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Originally Posted by Merriweather
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So Cameron invents and discovers things. Great. He's still at the bottom of the pile when it comes to writing an affecting and original screenplay, which to me is of far more value in a hyphenate like him than coming up with a great new camera.

Bottom of the pile? Really? I would put him somewhere around the middle at least (or in your case, at best). I swear, you must have "I Hate Cameron" tattooed across your chest, Alan Partridge-style.
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Originally Posted by joeypants
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You're still not "seeing the performance directly" in Avatar.

And Gollum's facial structure is so different from Serkis's/any other human that to complain about animators having to step in to "fill in gaps" and manipulate the performance is silly.

It's not about facial structure. That has NOTHING to do with the performance. John Hurt was still John Hurt when he wore an appliance the size of a boulder in The Elephant Man. You ARE seeing the pure performance through this method. It's makeup.

The main guy at WETA said that when they had perfected the process (which involved a lot of tweaking, the same way that a makeup artist tweaks appliances and tones), they were literally dropping the facial mocap info into the model and it was DONE. Cameron was judging the peformances of the actors AS their full Na'vi forms, LIVE, on the set (albeit in simplified form, as full renders were still taking 50 hours a frame).
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Originally Posted by mcnooj82
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Wasn't Bill Nighy's Davy Jones also an interpretation of the man's performance via animators?

Eh... on film, all performance is seen through some layer/distance. You're not seeing it directly. You're seeing a performance through the volatile mix of the camerawork, the lighting, the cutting/combining of different takes that all leads back to the director. What we're talking about now is simply another level of distance from seeing a performance live.

Davy Jones is a weird beast, because he WAS all animated, even the eyes, but was "rotoscoped" over Nighy in a process that ILM called "digital makeup". That's why it FEELS like Nighy's there. What also helped was that Nighy added tons of little unique idiosyncrasies to his performance knowing what effect it would have on the finished character (like the little "pop" he does with his lips after some words).
UGH! I LOVED that little pop!

"Price? ... mmpop!"

Didn't know that about Davy Jones. Thanks Greg.
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Originally Posted by Andre Dellamorte
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With films there are things you can be right about and things you can be wrong about. If you think that Devin's honesty is unimpeachable, why are you saying he could be wrong? Also, as per shitting on, the film is being sold as the greatest adventure film of all time. That is hyperbole worthy of being batted around to see if it holds true. And ultimately the way the thing was achieved is like arguing over wether they used modern stock or nitrate stock. How the thing was achieved doesn't change how we respond to the thing itself.

On the first point: there are politicians who are honest and have good intentions and who I believe are absolutely dead wrong on something. Because I don't see the world like someone else does doesn't mean that other person is dishonest. For instance, I have a friend who's dead set about putting any more money in manned spaceflight; she things it should all go to social programs. I love her dearly, but I think she's completely wrong.

As for the hyperbole...I mean, fuck, we're gonna let advertising color our opinions of a film? There are genuine advancements in the film and I love talking about them, but if we're going to believe marketing campaigns, Pluto Nash would've been the adventure of a lifetime.

I get your last point, and it's probably true. However, I've always found that process IS part of the story for me; my enjoyment of Star Wars was always colored by seeing models blowing up against bluescreens, or having the giant carousel in my head while watching the Discovery scenes in 2001. This, however, is just me, and I concede the point.
This is coloring, but I think you can have bad taste, not wrong taste.

And this film is about being big, and selling itself as such - though Cameron toned down the hyperbole - and for people who haven't seen the film yet, giving it context to what it does is important in the face of that. It was called a game changer by many.

As per the how, I'm fascinated by it too, but showing the process of cooking doesn't make my dinner taste any better or worse.
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Originally Posted by Andre Dellamorte
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As per the how, I'm fascinated by it too, but showing the process of cooking doesn't make my dinner taste any better or worse.

