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Christian wrote:

: Great line! Gosh. He's been married FIVE times? Yeesh.

In fairness, the fifth marriage has, by far, been the longest, apparently. As per the IMDb:

  • Suzy Amis (4 June 2000 - present) 3 children
  • Linda Hamilton (26 July 1997 - 1999) (divorced) 1 child
  • Kathryn Bigelow (17 August 1989 - 1991) (divorced)
  • Gale Anne Hurd (1985 - 1989) (divorced)
  • Sharon Williams (14 February 1978 - 1984) (divorced)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Richard Brody @ New Yorker:

In her review of the movie in the Times, Manohla Dargis uses the word I’ve been using all week to describe Cameron’s vision: “utopian.” It’s a utopia that has no technology; it’s a static society; it has no separate field of culture, just a cult, the rites of which are vast, collective, uniform. (As David says, “True, there’s no reality TV or fast food, but there’s no tennis or Raymond Chandler or Ella Fitzgerald, either.”) And the subterranean tendrils of the Na’vi “hometree” connects not only to all living things but also to the souls of the dead. (The wisdom of the elders is one thing, but who hasn’t also gotten a dose of the ignorance of the elders, too?)

Cameron’s imagining, in action and vision, of life on a fictitious planet is broad and vigorous. His use of 3-D, however, is less visual than it is experiential: he thrusts viewers into the ecstasy of flying on dragon-like creatures, of climbing, leaping, soaring, tumbling, falling to within an inch of life. In effect, he’s taking us seat-jockeys and letting us know that, if we could only experience the exhilaration of the physical, of action, of danger, we’d trade in our tennis and our Raymond Chandler and our Ella Fitzgerald (or, as Jake says, “What have we got to offer them—lite beer and bluejeans?”) and never look back.

Here’s how it affects the storytelling. Wes Anderson’s recent films, including “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” are all about the quest for adventure, and how the lure of exhilarating danger also offers real risks, to oneself and to others. But the Na’vis are, seemingly, invulnerable; they fly but they don’t fall; they don’t get sick (so the virtues of modern medicine are lost on them); there are no social issues awaiting technocratic organization, no crime demanding collective responses, no impulses to any sort of personal expression that might conflict with the demands of the Na’vi cult. In short, it’s not just “utopian,” it’s a set-up. And what it sets up is the view that, for the great run of humanity (including the hard-nosed Americans who, in the movie, head off in dubious battle against the Na’vis), the static and tribal society would actually be most satisfactory. Cameron offers a demagogic, anti-elitist vision of traditionalism that should, at the very least, give viewers pause and critics fodder.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I've yet to see any fevered speculation from online box-office prognosticators about whether an expected snowstorm Friday night into Saturday in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast might affect ticket sales during opening weekend. The D.C. media are in their usual pre-storm freakout mode.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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HotAir.com on the politics of Avatar

http://hotair.com/archives/2009/12/11/review-avatar-super-mega-ultra-left-wing/

Via Ace, just doing my part to spread the word. You know what sounds like a fun Friday night? A three-hour lecture on imperialism starring Smurfs.

The political import of Avatar — and there’s no waving this aspect away because it’s right in your face start to finish, and especially in the third act — is ardently left. It is pro-indigenous native, anti-corporate, anti-imperialist, anti-U.S. Iraq War effort, anti-U.S.-in-Afghanistan (and anti-troop-surge-in-that-country, or strongly against the thinking of President Barack Obama and Gen. Stanley McChrystal), anti-rightie, anti-Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld, etc.

Edward Curtis

Morgantown, WV

Hold the physician in honor, for he is essential to you, and God it was who created his profession. Sirach 38:1 NAB

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SDG gets a lot of secret emails doesn't he?

Heh. For the record, I'm as surprised as anyone to learn that A&F critics bounce their thoughts off SDG. I PM'd him after the discussion had started here, because one of my posts in our back-and-forth went unanswered for 24 hours (which qualifies as EONS in discussion-board time), and, in the interim, I had developed some reservations about how much I was saying about the film. So I thanked him for not replying. That's all.

