Don’t Like: This Evian Baby Commercial (It’s Terrifying)

August 26, 2010

TERRIFYING


Don’t Like: The 42 Funniest and/or Scariest Search Terms Used to Find My Blog

May 26, 2010

Reader: Beware.

You are about to stare into the dark id of the internet… and it is not pretty.

Those of you who may have your own website may be aware that you can see the search terms that one entered to click on your site. The results are often shocking.

Those afraid of being found out, don’t worry. We can’t see who you are or where you are… just the terms independently. So technically we can only see “what” you are.

I’ve seen the mind of the internet. And it is sexist, racist, ill-informed, and completely nonsensical

Without further ado, the top 42:

……….

42. Sexiest budwieser

-I don’t get it and It’s still hilarious. I have no idea why someone would search for this, nor what it even means. I sorta picture a dancing budweiser bottle.

41. Patrick swayze basketball

-Did he ever play basketball in a movie? I’m not sure about this one. Maybe something I’m not aware of. I just like it.

40. what kind of roids give you acne

-All of them. Glad to know that’s your primary concern though. Good luck with that.

39. reality tv informs people about health

-No. It doesn’t.

38. sweating basketball players players

-Players is doubly important. Also their sweat.

37. how people look when have aids

-As bad as your syntax.

36. scottish terriers fucked up dogs

-Scotties are adorable you jerk.

35. fuck her

Previously discussed.

34. 4 friends hang out with drugs

-My guess is they needed a picture. Otherwise this makes no sense.

33. Does shane black like fan mail?

-I wonder if Shane Black likes fan mail? To the internet! Really, I think most people don’t understand the difference between a search engine/yahoo answers/the concept of general inquiry.

32. Mia who is she?

-Again. The internet is not something you can ask questions to. And fyi, it’s M.I.A. and she’s a really good hip-hop/tribalesque/alternative recording artist.

31. sugar cookie death

-Sweet, sweet death.

30. black basketball player guarding a white

-I get TONS of shit like this. Vaguely racist basketball talk fuels the internet.

29. I don’t like safety laws

-Darwin award forthcoming.

28. can u play football if you have hiv

-Yikes.

27. “Busy?”

-You don’t need quotes for one word searches. And what the hell are you going to find asking this? No Idea.

26. iconic boxing images with gloves

-Hope you found some.

25. nazi+herion / naked heroin users (tie)

-The plus sign kills me.

24. kobe bryant gay pictures

-This one is really popular.

23. i like to do it with my sox on

-Notice the baseball spelling of socks.

22. old fit men

-I like to think of this as hopeful

21. “veronica lake was not a good”

-Is the “a” a mistake? Did they mean “god”. Why did they have the presence of mind to put quotes if their sentence if it makes no sense? The questions are endless.

20. Crystal meth 2008 like election

-Whereas this just plain makes no sense.

19. makes no sense

-Whereas this is literal.

18. Fear of pooping when around people

-Everybody Poops.

17. i’ve just dumped someone i really like

-Why’d you do it then?

16. touching badass buffy

-Who wouldn’t?

15. feminists but…

-Haha. One of my faves. The possibilities are endless.

14. Elizabeth taylor puffies

-Bwahahahaha.

13. Snorkel, woman / Fat people snorkeling / Snorkel fuck (3 way tie)

-Snorkel is truly a great word.

12. i don’t like football am i gay?

-No.

11. i’m going to kill you in the face

-Not in the face!

10. mr. manhattan watchmen

-The “mister” kills me. Like “mister manager” from arrested development.

9. complete ass compleat ass completely asi

-I desperately want to know how this ends.

8.  jessica alba mayo

-Gross imagery abound!

7.  how do i pick a title for my memoirs

-If you have to ask this question you probably shouldn’t be writing memoirs. Or writing in general.

6.  iron giant sex

-Oh god. We’re entering weird cartoon nonsensical fetish territory. This one actually makes the LEAST sense of any cartoon to boot… Amazing movie though.

5.  maribel – fucks daughter classic

-And it gets darker. Down the rabbit hole we go…

4 – white baseball players don’t like ugly black players

-Again. More weird basketball racism. What makes this one special is that it seems to be implying all black players are ugly… yikes.

