Movie News; January is Entertainment on Crack

December is a relentlessly slow month in Los Angeles.  It can be refreshing or really painful if you need to be working.  January, however, makes an attempt at making up for all the hours not worked in December.


Sarah Palin will have her own show on Fox News.  “It’s wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news,” Palin said in a written release.

Spiderman 4 is NOT happening anymore.  Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire are off the project.  They’re going to reboot the franchise, which seems insane considering it’s not even a decade old, but whatevs.  This also means no more Kirsten Dunst!!!

All signs point to the Arrested Development movie happening this year.

SNL film MacGruber is looking good from early reviews, apparently as good as Wayne’s World.  Which is good, since the SNL movies of late have included The Ladies Man, Superstar, and Night at the Roxbury.

I’m sure you’re all aware of George Lucas on The Daily Show and the horrifically funny youtube review of Phantom Menace.

The 2010 WGA nominations are out.  Only 79 scripts were eligible to be nominated, versus last year’s 267.  Shockingly, Avatar is nominated for Best Original Screenplay.  But thank God!  That screenplay has been released online!  And it has a deleted sex scene

I am with you now, Jake. We are mated for life.

We are?

Yes. It is our way.
Oh. I forgot to tell?

He rouses up, making her look at him.

Really, we are?

We are.

It’s cool. I’m there.

Movie News; January is Entertainment on Crack

17 thoughts on “Movie News; January is Entertainment on Crack

  1. 1

    That’s actually not the Avatar script. It’s more of a transcript of what happened (including the deleted scenes). If you want the actual “script” (which is what Cameron calls a ‘scriptment’ and contains maybe 2 pages of dialog and 98 pages of prose) I can send it to you.

    1. 1.1

      I don’t really want to read it, I just wanted to make fun of the sex scene, because it’s ridiculous. I mean, almost every moment in that film is ridiculous, but at least it’s pretty, right?

  2. 2

    I know I’m gonna be in the minority on this one, but I actually find a good deal of that kinda interesting (except for the part where she tells him she mate-raped him). It expands its themes of the interconnectedness of all living things into the bedroom… into the intimate relationship, which is, on paper at least, kindof appropriate and intriguing… in reality it’s probably mostly really awkward.

    but i really like the ideas in this part:

    Neytiri, you know my real body is far away, sleeping.

    She raises up, placing her fingertips to his chest —

    This body is real.
    (she touches his forehead)
    This spirit is real.

    think it adds some nice texture to the issues of identity they explore with questions like: is he a marine? or is he a scientist? is he a human? is he a dreamwalker? is he a na’vi?

    Anyway, I’ve been finding that the more I think about Avatar the more I appreciate what it DOES do rather than what it doesn’t do quite as well – though I know that isn’t the hippest position to have on a movie like this. Its surface level seems kinda painfully cliche and off the mark at times (some of it is obviously intentional, but still). Which is odd for someone who is principally known for strong surface-level narratives… But there is obviously so much thought given to the ideas underlying the material, that I can’t help but be inclined to forgive some of its sins.

    I mean really, when future generations watch and study this movie, how will they make sense of the fact that this was one of the highest grossing movies of all time despite being entirely contrarian to everything this country and the western world in general has been doing for so long (especially in the wake of 9/11)?

    and furthermore: why do I keep making these long rambling posts on your blog?

    over and out.

    1. 2.1

      I guess my problem there is that I’ve seen it done better elsewhere, and there’s something so sleazy about this scene. Like she’s trapping him in a relationship and he’s taking advantage of her at the same time. But I don’t particularly like sex scenes in most movies. Jake’s line about his body being far away is the only good part of the scene.

      I disagree with your thought that there’s more to it than what is on the surface, I think everything is surface level. I think everything is directly stated, I don’t get the sense that there is an inner world to all of this, just a bunch of cool visuals with one idea, that people are like in the matrix and can plug into stuff, but instead of technology it’s like, nature, man. I don’t get the sense that any character has an inner life.

      And it’s popular because there’s fighting and cool visuals, which is pretty much right in line with everything the Western world is into. Even better it pays lip service to seemingly progressive ideas while stereotyping native populations.

