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December 11, 2009

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bill

Yes, John, I'm confused, because Cameron has constructed something so very complex. Read again what has been described as appearing on-screen, because you're clearly failing to retain it so far.

James Keepnews

I was pretty sure I was going to have to hate this film on GP, imperialist smallpox notwithstanding (hi, Bill!). I'm more cold than hot on Cameron's oeuvre -- put me very much more in the Alien camp over Aliens (and isn't Paul Reiser's corp drone there pretty much transferred avatar-whole-cloth to Giovanni Ribisi's character here?), and as much as I enjoyed the first two Terminators, his auetuerist bonafides are a disaster absent disaster.

But all this Kirby/Steranko talk does get my inner 13-year-old's heart racing a mite, and the comparison between Kirby and Cameron's artless pulp writing styles is telling and something I never would have put together before -- thanks once more, film criticism and blog commentary.

Along these lines, I'm happy to see Stephen Lang turn up again -- talk about your all-exclamation Kirby-esque villains! He's someone I've been all WEHT, recently even. His mid-80's work in everything from Manhunter to Crime Story to the Dustin Hoffman Death of a Salesman is all superb, even when he red-lines it. How is he in Avatar? I'm hoping he stays some distance away from Billy Zane camp...

Glenn Kenny

Yes, Lang is very fine. I've always thought him both a vivid and understated screen presence, but here he's all the way out there all the time. And he goes from being a relatively sympathetic character at first—all pro fighting man just doing a dirty job—to a thoroughly heartless prick to insane but not Zane-esque villain without ever seeming to change his demeanor, although of course he does. One of the more interesting instances of scenery chewing I've seen in a while, and of course there's an awful lot of scenery to chew.

John M.

Is scenery chewing less fattening when it's all CGI?

Account Deleted

Why the snipy attitude Bill? Haven't seen you like this on here before... did Cameron wrong you somewhere down the line?

John M

I've heard that AVATAR could also be read as a slightly strained metaphor for the war on Christmas. True/false?

Mike D

"A very powerful and technological superpower trying to take over a country of peasants was big on my mind"

-George Lucas describing the impact Vietnam had on "Star Wars", Premiere, April 8, 2005.

The Empire = American soldiers in Nam? Or could be it that George Lucas, like many artists, absorbed the then-current cultural climate and it spilled out in an indirect form. Or how about Tim Robbins in "War of the Worlds" saying, "Occupations always fail!" To reduce such a comment to an example of a perceived anti-Americanism is intellectually lazy at best. Was Cameron literally comparing colonial marines to American troops in Vietnam and the VC to drooling, phallic aliens in "Aliens"? No. But he appropriated Nam slang and imagery for the purpose of making sn indirect commentary on Vietnam, a muddled one, perhaps, but not at the expense of providing riveting entertainment. I look forward to seeing the film, but I am not expecting anything resembling a coherent commentary on the Iraq War, or any war.

Bill, your concerns are legitimate, and any film which encourages cheering on the murder of American soldiers would, of course, invite just levels of scrutiny and revulsion, but certain right wing commentators do have a way of making a mountain out of a molehill and lobbing accusations of anti-Americanism rather carelessly to promote a lame and tired agenda. I mean, does it take much to get Michael Medved frothing at the mouth?

John M

"Read again what has been described as appearing on-screen, because you're clearly failing to retain it so far."

Oh, I'm retaining it just fine, Bill, but unlike you, I'm planning on forming my own judgments when I see the movie. Myself. It sounds problematic, but I haven't seen it, so...

Fear not, we all know you're a patriot, whether you endure this experience or not.

Zach

I know I should hold off until I actually SEE the damn thing, but...

The uluation sounds like an allegory too far, taste-wise, but then again...am I missing something? Do the Na'vi specifically target civilians? If not, whence the terrorism charge? Are they being invaded by a hostile foreign force bent on their destruction? If so, then exactly what is the problem with defending themselves, violently, against violence?

And here's the kicker - if that all hits too close to home for people in favor of the Iraq war, then what does that say about their attitudes and understanding?

bill

Markj - The "snippy attitude" comes from the fact that every review of this film that I've read, positive and negative, have laid out the allegorical nature of AVATAR very clearly, and it insults my intelligence when I'm expected to not follow that allegorical thread to its logical conclusion, as if that all falls away during the action scenes, which is when I'm supposed to start enjoying my popcorn.