4a – Dumb Michelle Obama Beaten Up Fuck Sex and then: Dumb Michelle Obama Beaten Up Fuck Sex Pics

-DEAR GOD. I mean… ugh. You wish you could pull out a person’s mind and look at it sometimes. See how someone’s entire fears/racism/attraction all get mashed up in this reactionary nonsense where they turn to the internet to satisfy some insatiable and completely fucked up desire. Better yet, there is NOTHING about this search based in any kind of reality. And then the insistence to come back and look for “pics” again is the icing on the cake.

3.  acceptable molestation

-Nope, it’s never acceptable

2.  my vomit is red

-Please call your doctor.

1 .  abiggail breslin nude feet

Just… I mean… god. I can’t… it’s just… GOD. Forget about the pedophilia/foot fetish cross over, and the mispelling…it’s just even the syntax… i mean… how… why… ugh… I don’t feel so good.

Forget this…

… Then again, it’s sort of scary knowing that these search terms can actually somehow lead to my blog.

… Yikes.

Honorable Mentions:

toilet plugged, self-improvement stuff i like and stuff, fuck hansbrough, who s who, love, normal kid, public speaking is like…, miss daisy racist, freakin nuts, “george carlin” 2008 photo, david merkin asshole, showtime synergy, funny internet, white and black basketball players fight, how to make the most of my gym, people who don’t like country, irish faggot, youkilis swearing espn, stuff the irish like, basketball players penis, Basketball intelligence black white, Medicine sucks, Girls pants pissing, Puking and peeing.


Don’t Like: How Everything Is Totally Shitty Right Now

May 6, 2010

Everything is totally shitty right now. This is worth acknowledging.

You may have noticed I’ve been posting subjects of pretty much only stuff I like for the last year or so.  Part of this stems from a desire to be optimistic and not just resort to the ease of snark.  At one point I went back and skimmed all my posts and I realized just how easily I fell into inane belittling and mean-spirted-ness. Not overtly so, I’m not one of those bloggers who just unleashes pure venom against everyone and everything… just more than I’d like. It was mostly surprising because I don’t believe that to be part of my nature.

But it’s hard to deny that there’s a lot not to like right now.

For example: The gulf coast is now engrossed in one of the worst ecological disasters ever. For those thinking I’m about to crow on about environmentalism, there is in fact a larger human tragedy to this. The gulf coast fishing industry is now hampered once again. Maybe even effectively killed. The magnitude of the damage will have ramifications for years and it will cost the local gulf economy untold millions. Think this is exaggeration? The Exxon Valdez spill wasn’t a fourth the amount of oil spilled here and they are still feeling the effects 20 years later. I visited New Orleans just a week and a half ago and cannot tell you how much I love that city. And now to think that as they were just getting back on their feet after Katrina, all may be undone.

But there’s a lot more than just this. Horrible storms have flooded Tennessee’s great cities. Arizona just made racial profiling not only legal, but an active policy. Oklahoma legislature just made it okay for doctors to withhold information from patients. Britain may be in the midst of actively overthrowing their party in a special election. Cuba had their worst sugar harvest in over a century (this will be a bigger deal than you think). Oh yeah and Greece is going broke and effectively destroying the worldwide economy in the process. They’re not happy about trying to deal with it either.

I understand the impulse to politicize all these stories. Please. Don’t.(1)  Just take them at a human level.  Yes, there are always tales of something going horribly wrong somewhere in the world, but what’s striking about the climate right now is that all of these problems are of incredible magnitude. They’re the kind of stories that could dominate front page headlines for weeks and since they’re happening all at once our magnet-ball media doesn’t even know how to construct a uniform narritive. People need to be caring, but really there’s almost too much to address. So let’s just notice how extreme these situations are are… pretend they were happening directly to you. For some of you, maybe they even are.

These problems are not distant. They are immediate. They are American. They are all the kind of problems that we usually respond to with the kind of self-sustaining vigor that defines us.(2)

We just can’t seem to keep track of them all.