Says you! hahahahaha...
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Originally Posted by joeypants
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You're still not "seeing the performance directly" in Avatar.

And Gollum's facial structure is so different from Serkis's/any other human that to complain about animators having to step in to "fill in gaps" and manipulate the performance is silly.

As a sometimes-3D animator (admittedly, a terrible one), I have some idea what Cameron is talking about and his is a valid point. Basically, in Pirates (incoherent!) or LoTR (boring!) the animators would "trace" over the rough performance capture data using a simplified facial rig, so it's more akin to rotoscoping motion than "capturing" it in those cases. Not that this is inherently bad; Davy Jones remains the most impressive CGI character I've seen and his performance seems to match Nighy's pretty closely.

According to Cameron's claims, for Avatar he had the animators build a full facial rig for each character, with bones and muscles corresponding exactly with each actor's real bones and muscles. So the performance capture data isn't any better, but the system of translation is "purer." In other words, Cameron shifted the brunt of the work from animating to rigging; in earlier performance capture movies (this is solely as regards facial animation) the animators would painstakingly interpret the performance for a relatively simple rig; in Avatar, the performance is mapped more directly onto a painstakingly built complex rig. This may also be a matter of logistics; given the volume of performance capture work in Avatar, more time spent rigging might be more efficient than more time spent animating.

Also, to anyone (excepting critics or industry folks, who "have" to see Avatar irrespective of their feelings re: Cameron) who is complaining about this film in advance of having seen it: you are completely and profoundly dumb. Even Cameron's fans know this is a James Cameron movie--and we know what that entails. Yes, we've seen Terminator 2. Yes, that movie has terrible dialogue and is just about the most obvious and ham-fisted allegory since ever. Yes, that movie was the most expensive special effects extravaganza of its time and yet it had an explicitly anti-technology message at its core, which is completely ridiculous. (And it's no less ironic that Cameron made the flat-out "biggest" movie ever in Titanic and hubristically claimed it was unsinkable at the box-office; but fwiw, Titanic was superb.) We know who James Cameron is and what his movies are about. All I'm saying is: if you're looking for good dialogue, watch David Mamet or some shit and stop trolling about James Cameron (who actually is a good screenwriter; his command of story structure and genre convention is superb). Maybe you can't appreciate superbly staged action, technological innovation pushed forward by the most demanding and most tech-savy director in Hollywood, etc. Maybe it's not your thing. But it's a lot of other people's "thing"--and a few bad lines of dialogue and a story weird at odds with the technology behind it are as inherent to James Cameron's output as groundbreaking effects work, well-paced stories, and superb craftsmanship (especially as regards action shot choice). There are trade-offs that just exist in his films because of who he is as an artist. If you hate his movies, your loss. Not ours. You don't have to see this movie and you don't have to complain about it either.

(Furthermore, how can you not want this to be good? I honestly think John Carter of Mars, my next-most anticipated film after this and Tree of Life, was greenlit and conceptualized (w/r/t technology and production, obviously not story and yes, I know Stanton does not like 3D) partially due to the hype surrounding Avatar. Cameron actually did change the industry with Terminator, Terminator 2 (especially), and Titanic. If Avatar is good, even if you don't like it, it means more better movies sooner. I just can't get behind any amount of hate for this movie.)
edit: ^^ I'm not reading that

Anyone who says Devin's review was unexpected is deluding themselves. Doesn't mean it wasn't honest, thought out and well written, though.
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Originally Posted by Andre Dellamorte
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This is coloring, but I think you can have bad taste, not wrong taste.

And this film is about being big, and selling itself as such - though Cameron toned down the hyperbole - and for people who haven't seen the film yet, giving it context to what it does is important in the face of that. It was called a game changer by many.

As per the how, I'm fascinated by it too, but showing the process of cooking doesn't make my dinner taste any better or worse.

I think you can have good taste but a wrong opinion!

