Late Night Open Thread: Blue Mooned

So as someone whose own beloved popcult obsessions have always been scorned by the normals, aka “mundanes”, I kinda hate to be That Guy, and yet: Via Paul Constant, the JoBlo website highlights a statement of artistic vision from James “Dances with Space Smurfs” Cameron:

“Last year I basically completely disbanded my production company’s development arm. So I’m not interested in developing anything. I’m in the “Avatar” business. Period. That’s it. I’m making “Avatar 2,” “Avatar 3,” maybe “Avatar 4,” and I’m not going to produce other people’s movies for them. I’m not interested in taking scripts. And that all sounds I suppose a little bit restricted, but the point is I think within the “Avatar” landscape I can say everything I need to say that I think needs to be said, in terms of the state of the world and what I think we need to be doing about it. And doing it in an entertaining way.

And anything I can’t say in that area, I want to say through documentaries, which I’m continuing. I’ve done five documentaries in the last 10 years, and I’ll hopefully do a lot more…”

Well, since Visionary Cameron’s much-spoken-of $100 million 3D technology investment has paid off so magnificently for Producer Cameron, maybe he can afford to pay an actual scriptwriter for the next two or seven or thirty-five installments of The GodSpaceSmurfs, the Seven SpaceSmurfs, CGI Love & Virtual Death, and of course Class-Struggle Space Smurfs Versus The Iceberg. Although I fear that neither Frank Frazetta‘s estate nor James Gurney are ever gonna get the credit they deserve for Cameron’s Vision, but then, Hollywood wouldn’t exist without plagiarism creative reinterpretation, would it?

Also, it’s worth reading the whole NYTimes Media Decoder interview, which is mostly about selling technology and buying eyeballs in China.

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54 replies
  1. 1
    Phylllis says:

    My late husband described it perfectly when he said Titanic was nothing more than A Night To Remember with a great deal of screaming added.

  2. 2
    Marcellus Shale, Public Dick says:

    actually, if you think about it, avatar is a safe place for cameron. think of the stuff he could ruin if he was actually trying.

  3. 3
    ruemara says:

    Meh. Avatar was fun. If he wants to stay there and worldbuild, whatever.

  4. 4

    Talk about irony: I just finished reading that interview- replete with it’s praise of techno-shit like “300”- clicked on the tube, and there’s “The Last Picture Show”.

  5. 5
    amk says:

    so cameron is going galt rogue ?

  6. 6
    MikeJ says:

    For every minute you put explosions on the screen that’s one minute that you don’t need to translate dialogue and dub it.

    And Cybil is about to get on the diving board.

  7. 7

    @MikeJ:

    Dialogue has it’s merits, Mike, but I’ll take honest-to-goodness creative storytelling over the Terminator franchise any day, regardless of how much is actually verbalized.

  8. 8
    Hill Dweller says:

    After reading about Diaper Dave Vitter blocking Obama’s two nominees for the Fed BOG and the record-breaking lack of judicial confirmations during his term, it sort of dawned on me that the current Republican party is the most radical in my lifetime, yet they’ve paid no political price. They have literally tried to destroy Obama since day one of his Presidency, and burn down both federal and state governments, but the beltway media doesn’t seem to give a shit.

    If Obama loses and/or the Republicans control congress, I’m praying for a meteor.

  9. 9
    MikeJ says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again): I wasn’t saying one was better than the other, merely that one is easier to sell into worldwide markets.

    OT, Last Picture Show has an awesome soundtrack.

  10. 10

    @MikeJ:

    No, I got ya the first time around. I guess I should have made it clear that I don’t think explosions necessarily add to anything but the budget.

    And, yes, AWESOME!

  11. 11
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Cameron is going down the Dark Path of George Lucas.

    Oh well.

    Hopefully Joss Wheedon will not do this.

  12. 12

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Cameron is going down the Dark Path of George Lucas.

    Yeahhhhhh….Maybe?

    But I don’t think that Cameron’s ever aimed at selling toys to 8-year olds. There’s certainly been the visual potential in characters from his films, but the films themselves are more likely to scare a kid shitless than to make ’em wanna play with the action figures.

