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Avatar post-release discussion - Printable Version

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- jgbutler - 01-11-2010

Looking back that post was a bit more grumpy than I realized. But the more I thought about it the more it pissed me off. In terms of craftsmanship it was magnificent, the fact that he couldn't put an actual MOVIE behind it is such squandered potential. It could have very well been revolutionary. Instead it was just really fucking pretty.


- jeb - 01-11-2010

Don't worry about being grumpy. That, in effect, is pretty much what those of us who were underwhelmed by the movie have been saying all along: looks great, not terribly filling.


- Paul C - 01-11-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by JGButler
View Post
So I finally saw it and I'm wondering - am I the only one who thought it would be exponentially improved as a silent film?

One of the things that struck me about the film was that, with the exception of that clunky, obviously truncated and exposition-heavy first act, it wouldn't be much less effective or difficult to follow if watched with the sound off. Given the intentions of the movie I'd count that as a point in its favour, personally - the idea of cinema as pure visual storytelling quite appeals to me. The dialogue is unquestionably a weak link however.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Felt Pelt
View Post
I wish that what Andre's saying about interpreting this as video game critique (humans are wrapped up in fantasy while their bodies and world goes to waste?) could save moments like "jumps on dragon, fade out." We're just missing the dragon-riding level. But the easier explanation is that Cameron was lazy/condescending with this script.

Cameron himself paid lip service to that idea, but I don't quite buy it. An interesting 'proper' sci-fi movie could be done about the subject, but this is not that movie. Avatar is really a celebration of escapism, not a condemnation of it. Jake is basically an audience surrogate figure, and we go with him as he escapes from his miserable world and miserable life into a whimsical land of beauty, love and adventure - the big happy ending is where he's finally able to disconnect from banal reality altogether. I think this theme may have something to do with why the movie is connecting with people in these not particularly positive or prosperous times.


- brendan - 01-11-2010

CNN finally saw the Avatar forum with all those depressed weenies.


- rich straceski - 01-11-2010

I finally got around to seeing Avatar over the weekend with a group of frineds, and we all enjoyed the experience. It was pretty immersive and the 3D was definitely the way to go. The last hour or so I REALLY had to go to the bathroom (giant coke be damned!) but I hate leaving in the middle of a film so I stuck it out.

Anyway, I'll keep it short. I was fine with the Na'vi designs and felt they was more effective when seeing the actual film than when peeping promotional stuff. The world building was exceptional and the attention to detail was great and much appreciated. I really had a great time with it and that's all I was hoping for. It even registered enough that I felt crappy when hometree got ganked, and if I had to express disappointment with one aspect of the film it would have to be that the score didn't really register with me or stick. When I eventually get to see it again (Blu-Ray probably) I'm definitely going to pay more attention to the music.


- scratch - 01-11-2010

I just look forward to someone figuring out how to synch Avatar to Dark Side of the Moon.


- jetmanx - 01-11-2010

It'll be a Muse album, not that old-timer shit.


- dan mclellan - 01-11-2010

Avatar for best screenplay? Really?


- ben thomas - 01-11-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by JGButler
View Post
So I finally saw it and I'm wondering - am I the only one who thought it would be exponentially improved as a silent film?

I said exactly the same thing after seeing Titanic for the second time.

Cameron is a master of visual storytelling and script structure, but his dialogue is oftentimes redundant, on the nose and trite. Take away a lot of that, and you'd have ballsy, beautiful films.


- dudalb - 01-12-2010

I think Cameron is another example of somebody who is the real deal as a director, but has major problems as a writer, a la Shymalan.


- princess kate - 01-12-2010

Oooooh noooo.....

I just typed up a 2 page review and then lost all my work.

I will work to retype it, but man is that upsetting.


- adriandyka - 01-12-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by Princess Kate
View Post
Oooooh noooo.....

I just typed up a 2 page review and then lost all my work.

I will work to retype it, but man is that upsetting.

Kate, if it's that long, put it in the reader reviews section and not here. Sucks that you lost it though.


- therewillbezodiac - 01-12-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by dudalb
View Post
I think Cameron is another example of somebody who is the real deal as a director, but has major problems as a writer, a la Shymalan.

If Cameron had a team of great writers he worked with, there'd be no one alive right now making better movies than him. As a director, he has the skills of one of the greats. Unfortunately, he's a control freak.

But then again, the fact that he's a control freak is probably why his films are as well directed as they are.