However, in the process of laying out my claims again, I came to realize that one of the things that bugged me about the film was that neither the Na'vi nor the humans-as-avatars interested me nearly as much as the human characters on the ship. They were give lame dialogue both on the ship and off it, but in writing to SDG, the notion that I would have liked more of the human characters crystallized for me. Didn't make it into my review, however.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Heh. For the record, I'm as surprised as anyone to learn that A&F critics bounce their thoughts off SDG. I PM'd him after the discussion had started here, because one of my posts in our back-and-forth went unanswered for 24 hours (which qualifies as EONS in discussion-board time), and, in the interim, I had developed some reservations about how much I was saying about the film. So I thanked him for not replying. That's all.

Hey, our PM back-and-forth started BEFORE that thread post I didn't respond to. I was the one who initially took the discussion private -- and said so in the thread -- because you were asking questions in the thread that I didn't want to respond to under embargo.

FWIW, I bounced my thoughts off everyone else as much as the other way around. I haven't posted my PMs/emails here only because everything I had to say made it into my review, more or less as originally written.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Hey, our PM back-and-forth started BEFORE that thread post I didn't respond to.

Did it? Sorry. Hope I wasn't betraying any confidences, and I certainly didn't mean to botch the facts.

I relent and will not PM again.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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My review.

Steven, your Avatar review is one of your best, methinks.

Wow, thanks!

Jeff, I love this from yours:

Normally, innovations are employed to bring horrors and nightmares to life. Peter Jackson depended on New Zealand for the beauty of The Lord of the Rings’ Middle Earth, using effects to depict monsters, wars, and wastelands.

By contrast, Pandora is a whole new world of breathtaking beauty, exploding with wild new life forms that give soar, spark, prowl, pounce, gallop, and graze. Borrowing heavily, and brilliantly, from what he’s seen in deep-sea exploration, Cameron has built the most enchanting magic kingdom since Dorothy first stepped into Technicolor Oz. The first hour feels like something Terrence Malick might film in a rain forest in a galaxy far, far away.

The contrast to the mostly non-effects-driven beauties of LotR is a great, great insight. And while I've watched Cameron's deep-sea documentaries -- and noticed some of the submarine influences on Pandoran flora -- I didn't make the connection there you did. Brilliant! And while I wanted to cite Malick, you found the right way of doing it.

Now that you've posted your review, I may revised the line I borrowed from you and simply quote you (and I'll probably revise the bit I borrowed from Peter to credit him too, now that I won't be quoting two private exchanges with peers in the same review).

Did it? Sorry. Hope I wasn't betraying any confidences, and I certainly didn't mean to botch the facts.

How could you be betraying a confidence? I said I would PM you at the time.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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FWIW, one of many thoughts I've been mulling over but don't have room for in my 500-word blurb:

I happened to see this film around the time I read that House Next Door piece on Lawrence of Arabia, and my mind keeps looping back to the fact that Avatar pretty much embodies every colonial little-boy fantasy that Lawrence of Arabia deconstructs with such ruthless, complicated precision.

Jake Sully "goes native" and succeeds; Lawrence WANTS to go native, sort of, but can't, because the fact remains that he is NOT a native.

Jake Sully unites the tribes of Pandora in battle against a common enemy, i.e. his fellow humans; Lawrence unites the Arab tribes against the Turks, for a spell, and he also unites them in competition with his fellow Brits, but he cannot help but watch as the coalition falls apart and the Arabs inevitably fall back on compromised (in every sense of the word) arrangements with the Brits.

Jake Sully unites the tribes of Pandora with such extreme ease that you wonder why this harmonious planet ever broke up into different tribes in the first place; Lawrence must kill a man in cold blood -- someone he had previously made a big deal of rescuing, in fact -- in order to prevent a bloodbath between his allies.

Jake Sully says the people of Earth have nothing to offer the Na'vi, while the Na'vi are an infinite fount of wisdom and spirituality; Lawrence similarly romanticizes the Arabs and benefits from his contact with them, yet it is clear that they could stand to benefit from British technology, British politics, and a few other things besides, too.

Jake Sully finds heroism and exhiliration in wanton warfare and destruction; Lawrence stares at his blood-soaked reflection in his blood-soaked knife after one of his more violent battles and wonders what's become of him (and, in an earlier scene, he expresses surprise when his Arab colleague shows compassion for the Turks who are being bombed to hell by the British in the distance).

