Review: Avatar

Director: James Cameron
Screenplay: James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang
Duration: 162 min


Possibly the most over-hyped film ever, at least that I can remember (bar maybe Jurassic Park), Avatar has finally made it to our screens.  After hordes of backlash over disappointing trailers, claims of motion-sickness and general doubts that anything could live up to James Cameron’s claims that this film would revolutionize cinema, how does Avatar cope with such baggage?  Personally I’ve been sat on the fence in the lead up to it’s release, I’ve grown bored and infuriated with all the hype but at the same time I grew up watching James Cameron’s films and I’ve pretty much always enjoyed them despite any flaws they might have.  So I came to the IMAX screening feeling fairly excited but not without my doubts.  What did I think?  Well read on….

For those of you that have been living behind a rock for the last year (or fifteen), Avatar is a riff on the colonization of America, with the Native Americans replaced by big blue humanoid aliens known as the Na’vi and the settlers/cowboys replaced by humans in general (all American of course).  The humans have come to the Na’vi’s planet, Pandora, at first on a seemingly peaceful mission, teaching them English and learning about their fascinating eco-system, but once the big businessmen learn that the planet holds an immensely valuable ore (stupidly named unobtanium) the humans’ greed takes over.  A marine, Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington) who has lost the use of his legs is brought on board to join an ‘avatar’ programme where humans are used to control Na’vi bodies.  This was introduced initially to learn their ways of life, but with a military man on board the top brass use him to help move the natives out of an area rich in unobtanium or learn strategies in which to remove them by force.  Jake manages to get close to the indigenous population, but gets too close, falling in love with the chief’s daughter and growing more in-tune with their ‘circle of life’ beliefs.  This of course causes all sorts of problems and the film builds to an epic battle for control over the area.

The plot is clearly (as predicted) very much Dances With Wolves with aliens, and doesn’t throw up any surprises, but to be honest I never expect or really want a complex or thought provoking plot when I sign up to a James Cameron movie.  Avatar is an experience, not a film.  You’d be crazy to expect the script or the performances to equal the spectacle or the technology on display.  And it has to be said, Avatar really does deliver on this front.  It helped that I watched it at the IMAX, I’d be interested to see the difference a smaller screen makes, but watching this really was a genuinely gobsmacking and exhilarating experience.  It took about 15 minutes to get used to the scale and the 3D, I felt a bit woozy at first, but once my eyes had adjusted I was stunned by how immersive the world was (I got a bit of a headache by the end too, but no one else I went with seemed to).  A couple of the more frantic action scenes were a little hard to focus on, but it was when the film slowed down that I was most impressed.  The scenes at night when the luminescent neon wildlife came alive were staggeringly beautiful and the style felt fresh and original.  The action scenes where the camera stayed more stable were spectacular too, with the typically ‘Cameronesque’ robot vs. Na’vi battle particularly pleasing the action junkie in me.

The other aspect that was hyped up alongside the 3D was the use of CGI, with Cameron claiming this was nothing anyone had ever seen before.  After watching the final product, I thought the effects were excellent and it contains some of the best CGI I’ve seen, but I don’t think they’re far enough ahead of everyone else to totally blow my mind.  What was impressive was just the sheer volume and scale of it all, as well as the integration with 3D.  As mentioned before some of the colours and designs stood out too.  On seeing the first trailers I was pretty disappointed with the look of the Na’vi themselves, but in the context of their world and up on the big screen they do look quite cool.  Some of the first shots when the humans first start controlling their avatars look a little odd, but once they’re on Pandora with the natives it looks great.

Anyway, away from all the fireworks the film isn’t without it faults.  I thought the first half was very well done, I really shared the wonder of Sully as he discovered this beautiful new world and it’s inhabitants.  The second half however does stumble from time to time with some silly, convenient and predictable contrivances (the tree of souls scenes were pretty cheesy).  I also found the film’s chief villain, a military commander hell bent on wiping out the Na’vi, to be painfully hammy and one-dimensional.  The rest of the performances were ok, not revelatory, but a good blockbuster standard.  The environmental message of the film was heavy handed at times, although not as much as expected.  There weren’t any long moralistic speeches that stood out in particular, in fact the dialogue as a whole, although not great, never got as cringeworthy as in say Transformers.

As a whole, it’s solid to standard blockbuster material presented in incredibly impressive packaging, which many will scoff at as window dressing for a pretty textbook film, but for me it was still an awesome experience.  I would thoroughly recommend watching Avatar in IMAX 3D, it made me feel like a kid again being blown away by stuff like Jurassic Park, but it’s hard to give it a perfect score because I have the feeling that watching this on DVD or Blu-ray on repeated viewings just won’t be the same at all.
 

David Brook
RowThree's UK correspondent.

337 Comments

  1. there is a weird disconnect between the stills (like you put above) and the effect of the movie in 3-D. I thought the trailer way undersold the product and outside of the 3-D, I'm not sure why or how that happened. I did feel the singular experience Cameron was touting, it is like Jurassic Park in the spectacle aspect of it. More incredible is that the film can make you care about ten foot blue cat people, care about a love story between CGI characters.

    I heard 3D IMAX is bad, but I guess you enjoyed it David.

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  2. I have to say, I just haven't been excited to see this. Particularly with a 2 and a half hour running time. Which is strange since I love a great visual spectacle, but I can't help but feel I'd be ready to pack it in at the half hour mark. I get a distinct "Phantom Menace" feel (great to look at in spots, but devoid of anything else). The best negative comment I've heard so far is someone calling it the most expensive screensaver ever made.

    But that's just my impressions from I've seen and the little I've read, so not overly fair. It's still on the list and reviews like David's are indeed keeping me curious.

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  3. the one criticism I would make is because it is a spectacle film, certain scenes do drag on more than they need to, all to show off the spectacle, but I was fine with that. If you see it Bob, see it in 3-D.

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  4. The Phantom Menace comparison is actually kind of insulting, but also a funny point… people are complaining about 'lack of plot' but really if it had the amount of plot Phantom Menace does (too much), it would fall on its face. It's important to just follow Jake getting swept up into that world, making him leader, giving that time, so you can be more invested in the actual conflict. There is a plot, just a familiar one, so people start writing it off as if its not there.

    What's more annoying though are some of the "oh god another anti-military movie" complaints…

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  5. Saw it in 2D with the kiddies. It's a compendium of Cameron References, and really just a mish-mash of Star Wars, The Matrix, Dances With Wolves and Princess Mononoke – i.e. no re-inventing the wheel here, but wowsers, it is a pretty handsome wheel. ZERO sign of the uncanny valley and only one of the hundereds of animal and alien life designs (The Jungle Cat) shows any signs of CGI-ishness.

    Exactly as expected -> Spectacle is at 11, storytelling quality is high, story-nuance or depth is ZERO.

    I really, really made me want to watch THE NEW WORLD again, which is an odd side effect for an effects blockbuster.

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  6. I would like to see it in standard cinema 3D, as I've heard the 3D is better. I think IMAX's shear scale added a lot though, especially in terms of full immersion in the world. The 3D was still very good on IMAX though. I found the scenes out and about in Pandora that were full on CGI looked fantastic, but some of the scenes featuring mainly live action looked a bit odd sometimes. Plus there's still the fact that your head has to be exactly level or else it gets a bit blurry.

    Plus I did get quite a headache towards the last third of the film.

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  7. When I was at the theater, I asked the ticket ripper about the 3d vs. 2d sales.

    "The 3d theater is packed, the 2d theater sold 3 tickets, which is 3 too many"

    Tsk Tsk Kurt

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  8. Hey, if it is all sold out (besides the kids couldn't keep the glasses on for that length of time anyway (well perhaps, Willem who was glued to the movie this time), also, I had a bit of a headache yesterday and didn't want to push it with IMAX 3D (which wasn't an option, again, due to the sell out).

    Also, the local Imax is all sold out during my usual Sunday 10pm slot. So I guess I'll see it that way eventually, but really there are two different avenues to look at the movie:

    Spectacle (even in 2D that is there)

    and

    Story (nothing new under the sun there, even if you pull out "The way it is told" – well other than the technology, there is no new way of plotting the thing. I imagine the bulk of the regular moviegoers are going to know each plot point as it happens, about 5 minutes BEFORE it happens. WOuld have been nice if Cameron could have had a 'fresh story' to go along with all the techology. The characters are all a bit lame, even if the actors make the most of things.

    Look at how awesome Stephen Lang was in Public Enemies, and here he is stock villian.

    What sort of bizzaro world do we live in when Paul Reiser (Aliens) does a more slimey job than Giovana Ribisi (Avatar)? Oh, yea, because we've seen all this before.

    I'm all for the autuer thing where the filmmaker keeps kicking at the same can, but it has to be done with story and character, not with special effects.

    (ANd for the record almost Zero compaint with how the film looks, it's handsome and crisp and clean, even in 35mm).

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  9. Saw it yesterday (non-IMAX 3D), and my review, had I written one, would be almost identical to yours. Routine story, seen it a hundred times, but the draw here are the visuals, and they were definitely impressive. I've not seen a lot of 3D films, but the segments and trailers I've seen in 3D usually seem gimmicky, lots of stuff flying toward you, and focused more on action scenes. The 3D scenes that impressed me the most in Avatar were the still ones. The ones with Jake and Neytiri just talking, but the world had such depth. The kid next to me (maybe four or five) kept reaching out to try to catch the snowflakes in one scene, and I don't blame him.

    I hope that now someone who is actually a visionary storyteller can use this tech and create something truly transcendent, with a deep story and characters to go with the incredible visuals.

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  10. My 'HOLY SHIT' visual experience (and this was in 2D) of 2009 was Gaspar NOE's ENTER THE VOID. If he had done that in 3D it would have been the first true 'storytelling integrated fully into 3D'

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  11. "there is no new way of plotting the thing."

    I'm going to disagree. The fact that Jake is a paraplegic, and the fact that this is an alien world rather than another nationality or culture makes a lot of difference to me.

    That first scene where he enjoys his legs and just takes off is important. The despair of having to leave his avatar behind and report back to people frequently, sets it apart from the full on immersion of the other Dances With Wolves type stories. There's plenty of these little things that to me make it unique and immersive. if you want to reduce plot to one sentence, yes its "the same", however doing so writes off way too much of how important it is for this particular character to be having this particular experience.

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  12. I gotta agree with Goon, while certain beats were the same as other films I felt there were enough new elements that made the experience feel different. Avatar does not feel like any other movie, and I would suspect even in 2D that would be the case. You have a ten foot female alien cradling the human in her arms that is the original body of the person she fell in love with… I just don't remember ever seeing a love story like that, in even the hard sci-fi, let alone what is ultimately a kids movie.

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  13. The look was original, the world was original, all the alien races and species looked original. The story, the conflict, the love story, never felt all that original to me. Not a huge problem, but Avatar is a victim of its own media induced promises. It simply cannot live up to its own bloated hype. Really, we just have a jumble of blockbuster plots (albeit told cleanly and clearly, but still bombastic insofar of its making sure that everyone in the room got every message) wrapped in a very new looking package. I guess the Star Wars analogy (a rough analogue of Samurai film Hidden Fortress) is apt here. I certainly will not argue with the statement often typed around the internets "If I were 12, this movie would have seriously kicked my ass!"

    Unfortunately, I'm not 12 anymore, so Avatar is a joyful bauble (a great fireworks show even in 2D) that I will not really ever hold dear because the derivative nature of the story simply did not rock my world.

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  14. Brain Storm: FUCK, I wish that Cameron harnessed this look and technology package to make ENDER'S GAME into a full blown film. I think that would have been pretty awesome.

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  15. "never felt all that original"

    I'm not sure what you can mean by 'feel original' – you've either experienced it or not.

    Yes, I've seen the Matrix, plugging into the world.

    Yes, I've seen Dances With Wolves, immersing into another culture.

    But here we have a guy plugging into another world that ACTUALLY EXISTS, immersing himself but being pulled away against his will on a moments notice. With just these two things in mind, I see something new. It doesn't "feel new", it IS new, to me at least.

    Seriously, I thought I'd have a comedown from the first rush of the movie, but I'm more and more convinced the premise is being severely underrated. Not because its particularly novel, but because people are acting as if there isn't one at all.

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  16. "What sort of bizzaro world do we live in when Paul Reiser (Aliens) does a more slimey job than Giovana Ribisi (Avatar)? Oh, yea, because we’ve seen all this before."

    Ribisi's Scientology background always makes him inherently slimy for me. Even in frigging The Other Sister.

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    • Haven't read all the comments here – I gotta get out of town. But I saw this today. The 3D works best with the small details (the hair, the little tendril things that attach to the beasts, the little floaty seed things and the 3D computer layouts (ala Return of the Jedi briefing room) were friggin awesome). The rest of the 3D was kind of unnecessary. I liked the movie alright for what it was. More on the Cinecast tomorrow night.

      I see you.

      Later.

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  17. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERSSPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERSSPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERSSPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERSSPOILERS SPOILERS

    Going back to Goon's argument, Kurt, can you remind me what other films of this nature have love stories told through surrogate bodies, and then break that illusion to have the two confront one another in the real world? I found that pretty original. Dances with Wolves and New World are definitely felt in this story but the whole notion of the Avatar feels new to me.

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  18. Well, The Matrix somewhat fulfills this (ditto the 'unconscious' hero attacked in the 'real world' while he is having an out-of-body experience elsewhere. Action picture Total Recall plays with the concept a bit, but never quite goes where Avatar is.

    And I'm thinking about this, because I do believe there is a movie or two that does this. (And a few sci-fi novels). But I'll certainly give that that moment was fairly touching, but the rest of the relationship between those characters is pretty rote. Is it a fault of the director to introduce such a rich world and elaborate mythology of the central humanoid then breeze by the nuance of all this stuff? Seems (like a lot of these movies) that it would benefit as a multi-season show that allowed a lot of the tribal stuff to breathe. Even David Lynch's DUNE gets more out of the pushed-aside Chani (Sean Yonge). Come to think of it, AVATAR quite resembles Dune a lot as well.

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  19. Hey don't get me wrong, I liked the movie. But not a lot of lasting impression beyond the technology, which in the end is kinda boring. The illusion provided by a novel and great story (SFX or not) can trump this.

    For me it is that simple.

    But really, most of these types of movies don't do it for me these days.

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  20. Hmmm, all interesting comments, and good review too. But like Bob, I'm just not that hyped to see it. I've pretty much stood back and watched from a distance as the hype for this thing gradually mutated to colossal proportions. If James Cameron's prophecies came true with this film (e.g. "This film will change things forever blah blah blah"), that'd be pretty cool – but that's a pretty big if; too big for me to invest anything beyond the smallest glimmer of hope. Plus, I'm not really on the 3D bandwagon. 3D's not something I need, or feel I should need in order to be moved by a film – countless other directors have done fine without it, and I don't really see what it'll bring to the table.

    Anywho, end of rant. I'll probably see Avatar soon-ish.

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  21. People are also acting as if there's no underlying themes or commentary about how people actually are with their secondary worlds, their own avatars – how he goes without eating, shaving, and is able to fall in love with a race of people that he's not truly experiencing. I guess such a thing has become so commonplace now that when Cameron properly incorporates that obsession into Jake's character, its so natural that it goes unreported/uncommented. The fact that nobody discusses it maybe says more about our society than if they did notice.

    As rot says, this is a love story between a surrogate and an actual alien, and its done well, and even if you thought it was merely 'meh' rather than a laugh out loud ridiculous deal breaker to me is quite an accomplishment.

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  22. When I was watching the film and upon reflection afterwards, that simply wasn't enough for me to really sit up and take notice of what the film is saying (or perhaps that everything is underscored so bluntly, there wasn't much worth saying, in particular, the environmental/mediator/balance theme was handled significantly better in any number of Miyazaki's films, (in particular Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke – the quasi sentient tree spirits also seemed to be lifted from Miyazaki/Japanese Mythology – not a problem, just an observation).

