Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Avatar & Films For Adults

I recently said my Academy vote for Best Picture would have gone to Up In The Air, because it offered "the most adult pleasures" of the nominees I'd seen -- a summary begging to be taken wildly out of context. What I meant was, out of the films nominated Up In The Air far and away generated the most dinnertime conversation among the adults in my social circle. I've not yet seen An Education, which I suspect was Up In The Air's closest rival (by my reckoning). Precious certainly elicited shudders. And the Coen Brothers and Tarantino have the sort of personality that generates controversy, if not always the sort of movie that sticks to your ribs.

But Up? District 9? The Hurt Locker? Even if you luuuuuuuuurved those movies, what was there to say about them afterwards? These movies asked the questions on behalf of the audience, and then they marched on and answered them, too. As for Avatar, what is there to discuss about a pale imitation of Princess Mononoke -- minus the depth of character, the moral ambiguities, the persuasively recognizable "otherness" of the mythic setting?

Quite a bit, apparently. There's the Ayahuasca connection, for wide-eyed anthro-types. Then there's this, by James Bowman.

Time to re-set the dinner table.


Joel said...

enjoyed that James Bowman article.

And, like I said before, I like the Princess Mononoke comparison.

Here's another comparison that occurred to me the other day. The old Star Trek episode "A Private Little War." Not perfect by any means, a bit cheesy at points but it definitely offered a glimpse of a world that was much more complex than the simple dynamics set up in Avatar. If Avatar had taken that done something similar to that (minus the cheesiness of course), it would have been a much more engaging movie

DarkoV said...

From last year, Well, I've seen "Up in the Air", "Up", "Serious Man", "Basterds", "Hurt Locker", and "Avatar" & the best movie, IMHO, of 2009 was.... "In the Loop" (Yes, a movie that didn;t even get nominated).
A close second was "Avatar". Perhaps not as heavy as "Up in the Air", but it did bring back a lot of memories of Yes albums (Art & Music) from long ago. Yeah, yeah it was basically a Cowboys 'n Injuns movie with the Injuns finally winning but the presentation (I saw it in an IMAX theater so I'm not sure how the regular 3D or 2D version looked). I may not be talking about it over dinner ("Hurt Locker" and "Up in the Air" takes that honor), but it's the one movie of all of the nominated ones that I saw that I still think about.

But..... I still think In the Loop was the best movie of 2009. I've gone 4 times to different theaters (it never seemed to stay long at one) to see it and I've bought the DVD....which I've sat through another 3 times.

Whisky Prajer said...

Joel - the perspective seen in "A Private Little War" would have been a welcome little change in a big little movie. The cheesiness was already there.

DV - I've not yet seen In The Loop (it's on the list) but it has the potential of falling into that, "You can't handle the truth" category (never the Academy's strong suit). I'm looking forward to seeing, especially now that I've returned from watching The Green Zone with my brother. Not a "bad" movie, per se -- even nightmarish for several stretches -- but it suffered from an optimism of character.

DarkoV said...

Like your "optimisim of character" phrasing. I too enjoyed "The Green Zone" and found it, like "The Hurt Locker", did require a suspension of belief at times.
But....Green did persuade me to cough up some Kindlebucks to "acquire" Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial LIfe in the Emerald City, which was repeatedly refernced in the movie and the reviews thereof.

If not for the fact that this well-received book has come up no major faults as to its true contents, I'd say reading it would have required a SERIOUS suspension of belief. I'd suggest to anyone who saw Green Zone to get a hold of this book. The current mess we're in, globally, is easily traceable to the mess the US got itself into and then made worse in Iraq.

Re. the moive...is is these aging eyes or was it difficult to follow some of the action in the movie both due to the hand-held camera and to the truly poor lighting of certain scenes? Otherwise, as with all Matt Damon movies, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Nice to see a major movie that doesn't bash the Iraguis.

DarkoV said...

Uhmmm, that s/b "Iraquis"..a mysterious "g" floated in there.

yahmdallah said...

Gad, the further out I get from academia, the more articles like James Bowman's just confound me. It's a good article, and I was able to follow it, but can't these folks find a means of expression that's not so damn convoluted? And all the built-in genuflections to "schools of thought" they don't agree with. If they cut out the apology cycle, it would vastly simplify things.

Whisky Prajer said...

DV - "poor lighting" indeed! The advent of digital "film" making has brought some improved quality of drama, but this business of using available light while shooting night scenes becomes irksome in the wrong hands. Michael Mann's early digital stuff suffered from some of that, too, but he has steadily improved. Public Enemies was a stunning example of how to do it right.

Y-man - I'll admit to speed-reading Bowman. My take on his pointed references to various "schools of thought" is he's joining the chorus of panicking critics: "Hey, we're playing a vital role, here!" Funny how what he says manages to be pertinent and distracting at the same time.