining those that are "other".)

Cheers again!

Joan Crawford said...

I think you nailed it on the head. Avatar was an amazing movie...with terrible dialog. I mean really, he spent 586 billion dollars and 34 years making this movie and he never thought "Hmm, better hire some writers"?

List of things that annoyed me about this movie:

1) Avatar boy looks like Brendan Frasier
2) Naavi girl looks more like Angelina Jolie than she does the super hot girl who actually played her
3) Avatar Sigourney Weaver haunts my dreams - the eyes! Dear God - it has absorbed her eyes!
4) Only one funny line in the whole damn thing. HOWEVER, Mr.I Have A Terrible Chest Infection and Should Be Quarantined kept laughing his insipid little laugh - non stop. How dare you enjoy yourself on my dime. He also went "Oh!" at every obvious handed-to-you revelation.
5) I *really* disliked the Avatar boy from the get go. What an asshole that guy was: "I am going to stomp around and endanger all these people like a big doof and act nothing like how I do in real life as a trained Marine!" all while having a stupid Brendan Frasier face.
6) The spiritual prayer thing at the end was way too Disney. I am surprised old Crazy Lady didn't break out into a snappy dance number with saucy shoulder shrugs.

Things I liked

Naavi girl hissing all the time. I have found that there are many situations when a heartfelt "piss off!" hiss is the only thing that will do.

Jenn said...

@Joan

Although I would respectfully disagree with your dislike of the movie, I will admit that you make a few good points.

ESPECIALLY THIS ONE:
Avatar Sigourney Weaver haunts my dreams - the eyes! Dear God - it has absorbed her eyes!

Oh, and btw, a saucy shoulder shrug or two never, EVER hurt a movie. Did it?

Ha!

Joan Crawford said...

@Jenn- Haha! True, true. In fact one of my all time favorite movie scenes ever is when Evil Octopus Lady (Claudia? Olga?) from the Little Mermaid does her whole "And don't forget the importance of Body Language!" dance thing.

I really hope you know what I am talking about.

Nikki Stafford said...

Joan: Ursula! I know that because I have a 5-year-old girl, and therefore have watched Little Mermaid 500 million billion times. ;)

Joan Crawford said...

@Nikki - Yes! Ursula! I wore that movie out when I was a kid. I was like "Well, she is 16 and ready to be an adult. Imagine being 16!?"

Also, "Mr.I Have A Terrible Chest Infection and Should Be Quarantined" was a random dude who sat near me - not my husband. I realized after reading it that it was a little unclear. "A little trouble in Paradise?" they all whispered.

ninja raiden said...

I would make the argument that Na'vi intellect was too superior to understand human "insanity" (as Neytiri's mom put it) so the planet (or mother Eywa) placed Sully in front the Na'vi to understand human behavior.

That is, the chance to see us at our best and our worst. Imagine a species so in tune with nature they can not comprehend the level of disrespect and destruction that was on display at the Hometree scene.

I would also say that Nature was the savior not Sully and that he was a means to the end that i described above. I saw shades of Vietnam and human arrogance, not White guilt. It was more like Human Guilt, if anything(They've killed their mother",Sully says).

Man can not dominate Nature no matter how high on the chain. Kinda like how the big dragon never looks up when Jake dominates it near the end of the movie...

After all he was not the first to tame it and Nature has a habit of evolving unlike some species on our planet not being able to evolve.

Cameron was using Sully's journey to say in spite of all we've done as a species, it is still in us to evolve to a higher level of consciousness. Which is why human dna can mix with Na'vi. We have that potential, so to speak.

That is what iI think is resonating subconsciously around the world with this movie, so to speak. The Na'vi way of life is not unlike the ways of the Force, which is why Star Wars hit the zeigeist.

I'm a diehard supporter of criticism and analysis, but sometimes hope in a simple message is what we need in our fiction from time to time. That can transcend complex analysis from time to time. To place Avatar's success on just its visuals is selling it short...

Can't wait for Lost to start up, guys!

P.s.Unfortunately in Hollywood, if someone is gonna sign over the amount of money they gave Cameron to make Avatar,they're gonna want to hit the broadest audience possible. And usually that means making the main character white. It's not a matter of ideology on Cameron's part, it's a matter of investment on the industry's part.

SonshineMusic said...

I pretty much agreed with you, Nikki. I had a number of friends who really disliked the movie. I was blown away by the imagery. My favorite little creature were the lizards that moved like helicopters. How cute was that?!