    The your-in-my world, now I'm-in-your world has been done many times (not the least of which was The New World, also with natives and Wes Studi.

    If Avatar would stop long enough to consider or delve into Nuance it would a) be a totally other type of movie, and b) a lot more interesting to me personally.

    This is the same problem I have with his ALIEN movie vs. Ridley Scott's or David Finchers. Sure he makes a dynamite thrill-ride action picture, but there is so much more to chew on in Alien or Alien3. Even the motherhood thing in Alien, it's one real interesting and novel contribution thematically, is presented so bluntly that it simply doesn't linger much like good science fiction does. Cameron's more interested in the bravado and the hardware. Fine. That only carries me so long.

    I like the 'recovery from being paraplegic element in the film, but it brushed by so abruptly that there is not much consideration or time spent thinking to really engage at that level.

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  23. @Goon: "and is able to fall in love with a race of people that he’s not truly experiencing."

    Isn't the tech so good that is pretty much is? I mean, he certainly has the micro-reflexes down to the point where the differences is negligible. I mean, except for a bit of philosophy, isn't he pretty much a Na'vi Guy when he is in body? Of course, this is how it ends up anyway.

    I'm surprised nobody is bitching or moaning about Unobtainium, something used as a gag in the not-very-serious The Core, yet here the macguffin is embraced quite straight-faced. It is ridiculously out of place to the point where it almost seems lazy in light of the detail and time spent on the colour and physics of the MOSS on Pandora amongst other things.

    Also, the 'gather for the world tree' ceremony for Sigourney Weaver seemed crazy considering, what over 20% of the actual Na'vi probably died in the tree-fall.

    Oh, and the fall in love with the Surrogate bit is actually done (on multiple levels) in Alastair Reynolds mighty-fine CHASM CITY, which is another novel that I'd like to have had Cameron throw $350 Million dollars at, it is totally his cup 'o tea with testosterone, big hardware, some hard-science, and epic scope with mega-action sequences. Yea, I'd love to see James Cameron take on CHASM CITY!

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  24. Forget Delgo, the overall story arc is A LOT simimar to TERRA, although Terra also got mired down in typical Star-Wars and blockbuster cliches to fully realize its story. Cameron's movie is not lopped off at the knees as TERRA (or The Battle for Terra as it was renamed when upcoverted to 3D)

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  25. More falling in love with Surrogates:

    Peter Jackson's KING KONG.

    Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (also the Ron Perleman/Linda Hamilton TV show)

    Any movie where someone is stuck in a totally foreign culture for a period of time then re-emerges and brings their significant other into the other world is roughly qualifying. I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, but I guess the whole, he's experiencing this virtually doesn't really pack too much of a punch because post-Matrix it has been done a lot. Avatar is quite simply another movie that uses the phrase "My People"

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  26. "Isn’t the tech so good that is pretty much is? I mean, he certainly has the micro-reflexes down to the point where the differences is negligible."

    No, because he gets bitch slapped back to reality often enough that it causes him misery, well shown through his diaries, which I think in an effects driven movie people dont pay enough attention to becuase they're waiting for the next batch of candy. I think even well versed filmgoers can tend to skip important stuff because they're watching the film for only one specific reason.

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  27. "I’m surprised nobody is bitching or moaning about Unobtainium"

    It's a ridiculous thing to bitch about. That name says it all anyways. If it were called Helium-3 then you'd require an unnecessary extra scene about it's nature.

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  28. I agree with Goon, weak examples.

    Even with The Matrix, Neo doesn't change significantly at all and neither does Trinity, there is none of the falling in love with a surrogate scenario in it, and King Kong?! Unless there is a Malcovichian tube entering Kong's head I don't see the link.

    In fact Being John Malcovich is the only film I can think of where a surrogate love story takes place… that and Mrs. Doubtfire.

    now I haven't seen much by way of anime or read sci-fi too deeply…

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  29. …and the Being John Malkovich example is rooted in cynicism…

    In the Matrix Neo realizes himself as a leader which is similar, however yes, it's not the same at all, because they are both in the same real and fake worlds together at all times. In Avatar Jake is always in a borrowed shell among actual Na'Vi.

    And Jake is clearly in control of his own destiny, the Na'Vi have their prophecies and such but he's not under pressure to become "the One", it's all his own motivation and his own desire to be more than a cripple among invading assholes.

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  30. OK, goon, how about the Star Trek '09, wherein Kirk meets Old Spock which convinces him to like and get along with Young Spock? Sure that is a platonic one, but it still has this sort of 'outsider' to make the connection in the 'real' world (here a tangent universe).

    I'm not sure what point I'm trying to make, other to underscore that the 'surrogate' angle for Avatar being highly original and unique in the framework of 'hero quest, understand foreign culture' blockbusters.

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  31. The Departed slash Infernal Affairs?

    The whole, go undercover, fall in love, understand the cause, come out the other side? It's been done a lot.

    And as for the doesn't want to be a cripple, the metaphorical version could easily be adopted to 'i was incomplete until I went undercover and discovered my true calling on the other side, in which case, I abandon former life and join this one'

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  32. It's starting to feel like you're grasping for straws to be honest, like you have disallowed yourself to like Avatar beyond a certain level. of course I couldn't know for sure, but as I mentioned the rollercoaster of hype has put a cloud over a lot of complaints I'm hearing from people who've been pooh-poohing so much along the journey.

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  33. What possible motivation do I have for 'disallowing myself to like Avatar?" – the assumption is ludicrous. I can only attempt (badly) to try to explain the feeling I had while watching the movie. It's good entertainment, that is all, it doesn't resonate for me, even the environmental/invasion/occupation elements in the movie do little for me.

    I've been poo-pooing the journey, and really the product I got was a heck of a lot better than I thought it would be. As a blockbuster SFX movie, it is benchmark in the production design and story-telling mechanics were rock solid. As a movie that makes me feeling something, inspires me to think about it or get excited beyond its technical aspects.

    Zilch.

    End of story. That simple.

    The rest is wankery, something of which, I'm rather good at. 😉

    When I go in and am blown away by a movie that I've talked bad about, trust me, I'll admit it. If I walk out passionately from something like DRAG ME TO HELL, for instance, a movie I thought would be totally dreadful. Or Fantastic Mr. Fox, a movie I also thought wouldn't work, hey, I'm more than happy to admit my judgement on the marketing materials given was wrong.

    Avatar certainly won me over in 'not-looking-like-a-video-game-cut-scene' but I couldn't shake the feeling that i've seen this story too many times.

    Actually applying that logic, the love story and some aspects of Matrix 1 which feel rote and old-hat, make me like the batshit weirdness of Matrix 2 a lot better. And the fact that Matrix 3 falls waaaay back in to the same-old-same-old cliche's of the blockbuster hero quest movie, makes me dislike that one the most.

    I'm merely trying to articulate my reaction to the movie. It is doubtful to change at this point. When the crowds go away, I'll give it a whirl in IMAX 3D (show sold out again tonite), but I'm actually dreading the run-time this time around. I'll give Cameron's 3D its fair shake though, I'll watch the thing how it was intented, if only to look a the fauna and flora on a massive screen.

    I can't imagine it will dethrone the spectacle of Hong Kong and Chicago in Batman's Imax experience. Many that was something to behold in IMAX (2D, of course).

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  34. @Goon, "If it were called Helium-3 then you’d require an unnecessary extra scene about it’s nature."

    Yea, and that shit was pretty awesome in MOON, which is a far better movie than Avatar, despite itself cribbing from as many 'harder-sci-fi' examples as Avatar does fantasy blockbusters.

    And MOON is a more enjoyable viewing experience because Sam Rockwell is awesome, whereas Sam Worthingtone (and Zoe Saldana) are merely wide-eyed and earnest most of the time. For me there was more 'wonder' and tactile-ness in Moon than Avatar, and at what, 1/50th the budget and 1/50 the cast?

    The reason why Sigourney Weaver was the best single character in Avatar because she was worn a bit, rough around the edges, and to a large degree had a sense of humour that seemed to be lacking in any sense from the rest of the characters beyond mediocre dialogue.

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  35. "What possible motivation do I have for ‘disallowing myself to like Avatar?"

    I have no idea, I just saw wankery that was coloring a little too far out of your usual lines, beyond "Kung Fu Fighting in the trailer" irrational to me 🙂

    All extenuating circumstances aside, I think we're all a little sad you didn't go for the 3d.

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  36. Not my choice really, I would be at the film now, if the thing didn't keep selling out. I'm kinda waiting for it to die down.

    I guess the first viewing was for story, the second one will be fore texture.

    I will say that the 35mm print I saw of the movie was very, very CLEAN and crisp, so much so I could forget I was watching celluloid. There is an alien-ness (I had the same reaction with Soderberg's RED-shot CHE pair of flicks) to the cinematography which is rather interesting.

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  37. "For me there was more ‘wonder’ and tactile-ness in Moon than Avatar, and at what, 1/50th the budget and 1/50 the cast?"

    It's apples and oranges to me, sometimes budget stuff is relevant, sometimes it isn't. I don't think this example is relevant. Back to the Future had 2714 times the budget of Primer, and a lot of people like the latter more. Is Zemeckis supposed to apologize for not being 2714 times more entertaining?

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  38. I know they are different worlds and very different artistic intent. But watch THE NEW WORLD (also beautiful cinematography on that Maxi-48 format) back to back with AVATAR, and despite Cameron avoiding the Uncanny Valley, his movie doesn't have the 'alienness' of the world to its would-be conquerers that Malick brings to that film.

    Avatar has to constantly tell you that Pandora is hell.

    The New World only has Captain Smith come back to the Viriginia compound to see how the folks are living and you KNOW that things have gone to hell in a handbasket.

    The natives assualting the fortress and the ensuing battle in THE NEW WORLD feels 1000x times more tangible and disturbing than Avatar.

    I guess what I'm saying that perhaps at this point in my movie-going 'journey' (or what-have you) I'm more interested in being disturbed than entertained. Weird, but probably true.

    And I personally think that Princess Mononoke or David Lynch's version of DUNE are far more compelling and interesting 'hero-quest' movies than Avatar. For all its sound and fury and barrage of technological prowess, it lacks something profound.

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  39. @Goon: "Back to the Future had 2714 times the budget of Primer, and a lot of people like the latter more. Is Zemeckis supposed to apologize for not being 2714 times more entertaining?"

    No, my point was that in the quest to be big, and most assuredly that was Cameron's point, it loses something. It's not that a $500 Million movie has to be 100x better than a $5Million dollar movie, it is just strange when a $500 Million movie is not as good as the $5Million movie. But this has always been Hollywoods problem (Or in this case Cameron's). Spectacle over Brains. Every now and again the get it right by accident, get something brainy and smart and savagely funny (i.e. Fight Club) or pure blissfully joyful (Drag Me To Hell or Temple of Doom).

    Avatar seems to be stuck in limbo. It's way better than your run-of-the-mill action-scifi blockbuster, but far short of doing something that makes the film feel fresh and exciting and new, beyond it's skin, anyway.

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  40. But Pandora isn't hell. The humans are the ones who say that, its part of the ongoing theme that humans wouldn't recognize a new Eden even if they saw it. It's only a few that manage to see the good side. I'd say you missed the boat here

    "watch THE NEW WORLD"

    I think its been established that I just don't like Malick. I wouldn't flat out avoid it, but it would have to be a free and/or library rental.

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  41. "it is just strange when a $500 Million movie is not as good as the $5Million movie. "

    I actually may put Avatar ahead of Moon on my year-end, and you know I gave Moon a 5/5 as well. They both hit me in different ways, and have different intentions.

    And don't take this as 'popularity = right', but if you take a look at the IMDB right now, it should be clear that you should never discount that Cameron does actually seem to know what the public wants after all.

    And seriously… thats not an excuse, I mean I dont like T2 very much at all. But I have to give the man props, he takes big risks, people doubt him, and then they end up with some degree of egg on their face.

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  42. @Goon: "The humans are the ones who say that, its part of the ongoing theme that humans wouldn’t recognize a new Eden even if they saw it. It’s only a few that manage to see the good side. I’d say you missed the boat here"

    No it is exactly that heaven/hell paradox I'm talking about here. For those who immerse vs. those who conquer.

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  43. @Rusty

    Sure I'm taking into account what the film cost. With Cameron, it is hard not to, the budget of his films tend to take on as much more interest and significance than the plots of his films! It is pretty hard to ignore that he pretty much breaks the bank every time he makes a film, and I guess when you are always breaking the bank, you can risk new tech, but not new stories. My chief fault with Avatar is that the story is not new. Sure there is little new under the sun, especially in the 'hero-quest blockbuster' type movies, but Avatar in the plot department (the movie if you will….) is often groan worthy, i imagine, to folks who have grown up and seen hundreds of these types of films.

    What I was grappling with in the Moon/Avatar contrast is that Moon also borrows a huge number of hard-sci-fi film influences but seems to tell a new and interesting story with the hommages, not simply pack things in a bigger and more expensive wrapper.

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  44. You've gone way past this now, but I was fast asleep when the last 40 comments were posted (bloody timezones). I just wanted to talk a bit about what partially started this debate. I didn't mean to make out that Avatar's plot is totally ripped from Dances With Wolves, but there is clearly a big similarity. I didn't think the plot was bad at all, just nothing special. It's a solidly told story, but it still didn't blow me away like the visuals did.

    As for the more original aspects of the story, i.e. his disability and the whole avatar side of things, I thought these were a great idea, but I felt they were pushed to the sidelines a bit and not fully developed. I meant to mention this in my review but I forgot in the end, so maybe you're right Goon about the spectacle distracting some people from the other elements. At least it seemed to happen to me when writing the review!

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  45. Kurt, you've reached a new low in your inability to explain yourself and go off on random tangents effectively alienating the people arguing with you. I am beginning to see why you were chosen along with Gerry to portray the braindead body-snatched entities in Colore Non Vedenti :).

    I think Cameron did enough with his world to justify the treehugging. I mean, I can't remember ever seing a culture, where their love and worship of nature isn't just a random occurence (it's there and we don't get it – ergo god), but actually integrated within them, they are a part of the nature around them, and their bodies connect to it. Their evolution is connected with the environment, so it makes perfect sense that they protect it, it actually is less religious, because it is part of them.

    I mean if I had some sort of tail that was supposed to link to something, and somebody then tried to kill everything it was able to link to, I would take it pretty personal. I think this is new and a good way to make it more believeable that they would fight for their place, instead of just arbitrary holy trees.

    That is just one example, but I felt the movie had enough of these little touches, putting the film more comfortably within a world of its own, a sci-fi/fantasy world that could exist without having to draw parrallels to real life. The whole dances with wolves thing came from script reviews anyway, can you imagine reading the script for this? No visuals? No wonder people were saying it was horrible.

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  46. Maybe I was alittle rough on you Kurt, but I want to ask you, if you feel like you have completely stopped being impressed by these effects movies why go watch them? As much as I like be a snob, and champion film as a more serious medium, I can't help but be impressed and overwhelmed by some of these movies. Avatar certainly impressed me alot, and I felt that it justified whatever system made it. Transformers 2 also impressed me at points with its visual effects, I can't help but being swept up with some of the visuals. Like an aircraft carrier blowing up in Transformers 2 or an army of neon-green pterodactyl-like creatures flying against a massive ship in Avatar. That's why I still go see these things.

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  47. @Henrik.

    I generally do skip them, crap like The Mummy franchise, and the Pirates of the Caribbean and The new Hulk I simply do not bother with. Deep down, I supposed I wanted the film to be like Cameron's grittier B-Movies. I like The Terminator a lot more than its sequel. I liked The (theatrical, not the directors cut) of The Abyss a lot as well.