  13. 13
    Citizen Alan says:

    A bit disappointed that you mentioned Franzetta and Gurney but not Edgar Rice Burroughs. It’s perversely ironic that (a) Avatar could never have been made at all without John Carter of Mars, (b) John Carter of Mars could have been made into a film with Avatar, and (c) John Carter of Mars would be a disastrous bomb because Avatar poisoned the well for it’s own progenitor.

  14. 14

    Hey Mr Cameron has just bought a place just down the road from me in NZ. Only a short helicopter flight over the Rimutaka hills into Wellington, the home of Weta Digital (and Sir Peter Jackson).

    Looks like Weta are going to be very busy with lots of new Avatar movies (and Tintin!)

  15. 15
    NotMax says:

    So he’s admitted he’s now stuck to his Avatar baby?

    (rimshot)

  16. 16
    Applejinx says:

    If he seriously thinks he can put across a hug-the-trees hard-left ecological agenda, more power to him and hooray for his manipulative blockbuster springboard.

    In case folks haven’t noticed, he appears to be crusading against a number of things that ARE KILLING US. I’m not prepared to sneer at him for going to any extreme to combat it. It’s not a joke.

    Climate change (to increased violence and disaster) is going to clobber us, already is, and if Cameron proposes to crystallize the reality of this into blue-kitty images so that people will GET it, I’m cheering him on, bigtime.

  17. 17
    the fugitive uterus says:

    well, that sounds boring as fuck. 55 sequels?

    i just realized last night exactly why i don’t like going to the movies, and why i’ll never get one of those big-screen teevees and i’m at peace with it. i can explain it to people now. because it really made me feel like the oddball, why can’t i be like other people and be all up into this stuff?

  18. 18
    Arclite says:

    Yeah, I’m with Applejinx on this one. Cameron’s movies might be a bit simplistic, but the man seems to really care about the environment and the natural world. He puts his money where his mouth is by spending his money to make docs and risking his life doing crazy stunts to further raise awareness. Of course there’s some ego in there, but similar egos are doing jack shit (*cough* Michael Bay *cough*).

  19. 19
    the fugitive uterus says:

    why, after making millions of $ (have no idea what Cameron is worth) don’t these people just hang it up and fucking retire and let some young blood into the industry? it’s not like they need the fucking money forcripesake. stupid question, i know.

  20. 20
    the fugitive uterus says:

    @Phylllis: the visual aspect and the recreation of the ship was, i must admit, stunning. the rest was crap. horrible script, one-dimensional characters, and DiCaprio looked like he was 12 years old, not some guy who’d really experienced life, tromping around France and consorting with prostitutes, like his character supposedly had. anyway, i didn’t watch the movie until it was about 10 years old.

  21. 21
    the fugitive uterus says:

    The Terminator was the best thing he ever did, imo. (ducks)

  22. 22
    middlewest says:

    And thus, the world was spared the horror of Titanic 2.

  23. 23
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    Today I finally sucked it up, got over myself, and got my first smartphone. I’m only 12 years late to the 21st century. Now I’m going to go home and play with it!

  24. 24
    Arclite says:

    Also, too, Cameron conceived this: one of the best action scenes ever.

  25. 25
    Raven says:

    @the fugitive uterus: Try swimming around underwater in the North Atlantic for 20 minutes.

  26. 26
    Randy P says:

    Yeah, but… Zoe Saldana! She’s completely adorable in that movie. Yes, my definition of “completely adorable” includes the ability to fillet you without breaking a sweat. I call my wife the Goddess Diana, and we all know what happened to mortals around her.

    I would watch more of her avatar. Actually I enjoyed all of the casting in that movie. I completely believed that marine colonel (?) and Giovanni Ribisi is always fun to hate.

  27. 27
    the fugitive uterus says:

    OT, but Romney says Obama should not be prosecuted for treason!

    Romney had a chance to make that clear during the rally, but passed on the opportunity when he ignored a questioner who called for Obama to be tried for treason.

    here’s Romney’s gutsy response wrenched out of him by an intrepid young reporter. (can we have more of these?)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2M87_xc70LI

    also, don’t pay any attention to what i say about James Cameron. i’m just a cynical asshole who doesn’t even watch movies until the come out on the teevee.

