Thursday, December 17, 2009

In case you have a
yen to see Avatar...

What Virtual Progressivism looks like.

SMURFS ARE COOL. The good news is that the Fox Business Network has finally produced a winning alternative to the Three Blind Mice that make up the cast of Fox & Friends. The bad news is that FBN's "Imus in the Morning" wastes a few minutes on obligatory stock-markety snore bait before it gets down to the 'business' of jeering at absolutely everyone and everything via Don Imus's now perfected pose of malignant narcissist heroically battling prostate cancer while evincing not the slightest concern or regard for a single other human being on earth. It's laugh-out-loud funny half the time and annoyingly financial or dully reminiscent of his old MSNBC show the other half. (Bo Dietl? Please.) At any rate, because Imus starts so slowly, I've continued to make the mistake of tuning in to the beginning of F&F, even though the stooges appear to be on a mission of getting demonstrably dumber every damn day.

But maybe today was the last straw. This morning, self-admitted cultural genius Steve Doocy announced that he had seen "Avatar" and pronounced it "great," "fantastic," and promised a full review on Friday. It's probably only a coincidence that James Cameron is a scheduled F&F guest tomorrow or so. I'm sure you've already been exposed to some of the MSM reviewers who share Doocy's glowing appraisal of the movie we're supposed to flock to like lemmings, but I thought you might appreciate some additional, uh, information:

Hollywood Reporter.

Is "Avatar" a $300 million [uh, wrong number] public service announcement about global warming? Some folks are saying that.

James Cameron responds, saying: "At whatever price tag, it's a PSA for global warming -- obviously Republican. (laughs) There is a theme ... and I think it's a theme that's a legitimate one, it's one that I care very passionately about, and by the way, I think if we want to survive as a species we better all start caring about it."

Big Hollywood Review 1.

The fact that “Avatar” is basically “Dances With Wolves in Space” represents the film’s major flaw. For despite being the most expensive film of all time, with a $300 million production cost and another estimated $200 million spent on advertising, “Avatar” is also one of the most derivative films of all time. It’s hard to believe that a man like Cameron (“Terminator 2,” “Titanic”), who is capable of absolute genius in creating the film’s staggering visuals and astonishing breakthroughs in 3D IMAX technology, is unable to come up with a screenplay that isn’t a hamfisted mishmash of countless better films’ plot elements and a heavy-handed bash on modern American foreign policy.

Big Hollywood Review 2.

Absent from the big screen for over a decade now, Oscar-winning director James Cameron returns armed with a reported half-billion dollars, a story he’s been desperate to tell for 15 years, and the very latest in cutting-edge visual technology. The result is “Avatar,” a sanctimonious thud of a movie so infested with one-dimensional characters and PC clichés that not a single plot turn – small or large – surprises. I call it the “liberal tell,” where the early and obvious politics of the film gives away the entire story before the second act begins, and “Avatar” might be the sorriest example of this yet. For all the time and money and technology that went into its making, the thing that matters most – character and story – are strictly Afterschool Special.

What a crushing disappointment from one of our most original and imaginative filmmakers...

Within 15 minutes, the “liberal tell” spoils every story beat of Sully’s character arc. He’s as dull a protagonist as you’ll ever see. Sigourney Weaver plays a gruff-talking, cigarette smoking scientist with … wait for it, wait for it … a heart of gold. Giovanni Ribisi’s sweaty weasel of a corporate executive never moves beyond that and Col. Quaritch is all ‘roid rage, no humanity and his Big Speech about the necessity of “a pre-emptive attack to fight terror with terror” was as surprising as Cameron‘s use of a military “shock and awe” campaign to level the Na’Vi’s precious “Home Tree” as a tacky metaphor for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Oh yeah, he went there…

NY Press.

Cameron’s superficial B-movie tropes pretend philosophical significance. His story’s rampant imperialism and manifest destiny (Giovanni Ribisi plays the heartless industrialist) recalls Vietnam-era revisionist westerns like Soldier Blue, but it’s essentially a sentimental cartoon with a pacifist, naturalist message. Avatar condemns mankind’s plundering and ruin of a metaphorical planet’s ecology and the aboriginals’ way of life. Cameron fashionably denounces the same economic and military system that make his technological extravaganza possible. It’s like condemning NASA—yet joyriding on the Mars Exploration Rover.

Pretty cool, huh? Hollywood insight on 9/11, the Iraq War, Global Warming, and the sickening evil of American capitalism all wrapped up in one diverting, half-billion-dollar, high-tech, big business 3D blockbuster. I can only wonder why Cameron didn't see fit to solve the healthcare controversy, too, while he was at it. Unless he had as much trouble raising the 2.5 trillion dollars the 'solution' costs as we will.

And there is one final caveat about Hollywood's most expensive movie ever, included almost as an afterthought in a lengthy U.K. article about Cameron's Magnificent Obsession, which struck me as odd. (And great that an American filmmaker who has made a fortune in America wants to debut his biggest movie ever in Europe...)

More worryingly for Cameron, the 3D effects, which are supposed to mean that Avatar is the 'first film of the future', left several viewers feeling nauseous. 'I definitely would not eat before seeing the film,' one told me.

Exactly the same feeling I had as a kid, thirty-some years ago, watching much-ballyhooed 3D experiments like "House of Wax" and "Carnage." Maybe the eyes and the brain don't like being continuously fooled into a perceptual illusion for 90 or 180 minutes at a time. No matter how much technology is deployed, at some point in time, illusion becomes delusion and the result is bodily resistance in the form of nausea.

The way some of us react to other popular delusions on the world stage at the moment -- the messianic identity of Barack Obama, the Democrat love of humanity which is pushing the healthcare bill toward passage, the "save the world through scientific autocracy" movement that is acting itself out so magnificently in Copenhaaaagen, the, uh, you get the picture.

Pun intended. Getting the picture in these instances requires a special set of eyeglasses. You've got to view the world in exactly the right artificial way not to see that the deep virtual reality you perceive in front of you is merely a tricked-up distraction from the deadly real knives advancing on your back from behind you.

That's why I didn't show you another Avatar trailer. What's far more important is the image above. The fools are being so willingly taken in. Every lying despot hands out his own set of glasses. And people put them on and keep them on. Soviet/Marxist glasses. Castro glasses. Che Guevara glasses. Chavez glasses. Al Gore glasses. Pelosi glasses. Obama glasses. They even learn to disregard the nausea as a kind of dyspeptic aversion to 'conservatives.' Why shouldn't they? They've learned to disregard every inconvenient fact along the way, too. Nausea has become part of their limbic response to life itself.

So why shouldn't James Cameron have his own special glasses? Enjoy the view. As long as you can bear it without puking your guts up.

Unfortunately, I'm already there. Without some safe zones, all they're doing now is making enemies of the rest of us. Which is another way of saying, screw you, Steve Doocy. Not seeing Avatar anytime soon.

UPDATE. Here's a Big Hollywood roundup and a more daring soul who sees in Cameron a D.W. Griffith figure. My only quibble -- not sure from what I've heard that 'Avatar' is the technological breakthrough it's supposed to be. Want to see a cinematic breakthrough that still takes the breath away half a century later? Take a look at this SINGLE UNINTERRUPTED SHOT in 1958's Touch of Evil.

Yeah, Orson Welles was a lefty too, but he was far more than a technocrat ideologue...

You kids...

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