1 – It’s really hard not to politicize them, especially as Fox News continues to spit insidious conjecture about almost all of these subjects; including Michael Brown’s claim that the Obama administration wanted the oil spill to happen and did little to shut it down. Not only is that radically unsubstantiated, but it’s the kind of claim reserved for nutty 9/11 conspirators.  I’m not going to say that it can’t be put on television. That’s fine. I’m just saying you’re ethically bound to standards when you put this kind of information under the guise of “news.” It’s Fox’s fundamental flaw. Not that they are conservative, but that they undermine their own credibility with this kind of haphazard nonsense.  In fact, most of my favorite sources of information tend to lean conservative and I like them because they help me think about a problem in a different sort of context. Meanwhile, I have to out ignore fox news  in order to just get through the fucking day.

2 – and possibly our bullish-ness.


Like: Martin Scorsese’s Direction of SHUTTER ISLAND / Don’t Like: SHUTTER ISLAND

February 19, 2010

My feelings on this film have absolutely nothing to do with a lack of perceived film-making skill. Martin Scorsese guides us through the film rather deftly, with the assured hand of a master.  Aside from the A+ sense of cinematography, the entire proceeding is laced with tension, atmosphere, and guile. Going in I thought this was going to be Scorsese’s horror movie, but after just the freaking the credits you KNOW this his out and out Hitchcock homage. The stamps are everywhere, including but certainly not limited to the central conceit of well… I guess what you could call a deep, dark conspiracy of sorts. So why didn’t I like the film so much? Especially with a litany of great performances and what might be perhaps the most steady editing and control of The Old Italian‘s brilliant career? Well I could tell you, but I’d have to spoil the entire freaking thing.

So.

I think I’m going to do that.

If you haven’t seen it yet, turn away.

This is your last chance.

BEWARE OF UNCONSCIONABLY HUGE SPOILERS WHICH RUIN THE MOVIE. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET  TURN AWAY. IF YOU HAVE OR ARE ABSOLUTELY SURE YOU ARE NOT GOING TO SEE IT THEN YOU CAN CONTINUE.

READY??????

Okay.

The problem of SHUTTER ISLAND is that it ends up using a movie device that happens to be one of the lamest of the bunch. No matter how well this device can be done there is something so limp, ineffectual, and often unintellectual about its very nature. What I’m speaking of is what I guess you could call the “negating” device. It encompasses a wide range of things really, like: “multiple personality disorder” and “it’s all a dream!” or in the case of S.I., “it’s all constructed in main character’s mind!” I understand the impetus of the idea; you want to have the viewer/reader question their belief in “reality,” or for them to have access into the mind of a crazy person, or to make some meta statement about cinema and traditional narrative. But let’s be honest. So often the idea behind these devices is to simply provide a twist. The problem is this big WOW moment is so difficult to do within the context of your pre-constructed film’s “reality” that writer’s will just go outside of that “reality” to get that “wow” reaction from you.

Sure, you can pawn the device off and say its making some statment on personal responsiblity and the human mind’s ability to regress within itself. But isn’t that subject just as slick and meaningless as the storytelling itself? Really, what’s so interesting about that? If we’re going to get real, I’m pretty sure it’s not something that happens a lot with psychology patients. You hear about it all the time in movies, but there seems to be no airtight basis in reality. It’s a storytelling reality. And one that is all too familiar. All you’re doing with a reality-altering twist is taking someone on a ride and then undoing everything for the singular momentary thrill. The success of it is highly dependent on your saying something truly important with twist. Which rarely happens.

And believe when I say I am not a movie goer that cares about getting “gypped” out of traditional narratives. I’ve seen and liked more a-traditional narratives than most folks knew existed (like the entire Tarkovsky oeuvre). And popular film wise if you need an example, I love the ending for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. The stark difference is the ending of NO COUNTRY is wonderfully poetic and full associative thematics and emotional moments. Sure, we don’t see the technical climax we wanted, but that’s incidental. We get something much more interesting. Meanwhile. the ending of S.I. is of one note interest: “he’s crazy and it’s all in his mind.” There really isn’t that much more to it. And if that’s the case then that’s a one trick pony if I’ve ever seen one. It’s a combination of psychology, pathos, and storytelling in hallmark card form. When you gyp someone you really have to earn their trust back with who, what, when, where, how, and why. And while S.I. at least takes the time with its last act to flesh it out (teetering on the point of boredom), it never delivers a satisfying logical or thematic explanation beyond the one note pop psychology.