      Xenocide did this way better, and I didn’t even like that book that much.

      1. No – I think you’ve got some good points. There are definitely issues or problems that I struggle with and debate with myself about, some of which you have pointed out. But I think a good deal of them can be concentrated into one central issue that the film would employ as its “raison d’etre” – that using the boldest of strokes is justifiable to try and engage “the common wo/man”/”the wide audience”/”the mainstream popular culture” with issues they generally might not want to face. Instead of making little art films that engage in a format filled with subtelty and nuance and which put a certain amount of trust in the viewer to do his/her own thing in actively interpreting the material while engaging with what might be called activist issues (and while only reaching a small educated cultural elite that some might call “the choir”), Cameron seems to suggest with his work that he rejects all that in favor of bringing activist issues to the widest possible audience through the use of well-worn arcs, accessible (or 1D) archetypal characters, cross cultural myths and iconography, and yes – big light shows, sex, and violence. (and even the light show can be looked at through a thematic lens – after all it is somewhat interesting that a film which is about our relationship with science and technology is trumpeted as the harbinger of a landmark technological breakthrough)

        And there ARE valid questions…valid accusations to pursue in the face of such a claim – does the form of the film contradict the message (and do the confines of “widespread accessibility” always tend to contradict such messages, since a central construct of easy entertainment is *affirmation*?) Can something affirm the popular viewpoint through its form and challenge it through its subtext? (conservative text, progressive/radical subtext?) …i.e.: Can a subversive operate effectively from within the confines of the system (as Jake himself wrestles with)? Is utilizing stereotypical figures such as the dumb american jarhead and the benevolent noble savage justifiable shorthand? And of course there are a million other things one can hurl at it, but at the end of the day I find that the issues raised are remarkably more complex and less cut and dried than its detractors seem to suggest. And I try to give credit to any film that even tangentially raises such debate… even if I ultimately disagree with it. For me even if the film is “wrong,” it is intriguing, which makes it worthwhile.

        and you are right that it seems like the characters don’t have much of an inner life – but that is BECAUSE the film is not so interested in that surface layer — It is not so much interested in the emotional arc, in its surface story… it simply uses those as tools… as tricks to get you in the door and to try and keep you engaged… it consistently sacrifices complexity on this layer in favor of bringing to the surface its subtextual concerns and hammer audiences over the head with them with both the boldest strokes imaginable (hence, “unobtanium”) and more subverted texture (like perhaps, the remnants of the home tree mirroring the WTC – in a film that heavily interacts with Joseph Campbell’s classic mythological theories which say [among many other things] that you can always tell what’s most important to a culture by looking at it’s tallest building)

        Anyway, I hope you don’t find this diatribe of mine completely tiring… I apologize…i know, my film theory background is showing 😛 I just love bloviating about this kinda stuff…

        (oh and I agree with you about the sleazy aspect to the sex scene – which is probably part of why it was cut – along with the fact that no one wants to see alien genitals intertwining)

        1. I’m just not sure what this deeper issue/subtext that you keep referring to actually is… Unless you’re trying to tell me Ferngully was a deep and philosophical film.

          Of course I don’t mind, I was a film studies major after all.

          1. Jumping into the hazard…

            My major disagreement with Thomas lies in his defense of the “simplistic” structure and characters as a shorthand device, allowing the audience to rush past the surface and experience the deeper mythology/philosophy/demagoguery laying beneath.

            Dramaturgically speaking, I think that shorthand character sketches are seldom successful unless they serve to allow time for a longhand variation or contradiction. In my view, Avatar sets up archetypal (to put it generously) characters and conflicts and rides them onwards to the expected conclusion.