  28. 28
    the fugitive uterus says:

    @Arclite: yes, i love that scene! gotta give creds to Cameron for some awesome kaboomie scenes – today, the kaboomies are just so gratuitous. i truly enjoyed Schwarzenegger in this. just like i still love Mad Max movies to this day. even though both guys turned out to be assholes in real life, i liked the characters.

  29. 29
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    Although I fear that neither Frank Frazetta’s estate nor James Gurney are ever gonna get the credit they deserve for Cameron’s Vision, but then, Hollywood wouldn’t exist without plagiarism creative reinterpretation, would it?

    “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.”

    -attributed to T.S. Eliot/Pablo Picasso/others.

    Seriously, Shakespeare retold old stories. Many of Manet works were attempts tocreate his versions of works by El Greco among others. Kurt Cobain was trying to write Pixies’ songs. Cameron is an egotistical tool, I hated “Titanic,” and felt meh about “Avatar,” but the plagiarism rap is a bit much.

    Edited to fix grammar.

  30. 30
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Jesus, edit something to fix the grammar and still fuck it up. This is why I don’t like to get up this early. Oh well, recall primary day here in Wisconsin and I shall be megabusy.

  31. 31
    Walker says:

    @the fugitive uterus:

    Aliens. Cameron single-handedly defined the modern video game era with that one.

  32. 32
    Tokyokie says:

    @the fugitive uterus: I know how you feel. This past weekend, when I expressed my disdain for The Avengers and all other movies based on comic books and announced my intention to go see the Norwegian thriller Hodejegerne, I was promptly denounced as pretentious by friends, all of whom came back from The Avengers swearing it was the greatest thing ever (and, I predict, none of whom will be able to remember much about in six months’ time). I seriously doubt if any of them will ever deign to catch Hodejegerne (although some of them don’t live in proximity to an art house and won’t have the opportunity to do so). Which is too bad for them, as Hodejegerne is a model of economic cinematic storytelling with complicated characters with complex, frequently duplicitous agendas, reminiscent of Don Siegel’s Charley Varrick. (One of the greatest action film ever made. It’s a pity that Universal dumped it back in ’73.) I won’t disagree that Hodejegerne, like The Avengers, is ultimately an entertainment that’s based in a universe that nobody has experienced (although Hodejegerne has an anti-materialism subtext that The Avengers could never contemplate), but Hodejegerne can get away with having a not especially sympathetic protagonist and some truly harrowing sequences (and not having lots of cheesy CGI) because it was not made by a committee, most of whose members studied marketing.

    And as for Titanic, I still haven’t seen it all the way through, start to finish. Tried watching it on an airplane once, but I kept falling asleep. I could have seen its world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival way back when, but Russell the Aussie film critic and I instead chose to ridicule the Japanese schoolgirls who camped out overnight to see it, because we both knew it’d be a stinker that’d tank at the box office. Shows what I (and film critics from Perth) know.

  33. 33
    Tokyokie says:

    @the fugitive uterus: I know how you feel. This past weekend, when I expressed my disdain for The Avengers and all other movies based on comic books and announced my intention to go see the Norwegian thriller Hodejegerne, I was promptly denounced as pretentious by friends, all of whom came back from The Avengers swearing it was the greatest thing ever (and, I predict, none of whom will be able to remember much about in six months’ time). I seriously doubt if any of them will ever deign to catch Hodejegerne (although some of them don’t live in proximity to an art house and won’t have the opportunity to do so). Which is too bad for them, as Hodejegerne is a model of economic cinematic storytelling with complicated characters with complex, frequently duplicitous agendas, reminiscent of Don Siegel’s Charley Varrick. (One of the greatest action film ever made. It’s a pity that Universal dumped it back in ’73.) I won’t disagree that Hodejegerne, like The Avengers, is ultimately an entertainment that’s based in a universe that nobody has experienced (although Hodejegerne has an anti-materialism subtext that The Avengers could never contemplate), but Hodejegerne can get away with having a not especially sympathetic protagonist and some truly harrowing sequences (and not having lots of cheesy CGI) because it was not made by a committee, most of whose members studied marketing.

