Mourning the Magic of Storytelling: a 3D disaster

Last week I didn’t quite finish why I’ve had such problems with my 3D experiences so the following will be an explanation. Let’s start with AVATAR.

Alright, let’s look at the trailer:

This trailer is the best evidence that I can produce to make my case against Avatar. If you notice the trailer has next to no dialogue and only focuses on the wonder that is the simulated environment created by James Cameron and his talented team, there is a reason for that. Many critics have voiced it and I’m about to re-voice it, the movie has no original story (Dances with Wolves, Fern Gully even Pocahontas). No surprise there since Hollywood tends to do this more often than not. Recycled material is just that recycled material but what makes it even more intolerable is that even with it being recycled it seems that James Cameron forgot to invest time in his own script — just focus on the child-like empty dialogue that characters spit at each other.

Let me give you an example just think of the scene when Sigounrey Weaver, Dr. Grace Augustine, gets mad at Giovanni Ribisi, Parker Selfridge for sending Jake Sully – the Jarhead. OH MY GOD. This is when the Soap Opera lights started going off in my head. Here, child-like insults are flying back and forth and Cameron introduces to us yet another one-sided character, Parker Selfridge which of course is the trend in this movie, who’s only motive is to extract the wonder mineral found on Na’vi soil. Of course what else are we to expect from a big-blockbuster hit? Not only did the script have problems but Cameron relied on stereotyped representation of indigenous people to fantasy laden representations of the body. And yet no one seemed to care. 😦

I sat in the theatre thinking to myself — whoa, this is seriously a boy fantasy. The Na’vi women are all nearly naked with athletic bodies, they get to ride dragon-like creatures and everyone has a warrior-like attitude. The fantasy becomes full-circled when the heroine, of course, falls in love with the most desirable female object, the tribe’s leader daughter. Am I forgetting something? Oh yes, the fact that this movie goes back and forth with live-action and a CGI created 3D environment. Heightening the experience in this movie. To many this is what movies are all about – experiencing the ultimate fantasy, a way to forget about the world around us. It is here, in forgetting, that Avatar succeeds.

By mixing a dicey script with fantastical elements Cameron fails in generating a movie with a positive message. The story does have an anti-corporate, pro-environment feel since *spoiler alert* the military and corporation involved in extracting the Na’vi’s magical mineral is defeated in the end, resulting in the human colony heading back to earth. But that’s all you get. You get a sense of it – you are so focused on the simulated environment and so entrenched in the fantastical elements that the dangers of extracting oil, strong corporations, the never-ending struggle in the middle-east also become elements of fantasy. The story may revolve around it but it does not invite you to think about these issues. Plus, the story is set in a far-off future where once again we’ve bled into the space-age and technology has advanced so much that we can be asleep for years on end, travel through space and replicate/embody alien bodies. Removing our sense of reality even further. So the question is asked, is there even a positive message here? Or is it just a plot-device for an action movie?

So here is the start of what 3D is going to be. Another layer to add to my hatred towards escapist Hollywood. Where all they produce is happy endings and regards its audience as children begging to be brain washed with a fantasy. Of course I say this without having seen UP – of which I hear very good things. I just hope one day I’ll be able to sit through a 3D movie and not have the feeling of being insulted.

Tune in next week for another rant on Alice in Wonderland which will be juxtaposed with Edward Scissor Hands.

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Now Playing: A 3D Ride, an introduction.

