Thursday, August 20, 2009

Some thoughts while steeling myself for Avatar

Thompson on Hollywood links to the Avatar trailer, which certainly looks impressive, while exhibiting a certain amount of "Monster Chiller Horror Theatre" 3D cheesiness. (Who could forget "Dr. Tongue's 3D House of Stewardesses"?)

I'm going to have to come up with way of thinking about "Avatar" that will keep me from dying of crankiness over the next three or four months as the beast lumbers toward us. Cameron strikes me as a bit of a dope, and his ten years of world building promises what could be the worst sort of hermetic trainspotting. Adam Roberts, Brit SF writer and critic, offers these thoughts about "Blade Runner" that may help:

(After remarking that the movie doesn't entirely make sense) But I love what the film's mechanical eye lets me see.

In fact, this is what links all the films I love most: they manifest what I take to be a new cultural logic in SF. The genre has shifted from being a literature of ideas (books are good at ideas) to a literature of enduring, powerful, and haunting visual images (films are poor at ideas, but very good at the poetry of beautiful images). This is what La Jetee, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stalker, Alien, and The Matrix have in common -- their gobsmacking visual aesthetic. Blade Runner beats all of these.....


If I can just hang on to that, even a movie about blue fauns romping might be enjoyable.

10 comments:

Generic said...

This is true, to one degree or another, of all movies. So you're granting that in your recent blanket dismissals you (die-hard word man) may have been a bit unfair?

Tulkinghorn said...

"To one degree or another"? Anything is true of anything to one degree or another.....

Take a look at the painting by John Martin at this link:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e1/John_Martin_-_Sodom_and_Gomorrah.jpg

I wish I could remember who it was who pointed out that of all the great 19th century painters, only Martin survives and thrives into the 21st century -- because of the influence his work has had on movie makers and illustrators.

Gigantic canvases with impossible geometries, epic subjects, and vast spaces.....

That's what zillion dollar science fiction movies (and not much else) can do. And that's not bad, even if the filmmakers have no plot sense at all.

Christian Lindke said...

I was one who less than impressed with AVATAR as a work of "originality." I actually think all the comparisons that Anne mentions have merit, and I saw the Comic Con event.

Any fawning over Cameron is some bizarre holdover from the auteur era.

Generic said...

A slideshow of old "Analog" covers.

Tulkinghorn said...

I'd pay money for a slideshow of old Analog covers..... (Or Roger Dean album covers.)

Generic said...

Anne sez: "Think 'Princess of Mars.'"

Christian Lindke said...

I'm fearful of what they are going to do with A PRINCESS OF MARS. When Robert Rodriguez left the project, I jumped for joy. When Jon Favreau left the project, I wept. Even though Favreau was overly influenced by the Frazetta artwork, in my opinion, he is a talented director and would have done something great.

I worry what Disney will do with the narrative and the relationships in the John Carter catalog.

Do they have it in them to do these "serious?" Or am I going to get some bizarre looking motion capture 3D hunk of shit like BEOWULF?

Two things Hollywood needs to stop doing now are Digitally filmed movies -- they look like shit -- and motion capture films which are just creepy feeling. I want to watch real actors. Use the digital effects to put "makeup" on an actor? Sure. Use it to replace the actor? No.

Anonymous said...

Although I've been watching movies all my life, I'm not sure I could tell just be looking at it whether a given picture was "filmed" digitally. When I ask people to explain the difference they launch into a speil about alpha waves. I remain both unconverted to and unappalled by digital cinama, if that makes sense. In any case, as the yutes would say, that train has left the station. Objecting at this point would be like tekking those damn kids to get off your lawn.

(The Ghost, at work)

Anonymous said...

http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/2009/08/24/john_carter_of_mars_adds_morton_walker_cooper/

Christian Lindke said...

It's very easy to tell when a film is filmed digitally unless the film director avoids things like lateral movement and showing breaking glass or other movement related events.

Digital acquisition on a non-HD television is hard to discern, but displayed at 60 ft. across it is pretty easy.

The lighting is very different as is the capture of movement. It is as easy to discern as whether a film is a super 16 blowup, scope, or flat image. It comes down to the lighting.

I certainly hope that the "train" hasn't left the station. It is the equivalent of only painting in acrylics. Acrylic painting, when one properly understands its light representations, can be beautiful, but one doesn't want to miss out on the depth of image and shadow created by oils.

My only comment is that you have been watching too many screeners and not enough screens.