May 22, 2010

A Quick Review of Avatar

Justin Katz

The past week left me feeling like a man trapped in anachronism. My work environment, which is rarely more hospitable than "endurable," seemed transported to a time when "servitude" was a more accurate description than "employment." Physically, it took a week for doctors to find the correct eye drops to battle a progressive eye infection that, by Thursday night, had swollen one eye to a slit and found its way to the other. Until yesterday, the medical miracles we take for granted were less than miraculous, and a traveling doctor might have done just as well by advising a damp cloth for the face and an elixir with high alcohol content.

So, by the time Friday evening arrived like the break of the Twentieth Century, I could motivate myself to be no more productive than was required to prepare a snack before staring at a television screen for several hours. My wife and I watched Avatar.

I'd been forewarned, of course, to let the overt politicization of the film go in the name of simple enjoyment, and while the showing was in process, I was able to do so. But movies ought to be like wines that make a supplementary savor of aftertaste, and once the gush of aesthetic pleasure and emotional balm had passed, what remained of Avatar was bitter indeed.

It's really a shame. I don't give to much away, I don't think, in explaining that the fantasy world of Pandora has coursing through it a sort of electrical current connecting all life on the planet and even retaining memories of the dead as if downloaded into the hardware of an organic computer. In other words, Director James Cameron had plenty of room to explore the parallels between computer science and physics, with the intriguing questions about God that thereby arise. He even could have pushed a heavy-handed environmentalism, on those grounds, without interfering with the appeal of the story.

That wasn't, apparently, enough.

A scene from the 1996 Independence Day came to mind repeatedly. In that movie, a psychic link between a captured alien and President Bill Pullman (I believe) reveals that the alien species travels from planet to planet, using up the resources that it finds there and moving on. It doesn't take but a modicum of cultural awareness to realize the insinuation that humankind bears some resemblance, in that respect. However, it's just a path, perhaps a tendency, of our species, and as the entire world comes together, with cooperation between corporate types, military forces, and average folk joining forces against the common foe, Independence Day leaves the viewer with the feeling that, when it comes down to it, people will turn toward goodness.

That wasn't good enough for Cameron. Almost in a direct reference to the earlier movie, the protagonist of Avatar, a human being whose consciousness has temporarily been transferred to a man-made alien body (the "avatar"), warns the native creatures that humanity used up every last bit of green on its native Earth and will do the same on Pandora. In other words, not only are the human beings who've traveled across the universe for a precious mineral evil, but their entire species is evil by its nature.

The message that humankind should resist those qualities that could fester into parasitical behavior has given way to the assertion that humankind is, in fact, a parasite, with only the rare dork, woman, minority, and cripple able to find redemption.

It seems to me that, in making such decisions, Cameron has turned his craft from the very possibility of creating art that seeks universal truth, because the film explicitly disclaims our specie's interest therein.

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Avatar also struck me as a sort of science fiction Dances with Wolves rip-off. In any case,

I've noticed in recent years (a presumably deliberate) strain of indoctrination from Hollywood, aimed at children and (again presumably) intended to subliminally shape the prism through which they view the world:

Avatar; Happy Feet; Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron and such all have a subtext of humans degrading mother earth, led by private enterprise / capitalism (the irony apparently being lost on the fabulously wealthy people in Hollywood); America founded upon exploitation and greed, etc.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at May 22, 2010 2:11 PM

But Avatar crosses a new line of bitterness and dislike. I mean, in Happy Feet, it only took the penguins' finding a way to communicate with the human beings in order to persuade our species that the cost of our behavior was greater than we'd supposed.

Avatar doesn't even allow that underlying sense of right and wrong.

Posted by: Justin Katz at May 22, 2010 2:32 PM

Has no one recalled all of the "moral lessons" in Planet of the Apes? That was thought to be really clever in its time.

Penquins, ah yes, those happy creatures in tuxedos. Why is it never pointed out that they gang up on the weakest member and force him into the water to see if the sharks are feeding?

About the eye, don't worry Obamacare is coming.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at May 22, 2010 3:49 PM

Sometimes(not always)you can tell a lot about a film by WHO likes it.
Some leftist oriented films are interesting to watch,if only for a view into their heads.
Avatar wasn't even original.A lot of CGI grafted onto a stock story.
"Z" was a leftist film that was made with intelligence and truthfully,the right wingers portrayed in the film were major league a##holes in real life.As bad as the leftists they overthrew.
Greece peaked before the birth of Christ.Way before.