    And as for Titanic, I still haven’t seen it all the way through, start to finish. Tried watching it on an airplane once, but I kept falling asleep. I could have seen its world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival way back when, but Russell the Aussie film critic and I instead chose to ridicule the Japanese schoolgirls who camped out overnight to see it, because we both knew it’d be a stinker that’d tank at the box office. Shows what I (and film critics from Perth) know.

  34. 34
    Tokyokie says:

    @the fugitive uterus: I know how you feel. This past weekend, when I expressed my disdain for The Avengers and all other movies based on comic books and announced my intention to go see the Norwegian thriller Hodejegerne, I was promptly denounced as pretentious by friends, all of whom came back from The Avengers swearing it was the greatest thing ever (and, I predict, none of whom will be able to remember much about in six months’ time). I seriously doubt if any of them will ever deign to catch Hodejegerne (although some of them don’t live in proximity to an art house and won’t have the opportunity to do so). Which is too bad for them, as Hodejegerne is a model of economic cinematic storytelling with complicated characters with complex, frequently duplicitous agendas, reminiscent of Don Siegel’s Charley Varrick. (One of the greatest action film ever made. It’s a pity that Universal dumped it back in ’73.) I won’t disagree that Hodejegerne, like The Avengers, is ultimately an entertainment that’s based in a universe that nobody has experienced (although Hodejegerne has an anti-materialism subtext that The Avengers could never contemplate), but Hodejegerne can get away with having a not especially sympathetic protagonist and some truly harrowing sequences (and not having lots of cheesy CGI) because it was not made by a committee, most of whose members studied marketing.

    And as for Titanic, I still haven’t seen it all the way through, start to finish. Tried watching it on an airplane once, but I kept falling asleep. I could have seen its world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival way back when, but Russell the Aussie film critic and I instead chose to ridicule the Japanese schoolgirls who camped out overnight to see it, because we both knew it’d be a stinker that’d tank at the box office. Shows what I (and film critics from Perth) know.

  35. 35
    Ron says:

    @Tokyokie: I never really understood the disdain people have for people who like ANY kind of movie. Movies are about entertainment, and always have been. People enjoy whatever it is they enjoy, and that doesn’t make them better people or worse people. If you don’t like comic book character movies, nobody is going to make you watch them. Personally, I enjoy a pretty wide variety of movies, ranging from schlock to Serious Films(tm). I was never interested in Titanic, and haven’t watched it all the way through either. The only parts I’ve watched were after the iceberg hit. I thought Avatar was visually stunning, had a decent, if predictable story line, and was for the most part, a pretty enjoyable movie. I’m not sure I’m up for tons of sequels, but I’ll probably at least watch the first sequel.

  36. 36
    presquevu says:

    Maybe I missed some deep symbolism in the use of the longstanding engineering joke name unobtainium as the quest that justified destruction of the smurfs’ environment, but it struck me as tone-deaf and really dim. Maybe next installment will have the space marines tearing apart worlds looking for a Turboencabulator.

  37. 37
    Tokyokie says:

    @Ron: One of my general complaints about contemporary cinema is that I basically loathe CGI. It sometimes is done well (and I’ll give Cameron full props on that score), but most of the time it’s flat and two-dimensional and, well, fake looking. Yet contemporary films have become utterly dependent on it. Need to blow something up? Don’t bother getting permits and all that hassle (or worse, miniatures), fake it. Can’t afford 10,000 extras and costumes for them? Fake it. Painted yourself into a narrative corner? Don’t bother with devising a creative solution, just fake it. CGI has become the spectacle audiences have come to expect from big-budget Hollywood product, yet, other than in small doses, in the hands of almost every director, it looks cheesier than the sets on a 1950s DeMille picture (which at least had the thousands of costumed extras). And because this is the crap that’s being force-fed consumers, they accept it as being tasty, just like they do crappy, over-marketed swill from American breweries.

  38. 38
    Paul in KY says:

    I thought the Avatar movie was pretty cool. Sorta like an alien traveloge in places. Hope there’s a little more nuance in the next one.

