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February 8th, 2010


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01:33 am - Further Thoughts on Avatar
So, I actually went to see Avatar today. My first reaction was that it was visually stunning. Pandora looked mostly real, and the N’avi looked perfectly real. I was amazed. Of course, my second reaction was that the film was exactly as massively offensive as I discussed here, as well as being dumb as a bag of hair – our hero had no grasp of tactics, and clearly seemed to think that ”human” wave attacks on a heavily armed and armored force was an awesome idea, rather than say – setting up some traps or something.

This film also made me think of two other recent films, neither of which I’ve seen or plan to see, but I’ve read discussion of both of them – Precious & The Blind Side, which, like Avatar have both also been nominated for academy awards. All three have drawn criticism about racism here’s an excellent critique of Precious, and the problems with The Blind Side are even more obvious (troubled black kid saved by good white Christian family). What we have is three films where white people get to feel good about racial issues - they can witness an utterly degraded young black woman attempt to overcome problems caused by a horrific black culture, watch a talented young black man saved by caring white people, or an entire alien civilization saved by a white hero who is better at their culture then they are. Offensively racist films specifically designed to make white people feel good about racial issues seem even more popular today than previously Yuck.

On a completely different and far more hopeful front, I found the special effects in Avatar to be a very positive thing. In addition to the fact that in a few years this level of special effects will be far cheaper and thus will start appearing in movies that are actually good, we also have what is (to me at least) a very positive sign. Most often special effects extravaganzas are all about fancy explosions, gruesome deaths, and various exotic forms of violence. Avatar definitely contained violence, but it actually made up a fairly small part of the two and a half hours and wasn’t remotely what I (or I think most other people) found most memorable. Instead, the focus of the special effects and the entire visual power of the film was on depicting an utterly stunning alien world filled with amazing creatures. I’ll take that over watching mass murder any day. I expected the film to feel long, especially because the plot was so paper thin, but it didn’t. At least an hour was all about looking at Pandora, and I was more than happy to do so. I can’t see this aspect of the film as anything other than highly positive.

In any case, perhaps in a couple of years, someone will use these same effects to do something like a film adaptation of Alastair Reynolds’ excellent novel Chasm City, or perhaps even a film version of Ian McDonald’s amazing novel Evolution’s Shore/Chaga (which is a vastly superior look at issues of race and power.

(14 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:innocent_man
Date:February 8th, 2010 12:44 pm (UTC)
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Does it change things at all that The Blind Side is a true story? (For certain values of "true," of course - it's still a movie.)

I haven't seen Precious yet, though I might have some commentary once I do.
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From:heron61
Date:February 8th, 2010 09:17 pm (UTC)
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Not really - a film about a good white family saving a young black man who then goes on to success is a story designed to make white people feel good about race and is IMHO always pretty dubious. The fact that the same production company (Alcon Entertainment) had as their next film The Book of Eli also makes me wonder how much influence fundys have on that company.
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From:rickj
Date:February 8th, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC)
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It's reviews like this one that have me going back and forth on seeing Avatar. On the one hand, everyone says it's an amazing spectacle. But they also say that the story was at best, dumb as a bag of hair.

I suppose the good thing is that Cameron's bag of tricks will be filtering down to other moviemakers who might do a better job.
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From:kitten_goddess
Date:February 8th, 2010 02:46 pm (UTC)
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I read the book Precious, but have not seen the movie. I wonder what would happen if someone remade the movie, but with all the races reversed.
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From:shadowandstar
Date:February 8th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC)
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I always appreciate your insights about popular culture.
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From:slothman
Date:February 8th, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I was disappointed that despite having air cavalry, they didn’t try throwing leaves filled with mud, sap, and rocks into the blades or jet intakes of the helicopters.
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From:heron61
Date:February 8th, 2010 08:37 pm (UTC)
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Dear gods yes. Waiting until the various air vehicles had unloaded all of their troops before attacking was idiotic.
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From:winterbeast
Date:February 8th, 2010 07:15 pm (UTC)

A Completly Different Angle

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I have not seen the movie yet. but I have seen enough of the trailers and ancillary items to focus on one thing. The Powered battle suits in this move may well pave the way for the movie going public for a movie from my favorite gaming setting. In 1982, a company called FASA, (which stood for the Freedonia Aeronautics and Space Administration) released a game called "BattleTech". what was the theme? Giant Robots. sometimes dropped from orbit. planetary assaults. A human Pilot in each Robot. Avatar breaches the idea of Humans in man shaped Robots. Today, a company called Catalyst owns most of the rights to the game, and is still publishing. Of course, Giant robots are a liability on today's battlefield, but then, so was the AS-7 (the German answer to the British mark 1 in ww1)I would think that at least for a moment, such a thing would have Shock Value. how long that would last, I do not know.
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From:silvaerina_tael
Date:February 8th, 2010 11:28 pm (UTC)

Re: A Completly Different Angle

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I remember Battletech. I also remember Shadowrun, which FASA (didn't know what the acronym stood for till now, though) also released, and which was also taken over by Catalyst Labs for 4th Ed...
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From:winterbeast
Date:February 9th, 2010 12:12 am (UTC)

Re: A Completly Different Angle

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Freedonia was the mythical country from the Marx Brothers Movie "Duck Soup". every so often, a reporter will corner a politician on that one.
"What's our trade status with Freedonia?" and see what the guy has to say...
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From:silvaerina_tael
Date:February 9th, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)

Re: A Completly Different Angle

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Excellent piece of trivia. Thanks!
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From:illuviel
Date:February 8th, 2010 09:22 pm (UTC)
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FASA, (which stood for the Freedonia Aeronautics and Space Administration)

So *that's* what it stands for.

I have some FASA books for the Star Trek RPG, as well as having really enjoyed Battletech.
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From:silvaerina_tael
Date:February 8th, 2010 11:30 pm (UTC)
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They were the ones who made the Star Trek RPG? didn't remember that... I know they produced Shadowrun, which Catalyst Labs also took over. It's now in it's 4th Ed.
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From:derekcfpegritz
Date:February 9th, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)
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I would give my right ventricle to see ANY of McDonald's stories made into a film. River of Gods would be incredible--mostly because I just like Indian culture--but Desolation Road would be mindblowing. China Mieville's Perdido Street Station would be another excellent target for an Avatar-style adaptation!

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