Now you could suppose that S.I. is absolved of these criticisms, because Scorsese really was making a Hitchcock movie (which practically invented these devices as far as the movie going public is concerned) and does it damn well. And that earns S.I. a lot of leeway… A lot. I can’t convey enough how much I loved his 50’s esque stamp on the proceedings in terms of look, tone, and music. There’s a whole bunch of reviewers I love who don’t mind the last act because, well, what else would this kind of movie be? And there’s some merit to that. I know I shouldn’t be angry with what could just be obvious. But I really do expect something more substantial.

Because an audience;s sensibility to this kind of story was something that was effective almost 60 damn years ago. The film language has accelerated. We can take these sorts of stylings and update them into something more modern and interesting (think of films that took their genre and accelerated them into something more transcendent and exposing: L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS or even THE GOOD GERMAN). Scorsese’s interested in making great film out of what he has, but doesn’t care if what he has is nothing more than old trope. But doesn’t that it ring in the hollowness of the proceedings even more? It’s all going through the motions. A Hitchcock exercise. To me, it’s nothing more substantial than his beautiful hitchcock commercial.

So you could suppose that it all goes to the source material/script. I never read the book (you know, also called “Shutter Island”) but I have read a lot of Dennis Lehane and I typically like him a great deal. “Gone Baby Gone” is a really great book for example. I’m not sure what’s different about his version of S.I.  so I can only go off the movie. But I think it’s somewhat safe to assume the same central device was used in the book. So if that’s the case I suppose you’re able to deflect more of it away from Scorsese and the writer of the film (who I’m too lazy to look up).

But really this sort of brings up the issue of “twist” film-making and storytelling in general.

I can remember that after opening weekend, my friend told me that THE SIXTH SENSE was awesome and we had to go see it together. I had seen one single advertisement that said “I See Dead People” and that it had a “whopper of an ending!” or something like that. So I go to see it with my friend he’s super excited that I’m seeing it and he thinks it’s going to knock my socks off. We watch the opening of the film and based on that I turn to my friend and say “so Bruce Willis is dead?” He was shocked. Actually no, he was more just pissed off. That’s part of the problem with many twists is that by inherently knowing a twist is coming you can usually figure it out based on a few key things. What you usually can’t figure out is the “how”. And that’s because so often Twist endings are dependent upon information that is only revealed to you after the fact. This is what I like to call “jerk-off bullshit.” Harsh phrasing and sometimes it is really okay and still allows for entertaining stuff… but the second you really think about it, that’s what it is. And Shutter Island has enough of that to make you crazy.

This is also exactly why I loved about Christopher Nolan’s THE PRESTIGE. It doesn’t pull a single punch. It’s wonderfully complex, but every single clue is laid out and if you follow them and listen, you can figure it out. Yes, I figured it out, but that’s more than okay. The thrill of the mystery isn’t being in the dark, but trailing it’s mystery with an intent eye. And with THE PRESTIGE it does that job so well that there actually aren’t any plot holes that can be filled with an epilogue. It’s a singularity.

Meanwhile I “figured out” SHUTTER ISLAND halfway through but not because the clues were laid out, but because it was entering that weird tone where they were allowing themselves the ability to go in stupid, nonsensical direction. Not in the delirious off the hinges way either. And looking back it doesn’t make sense or anything that any of what happened actually happened that way except to make the movie more entertaining. Hence, the “jerk off bullshit” designation.

Now there are also movies that do those kind of negating devices well. I’m not just talking about the Noir and Hitchcock movies, but modern movies. The most obvious comparison is FIGHT CLUB, which doesn’t execute the device all that well, but once it moves past the clunky logic it steeps itself into a meaningful analysis of maturity and what it takes not to be a self-serving nihilistic dingus (which sadly a lot of folks missed). I find it to be a thoroughly interesting subtext about our dual nature that is far less interested in its own twist (and its functionality), but much more interested in what its  twist is saying. And that’s why it works like gangbusters.  Another great “negating” device was used in MULLHOLLAND DRIVE, where it takes the “it was all a dream!” concept and not only buries it an finely, complexly constructed narrative, but steeps every single scene with thematic commentary about our id, desires, and dreams. I cannot think of another film that has taken us into the fractured mind of a “killer” in any better way. DRIVE is highly elusive at first, but it’s abstracts are nothing but concrete themes and story clues to the patient eye. It’s everything the story of SHUTTER ISLAND is not.  Which is funny because in the end, both are really trying to say the same exact thing. Only DRIVE knows the reality and sobering quality of its endgame even better.

