Early Morning Open Thread: Avatar’d

Now that the worst of the crowds have died back, the Spousal Unit and I went to see Avatar in all its 3-D IMAX glory. He really loved it, and I… thought it was better than my worst fears. There were at least two joke-shaped lines. I always enjoy Sigourney Weaver, and am glad that both CCH Pounder and Michelle Rodriguez got paychecks & exposure. I said that it was less an actual story than a big lumpy bag of shiny narrative-objects and worldbuilding-trinkets, and my husband the gamer enthusiastically agreed that, yes, that was kinda the point, Ms. Obvious. I also thought Frank Frazetta should have gotten his own line in the credits, at least, but the Spousal Unit says that Frazetta has influenced so many sf/fantasy/comix/gamebuilder artists over the last sixty years that he’s become an essential part of the genre vocabulary, like van Eyck to sixteenth-century artists. (Also, from the previews, I am really looking forward to Hubble 3D: IMAX.)

But in the New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg tells me something about Avatar’s chances at Oscars that I did not know:

Who’s going to win Best Picture? Among Oscar touts, the consensus is that it’ll be one of the two top nomination-garnerers, with “Avatar” the heavy favorite…
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Even so, there is a distinct possibility of an upset… From 1946 until last year, the voting worked the way Americans are most familiar with. Five pictures were nominated. If you were a member of the Academy, you put an “X” next to the name of your favorite. The picture with the most votes won. Nice and simple, though it did mean that a movie could win even if a solid majority of the eligible voters—in theory, as many as seventy-nine per cent of them—didn’t like it. Those legendary PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants don’t release the totals, but this or something like it has to have happened in the past, probably many times.
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This year, the Best Picture list was expanded, partly to make sure that at least a couple of blockbusters would be on it… To forestall a victory for some cinematic George Wallace or Ross Perot, the Academy switched to a different system. Members—there are around fifty-eight hundred of them—are being asked to rank their choices from one to ten. In the unlikely event that a picture gets an outright majority of first-choice votes, the counting’s over. If not, the last-place finisher is dropped and its voters’ second choices are distributed among the movies still in the running. If there’s still no majority, the second-to-last-place finisher gets eliminated, and its voters’ second (or third) choices are counted. And so on, until one of the nominees goes over fifty per cent.
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This scheme, known as preference voting or instant-runoff voting, doesn’t necessarily get you the movie (or the candidate) with the most committed supporters, but it does get you a winner that a majority can at least countenance. It favors consensus. Now here’s why it may also favor “The Hurt Locker.” A lot of people like “Avatar,” obviously, but a lot don’t… “Avatar” is polarizing. So is James Cameron. He may have fattened the bank accounts of a sizable bloc of Academy members—some three thousand people drew “Avatar” paychecks—but that doesn’t mean that they all long to recrown him king of the world. (As he has admitted, his people skills aren’t the best.) These factors could push “Avatar” toward the bottom of many a ranked-choice ballot.
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On the other hand, few people who have seen “The Hurt Locker”—a real Iraq War story, not a sci-fi allegory—actively dislike it, and many profoundly admire it. Its underlying ethos is that war is hell, but it does not demonize the soldiers it portrays, whose job is to defuse bombs, not drop them. Even Republicans (and there are a few in Hollywood) think it’s good. It will likely be the second or third preference of voters whose first choice is one of the other “small” films that have been nominated. And “The Hurt Locker” has special appeal with two important and overlapping constituencies. If it’s picked, its director, Kathryn Bigelow, will become the first woman to have directed a Best Picture winner. This would please women and men who like to see glass ceilings smashed, whether or not they were Hillary Clinton supporters. The other group is ex-wives, who are numerous in the movie colony. James Cameron has four. No. 3 is Kathryn Bigelow. She and her ex-husband are said to get along fine. Still, there’s such a thing as identity politics…






115 replies
  1. 1
    JR says:

    You hafta hafta hafta read today’s NY Sun editorial. It’s absolutely delicious, and nuttier than a goddamn Baby Ruth.

    A taste:

    In sum, Palinism is starting to emerge as a worldview that includes a comprehension of the nature of the war, a respect for the sovereignty of democracies, an understanding of the relationship between high taxes and high unemployment and low taxes and low unemployment, an appreciation for sound money and a strong dollar, and a tendency toward constitutionalism. We’re a long way from endorsing a candidate for the next presidential election, but if this is what is emerging from a woman so many like to set down as a lightweight, it’ll be something to see what basic ideas emerge from her competitors.

    Behold the pale moose.

  2. 2
    Alex S. says:

    With this new voting system, “Inglorious Basterds” will get it. “The Hurt Locker” wasn’t successful enough. The Academy wants to remain “relevant” after all.

  3. 3
    robertdsc says:

    The Hurt Locker was incredible.

  4. 4
    inkadu says:

    With the global movie market expanding, we might as well use the furriners voting systems.

  5. 5

    The ranked choice voting can lead to strange results, but it also does negate some bad ones.

    For example, a truly horrid L Ron Hubbard SF novel once made the Hugo ballot (in 1987) because a lot of Scientologist fanboys nominated it. While it had a lot of nominations, it didn’t garner any support from anyone but those fanboys, and it lost in the ranked choice voting process.

  6. 6
    WereBear says:

    @JR: “Behold the pale moose” is going to make me chuckle all day.

    One of the few items which lightens my political thoughts is how the voters are mostly unimpressed by Palin. So why is she getting so much attention?