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 22, 2010 8:18 PM

Planet of the Apes was really more of a sci-fi cautionary tale/think piece than a condemnation of humanity. The brilliant twist ending was, of course, written by Rod Serling.

Avatar was a "telling" rather than a "showing" - the surest mark of bad art, not to mention the extremely unoriginal plot. Visually it was a great achievement, so that's something I suppose.

Posted by: Dan at May 22, 2010 8:47 PM

Fact is, manking HAS gone on a grand pillage and rape of the world in recent centuries...and, in fact, did it before that whenever possible.

Unbridled greed and population explosions have, for instance, complete deforested entire continents. As we speak, we are poisoning the Gulf of Mexico and beyond so someone can put a couple thousand gallons into their yacht and go catch a couple rays....

Luckily, a lot more than just a few dorks, geeks and women have realized this and we are now on a better path - although still nowhere near sustainable. But we will probably get there if we actually change and improve - instead of holding the conservative views that the past was A-OK and we need change nothing.

No biggie. I haven't even seen the flick yet.....most all movies follow one popular theme or another.

But, Justin, you really have to mellow out and becomes a mental illness when you have to run everything through your thought filters and apply your predetermined conservative slant to it. As we discussed before with Pink Floyd, it just so happens that the vast majority of creative people are liberal in fact, it could be said that they MUST be liberal in thought to create.

If you really want that conservative thought, just keep paying for that subscription to the National Review.

Posted by: Stuart at May 22, 2010 8:47 PM

Stuart writes:

"Fact is, manking HAS gone on a grand pillage and rape of the world in recent centuries..."

Whatever truth their may be in that, the response seems contra logical. We seem to have redeveloped pantheism. I recently read an article on the oil well, the author warned that "the earth may never forgive us". I hadn't realized that the Earth (really liberal people always say "the planet") was cognate.

"it just so happens that the vast majority of creative people are liberal in thought."

Back during the Bush II administration I was "fixed up" with a liberal, a dancer from NY. Not an exotic dancer, but I forget whose work she "interpreted".

In any case her intial conversation was entirely about the evil which was harbored by all Republicans, and how they "refused" to support the "creative arts". Finally I suggested that she should be more cautious about the names she called people. She asked if I were Republican, I responded in the affirmative. She was startled to have met one. Her response? "Take me home, we have nothing to talk about". She probably spent the rest of the evening being "creative".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at May 22, 2010 9:30 PM

Dan writes:

"the surest mark of bad art"

I have always thought the surest sign of a bad movie is when the characters have to actually explain their motivation, because the movie does not begin to convey it. I must be a conservative because I say "movie", liberals always refer to "film".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at May 22, 2010 9:34 PM

Hah, Faust.....your scene with the artist was something right out of Larry Davids show!

There was an episode where his wife was going to let him have an affair for his 60th.

So he meets this hot woman, they go back to her place and get on the bed - when Larry sees a pic of George Bush on the nightstand.

Long story short (pub), no way Larry could bed the conservative woman!

I think I would feel the same way......if my GF had a pic of Bush or Cheney on the wall or nightstand. That is too wide of a divide to cross!

Posted by: Stuart at May 22, 2010 9:55 PM

One of the nice things about being libertarian: easy to play liberal or conservative for a night depending on who the dinner guest is. I just keep my mouth shut half the time.

Conservative women rock though.

Posted by: Dan at May 22, 2010 10:52 PM

Faust and Stuart-if you guys could let politics get in the way of a blanket ride,you're both seriously in need of a time out vis a vis liberal/conservative stuff.
Frankly Stu,if you have the same self-righteous preachy attitude socially that you do politically,you probably would get rejected even if you were paying for it.
Creative people come in all stripes of political thought.You are such an ass.I guess every blog needs comic relief.WHY do you waste your time here?No one takes you seriously,and aren't you the one who claims he has such better things to do than listen to talk radio or watch Fox?Apparently not.

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 23, 2010 6:14 AM

You mean the world can't slide in to a man-made ice age in 36 hours as it did in the film The Day After Tomorrow?

Posted by: Scott Brown at May 23, 2010 8:27 AM

joe bernstein writes:
"Faust and Stuart-if you guys could let politics get in the way of a blanket ride,you're both seriously in need of a time out vis a vis liberal/conservative stuff."

Joe, I couldn't "make out" in a monkey bordello if I had a bushel basket of bananas.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at May 23, 2010 9:16 AM

>Creative people come in all stripes of political thought.You are such an ass.I guess every blog needs comic relief.WHY do you waste your time here?