I think my head is going to explode from the contradiction.

He's gonna be a fascinating one to study for film scholars in a hundred years. His career reminds me a lot of Hitchcock's, as they both direct genre films that also happen to be some of the finest directed movies of the day AND push the envelope technically. Also, like Cameron, Hitchcock wasn't taken seriously in some circles because of his populist approach. Hitchcock just had a much better stable of writers.

And before someone overreacts, I did not just say that Cameron is as good as Hitchcock.


- adriandyka - 01-12-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by therewillbezodiac
View Post
If Cameron had a team of great writers he worked with, there'd be no one alive right now making better movies than him. As a director, he has the skills of one of the greats. Unfortunately, he's a control freak.

But then again, the fact that he's a control freak is probably why his films are as well directed as they are.

Are they that well directed? I get that Cameron knows how to connect with the masses, but I'd like to see a bit more meat on the argument for why he is a 'great ' director. Is he better than Scorsese? Spielberg? Anderson? Tarantino? (just throwing some names out)Could he handle a striaght drama or thriller as well as an action movie?


- therewillbezodiac - 01-12-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by AdrianDyka
View Post
Are they that well directed? I get that Cameron knows how to connect with the masses, but I'd like to see a bit more meat on the argument for why he is a 'great ' director. Is he better than Scorsese? Spielberg? Anderson? Tarantino? (just throwing some names out)Could he handle a striaght drama or thriller as well as an action movie?

Just about every Cameron movie is a visual masterpiece. Whether it's the Terminator's skeleton climbing out of the fire or the Titanic standing up vertically in the water, the visuals of just about every film he's made have made a lasting impact on the culture. I can't think of anyone else who can do that every time out. While I think that a Scorsese or Spielberg are probably as strong as he is in terms of visual composition, I think that Anderson's and Tarantino's films are more acclaimed for their writing then their direction. (Tarantino is definitley one of the best there is though. Like Cameron, however, he definitley has a singular style)

Hitchcock never really made anything other than thrillers in the "Hitchcock" style. The few times he branched into different genres are almost completely forgotten about by most people, despite the fact that The Trouble With Harry is an awesome dark comedy. The thrillers he did make though were unmatched from a visual standpoint (Crane shot in Notorious=best shot of the 1940's) and his best often involved a new technological challenge that only Hitchcock could pull off. I don't think Cameron really has to have variety in his resume to be considered great. That's like getting on John Ford for making a bunch of Westerns.

Cameron certainly takes on a technological challenge every time. If you don't think the special effects in Avatar are groundbreaking (I'd argue that they are, but more in terms of their immersiveness than the actual CGI itself), his work with CGI in T2 and The Abyss certainly was. This is part of his legacy.

North by Northwest reminds me a lot of Avatar to be honest. It's got way better dialogue - but it's still a grand spectacle with little depth. People love it because of the way Hitchcock builds suspense. It sucks them into the movie. Cameron sucks them in as well as anyone today, and it's because of his advanced skills as a director.


- adriandyka - 01-12-2010

I'm still not sold on his versatility, and as for suspense I feel that Tarantino gave an absolute masterclass in IB. Cameron clearly knows his way round a set-piece, but personally I find his pacing to be a little off. I won't argue his relevance as a technical innovator, and I guess it comes
down to how big of a
part of directing that is.


- therewillbezodiac - 01-12-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by AdrianDyka
View Post
I'm still not sold on his versatility, and as for suspense I feel that Tarantino gave an absolute masterclass in IB. Cameron clearly knows his way round a set-piece, but personally I find his pacing to be a little off. I won't argue his relevance as a technical innovator, and I guess it comes
down to how big of a
part of directing that is.

Tarantino's use of suspense in IB was masterful, I agree.

I feel, and I may be wrong about this, that if you gave Cameron the script to IB and told him to film it, it'd still come out great. I wouldn't have as much confidence in Tarantino turning the screenplay of Avatar into a good movie.

Cameron has proven that he can handle suspense as masterfully as Tarantino (there are several sequences in The Abyss, especially Ed Harris' deep sea dive, still put me on the edge of my seat even though I've seen it several times).

And bitch all one would like about Titanic, that's an epic historical romance. The set pieces doesn't come until the end and it's not like people sat there bored for 2 hours before the ship started sinking. That's a huge step out of his sci fi comfort zone and he still delivered. Tarantino isn't a very versatile director either....Inglorious Basterds is his first movie that wasn't a crime drama. (Kill Bill being a very asian influenced crime drama). While I think that versatility is a good thing for a director to have, it has never been necessary for greatness.