I wasn't overly impressed with the story, but I enjoyed the movie and wish I had been able to go see it in IMAX or 3D. (No one else in my house likes 3D movies, and I don't like to go alone, so I never get to see them :( )

Robert said...

The sheer ambition of Avatar probably gave him the award, but the film is not perfect.

Then again, have I enjoyed every award-winning film? Nope.

I had fun with Avatar, but I actually think Cameron deserved the award in comparison to the other nominees.

Fred said...

The people to ask about Avatar are anthropologists. Here are a few comments:

This first one is from Nancy Lutkehaus, USC College, who consulted with Cameron opn planning the Navi.

http://uscnews.usc.edu/arts/a_world_all_their_own.html

If you want to read what a bunch of anthropologists say (both good and bad) about Cameron's Avatar, see the following:

http://savageminds.org/2009/12/29/avatar-what-did-they-eat/

Alternatively, Avatar can be seen as a fantasy about white people pretending not to be white, or as the following article asks, "what do white people fantasize about when they fantasize about racial identity?":

http://io9.com/5422666/when-will-white-people-stop-making-movies-like-avatar

And finally this one by David Price which brings the theme of avatars and the real world together in HTT (Human Terrain Teams), like in Afghanistan and Iraq:

http://www.counterpunch.org/price12232009.html

This is not everyopne's cup of tea, and some of the positions expressed have nothing to do directly with how good or bad Cameron's film is as film. The last one especially interprets the cross-over between reality and art, how what we see on the big screen (or IMAX) is an aesthetic expression of what happens in the real world. The more fun one to read is the first http. Anyway, there is more to Avatar than comparison with Dances with Wolves, including our lives in second worlds.

Fred said...

One last thought about avatars, but not Avatar. Concerning LOST, if MiB takes over dead bodies, isn't that the same as an avatar? So are the dead people just avatars for the MiB? Oh, I hope not. Somehow I think that would spoil LOST. I really want Charlie who appears before hurley to really be Charlie, in some form.

Corey Redekop said...

Personally, I get don't the massive love, nor do I get the massive hatred. It was a fun movie, worth my money, but not nearly Cameron's best. Spectacular, but a little hollow. You could put it against District 9 (the best sci-fi of the year, but I haven't seen Moon yet), and you can see how it could have been tightened up. But he is without a doubt the best action director out there - put this up against anything by Michael Bay, and you'll get a true understanding of the difference between a maestro and a hack.

But it was fun. I was never bored, or felt insulted. I only wish Cameron gave the script to someone else of a polishing. Best picture? No, but I hate that I have to explain myself for even liking it. The hatred is way overheated.

Now, Cameron's Laser Cats? Awesomesauce.

Ambivalentman said...

You can check out my review of the film here: http://pop-culture-pundit.blogspot.com/2009/12/aliens-are-us-reflections-on-avatar.html

I posted after staying up for a midnight screening.

I stand by most of what I said, but upon re-reading, I don't think I mentioned that the story is a very traditional hero tale of the Joseph Campbell variety. I was not as bothered by this as some others, seeing that the film was dealing with some more complex thematic issues.

I liked your interpretation, Nik. Can't say I completely agree, but as always you're articulate and well thought out.

redeem147 said...

I haven't seen it yet, but I hear it's pretty.

I did also want to say how pleased I was that Mo'Nique won for Precious (outstanding film) playing a part that made John Lithgow on Dexter seem like a nice guy.

The Question Mark said...

After watching Avatar, I was amazed first & foremost at how simple the story really was. Look at other huge, epic movies, like "Pirates of the Caribbean" or "Lord of the Rings". Those movies had such intricate and often criss-crossing plotlines that it took a few watch-throughs to get them all in order inside your head. But Avatar, despite its epicness & royal blue grandeur, was set on a much smaller story scale.
Because of this, I walked out of the movie feeling like I had just seen a film that had already been popular for 20 years, like as if I had just for the 1st time watched "Alien" or "Die Hard" or something. It's something that is good, but seems like it would have had a much bigger impact in, say, 1980.
Ergo, because I tend to like movies from that era, I enjoyed Avatar quite a bit. I thought that Quaritch (the evil egeneral dude) was a great villain, the mechs were a nice callback to "Aliens", and Ana Lucia...er, I mean, Trudy, looked really damn good! ;)
I was born in 1987, so I guess I like the fact that Avatar is my generation's "Alien". It's not so much a great movie as it is a great pop culture phenomenon that I like being a part of. I will definitely check out the 2 sequels James Cameron has planned, and then (if it keeps in symmetry with other popular 80s franchises) the 4th and 5th Avatar films will be picked up by some hack director who will butcher the series completely. Then we will wait about 25 years until somebody decides to make "Avatar vs. Cloverfield", and at that point I assume poor Mr. Cameron will be spinning in his grave.
But hey, that's the movies for ya!

