Fair. Balanced. American.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Why Avatar lost"

While, the University of Florida professor displays an extraordinary ignorance of Hollywood politics, his critique of The Hurt Locker is spot on:
In The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow provided a terrifying depiction of efforts by US soldiers to survive while fighting insurgents and disarming bombs in Iraq. Their battle was both against an evil enemy and to retain their sanity and humanity.

As is typical in Hollywood war films, The Hurt Locker carried a subtle anti-war message compatible with patriotic sensibilities. Underscoring her own patriotism, when accepting the best picture and best director awards, Bigelow dedicated them to the “women and men in the military who risk their lives daily to keep us safe.” With these words and in the film, Bigelow reminds us that war is hell, while reassuring us of our good intentions.

For all the terror it depicted, the message was predictable and safe.

In Avatar, director James Cameron told the emotionally wrenching tale of the Na’vi, the aboriginal inhabitants of a distant world, defending themselves against an invading human army. The film was obviously a metaphor for the long war between large-scale civilizations and the small foraging societies that they supplant.

Because most of Earth’s people are citizens of such civilizations, Avatar’s message was anything but safe. [...]

When we root for nature in the film, at least subconsciously, most of us are committing emotional treason against our own civilizations.

This unlikely event is possible because feelings of belonging and connection to nature are part of our emotional repertoire. We evolved here and find biologically intact ecosystems beautiful because, when we are drawn to and protect such places, we flourish.

This affinity for nature may exaplain the global appeal of Avatar but not why it ran second in the Oscar competition. Ironically, in the battle between these cinematic epics, The Hurt Locker was portrayed as countercultural, when it actually pandered to patriotic convention. Meanwhile, Avatar was cast as technologically radical while few commented on its radical critique of a militarized technological civilization, or on its countercultural religious vision. These are things some Academy voters, little doubt, found too radical to support.
All true. But if there's one takeaway for James Cameron, it's the same lesson George Lucas will never learn: dialogue matters. When you spend $300 million to make a movie, spend that extra $500,000 on a script doctor; even the greatest gearhead can't be good at everything.

1 comment :

el blogador said...

I liked the script! I really didn't notice any corniness.