    The fact that Avatar was an 'original' story and not based on some pre-sold material (comic books, etc.) was also a draw.

    I happen to think that Cameron is a very good story teller, but really he should stop writing at this point if all he is going to do is fall back on the usual stuff of blockbusters. Trust me, the mediocrity of the screenplay still manages to shine through the visuals -> clearly.

    But yea, sad on me, that I will attempt the film again in IMAX-3D for the sake of the visuals. Its hard not to be a film fan and ignore something as massive as Avatar has been. Any time I go into the theatre, I'm hoping to be blown away.

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  48. "sad on me, that I will attempt the film again in IMAX-3D for the sake of the visuals."

    I don't think that's sad. Visuals are an important part of film.

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  49. Sure, in fact an argument could be made that it is the ONLY reason for the film being. Cameron has demonstrated what can be done with the latest set of toys, but it will take someone else (or another kick at the can) to use them in service of making something great with these toys.

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  50. "I mean if I had some sort of tail that was supposed to link to something, and somebody then tried to kill everything it was able to link to, I would take it pretty personal. I think this is new and a good way to make it more believeable that they would fight for their place, instead of just arbitrary holy trees."

    Well put

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  51. "Sure, in fact an argument could be made that it is the ONLY reason for the film being. Cameron has demonstrated what can be done with the latest set of toys, but it will take someone else (or another kick at the can) to use them in service of making something great with these toys."

    Hell, you can substitute Cameron for Summer-Hollywood.

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  52. And I actually really like when movies treat their mcguffins carelessly. I mean you're not going to be profound explaining greed in this, so just call it unobtainium and say its expensive and get to what you ARE going to be profound in: CGI.

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  53. I just don't get how Avatar is unoriginal and penalized for that and yet Kurt you can admire a million straight genre films without bating an eye at how derivative they are.

    I find pure genre boring because it relies too heavily on formula, and had Avatar relied too heavily on formula I would have the same response, but like Henrik mentioned, like Goon mentioned, there are some unique aspects to this story, to how it is told, to the premise, enough in my mind to make it an enjoyable experience.

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  54. For the record, Avatar was not 'un-enjoyable' I was simply not engaged with the story as much as with the visuals, I'm sure I'm not in the minority on this one, as much as this thread implies.

    Rot, I'm surprised you don't take the 'checking off story points' stance you did with Ironman, is it not similar in Avatar, storywise? I guess 'direct link with nature, direct link with surrogate is enough to distinguish this from the hero-quest pack?

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  55. I seem to be falling into complete devil's advocate territory here, I didn't hate the movie, I was merely disappointed with its conventional plotting and very flat characters. If the film had the nuance in its narration that it did with its CGI, this movie would be blowing minds.

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  56. "If the film had the nuance in its narration that it did with its CGI, this movie would be blowing minds."

    Of course, but to me, the visuals are good enough to warrant a 5/6 on its own. What you are describing is 2001: A Space Oddysey. I would have loved that as well, but any sort of insight/innovation is worth praising. If we only praised movies on the level of 2001, we wouldn't be praising much.

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  57. Joining in late on the discussion but this really comes down to the same discussion we all had over District 9. Kurt wants an arthouse blockbuster where the rest of us are happy to get a good blockbuster. I don't think Kurt is wrong in having higher expectations (as in District 9) or in just needing more (as in Avatar) but I also don't think everyone else is wrong in enjoying it.

    I for one did actually think there was a strong enough story and I did care for the characters. Of course I have not seen Fern Gully nor Dances with Wolves yet (Sorry Andrew).

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  58. I'd much rather have Avatar than District 9. District 9 for me is marginally smarter than Avatar, but not by much, it's still the same ballpark, and quite a few issues style-wise. If America is to produce one or the other, I'd rather sit through Transformers movies to get Avatar, than District 9 or Children of Men, where it's still all about the effects, but they try and be clever about it, and don't spend as much on the effects. I mean clever, I can get that elsewhere, I can't get effects elsewhere.

    Here's something to consider Kurt: You say that it's going to take another go at it or another filmmaker to use the technology in Avatar for a good story. Technically, the stuff that Avatar pushes forward is developed among other things from technology pioneered in Ang Lee's Hulk. So I guess the smart blockbuster with this stuff has already been made, and Hollywood has actually regressed, story-wise!

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  59. I'll jump in on Kurt's side on this one. I loved the visuals (and I'll be glad to hear Kurt's opinion after he's seen it in 3D), but I wanted more from the story. I wanted it to be as innovative and unique as the technology used to tell it. I'll concede the point that there are interesting elements to the story – the avatar/real life situation instead of the more common avatar/virtual life one and the neural connections to the natural world being the two that interested me the most. But the beats of the story, the actual plot points, were predictable to a fault. I didn't want predictable, I wanted to be taken somewhere I couldn't imagine.

    The implications of the natural network that the Na'vi could tap into – that was interesting, but it was brought up by Grace and almost just as quickly shunted to the side, only to be used as necessary for the plot point of winning the battle. I wanted to know more about that, how it worked, what Grace was hoping to learn about it, do with it. But nothing. The fact that the avatar was part Na'vi, part human DNA – what implications does that have? How would that affect Jake's ability to become Na'vi, how will it affect the future of the Na'vi now that their de-facto leader is part human PHYSICALLY? Apparently not at all, but it should. (How many fingers will Jake and Neytiri's children have?)

    Other things I would've liked to have seen – some stakes to Jake's decision to turn Na'vi. He basically had nothing to lose and everything to gain. It would've been more interesting he had to give up something to join the Na'vi, giving him some internal struggle (besides overcoming his loyalty to the military, which wasn't really that much of a struggle). It would've been nice if the military/humans weren't wholly evil except for like three scientists and one pilot. I wanted more nuance to the conflict instead of pure good vs. evil. If the humans had some reason to be there other than pure greed, so there was some kind of moral dilemma in question, that would've made it more interesting.

    If they were going to go with such a familiar, unnuanced story, I would rather they had just pared it down to even less story and just made it rhythmic and poetic – unapologetically letting the visuals stand on their own. I fully enjoyed watching the movie, was entranced by the effects, and thought the narrative, such as it was, was pretty well-done. I'd give it a solid 4/5, which, honestly, was more than I expected to give it. But with as much as we were given, it just made me yearn for what more it could have been.

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  60. "I wanted it to be as innovative and unique as the technology used to tell it."

    WE ALL WANTED THAT. It just seems grumpy to focus on this when you've visuals like these.

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  61. I mean 4/5, that's no small grade. How many movies are 5/5 for you?

    The whole argument is that it's still an amazing movie, even if it isn't the movie to end all movies.

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  62. Late to the discussion too, but enjoyed Avatar, even slightly more than District 9. Sure the story's a little weak and the characters weren't very deep. But the movie was effective in immersing me in it's world and visuals, to the point of being more forgiving of it's flaws. I'm as cynical as they come (I think Raiders of the Lost Ark is way overrated) but found Avatar's story to work for me in context of what it was, the hollywood blockbuster, which I typically avoid. I could have used more quiet scenes of Jake Sully doing everyday, cultural stuff with the NaVi or whatever, like cooking and eating or hanging out. This not only would have added to the characterization of jake and the chick, but would have made me more emotionally invested in the events that occur and Jake's motivations and actions more resonant. Even with the extended running time, some aspects of the story felt rushed.

    Sure Kurt, it's not as good as The New World, but few movies are. That one's a masterpiece in my eyes.

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  63. Henrik, not many movies are 5/5 for me, true. But there are at least five or six this year that are 4.5/5, and probably ten or fifteen that are 4/5. Avatar hit my 2009 list at around 15 or 16 out of about 40. It's actually very close on my list to Moon and District 9, because I had narrative issues with those films that I don't with Avatar – but they reached for a lot more than Avatar did, which I respect. They had more ambitious stories but didn't realize them perfectly, whereas Avatar has a very unambitious story realized very well.

    I'm just tired of the argument that because Avatar is pretty it doesn't matter that the story is routine. If it DIDN'T have the visuals, it would be a 2.5/5 for me, and I think that's a fundamental problem for a movie that many are proclaiming among the best of the year (I don't know that anyone here is claiming that, but many filmgoers are). The visuals are making people think it's got a better story than it does, but it's all surface. I'm just trying to balance that and look forward to a story that will be worthy of this tech. Avatar is groundbreaking, sure, but it's not the fulfillment – it's only the beginning.

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  64. It seems like Kurt, and I guess Jandy, are really eager to judge the film for what they know about its budget and production history but completely unwilling approach it based on what they know of the director and his body of work.

    The storytelling is broad. Fine. Now lets move on from this observation and talk about what Cameron does bring to the table. I don't think broad necessarily means bad. Some storytellers can tell a familiar story in a way that makes it seem fresh. Cloverfield was that kind of thing and Cameron has also proved successful at it in the past.

    I go into the film accepting these boundries because I understand that film can be many things. And because I think the technical side of cinema is relevent as well.

    Kurt, you seem to be sliding into some margin where you're only allowed to be entertained by a film if it has some ironic or post modern hook: The Happening, Pontypool, whatever else.

    I think even you have to concede that if you're going with the mind set that "if it cost x amount it must be (entertainment)x" then you're not watching in good faith. It's like you're fighting the movie.

    You wouldn't even do the film the courtesy of watching it in 3D!

    And I still haven't seen this damn movie. I was snowed in all weekened. Fuckin' East Coast bullshit.

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  65. Jandy, you might as well ask for more nuance to the Emperor in Star Wars, its not THAT sort of a film, it is about archetypes and that can be done well so long as there is enough in the narrative to make me forget the formula, and with Avatar it worked. I didn't know in Avatar they were actually going to destroy the sacred tree (every other film would have that as the final battle where the heroes win). I also didn't know how they were going to make a comeback considering the avatars were under the control of the military and Jake was in prison. It was a smart idea to have remote units that they could hide. I didn't know Weaver was going to die, I didn't know that the way Jake was going to win over the Nav'i after his betrayal was to harness the Taroc, these are examples of the story that I could not anticipate. Also the final battle had real stakes, I thought how improbable it would be to beat the sky people with arrows, but the way they played it, it made sense, and the suspense paid off. I think the reason I couldn't anticipate the story had something to do with the spectacle put in every moment onscreen, Cameron is able to distract enough to make the story unfold, at least for me.

    Iron Man lacks the spectacle element but also is far more conservative in how it plays out the formula… the comic hero origin story being far more ubiquitous than the fighting with the natives concept.

    Also, like Gamble said on the last Cinecast, Avatar is NOT about the story, it is about the experience, the story leads you from one experience to the next, and it succeeds on that level entirely.

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  66. @ Sure Kurt, it’s not as good as The New World

    The New World!!!! Kurt wanted the film to be The New World!!!! It doesn't make any sense.

    It's perogative to be entertained however you want. But it's also annoying that you've fallen into such a rigid mode of film watching and that you persist in going into these escapist adventure movies in bad faith.

    Again and again you're watching Back to the Future and complaining that it's not Primer.

    There's no reason why "dances with wolves in space" can't be a perfectly good premise for a scifi adventure film.

    And I do like Malik but The New World kind of pisses me off. It took me several viewings to come to terms with the realization that TTRL is a masterpiece but TNW is a pale immitator.

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  67. spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers

    @Jandy, about Jake not having any stakes… he was given the possibility of having his legs back in his real life, thats a pretty big stake to not indulge in the Avatar life, and also when he begins he is not portrayed as a skeptical outsider of the military, but proudly part of the military. I felt that his conflict was natural, he starts losing control of what is the real world. I don't think anyone has mentioned it but I thought Sam Worthington was really good, the first time I've ever seen this actor.

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  68. @Rusty, "You wouldn’t even do the film the courtesy of watching it in 3D!"

    This argument is such bullshit. I will see the thing in 3D, as if anyone ever talked about a movie that that caught on Video/DVD. Presentation is of course important, but it is hardly the only thing that makes watching a movie an experience. I think you should watch it in 2D before you criticize me for holding off a bit on catching it in 3D. 😉

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  69. "It’s perogative to be entertained however you want. But it’s also annoying that you’ve fallen into such a rigid mode of film watching and that you persist in going into these escapist adventure movies in bad faith."

    Three Words: Temple of Doom. I don't dislike adventure movies, I dislike ones that feel so bloody old hat that I yawn as the thing goes through the motions (even if it goes through the motion on grease and rainbows). And for the record, I was entertained by Avatar, I don't hate the movie, but it is certainly not the 'game-changer' promised beyond some production/filmmaking toys.

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  70. @ but it is certainly not the ‘game-changer’ promised beyond some production/filmmaking toys.

    I don't understand these reactions to the film's "hype". All I ever heard was people bitching and whining.

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  71. And even beyond that. I take Cameron to task because I happen to quite like his films. Well, Aliens, The Terminator and The Abyss. He's been sliding into narrative irrelevancy since Terminator 2.

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  72. I get the experience argument, and I've been trying to mentally quantify why I was blown away by, say, Speed Racer – which has much less of a quality story than Avatar, and I think the difference is that Avatar seems to want us to take its story seriously. It's earnest, and it wants to be important on more than a technical level. It wants to have an ecofriendly message, and it wants us to care about that deeply. Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and sure, Iron Man – these are all films built on action, visuals, and archetypes, but they don't take themselves seriously. I'm not saying an eco-friendly message is bad, but it's safe. If you want to do that story and have it be mind-blowing in 2009, you've got to outdo The New World, Kurt's right.

    And since Star Wars has come up again, yes, the Emperor in the original trilogy is evil without nuance, but he's a pure evil in a metaphysical sense. He's not just a greedy bastard. I should reconsider my use of "evil" to describe Avatar's humans, actually – they're not evil incarnate. But the face of the Emperor is Darth Vader; we barely see the Emperor until Return of the Jedi. And Darth Vader is nuanced. That would be like, in Avatar, if Giovanni Ribisi had been pure evil, bent on dominating other worlds just because it was his archetypal duty to do so, but Stephen Lang had been nuanced. But he isn't. They're both one-dimensional.

    I'm glad there was enough in Avatar for you to forget the formula, and there was for me while I was immersed in it, but it's superficial. As soon as Neytiri told the story about her grandfather being the Taroc-machtor and reuniting the Na'vi, I was like, okay, the only reason for that story to be told right here in the middle of nowhere is because Jake's going to have to become a Taroc-machtor in order to save the Na'vi.

    Regarding Rusty's point about Cameron – I haven't seen a lot of Cameron films. This one, Titanic, and Terminator 1 & 2, most of those several years ago. I don't have enough of a grasp to do an auteur reading of his career. Oh, and I don't care what it cost. That's not entering into my analysis at all.

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  73. Wow, you guys wrote a lot while I was busy with other stuff. 🙂

    @rot, true, but you've got the choice between normal human legs and the things you've become accustomed to doing with Na'vi physiognomy? Not much of a choice. "You can walk again, but, oh, right – no more soaring around with a perfect neural connection to your mount, no more running and swinging through a forest with a body ten times as agile as a human one. You okay with that?" I'll grant you the connection to the military, and that can be a strong connection, but he seemed a little put out at the beginning that they weren't doing anything to get him his legs back, and then there were NO decent military people except Michelle Rodriguez on Pandora. No reason to remain emotionally connected to that particular division of the military.

    Kurt and I are on the same page here. It's a really good, possibly even excellent film, but it isn't a game-changer except for paving the way for other filmmakers to use the tech to take us where Avatar doesn't. And it certainly isn't the best sci-fi film ever made, as I've heard multiple people saying over the past few days.

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  74. What? Ribisi’s a Scientologist? Oh dear.

    Yes, from 60+ comments that's the one thing that stood out.