Gavin Michelli said...

I actually enjoyed Avatar as well, but I hesitate to compare it to movies as good as Dances with Wolves or The Last Samurai. I think that the link below is a pretty accurate comparison:

http://static1.cinemenu.com.br/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/avatar-pocahontas.gif

Susan said...

While Avatar was visually stunning, I found the plot way too predictable and stereotyped. I actually had no intention of seeing this movie, but my niece and nephews wanted to see it with my kids. For the amount of money we spent, it was a supreme waste of money.

I also wondered, in these days of H1N1, do they sterilize the 3D goggles after each showing?

Teebore said...

Well, I had a nice, long-winded response all ready to go and then my computer ate it. Let's see if I can recreate it in brief.

Cameron IS full of himself. When he spoke Na'vi to his cast I muttered "douche".

I definitely think his work as a director, bringing the whole thing together, is worthy of recognition/awards.

I'm not surprised Avatar won Best Pic at the Globes, considering how well it's playing abroad and the Globes voting body (the Hollywood Foreign Press). I'm not sure the more Hollywood-centric Academy will hold it in as high regard (though the nominations will assuredly be plenty, and it has a shot at a win).

"Dances with Wolves in Space" is apt, if a bit simplistic. More like "Dances with Wolves in Space, but With a Better Ending for the Natives."

I tend to side with the story being more timeless and Joseph Campbell-esque, like Sagacious Penguin, but the dialogue could use some work and man alive, some of those characters needed development. I would have liked the Evil Colonel to have been just 1% less cliche. Give me SOME motivation for his hatred of the Na'vi and willingless to commit genocide without blinking an eye. All he did was spout cliches; at first, I thought it was cute, until I realized he wasn't just a one-note character, but rather the villain of the whole thing. Giovanni Ribisi, for all his mustache-twirling, I understood: he was a company man, and was in it for the money.

Unobtanium: I dunno, maybe I'm giving him too much credit, but I liked it. There's no way Cameron didn't consciously pick that name. I mean, the material itself doesn't matter; all that matters is that people want it. He could have (and basically did) call it MacGuffinanium; I appreciate he just went with it, instead of trying to disguise its role in the story with some fancy name and detailed explanations.

Bottom line, Avatar is definitely visually stunning and worth seeing for the experience alone, in theater, preferrably in 3D. It's not without it's flaws, and it's certainly not the best movie of the year, but it's not the worst either, and I agree with Corey that all the hate seems a bit much. For all it's faults, it's definitely a movie worth the experience.

(Yeah, that's the short version, I swear...)

Nikki Stafford said...

Teebore: When he spoke Na'vi to his cast I muttered "douche".

And that is why I love you.

Great points all around, everyone. I've talked about Avatar to so many people and was surprised to find, as Corey said, that there are those who worship it and those who despise it. I thought it had a lot of amazing qualities, and some not-so-good ones. So I thought hey, why don't I throw this out to my readers and they'll have a far more intelligent discussion about it than anything else I've heard so far.

And I was right.

Thanks to everyone for jumping in and arguing for both sides. I'm really enjoying everything you're saying. Keep it coming!

humanebean said...

BTW, for an excellent book on some of the many changes in the film industry (particularly the rise of independents), I recommend Down And Dirty Pictures: Mirimax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film.

http://www.amazon.com/Down-Dirty-Pictures-Sundance-Independent/dp/0684862581/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1263929252&sr=1-1

I found the book revealing on many counts, not least of which was the portrait of Quentin Tarantino.

Also, the book describes how the increasing emphasis on box office bonanzas has irrevocably altered the movie industry - and this notion is the source of some of the backlash against Avatar. When a film as expensive, overhyped and flawed as this one is seen as the new 'standard', script and character development are undermined a bit. We get more Transformer clones and fewer films like The Hurt Locker.