So honestly here’s the thing. The buildup of SHUTTER ISLAND is great in most every regard… and then it does a stupid movie trick. And it does it a lazy fashion that hardly justifies any of what we’ve seen, and what it happens to be saying with the stupid movie trick isn’t interesting enough to justify using it. The twist itself isn’t even good enough to qualify as a useless “mindfuck.” It’s just an old hitchcockian trope that has none of original impact it’s 50’s predecessors did. As far as personal taste goes, frankly I would rather have had the movie with the grand conspiracy and the the obvious downer ending… At least it would have been entertaining.


Don’t Like (Comparitively): Up In The Air

January 11, 2010

UP IN THE AIR is fairly pleasant and technically well-made. The stars and interactions are amiable. I liked what it was trying to do and what it was trying to say. It is even timely in a tad on the nose, but still completely respectable way. I fully recognize that it has some worth in the landscape of poopy movies out there. So why don’t I like the movie? The problem is that central conceit of UP IN THE AIR doesn’t really make sense whatsover, which means the entire movie is basically an irreconcilable trick.

There is one central question which highlights this problem: why does George Clooney like isolating himself from people and spending most of his time on an airplane? Seriously, why? The only substantial answer the film seems to give is because he does, that’s why! By all accounts the character is amiable, genuine, and well-intentioned. He likes to get away from his family, but in all scenes with them he is warm, kind, and means well. He can’t help falling into perfect comfort and ease with his female counterpart. Within a day they act like they’re in a full blown relationship despite the fact that they’re both no. So when he gives his speeches about wanting to accumulate 10 million miles, burning your backpack of a life, and how comforting the lonesome travel routine is to him… well… it seems completely out of left field for his likable personality type. That person is not like that. That person is even real. Hell, I know that person. That person is slightly Aspergian. That person is unadjusted. That person doesn’t get why their job is evil, or why it’s actually so important that actually connect with other human beings. And as such that person does not behave like George Clooney. Conversely George Clooney is one of the only people who can make that character likable and thus enjoyable for the audience to watch, but does not doing that completely undermine the entire conceit of the movie? His character is really doing nothing but going through the motions of dissasoiation. No matter how hard he tries to sell it, we never buy it for a second. Not from George Clooney. UP IN THE AIR is really nothing more than an irreconciable premise, well executed.

So it comes down to a question of logic, and if you engage that question, the movie can’t help but fail. (Note: this isn’t a plot hole kind of thing. Plot holes you can ignore much, much easier to forgive than a hole in character. Then again some people don’t agree with that, but I really believe we will follow and forgive a character for doing anything plot-wise if they are true to “themselves.” If a character bends their will merely for the sake of plotting, or another character’s development and not their own individual reveal, it just never truly works.)

Similarly there is a development in the film that highlights this exact same failure in logic, and this is a MEGA SPOILER so be wary… okay here’s the spoilier… When Vera Farmiga’s character is revealed to be married it is both the most obvious thing (because they way they shoot the build up to the scene) and similarly the most left-field nonsensical thing for her character. Aside from one singular part of the film, she never for a second behaves as if she’s married. Or someone who is the married type. Why would she behave in such “relationship-y” way with George Clooney’s character? Despite a few in-your-face lines, it is obviously not just a sexual fling for her. Why would she go to his wedding, and to his high school, and go down all those roads if he’s just her “escape” from her marriage? Why would she be so helplessly at ease with him when he’s getting wisty with and attached to her? It makes absolutely no fucking sense. It’s merely a story telling trick to set you up for her eventual reveal (ie “betrayal”). And if that’s part of her game or modus operandi than she is simply an evil, callous, and use-a-term-again Aspergian human being… which the film does not seem to be indicating whatsoever. So there.

The end result is this: UP IN THE AIR is a slick, detached hollywood production that is trying to say something worthwhile and timely about wounded and detached human beings, but can only do so by hoodwinking you with dishonest charm.*

* it should be noted Anna Kendrick’s character, despite being the most cartoony of the bunch, actually made sense and was therefore the best part about the movie. Like I said, I will forgive anything if the charcter’s actions and behaviors are emotionally valid for the character.