    As for Avatar, even with my dislike for 3D movies (they more often than not make me feel sick) we decided to take the plunge into IMAX 3D. It's one of those movie experiences that you only have once – you will never again be wowed in the same way by AVATAR as you are the first time you see it and despite my qualms with the story, the running time and some of the plotting, I have to admit that I got swept up into the story and damned it if Cameron doesn't know how to pull at my heart strings. Yes, it has problems but I honestly feel they're overshadowed by the awesomeness of the overall experience. I was immerse in Pandora for nearly 3 hours and would have stayed longer if he'd let me.

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  75. I will totally agree with Marina that being immersed in Pandora was great, and it didn't feel like nearly a 3-hour running time. I'd gladly play a Pandora-set action RPG for hours on end, if they could get the 3D graphics and CGI to look that good on PC or console. 🙂

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  76. It sounds like we're all in agreement. It's just that Kurt and Jandy are apparently talking to some other mob of people who are saying that the story is a game-changer of cinema and that this is the best sci-fi movie of all time.

    Why don't you talk to the people actually participating in the argument?

    I agree that the Taroc-Makhtor thing was completely obvious, but to me, it's not old hat, it's classic shit. It's like when Thulsa Doom takes Conans fathers sword, or like when Arnold promises not to kill in T2. It's just something to look forward to, a set-up, and you sit there going NOT "Oh, I can tell there is going to be a payoff. I AM SMARTER THAN THIS", but rather "Nice. I can't wait to see him tame the beast". Except I guess, if you want to watch the movie to collect evidence why it is ONLY excellent and not the best movie ever.

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  77. "If it DIDN’T have the visuals, it would be a 2.5/5 for me"

    What kind of arguments are these? I think the story in this, on its own is probably close to a 0/5, but fortunately, there is more to moviemaking than telling a story.

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  78. "Why don’t you talk to the people actually participating in the argument? "

    Oy Vey! Pot meet Kettle! 😉

    Trying to articulate my thoughts, bouncing off other peoples thoughts. I thought it was a discussion, not an argument.

    There comes a point when you've seen enough movies that it simply takes more 'surprise' or 'originality' to help along the product.

    If you are happy with Product that is fine. I'd like a little more art beyond the selection of paints and brushes.

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  79. @ Henrik, "But fortunately, there is more to moviemaking than telling a story."

    But these Hero-quest blockbusters live and die by thier story and plotting. it is a big contribution, something difficult to ignore or write off. We agree on the visuals, I think everyone in this thread agrees the film is handsome and fascinating visually, but there has to be more than simply a fireworks show, doesn't there? Is it asking too much for a film to hit me in the gut, show me some heart. I get that from Princess Mononoke (and it is a hand-drawn cartoon!). Heck, I get it from Dune (which is about as 'over-produced' in the costume and set-design as anything out there, yet Jurgen Prochnow, Patrick Stewart, Jose Ferrer, Sian Philips, Kyle MacLachlan and that little girl all bring something characterwise). Avatar, not so much. It's the characters, there isn't much character on screen. I'd love to see Bill Paxton's 'Game Over Man' or Paul Reiser's slime ball, but nothing in Avatar comes even to that simple level!

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  80. Kurt, why don't you highfive me over my razorsharp observation concerning Avatar vs. Hulk? I thought you would get right on board with that.

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  81. So you are arguing that Ang Lee's Hulk is the trial run for technology of Avatar to hit art? Uh, OK. Is that the art of movie-making now? Digitally creating characters? In service of what?

    I like the 'High falutin' Greek Tragedy' of Ang Lee's Hulk mixed with its comic book aesthetic. But I also thought Nick Nolte, Jennifer Connolley and Eric Bana (even the caricatures of Josh Lucas and Sam Eliot) was what made HULK a great movie, not the big CGI man that smashes stuff.

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  82. "I thought it was a discussion, not an argument."

    Well, english isn't my first language. I didn't realize the subtle difference, I should have said discussion.

    "but there has to be more than simply a fireworks show, doesn’t there?"

    Depends on the fireworks, this would seem obvious. If somebody shows you innovative fireworks, are you going to deny being impressed, asking "Why didn't it spell out E=mc2?"

    I mean you don't have to be impressed with Avatar, but why would you keep hammering it on the grounds that the story didn't touch you, when there is so much more to the movie?

    I thought stuff like "Papa Dragon" was pretty classic Cameron. All of the marine stuff just took me back to his earlier military films, and I actually really liked Stephen Lang I thought he was great. And I think that if you're going to do this Avatar-concept, having a paraplegic who gets thrown into it (it makes sense that scientists, not the military would be the ones spending time on an Avatar-project) is fresh to me, and enough to not annoy me while I look at the visuals. I mean the other movies that give me visuals like these have robots humping peoples legs.

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  83. I am saying, in terms of using technology to create a CGI creature that can portray human emotions, Hulk used it to tell a much better story than Avatar does.

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  84. Jandy and Marina used the word 'immersed' and this is the point I have been trying to make, IF you are immersed you are not anticipating or figuring out the formula, you are immersed, and James Cameron pulled it off. I made a similar argument with Star Trek, the formula is there but what Abrams did to make it work for me was his pacing, he made it fast enough that mind was only focused on the immediate… Iron Man lingers too long (that prisoner sequence at the beginning i.e.) and the mind has time to catch up and get bored… Avatar and Star Trek do everything they can to prevent this… now I admit some scenes went on too long for pure spectacle, I am not saying Cameron did a perfect job but overall IF you are immersed than you can't also be saying you were offput by the familiarity of the story.

    In 3D especially this thing is a wonder, you are watching everything as it is happening, and I'm sorry I never saw the taroc-machter thing coming at all, because as that story was being told my mind was taking in all the visuals.

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  85. also what I am saying is it is easy to after the movie evaluate what you saw, decide if it fits too neatly to formulas and be critical, but what did you feel as it was happening? I was immersed and I think that was the point.

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  86. Well, your mind is pre-occupied with crossing rubicons and stocking up on seeds, which might explain it. The rest of us focus on whats important.

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  87. Kurt, do you think going to the theatre with your children affect your ability to immerse yourself? I mean, it would make sense to me if you still felt the responsibility of being a parent and therefore subconsciously or consciously were more self-aware.

    I mean I certainly know that the people I watch a movie with have a big effect on the experience. When you show somebody something that you like, but you're not sure if they will like, it's usually quite grueling because flaws stick out so much more, and you're just hoping they will be on board. Tons of stuff affect the experience in my opinion.

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  88. @Andrew, "You took your 4 year old daughter to this?"

    Well she turned 5 in October. She's watched Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, The Princess Bride, Godzilla, King Kong, Ghostbusters, and Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke (which has more than one decapitation by arrow in it). I was more concerned about the trailer for Ridley Scott's ROBIN HOOD in front of the film! (oi!)

    Miranda only made it to the 1-hour mark. The exposition scared her away, all she wanted to see was the warrior princess, but there wasn't enough princess in the movie to keep her occupied (her comment during some of the exposition on the Avatar uplink chamber and Sam Worthington not shaving was "Daddy, this movie is too adult, I would like to leave." The kids both loved all the 'black-light glow-stuff' in the movie) Miranda and LJ left the boys at the hour mark, Willem on the other hand was GLUED to the screen. Totally excited and into the movie (yet still hilariously anticipating what was going to happen next….and commenting to me about it occasionally). Ah, to be 7 again. Avatar is the ultimate movie for 7 year olds.

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    • Here I come to the rescue…

      This conversation is retarded. Kurt is not "hammering" the movie as you say. In fact he's said many times now that he actually thought it was alright. He just wasn't into the story and it didn't affect him very hard. Why is that hard to understand? I feel the same exact way he did/does. It looks great, it's kind of fun but I was never glued, or immersed or on the edge of my seat in any way shape or form. I looked at the screen for 166 minutes and thought to myself, "that looks kind of neat. That looks kind of neat. That looks kind of neat. That looks kind of neat. That looks kind of neat."

      Then it ended. If the relationships and destruction and heartache in the movie moves you on a personal level, hey that's great. But it didn't for some of us. Simple as that. Some people didn't get on board with The Wrestler's emotional component either. And if that's the case, they're really screwed since there aren't fireworks to distract them.

      Throw in the expectations argument (which I've read nothing but "mind-blowing" hype in the early screenings – a "game changer" if you will) and Kurt is even more right. The backlash only started after the trailer came out. Before that it was James Cameron just revolutionized film making, etc. Who was it on Jimmy Kimmel live the other night praising the shit out of the movie who wasn't even in the film (I can't remember which star it was now)? He even brought a goddamn clip to show off the movie. Tangent. Sorry.

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  89. Your kids TALK IN THE THEATRE? Time to put on the parenting-gloves Kurt, this is a habit best quelched!

    Sounds like you were very self-conscious during the movie, for obvious reasons. You can't deny that it seriously affected your ability to immerse yourself. Not that there is anything wrong with it mind you, I would much prefer parents to be concerned with their kids moreso than their movies.

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  90. @Henrik, "Your kids TALK IN THE THEATRE?"

    Yea, I've been working on that for a while actually, but we only go to the 11am Matinees, so they are usually sparsely attended shows and we sit away from everyone else. I still tell them, but at the same time, when I'm taking them to potentially intense movies, I have to let them know that they can tell me the film is too much and we can pull the plug. This almost happened at Coraline, and Avatar was the first film where we actually left mid-way (Well, my wife and daughter left, the boys stayed…)

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  91. For critical thinking and what not, admittedly seeing the movie with the kids is not ideal, but this didn't have any affect on seeing Fantastic Mr. Fox or Up, or Where The Wild Things Are. I do really enjoy seeing movies with the kids though. They are engaged and like to talk about the movie afterwards, usually beyond the "My favourite part was…" level. Which is pretty cool considering their young age.

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  92. "Avatar is the ultimate movie for 7 year olds."

    And for 20somethings with the imagination of 7 year olds.

    @rot I'm thrilled I didn't have to write a review as I walked away because I don't think I could have been objective – I was completely wowed walking away. Not sure it will have the same effect on a repeat viewing but I agree that part of the immersive quality of AVATAR is the 3D.

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  93. It's not hard to understand, most of us feel the exact same way.

    Thanks for clearing up for us that our points are retarded. Sorry for clogging up your website.

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    • Actually, the point about the children affecting immersion was a good one Henrik. I think that is a valid conversation. Running around in circles chasing your tails is pointless though don't you think?

      Kurt made the same point ten times very clearly and you and Goon continued to tell him how he's supposed to feel based on other movies.

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  94. Since Andrew didn't mention me, I'm going to assume that my part in the conversation wasn't retarded, and was actually awesome. Yep.

    Nah, I think we probably are all mostly in agreement. It's a really well-done film, it moved us to varying degrees (which is fine), and I was trying to pick apart the reasons that it didn't grab me story-wise as much as I wanted, because talking it out helps me understand my own headspace better. Mike, as far as the immersion goes, I was pretty much immersed during nearly all of the Pandora-forest-set scenes, and the whole of Jake's "training." The human base-set scenes didn't immerse me, and even the battles didn't immerse me, so that's when I started thinking about what would've made those sections more compelling.

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  95. If people feel that Avatar needs to be seen in 3D to really enjoy it then as a film it has already failed. I often asked myself during the movie "why is this in 3D? What's the point of it?" If I need to see it in IMAX to truly be immersed then its an amusement park ride. 3D after all a gimmick, not a story telling tool.

    It had stock story and stock characters. Nothing remotely original or fresh in that department. There is no denying that.

    It relies wholly on its looks to wow the punters. Didn't we hate Transformers for that very same reason? That looked fucking amazing but still people shat on it.

    And because it has only it's amazing looking visuals to sell it then it's not a film but a tech demo made to move a filmmaking product.

    I've seen my share of films that tell the same story over and over again but while most of them are tired crap many of them at least manage to create an atmosphere thats entertaining and captures your attention be it through character or execution of the story. Avatar didn't even do that for me. Mostly because it took itself so fucking seriously and its heavy handedness.

    I'm pretty sure that Cameron would have rather made an Malick-esque film rather than the run of the mill story that he ended up with because lets face it, the general public has no interest in Malick and the man needed to make his money back. That's why he took the safest route.

    The saddest part is that it will be a while before the tech is affordable enough for filmmakers to make something that is deeper than this shallow puddle of glitter. Until then it will be pure by the numbers spectacle movies of various quality.

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  96. "Didn’t we hate Transformers for that very same reason? That looked fucking amazing but still people shat on it."

    There's a difference. I would take a twist on an unoriginal but traditional/accessible story over an original but poorly written/contrived/confusing/dumb story any day. Ditto with characters. This is why I enjoy genre films.

    Can't we just make everyone happy and assume that the unoriginal storyline is just Cameron making some meta criticism/statement on remakes and call it a day? Brilliant work Mr.Cameron.

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  97. "That looked fucking amazing but still people shat on it."

    I deny Transformers looking amazing. graphics were well composited but its a visual mess of metal, couldn't tell what was going on, and the story wasn't even simple, it too was an incoherent mess. I actually preferred the second one if only because it was slightly more visually coherent as a spectacle.

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  98. the AV Club has become headquarters for Avatar bashing. Their podcast actually said the problem with it is "it isn't ironic enough"

    Insert any and all hipster jokes here. Sometimes Scott Tobias really has his head up his ass, trying to be the Pitchfork Media of movie reviewers.

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  99. @Swarez "If I need to see it in IMAX to truly be immersed then its an amusement park ride"

    yes, so what? My problem is this film purist strand of critiquing I am seeing here, like we need to protect the almighty name of cinema. Avatar is foremost an experience, I don't think it is foremost aspiring to be a 'film', if you buy the hype it is supposed to be something that changes the boundaries of 'film'. I evaluate it as spectacle that is immersive and for me it succeeds, thats it, the whole how it works as a 'film' I care not.

    I love Malick, but this idea that only something of that kind of artistic aspiration ought to be classed as a game-changer, or as something Cameron ought to have done is insane. I've never seen a film like Avatar, it utilizes the 3D effects in a way I've never seen before, and fits perfectly with the story it is telling, to make me immersed and not anticipate what happens next.

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  100. "My problem is this film purist strand of critiquing I am seeing here, like we need to protect the almighty name of cinema. "

    Jay had a pretty nice smackdown about how people treat blockbusters vs artier films in this regard on the new podcast.

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  101. I dunno, when a movie is not working it is not working, art-film or spectacle. I guess in the spectacle film you can enjoy the light show if the story doesn't do it for you. If it is a Art film you can think about the film even the visuals don't do anything for you. But hey, Cameron is a good filmmaker, one that has been sliding into story-laziness in favour of technology around the time of Terminator 2, The abyss (not the directors cut). I guess I expected him to get both right with Avatar. Expectations are a bitch. Hence the let down.

    Kudos to all those who can enjoy 'half a movie' though. To each their own.

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  102. Slightly unrelated observation:

    Is it just me or does it seem like the majority of these longer, polarizing discussions start off with clear, untarnished opinions of the film at hand but by the 80th comment or so, it's less about the film and more about the commenter upholding a reputation or persona? It seems people will go to great levels — including increasing or decreasing their praise/disdain of a film in proportion to the other persons opposing opinion — simply to stay on top or secure their personality as 'this type' or 'that type' of film lover. This has become a recent pet peeve of mine and I hope I never do this. (I'm sure I do, but I will try not to from now until the day I become one with the spirit tree)

    Hopefully this doesn't sound too aggressive or accusatory or whatever. I just notice this quite often. As soon as I start to sense that someone might be changing their tune or adjusting their levels to keep afloat or maintain a reputation, I tune out.

    I guess I'm a glass half full kind of guy when it comes to films. 😉

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  103. I re-read most of this thread after Jay's last comment, and I have to admit, I don't have a clue what he's talking about. Maybe I am less experienced in film discussion.