    She’s all they’ve got.

  7. 7
    Xenos says:

    Instant runoff voting has been an minor political issue… One of Clinton’s nominees to the FEC, I think, had supported it in an article, which completely the freaked out the senate.

  8. 8
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Alex S.:

    The Academy wants to remain “relevant” after all.

    It’s really just a bunch of people who vote. No different really from asking the general public which movies they liked, except from a sampling limited to people who happen to work in the movie biz.

    That includes all sorts of people who you’d never even think of as industry insiders, e.g. technicians, etc. Friends of mine who vote say it mainly means getting lots of free tickets, they come in the mail.

  9. 9

    This seems like a good time to recall the na’vi kitteh.

  10. 10
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @JR:

    Behold the pale moose.

    That’s really excellent.

  11. 11
    demo woman says:

    I wonder if Andrew will write about the citizens of Uzbekistan?

  12. 12
    Platonicspoof says:

    By coincidence, the front page at 538 with the previous BJ post’s link to 538 about Palin also has a post about instant-runoff voting.
    Then in the comments they discuss a variation of IRV (not instant) and other voting methods, advantages & disadvantages, gaming the systems, etc.
    And compulsory voting with a NOTA (none of the above) option.

  13. 13
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    This seems like a good time to recall the na’vi kitteh.

    Why, does it have a faulty purrcelerator?

  14. 14
    The Raven says:

    Actually, Herzberg has it wrong. The Academy–I think–has been using the ranked-choice or instant runoff system among the top five nominees since the beginning, or at least since 2006. Being, apparently, good students of voting systems, the Academy has apparently decided this year to try range voting among 10 nominees, which is thought to have some advantages over the IRV.

    This is all very interesting, and not the least of the interest is the poor reporting that has come out of the process!

  15. 15
    John Quixote says:

    @Alex S.:

    With this new voting system, “Inglorious Basterds” will get it.

    Any film that has a rubber Hitler getting torn apart by bullets gets my vote.
    That, and Hans Landa was the shiznit.
    My second favorite Tarantino character, after Jules Winfield.

  16. 16
    valdivia says:

    This will perk the, um, hearts of some political scientists who have been advocating for preference voting for a long time.

  17. 17
    burnspbesq says:

    @valdivia:

    Political scientists, AKA the reason why my undergraduate degree is in Economics. ;-)

  18. 18
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    In case Balloon Juice soccer fans missed it, Landon Donovan had a wonderful game for Everton yesterday in their 2-1 win over leaders Chelsea.

  19. 19
    mr. whipple says:

    Deep thought: Punxatawny Phil was right.

    The NY and OH groundhogs are just cheap imitators and should not be consulted on such matters.

  20. 20
    jeffreyw says:

    Bah, up at 5.30 this morning, damn dogs were barkin deer in the yard that had tripped the motion sensor on a pair of flood lights. They were goin crazy at the window and tore down some slats from the drawn blinds. I stomped around a hollered but Mrs J refused to get up. No idea why.

  21. 21

    Glenn Beck has a 100-year plan. f**k me now and get it over with. There is no way teh stupid will stop!

  22. 22
    Cheryl from Maryland says:

    Instant-run off voting is why the DC NBA team got stuck with the “Wizards.” The best does not win, just the least offensive.

  23. 23
    MagicPanda says:

    @The Raven: I don’t understand how range voting would be better than ranked choice. To me, it seems like an invitation to game the system by giving artificially low values to candidates you want to spoil.

    Or maybe the voting system is supposed to be so complicated that no one can game it effectively? :-)

  24. 24
    Platonicspoof says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    Glenn Beck has a 100- 1000 year plan.

    It worked so well the last time.

  25. 25
    suzanne says:

    I appear to be the only person I know that thought “Avatar” was a completely racist piece of crap. Pretty crap, for sure. But any movie that’s improved by turning off the sound does NOT, in my opinion, deserve to win Best Picture.

    Aaaah, what the hell do I know.

  26. 26
    jibeaux says:

    I realize I don’t get out much, but I’ve never heard of the Hurt Locker. It sounds good.

  27. 27
    Aspasia says:

    Commenting in order to lay a cookie.

  28. 28

    @Aspasia:

    Commenting in order to lay a cookie.

    wow, that sounds sexy. cigarette?

  29. 29
    Legalize says:

    It’s hard to make a movie better than “Hurt Locker.” It will take best picture, director, and original screenplay. But Jeremy Renner will be robbed as will be the fella who played Hans in “Inglorious Basterds.” ” Avatar” will win all of the technical awards. I don’t think they’re gonna give Cameron the big award without nominating his movie for best screenplay – twice. The dark horse to spoil everything is “District 9.”

  30. 30
    matoko_chan says:

    Both Avatar and Hurt Locker are anti-war movies.
    Your husband might like to know that Cameron has the film rights to both the seminal anime Battleangel and Larry Niven’s Ringworld, one of my all time scifi favorites.
    @suzanne:

    Aaaah, what the hell do I know.

    nothing.
    Avatar is based on a story Cameron wrote himself when he was 13. He has said himself that Avatar has become an indictment of the Iraq war, or as I like to phrase it, the Grand Misadventure of the Manifest Destiny of Judeo-xian Democracy in MENA.
    If you are a white christian, you should probably hate it….it is a condemnation of Big White Christian Bwana and the American Way.
    There is a reason Cameron had the Na’vi voiced by black actors, and the mytho-poesis of his world building with Pandora is a triumph of pantheism over xianity.
    The very name, Avatar, comes from hindu mythos meaning the incarnation of a god, usually an aspect of Vishnu the creator, as a human, animal or mythical creature.