Like & Don’t Like: AVATAR and Mr. Cameron

December 18, 2009

What makes a movie a good?  It’s a straightforward question with a surprisingly straightforward answer: whatever you think makes it good.

Over the last few years I’ve come to the full realization that my extensive film school background has amounted to little when it comes to deciphering what makes something “good” on the popular level. We like to think that the opinion of someone who has seen thousands of different kinds of movies somehow accounts for a more qualified opinion, but this is truly not the case. Sure, it may provide someone with the ability to articulate their opinions and provide a historical or cultural context for their statements…  but really it makes no difference, as the court of public opinion always wins in the end. Thus there is a kind of acceptance needed when making a statement that you believe to be true, but fully recognizing that it’s nothing more than like, your opinion man. So here’s an opinion:

I don’t think James Cameron makes good movies. So there.

Oh don’t get me wrong, he’s a hell of a technical filmmaker. I’m not just regurgitating the popular rhetoric you see everywhere. This is going off all that “trained opinion” nonsense mentioned above. The guy simply “gets” cinematography. He knows how to line up the camera subject with enough spacing for the eye to process the movement. And he’s THE great editor of big budget action films (1, this is a really good footnote). With those two abilities he stages some of the best action I’ve ever seen on screen. Not in WHAT necessarily happens, but instead HOW it happens. I also greatly admire his commitment to creating full, tangible worlds and staying true to his vision. He is never half assing it and you can always be assured that movie goers get their money’s worth. This is to be admired. But as I have just lauded him with superlatives, we must always consider the whole filmmaker if we are going to speak to his merits. These are just aspects of his proverbial “game” and can in no way assure a singular, fully-formed piece of goodness from anything he does.

For example, he cannot write a screenplay. This is fine. A lot of great directors can’t do it. Spielberg never could and the dude is considered the best. Tim Burton famously insists that he has no idea what makes a good script. The problem is that Cameron thinks that he can write a screenplay. And proceeds to do so stubbornly.

It really is a shame that Cameron seems to have the brain of 12 year old. Sure, he’s a really smart 12 year old who is super-duper into perfectionism and computers and stuff, but all his films operate on in extremely juvenile plane of interest. And if you’ve ever heard anything about him as a person he’s operating on a 12 year old social level too.

So let’s actually get into AVATAR in relation to this topic. Having just seen the movie earlier yesterday, the thing that sticks out most in my head is how all the characters often swear in the silliest, 5-th grader like mentality. Really. The swears are the absolutely point of each line when they are uttered. They’re the joke. For example say there’s a big reveal and a pause: “Oh SHIT” or during a fight scene our witty dialogue is “take this BITCH!” The words are capatilized cause ever actor is so emphasizing these swear words that’s it’s like they’re delighted by their guts to swear. That’s because that’s exactly what Cameron is doing. It’s a PG13 movie and he’s using these swears in such a juvenile and silly manner that the entire theater was eye rolling  and groaning. I also fully recognize that these moments are completely harmless, but it’s just so prevalent and on the nose that you can’t help but get the full window into Cameron’s mind… the guy has a 12 year old ‘s sensibility to swearing.
He also has a 12 year old sensibility when it comes to military ideology, politics, ecology, and socialization. Sure that super advanced 12 year old brain converts these things into logical setups complete with a fully realized set proper nouns for his movie, but that doesn’t change that this is the most obtuse kind of rhetoric and analysis. The entire construct of the plot is the most in-your-face allegory of American imperialism I have ever seen. The details are hilarious: a precious resource, “unobtainium.” A earth goddess who you can actually hear through trees. References to modern warfare tactics that are literally thrown in to hammer home the Imperialism comparison (but in hilarious fashion, are the complete wrong use of those words). And make no mistake about this “original” story, it’s just Dances with Wolves in space. I’m talking beat for beat the same movie with 3rd act battle thrown in. Hell, throw in some Star Wars, Dune, and vast array of other films to be grossly aped and you have AVATAR. And let us not forget the short story he absolutely and totally ripped off :

Seriously, you got to see this cover:

http://www.chud.com/articles/articles/21297/1/WHAT039S-THE-LATEST-CLASSIC-SCIFI-CAMERON-RIPPED-OFF/Page1.html