I agree with your second graf, and I'm always interested in people putting things in context. I'm just annoyed that this stuff quickly becomes hagiography. Nick raves about Avatar - wow! I can't wait to see it. Devin half-pans it - what a voice of wisdom, I knew the emperor had no clothes!

Ah hell, I just need to quit reading pre-release reviews...

On the last point, there's been a lot of scientific studies showing how a sensation like taste IS highly colored by any number of external factors (like a piece of steak actually tastes different based on mood), and for me that's true with the filmmaking process and films. However, I'll retire this line of discussion before we follow this off the cliff. Apologies for the OT and I appreciate your cogent thoughts.
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Originally Posted by Policar
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I like dumb stories and one-dimensional characters if the explosions are big and fun.

Not me. To each their own.
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Originally Posted by Ryan Bean
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edit: ^^ I'm not reading that

Okay.

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Originally Posted by Matches_Malone
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Not me. To each their own.

That's cool; don't see the movie, then. I do like big explosions (of course there's 1000 times more than that to Cameron's work, but--yes--if it's not your thing and you can't engage with it, empty spectacle is all it boils down to*) but it's a matter of taste. I just take offense at the amount of player-hating herein: hate the game, not the player--and if you hate the game stay out if it.

*I couldn't even sit through True Lies, impressive though some of it is. Ugh.
I'm a big fan of jangly car keys and little pieces of tossed-aside metal I find on the ground. It's a matter of taste
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Originally Posted by Count Chocula
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I'm a big fan of jangly car keys and little pieces of tossed-aside metal I find on the ground. It's a matter of taste

I wish I could hear Kevin Spacey narrate this stuff when your life flashes before your eyes. Oscar bait!
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Originally Posted by Count Chocula
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I'm a big fan of jangly car keys and little pieces of tossed-aside metal I find on the ground. It's a matter of taste

If you equate superb narrative craftsmanship, filmmaking that pushes the medium forward (like it or not, the modern action blockbuster--w/r/t economics, spectacle, storytelling, and visual language--is largely a result of Terminator 2 and Titanic), and fantastic (if on-the-nose) action direction and visual storytelling with "pieces of tossed-aside metal" just because of bad dialogue and clunky thematics, well...really, it's your loss and inability to respect film as an ontologically distinct medium. Go watch Merchant/Ivory.
Quick question for those who have seen the film: is it safe for early teens? I have a nearly-14 year old and 12.5 year old, and wanted to know if there's any violence or sex that would be questionable.
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Originally Posted by DimitriL
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And incidentally, coming up with a new technology that everyone can use? That IS more valuable than a fucking action movie. Why? Because pretty much everyone CAN make a fucking action movie.

Couldn't disagree more. I don't give a shit about the technology involved, or the advancements made, I want a terrific movie when I plunk down my twelve bucks — and that's exactly why I was excited to hear that Cameron was back on the job after ten years. History and hundreds of forgettable action extravaganzas have clearly demonstrated that not everyone can make a fucking action movie. In fact, very few people can.

Anyone expecting depth of character or, for god's sake, a subtle screenplay from James Cameron hasn't been paying much attention to his body of work. He paints in the broadest strokes possible, traffics in universal themes, and delivers flicks that are entertaining as hell. He'll never be Neil Jordan or Jim Jarmusch, but in his chosen milieu, he's the best man working.

Incidentally, I have seen no better indicator of Internet Movie Geek Mentality (IMGM™) than the recent surge of dismissiveness toward Cameron's films. For years his flicks have been held among movie geeks as something of a gold standard in the sci-fi action genre. Since the Avatar hype machine ramped up, I can't seem to go anywhere without reading about how much he sucks. It's become so bad that I've seen people dissing Aliens. Aliens, people! It is officially time to step back and reflect on where we're going as a society.
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Originally Posted by darthspielberg
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There are three real IMAXs anywhere near me (a state and a half away), one of which is not showing Avatar in favor of keeping their educational programing (and one "Hollywood" IMAX Film, for one showing aday. It's Star Trek) while the other two are going all out to premier Avatar. Is the IMAX you went to part of a museum or aquarium or something like that? They might eschew the big blockbuster to show more UNDERSEA 3D stuff.