Nikki Stafford said...

humanebean: That is a great book, agreed. Have you read Easy Riders, Raging Bulls? It's fantastic, and one of my favourite books. It's about the movie scene of the late 60s and 70s and basically provides the history that led to the rise of the independent film in the 90s.

Verification word (why am I getting one of these?): "herorf." Which is the feminine version of "hisorf."

humanebean said...

Haven't read it, I'm sorry to say - but I just ordered it from my local library system, so I surely will! Thx for the recommendation.

Verification word: "roball" the future of sports, i.e., an entirely automated game in which robots compete to score points before being destroyed by the competition, all while human spectators push buttons on seat consoles to provide momentum to their favorite 'bots and/or gamble on the action. Starring Jake Gyllenhall as the charismatic young owner of the Boston Bashers, Isla Fisher as his love interest and heiress to the rival franchise, the New York Masatadons, owned by her cagey father, Clive Owen.

Think I let my imagination get away from me, sometimes? ; ]

Gillian Whitfield said...

Apparently, eight is too young to see LOTR. That's how old I was when the first one came out. I had to wait for six years until I was old enough. LOTR is (are? I never know) my favourite movie.

Avatar, however, I have mixed feelings about seeing. Basically, everything you just said in your post, is what I'm expecting:killer CGI and a really bad story.

. . .
verification word:
ducke: the duck version of John Locke.

A.G.Wooding said...

Has your husband never offered to perform a guest blog, he sounds just as smart and opinionated as you when it comes to pop culture.

Sometimes you need a film like Avatar, not for new story, not for great actors, but for an age old story that has been around since your youth. Avatar was an updated disney film in some respects and to tell you the truth, Signourney Weaver made the film for me.

Nikki Faith said...

I don't necessarily think the writing was brilliant, but I don't think it was bad. And, the story hooked me immediately and resonated with me after I left. Then again, a lot of my friends would say I'm a tree-hugger. ;)
All my thoughts are in this blog if you'd like to take a gander:
http://underworldotherworld.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/avatar/

Ali Bags said...

I'm a bit late on the up take as I only went to see it Wednesday night - Avatar is basically old fashioned fun with the usual archetypes using 21st century technology.

I thought the script was pretty terrible - I haven't cringed (or laughed at inapproriate moments) so much since 'The Phantom Menace'

Questions:
1. Why do movies have to be so bloody long these days?
2. Why is the last act in a movie always some long, protracted (and for me, boring) fight scene?
3. Why create the message that war is bad and then end the movie with a big war which the good guys win, so undermining your whole message?
4. Why does the bad guy have to be so two dimensional

I agree with the person who said it's a souped up Disney cartoon. The CGI, however, is spectacular. I am old enough to be awestruck by what is possible nowadays. I saw Star Wars when it first came out and remember being pretty awestruck by that!

How cool would it be if someone made a movie with this kind of visual creativity AND a really good script in which people talked like real people? Or maybe a movie like that just wouldn't work? It would be nice if the movie industry took such risks though.

thomwade said...

Honestly, for movies that will stick with me? Both the Hurt Locker and Inglorious Basterds (along with Moon and probably about nine other films) were far more deserving of the best picture option. IB is the best thing Tarantino has done in the last decade (seriously, I don't get how people dislike a movie that functions on so many levels). The Hurt Locker is raw and intense. Sure, I felt like the film was this series of moments, rather than a linear story...but the final ten minutes made you really see the point of the movie. Okay, the opening quote points you in that direction as well.

Best picture should be films that will last, films that stick with you and force you to think about their bigger implications.

Avatar has cool visuals and 3-D. But the characters are pretty much stock Cameron characters and the actors are pretty much phoning it in. Plus, almost every scene seems to swipe imagery... the burning horse looked suspiciously familiar... why? Knowing had the same shot with a burning moose bursting through the woods. I didn't hate Avatar-but it's achievements are in visual effects... not story, not performances... it's a technical achievement...a ride.

Anything nominated but Avatar should have won best picture. I liked it, but it did not make my top ten. Heck, both Zombieland and Drag Me to Hell were more memorable films. Avatar was eye candy...it's fun while it lasts.

I could not be happy about the Hangover win... a *convicted* rapist is celebrated on stage...with jokes about him beating people up? Left a bad taste in my mouth.

thomwade said...

Uh...sorry...I got a little carried away...