Beyond that there is the fact that every single character in the film is the most broad and ridiculous stereotype possible. And no, not in a scenery-chewing, fun and self aware meta way that guys like Cronenberg and the Coens are absolute masters of. This is Cameron. And his characters will be willfully fucking obtuse. The general is absolutely insane, invasion-happy beefcake. The head scientist is stuck-up, military-hating, granola tree hugger. The guy in charge of it all is an aspergian dickhead who only wants his profits and to get at the precious resource beneath the Na’Vi’s home (not to mention work on his putting game… ugh). The girl Na’Vi who connects with the earth is nothing more than the infamous Noble Savage stereotype. And our main character, the jarhead marine, is nothing but the uneducated white man, who must learn the ways of the lesser people and connect back with the world. Now, all these stereotypes could be just fine for the movie. Actually, you use those five stereotypes and you’ve got all your angles, themes, and conflicts covered so that might not be a problem at all. You got your base. You just have to find away to make it organic.

Cameron don’t do organic. Nope. This is balls out broad. The idea of badassery. It’s all posing and posturing. Like 12 year old suburban kids starting “gangs” or that weird thing Japanese teens do where they literally pose to look cool. This is the cinematic equivalent of whatever the hell that is. And it’s laid on thick. This is cartoon villainy and college freshman idealism. And it kills the movie. (2)

So okay, we have some broad 12 year old dumbness. So what? Lots of films do that and are embraced by millions.

True. I’ll take Cameron’s logical filmmaking and epic scope any day over the parade of nonsensical trash and litany of directors who simply seem to have no interest in making good movies… but not by all that much.

The central problem is that Cameron makes these big action movies as if they’re actually prestige pictures. As if he’s making the singular profound statements for all man kind. Really, it’s just soaking in that kind of hubris. Once again, coupled with his real life obnoxious persona you start to get the idea of just what Cameron is all about. It’s all up there on screen, readily apparent. This is the stuff of the inane.

So obviously, I didn’t like AVATAR, right?

Actually, I kind of enjoyed it.

Devin Faraci over at CHUD, who evaluated the movie in far better terms than I have, made the excellent point that your ability to enjoy AVATAR fully depends on you ability to get into the designs. It sounds like a strange comment but it’s wholly accurate. The film takes a turn after the first act and essentially becomes a world viewing sequence where the viewer is brought along on a 40-60 minute tour of Pandora.  And unlike Devin, who was not able to get into the design of the creatures, I eventually went along with it. And when this all happens, the film soars.

I should note that this is largely due to the 3-D, which works amazingly well. It gives Pandora a real sense of depth and texture. You not really emoting FOR the actors or anything, but you’re emoting with them as they emote with Pandora too (you can surmise this works best because Cameron is in love with the world he created as well, and it shows). In particular, the first flying sequence with those pterodactyl thingies I found to be the most exhilarating part of the movie. This whole chunk of the film is enough of a cinematic experience for me to recommend it to anyone.  It just works.

But eventually this too must pass and the film heads into heartbreak mode/final battle sequence. Of course that’s when the wheels fall off. Not for any good reason either. This was always what was going to happen and you knew it was coming. Hell you can predict every single moment of this movie beat for beat, but that’s okay.  The real reason the wheels fall off is you realize you just spent the last hour on the cinematic equivalent of a nature walk and there was no actual story to begin with. Thus the climactic battle is taking place and I’m sitting there not caring if anyone lives or dies. This is not my usual modus operandi either. I’m an empathetic motherfucker when it comes to my movie protagonists. I actually found it a little distressing: “I was just enjoying these two and now I don’t care?”  Really, there was just nothing there to begin with.

Just hollowed out tropes and clichés desperately hanging onto the sublime skill of action filmmaking on display. It all looks fantastic. I just didn’t care.

To wit, if there was one word I would use to sum up this “game-changing” “action epic” called AVATAR, the word would be… pretty.

It is a very pretty movie. Which might be considered highly insulting to a movie that is trying desperately to be so much more. But it doesn’t have a single idea of how to transcend its base qualities or indulge in nuance.