Jake Sully is valued by the humans (until he turns against them) and gets to become a pretty big cheese in Na'vi society; Lawrence and/or his British admirer come to the realization that he was just a pawn on both sides of the British-Arab alliance, and that both sides are "equally glad to be rid of him" when the war is over.

Jake Sully gets the girl; Lawrence ... doesn't (though he IS raped by a bunch of Turkish officers).

There may be other divergences, but these are the first ones that occur to me.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I haven't seen it yet, so maybe my question is off-base... But with all the discussion I've read here and abroad, I'm fairly confident I can ask:

How can Sully feel humans have nothing to offer the Na'vi when it is through human technology that he is brought to them and saves them? Sure, we could have destroyed them and were trying to, but we also provided the means of their salvation from ourselves, no?

Edited by Darryl A. Armstrong

"It's a dangerous business going out your front door." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
"I would never be dismissive of pop entertainment; it's much too serious a matter for that." -- NBooth

"If apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him." -- Josie

"What if--just what if--the very act of storytelling is itself redemptive? What if gathering up the scraps and fragments of a disordered life and binding them between the pages of a book in all of their fragmentary disorder is itself a gambit against that disorder?" -- NBooth

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Jake is talking about how the Na'vi will never relocate because humans have nothing they want or need. Yes it's a rather simple and silly statement but because the dichotomy in the film between the humans and the Na'vi is so black and white it is essentially true regardless of the irony of human technology bringing about the salvation of the Na'vi. The script is not interested in complexity or irony.

Edited by rjkolb

If there were no God, there would be no Atheists.

G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936)

I'm still an atheist, thank God.

Luis Bunuel (1900 - 1983)

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Box-office-wise, David Poland reminds us that the top opening weekend in December, ever, is the $77.2 million that I Am Legend made two years ago -- a figure that ranks only #25 among the opening weekends of all time but which, like I say, is the best that any film has ever done this month. Poland also notes that the two top-grossing films of all time worldwide -- Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King -- opened in December to even smaller numbers. So, the opening weekend is only so important; what really matters, as usual, is whether the film will have legs.

FWIW, Poland also writes: "The highest grossing opening of ALL TIME for an original screenplay movie is The Passion of The Christ's $83.8 million... and I'm not sure that really counts." I would add that, of the 21 films that have had bigger opening weekends, all but 3 were sequels -- the non-sequels being Spider-Man, Iron Man and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, all of which were adaptations of existing properties. The other non-sequels that had openings of over, say, $70 million (in other words, the other non-sequels among the Top 37 openings of all time) are I Am Legend (a remake), The Da Vinci Code (an adaptation of a best-seller), 300 (an adaptation of a graphic novel), Transformers (a remake), The Incredibles and Finding Nemo.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Ali Arikan on "Avatar" at The House Next Door: IM IN UR PLANET INCITIN REBELLION

Some interesting stuff but the end made me laugh:

"Avatar is a good film. Had he stuck to his strengths, Cameron could have even made it his masterpiece. But he bites off more than he can chew and, eventually, produces a sumptuous feast for the eyes that’s as dumb as a rock. Then again, you don’t go to Hooters for the food."

Edited by rjkolb

If there were no God, there would be no Atheists.

G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936)

I'm still an atheist, thank God.

Luis Bunuel (1900 - 1983)

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I happened to see this film around the time I read that House Next Door piece on Lawrence of Arabia, and my mind keeps looping back to the fact that Avatar pretty much embodies every colonial little-boy fantasy that Lawrence of Arabia deconstructs with such ruthless, complicated precision.

=D>

Weirdly, all of these insights make me like Lawrence of Arabia better, and want to see it again.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Then again, you don’t go to Hooters for the food.

MOVIE. REVIEW. LINE. OF. THE. YEAR.

:lol:

...but seriously, I have ordered their wings for pick up.