Mike D - It ain't just conservative commentators, or even critics who dislike the film, who are making these claims. Read around a bit.

John M - Your just a fount of non-sequitors, aren't you? First the smallpox blankets, then the war of Christmas line. I think you have a bag of anti-Right cliches that you carry around, and, given the flimsiest excuse, you pull one out at random, as if to say, "Yeah, THAT just happened!"

But I'll disregard your overriding foolishness for the moment to point out that, no, I haven't seen AVATAR yet, but the film's allegorical side sounds to me to be very much part of what the film IS, and one of the core reasons it exists. To pretend that seeing the film would dissuade anyone from viewing it that way would be like asking me not to assume that JURASSIC PARK is about dinosaurs until I've actually seen it.

Zach - "if that all hits too close to home..." etc. Don't assume it hits to close to home. That's your phrasing, and implies something very specific that has no connection with my offense at AVATAR's apparent approach to this material.

The Siren

I take it "ulalating" is supposed to be the Arab version of a cheer, or Rebel yell or what have you. As someone who heard those whoops at her wedding--and found them quite joyous, thankyouverymuch--I have to admit I am not getting the problem. Or rather, I am not getting the problem with the movie.

John M

Bill, it's ludicrous displays like yours that give the right a reputation for bottomless, pseudo-patriotic whining. Barking at the first whiff of anti-Americanism. Your first comment ("No thanks"...or maybe I read that wrong? It's so complex!) suggested that you are boycotting the movie because of what you've read in the movie's few reviews--and yet you continue to sputter.

So, good for you. You've heard that AVATAR might have a muddled political message that (gasp!) calls out the foreign policy of the Bush Administration, and you've decided it's not for you. After hopping from one review to the next, you've already made your mind up, so why keep pushing your blood pressure?

Zach asks above, do the Na'vi target civilians? Are they not fighting an aggressor? Predictably, you engage his second question, but not his first.

Glenn Kenny

@ The Siren: The context for the ululating in "Avatar" is not, as you may have inferred, a wedding or any other such occasion. More like a spear or seven or nine going through some anonymous jarhead's chest or head, I don't remember which. It's celebratory all right, but hardly innocent.

Glenn Kenny

Also: no, the Na'vi do not target civilians. And, they're also not real people. And so on.

But it's undeniable that a lot of the code language Cameron uses in his putative allegory is arguably crass and opportunistic. I am rather reminded of Robert Christgau's misgiving about The Dictators and their album "Manifest Destiny:" "Anyone smart enough to fool around with such terminology ought to be decent enough not to." I think that cuts both ways.

bill

You spend a lot of time refusing to address anything I've actually said, don't you? You're more interested in trying to insult me -- I mean, Jesus, at least when I insult YOU I try to connect it to your specific comments (such as they are). But I gather you'd like me to speak to one of Zach's points, which I thoughtlessly neglected. Will do.

No, I'm sure the N'avi do not target civilians. If I'm correct about that, I'd say Cameron's reasons for that are many, but topping the list is that had he done that, his simplistic attempt to paint the US military as the villains would be dumped right on its ass. It would be a lot harder to root against them if Cameron moved his allegory an inch closer to reality. Which is sort of my whole point.

bill

Needless to say, my previous comment was for John M, not Glenn.

John M

For those scoring at home, this is the sum total of what Bill has "actually said" in this thread. Apparently, I'm missing something. The biggest chunk came in about 50 minutes ago, when he starts explaining himself, or at least explaining his tone. He's the first commenter to use the word "terrorist." Behold:


No thank you.
___
So everyone who has seen AVATAR seems to agree that it's a blatant Iraq war allegory that apparently roots for the death of American soldiers at the hands of peaceful (in Cameron's version) terrorists, and yet all anyone seems to care about is how crazy this is going to make conservative critics. That's interesting.
___
But of course he is.
___
But of course he DID, that should have said.
___
"Yes, it's an Iraq War allegory. And yes, in this allegory, the US military is compared to terrorists. And yes, the allegorical terrorists are the good guys. And YES, the US military are portrayed as monstrous villains. And, okay, YES, in that sense, you're rooting for the terrorists over the military. But that doesn't mean..."