  31. 31
    Folderol and Ephemera says:

    @suzanne: I highly recommend i09’s review of Avatar, if you haven’t read it already. [link]

    These are movies about white guilt. Our main white characters realize that they are complicit in a system which is destroying aliens, AKA people of color – their cultures, their habitats, and their populations. The whites realize this when they begin to assimilate into the “alien” cultures and see things from a new perspective. To purge their overwhelming sense of guilt, they switch sides, become “race traitors,” and fight against their old comrades. But then they go beyond assimilation and become leaders of the people they once oppressed. This is the essence of the white guilt fantasy, laid bare. It’s not just a wish to be absolved of the crimes whites have committed against people of color; it’s not just a wish to join the side of moral justice in battle. It’s a wish to lead people of color from the inside rather than from the (oppressive, white) outside.

  32. 32
    jeffreyw says:

    Aaarrrgghhh! Had a hawk staked out, he was sitting on a low limb for 5 minutes, I get up to let the dog in, come back to the cou..er…my blind and there’s a freaking crow sitting next to the hawk. Couldn’t fumble a shot quick enough before the crow noticed the hawk eying him and double damn freaked. Off to the races, hawk was all over that crow till a second hawk joined in they all flew out of sight amidst much cawing and squawking.

    Dammit

  33. 33

    @AnneLaurie: Loved all that Oscar information. Thanks. And thanks for cementing my decision NOT to see Avatar (I never saw Titanic either).

  34. 34
    matoko_chan says:

    For me, the best scene in Hurt Locker is where the Iraqi kids are stoning the tanks.
    A great closer.
    It screams “wtf were we doing there?”

  35. 35
    paradox says:

    I don’t know why, but I was surprised to learn yesterday Avatar is on the Big Shit List for the teabaggers. They say it highly denigrates perception of the military.

    What I once thought of as a so-so fantasy with predictable rather immature fighting narratives is now much much higher on my list. I was in the military, right, the mentality and the reality were extremely familiar to me, I assumed all knew the military is half full of killing hegoministic fuckheads representing the most ugly side of America and humanity possible.

    Go Avatar. After that amazing turd of a movie Shakespeare in Love beat out Saving Private Ryan I’ll never take this awful clown show seriously again. I watch it for the stand-up comedy in the beginning and then bail.

  36. 36
    matoko_chan says:

    @Folderol and Ephemera: nope, not about white guilt……unless……you are white and guilty, and then that is all you see.
    Avatar is a kind of witches mirror.
    You just see your own truth.

  37. 37
    JenJen says:

    Hmmm. I don’t see how the top grossing film of all time doesn’t win Best Picture of the Year. I’m not saying that’s OK, but it seems like that’s Hollywood for you.

    I mean, “Titanic” beat “L.A. Confidential” in 1997.

  38. 38
    SGEW says:

    @paradox:

    After that amazing turd of a movie Shakespeare in Love beat out Saving Private Ryan I’ll never take this awful clown show seriously again.

    The Academy lost me when Dancing With Wolves swept the awards the same year Goodfellas was up.

  39. 39
    matoko_chan says:

    @paradox:

    but I was surprised to learn yesterday Avatar is on the Big Shit List for the teabaggers.

    teabaggers come from the same racial-politico-religious demographic……they are all WECs, white evangelical christians.
    Avatar is the triumph of pantheism over xianity, blue people voiced by black actors over white people, and an insurgent indigeneous population armed with arrows over the great american military machine.
    whining about capitalism or the military is just cloaking.
    Avatar attacks their core religious belief, that evangelical christians have the biblically authorized right/duty to impose their values on the entire world.

  40. 40
    matoko_chan says:

    …that evangelical christians have the biblically authorized right/duty to impose their values on the entire world……..for Jesus.
    lawl.

  41. 41
    The Raven says:

    @MagicPanda:

    I don’t understand how range voting would be better than ranked choice. To me, it seems like an invitation to game the system by giving artificially low values to candidates you want to spoil.

    So the way to game the system is by voting against the candidates you don’t like? Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?

    The arguments for and against range voting are spelled out in Poundstone’s book, Gaming the Vote (Poundstone is sympathetic); a short summary can be found here, and a range voting advocate speaks to the point, here.

    My sense generally is that no voting system is perfect, and that how well a voting system works depends on how well it fits in human society. It’s not clear to me which system is “best,” or if any system is in all times and places “best,” but plurality voting is probably worse than either ranked-choice or range voting, and I think experimenting with alternative systems is worthwhile.

  42. 42
    MattF says:

    If the things you look for in a movie are ‘literary’ qualities like plot, characters, acting, memorable lines– don’t bother with Avatar. I enjoyed it, while watching it– then, afterwards, decided it was awful– then, after that, changed my mind again, back to ‘worth seeing’.

  43. 43
    Mike Mundy says:

    I didn’t like having to wear glasses on top of my glasses. Very awkward.

    And it seemed to me that the glasses created a “veil” over the projected image, dampening the contrast and the colors.

    It’ll be interesting to watch it in 2-D.

  44. 44
    John S. says:

    Teabaggers should love Avatar…clearly, the Na’vi pay no taxes.

