1.22.2010

why i'll never cave in to seeing Avatar

I don't know what it is about James Cameron, but he certainly knows how to make a "hit movie."  From The Terminator movies to Titanic to, now, Avatar... Cameron either a) knows the exact formula for making movie millions, b) only makes movies he knows will be HUGE, or c) ... well, I don't have a C because I think his strategy includes both.  The thing that bugs me about James Cameron, and "blockbusters" in general (think Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen) is that their aim isn't necessarily to extract emotion from their viewers, maintain artistic integrity*, or develop meaningful and timeless plots and/or characterizations.  The goal of a blockbuster is spectacle.  
*I'm not saying Avatar doesn't have artistic integrity, because it most certainly does. I'm saying most other blockbusters do not.


Some would argue that spectacle is where film got its start; people wanted to see what the hell these "motion pictures" were all about.  However, the wonder of the moving picture transformed into some of the best days of the American cinema--the 1930s.  The films that made the money were those that contained good actors, good screenwriting, thoughtful cinematography, and a plot that actually went somewhere (think Casablanca or even The Wizard of Oz).  Don't get me wrong--the movies of the Golden Age of Hollywood had their flaws.  Stereotypes and inequality abound in those movies.  Deus ex machina is a popular mechanism used in many early films (granted, it is still used today, but I digress).  What I'm trying to get at is that good movies don't have to be about spectacle.  Or at least they shouldn't be.  True, there is no harm in seeing a film because it is beautiful (hello, Atonement... I would never have seen that movie based on plot alone... it's just plain depressing... but its cinematography is flawless).  So I wouldn't say my reason for not seeing Avatar is that I think it's probably not pretty--I'm sure it's gorgeous.  In fact, I've heard that the CGI is breathtaking in it.  BUT... I have an issue with the fact that people say Avatar has to be seen in 3D IMAX to get the full effect.  Where is the timelessness in that?  


  




As a film major, I'm worried about the direction that Hollywood is going in.  I don't want to make 3D films.  I want to make good ol' 35 mm movies that actually have a heart.  Plus, as I get further in my education, the more I'm starting to lean towards cinematography.  What is the point of a cinematographer in a CGI world?  Ugh.  Besides, with "brilliant" CGI films such as Avatar (and Up--although Pixar/Disney 3D films have transferability to 2D viewing), other CGI movies--like Alvin and the Chipmunks-The Squeakuel and G-Force (that movie about the spy gerbils) are being made.  I cringe when I see these trailers.  I know they're kids' movies, but I just can't force myself to see their value.  Since when does making movies that are absolutely horribly written and contain no production value suffice for kids?  The Disney Animation Studios cranked out some excellent films (Sleeping Beauty & Peter Pan to The Princess and the Frog & The Lion King) that were well-written while still being accessible for kids.  And let's not forget the Disney/Pixar films starting from Toy Story... also all well-written and made, but still marketed for and enjoyed by children.


Anyway, my point is that I'm not going to see Avatar not because I hate being a "bandwagon jumper" (although I do.. I have yet to see Napoleon Dynamite and Titanic for that very reason), but because 1) I'm not really interested in science-fiction films-especially ones that last nearly 3 hours.. (save Star Wars: Episodes 4-6), 2) It costs like five extra dollars to see the film for the "full effect" and I'm a poor college student, 3) James Cameron has enough frickin' money, and 4) it breaks my heart that, for a movie to make a lot of money, it has to be a film of spectacle.  It has to be about the computer generation, not the way the lighting, editing, and cinematography purposely further the director's themes that are played out by a well-acted screenplay.  


 So, you can go see Avatar if you want.  But if Avatar wins Best Film at the Academy Awards, I might have to seriously consider changing my major.

2 comments:

  1. I saw Avatar in 2D and it was still pretty amazing (only because the clows at 24 fucked up the projector and couldnt fix the audio so they let us watch it in 2d for free) The plot line of the movie was very cliche and yes rather cheesey at what appeared to be almost a complete ripoff of Pocahantas or cowboys and indians in space. It's unfortunate that originality in story telling is becoming more and more played out as time goes on while technology advances seem to become more and more original and breathtaking. Whilst i understand your dislike for Avatar as a film major, CGI artists found the movie to be settign a new bar and momument of how far we have come in our ability to create "realistic" art from almost scratch (where cinematography is still desperately needed because a lot of cgi is done with a camera first). Hopefully in the future there will be a balance of phenomal CGI and incredible screenwriting or perhaps maybe in another 80 years CGI will peak and screenwriting will be the reason people will be going to the movies (probably because by then everyone from our time will be dead and people will remake movies without anyone noticing)
    I wanted to see avatar from when i first saw a teaser for it on tv at E3 (Entertainment Expo) I think you should really see it Jess, a bandwagoner is someone who roots for or i guess hops aboard something simply because it's popular but given your taste, background and major i think you would simply be seeing it for it's cinematic value (1-10) and to judge it for itself. Cause to make claims that the movie is bad and has no value without seeing it, is just bandwagoning with all the people who said it was bad. You gotta drive your own wagon. I think you're judging a movie by it's sales and other peoples reviews. Cmon jess you wanna be a great "film whatever" you gotta see first hand what what makes a terrible script. I would pay right now for you to see that movie in "Extreme Digital 3D" just so you could validify this blog. :)


    I ramble you know that.

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  2. Jessica7:14 PM

    Bill, thanks for the comment! I really appreciate your views. While I agree that I should probably see it before I knock it, I'm more so arguing against the expansion of CGI and 3D in filmmaking. I don't really know anything about the plot/screenwriting to be honest. When I was talking about the terrible screenwriting, I was mostly referring to movies like Transformers, etc.

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