            It’s a tough line to draw between Campbell-esque “collective myth” and simple rote regurgitation of well-trodden tropes. Even though I feel Campbell was ever-so-slightly full of shit cross-culturally, I’ll accept as gospel his reading of the hero’s journey. But, if Cameron is attempting to walk that trail, he loses the path in the final act. The key to the hero myth is the return. Dances with Wolves is a more successful telling of this story, if only because Dunbar has to go home at the end. Gilgamesh runs free in the wild, but in the end must go home. Sully stays, and the story is incomplete as a result. Sully goes to Pandora to find a new purpose and find a purpose he didn’t have on Earth. And he does, full stop. If he had to go back (or desperately wanted to go back and couldn’t), there would be a dramatic price to pay for the adventure he had with the Na’vi.

            A fine teacher we three have had in common said that movies are about “sex, violence and hard choices. If you leave out the hard choices, all you have is violent porn.” This holds true for Avatar, except in place of sex, it has a beautifully designed and realized alien world. So maybe it isn’t violent porn, but it’s a Waterhouse with missiles flying overhead, and very little more.

            Cameron’s been successful in getting people to talk seriously about the movie, but it seems to me that most of the commentary is about things that are “almost in the movie” or “hinted at”. And sure, it’s all sorta-kinda there. There are ten thousand things almost in Avatar, but nearly none of them are story-driving. I would take grave exception to the interest level provided by well-worn diatribes on corporate greed, native nobility and good-egg scientists angry over their misused research, but I acknowledge that this is a film for teenagers (and I don’t mean that entirely negatively) for whom it might be somewhat fresh.

            It’s a rehash, but perhaps it’s a story that deserves to be rehashed for each new generation. It’s gorgeous, and a clinic in conceptual design. The story seems there to provide reasons to show the design, and (in my opinion) that’s backwards. And it’s because of that backwardness that I very much doubt Avatar will last to be considered and reconsidered by future generations of film studies students. They’ll likely just watch Dances with Wolves. Boring as it is for being tied to the real world and having historical context, it just plain tells the story better. I haven’t seen Fern Gully, but I hear it’s basically a cell animated Avatar. Sorry to say, that probably means I’ll never bother to watch it.

          2. I think that’s a great addition Fredrick…welcome to “the hazard”, I suppose?
            (and great quote as well – what was that persons initials?)

            And I can’t really say I disagree with much of it. Except for one thing: the suggestion that I am necessarily trying to defend Cameron’s “simplistic” structure. I’m only saying (value neutral) that I think his use of it is largely intentional in order to gain greater access. Whether this is effective or defensible is something that I don’t think is entirely cut and dry, which is why I find it interesting. I’m not saying Cameron is right – just interesting. (If we could all agree he was right [or wrong], I’d probably find him less interesting because then he’d just be engaging in common sense – instead he finds himself accused of being both too radical and too conservative)

            I (as someone who tends to try to entertain all the different sides of an argument) just think there are so many different arguments one could make in all sorts of directions that while I may favor a certain direction, I feel like it ultimately remains somewhat unsettled.

            For instance, one could say with some validity that the film represents quite a condescending, coldly strategic point of view – that it means he is treating his audience as if it is made up of primarily simple people with teenage minds who need the promise of simple affirmations and big light shows to be lured into the darkness where they can be *educated* by the elite Mr. Cameron and the rest of his atheistic leftist Hollywood cronies.

            Alternatively one could say with some validity that while Cameron’s intent might be to introduce subversive ideas to the masses, ultimately all the affirmation he gives the audience via its simple form – telling them that the world works the way it should, good is good, evil is evil, good always wins, change comes naturally and doesn’t require much personal sacrifice – sends the audience out of the theatre ultimately feeling affirmed, and while his little pokes about the war on terror and such might somewhat resonate, it fundamentally contradicts itself and thus comes nowhere close to being as subversive as it may intend. If you want a radical message, you need to have a radical form – because life isn’t wrapped up in a nice linear narrative package – people should be encouraged to be engaged and active in the world, not lulled to sleep and allowed to escape it. (Additionally isn’t it convenient that Mr. Marxist-“give up all your possessions and join the resistance”-Cameron is spending and making ungodly sums of money with this bit of escapism.)