  45. 45
    MikeJ says:

    Story on Brown’s proposal for AV (IRV) system for parliamentary elections at LGM yesterday.

    http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/.....ngdom.html

  46. 46
    matoko_chan says:

    Avatar denigrates the American Way.

    Sully: What do we offer them? Blue jeans and lite beer?

    Pantheism triumphs over xianity when GRACE AUGUSTINE becomes part of Ewya, effectively converting to pantheism.
    St. Augustine, anyone?
    Cameron isn’t exactly subtle….he is clubbing us over the head with his messaging…..and none of it is “white guilt”.

  47. 47
    Platonicspoof says:

    @ ANNE LAURIE:
    The last couple of days I’ve had no problems reaching BJ with http://www.balloon-juice.com/ in the address bar, and no problem with any commenting features, at the same time a lot of people said it didn’t open for them.
    I’m using IE8 and XP SP2.
    If it helps any (and hasn’t already been reported), I got the following two messages just now after using the address above:

    Fatal error: Class ‘WP_Widget’ not found in /home/jcole1/public_html/bal/wp-includes/default-widgets.php on line 15

    __

    Fatal error: Class ‘Translations’ not found in /home/jcole1/public_html/bal/wp-includes/l10n.php on line 407

  48. 48
  49. 49
    Platonicspoof says:

    @ Anne:
    The last couple of days I’ve had no problems reaching BJ with http://www.balloon-juice.com/ in the address bar, and no problem with any commenting features, at the same time a lot of people said it didn’t open for them.
    I’m using IE8 and XP SP2.
    If it helps any (and hasn’t already been reported), I got the following two messages just now after using the address above:

    Fatal error: Class ‘WP_Widget’ not found in /home/jcole1/public_html/bal/wp-includes/default-widgets.php on line 15

    __

    Fatal error: Class ‘Translations’ not found in /home/jcole1/public_html/bal/wp-includes/l10n.php on line 407

  50. 50
    Hiram Taine says:

    @paradox:

    I assumed all knew the military is half full of killing hegoministic fuckheads representing the most ugly side of America and humanity possible.

    You say that like it’s a bad thing, to the teabuggers it’s a feature rather than a bug.

  51. 51
    Texas Dem says:

    Behold the pale moose.

    The full quote: “And I looked, and behold a pale moose: and her name that sat on him was Palin, and the Teabaggers followed with her. And power was given unto them over the executive branch, to kill with fillibusters, and with budget cuts, and with gridlock, and with the rest of the Fox News demographic.”

    P.S. It’s snowing here in Dallas. We could actually get 2 to 4 inches today.

  52. 52
    Phoebe says:

    @jeffreyw: I swear to god I thought you were shooting it with a gun. Whew.

    I couldn’t be a bigger tree-loving American-Way-hating dfh, but I hated Avatar because I could predict every single thing that happened and the music was just wretched. And for other, less definable reasons that had me wanting to find an all-night carwash to walk through when I got out. Plus, and I know this is petty, but who braided the avatar’s hair in the tank? Or is it part of their DNA? Plus I also think Soldier Guy would have realistically been the order-followingest of all of them, not the guy who lurches off the operating table and sprints into the woods. And I know they’re not all alike, but since we’re profiling, and he is, then I can say that.

    District 9 was so much better. As was The Emerald Forest.

  53. 53
    Amir_Khalid says:

    Commenting (from Malaysia) mainly to see if it will finally help me to see the home page …
    Avatar’s story struck me as a not-particularly-original SF rewrite of The Last of the Mohicans, even if, as James Cameron says, he’s had it in his head since he was 13. It has similar flaws, especially in romanticizing the native people.(Ferngully, Dances with Wolves, etc., they too owe something to James Fenimore Cooper.) It really doesn’t deserve a screenplay Oscar, although a boatload of technical Oscars is certainly in order and maybe even the Best Picture Oscar on those grounds as well.
    In the end, remember, Oscars are at least as much about the movie business as they are about art. Awards, even prestigious ones like the Nobels, are good for the winners’ vanity; but no one else should take them too seriously.

  54. 54
    John Quixote says:

    We must have angered Tunch.

  55. 55
    Michael D. says:

    We need an open thread. If only someone could put one up!

  56. 56
    Paul L. says:

    Michelle Rodriguez got paychecks & exposure.

    Is that what you call showing her rack (best part of the movie) when she joins the natives of Pandora?

  57. 57
    Amir_Khalid says:

    Dang. The home page is still blank.

  58. 58
    MaximusNYC says:

    I also thought Frank Frazetta should have gotten his own line in the credits

    I’m not familiar with with Frazetta’s stuff, but a quick Google search suggests you may be on to something.

    A lot of people have pointed out how much Avatar cribbed from Roger Dean — aka the artist who did those trippy Yes album covers:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.....8artist%29

    I also thought I saw the influence of Maxfield Parrish:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxfield_Parrish

    Dean is clearly indebted to Parrish, especially in his color choices.

  59. 59
  60. 60
    Corpsicle says:

    For the Frank Frazetta fans out there, Pathfinder is awesome. There are whole stretches of the film where almost every frame could be a Frazetta painting.

  61. 61
    Prof. K&G says:

    Some movies have a message you agree with, but make their point using ridiculous “noble savage” cliches. Politics aside, that should insult your intelligence and sense of good cinema.