  39. 39
    Chyron HR says:

    @Tokyokie:

    I know how you feel. This weekend all my pleb friends also went to the Duh-vengers and deluded themselves into thinking they “enjoyed” themselves, whereas I went to see Hurgenflurgen, which is not only so obscure that you’ve never heard of it, but also in black and white and in a foreign language, so I clearly had the superior cinematic experience.

    (I kind of hope they release it with subtitles someday, though.)

  40. 40
    Nicole says:

    My friend does “summaries” of movies- here is Avatar in 20 seconds:

  41. 41
    Peter A says:

    @Citizen Alan: John Carter of Mars was actually far more entertaining, with much better visuals than Avatar. John Carter even makes more sense as a story than Avatar. Oh well. In 20 years I suspect that will be a fairly common opinion. Not that either film deserves to be a classic.

    Actually in many ways John Carter is a better film than Avengers. Avengers has some good lines thanks to Joss, but there’s nothing in that movie we haven’t seen before. I thought Avengers was kind of a letdown to be honest, not Whedon’s best work.

  42. 42
    Merp says:

    “CGI Love and Virtual Death” is hilarious

  43. 43
    JoeShabadoo says:

    Cameron flew too close to the sun. With Avatar and Titanic to a lesser extent being so huge it has become cool to hate on Cameron because he is too popular to be cool.

    He also isn’t going to be pumping out Avatar movies like George Lucas at an atm. You all realize the huge gap before Avatar, right? He is probably going to make one, maybe two more Avatar movies in his lifetime between the documentaries he seems to really love.

  44. 44
    Brian S says:

    @ruemara: Avatar is the Crash of science fiction movies.

  45. 45
    daveNYC says:

    @Peter A: OK, I have to ask how John Carter of Mars manages to make more sense than Avatar. I only read the books, but they were pretty far out in crazy land as far as the amount of suspension of disbelief necessary to get through them. Avatar isn’t exactly hard sifi, but outside of the floating islands, most of what’s in the movie isn’t so far out there. At least nothing like the book’s ‘mortally wounded in a war, stares at Mars in the sky and is teleported there and remade as an uberstud’.
    Cameron would be an interesting person to work for. He’s a Type-A perfectionist, pretty much a multi-talented genius, and a bit of an asshole with a strong vision of what he wants. By the end of the gig you’d probably be hating life, but you’d also probably be pretty damn happy with the output. Unlike, say, Michael Bay.
    The main thing I like about Cameron’s movies is that he doesn’t do cuts every five seconds. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve decided that that’s one of the things that I like in movies. Nice long camera shots that give you time to look at all the various details in the scene, not just barely enough time to recognize which two giant robots are hitting each other.

  46. 46
    Tokyokie says:

    @daveNYC: Flash editing, when done well (say, the gunfights in The Wild Bunch), is pretty exciting. However, to do it properly, you need sufficient coverage, and that means you pretty much have to design multiple, simultaneous tracking shots, which is very difficult because it requires thinking in four dimensions. (Peckinpah could do it, John Woo (even though his most recent output has been dreadful and his film style has become a cliche) can do it, but most directors are simply incapable of it.) Most of what you’re objecting to — and I hate it as well — is pretty much Dadaist filmmaking: a series of rapid images thrown up on screen in no discernible order. And though the movies of the likes of Hou Hsiao-hsien or even Yasujiro Ozu are difficult to watch — they certainly require more work by the audience than anything based on a comic book — they tend not to leave me with a headache.

  47. 47
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again):

    Not me — give me camera trickery and the most expensive stunt of the silent era.

    ETA: Yes, that was a real train and a real bridge, not a model. Apparently you could still see the remains of it in Cottage Grove, OR, for decades afterwards.

  48. 48
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:

    “I only read the books, but they were pretty far out in crazy land as far as the amount of suspension of disbelief necessary to get through them.”

    Only ‘cos Burroughs wrote them before Technobabble was invented. But Burroughs and the other pulp writers – E.E. Doc Smith, R.E. Howard – have been strip-mined by subsequent writers and by the film industry. I liked the movie, but thought it was really poorly marketed and got slagged off by critics who couldn’t understand that things they thought were derivative were, at the time Burroughs wrote, completely original.