We only have the one, but it lives in a mall that has a separate, normal movie theatre on top of having the IMAX. NEITHER is getting Avatar I was able to get seats over my lunch break at a Sunday 1pm showing at a different theatre that actually has 3D capabilities, so I am happy. Come to think of it, the IMAX was retaining all of it's normal programming (i.e. they didn't have Star Trek running or any Hollywood movies - but in the past I have seen Prisoner of Azkaban and The Matrix Reloaded there). For a theatre that traditionally gets less moviegoers through the door than the big cineplexes, you'd think they'd be all over having Avatar play for the next three months on more than one screen.
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Originally Posted by DimitriL
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1) He went on a rant about Cameron this summer, essentially calling him a fat-cat adventurer. In a world where people have little curiosity about anything, and even less enthusiasm about exploration and discovering, I thought it was deeply unfair.

In what way is what Devin said unfair? It's not inaccurate.

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Originally Posted by DimitriL
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2) It was addressing specific points in Devin's review.

In a way but you're still wrong. Secondary animation needs to be done on the characters and that's where all the nuance and subtlety come in.
I believe there is an objective stance to take on the quality of an artwork. One can explain how a character is poorly constructed, or how a plot is badly paced, illogical, etc.

Whether one likes it - now that's a matter of taste. That's why I qualified my post with, "to each their own." And Policar is basically saying the same thing I quoted, except using three or so paragraphs to do it.
Policar, you must be the dullest person in the world. You're literally like a gingerbread man made out of gruel.
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Originally Posted by Policar
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Also, to anyone (excepting critics or industry folks, who "have" to see Avatar irrespective of their feelings re: Cameron) who is complaining about this film in advance of having seen it: you are completely and profoundly dumb. Even Cameron's fans know this is a James Cameron movie--and we know what that entails. Yes, we've seen Terminator 2. Yes, that movie has terrible dialogue and is just about the most obvious and ham-fisted allegory since ever. Yes, that movie was the most expensive special effects extravaganza of its time and yet it had an explicitly anti-technology message at its core, which is completely ridiculous. (And it's no less ironic that Cameron made the flat-out "biggest" movie ever in Titanic and hubristically claimed it was unsinkable at the box-office; but fwiw, Titanic was superb.) We know who James Cameron is and what his movies are about. All I'm saying is: if you're looking for good dialogue, watch David Mamet or some shit and stop trolling about James Cameron (who actually is a good screenwriter; his command of story structure and genre convention is superb). Maybe you can't appreciate superbly staged action, technological innovation pushed forward by the most demanding and most tech-savy director in Hollywood, etc. Maybe it's not your thing. But it's a lot of other people's "thing"--and a few bad lines of dialogue and a story weird at odds with the technology behind it are as inherent to James Cameron's output as groundbreaking effects work, well-paced stories, and superb craftsmanship (especially as regards action shot choice). There are trade-offs that just exist in his films because of who he is as an artist. If you hate his movies, your loss. Not ours. You don't have to see this movie and you don't have to complain about it either.

Ah the old I don't like people pointing out faults in a film I like defense.

Part of talking about film is hearing other people's interpretations or criticisms of said film or filmmaker. Go to JamesCameronBlogSpot if you want no one to dare criticize his work.