- princess kate - 01-12-2010

How JAMES CAMERON'S AVATAR blew my mind, broke my brain, and gave me a migraine



Well all I can say is WOW.

Wow, and, in my own subjective opinion: Devin is wrong, Nick is right. This film delivered on every single promise Cameron made. 3D is a revolution, Pandora is like nothing I've ever seen, and AVATAR is the greatest spectacle ever put to the silver screen.

3D really is a game changer. Even for dialog scenes, it added this bizarre element that I'd almost compare to watching theater. I honestly feel it even would improve a film like "My Dinner With Andre". The reality of the events on screen was instantly and totally accepted by my brain. Instead of sitting there watching these computer animated creatures and critiquing the CGI or how real they looked (as I did with KING KONG), I never once questioned it. Why bother? My brain was telling me they were as real and three dimensional as the person in the seat next to me. Pandora was a living breathing world, and exploring it with John Dunbar* was one of the greatest thrills of my life. I was utterly captivated and transported for every moment it was on screen. This wasn't some prequel trilogy reject world. No, this was the single most astounding environment ever put to film, and watching it was a nearly religious experience for me.

I am someone who cannot tune out even the slightest distractions when I watch a movie. I no longer even go to the theater,f or the most part. Between cell phones, popcorn munching, and talking, I am unable to focus on the film and I grow immensely furious.

But I cannot remember a single thing anyone in the audience was doing during Avatar

My world became the events on screen, and Pandora became a real place. When it was threatened, my reaction was not "edge of your seat excitement because it's the climatic third act of a movie". It was "My god, somebody save the Spirit Tree! Hurry!"


I went to the movie with my Dad. He was taking me not because he's a particular fan of sci fi, but because it would make a nice father daughter outing. In fact, he's kind of an enemy of sci fi and does not even believe that sci fi films can be intelligent. Beforehand I was telling him who Cameron was and what he'd done in his career, and his reaction was nothing less than barely disguised disgust. He said that films like "Terminator "(despite his never having seen it) "Had no story and no characters and were all explosions".

When the film started, he began checking his watch every minute and a half, as he does in movies when he is bored or angry he is there.

But after about ten minutes.... the watch checking stopped.

And after another ten minutes, he started something new. He'd punch me in the arm, lean over, and say "What images!". This kept up right till the credits

By the end of the film he was fidgeting again. Not out of discomfort from war wounds (which is usually the case in long movies), but out of sheer concern for the plight of the blue cat people on screen.

It was amazing, and it made for a really special time with my Dad.

Now, for those who say it's cliched, I say "So what?" It's BLADE RUNNER meets FERN GULLY meets DANCES WITH WOLVES. It's the sci-fi story of the American West, with Lakota-Thundercats vs Space Pinkertons. My political leanings are probably well known 'round these parts, as are my feelings on the genocide of the American Indian. I see nothing wrong with presenting an allegorical version of this crucial history for a new generation. And when the film is as well put together as this one is, when the action is this good and the effect of watching the film so utterly transporting and captivating.... in all seriousness: what is there to complain about?


When you have space marines nuking a giant tree, what's not to love? When the six winged blue turtle birds attack military helicopters, what's not to love? When nature itself fights back and casts out the invaders, how can you not be swept up in the moment? I for one was salivating at the thought of how Wounded Knee might have turned out had the 500 000 000 buffalo of the plains decided they'd had finally enough of the White invaders and teamed up with the Sioux

By the time the Giant Mech pulled out a Giant Combat Knife, I knew I was watching the best (or at least, the most spectacular) movie of 2009.


I don't even like cats, but somehow these strange blue cat people wormed their way into my heart (not unlike a cat suffering from heart worms)

The acting was great. Weaver was the best I've seen her in years, and for once she wasn't phoning it in. The main marine bad guy was a classic screen villain, and someone whose death I took great satisfaction in. Blow up a tree, will ya? Take that!

And Giovani Ribisi was deliciously evil as well. A film full of great villains

..... plus, Wes Studi as a blue cat person!!!!!!!

One of my favorite (and the most terrifying) movies I saw as a child was Fern Gully: The Last Rain-forest. This was, in many ways, Fern Gully on a half billion dollar budget. And I couldn't have been happier with the result.