Hmm, nice rant, Joe - but certainly not creative!
I'd have to see your John Birch DVD to know if you really have the "stuff".

Posted by: Stuart at May 23, 2010 11:52 AM

James Cameron, the wanna-be Leni Riefenstahl of the American Left. We'll probably find out some day that Soros put up the capital to make the movie.

Posted by: BobN at May 23, 2010 12:28 PM

Stu-I'd gladly let you see the DVD.It's not what you think(if you're looking for a racist diatribe)but it ain't mild by any stretch.
BTW when did I ever try to claim I was creative?I have not a scintilla of artistic creativeness in me.I do appreciate it though,just like I appreciate inventors.What artists and inventors do is beyond my imagining.
I did a lot of innovative work in my job.I can't say it was creative,but I certainly thought and operated outside the "box" many times with some good measure of success.
Everyone has something they can do well if they apply themselves to their strengths.
You socialists,or social democrats,whatever,don't realize that.
Encouraging people to quit their lives and become dependent is criminal.Extremely arrogant too.

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 23, 2010 5:00 PM

Hah, Joe, then you must love me.
I have a number of patents and trademarks as well as have introduced quite a few products to the marketplace!

I never considered myself an artist, though....more like someone who can see a need or a problem or a better way to do something.

I do play a mean guitar sometimes, though....

Posted by: Stuart at May 23, 2010 8:39 PM

Stu-I don't love you,hate you.or care about you one way or the other.
You're a name on a page and may not really exist except as an invention of some left winger who just likes to screw around here.Or maybe you do.if you won't step up and use your real name,who's to know?

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 23, 2010 8:51 PM

It is interesting that Stuart chooses not to reveal his identity here, although I echo Joe's sentiment that he is irrelevant one way or the other. His claims do seem to be becoming more and more boastful.

There is only one reason why I personally choose not to use a full name - there are progressive/union extremists who would almost certainly try to have me fired out of vengeance for disagreeing with them on economic issues. They have done this with others in the past and, since I work for government, this is a real danger. If I were older and retired I wouldn't care in the slightest.

Posted by: Dan at May 23, 2010 9:23 PM

Fired, Dan?
I thought you claimed you were the master of your own destiny 100%?

I must have misinterpreted your earlier posts. I thought you were a John Galt, not the beneficiary of my largess.

You work for government? Yet you rally for a smaller government? I guess explaining that you could help by simply resigning and turning your pension back into the system might be too obvious!

But that is pretty hypocritical. I guess you assume that your government position is the one that is still needed - all the rest can go!

Posted by: Stuart at May 23, 2010 10:28 PM

I'm working within the system for change, Stuart.

Isn't that what you idiot progressives always tell us libertarians we should do when you ram oppressive tax increases, laws and regulations down our throats with the government gun?

Posted by: Dan at May 24, 2010 12:07 AM

FYI Stuart, through difficult legal work defending the state I've saved the taxpayers far more money than my services have cost them, which is more than the public union hacks can say about any of their "services."

Posted by: Dan at May 24, 2010 12:11 AM

Dan-I understand why anyone would not use their real name if they work for the government or even certain companies.
Stuart claims to be master of his own world.Why the shyness then?
Rhody is a paranoid creature who likes to accuse me of "threatening" him.He must sleep with the light on.Or at leats be clutching a "tyke-light" when he turns in.

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 24, 2010 5:42 AM

>I'm working within the system for change, Stuart.

I think I've heard that before!

Anyway, you have all the right in the world to rant against the hand that feeds you...and I would never, never, never "report" anyone who did so. After all, that is your 100% right as an American. As long as you do your job while at work, you can smoke dope on the weekends for all I care.

It's just a strange thing. I know a number of of them just got 200K+ in free health care from the government! You work for the government. It's a bit surprising......

Oh, and BTW - I tend to vote against just about ANY and ALL tax increases at the local and state level. Your idea of progressives running around spending money is far off the mark.

I think the biggest difference is that we tend to be just a little less hypocritical....knowing that, no matter what, we are not going to have a vastly smaller instead we put our attention into furthering society as a whole (including you) from within the system.

Posted by: Stuart at May 24, 2010 2:11 PM

Well,Stuie,whenever you can tag me as a hypocrite have at it,please.
I welcome hatred and disdain thrown at me for my opinions..I don't give one infinitesmal sh*t what anyone on the right or left thinks of me.
I AM concerned about my family's opinion of me,however.If they all of a sudden told me I was a jerk,I'd have to stop and listen.

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 24, 2010 2:48 PM