Save it.
___
Yes, John, I'm confused, because Cameron has constructed something so very complex. Read again what has been described as appearing on-screen, because you're clearly failing to retain it so far.
___
Markj - The "snippy attitude" comes from the fact that every review of this film that I've read, positive and negative, have laid out the allegorical nature of AVATAR very clearly, and it insults my intelligence when I'm expected to not follow that allegorical thread to its logical conclusion, as if that all falls away during the action scenes, which is when I'm supposed to start enjoying my popcorn.

Mike D - It ain't just conservative commentators, or even critics who dislike the film, who are making these claims. Read around a bit.

John M - Your just a fount of non-sequitors, aren't you? First the smallpox blankets, then the war of Christmas line. I think you have a bag of anti-Right cliches that you carry around, and, given the flimsiest excuse, you pull one out at random, as if to say, "Yeah, THAT just happened!"

But I'll disregard your overriding foolishness for the moment to point out that, no, I haven't seen AVATAR yet, but the film's allegorical side sounds to me to be very much part of what the film IS, and one of the core reasons it exists. To pretend that seeing the film would dissuade anyone from viewing it that way would be like asking me not to assume that JURASSIC PARK is about dinosaurs until I've actually seen it.

Zach - "if that all hits too close to home..." etc. Don't assume it hits to close to home. That's your phrasing, and implies something very specific that has no connection with my offense at AVATAR's apparent approach to this material.

___
You spend a lot of time refusing to address anything I've actually said, don't you? You're more interested in trying to insult me -- I mean, Jesus, at least when I insult YOU I try to connect it to your specific comments (such as they are). But I gather you'd like me to speak to one of Zach's points, which I thoughtlessly neglected. Will do.

No, I'm sure the N'avi do not target civilians. If I'm correct about that, I'd say Cameron's reasons for that are many, but topping the list is that had he done that, his simplistic attempt to paint the US military as the villains would be dumped right on its ass. It would be a lot harder to root against them if Cameron moved his allegory an inch closer to reality. Which is sort of my whole point.

___
Needless to say, my precious comment was for John M, not Glenn.

John M

Of course, "precious" at the end was my typo...that teaches me to retype, rather than cut and paste.

Remember when the word "precious" wasn't so loaded? Damn you, Oscar Race 2009!

bill

Thanks for the trip down memory lane, you freakin' lunatic.

Glenn Kenny

Note to self: Do not seat Bill and John M. near each other at next "SCR Commenter's Ball," whenever THAT happens...

John M

And done.

John M

If tempers are flaring this high between two people who haven't even seen the movie yet, it seems safe to say that the movie will ruffle some feathers, no?

Just in time for the holidays.

bill

Clearly, your work is done here. Now go! There are discussions elsewhere to which you still have time to add nothing!

John M

Will do, Bill. And you keep on changin' minds, will ya? Might I suggest a thread for teens or tweens? They might be more receptive to your brand of bitter sophistry.

Glenn Kenny

All right now, fellas. Don't make me fetch the virtual crowbar. (Or, rather, invent the virtual crowbar, as such a thing doesn't exist.)

Tom Carson

Bill, we'll obviously all know better when we see the thing -- unless you're serious in implying you'll boycott it. But until then, I'm with you in this argument. I don't give a damn if a movie is "anti-American" or not, since that can be either dumb or smart and I thought the world of THE HOST. But Cameron's would-be Iraq parallel just sounds appallingly stupid to me, and exactly like what I would have predicted of him at his worst.

bill

"Bitter"? Now THAT is a blast from the past.

bill

Tom, I am genuinely tempted to boycott it. After all, I don't really like Cameron that much anyway, and why invest the time and money in a film that I feel confident will only increase my already shocking level of bitterness?

Account Deleted

You should go and see it Bill, if only to make sure you are critiquing the film on a fair basis. How can you comment fairly on something if you haven't even seen it?

As for me, I can't wait. I've sat through the shoddiest decade of blockbusters ever (courtesy of The Hack Pack - Michael Bay, Stephen Sommers, Roland Emmerich, JJ Abrams, McG, the Wachowskis, Bryan Singer, Gore Verbinski and the Rat - thanks guys!!!) to finally get to a film where the director knows what he is doing. Wednesday can't come soon enough.

bill

Markj, how do you know that Cameron knows what he's doing if you haven't seen it yet?

And so on. We all do this.

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