I am sure I could nit pick it to death, and I'm sure when I go back to watch it in REAL D (unfortunately I'm probably only going to see it in Imax once, can anyone tell me what to expect, difference wise between the two?) I will notice flaws. But you know what? Watching it that first time was an experience that lived up to each and every promise Cameron made. I don't see how you could not be astounded by this film. It's by far the grandest spectacle I've ever witnessed.

Cameron kept his promise, and as far as I am concerned, everything he said about 3d is true. It didn't feel like I was watching a movie, it felt like I was watching a real situation play out before my eyes. It's an amazing and immersive experience and it's unlike anything I've ever seen before. For an art form that's more than a century old, that's a rare thing.

Now that I've gotten discussion of the film itself out of the way, I have to address the fact that watching AVATAR kind of put the whammy on my skull

I'm used to watching films with loud headphones on, but I guess I was a little unprepared for Imax audio. From the first trailer for Hubble 3D, I began to understand that watching AVATAR was going to be a bit of an endurance test. The shockwaves of sound penetrated deep into my chest and I could feel my organs pulsating with each new explosion. Loud headphones may be one thing, but I'm not exactly used to having the aural experience extend into my body cavity.




And then there was the eyestrain. OMG, the eye strain... after about half way through the films running time, my brain started to rebel against the 3d effect. I had to struggle to keep from going cross eyed, and the 3d effect began to go in and out. I quickly developed a massive headache that lasted for hours, even long after I'd left the theater. It was worth it though, and I'm amazed at how engaged and focused I was despite my skull pain. I was gritting my teeth, but I still could not tear my eyes away from the events on screen.

Watching AVATAR was so cool I almost didn't care that the 3D experience I had is a finite one, and one that I'll most likely never have again. I do wish that 3d that good was possible at home though. I think in the comfort of my own home with "relaxation aids" I would have not had the eye strain problems and my brain could have relaxed into the 3D effect more effortlessly. If it works for Glaucoma, why not 3d movies?

PS: I had an interesting and ironic double feature last night. I watched AVATAR in IMAX 3D followed by The Hurt Locker when I got home. I really liked THL, but between my Avatar Brain Ache, and the constant parade of Pandoran images flashing though my mind, it became hard to focus on the film. Somewhere I imagine Cameron is chuckling at this.


PPS: I saw nothing wrong with the dialog. Some of it was even pretty clever. I loved the comparison of cryosleep to sleeping off a "fifth of whisky". I just watched some of HBO's "FROM EARTH TO THE MOON" last night after THL, and if you want some truly awful dialog, check out the episode "SPIDER". An example of some dunderheaded narration:

"It was like we were ballroom dancers dancing to different music that wasn't quite right for any of us".

Or show-not-tellisms like

"We were devastated, but then a few minutes later we received a call that put a smile on our faces"..

Cut to a scene showing sad people for a few minutes, and then they get a phone call that causes them to smile



EDIT: I have typed this twice today after losing my work once. So if it's disjointed it's because I am trying to reconstruct a review from memory

*Er, Jake Scully


- matches - 01-12-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by AdrianDyka
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Kate, if it's that long, put it in the reader reviews section and not here. Sucks that you lost it though.

You tried.


- princess kate - 01-12-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by matches
View Post
You tried.

I decided that I had thoughts in there that were not part of really a "review" and were more just a selection of random comments, and therefore fit into a discussion of the film more. For example, my comments on eyestrain.


- billylove - 01-12-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by matches
View Post
You tried.

Oh Christ.


- therewillbezodiac - 01-12-2010

Good review, Kate. I like reading reviews of a more personal nature (about you and your dad) sometimes instead of the professional ones sometime. Especially an event like Avatar, where the personal experience is part of it. I think you definitely got what makes the movie work.

I can't convince my Dad to go, despite the fact that I know he'll have a blast. He'd rather see Legion. He's kind of an idiot.


I had some "relaxation aid" in the parking lot before my second imax screening. Made the movie even more of an experience.


- princess kate - 01-12-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by therewillbezodiac
View Post
Good review, Kate. I like reading reviews of a more personal nature (about you and your dad) sometimes instead of the professional ones sometime. Especially an event like Avatar, where the personal experience is part of it. I think you definitely got what makes the movie work.

I can't convince my Dad to go, despite the fact that I know he'll have a blast. He'd rather see Legion. He's kind of an idiot.