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  104. Even more compelling is that often people are 'interpreted' to be exaggerating (text communication is very dangerous this way) when really they are simply critical of some details. I must admit the more we went around in circles with Avatar the more it pushed me away from the film. For better or for worse. But for the record, I still feel I got my $10 worth and the film is better than (as mentioned above) many of the run-of-the-mill adventure movies that are churned out by Hollywood like widgets.

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  105. Furthermore, conversation in a handy tool to get your mind around how you do feel about the movie. The more you talk/type/etc (and yea, the conversation is not always pretty or eloquent) the more you can wrap your brain on where you are.

    I'm not sure if Jay is leveling his above statement at anyone in particular, but really since I was the only naysayer on the film (and requisite receiver of all the 'can't you just enjoy the movie for what it is) sort of commentary, sure I kept turning things over. I'm fairly secure in knowing what I like and do not like, I feel no need to maintain any sort of 'reputation' (after all, I like the live action Aeon Flux, The Matrix 2, and Pixar Movies along with Gerry, The New World and Singing in the Rain. So I guess any reputation that I'm allegedly aiming to instill is that I like a broad range of movies, but on a case to case basis, some do it for me, others don't. )

    But now I'm simply getting pathetically defensive….

    😉

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  106. I'll just go back to what I said earlier… that I think months of rollercoaster hype and expectations has made it difficult to deal with some opinions on the film. Movies like this don't just appear out of nowhere so they never get the blank slate benefit a surprise like Moon does.

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  107. Completely agree with you on this Goon, I wish I could extricate the hype from the film, but with Avatar, it proves quite difficult.

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  108. Indeed. It's hard not to get swept away with all the hype and if it doesn't meet your expectations ones reaction is probably more exaggerated than it needs to be.

    Now when you look over Cameron's filmography his movies aren't exactly deep in any shape or form, the guy made a career of creating ways to raise the bar on FX mostly rather than storytelling. His only other film with a clear message is Abyss and that's handled in a similar heavy handed way but maybe no so completely on the nose as Avatar did. I don't really know what I was expecting in terms of story but I was really let down by its predictability and that was enough for me to feel very disappointed in it and the pretty pictures didn't help me like it more.

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  109. Certainly the Director's Cut of The Abyss is clumsier than the more streamlined theatrical version of The Abyss.

    Avatar is either too short (and needed another couple of hours to give the characters as much a showcase as the world) or too long (at 166 minutes, it does sort of overstay its welcome even if it is never conventionally boring per se.)

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  110. "Even more compelling is that often people are ‘interpreted’ to be exaggerating (text communication is very dangerous this way) when really they are simply critical of some details"

    Well I can point to one single line from yourself that is an example of how I may be misreading you:

    "Kudos to all those who can enjoy ‘half a movie’ though. To each their own."

    Maybe I've read this line wrong, but does this not suggest that you didn't enjoy 'half a movie' Kurt? If everyone else didn't mind the story and it's unoriginality, then they likely enjoyed the full film. It was you who only enjoyed the spectacle, so I read that as you saying you can't enjoy 'half a movie', even though you've stated previously that you actually DID enjoy the Avatar experience and got your $10 worth. It's all very confusing as someone just reading along.

    If I'm going to allow a discussion to push me in any direction, I would hope it would be a positive one. I get much more out of talking about what I loved about films then what I didn't like.

    Can anyone answer this honestly: Have you ever gone into a film LOOKING to dislike it simply so you can come back here and prove someone else wrong? (I'm not directing this specifically at you Kurt)

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    • "Have you ever gone into a film LOOKING to dislike it simply so you can come back here and prove someone else wrong?"

      I can honestly say never. Ever. If someone says something is good and I can't believe it, I hope to go into that movie and be proven wrong myself. Enchanted is a good example. There was no way in hell I would've gone to that movie on my own accord. But a bunch of people around here were saying it was really great. I trudged into the theater unwilling (but with an open mind) really hoping they were right. And guess what? They were! I did not go into the movie hoping I hated it just so I could come back here and rail on people and say, "see? I was right and it sucks!" I always want my theater experience to be a positive one.

      If anything I'm the opposite. I go into movies looking for things to like so that I can champion the movie. I wish I loved Avatar so I could come in here and do just that. Unfortunately I was unmoved and not any more immersed into the world of Pandora than say Kashyyyk or Mustafar. Even though I was in Pandora for a much longer period of time.

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  111. I'm not a movie blogger so maybe i'm not the right person to answer this, but I do comment on a lot of film sites, and I think I can honestly say I have never gone into a movie looking to dislike it so I can prove a point. I just go to movies I think are going to be good (except maybe Transformers 2 but I was trying to like that). I mean whats the point of seeing movies just to complain about them. Dosen't that kind of ruin the film going experience?

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  112. "but does this not suggest that you didn’t enjoy ‘half a movie’ Kurt? "

    I did enjoy 'half the movie' but yea, I wanted the full movie. I was surprised by the volume of praise that this film is getting. After I left the show, 160+ minutes I felt that while the visual wonder is there, that simply is not enough. I liked what I saw, but the 'missing' part – a novel story – was a deal breaker.

    On the subject of "why did I go" I had an open mind, and I must admit the hype and initial volley of reviews got me warmed back up to the film. Besides, it is difficult NOT to go to a movie from a filmmaker I quite like, with a genre (Epic Sci-fi) that I tend to like. I tend to be harder on filmmakers I like than filmmakers that I"m indifferent to. But yea, i was both entertained and let down at the same time. (CONFUSING ISN'T IT?)

    And to answer your second question, that is an easy yes: I saw TWILIGHT, probably more so I could complain about it than for any other reason.

    Furthermore, I tend to agree that it is better to write about what you like than what you don't. But I also believe it is worthy to write about the things that you were disappointed in, and why you were disappointed with something. (My review of Lust, Caution for instance, or even The Brother Bloom.) Combine those two films with Avatar and yea, they all had things to like, but none of them quite met expectations.

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    • Really Kurt? I mean I knew that most likely Twilight was going to suck (and it did), but I was hoping I would go in and find something really enjoyable about it. Something that would make me really like the movie. Then I could come in and say to all the haters, "yeah, but there was this this and this that was awesome. Maybe it's not as bad as all the vitriol suggests." Alas, it was as bad as all that, but I still went in hoping I would like it. Why would you go into a theater wanting a bad experience or a bad movie? Seems like a waste of 2 hours just so you can jump on the bandwagon or have something to complain about.

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  113. @ Have you ever gone into a film LOOKING to dislike it simply so you can come back here and prove someone else wrong?

    I guess the Happening. I saw that before there was a general (totally wrong) concensus around here. But I did go in more interested in participating in the discussion about MNS than in the film itself.

    What can I say, post-film discussion (especially on this site) has become an indespensible part of film watching for me.

    I personally enjoy debating film just for the sake of debate. I have noticed that discussing film on this site tends to push me in either direction. For instance when I started vehemently defending Brothers, a film I enjoyed but don't really feel that passionately about.

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  114. "I am now wondering what an Avatar meets Lust, Caution film would look like, and I must say I’m not on board for obvious reasons."

    I am on board because that mating scene in Avatar was intense XD

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  115. “Have you ever gone into a film LOOKING to dislike it simply so you can come back here and prove someone else wrong?”

    I'll go into movies that I will probably dislike so that I can rightfully form an opinion which will probably be negative. I sat through a Uwe Boll marathon because I got pissed off at everyone saying how bad a director he is even though they had never seen a single movie. Its a peeve of mine that people bitch and complain about something that they don't know anything about (ahem… Kung Fu Panda) but I also do think they are totally in the right to avoid it if they don't think they will enjoy it.

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  116. @Andrew, "Why would you go into a theater wanting a bad experience or a bad movie?"

    No, I would never pay to see a movie that I did not want to see. The film-lover in me would simply die if that were so.

    In the case of Twilight, my wife and a co-worker were watching the DVD and asked me to set up my Home Theatre for the occasion. I stayed to add the 'cinephile-groaning-in-agony' soundtrack to the film, as an act of sado-masochism or some such.

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    • Rusty, I think going into a film so that you can participate in discussion is one thing (I admit I've done that – Transformers 2, Avatar, Iron Man, etc). But I don't go into the movie hoping I hate it just so I can bash it publicly. Discussion about a film and seeing it just to purposely hate on it are two different things. The latter being an utterly stupid activity to engage in in my opinion.

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  117. I also occasionally sit down to watch movies ironically. The MST3K lover in me compels for such stuff as 2012, Ultraviolet, Resident Evil III, The Room, etc. etc. Sometimes I even straight-up like the films I expect to enjoy ironically.

    Certainly I came out of WATCHMEN liking it a heck of a lot more than I thought I would. But the difference is that I went into Watchmen with low expectations and came out 50/50 on it. I went into Avatar with much higher expectations and came out 50/50 on it. These films of course are both miles different than something like OLD DOGS or HOTEL FOR DOGS or SPACE BUDDIES or BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA, (most mainstream films involving dogs, actually) and I can say that without having seen that particular film.

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  118. I think watching movies Ironically is a totally different thing, I watch Santa Claus Conquers the Martians anually and I know its bad but I love it for that very reason.

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  119. @Rusty, "post-film discussion (especially on this site) has become an indespensible part of film watching for me."

    A big thank-you, as that was the reason John, Andrew, Marina and I set this place (Rowthree.com) up from the very get-go. Active comment sections with people contributing thought out, passionate, informed and engaging opinions, not just glad-handling the author (the movie blog) or crude insults (AICN)

    Cheers!

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  120. @John, "complain about something that they don’t know anything about (ahem… Kung Fu Panda) but I also do think they are totally in the right to avoid it if they don’t think they will enjoy it."

    I wouldn't say I'm completely uninformed on Kung Fu Panda. I was well aware of both the marketing for the film, as well as the history of Dream Works productions. KFP generally is a flash-point for why I generally avoid stuff from that studio. I foolishly went to see the awful Monster Vs. Aliens on the basis that I like 50's B-grade American Monster movie / Japanese Kaiju genre and was very disappointed that they did the usual Dream Works pop-cultural wankery with it. Yawn.

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  121. I have gone to bad movies simply to have an excuse to go to the drive in with friends. The House Bunny, Gamer, Catwoman, A Cinderella Story….I'm not really into the watching things ironically so much though. I have also found myself watching movies I wouldn't otherwise see because we have plans to review it on the podcast. I'm trying to think of a film that had a sort of 'blogger' controversy surrounding it where I might have watched to take part in a conversation…I think my laziness and hatred for writing lessens my participation in comment debates.

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  122. @JayC, the song in that movie was organically mixed in, and not simply a cliff-notes short hand that had been used dozens of times in the past. I.E. commercials that use that song just because there is Kung Fu in the film. City of God used it because it was a current and popular song at the time, to evoke the era (a la Scorsese). I don't know why I"m arguing such a feeble jab.

    I am glad that you finally got around to watching such a great film though Jay.

    Apropos of watching a movie you've bashed on in the past (via trailer or word of mouth info) How was your JVCD experience, Jay?

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  123. I'd say that I've seen things that I expected to dislike (and actively looked for things I disliked so that I could use them as discussion points) in order to discuss them later, but not so that I could specifically bash them. I often take notes during films both of things I liked and disliked – otherwise, I find I come away with a big picture of what I thought, but not the details that went into creating that picture. But in terms of looking for things to dislike just to come and self-righteously hammer my points home against people who did like it, no. I try not to do that. For me, nitpicking things I don't like is more a way to understand why I didn't like something as much as I wanted to. It's more "I didn't LOVE Avatar – what was it that made me not LOVE it," and I come up with reasons.

    Then what happens is other people say they did love it, and both sides begin to get a little defensive, more entrenched in their positions, and the phenomenon that Jay describes can happen. And like Kurt said, expectations are a lot. After Cameron's hype and my refusal to get swayed by the pre-backlash and then all the praise from most everywhere, my expectations for Avatar were really high. I gave it a 4/5, but that was lower than I was hoping, so when I talk about it, I sound disappointed. I saw Nine on Sunday, and after seeing a bunch of really mediocre ratings (48% on RT), I was just hoping I'd find something about it to like. I gave it a 4/5, too, but that was higher than I was expecting, so when I talk about it, it's in defense of enjoying it. Same rating, but everyone will think I liked Nine more than Avatar. It's hard to balance biases, expectations, and subjective experiences and try to be fair.

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  124. Kurt, I should've put the usual smily face at the end of my Kung Fu Fighting comment as it wasn't a jab. It was just a funny thought while watching the film. I don't think anyone is obligated to see Kung Fu Panda.

    I'm also glad I got around to finally watching City of God. I had borrowed it from Sean previously, but for some reason it would just sit there. I put it on at one point, but turned it off for some reason or another. The chicken hunt at the beginning sort of left a bad taste in my mouth as I though the movie was seeming overly showy and obnoxious, but I was happy with the Scorsese-esque end result. Definitely glad I checked it out before the end of the decade.

    As for JCVD; oddly enough the only part that I liked was the part that everybody talked about…the monologue. I didn't think the performance was mindblowing (it suffers from the Robin Williams/Jim Carrey effect where a minor performance is overly praised simply because it's out of character or against type) and I thought the story itself was, like Avatar, quite unoriginal and uninspired. Unfortunately, the visuals didn't make up for it. I loathed the cinematography in this film. That blown out, sepia toned glow drove me nuts. It looked like someone discovered effects filters for the first time and went nuts. I'm surprised the film didn't contain any star wipes. I wonder if the midnight madness atmosphere played a role in the praise of this film. It seems to me that most of the genre films I see that were previously praised at festivals are pretty lame to outright terrible (Grace, Behind the Mask, JCVD). Let the Right One In would be the major exception here of course.

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  125. @Jay "I should’ve put the usual smily face at the end of my Kung Fu Fighting comment as it wasn’t a jab."

    Ah, the limits of text as I mentioned above.

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  126. I don't think JCVD is a great movie, but it is better and more interestingly executed than your run of the mill JCVD films (guilty pleasures for some). But the Monologue and the opening sequence (great tune, great scene) make it mentionable, and even worth a look.

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  127. Kurt, are you going to see Avatar in 3D? If you are and are seeing it downtown I am interested in catching it again… perhaps in IMAX seeing as Matt B. who has had a lot of bad things to say about that kind of cinematic experience actually works in the case of Avatar.

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  128. "the limits of text as I mentioned above."

    Seriously, sometimes I feel this is the limits of reading. People have become so reliant on emoticons, that they forget to think for themselves. If somebody makes a joke without a smileyface its taken seriously, just like if a stand-up comic has a deadpan delivery, people take it seriously. A rape joke should not require "I'M TWEAKING I'M TWEAKING!" at the end to be funny.

    As for Jays question, it's pretty easy to play the "Honestly, not ever. Not a single time. Never, ever." card, but who can really objectively judge their emotions going into every single film. Circumstances are different, if somebody you know killed a dog that day and told you about it, that changes your emotions on the day you watch something. Things are fluent, not set in stone. I can't imagine people (without a specific audience to cater to) going into movies with a set opinion, but claiming to watch movies objectively is a joke, born out of ignorance.

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  129. "Have you ever gone into a film LOOKING to dislike it simply so you can come back here and prove someone else wrong?"

    As referenced by other people, I've watched things I've expected to hate so I could have an opinion about it.

    Of course I've watched things for the wrong reasons and ended up liking them on their own terms (Speed Racer).

    I really couldn't think of anything I was seriously hoping to hate going in, and just actually flipped through my sisters DVDs trying to find something of hers I watched out of spite or something, but in any of those cases it was more about "wow that movie is bad" rather than "wow my sister has bad DVDs"

    I just got to the house and my mom has a DVD of "The Christmas Shoes"

    WOW

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  130. I really liked JCVD the first time, but when I rewatched it on DVD it really didn't do much for me anymore.

    So I dont know if its just one of those "only plays on the big screen" movies or if I was just carried away by its novelty. I definitely like those two main scenes mentioned, but also a few others, like the banter with the female cabbie and the fanboys near the start, and the faux ending.