            And one could say that radical forms are for preaching to the choir. That many great subversives have learned to find a way to work within the confines of the system – and that this is essentially what the film is about in many respects… Can the dominant find a way to even see that their identity is corrupt within a culture that constantly affirms our righteousness… and if so, can we find the strength to shed themselves of that identity and its trappings? Maybe this mythological character can… but can we? And what better way to ask that than by surrounding us with elements of the same righteous affirmation – the big escapist light show – and challenge us to discuss and interact with what’s behind the curtain. Yes, perhaps this is not a quality character study, or a quality moral dilemma, but it is not supposed to be a study of the world as it is – it’s a myth, it’s an allegory, it’s a sermon – and if it both entertains and potentially helps push people towards a better more harmonious world view – even incrementally – isn’t it possibly justifiable…or at least debatable?

            All of these views seem to carry some measure of validity to me even though they contradict each other. And I agree with your take on things feeling “sorta kinda” there… it feels like he’s kinda on to something, but never quite has the full control of it you wish he had despite his apparent virtuosity in certain areas. It has *the idea* of consequences and sacrifices contained within, but never seems to make us feel it. Miles from flawless, but still something I think is worth looking at somewhat seriously… And I too will be curious to see whether this watershed film from a technological standpoint will be seen as anything more than that in the future.

          3. Disclaimer: No harshness or slight to your cleverness intended by following comment.

            I’m a little confused, not sure what your point is, there’s a lot of meandering in your thoughts and I can’t quite follow what you’re trying to get at.

            Is your basic thrust that Cameron is simplistic to appeal to the masses with a subversive message? I think where I’m failing to connect is that I can’t find anything subversive in this movie. How does it push people to a more harmonious world view? I just don’t buy that that happens at all in the film. I just don’t think it’s particularly subversive to think that sometimes nature is a good thing (national parks!) and killing people cats sentient humanoids is bad…

            Seriously, what, in a concise sentence, is Cameron preaching? Because I’m not a dumb person and I didn’t get a message from the film more complex than “good people should win”. I think you’re projecting what you wish the film was about rather than what the film actually was.

            Initials: VM

  3. 3

    oh yeah – i forgot that you’re a fellow film studies kid! sweet – now i don’t feel quite so bad 😉

    as far as the rest – creating something that outlines exactly what the subtext is is a whole `nother ball of wax and a pretty big homework assignment… so I’ll try to touch on it, but i’ll have to cut some corners and leave some holes for the sake of making it a manageable task – cuz i really should be writing my script right now, but some of these are actually ideas i interact with to some extent in my script as well so that’s how i’m rationalizing it (even though mine is a small character piece)

    Ok, now obviously this is all open for debate and discussion, as is the subtext for most films, but part of what I see in this film is an ATTEMPT to be something of a contemplative wake-up-call/call-to-conscience within a western capitalistic culture prone to exerting domination through war and colonialism (& neocolonialism/imperialism – in terms both governmental and corporate) by examining those issues narratively with an eye specifically directed towards humanity’s relationship to science/technology… and whether our growth in those fields can ever find an equilibrium with our “spiritual”/moral/ethical growth.

    (or as MLK said regarding modern man: “We’ve learned to fly the air as birds, we’ve learned to swim the seas as fish, yet we haven’t learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters.”)

    contained within it you may find (among many other things):
    -references to 9/11
    -references to iraq and our quest for oil
    -reference to the evils found in corporate capitalist viewpoints and characters
    -reference to the good found in “marxist” viewpoints and characters
    (and even some brief references to our crappy healthcare system)
    -pantheistic/atheistic concepts of nature
    -references to environmental destruction, obviously
    -many references to Joseph Campbell’s ideas of humanity’s relationship with mythology [“The Hero with a Thousand Faces”] (which almost necessitates oblique references to Jungian archetypes as well as religious commentary) [these are the same ideas many other blockbuster mythmakers have utilized – the most notable and most direct example is star wars]
    -that Sigourney Weaver’s character exists largely to showcase the noble elements of the scientific pursuit
    -while Giovani Ribisi’s character exists to show us the how corporate capitalism often twists science away from that nobility and uses it for its own, often destructive aims
    -an overall narrative structure that consists of a member of an oppressive group being confronted with a member of the oppressed, thereby encountering a call to conscience, and utilizing his insider status within the oppressive group to help the oppressed upend his former fellow oppressors.
    -the idea that science/technology can also be used positively to create connectedness and through that: understanding and social change (obviously the most central tool one would reference here is the internet, of which avatars play a big part)[and this can then be read in some ways as a kind of post-internet (and post-haliburton) response to the fears of technology and corporate rule found in Terminator]