  62. 62
    matoko_chan says:

    @Phoebe: like I said, Cameron isn’t exactly subtle. Sully’s story is that he doesn’t want to be baggage……doin’ it himself? the whole sequence in the plane? He is thrilled to have legs again…that is why he runs.
    Avatar II is already in the works.
    My hypothesis is that in Avatar II we find out Pandora was bio-engineered as an escape pod for the remnants of a post technological society….like the destroyed polluted earth in Avatar I. The biology seems kinda contrived to me on an evolutionary basis….BUT…..deliberate bio-engineering? bio-chips, organic personality storage, organic transcendent networks? scientists have postulated those models already.
    Cameron deliberately made the Na’vi human like so we would would have empathy bonding and care about the characters.
    An interesting way the Na’vi differ from plains indians is the lack of sexual dimorphism and the lack of role differentiation.
    Females can be hunters and warriors as well as singers, and do exactly the same rites of passage as the males. I didnt see any obviously pregnant Na’vi…I wonder why?

  63. 63
    Roger Moore says:

    @MagicPanda:

    To me, it seems like an invitation to game the system by giving artificially low values to candidates you want to spoil.

    That’s not gaming the system; it’s exactly how the system is supposed to work. If there’s a candidate who you really don’t want to see elected, you give them the lowest possible score. If there’s a candidate you love, you give them the best score. If there’s a candidate you’re OK with but aren’t thrilled about, you give them a score somewhere in the middle.

    My gut feeling is that most ranked systems are too complex. In score voting, voters will wind up giving either the highest or lowest score to just about everyone, with very few intermediate scores. That means that it will effectively degenerate into approval voting in practice. If so, you’d be better off just switching to approval voting in the first place.

  64. 64
    carlos the dwarf says:

    @suzanne:

    Precisely.

    [only commenting to get this FSMdamn website to load normally.]

    [and one extra line to avoid the spam filter.]

  65. 65
    J says:

    continuing to have all kinds of problems getting to the site…

  66. 66
    nyjuan says:

    2 years of lurking and this is my 1st comment.

    Hopefully this fixes the page load

  67. 67
    Redshirt says:

    Avatar seemed highly patronizing to me, in the same way as “Dances with Wolves” and “The Last Samurai”. To wit: Only a white man can show these noble savages how to stand up to the white man.

    That said, I saw Avatar in 3D Imax, and that experience alone was well worth the ticket price. Amazing.

  68. 68
    licensed to kill time says:

    Wow, I was feeling all smug and stuff because I’d had no problems with the site – and just now it took me 15 tries to get here. No joy through RSS feed, google or links.

    I looked on John’s twitterfeed and saw a msg about a site redo, then clicked on the BJ link on his twitter page and here I am.

    WEIRD!

  69. 69
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    @WereBear:

    One of the few items which lightens my political thoughts is how the voters are mostly unimpressed by Palin. So why is she getting so much attention?

    Not only that, but they are less impressed with her every week. Today’s Greenwald has a good coverage of this.

  70. 70
    Hob says:

    @matoko_chan: Oh my goodness, Cameron doing Ringworld? That might actually kinda work. He’d be great with the gee-whiz images, and he’s got just enough grit in his aesthetic to make Niven’s world a little more interesting — I always picture the Known Space civilization as being largely made out of Tupperware — plus, as flat as Cameron’s characterizations are, they might actually be an improvement on Niven’s. (I am a fan, but seriously, the guy often writes like a bright 14-year-old with lots of theories about what grownups do.) I’m not sure what Cameron would do with all the sex scenes though — there’s something oddly chaste about most of his movies.

  71. 71
    John PM says:

    My wife and I saw Avatar last week. I am a big sci fi geek and she … is not. After the movie, she is raving about it, while I say it was OK. This led to a big argument which concluded with the “fact” that I am an “idiot.” I thought the film looked great (although the 3D glasses gave me a headache), but the story was very predictible. Being a sci fi geek, I wanted to find out more about the nature of the planet and less about the “unobtainium” (what was that even used for, anyway?). Star Trek was a much better movie, and you did not need to be familiar with the original series or any of its descendents. I still need to see The Hurt Locker, District 9 and Inglorious Basterds.

  72. 72
    Drive By Wisdom says:

    So what you are saying is that one of two complete war fantasies will win the Best Picture award?

    Who would have thought.

  73. 73
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    There is no way teh stupid will stop!

    I’m just shaking my head.

  74. 74
    Hiram Taine says:

    Frazetta was probably an influence but to me Avatar looks more like Boris Vallejo’s work.

    Umm.. Vallejo might be a bit NSFW..

  75. 75
    JG says:

    @suzanne: Exactly. Plus any involvement by James Cameron in anything makes it virtually unwatchable (since the first Terminator at least).

  76. 76
    Ash Can says:

    Sheesh. This site really has been fuxx0rd this morning.

    Anyhoo, I tried and failed to post this earlier: I saw on the National Weather Service website that southern Mississippi is supposed to get 5-9 inches of snow tonight and tomorrow. Southern fucking Mississippi. Five to nine inches.

    This isn’t the death of environmental legislation, it’s a golden opportunity for it. This is the cue for every goddamned climate scientist in the world, and all the people who are paying attention to them, to start pounding the goddamned table that it’s not global warming, it’s global fucking climate change. If they don’t, and squander this opportunity, then it’ll make no fucking difference whether or not Sarah Palin is elected president/empress/queen of all she surveys in 2012, because she won’t have either much of a country to crash and burn, or much of a world to bomb to shit. Mother Nature will already have done it for her.