    Even though writers from that era, like Burroughs or Lord Dunsany seem dated, there’s a novelty about reading them, because they were pioneers of a genre before its stock plots and characters were set, and so sometimes there’s real surprises in their stories.

    “At least nothing like the book’s ‘mortally wounded in a war, stares at Mars in the sky and is teleported there and remade as an uberstud’.”

    Errmm, how’s that different from most urban fantasy?

  49. 49
    celticdragonchick says:

    @ruemara:

    I agree. I enjoyed the movie, even if I had seen it before with Kevin Costner 20 years previously (and also with Tom Cruise in 19th century Japan).

    You know what you are going to get in a Romantic comedy (Shakespeare set the basic formula with Much Ado About Nothing) where boy meets girl, boy looses girl over misunderstanding, they make up and have a happy ending.

    You know what you are going to get when you have a disaffected western culture guy end up in a Eutopic foreign culture. *shrug*

  50. 50
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Tokyokie:

    Don’t bother getting permits and all that hassle (or worse, miniatures), fake it.

    Actually, both Inception the TLOTR triology, which b oth have significant CGI, also use miniatures and old fashioned camera trickery.

    The tower of Barad Dur in Mordor is a miniature, as are parts of the fortress hospital at the end of Inception (when you see the entire complex explode and fall down the slope…that is a miniature)

    Many of the shots of the hobbots with other actors are actually forced perspective to amke the hobbits look small. Tha amazing rolling hall fight scene in Inception is really a rolling hall built on a giant rotating rig.

    :)

  51. 51
    daveNYC says:

    @Herbal Infusion Bagger: Couldn’t tell you. I wiki’ed Urban Fantasy, and discovered that I haven’t read any of the listed novels (or any of the authors). I’d assume that a lot of the urban fantasy (which seems to involve a lot of main characters who are secret magicmonsters or something) might have the plot thing where they’re living their lives then they have a strange encounter that sparks their powers to life. That’s fine. That’s what the comic Mage did. But the beginning of the JCoM is a bit more than that. I can handle escapist fiction, but literal escapist fiction, where the initial step of the story involves so much heavy lifting is a little more difficult.
    Mars did have technobabble, and good technobabble at that. Exploding bullets? It’s a photosensitive material in a glass bullet that has a thin layer of paint that gets rubbed off on impact. Flying ships? Super-helium. Solid basic technobabble reasons that are easy to explain and make sense in the environment. Even the initial transportation could have been handwaved away, it’s just that with the reconstruction of his body that put a crimp in reading the book.

    Personally, I think the use of flash editing (that’s the technical term?) is due to lazy directors. Not the well done stuff, but the crappy stuff. It lets the director get away with slop in a shot and they’re not required to put together a long scene that would require more effort on the part of actors and crew and whatnot. If you’re putting cuts in often enough to trigger a gran mal in 10% of the population nobody is going to notice a shadow from a boom or the catering truck in the background. One of my favorite shots in recent (relatively speaking) movies is that long crane (think it is) shot from Kill Bill 1, where the assistant leaves the upstairs dining room at the restaurant and goes to the bathroom, the camera following the entire time. It’s just enjoyable to watch.

  52. 52
    Phylllis says:

    @Chyron HR: Rose Nylund, is that you?

  53. 53

    @Mnemosyne:

    Nothing wrong with either of those films- I loves me some Keaton, too- which are great in their totality. The stories call for stunts/effects. This is 180 degrees from Cameron, whose films are a series of effects that call for story.

  54. 54
    Heliopause says:

    maybe he can afford to pay an actual scriptwriter

    In this film critic’s* humble opinion Cameron has made one genuinely good movie, the first Terminator (Aliens and The Abyss were passable). It’s not hard to see why this is so; the less money you have the more you must rely on filmmaking instincts (see the Star Wars series for another good example). The best thing that could happen to Cameron would be if he went broke and was forced to be a filmmaker again.

    *Not intended as a factual statement.

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