    It's the way the 'what they think happened/what really happened' story is played out that really stunk the second time for me. it just goes on way too long.

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  131. i turned off jcvd 15 minutes in. Probably one of the ugliest movies I have seen that were made on a budget, and the story seemed pretty cliché. I never got to the fabled monologue, but I have considered fastforwarding to it.

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  132. I saw JCVD at a festival and like many in that audience I really liked it and gave it a rave review. I got caught up in the novelty of seeing Van Damm doing serious drama and emote, he did it well and so I probably liked it more than it actually is. I haven't seen it again, don't feel the need to and I'm pretty sure it doesn't hold up well for repeat viewing.

    But I agree that the film itself looks terrible. That filter is god awful.

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  133. Henrik, by what method are you getting these movies that so often you turn them off 15 minutes in… is someone else renting them?

    I mean if i go out of my way to rent something, it has to be a huge level of offensively terrible to kill it 15 minutes in, and I dont see how JCVD could reach that unless I wasn't paying for the rental and didn't go out of my way to select it.

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  134. Hey, I don't often turn movies off 15 minutes in. I can remember doing it to 4 movies, Deliver Us From Evil (this wasn't because of the filmmaking, but after the opening, I didn't feel like watching it), Dear Zachary (one of the most annoying, self-serving intros I can remember), Sicko (another one) and JCVD.

    Apart from Sicko, I could find no DVDs of any of these films, so they were downloads.

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  135. "It’s compelling as hell and ends up playing like a thriller. It also has quite an ingenuitive editing style."

    I want him to finish for the prospect of having someone on Team Dear Zachary Sucks. I'll take anyone.

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  136. Dear Zachary reminded me of Bigger, Stronger, Faster except the main guy was basically jerking off to how great he and his buddy were for the entire thing. Maybe it gets more tolerable, but it was pretty grating.

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  137. For the record, I would like to watch Deliver Us From Evil, but the subject matter just dawned on me heavily when I attempted to, and I chickened out. I know what went on, but at that point, I thought watching this movie would be too much for me.

    Yeah, Bigger, Stronger, Faster is awesome. I have longed to gather people for a triple-bill consisting of Pumping Iron, Bigger Stronger Faster and The Wrestler. That would pack a significant punch technically, intellectually and emotionally.

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  138. I didnt care much for Deliver Us From Evil and don't think it deserved the award from that year. its not horrible by any stretch but it took a subject I inherently would find interesting and made me kind of bored by the end.

    Bigger Stronger Faster is basically Bowling For Columbine but about steroids. It's hard to not find entertaining.

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  139. Wait a minute. Are we talking about the 2006 doc and not the fabulous 2009 quasi-remake of Straw Dogs from Denmark (Ole Bornedal)?

    I was confused for a moment. The Danish one is pretty awesome (in the way that most films that mis-use nail-guns are.

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  140. actually, the comment above was confusion, thinking because Henrik is from Denmark he was referring to the Bornedal film. I've not actually seen the 2006 doc, it just sort of slipped by that year for me…

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  141. Caught this last night in 3D. It is essential nothing more than a glorified cartoon – the good guys are REALLY, REALLY good, the bad guys, extremely bad. The story is predictable and formulaic. It is a visual masterpiece, that is for sure. It is definitely a game-changer in the way that filmmakers will approach sci-fi movies. I wasn't on the 3D bandwagon before, but now I definitely am. It was gorgeous. Had I watched in in 2D or on my TV though – I'd probably forget about it shortly after watching it.

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  142. Under the headlines review of avatar – this thread has been everywhere.

    The final summary? – everyone has a different opinion and tries to debate/argue that opinion to satisfy ego. whether we like or dislike a movie (for whatever reason) is primarily because of our perceptions based upon our life experiences within our individual realities.

    Take a look at Jean (gravatar.com) who could only see 'creatures' of an 'immaterial' world. How detached from the realities of many other people including countless Indigenous people must this person be?

    david Brooks comment that the movie is a total rip off from Dances with Wolves reflects a limited capacity to appropriately analyse. There are a thousand movies out there with similar themes. The fact that people are still talking about Dances with Wolves and making comparisons with movies today says something that indicates no forward thinking.

    Kurt Halfyard is all over the place. If you don't like something isn't that enough – why defend with waffle? Kurt's comments and comparisons of battles scenes in Avatar with The New World are less thought out. Yes the battle was 1000x more tangible and disturbing, but really – a 3d movie with extensive CGI on a fantasy world with a 'told a thousand times before plot' com'on get real.

    For the most part (reading this entire thread)it seems like people debate the movies as if they thought the directors were bent on trying to provide some truth, or some philosophical revelation or some sort of foundation to build a brave new world or just simply – a better society.

    com'on girls and guys – there're just movies made for money of which some will be loved and others hated. Buy your ticket, take the ride – add to your life expereince but don't think you can change the mind of others.

    keep up the debate though because a common reality can make people think they can move mountains.

    all the best for the new year.

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  143. To defend myself from bluescag's comment I wasn't being as extreme as saying Avatar is totally ripping off Dances With Wolves, or that the DWW story is an original one, I just meant they are fairly similar which is what we were lead to believe from the trailers and pre-release hype. Reading my comments again I think it does sound like I'm slagging it off more than I should. I still really enjoyed the film and the story was better than I expected, I just found much of the substance to be quite predictable and unoriginal. That said I enjoyed it enough to place it high in my favourites of the year, purely because as a cinematic experience it was pretty gobsmacking. Don't let the 4 stars fool you, I was close to giving it 4 1/2 and I'm pretty strict with my star ratings.

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  144. saw Avatar for the second time and man, i still got quite the rush out of it, and maybe will take that leap and upgrade from 'the next Jurassic Park' to 'next Star Wars', simply because so much of what is broad about Avatar was already more forgivable in the same way everyone now looks past all the things that make Star Wars broad, archetypal and goofy. The second viewing didn't move it up on my 'best of the year' list or anything but I think whether you like it or not its very safe to say it's on its way to phenomenon status.

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  145. I'm glad this is successful, very glad. I'm hoping this opens up doors to get the technology to be applied to daring and unconventional story telling.

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  146. Quoting James from FilmRot:

    "I officially nominate "Dances with Wolves" as the "Hitler" of film discussion. We'll call it "Costner's Law""

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  147. Wow, $352 million domestically already (and over a billion worldwide), after three weeks. If it hasn't already, I think this is considered phenomenon status. It's the biggest third-weekend ever having made $68 million, with Spider-Man being the next closest with $45 million.

    Currently, it sits at 15th of all time in the US and 4th of all-time globally. Wow.

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  148. Amusing Tidbit cut and pasted from the movie city news blog when talking about Avatar as a cultural phenomenon. [some spelling errors corrected]

    Previous Comment -> "I don't get why the film has to be held to the level of Star Wars or Star Trek in order for it to be considered a cultural phenomenon."

    Follow up Comment -> Because they are the text book definitions of what a cultural phenomenon is. It is more than ticket sales. Ticket sales mean popularity, fad, trend. Cultural phenom is much more complex.

    Star Wars and Star Trek have been around for decades, spawned religions, languages, obsessions, societies. People have modeled their life after them. They have lasted longer than anyone could have possibly thought.

    The James Bond series has never and never will, even with adjusted gross, have an entry that has made as much as Avatar in theatrical. Yet Bond, is like Star Wars and Trek in that it is a cultural phenom. I think Harry Potter is too.

    It is more than tickets sold or gross. Hey…maybe in 10 years Avatar will be that phenom and people will be quoting the Na'vi and such and dressing like them…

    …but the 3-D factor also means Avatar could also be a novelty. A fun experience in the theatre that does not translate to TV. Put it this way…do you think Avatar will hold as much interest in 2 years when it is on Spike TV full screen on a Saturday afternoon with crappy audio and video?

    Star Wars still does.

    And have a look at the stunning, unexpected gross of Ice Age 3. Pop attraction or cultural phenom?

    —-

    That being said, I have my ticket for the 3D IMAX version of the film which I will catch tonite at 10:30pm after it being sold out for 3 weeks. (oi!)

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  149. Perhaps the most succinct summation of Avatar

    "Avatar, a movie packed with super visuals but sorely lacking in good writing. Look, I have no problem with big, vacuous entertainment. If it looks good, and the principals make it fun, then I don’t really care how stupid it is. The worst thing about Cameron’s latest epic is that he wants—practically demands—for you to take it seriously, with its environmental message and “war on terror” parallels. It’s a nearly three-hour message movie that could’ve been written by an eighth grader. No, make that a fifth grader." -Bob Grimm, NewsReview.com

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  150. Kurt, that's 100% exactly how I'd sum it up, too. And re: Jurassic Park? Really? Jurassic Park was whiz-bang "We made dinosaurs! AWESOME!" followed by "OH SHIT NOW THEY WANT TO KILL US." Not "We found native people, now we must learn to recognize the value of their culture and be more like them." Not that I disagree with that in principle, obviously, but one's clearly an agenda-driven message picture rather than an eye-candy adventure movie.

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  151. "Really? Jurassic Park was whiz-bang “We made dinosaurs! AWESOME!” followed by “OH SHIT NOW THEY WANT TO KILL US.”

    Yeah, and people also talked about it having something minor to say about cloning and playing god. Cloning was a very topical issue at the time.

    I mean one of the major lines of JP is "You spent all this time thinking about whether you could, and none of the time about whether you should"

    I think some people see any movie now with an environmental theme and all of a sudden think its trying to change the planet. In the end any message is actually very similar to the warning of Jurassic Park – if you dont respect nature, nature will find a way to fuck you up and find a way out of your controls. And both the people of JP and Avatar are getting their comeuppance becuase of their greed.

    Whether that has to do with chaos theory and frogs changing their sex, or a planet that is connected like a computer network or a brain, it will have its revenge.

    I award you no points 🙂

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    • "a planet that is connected like a computer network or a brain,"

      BTW, I love that idea. Something to think about. Too bad it wasn't explored more in the actual film. It was touched on then forgotten.

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  152. it was called unobtainium, and a fast way to get to the action I thought. Giovanni was no different than Attenborough, macguffins to get the spectacle going. it has a message, sure, as virtually every kid related story does have a message, and the chaos theory in Jurassic Park is about as blunt as Shock and Awe in Avatar, which is to say, not at all.

    I don't know, when you have so much to look at in this film, so much resting directly on the experience level of the film its seems odd to say it is message driven, its experience driven! Like Andrew saying he was getting lost staring at details in the image, that is far more at work than the message.

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  153. Star Wars criticism if it were released today:

    "I love the idea of The Force. Too bad it wasn't explored more in the actual film. We should know about what causes it, who started it, some real hard sci fi instead of this vague kiddie bullshit. Its just insulting."

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  154. I think it is a game-changer with respects to how much it privileges the visual over the literary, call it fireworks, or a theme park ride, or a video game, it IS in the history of cinema, an experience more spectacular than anything prior, it is about getting lost in the details, in feeling rather than thinking your way through the 2 plus hours. The feelings are not profound, but they are heightened.

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  155. The network was touched upon all the time throughout the movie, from the prayer tree to the animals to mating and matching with animals. The connection is the basis of their belief in Eywa.

    Grace on the other hand is the scientist who has her logical explanations, and wants samples.

    They purposely keep it vague so you can trust in either if you choose. And either way there's a payoff, because the crazy elephants either came to the aid because Jake asked Eywa to listen to Grace, or because of the same electronic connection the planet shares to take care of itself.

    IT's about as explored as i want to to be. I dont want a "midichlorians" version of Eywa or Eywa Debunked.

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  156. Well, I didn't see Jurassic Park when it came out, only on DVD much later. We'll see if in ten years I can read Avatar as purely a well-done whiz-bang action movie. I remember the ethical bits about whether you should do things just because you can, but they seemed much less integral to the story. Like they were there to think about if you wanted to, but it didn't really care whether you did or not. Avatar seemed to CARE much more about its message, and that sanctimoniousness is what rubbed me the wrong way.

    re: it being like a video game – there were a few parts where I was mentally pulled out of the film by thinking "this would be way more fun to play than it is to watch." Heh – has anyone here played the video game version? You're right, rot, in that it works as an experience for the most part, but once it's over and the immersion is broken, it doesn't hold up to thinking about it. Which for me, means it doesn't hold up as a film, that is, as a form of literature told using moving images. Do you think it's a game-changer in terms of what we think 'a film' is?

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  157. I haven't seen Princess Mononoke, but I am willing to bet a hefty sum that it is nowhere near as immersive an experience as Avatar, and that is the point BY DESIGN. Cameron didn't leave cinema to write the greatest story ever told that will change screenwriting forever, he went to create an experience that envelops you. If the mechanics of how is largely technical, that should not hinder the experience, unless of course you are looking to analyze a film rather than watch it.

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  158. why does a film have to matter as something to mull over afterwards, why can't a film be valued for what it is when you are in it? that too, I think is a bit of a game-changer of how we think about cinema.

    I try not to let weigh in my evaluation of films the commodity aspects of it, like will it warrant repeat viewings… I am kind of happy watching Silent Light only once, the experience was enough, its not inferior because I can watch Star Trek ten times. Avatar is about the time you are watching it not about the time you are bitching about it.

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    • Rot, agreed. Except I wasn't all that into it while I was watching it.

      One thing in re: to J.P. vs Avatar. It sort of goes to what Kurt was saying about real world interspersed within. All of the characters and the world of J.P. is tangible and relatable (therefore more engrossing). Avatar is SO otherworldly that it's even more pushing you out of the experience. Even the characters themselves are paint brush strokes. I prefer our heroes in J.P. that much more for living in the real world, but dealing with a fantastical threat. Computer hackers, corporate bullying, SUV chases, wire fencing, a ride at Disney World, explainable science, etc. All of that is "real" stuff tacked on to an action/adventure movie. Avatar is maybe too distracting with EVERYTHING to allow a person to invest themselves within. Just a thought.

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  159. Well, true, it can be valued for how enjoyable it is while you watch it, but the rewatchability factor is always going to be part of my evaluation. Something that's both enjoyable or engrossing while watching AND ALSO makes me want to come back for more, either because I want to re-experience it (and it allows for experiencing the same thing multiple times) or because I find more in it every time I watch it is always going to rank higher for me than something I enjoyed once but don't care about seeing again.

    The fact that I don't care about watching Avatar again, either to look for more in it or to re-experience it says something, even though I did enjoy it the first time. It was a one-watch, throwaway popcorn experience for me. Fun, but not something I care to do again. And that's fine. But it keeps Avatar from being a great film for me.

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  160. "Why does a film have to matter as something to mull over afterwards, why can’t a film be valued for what it is when you are in it? that too, I think is a bit of a game-changer of how we think about cinema."

    Pretty much exactly the reason why I liked Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes as much as I did…

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  161. Yes Hunger is another example of a film I am not going to rate lower simply because I do not feel I need to rewatch it. I am surprised Jandy you would say that, do you think Inland Empire has rewatch value? I say that, but honestly I have watched it 3 times 🙂

    Thats a plus, sure, but it is so low on my priority list on what makes a great film. Unless you are thinking of film as a commodity, and not an experience, you don't need to factor rewatch value at all.

    Films that are great but I don't need to see again

    Silent Light

    Hunger

    4 months, 3 weeks

    Climates

    Passion of Jeanne D'Arc

    Last Days

    Elephant (not Gerry, I CAN rewatch that)

    Scenes from a Marriage

    Distant

    What Time is it There?

    Deliver us From Evil

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  162. Yes, I watched INLAND EMPIRE twice in a week, and I only haven't rewatched because I don't own it and I didn't have time to catch it before it expired off Netflix Instant Watch. I'd watch it again in a heartbeat – I got more out of it the second time, and I think I'd continue to see nuances and themes that I didn't catch the first two times around.