    Additionally, you may see:
    -scenes which can be read to suggest that through our imperialistic terror we should not be surprised to experience terrorism
    -scenes which can be read to “cheer” the defeat (and death) of american soldiers in the carrying out of said imperialism
    -scenes in which an american soldier putting down her gun and quitting due to conscience is seen as heroic.
    -scenes in which an american soldier turning its gun on their (former) fellow oppressors is seen as heroic rather than traitorous.
    -that the very title “avatar” – which uses the idea a modern technological construct in which one form/identity exists as a representation of ourselves virtually, which is considered as separate from our “true form” or our actual physical representation in our day to day bodies (which obliquely calls this into question: aren’t our physical bodies just a kind of avatar, a mask within which the self exists? and what then is the self? …though that’s a whole `nother can of worms)
    -overarching questions of identity: who we are and who we decide to identify with …”Avatar” asks who are we by asking who is Jake – is he disabled…or strong? is he a marine, a scientist…or something else? are we distinctly human… or a part of all living things? freedom fighters…or terrorists? can we find the wisdom to see when our old identities are corrupt – and then can we find the strength it takes to build a new identity in the face of all the potential consequences and sacrifices?

    …I hope you don’t think I’m blowing too much smoke here… hopefully, even if you still understandably might “hate” the film, at least SOME of the above resonates and seems to coincide in some way with the film you remember seeing. Overall, I think we can debate any single item on the list and whether the film does any of this effectively, whether it contradicts itself, engages in undesirable methods to achieve its aims, etc., but in my mind I don’t think one can really say that NONE of the above ideas are contained somewhere within the text or that they are not relatively radical or complex in nature. But i’d still be interested to hear your reaction either way. …cuz I’ve obviously said MY piece 😛 …or is it “peace”?

    1. 3.1

      I don’t actually hate the film, not at all. I think it was a breathtaking visual achievement and I was only rarely bored. The performances were good, though the dialogue was mediocre to embarrassing. As a movie, it’s fine.

      I don’t really think any of those ideas are in any way radical or complicated. I think they’re really simplistic questions that are all given simplistic answers. As I said before, almost all of those things are in Ferngully, a mediocre children’s film that seemed cloying to me when I was 8.

      The American soldiers are very clearly set up as Mercenaries, soldiers for hire, working for a terrible company. There’s nothing complex about it. If they wanted to be complex, they’d have had a character who needed the Unobtainium for a noble goal and was having a real moral conundrum about it. No one has a moral conundrum this entire movie. Everyone is either All Good or All Bad.

      Again, it is a movie, movies don’t have to be philosophically complex. But for me to really care about a film, to want to come back to it, there has to be someone in it I actually care about who is actually having to make choices. No on in this movie ever makes a choice you didn’t predict 45 minutes ahead of time. The only person who is supposedly making a difficult choice is the soldier when he’s offered his legs — except he’s already got a legitimate way to have legs with people who are more interesting than soldiers. Who wouldn’t have made that decision.

      Dances with Wolves, Ender’s Game (and Xenocide), even Braveheart have more depth, character and soul to their characters and their choices. The Matrix has a better examination of what it means to have an Avatar.

      1. I think most of the issues you are pointing out are ones of simplistic narrative structure, simplistic characters undergoing simplistic arcs with simplistic choices…

        and once again, I think all of those are valid. Perhaps Cameron does ultimately undercut or even contradict his intended messages via these choices in the surface narrative… but regardless, for good or for ill, these messages ARE there in some form.