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Originally Posted by DimitriL
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I agree with your second graf, and I'm always interested in people putting things in context. I'm just annoyed that this stuff quickly becomes hagiography. Nick raves about Avatar - wow! I can't wait to see it. Devin

Jesus Christ, give it up with this already. Point me in the direction of one person who has flip flopped because of the reviews. Show me the posts where someone said they were going to hate it, read Nick's review, said they were going to love it, then read Devin's review and said they were going to hate it.
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Originally Posted by Captain Mal
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Couldn't disagree more. I don't give a shit about the technology involved, or the advancements made, I want a terrific movie when I plunk down my twelve bucks — and that's exactly why I was excited to hear that Cameron was back on the job after ten years. History and hundreds of forgettable action extravaganzas have clearly demonstrated that not everyone can make a fucking action movie. In fact, very few people can.

Anyone CAN make an action movie. A good one? Maybe not, but come ON. It's a crapshoot. Even Scorsese's made bad films. Do you think he got up one morning and said, hey, I'm going to make a movie that sucks this year! I give no credit to any one person making something GOOD. 95% of it is just fucking random.

And again, you're SO wrong. A technology that can be used to HELP people is worth so much more than any given movie that it's laughable to even debate it.

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Originally Posted by Ryan S~
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In what way is what Devin said unfair? It's not inaccurate.


In a way but you're still wrong. Secondary animation needs to be done on the characters and that's where all the nuance and subtlety come in.

1) It IS inaccurate. It portrays him as someone who got a lot of money and decided to become a daredevil. I think that's ludicrous. He's an innovator and a tinkerer, whether or not he was working for Corman with the "legendary" set-design-by-meal-tray improvisations, or working with a 400 millino budget. By Devin's definition, Robert Ballard is a useless cocksucker too.

2) See the above posts for a better explanation that I can provide, or better yet, watch the 25-minute video interview with Popular Mechanics which goes VERY deep into the geeky technical stuff.
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Originally Posted by Aranion
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Quick question for those who have seen the film: is it safe for early teens? I have a nearly-14 year old and 12.5 year old, and wanted to know if there's any violence or sex that would be questionable.

It's probably ok. A very little bit of swearing. Lots of blue ass and blue side boob, and a bit of kissing. There's violence (deaths, gunfire and people being shot with arrows, scary monsters) but it's generally bloodless. There's no torture or real nastyness.
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Originally Posted by Ryan S~
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Jesus Christ, give it up with this already. Point me in the direction of one person who has flip flopped because of the reviews. Show me the posts where someone said they were going to hate it, read Nick's review, said they were going to love it, then read Devin's review and said they were going to hate it.

You fucking misread me. I wasn't talking about one imaginary person flip-flopping, I was talking about different people taking sides. Fuck's sake. Read.
This thread seems to be full of people who haven't seen the film arguing over Devin's review.

I felt the review is quite accurate in the text, though the score is a little negative. Perhaps I got more basic enjoyment out of the world design than Devin.
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Originally Posted by DimitriL
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And again, you're SO wrong. A technology that can be used to HELP people is worth so much more than any given movie that it's laughable to even debate it.

I don't think anyone's disputing that. What people are saying is that, even if a film's production invents a cure for cancer, that has no bearing on the value of the film itself as a work of art.
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Originally Posted by Ryan S~
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Ah the old I don't like people pointing out faults in a film I like defense.

Part of talking about film is hearing other people's interpretations or criticisms of said film or filmmaker. Go to JamesCameronBlogSpot if you want no one to dare criticize his work.

I'm not going to read that blog, which looks just terrible, but it's really not so much "don't point out flaws" as it is an "accept trade-offs" type situation. I mean, I just listed a lot of fairly apparent faults that persist across Cameron's films; I'm aware of them whether or not others want to point them out. The thing is, they're the right faults for the kinds of movies Cameron makes; maybe they could be mitigated to some extent, sure, but Cameron knows what kinds of movies he's making and he has smart priorities re: what shows up onscreen. Maybe you don't agree with his priorities and you certainly don't have to like his movies, but he has a consistent and smart track record with just a few flat-out flops (True Lies....). I haven't seen Avatar yet, so I don't know; maybe it's not that great, but there's really no reason to preemptively hate on it because you don't like the director's earlier work. There's no checklist of things a "good movie" should have; it's a pretty broad and malleable medium and one in which you can't really "have it all." Which is great: I love Speed Racer and I love Badlands, but not for the same reasons.