I had some "relaxation aid" in the parking lot before my second imax screening. Made the movie even more of an experience.

Thanks! Yeah, it was a really special time and one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had at the movies. I'm not sure how you could dislike this film (not saying I think there is something wrong with you if you dislike AVATAR, I just cannot put myself in the shoes of such a person)

I'm sorry your Dad won't go! I know a bunch of older and old people who loved it, I think everyone would like it. I never watched a single trailer for it, and never did much reading up on what it was about before I saw it (beyond Cameron's hype). I was a little shocked when I found out it was about blue cat people, but I had faith in his abilities and I think that faith was proven to be well founded.

Unfortunately my dad's presence kind of made relaxing impossible, so I'll try to catch it that way at a later date at a real-d theater. I'm hoping it helps the eye strain, my eyeballs still sort of ache even now lol


- jeb - 01-12-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by Princess Kate
View Post
I decided that I had thoughts in there that were not part of really a "review" and were more just a selection of random comments

EDIT: no response I've tried has been adequate.


- ady meet roy - 01-12-2010

****eyeroll****


- MichaelM - 01-12-2010

The Ignore feature is your friend, folks.


- jeb - 01-12-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by MichaelM
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The Ignore feature is your friend, folks.

And miss out? Never.


- billylove - 01-12-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by MichaelM
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The Ignore feature is your friend, folks.

Then you get a Hidden Message notification and it's like Christmas all over again.


- devincf - 01-12-2010

Hey, look at the amount of space Kate took up with her post.

Now look at the amount of space you guys all took up with your unfunny trolling of her.

Weird, huh? YOU'RE taking up more space than she is! You're derailing the thread completely. Pretty bizarre how that works. What's weirder is that this has been going on for months and you guys just haven't figured it out.

*****eyeroll****** indeed.


- jeb - 01-13-2010

Yeah, if I wanted her to stop posting, I would probably approach things differently.

And to return to the topic, the above comparison of Cameron and Hitchcock was kind of interesting, and made a few points I hadn't considered. I still don't think that much of Avatar, but there are worse things a filmmaker can have than the pulse of the audience.


- devincf - 01-13-2010

How about if you wanted to stop derailing threads and engaging in trollish behavior? Would you post differently in that scenario?


- jeb - 01-13-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by devincf
View Post
How about if you wanted to stop derailing threads and engaging in trollish behavior? Would you post differently in that scenario?

OK, OK. From now on I'll read her in silence and sans comment.


- whiskey tango foxtrot - 01-13-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by devincf
View Post
Hey, look at the amount of space Kate took up with her post.

Now look at the amount of space you guys all took up with your unfunny trolling of her.

Weird, huh? YOU'RE taking up more space than she is! You're derailing the thread completely. Pretty bizarre how that works. What's weirder is that this has been going on for months and you guys just haven't figured it out.

*****eyeroll****** indeed.

Christ, how many times does this need to be repeated? Once more for the cheap seats, Kate is not the problem.


- adriandyka - 01-13-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by therewillbezodiac
View Post
I feel, and I may be wrong about this, that if you gave Cameron the script to IB and told him to film it, it'd still come out great. I wouldn't have as much confidence in Tarantino turning the screenplay of Avatar into a good movie.

Cameron has proven that he can handle suspense as masterfully as Tarantino (there are several sequences in The Abyss, especially Ed Harris' deep sea dive, still put me on the edge of my seat even though I've seen it several times).
That's a huge step out of his sci fi comfort zone and he still delivered. Tarantino isn't a very versatile director either....Inglorious Basterds is his first movie that wasn't a crime drama. (Kill Bill being a very asian influenced crime drama). While I think that versatility is a good thing for a director to have, it has never been necessary for greatness.

Personally I think versatility is really important, not just in content but in style. With Cameron I have never felt ther is really anything under the surface of his movies, and this is allied to the very black and White nature of
his storytelling- I like nuance and to be asked questions by the
movies I watch, wheras Cameron to me only engages on one level.

Look at Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and Inglourious
Basterds- I'm seeing a lot of difference in style, tone and pacing in those movies, although I will admit I would be fascinated to see Cameron's IB, I would be more interested to see his Jackie Brown.


- bitches leave - 01-13-2010

And I was about to post earlier that it was nice to follow a discussion that refreshingly hadn't turned into snark and bile (Hitchcock/Cameron/Tarantino). Hope you guys wasn't scared away.

Edit: Good to see you weren't.