    Of your list, I've actually only seen 4 Months, which I've only seen once, but I'm definitely planning to see it again. It'll hold up just as well. The question is not entirely whether you get to the end and are like "I want to watch it again", but if you do watch it again, does it hold up and give you the same or better experience as it did the first time. There are very few films that I'd say are "great" if I wouldn't rewatch them. I'm sure there are some, I just can't think of them right now – they'd be ones that I thought were brilliantly made but depressed me or something so much I wouldn't want to experience that again.

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    • I'm in agreement Jandy. Rewatchability or "test of time" aren't the only things to look for when critiquing a movie, but it's certainly a valid component. Knowing something (like Fantastic Mr. Fox) will hold up just fine in 30 years and something like King Kong probably will not is a valid argument when ranking films.

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  163. I don't know, I just think we ought not treat films like fine wine, waiting for them to age well, and supposing we know that will happen. The main focus should be what did it do to me right now, evaluating the experience by way of the movie, not evaluating the craft of the movie and from that deducing what value it MUST mean to you.

    I think when making Decade lists, and the whole point is to think of films in that regard, sure, than 'lets pretend' we know what are great films… but that's a different process than evaluating a film you just watched, because if you are preoccupied with categorizing the film in this commodity aspect you can talk yourself out of some great experiences.

    Like was mentioned before, I could blow off Hunger because I am not going to see it again, or I could admit it was a pretty effective experience in its own right.

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  164. It's a separate set of criteria, rot, and you don't have to give up either to accept them both as valid responses. Both initial experience and lasting value over time are part of my response. I'd never say that the immediate experience is worthless, but it's only part, because I don't treat film as, say, a chocolate cake. There's little I like better in the moment than a good chocolate cake, but it's gone a few minutes later, and I'm on to the next thing. If all films were like that, it would be pointless to make decade lists or have lists of favorite films, because experiences are fleeting. Now, if they're NOT fleeting but stay with you, then that says to me that the film is a great one (like Mulholland Drive or The New World – I still remember exactly how I felt when watching them). If you remember Avatar like that weeks after seeing it, then it's a great film for you.

    For me, I enjoyed the experience while I was having it, which is why I rank it as high as four stars. But the experience wasn't lasting for me, which is why I don't rank it four and a half or five stars.

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  165. I agree with that, and have said that in the past: the best films of the year are the films that resonate the strongest so that you easily remember them. But to me that is distinct from rewatchability because they resonate in MY HEAD, there is no importance put on whether its a film I will own and rewatch.

    maybe that is the confusion and we are kind of saying the same thing?

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  166. its like a concert may be great even though it can't be repeated, I don't say it is the music that is great, and it doesn't lose or have its importance usurped by something that can be repeated, like a live album. repeatability need not factor in at all, at least in the way I look at it.

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  167. For me Avatar was a singular experience, but to be honest, like you I would give it a 4/5, not because I think its less worthy because I won't own it, but because the experience, while intense, didn't shake me, or as Ebert calls it, elevate me in a way that resonates stronger than pure chocolate cake pleasure, but like the best chocolate cake ever.

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  168. Yeah, I think we probably are saying basically the same thing. But I tend to want to rewatch films to refresh the experience. Just like if I see a great band in concert, I want to see the band again next time they're in town.

    Maybe you just have a better memory than I do. 🙂 I need refreshers now and again or the experience fades.

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    • On occasion I'll rewatch a movie that I loved and not like it so much the second time through. For me, this drops the movie on my personal all time list a little bit. I still remember the experience of loving it so much the first time, but when I watched it again I felt empty inside. There's something to be said about whatever that movie is vs. the movie you watched a 3rd, 4th or 5th time and were dazzled by just as much or maybe even more. It solidifies it in my head as a personal classic.

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  169. All this re-watch value crap seems to take for granted that film is an objective medium, and the film is going to be the same on each watch. That's fine I suppose, but seems a little shortsighted.

    Film in the end is only a way to talk to yourself, the communication will always start and end with yourself. Ask Kurt about 8½ for instance.

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  170. Henrik, of course the experience isn't the same every time, but that's part of what I like so much about rewatching – finding out what remains constant and what changes based on what I bring to it at different points in my life. The best films remain meaningful through rewatches, even if I get something different out of it each time. I wouldn't take it as subjective as you suggest, though – why write or talk about film at all if there's no chance of communicating with others about it?

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  171. the things that really matter about films you can't debate, you can only describe. if descriptions overlap, great.

    you can though quibble over craft and technique.

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  172. "I wouldn’t take it as subjective as you suggest, though"

    Don't know if this is completely derailing everything, and it's not a route I usually go down, but obviously anything and everything you have ever perceived in any way has started and ended inside yourself. This is where movie-academia goes into the area of psychology and psychiatry (there are academic movie analyses based on nerveendings in the brain etc.), which bored me to death in school, because there is nothing to really talk about. It is what it is.

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  173. rewatched Aliens today.

    while still awesome

    – its already way more dated than I remember

    – i am surprised to realize that I like Avatar more

    – dear lord I hate Bill Paxton

    whats the general feeling around Paxton? do people like his goofy performance here and in Predator 2, etc? because he's the reason I cant even watch P2 anymore whatsoever. He's even worse than Furlong in T2 for me, my usual go-to for Standout Annoying Performances

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    • Love Bill Paxton in almost anything. His Chet is still one of my favorite characters ever. "Now make yourself one… dickweed!"
      I even like his horrible theatricality in stuff like Aliens and Twister. But I could see why he would bug people.

      The CGI in A4 is not dated. It still looks pretty damn good. I think the only time they actually used CGI was during the swimming pool sequence. The rest are all models and "puppets."

      However, they tried to go all CGI for the third installment. The CGI in A3 was terrible when it came out. And now it looks even more dated. Trying to cover it up with fish eye lenses and shadows just makes it even more annoying and terrible looking. God, I hate that movie.

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  174. Amazingly, of all the Alien films, the least dated is actually the first film (only the computer screens are the give-aways). A testament to Team-Ridley for the production design on that one.

    CGI dates entries 3 and 4.

    Bill Paxton is awesome because he is so funny and whiny, and sort of represents 1st world imperialism (hmmm, Avatar) more than any other character in that film, even more than Paul Reiser's corporate slimeball.

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  175. I'd say that before I had Alien and Aliens on par with each other as per my favorite, but now I think Ridley's isn't just superior, but far superior.

    Funny enough I just saw that both Alien and Aliens are playing at the Bloor cinema this week.

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  176. No, it implies that the privatized military has gotten soft and lazy and undisciplined.

    As to Alien being superior to Aliens. Welcome to the Club Goon, always nice to get a convert.

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  177. No, it implies that the privatized military has gotten soft and lazy and undisciplined."

    i suppose, but considering who he works with, at least his co-workers as it were might have self-policed a little more when they have a guy like that around.

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  178. It's been a while since I've seen Aliens, but I've always preferred Alien, simpler and more effective – still scares the shit out of me at times. I am a big Aliens fan though, but as I say it's been a while so it'll be interesting to see how it's dated.

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  179. I think the only time I especially have liked him is in A Simple Plan. Otherwise at best he's been passable or forgettable (ie. Tombstone)

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  180. Okay, it's only a matter of time: Avatar is going to pass Titanic in the domestic box office. $552,797,000 and still going strong. $48 million and counting until it passes it and this past weekend it made $36 million after only dropping 15%. Wow.

    As for Paxton, I definitely liked him in A Simple Plan. And although I haven't watched it since it came out back in 2001, I remember thinking he did a pretty good, un-Paxton-like job in it as well.

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  181. I know, that's what I hear… there is just too much good TV on nowadays. I can't possibly keep up with it all. I'm currently working my way through season two of Mad Men and once I finish all that, I think I'm moving onto Dexter, because everyone has been on my ass about it, saying it would be right up my alley.

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  182. Bah, Dexter is not as interesting as it is cracked up to be. It's kind of obvious and gets rather boring before even the end of Season 1.

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  183. Gave up on Dexter halfway during season one – the side characters are just awful, and Dexter's smarmy punny narration gets very old very quick. Maybe the most overrated program I've come across in recent years.

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  184. Goon, agreed. I said to my wife when watching the show that Dexter would be 10x better if the scrapped the voice-over.

    The only thing subversive or interesting about Dexter is that it managed to be a minor hit with audiences. Otherwise, Yawn.

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  185. Bill Paxton had a good part in True Lies.

    Aliens is way too long for me. Haven't seen Alien in ages, I only remember it being boring when I watched it as a child. Alien 3 I watched and thought was boring. Alien 4 I can only remember the Human-nosed Alien. Not the best series of films for me.

    Good TV: Pawn Stars.

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  186. ummm…. if you guys saw this last season of Dexter, you would feel differently. if you didn't even finish the first season, you really can't say much of anything.

    the first season = mediocre

    second second = great

    third season = drags

    fourth season = the best show to air in the past year

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  187. So I've got to get thru 2 shitty seasons before the show hits its stride? I hate to sound impatient, but much of the HBO programming (and other networks) is stellar right out of the gate, and functions with nary a weak season, Big Love, The Wire, Deadwood, Generation Kill, Mad Men, etc.

    I'm glad that something like Dexter has found an audience and even hit a quality level after some point, but really, with all the other good TV out there, life it too short to be watching something like Dexter.

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  188. I liked this quote from The Telegraph on Cameron and Aliens and Terminator and Avatar:

    "Sigourney Weaver may have worried about all the military hardware on display in his Aliens – "Here I am, a member of the gun control lobby," she complained "and all I do all day is shoot guns" – but remember what happens: the marines descend to the surface of LV-426, whooping it up while they load their gunclips, only to find all their firepower is effectively useless, their armour more hindrance than help. The movie is a study in hubris.

    Or think of the enemy Cameron devised in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Almost any other director would have come up with a Terminator that was bigger than Arnold – bigger, heavier, more hi-tech –but Cameron tacked the other way, devising a slim, sinuous shape-shifter, a Porsche to Arnie's Panzer tank, mercury to his might.

    It is this feel for the dynamics of an asymmetric fight, his interest in how small forces defeat larger ones, that lends Cameron's films their punch. How the mighty fall is Cameron's big theme, from The Terminator right through to Titanic, and it is a million miles distant from the top-heavy bravado of a Michael Bay film, or the infinite regress of the Wachowskis' Matrix trilogy, whose godlike opponents were so equally matched that there was no reason, beside audience boredom, for the movies ever to end. "

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  189. Two things more on Avatar.

    1) Rewatched Scherfig's An Education last night. Anyone who thinks that something as inane and poorly acted as Avatar holds a candle to Mulligan, Molina, Sarsgaard and co. is seriously deranged.

    2) Surfing through the TV this afternoon and caught Star Wars Episode II (well, about 15 minutes of it). The acting so incredibly vomit inducing I almost threw away my DVD collection. But anyway, the point it that the SFX look spectacular. Sorry, but Avatar doesn't look that much better than this. And if it does, it damn well should be! Attack of the Clones was released EIGHT (8) years ago. All this praise for Avatar's visual prowess is getting more and more ridiculous all the time.

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  190. Points against Avatar:

    1) I watched another movie that is better.

    2) I watched another movie that had great visual effects.

    Try something substantial.

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  191. Henrik, I believe that sort of reasoning (Andrew's points) is that it is baffling that the film has been so well received financially for what is simply just another effects spectacle. Why this one compared to any other? The criticism is that it is somehow the technical aspects that are bringing folks to the theatre (boring!).

    I'll give Cameron this though, he knows how to massage an audience by setting things up and paying them off later. It is one (major or minor, I have no idea) reason why people keep coming back to his films, he can tell a visual story and knows how to stand on iconic tales to make his work.

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    • It's too bad you had to spell that out for him, but thank you Kurt.

      The comparisons are both valid in terms of fan buzz, award ceremonies (in particular the Oscar race) and the "groundbreaking effects" argument.

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  192. I don't remember anyone saying anything about poor acting in Avatar, nor was there any nomination buzz for it to call attention to it here, so yeah, does seem kind of strange to bring up Andrew.

    and if you think the special effects in Attack of the Clones was great then once again, zero common ground, I rewatched it on tv, particularly the final scene of that and it is painfully obvious that our heroes are digital constructs running around with cartoon monsters… Avatar is light years ahead of that (no pun intended).

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    • "I don’t remember anyone saying anything about poor acting in Avatar, nor was there any nomination buzz for it to call attention to it"

      Can't tell if you're being sarcastic or facetious. No nomination buzz? Wasn't it up for best picture and like 6 or 7 other Oscars? And wasn't pretty much everything (including "An Education") excluded from the running as it was between Hurt Locker and Avatar?

      And no one ever said anything about poor acting in Avatar? Are you serious?

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  193. no nomination buzz for ACTING… you were talking about acting weren't you?

    the complaints I remember about Avatar were all about the dialogue, I do not remember a single complaint about the acting, nor was it such an issue to deserve a comparison to An Education… I may as well compare Alice in Wonderland to United 93.

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    • The two films were compared in the race for best picture. And my point is how something as inane and inept as Avatar (including acting) can be the clear front runner for a best picture win. I think acting in a film should be one of the criteria for best picture. I didn't mean to suggest that it's the only thing. It's one piece of many to be taken into account when voting on best picture.

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  194. Again Andrew, I can only point out that you seem to base your entire experience of the movie on the fact that it was nominated for oscars. It's ridiculous to compare completely different movies, it doesn't get less ridiculous just because they did it at the oscars. It's not a substantial criticism to say that a movie isn't good because another movie was better, and they happened to be nominated at the same awards show.

    To run with it a bit, just to show I'm still in good faith, Best Picture should encompass the entire package of the film. Not the sum of its parts. It's ridiculous in my opinion to say that the movie which scores the highest in the highest number of categories is automatically the best, or even close to the best. It could be the worst. It's an objectifying of an artform that makes no sense, and is useless when it comes to anything other than giving out awards.

    "Henrik, I believe that sort of reasoning (Andrew’s points) is that it is baffling that the film has been so well received financially for what is simply just another effects spectacle. Why this one compared to any other?"

    Yeah because effects spectacles are never financially succesful?

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  195. I agree with Henrik. Yes, I think Avatar's positioning at the Oscar's was a misstep, but blame the Awards show for a. being short sighted in the their selections and b. existing.

    I also agree that it's odd to compare a movie like Avatar to An Education. I haven't seen the film yet, but do you think it would be fair for me to base my criticism of An Education on the fact that it didn't have as much CG or action as Avatar?

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    • @Jay. I think in the movie world when two pictures are up for best of the year it is fair to compare the two and decide which you might vote for if you had a vote. And I do blame the Academy of course

      "…do you think it would be fair for me to base my criticism of An Education on the fact that it didn’t have as much CG or action as Avatar?"

      Absolutely. It relies on emotion and story rather than fake excitement and fireworks drawing.

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      • But it isn't just the Oscars we're talking about here for those that think I believe the Academy to be the be-all/end-all of movie criticism. But I guess the point is about how the general media loads Avatar with praise and calling it a toss-up between that and Hurt Locker. Why? Who says? Since we don't even know the vote count, it's possible Avatar didn't even come in in the top three.

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  196. @ andrew,

    "inane and inept" probably oversteps the criticisms against Avatar. The focus was simply on re-inventing the visuals (and the novel iridescent stuff along with the crazy camera-goes-everywhere stuff) over the story. While the story is far from original, it is quite "ept" or well constructed from a plotting, this incident leads to that, and how Cameron sets things up and pays them off. You could criticize it as "obvious" but not "inept"

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  197. @Henrik, "Yeah because effects spectacles are never financially successful?"

    Certainly not on the level of James Cameron's work. Titanic and Avatar are head and shoulders above everything else Box-office wise in the spectacle department… Cameron seems to hit the 4 quadrants and repeat viewings better than 1990s Spielberg or the usual CGI Blockbusters.

