Posts Tagged ‘James Cameron’

Oscarpalooza: Previews and Predictions

Even though Cablevision’s dispute with ABC means that I, along with several other million people in the NY-NJ area, will not be able to watch the Oscars, NPI’s Oscarpalooza carries on with previews and predictions. Of course, I am not a movie critic and, thus, have not seen all the movies nominated. Nor do I care about the majority of awards. So much of what makes the Academy Awards interesting to casual movie fans, though, is how a cottage industry of diviners and predictive pseudo-sciences has sprung up in response to the awards. Thanks to innumerable “Best Of” lists and predictive “secondary” awards like the SAGs or the Golden Globes, most people feel like they have a good idea of, say, Meryl Streep’s performance in Julie & Julia, whether or not they have seen it. Sifting through the critical white noise has become something of an art, and I’m offering my services so that those of you who would rather not watch Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin chaperone a four-hour self-congratulatory love-fest (or those of you who have Cablevision and simply have no choice), don’t have to watch to see who wins the eight major awards.

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Oscarpalooza: Avatar: Different Planet, Same Story

In honor of Oscar weekend, NPI is rerunning its reviews of the Best Picture nominees. Here, John S doesn’t buy into the Avatar hype:

The first 20-30 minutes of Avatar are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a movie theater. The entire movie takes place on a planet, Pandora, that James Cameron essentially built from scratch and special effects. The closest analog I can come up with for this type of visual creation is the island part of King Kong, but Merian C. Cooper was working with slightly less technology. And even in Peter Jackson’s recent remake, with its gripping use of CGI, we were still dealing with large gorillas and dinosaurs… you know, things that are real.

Pandora’s not like that. Everything is made up, from the plant life to the small animals to the large predators to the indigenous population of humanoids, called the Na’vi. This also doesn’t include the human technologies portrayed in the film, which run from typical “this-is-taking-place-in-the-future” signifiers like extensive use of holograms and things that hover, to more extreme modifications of aircrafts and weaponry. In short, Cameron has done an excellent job creating an entire world. The visual elements of this world, thanks both to their natural richness and the 3-D enhancements, are stunning, and the first act’s introduction of Pandora and its inhabitants is engrossing.

After that, though, you might as well walk out, because there isn’t much story to speak of. Cameron, in his first film since the overwhelmingly successful Titanic, showcases his juvenile sense of dialogue, character, and story over and over again. Continue reading

The Not-So-Golden Globes

The Golden Globes were last night and since, as host Ricky Gervais kept reminding us, actors are the best and most important people in the world, we here at NPI cannot let that the occasion pass without some commentary. As usual with awards shows, it was a mixed bag.

The Best Three Things:

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Why Avatar Is Not a Good Movie

I already offered my problems with Avatar when I reviewed it two weeks ago. While I don’t want to repeat myself, that review was written shortly after the film’s opening, before the popular opinion of it had a chance to congeal. In general, opinions of the film haven’t been totally different—though they have been much more positive—from my own: The consensus seems to be that Avatar is visually impressive, if not all that original in terms of story and character.

What has been surprising, though, is how critics and audiences alike do not seem to care about the film’s weaknesses. Almost every review I’ve read, whether from an established critic like Roger Ebert or simply someone’s Twitter feed, has acknowledged the film’s simplicity and derivativeness, and then completely ignored them. In fact, some people have gone even further, saying that the smallness of the story and the characters actually makes the movie better. Sam Adams at The A.V. Club wrote that it’s the film’s political message—and not its visual inventiveness—that is so revolutionary.

Adams’ argument is that the simplicity and obviousness of the film’s message enhances its role as a political invective:

[T]he movie can—and, I think, ought to—be seen as a polemic, which makes criticism of its obviousness beside the point. Having Lang’s colonel refer to his plan to bomb the Na’vi into submission with the words “shock and awe” is not subtle, but it’s not meant to be. Cameron means to be confrontational, and to be sure, audiences looking for a diverting night out are not allowed to overlook the parallels. Continue reading

Aught Lang Syne: What Tim Is Looking Forward to in the Teens

In the Teens, I’m looking forward to…

…the career arc of LeBron James.

As of right now, the basketball populace seems more sure that LeBron James is the Player of the Next Decade than that Kobe Bryant or Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’Neal is the Player of This One. We know that LeBron James is phenomenal now and that he will only continue to get better. But we still don’t know the extent of that improvement or where it will take place. Will James stick with his hometown Cavaliers or spurn them and become the most significant free-agent signing in sports history? If the latter, is it for the bright lights and crappy teammates of Madison Square Garden? The allure of eclipsing Jordan in Chicago? Or teaming up with Wade in Miami or Durant in, gasp, Oklahoma City?

This last question leads to the next one: Who will be James’s primary rival? Will Wade or Durant or Carmelo Anthony raise their games to the required levels to consistently compete with LeBron? Or will he, like Jordan, be too far above them to even be compared to another individual?

LeBron James will be the most culturally significant athlete of the Teens; it’s all a matter of how and where.

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Avatar: Different Planet, Same Story

The first 20-30 minutes of Avatar are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a movie theater. The entire movie takes place on a planet, Pandora, that James Cameron essentially built from scratch and special effects. The closest analog I can come up with for this type of visual creation is the island part of King Kong, but Merian C. Cooper was working with slightly less technology. And even in Peter Jackson’s recent remake, with its gripping use of CGI, we were still dealing with large gorillas and dinosaurs… you know, things that are real.

Pandora’s not like that. Everything is made up, from the plant life to the small animals to the large predators to the indigenous population of humanoids, called the Na’vi. This also doesn’t include the human technologies portrayed in the film, which run from typical “this-is-taking-place-in-the-future” signifiers like extensive use of holograms and things that hover, to more extreme modifications of aircrafts and weaponry. In short, Cameron has done an excellent job creating an entire world. The visual elements of this world, thanks both to their natural richness and the 3-D enhancements, are stunning, and the first act’s introduction of Pandora and its inhabitants is engrossing.

After that, though, you might as well walk out, because there isn’t much story to speak of. Cameron, in his first film since the overwhelmingly successful Titanic, showcases his juvenile sense of dialogue, character, and story over and over again. Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while celebrating Ryan Longwell’s return to Lambeau….


  • We linked a few weeks ago to Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker analysis of football and head trauma. Gladwell’s article brought to the fore some issues that have been latent in football for some time (Wait…you mean this is a dangerous sport?), as seen by the attention it’s getting now from Congress and from former Chief Michael Oriard on Deadspin. (What we’d like to see more attention on: the horribly misfigured fingers of former football players. You can see a little with Ted Johnson in the NYT video above, but this is a growing trend among NFL analysts that some of us would rather not see; hence, lack of links.)
  • As part of our extensive World Series preview this week, Tim subtly criticized Philadelphia fans (we believe his words were, “Philadelphia fans suck”). Now, The New York Times‘ Mike Tanier–a native of Philly–examines the differences between the fan ideologies in the City of Brotherly Love and the Big Apple.
  • Here at NPI, we’re fans of both fun and theory; that’s why we’re big fans of “The Fun Theory.” Really, regardless of what it espouses, how can you not be a fan of “The Fun Theory”? It’s arguably our favorite named theory since the good old Theory of Everything.