And no, I’m NOT saying I need my big action movies to have Merchant Ivory level subtext or anything. I’m just saying they need something that transcends the basic archetypes into something resembling good movie entertainment. Like Ironman’s delightful sense of humor and organic characters. Like The Dark Knight’s moral complexity and stunning performances. Like The Lord of the Rings sense of balance and scope. Even Star Wars works because Harrison ford just kills it as Han Solo. These were all popular, epic-feeling movies that used certain strong qualities to move past the archetype and become a good movie for the popular consensus.

And with AVATAR, the prettiness, world-building, and actioneering almost get it there. But Cameron just relishes too much in the Archetype.

Almost.

Footnotes

(1) Let us speak for a moment about what editing truly is: there’s a popular notion that good editing is when you notice really good cuts and stylizations and juxtapositions. This notion fully feeds into that awards season it’s not “Best picture” or “Best acting” or “Best editing”, but instead “Most picture” “Most acting” and “MOST editing”. That’s why the Bourne films always win. Because it’s the only tangible thing an untrained eye can gravitate toward. And that’s totally understandable. The paradox is that great editing is truly invisible. Cuts in action that blend so seamlessly it feels like a perfect flow.  This is especially significant in action films. And Cameron and his rotating cast of editors are masters of the invisible cut (the rotating cast means that’s it’s really just Cameron doing most of this stuff).

(2) I should at least point out that I thought Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana did their fricken damndest to make it all work. In fact I thought they were both rather good in their roles (extensive mo-cap and animation to boot). But there’s just no saving the inanity of it all.

ADDENDUM

A) I always argue that the reason Titanic was so beloved was because (obviously) it was the perfect storm for girls and (not so obviously) because the music of that film is so amazingly beautiful that you simply had to swoon with it. The music was what transcended that movie from being a horribly forced allegory of class struggle and tragic romance into a movie that actually had some legs to stand on. There is a reason that soundtrack went on to become more iconic and referenced than that actual film, which was sort of just a moment in time.

B)Mr. Beaks over at AICN made an interesting note that even with all the problems with the movie, the cinematic world still needs Cameron.  And they need him to be successful. The need guys like him and Spielberg to go huge, push technical boundaries, and stretch budgets. And I think I agree, but it is an uneasy bargain for me.

C) Reader Kevin linked a positively great article in the comments section below about Cameron written by David Foster Wallace. Everything he says about T2 and the approaching Titanic, can completely be said for AVATAR. http://www.theknowe.net/dfwfiles/pdfs/Wallace-FX_Porn.pdf


Don’t Like, WORST of the Decade (Art): The Britney Spears Pro-Life Statue (NSFW?)

December 16, 2009

1) Irony will never die. It’s here to stay, for better or worse.

2) If it did, it was not in the wake of 9/11 when it the declaration was highly popular, but instead with the creation of this statue.

Why? Because at the time of the release, there was an honest to goodness belief that this was indeed a pro-life statue meant to honor Miss Spears’ “commitment to put her children ahead of her career.” Actual quotes from the artist, Danie Edwards. Look at it again. The bear skin rug. The pose. The legs akimbo. The crowning, my god the crowning. Was this truly some pro-lifer whose unfiltered id puked up a nonsensical, counterproductive, and all-together heinous  sculpture? Much like Stephanie Meyer, the “fabulous idiot” did with her Twilight series? Or was it merely the work of a subversive genius who was working a front in a “Borat” like capacity?

The truth is it was sort of both. Daniel Edwards is not a genius. Check out his wikipedia page. Yup. The body of his work seems to define the word inane. Specifically inane shock art. Probably attention whore too. Really he defines a lot of terrible qualities.  Then again he’s made a living off art, which probably makes him some kind of Machiavellian genius considering how impossibly hard that is to do. But still he’s a shock artist who sort of stumbled into this limbo zone where his impossibly zany decisions  rendered one of his sculptures bizarre enough to capture the public’s attention. To this day I have no idea what to make of it. I just feel confident in labeling this guy a terrible artist who stumbled into something that is both frighteningly dumb and fascinatingly dumb.

And thus the logic of irony collapse in on itself, like in “Timecop” where the same matter occupying same space. Altough that can’t be true because I just used irony.  No one would ever make a serious “Timecop reference.” Nobody.

And now the horror of the crowning shot.