        Hence, what I’m trying to propose is that possibly Cameron (in many ways, quite intentionally) attempts to use that simplicity to create an accessable package that he could densely texture with references to political concepts and philosophy that the vast majority of *at least* this country would find very complex and/or radical (whether you or I do or not). Hence his primary motivation seems essentially twofold: 1) to entertain the crap out of you with a gee-whiz surface and 2) to use that platform to heavily pepper the background w/ references to his worldview and philisophical concerns.

        and I’m certainly not alone… some of the most prominent critics and media theorists are seeing similar things (both among supporters and detractors). Some of the one’s I’ve found interesting:

        Is Avatar Racist?:

        Heaven and Nature: (somewhat critical of Avatar’s employment of pantheistic/atheistic views)

        Science, Civilization, and the Noble Savage in Space:

        Why Avatar’s politics are more revolutionary than its Images:,36604/

        of course, at the same time, that doesn’t mean the movie can’t be found to be distasteful or cloying either…

        but irregardless, the text is DENSE with subtextual references to his ideas. If I could notate on the script every reference to these ideas and the various potential interpretations, the page would be filled to the point of illegibility if not blacked out entirely. Good or bad, there is a certain sort of virtuosity in that. And while I agree that films like Dances with Wolves and many others cover some of the same ideological ground and mythical narrative structure (hence: the hero with a thousand faces), I don’t find the text in that film anywhere near as dense. I find DwW’s strengths more on the “supertextual” level which you spoke of above. The Matrix, I agree, covers much of the same ground and in at least some respects does a better job of it (the Wachowskis, like Cameron are widely known for their taste for radical political subtext). And I haven’t seen Ferngully, so you’ll have to forgive my inability to engage with that particular deprecating reference. Of course none of this is surprising as Cameron is intentionally engaging with longstanding and recurring myth (one could even argue with validity that there is a metatextual element present there).

        And in the end, I find ideas related to Campbell’s ideas of a collective myth, and Carl Jungs ideas about archetype, and ideas about how technology and social progress relate with one another in terms both positive and negative, and philosophical ideas of identity and self as well as ideas related to the interconnectedness of all living things both plant and animal *relatively complex and thoughtful for a 2 1/2-hour light show. And I find an unapologetic world view which includes marxist undertones; pantheistic/atheistic spirituality; blunt criticism of both current and historic imperialism, torture, etc.; commentary on globalization and the idea that corporations are the new government; critiques of environmental degradation; assaults on corporate capitalism, and implied empathy with terrorists *relatively radical (and even subversive) for a mainstream Hollywood uber-blockbuster… and rather timely as well.

      2. …though I should also add that I understand we’re probably starting to reach that “agree to disagree” kind of territory here…

        nevertheless I had fun 🙂 thanks for indulging

  4. 4

    i tend to meander, especially in casual forums…sorry 😛
    I didn’t mean to frustrate anyone
    lots of thoughts and sometimes hard to organize them in a short amount of time (when I would have an essay for class, I’d spend the time to better organize them)

    However between all that I’ve written (and repeated) I would think it’d be fairly plain re: his general endorsement of a naturalist, marxist, explicitly anti-imperialistic worldview. (which I have detailed elsewhere, but I’ll leave it at that for the sake of simplicity?)

    and since I’ve posted links to other prominent media critics saying much the same thing, I don’t think I can be accused of pure and baseless projection.

    1. 4.1

      Ok, that makes sense, I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t something I was missing.

      I guess I don’t see it as Marxist or anti-imperialist or particularly naturalistic. I feel like it’s about bad individuals, not bad political institutions. The foreign planet is not an unrepentantly good world; nature is not presented as something to be merely lived with, but also thoroughly dominated, if not destroyed. And when an entire civilization needs one white guy to come and be their leader, that’s a dictatorship, and one in which he’s established an Empire over the entire planet of blue people.

      But obviously, if you see those things in the story, I’m not going to be able to convince you they aren’t there. I just don’t see them.

      1. Thanks for the articles – haven’t seen the gawker one before (though obviously seen a lot of other ones that focus on the race angle)

        Hope you feel better soon, btw
        hope I’ll get to say hi when I’m in town

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