Thursday, January 21, 2010

Live From Pandora

When I first read about the movie "Avatar" months ago, I wasn't sure what I was reading about. Isn't "Avatar" a camera from the 80s? Or, was that "Vivitar?" Or "Konica?" Or "Yashica?" I was clueless.

Over the fall, this James Cameron movie was ballyhooed as much as the healthcare plan. I was equally skeptical about both. I saw the movie trailer and it looked like a Smurf nudist camp, which is going some since Smurfs usually only wore those white hats and matching diapers. Once the reviews came out, "Avatar" was proclaimed as the greatest film ever. "Gone With The Wind?" Phooey. It had nothing on "Avatar." Just think how cool it would be to see "Gone With The Wind" in 3-D. My Lord, Mammy wielding that pitchfork would be so lifelike. It's like the prongs are coming right at you!

On and on and on, the platitudes came. And, still, I had little interest. But I started to be interested in the word-of-mouth I was hearing from friends. Some around the ages of 25 to 30 absolutely hated it. Others around the ages of 55 to 60 loved it.

I read reports that people seeing the 3-D edition were leaving the theater nauseous. Vomiting in public has never been my strong suit.

I read other news items that the idyllic landscape presented in the movie is so lovely that folks are leaving the multiplexes in a depressed state. Okay, I like what I saw in "The Wizard of Oz," but that doesn't mean I want to buy the condo next door to the Scarecrow.


Even though it is the type of sci-fi film that I generally don't like, perhaps I should sample it anyway? After all, it will be all the rage come Oscar time. And eventually it will help the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk.

Hmmm one more time.

Last Monday, it was pouring. I had nothing to do. I had wrapped up my fifteen seconds of remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Okay, I talked me into it.

And I have lived to talk about it. And write about it. Suffice to say that, as I left the theater, my vision was not keener. My hearing was not improved. And my arthritic right knee still creaked a bit.

Bodily functions not enhanced, I guess I simply would have to judge "Avatar" on whether or not it was an entertaining film.

It was. A little.

And the glorious special effects and groundbreaking 3-D photography? Was it that impressive?

It was. A little.

One of the best films of 2010?


One of the best movies ever?

A resounding NO.

"Avatar" is just that. Okay. Nothing special. And, folks, the special effects are not so, well, special. Essentially, they are nothing more than what you would see in a video game if you had three hours worth of quarters. And, half the time, it's like the arcade attendant hasn't sprayed any Windex on the screens for weeks. The movie is, at times, that grainy and murky. A fish tank that hasn't been cleaned since Lloyd Bridges starred in "Sea Hunt."

The story? Not much more than an extended episode of "Star Trek." Avatars? Tribbles? All the same to me. The only difference is that all the creatures in this film have 16 inch waists and 36 inch chests. Somewhere in the mystical land of Pandora, there must be a very busy Jenny Craig center. Meanwhile, all the females in the Pandora tribe have weirdly distorted faces as if they all had active appointments with Joan Rivers' plastic surgeon.

There's some plot nonsense about humans going into tanning beds and coming out with their brains connected to these blue stick figures. For the first hour, I thought it was all about dream therapy. For the second hour, I thought it was all about cloning. By the third hour, it was all about me trying to control my full bladder.

The acting? There is none. The only two folks I recognized were Sigourney Weaver, who always seems to be hanging around with extra-terrestrial creatures, and Giovanni Ribisi, who I always see hanging around in the Arclight Cinema lobby. Nothing the actors do can compete with the relentless special effects and the hardware/software that director Cameron obviously bought on sale during a shopping spree through Japan. There are some flying dinosaurs and some evil mutations of killer Doberman Pinchers. The dogs usually wound up dead or injured. I started to wonder if I would read the following at the ending of the film: "No computer-generated animals were killed during the making of this motion picture."

All the graphics are just very expensive window dressing for a rather hollow and pedestrian story about a race war. The White people vs. the Blue people. So, obviously, if you go 140 years into the future, Obama's "change" didn't exactly last. At the end of three hours, it's all much ado about nothing and you don't need the mind of Shakespeare to figure out what happens next. The White people are evil and don't win, so I can only think that this is James Cameron's allegory for the George W. Bush years.

Meanwhile, some other elements got me thinking in different directions. I saw "Avatar" with those nifty 3-D glasses. At least, they were nifty when they were new. Mine were smudged by fingerprints and the stems looked a little gnawed on. For the extra three bucks, I don't get a new pair of 3-D specs?? Hello?? In this day and age of hand sanitizers, etc., I'm wearing glasses that have been on about two dozen heads before me!

At the afternoon screening I attended, I counted at least ten patrons who had come with babies in car seats or strollers. You're kidding me, right? You do realize that this is not a Pixar movie that will be over in ninety minutes. What is the logic behind these numbskulls? Has every babysitter in the United States been incarcerated?

And, as I listened to the inane dialogue, I noted all the 2010 expressions and phrases being uttered by characters living more than a century in the future. Has there been no language advancement? For Pete's sake, Webster adds new words to the dictionary every year. I can't believe that folks in the future will continue to speak like they're in a bad episode of "CSI."

I suppose I'm meandering now, but so did "Avatar." It held my interest but nothing else. Three days later, I've already forgotten 85% of the movie. And I am thinking that will ultimately be the opinion of the Motion Picture Academy as well. Oh, sure, it will get a lot of attention at Oscar time. Heck, just the votes alone from the telephone book of credits shown at the end will be plentiful. Yet, for every 25 year-old studio tech head who hasn't seen a movie made before 1990, there are also the old salts among the voting bloc. The old Jewish production heads now chomping down on pastrami sandwiches daily during the lunch rush at Nate N' Al's. I can hear them now.

"Avatar, schmavatar. No big whoop. Vat, all the meshuggah blue things flying around. Vat, no Leo DiCaprio. Vat, no schmaltz. And where was Celine Dion? Vat, no song. Oy vey. I'm voting for one of those nice Goyim. George Clooney, maybe Jeff Bridges."

Or something like that.

Dinner last night: Leftover andouille sausage with peppers and rice.

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