"It's a dangerous business going out your front door." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
"I would never be dismissive of pop entertainment; it's much too serious a matter for that." -- NBooth

"If apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him." -- Josie

"What if--just what if--the very act of storytelling is itself redemptive? What if gathering up the scraps and fragments of a disordered life and binding them between the pages of a book in all of their fragmentary disorder is itself a gambit against that disorder?" -- NBooth

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Scott Von Doviak @ Nerve.com:

If Avatar really is a game-changer, could someone please explain exactly which game it’s supposed to be changing? Already James Cameron’s years-in-the-making opus is shaping up as the year’s most divisive movie, with one camp proclaiming it the most awe-inspiring sensory experience ever to grace a movie theater, and the other finding it somewhat lacking in areas like story, character, pacing, dialogue, and acting… you know, the stuff that used to be considered the basic building blocks of good cinema. So how is Avatar any different than a hundred other special-effects spectaculars over the past several decades? The technology may be ever-changing, but the game remains the same. . . .

If Cameron wasn’t going to make a great movie with his rumored half-billion dollar budget, he could have at least given us an entertaining train wreck. But Avatar, which plods on for a punishing two hours and forty-two minutes, is more boring than bad. There’s no denying that the motion-capture 3D visuals are some kind of technical achievement, but after spending a while in the aquarium-like world of Pandora, I started to feel like I was staring at the world’s most expensive screensaver. . . .

Richard Brody @ The New Yorker:

It’s a little surprising to hear and read (as in David Denby’s review) of the ostensible beauty of “Avatar.” Deft script construction, yes; coherent realization of life on a fictitious planet, certainly; but as for beauty, the CGI jungle-scapes of the planet Pandora’s wilds, though elaborate, are hardly variegated. Great attention was paid, for instance, to creating eye-catching flora that did wondrous tricks, but there was hardly any element of surprise, of what my brother-in-law, a former art director, calls “contrived randomness” (for that, see any one of the remarkable images of Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox”). Such things are a product of taste; Cameron’s is bluff and unrefined.

“Avatar” is impressive, even overwhelming; I’m not sure how much of that is due to the pure sensation of three-dimensional swooping through the movie’s computer-generated spaces and how much to the Wagnerian narrative sweep and the effective emotional tug that the movie induces, though I am curious to see it in 2-D to find out. The experience was surely exciting, and inspired, as Manohla Dargis says in the Times, “awe” (though not shock). What it didn’t engender was joy—the near-laughter at visual inventions that are so extravagant as to seem borderline ridiculous and that, at the same time, actually pack a new idea. . . .

Peter Suderman @ Reason.com:

Last week, Jeffrey Wells called Avatar "the most flamboyant, costliest, grandest left-liberal super-movie anyone's ever seen," and that's true as far as it goes — but he forgot a word. It's also one of the
stupidest
major movies in recently memory, blithely peddling a message that its entire production process actually undermines. That Avatar's melodramatic attacks on corporate interests and its defense of simple, natural living come packaged as one of the most expensive, and probably the most technically advanced, corporate films in history would seem to indicate that only quality bigger than the movie's stupidity is its head-in-the-clouds hypocrisy. Cameron's made a movie that he intends to be epic and awesome, but the only thing that's awesome here is his total lack of self-awareness.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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What it didn’t engender was joy—the near-laughter at visual inventions that are so extravagant as to seem borderline ridiculous and that, at the same time, actually pack a new idea. . . .

Who knew the criteria for engendering joy were so specific?

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Ebert twittered this earlier today: Avatar is communalistic, New Age pagan, PC, Marxist, racist, ugly, dirty, has alien sex and bestiality! http://j.mp/5WTcrg

Anyone have to guess who the review is by? And not surprisingly, many of those retweeting the link start with the words, "The Christian review of Avatar," or "What Christians think of Avatar."

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Ebert twittered this earlier today: Avatar is communalistic, New Age pagan, PC, Marxist, racist, ugly, dirty, has alien sex and bestiality! http://j.mp/5WTcrg

Anyone have to guess who the review is by? And not surprisingly, many of those retweeting the link start with the words, "The Christian review of Avatar," or "What Christians think of Avatar."

I've commented on Ebert's blog drawing attention to the reviews from Jeff, Todd and me. (It hasn't gone up yet -- comments at Ebert's blog are moderator approved.)

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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