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  198. I would imagine it's his ability to hit multiple target audiences (teenage boys AND girls) with simple storytelling/event film word of mouth. It has all of the same ingredients as a Star Wars type blockbuster (an archetypal story that's easy to follow, groundbreaking visual effects, an event for movie-goers) except it has the modern day commonality/acceptance of the blockbuster on its side whereas Star Wars was a phenomenon that had to build its empire off of the new ground Jaws had established only two years earlier.

    It's more baffling that Titanic was as big as it was. Avatar isn't much of a shocker to me.

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  199. I guess I'm not surprised by Avatar's box office popularity – like Kurt said, Cameron does have an ability to lay out a narrative classically, with every element set up and paying off for maximum populist impact. What surprises me is the level of investment people have in it beyond going to see it and enjoying looking at it. It surprises me that people want to stay in Avatar's world, which for me was pretty to watch for three hours, but had no depth that made me want to stay (like, say, the worlds of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, with their promise of multitudinous stories and narratives and histories outside of the story we're told in the main film/book) – Pandora may have looked real because of the quality of the CGI, but it didn't FEEL real. It had essentially no history or existence outside of the narrative of Avatar.

    And the side note to that is the number of people who I've seen (not here, but elsewhere) claim that it's the best sci-fi movie they've ever seen, which only convinces me that they've never seen most sci-fi movies. In short, it's not the financial success that surprises me, it's the effusive love even after watching it and thinking about it. Heck, I enjoyed watching it; it was the thinking about it later (starting pretty much as I walked back to my car) that started bringing it down in my estimation.

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  200. I thought Avatar's success was more of a shocker, because sci-fi still seems quite niche whereas Titanic had the fancy effects for the boys and the romance for the ladies (excuse the stereotypes) but without the funny blue aliens that can put off a lot of people. My partner for instance refuses to watch anything with aliens in it on the grounds of it looking stupid. She did watch Avatar though, so I'm baffled!

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  201. As for Jandy's 'feeling real' pointers, I must admit on first viewing the film on an Imax screen I actually did feel a strong level of immersion in the world because of the sheer size of the imagery and the quality of the effects, but yes I agree there is little to take away from it afterwards.

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  202. "not on the level of James Cameron’s work"

    Well, NO other films have been. But effects spectacles have come the closest, no?

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  203. Well I don't think it ends at comparing best picture nominees…I seem to recall you comparing Avatar to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford on the podcast, which I thought was a real non-sequitor. With that line of thinking, why not compare Doomsday to that film? Certainly it would've dropped your star rating down a couple of notches, no? When I reviewed Fantastic Mr. Fox, maybe I should've been thinking about how good it was in comparison to The Exorcist. Fantastic Mr. Fox wasn't scary at all! THUMBS DOWN.

    Obviously you can like what you want and compare things to whatever you want, but it will certainly result in listeners calling you on it! (I say this with a common awareness of how little the opinions of listeners matters when it comes to your own thoughts and how you voice them) It just sounds like this is one of those personal vendetta reviews that's targeted at the fans/the oscars/james cameron/3D, becoming less about the film and more about the world around it…and the reviewer.

    And regarding SW II… I agree the acting is terrible but I would have to say the effects really don't touch Avatar.

    NAV'I4LIFE

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    • Wait… find me the clip (or the episode) where I compared Avatar to Jesse James. I maybe complained that I thought Jesse James should've been nominated. I don't consider that a comparison.

      WOOKIES 4-EVA!

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    • "It just sounds like this is one of those personal vendetta reviews that’s targeted at the fans/the oscars/james cameron/3D, becoming less about the film and more about the world around it…and the reviewer."

      Yes. I admit that that is true. I myself have said many times I actually thought Avatar was fine. I liked it as a one time getaway at the movies. Whatever. But when a movie takes in zillions of scratch, I admit I'm simply baffled and I suppose it just comes down to the fact that people are easily entertained and don't want to think at all. Hence an amazing movie we should all go see three times.

      Why go see this three times and NOT go see An Education three times. Or The Informant! or even Up in the Air. There is so much more to look at (not visually) in those movies than there is in Avatar. Isn't there?

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  204. "it just comes down to people are easily entertained and don’t want to think at all."

    Is this a challenge for listeners to find examples of times you've been easily entertained by a film that requires no thinking at all? 😉

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  205. @Andrew, "I suppose it just comes down to the fact that people are easily entertained and don’t want to think at all."

    *COUGH* *COUGH* Starwars.

    I think Jay hit the nail on the head earlier. The real comparison is Avatar to Star Wars. They are both steps forward in the technical aspects of filmmaking, and both have fairly 'regular' hero-styled plotting. The real question is why does Andrew Praise the holy hell out of Star Wars and Knock on Avatar? Is it because he was over 30 when seeing Avatar and under 12 when seeing Star Wars?

    I'm not aiming to pick on Andrew, but certainly youth and impressionability (and the resulting nostalgia decades onward) play a huge factor in how you view a film. I am almost certain that if I were 10, I would love Avatar as much as I loveded Star Wars at that age.

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  206. "With Avatar I was like yeah that looks really cool and I'm impressed with the technical, but I'm not in awe of the beauty exactly. I'm more like 'oh that's really cool'. It doesn't pull me emotionally like Assassination of Jesse James. All those locales that they're in…the way that it's shown on screen is so much more interesting and deep."

    And on a later show you said you would take Broken Embraces over Avatar any day. Wouldn't you also take Broken Embraces over Doomsday any day?

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  207. "it just comes down to the fact that people are easily entertained and don’t want to think at all."

    Andrew, why are you taking my lines? You're the Star Wars, videostore nerd who got into movies because you enjoyed them, you're not supposed to pretend to be on some intellectual high horse…

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  208. @Henrik, "You know what I’d take? I’d take Annie Hall any day over Star Wars."

    I'm actually with you on this, but I'd take SUSPERIA, KILLER OF SHEEP or ERASERHEAD (all also 1977) over Woody Allen's Oscar Winner.

    But then again, you were baiting andrew, more than conversing were you not?

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  209. Okay, we've got Star Wars in here now. I didn't see Star Wars until I was about seventeen, and I didn't like it until the second time I saw it, in my early twenties. So I don't have the pre-teen Star Wars experience to fall back on. Here's why I like Star Wars over Avatar:

    1) It has a world outside the story we see. That's not explored TOO much in the first Star Wars movie (and if Cameron wants to make sequels and an EU for Avatar that gives more backstory and extended story to the Na'vi, I'm all for that, and I'll re-evaluate Avatar in terms of it if the time comes), but there are lines mentioning other planets that have nothing to do with the immediate story (Kessel, for example, and the suggestion of Han Solo's life before it's interrupted by Luke Skywalker), there's the introduction of an ancient and elite belief system that begs many lines of questioning (religion? power? warriors? priests? how did they start? where are they now? what happened to them? how are the related to Luke? why is R2 calling Ben Obi-Wan?), there are relationships that exist before and outside of the film – in short, Star Wars drops us into a living world with a history and an existence that our story is only one part of – an essential part, sure, but only one part. Avatar gave me little sense of that – I was totally shocked when it turned out there were other Na'vi tribes around, because there wasn't a sense that the Na'vi existed outside of this tribe centered around this tree.

    2) Star Wars is FUN. It's silly, it's funny, it's fast, crazy unbelievable stuff happens, and yet it's got that underlying mythos of the Force and the Jedi warriors adding an extra layer. Avatar was good-looking, but I didn't get the same whiz-bang joy out of watching it. It was too ponderous and consciously epic for that.

    I've said this elsewhere, but I'm not sure if I've said it here, but Avatar could've gone one of three ways to have me fully on its side: whiz-bang adventure like Star Wars (less focus on the ponderous eco-message and less self-conscious about its own groundbreakingness); meditative art-piece like The New World; or hard sci-fi that delved into how the avatars worked, how the neural networks worked, and the ethical implications of everything like Primer or Moon. It tried to do an amalgam of all three, and for me, failed to do any one of those aspects really well.

    And I would also take Annie Hall over Star Wars.

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  210. Jay is right, Andrew, you made comparisons to Broken Embraces and Jesse James, and I found it odd too.

    Given the choice I would take Avatar over Star Wars, I think it is immersive as an experience, Star Wars is fun but kind of something that can be playing in the background with half my brain focused.

    I find Kurt and Jandy often make arguments for the superiority of one kind of cinema because of what it affords in a literary sense, subtext, layers to 'chew on', and just aesthetic tastes maybe, but I could care less about that stuff. That to me does not make a great film, for me it is the visceral experience, the immediacy, immersion, raw emotion, the thinking I prefer to do is the about the emotions the film makes me feel, not about its clever conceits as a story. The academic in me has died long ago.

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  211. Rot, the academic in me is alive and well. It doesn't get as much practice as it used to, but it's still there, and isn't going away anytime soon. There's definitely a big part of me that's interested in the visceral experience, too, but I guess for me I'd say if it doesn't have subtext/layers to chew on in an academic sense, it at LEAST needs to engage my imagination.

    If you really want to stymie me, ask me why I like Speed Racer. Because based on everything in this entire thread, I'm not sure I could tell you why I reacted as positively as I did to Speed Racer and negatively to Avatar, when I'd also say that Speed Racer is not well-written, doesn't have a great story, and doesn't have a lot of subtext. That's an experience film, too, but for some reason it engaged my imagination, and thinking about it later hasn't made me lower my opinion of it, like thinking back about Avatar has. I cannot explain that. (The only explanation I have is that I felt Speed Racer needed defending against detractors, and I felt Avatar didn't; an explanation which very well may be the truth, as much as I'd rather it be something more than that.)

    Kurt – *lower lip quivers* But….but, I can't help that!

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  212. "The only explanation I have is that I felt Speed Racer needed defending against detractors, and I felt Avatar didn’t"

    this.

    I am not against academia, but I am against academia when it is being used to knock other people over the head with. Academia should be the natural step beyond fandom, it should not be the starting point from which to judge a film. At that point you're better off just reading the fucking textbook instead of actually watching movies. What is Psycho without Perkins' performance? A piece of fucking shit.

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  213. Henrik, that's bullcrap re: Psycho. Psycho's brilliant in every way; Perkins is part of that, but not all of it.

    And generally, I don't start from academia. It's part of an overall analysis. I start with "did I like this" and then move on into "why did I or didn't I," and that may or may not include an academically-led explanation.

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  214. If you replaced Anthony Perkins with Cedric the Entertainer, nobody would be talking about Psycho today, perfect structure or not.

    I'm just saying it's an example of a movie working beyond the textbook, that people seem to completely forget about in all the talk of the techniques and academia. How can you write academically about Perkins' face in the final scene? You can't. And that's where the movie works best.

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  215. If you replaced Anthony Perkins with Cedric the Entertainer, nobody would be talking about Psycho today, perfect structure or not.

    That's a ridiculous statement. If you replaced James Cameron with Uwe Boll, we wouldn't be talking about Avatar, either.

    There seems to be an assumption that academic approaches and experiential ones are totally incompatible, as though academic viewers don't experience film on a visceral level at all, and experiential viewers can't think about film analytically without each compromising their respective viewpoints. I don't think that's true. It's a difference of emphasis, perhaps, and certainly some take it too far in both directions, but they're not mutually exclusive, and I think both can easily coexist in any individual's reaction to a film.

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  216. For fun and engaging and inclusive and pretty smart academia wankery THIS YEAR IN LEBOWSKI STUDIES is a hoot. ('Made me laugh to beat the band. Parts, anyway.')

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  217. if you can balance the academic and the experiential, Jandy than that is a plus, but in the case of Avatar when I see people dissecting the plot and excessively criticizing it for not having any layers that to me is a case of the academic blocking any chance for the experiential to exist independently. It doesn't get an automatic pass for being a spectacle, but I would hope people would be open to the experience enough to not need extraneous value to it.

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  218. "That’s a ridiculous statement. If you replaced James Cameron with Uwe Boll, we wouldn’t be talking about Avatar, either."

    Do you really not understand my point? It's not meant to be taken literally, it's an extreme example to get to the real point, which is clarified underneath.

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  219. Did you not read the second half of my comment? Psycho works because it gets both the experiential side (what you say is outside the realm of academia) and the analytical side right. You can watch it, be totally caught up in the power of Perkins' performance, and then go back and analyze the structure, the build-up, the shots, the pacing, and the film holds up under both. THAT'S why it's great. Because it's not either/or – it's both. That's what I'm saying. The best films are open to both experiential and analytical approaches, and if a film breaks down under one or the other, it opens up the question of whether or not it's truly great. I've never said that Avatar doesn't work as an experience – it does. (If I did say that, it was heat of the moment, and I apologize, but I'm not always level-headed when I get exasperated.) It's easily better than average as an experience. But it doesn't hold up analytically, which means that FOR ME at least, because I value analysis, it will never be a great film, and it will never be on the level of films that give me both. rot can argue that we should value the immediate experience over thinking about it later, and if he's able to do that, bully for him. I can't – it's not the way I'm wired.

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  220. But, boy, does Hitchcock blow the ending of Psycho with the 'audience hand-holding' – would not have people been far more shook up leaving the cinema if it ended with Perkins dash at the camera?

    Don't get me wrong, I do love me some PSYCHO and the what that the audience is messed around with and the revelations and treats contained within, but that last scene always struck me as a tad pedantic and anticlimatic. Kind of eases the audience out into the lobby for a film that packs some serious surprises.

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  221. You mean the doctor's explanation? Yeah…I would rather have had the psychoanalyzing left out. I'll grant that. I do like the ACTUAL last shot of them pulling out the car, though, if that's what you meant, because it's like this sudden mental pull back to Marion and the money which is still in the car – a reminder that the whole first section was the most elaborate McGuffin ever, and no, Hitchcock didn't just forget about that part of the story once he was refocused on Norman. Kinda sly.

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    • Jay, I wasn't comparing the films as a whole. I was comparing the visuals which I think is totally relevant and on task. For me, Jesse James and Broken Embraces are exciting visual art pieces that you have to admit look a lot different than 99% of all movies released. Sure, there's a lot more than that going on in these films, but if someone goes on and on and on about how gorgeous Avatar is and that's good enough for them to consider it a great movie, I can't with good conscience not say something like, "well what about this movie or that movie – why didn't you go see that three times in the theater like I did with Jesse James?".

      And there are plenty of movies like that. Since Avatar seems to have not much going for it other than the visuals, I think it apropos to compare to other movies with rich visual palettes; yes, like Speed Racer. I would not compare it with Doomsday, because Doomsday doesn't have an overly stylistic visual approach; like Jesse James or Broken Embraces or even the use of color in My Blueberry Nights to some extent.

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  222. The final 'explain it to the audience scene.' It just feels so tacked on and unnecessary, almost like the Hitch is patiently sitting down with his audience and explaining the movie. It's a tad distasteful for an otherwise daring and interesting movie.

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  223. That he was patiently explaining that serial killers were made, not born, and as such could be sympathized with was daring and interesting. Do you even get the movie or have any knowledge of film history?

    Kurt Halfyard: Shittiest. Academic. Evah!

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  224. I'm an academic? Nope, More Hobbyist/enthusiast! Never studied Psycho or anything formally, but that scene always stuck out like a sore thumb to me, again it seems as much for hand-holding/slow-talking to the audience than anything else. But admittedly, It has been some time since I saw the film….

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  225. I don't particularly like the explanation, as I said, but I also see Matt's point. Wasn't Psycho one of the first horror films with a human "monster"? I mean, there were monster horror films, and drama-thrillers with human murderers, but wasn't Psycho kind of doing something new with a human psychokiller (no supernatural involved) who was sympathetic and understandable and still scary? So I can kind of see why Hitch would do that looking at it historically, but watching it now it does kind of stick out for me.

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