  77. 77
    Khârn the Betrayer says:

    @JG:
    Learn the error of your ways! While no cinematic masterpiece, Aliens was certainly watchable!

    BFTBG. SFTST.

  78. 78
    Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion says:

    @matoko_chan: With all due respect, sexual dimorphism is a biological, not cultural, term, referring to divergent bodily design between genders of the same species. Not something the plains nations (or any human sub-group) are noted for. And chances are you know as much about gender-roles among the plains “indians” as you do about biology. Berdaches, manly-hearted women, spiritual/ceremonial definitions of gender identity, and a persistent refusal to conform to any European ideals of gender propriety go a long way toward complicating the picture for any observer who actually cares enough about the subject to bother educating themselves. Europeans who saw rigid patriarchal, hetero-dominant, machocentric gender roles among the “plains indians” who comprise a variety of nations and traditions were seeing what they wanted to observe, as per usual.
    I always enjoy your posts, but if you’re going to use Native American cultures to make a point, make sure you know what you’re talking about. Some of us consider that stuff pretty important.

  79. 79
    serge says:

    OMG…the reference to Frank Frazetta’s cover work on the paperback Tarzan novels took me through a screaming time warp. In particular, the cover to Son of Tarzan. To an impressionable 11-year-old with an overactive sexual imagination, that young lady was something to behold…

  80. 80
    Redshirt says:

    Also, Avatar is a pretty direct remake of Aliens. All the same issues are present, the plot is fairly similar. The only big difference between the two is the narrative focus – in Avatar, it’s with the Na’Vi. In Aliens, its with the Space Marines.

    I was disappointed Avatar did not go more in depth (in a Sci fi sense) with the very notion of avatars. I’m intrigued by this concept and am sure we will be dealing with actual consequences of virtual worlds and our avatars in them, soon enough (or already, if you’re a gamer). So, going in, I thought the movie would really focus on this concept, but in fact, it barely touched on it.

  81. 81
    Chasm says:

    Fuck CCH Pounder. Cast her in a show once (my Directorial Debut, actually) and she totally changed her hair during the 3 days between casting and shooting. Showed up 2 hours late, hair not done, another hour in hair/make-up – ruined my first day of shooting. She’s a good actress, but I’d never work with her again.
    /rant

  82. 82
    Legalize says:

    Some people have posted that Hurt Locker is an “anti-war” movie. I don’t think so. It’s a movie about war, operating under the fundamental premise that “war is hell.” I didn’t find anything especially political about the movie. Now, M*A*S*H – that’s an anti-war movie. Although, I suppose to folks who perceive any war experience as being anything less than blubbering patriotic glorification of Teh American Military! I suppose Hurt Locker would be seen as anti-war.

  83. 83
    Elie says:

    My favorite movie of the year was “The Serious Man” by the Cohen Brothers…explored what for me is one of the most important questions of our time — how does the “good man/person” address and adapt to the ongoing evil and pain encountered in the average life? It takes the main character through the chaos of life and documents his ongoing standing up to it, not in a smarmy, preachy, do goody way, but the complex process it takes to “belly up” to the hard times in your life and not be destroyed by them — since there are always plenty more just around the next corner…

    I loved Avatar. The story was the emotional mapping that took place from the stimulation of the visual cortex with the very refined 3-D images… it was amazing in that way though the effect was transient, easily blew away after walking out of the theater. That said, it was very powerful while viewing and reinforces for me how this can be used (and mis-used) as the medium evolves.

  84. 84
    matoko_chan says:

    @Phoebe: like I said, Cameron isn’t exactly subtle. Sully’s story is that he doesn’t want to be baggage……doin’ it himself? the whole sequence in the plane? He is thrilled to have legs again…that is why he runs.
    @Redshirt: Avatar II is already in the works.
    My hypothesis is that in Avatar II we find out Pandora was bio-engineered as an escape pod for the remnants of a post technological society….like the destroyed polluted earth in Avatar I. The biology seems kinda contrived to me on an evolutionary basis….BUT…..deliberate bio-engineering? bio-chips, organic personality storage, organic transcendent networks? scientists have postulated those models already.
    Cameron deliberately made the Na’vi human like so we would would have empathy bonding and care about the characters.
    An interesting way the Na’vi differ from plains indians is the lack of sexual dimorphism and the lack of role differentiation.
    Females can be hunters and warriors as well as singers, and do exactly the same rites of passage as the males. I didnt see any obviously pregnant Na’vi…I wonder why?
    But I can’t wait to see truly alien CG models…..the Kzinti? A Pierson’s Puppeteer? An Outsider? A Pak Protector?
    zomg

  85. 85
    matoko_chan says:

    @Legalize: oh, its anti-war alright.
    The Iraqi kids chuckin’ rocks at tanks?
    The theme is WTF are we doing there.