The thing is, Cameron's not using cliched story devices and familiar tropes because he's "bad" or "unoriginal;" he's looking for broad audience appeal and a story that's accessible and easily understood. There's a difference between drawing on genre convention to to speed up exposition or playing on universal themes and being "cliched" and that difference is intention; Cameron can't tell a morally ambiguous, nuanced character study and have you cheer as he blows stuff up all at once. Even re: Terminator 2's thematics (and apparently Avatar's) being totally at odds with its high-tech production, it's understandable: Cameron's a science geek and of course he's going to be fascinated by high tech camera tools even as he writes stories warning about overreaching scientists. Criticizing Terminator 2 for having an overly broad story isn't much more insightful than criticizing Casablanca for having too few action set pieces and hating on Avatar before-the-fact is completely ridiculous. I respect any well-resaoned negative review of the film so long as it's willing to take it on its own terms (and more broadly, specifically film-related terms); I don't respect internet haters. P.S. Dark Knight sucked.
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Originally Posted by DimitriL
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1) It IS inaccurate. It portrays him as someone who got a lot of money and decided to become a daredevil. I think that's ludicrous. He's an innovator and a tinkerer, whether or not he was working for Corman with the "legendary" set-design-by-meal-tray improvisations, or working with a 400 millino budget. By Devin's definition, Robert Ballard is a useless cocksucker too.

Just because he's an innovator doesn't make him less a fat cat who goes adventuring. Is it belittling? A little but it's not inaccurate or in any way unfair. Nor did it affect Devin's review in any way so why do you care if Devin dislikes Cameron as a person?

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Originally Posted by DimitriL
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2) See the above posts for a better explanation that I can provide, or better yet, watch the 25-minute video interview with Popular Mechanics which goes VERY deep into the geeky technical stuff.

But again the real art in animation (secondary) is still being done by an animator. The only real change Cameron has brought about is the ability to get primary animation done on-set in real time. It's a nice thing for filmmaker's to have but work still needs to be done after. In fact, I would suggest most of the work needs doing after simply because that was a huge post schedule and I'm pretty sure that wasn't all sound work..
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Originally Posted by DimitriL
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And again, you're SO wrong. A technology that can be used to HELP people is worth so much more than any given movie that it's laughable to even debate it.

In the big scheme of things? Of course. But we're talking about how it serves the actual film, the experience of watching the finished product.

I buy my movie tickets expecting to see a good movie, not a technology trade-show. The entire purpose of all this filmmaking tech is to tell a good story. If I don't like the story being told by the film, then why should I give a good god damn about the tech behind the film?
Sweet! Policar!
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Originally Posted by DimitriL
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You fucking misread me. I wasn't talking about one imaginary person flip-flopping, I was talking about different people taking sides. Fuck's sake. Read.

Learn to communicate. Here's what you said:

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I'm just annoyed that this stuff quickly becomes hagiography. Nick raves about Avatar - wow! I can't wait to see it. Devin half-pans it - what a voice of wisdom, I knew the emperor had no clothes!

To me, that reads like people are flip flopping based on the reviews. I have no idea how you can possibly read that sentence any other way.
And yeah, if James Cameron personally cures some kid's cancer, good for him. But it has NOTHING WHATSOFUCKINGEVER TO DO WITH THE MOVIE. So shut the fuck up about his possibly imaginary philanthropy.
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Originally Posted by Cletus Van Damme
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I don't think anyone's disputing that. What people are saying is that, even if a film's production invents a cure for cancer, that has no bearing on the value of the film itself as a work of art.

*hugs Cletus* I love you, man!
Awww, he beat me to a cancer line.