  86. 86
    matoko_chan says:

    @Redshirt: do you play?
    The first thing I did after seein’ Avatar IMAX was run my nelfpriest out to Nagrand and jump off a floating mountain.
    I levitated 2x on the way down.
    <3

  87. 87
    Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion says:

    @matoko_chan:

    An interesting way the Na’vi differ from plains indians is the lack of sexual dimorphism and the lack of role differentiation.
    Females can be hunters and warriors as well as singers, and do exactly the same rites of passage as the males. I didnt see any obviously pregnant Na’vi…I wonder why?

    go
    fuck
    yourself

  88. 88
    matoko_chan says:

    @Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion: pardon, but I’m pretty scient and i meant sexual dimorphism…..the male and female Na’vi are height similiar, and the females are very slight breasted and slender. Slight breasts of females and the wider shoulders of the males are the only visible physical differences.
    Plains indian women and girls were not inculcated into warrior culture, to my understanding. The Na’vi share the same puberty rites, males and females. Granted, I am not an expert, but the Na’vi seem to me to a lack of cultural sexual dimorphism, as well as a lack of physical sexual dimorphism.

  89. 89
    JG says:

    @Khârn the Betrayer: I was thinking Terminator was right after Aliens and not the other way around. I’ll give you Aliens, but if the last decent movie was in the mid-1980s, and most of his movies are sequels of his other movies and/or the same story on a different planet…well, I guess that’s my point.

    And he’s an unbelievable ass from everything I’ve ever seen of him speaking, writing, or being spoken or written about.

  90. 90
    mantis says:

    Avatar’d?

    Why do you hate Trig? Apologize now! Wait, are you Rush Limbaugh? No? Apologize!

  91. 91
    Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion says:

    First of all, you compared the Navi to the “plains indians” in terms of sexual dimorphism, which implies that there there exists a degree of sexual dimorphism among “plains indians” to which that of the Navi can be compared, which is bullshit.
    Secondly, you are a long way from “not being an expert” on plains culture, and those of us who’ve devoted the better part of our lives to the study of Native American cultural gender-based traditions would really appreciate it if you’d quit attempting to make whatever bs point you’re aiming for on the basis of something you actually know slightly less than nothing about.

  92. 92
    mellowjohn says:

    1. 3D is the ONLY way to see “avatar.” in 2D, it’s just a cartoon.
    2. “avatar” = “dances w/ wolves.” same movie, just tall blue creatures standing in for native americans.
    3. for all its glaring faults, “avatar” was not an indictment of the u.s. military. all those guys were mercenaries. y’know… like blackwater.

  93. 93
    suzanne says:

    @Folderol and Ephemera:

    It’s not just a wish to be absolved of the crimes whites have committed against people of color; it’s not just a wish to join the side of moral justice in battle. It’s a wish to lead people of color from the inside rather than from the (oppressive, white) outside.

    Bingo.
    Racist, sexist trash.

    @matoko_chan:

    Females can be hunters and warriors as well as singers, and do exactly the same rites of passage as the males.

    Uhhh…except the males “choose a woman”.
    And Cameron can’t make a movie without “tits in it”.

    That movie sucked.

  94. 94
    iluvcapra says:

    And [Cameron’s] an unbelievable ass from everything I’ve ever seen of him speaking, writing, or being spoken or written about.

    He didn’t win any friends a few years ago, when he put a big full-page add in Variety essentially blaming the movie businesses problems on the labor unions — union’s aren’t very popular in the US in general, but a vast majority of Academy members have a union card. (The largest block of Academy voters is actors, followed by sound technicians…)

    What’s slick about a film like “Avatar” is that VFX artists are not unionized and tend to get the sort of long-hours low-pay maybe-we’ll-pay-you-overtime-and-maybe-we-won’t arrangement reserved for other “exempt” white-collar employees.

  95. 95
    Drive By Wisdom says:

    @Legalize:

    It’s a movie about war

    How insightful. A movie about a suicidal EOD guy who is apparently also a Ranger and sniper and wanders about an Iraq where radio communications and engagement procedures have not been invented and then proceeds to chase bad guys around with two sidekicks in tow. Except when he sends them off alone because three can search Iraq more quickly by themselves.

    Yes, you must all have quite a sense of fantasy if you think that movie was about “war.”

  96. 96
    4tehlulz says:

    Posting in a desperate attempt to get the front page working for me again.

  97. 97
    Brainz says:

    The Guardian has an interview with Linda Hamilton (audio at link) where she says that she and Cameron, who have a kid, are still friends, but that she’s rooting for Bigelow because ex-wives have to stick together.

  98. 98
    twiffer says:

    i have to ask:

    —a real Iraq War story, not a sci-fi allegory—[emp. mine]

    what the holy fuck does being sci-fi or not have to do with a movie being good?

  99. 99
    SisterBoo says:

    Cookie, please.

  100. 100
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Hiram Taine:

    Frazetta was probably an influence but to me Avatar looks more like Boris Vallejo’s work.

    Vallejo was “heavily influenced” by Frazetta. (Michael Whelan was Frazetta x Jack Kirby.)

  101. 101
    John says:

    @Alex S.:

    That makes no sense. Tons of people hated Inglourious Basterds.

  102. 102
    Hob says:

    @Chasm: That’s amazingly fucking classy, posting anonymously to trash the professional behavior of a working actor. Assuming your story is true – which you’ve given no one any reason to believe – then that was a dumb thing for her to have done, but she seems to have gotten plenty of work since whenever that was, so it seems reasonable to assume that she hasn’t made a habit of fucking up productions. You, on the other hand, sound like someone it’d be a really good idea to never work with in any capacity.

    I’ve acted, directed, stage managed, run tech, etc. and often got very pissed off at people doing stupid shit that made my life hell. But I can’t even imagine being enough of an asshole to hold a grudge like that for years and post cowardly shit about it on the Internet. Even if it was my “Directorial Debut”– fuck, I can’t even imagine being enough of an asshole to capitalize Directorial Debut.

    CCH Pounder is pretty awesome, but I would say the same if you had posted that shit about the worst actor ever.

  103. 103
    matoko_chan says:

    @Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion:

    go
    fuck
    yourself

    Wow, I sure have an amazing gift for drawing aggro.
    Where is cornerstone?
    @suzanne:

    That movie sucked.

    Sneer all you like, but Avatar is the highest grossing movie of all time, and Avatar II and Avatar III are pretty much guaranteed to do well.
    I guess a lot of people don’t get the Grace AUGUSTINE being assimilated by a sentient transcendent pantheistic tree goddess as being obvious, but they are probably just illiterate morans and teabaggers and WECs.
    lawl.

  104. 104
    Paula says:

    yes, because box office gross=quality cinema /sarcastica

  105. 105
    matoko_chan says:

    @Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion: also, too.
    I’m part cherokee.
    :)
    I could have said physical sexual dimorphism in homo sap. but I was leveraging off Suzanne the Unread’s i09 review on white guilt.
    Rais your hands, anyone who knows who St. Augustine is and his influence on xianity?

  106. 106
    matoko_chan says:

    @Paula:

    yes, because box office gross=quality cinema /sarcastica

    in a way it does.
    Box office gross shapes what kind of movies get made.
    Look at how many Star Wars movies got made after the blockbuster opener?
    How many LoTR movies?
    LoTR was a “better” movie……but not at the box office.
    I haz a happy for more sci-fi epics and immersion cinematography.
    ;)

  107. 107
    Paula says:

    @ twiffer:

    Apparently, Hertzberg buys into the common conception among elite print critics who need to be put to pasture that genre films (esp. sci fi) are only for unserious fanboys.

    Fuck dat shit. One of the best movies released this year was Moon. One of the best movies of the decade was Children of Men. (Popping up in many a best-of list last year.) I’m really sorry that District 9 is the only one to carry the banner for serious sci-fi movies against the Avatars and Transformers 2:ROTFLs of mainstream Hollywood.

  108. 108
    suzanne says:

    @matoko_chan:

    but I was leveraging off Suzanne the Unread’s i09 review on white guilt.

    Me not liking your favorite movie EVAH doesn’t make me illiterate.

    Your little shitstorm about its box office grosses is also completely beside the point. (And, adjusted for inflation, Gone With The Wind still does better.) Who cares? More people voted for Shrub than Kerry in ’04. They’re still wrong.

    The douche! GET IT OFF ME! IT BURNS!!!

  109. 109
    JoeK says:

    @matoko_chan:

    Wow, that was thought-provoking. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the Avatar story line (yeah, the biology seems iffy, the savages are really annoyingly noble, etc), but if he’s going somewhere interesting with it, I’d be on board. I had high hopes that “The Matrix” would go somewhere really innovative after the first movie, but was dismally disappointed, as I am by most SF that makes it to the screen (big or little). Maybe Cameron will surprise me.

  110. 110
    Corner Stone says:

    @matoko_chan:

    Wow, I sure have an amazing gift for drawing aggro.
    Where is cornerstone?

    The freude! It has been schadened!!
    Don’t kid yourself – the reason people react to you this way is because it’s obvious you have no idea what you’re talking about yet you persist. Again and again and again.
    At this point if you said that 2 + 2 = 4 I would have to back up and count it down for myself one more time. Then I would be amazed you actually got something right.
    For a change.

  111. 111
    Joel says:

    Avatar was compelling enough, which is all you can ask for from a mindless action movie. The guy’s been pumping out huge blockbusters for thirty years, but James Cameron’s best days are long behind him. We’re never going to see another Aliens or Terminator. I don’t even know if conditions in Hollywood would allow it… But best picture? Really? I didn’t think Inglorious Basterds was that hot, either. A lot of hamming it up and “too cool for the room”. The Hurt Locker was great, however. What’s amazing is that Bigelow’s previous works were nowhere close to as good.

  112. 112
    matoko_chan says:

    @JoeK:

    yeah, the biology seems iffy, the savages are really annoyingly noble, etc)

    Why wouldn’t they be noble?
    They are living in Eden before the Fall, a perfectly bio-engineered environment, if my hypothesis is correct. The Na’vi actually live in perfect symbiosis with their “garden”.
    @suzanne: I’m just kind of astonished that you and i09 see a kindof super-trite “white guilt” when the movie is actually rich with western “judeo-christian” symbology that gets an ideological asswhupping from eastern philosophy.
    Like I said, you can only see what you have the background to see in Avatar. If your education in mytho-poeisis consists of american judeo-xian consumerism and your experience of alien culture contact consists of watching Dances with Wolves and reading James Fenimoore Cooper, sure, white guilt is all you are capable of seeing in Avatar.

  113. 113
    matoko_chan says:

    @Joel:

    We’re never going to see another Aliens or Terminator.

    lawl.
    we are going to see the Ringworld. In 3DIMAX.

    The Hurt Locker was great,

    The Hurt Locker was passable.
    I give it a C+.
    Now Restrepo is GREAT!
    Restrepo is going to shine a laser on this kind of bullshytt.

  114. 114
    matoko_chan says:

    @suzanne: white guilt and blue sioux is all you are capable of seeing in Avatar.
    lawl.
    :)

  115. 115

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