I was going to write about a Polish film by Krzysztof Kieslowski called “A Short Film About Love” but I can’t stop thinking about other things related to Cinema i.e. 3D movies. I feel that discussing this “new” technology that is becoming ever so popular (expect a 3D television as soon as 2011 hits) tramples a look back in time (which is what I wanted to do with “A Short Film About Love”).  If you haven’t experienced a 3D movie yet, you will soon enough. 3D, I expect, will be everywhere as we move further into the technological age; even if this “new” technology is nothing new (the first 3D movie came out in 1922 titled “The Power of Love”). What is different from then and now is the amount of money being poured into this way of experiencing cinema and soon television. Cineplex Odeon signed an agreement with RealD to bring 3D capacity theaters to over 5,500 theater screens across Canada. Samsung, Panasonic and Sony are all spewing plans on developing a 3D television. And what of it? We all love technology! Technology makes our lives easier and let’s face it, cooler. Skeptical of most things, I need to slow down and think about the effects this technology is having on me, you, us.

Anyone that knows me knows that I hold cinema among the Gods. Film to me is a way for me to explore many aspects of our own humanity. Film gives me a chance to explore countless stories, reflect on human experiences, celebrate the advent of new technology and (yes) it is a great way to escape my surroundings. But it is with the escapist element that I find myself struggling with nowadays. I’m not the biggest fan of Blockbuster hits; since their foundation is tainted with entertainment rather than reflection. I do find myself consuming many of their titles (I do live in a city with ONE Big-Wig theater and ONE small independent theater). As of late, I’ve been hitting the theater much more frequently and 20% of those outings have involved a 3D movie. Each of those experiences has, I’m sorry to report, been extremely negative. Yes, I was disappointed in “Avatar” and “Alice and Wonderland”.

Both of these films are Mega-Blockbuster hits. “Avatar” was nominated for 9 Oscars and winning 3 (Cinematography, Visual Effects and Art Direction) and grossing $1.843 billion, breaking “Titanic’s” $600 million box-office record. While “Alice in Wonderland” opened with $210.3 million globally over opening weekend. The numbers speak for themselves – we are swarming to see a 3D movie. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if we were swarming to see something worth seeing but it just isn’t so. A great film critic, Robin Wood, once said “…I view the culture in which I live and the mainstream cinema that is at once its product and support. As in the culture, so in the cinema: there are hostile and dissonant rumblings, but they are seldom allowed to enter the mainstream.” Although I find that statement devastating and depressing, I do esteem it to hold nothing but the truth. I feel that this statement speaks to both of these movies, even if “Avatar” had an underlying message of colonialism and the effects of overindulging in limited natural resources, and wish to discuss both of these movies with Robin Wood’s words becoming a foundation for my future thoughts. But for now I must end here for life is calling (making dinner, cleaning house and getting to the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery’s Student Curated Show opening!).

Cunt Post: A Review on the Lady Sasquatch

******This post is of a review I made a couple months ago. I had since forgotten to re-post. It was posted when it was relevant but was taken down due to it becoming published in my University’s school newspaper The Meliorist. But I’m currently working on an analysis on a Polish Film. It will be posted in a day or two; depending on how involved I get in my drawing class! U of L Art Gallery exhibition of Lady Sasquatch*****

Walk into the University Art Gallery and you’ll find yourself intruding on what seems to be a ritualistic dance by six female Sasquatches around a campfire. But as you make your way into the gallery, the intrusion disappears as the exhibit invites you to walk into the circle, to include yourself into the barbaric dance. We do not precisely know what they, the Sasquatches, are doing but this seems to be part of the intrigue. The observer is invited to take a deeper and closer look at these six monstrous figures and to ask why have the Ladies Sasquatch arrived?

Taking a look at the Ladies Sasquatch we can identify different patterns that emerge within the material bringing the separate creatures together. Allyson Mitchell (the artist) is indeed intrigued by disposed, second-hand material since she re-works these materials into compelling commentaries on power and privilege thus breathing new meaning into the objects[i]. Here, she uses domestic discarded material such as fun fur, shag carpet, old mops, Afghans and other saved items to create these mythological monstrosities. The salvaged materials have a common denominator: they are all materials used in the domestic sphere. These materials bring this orbiting exhibit into the realm-dialogue of third-wave feminism or as some may call it: post-modern feminism. By using material that has been collected and used by women as far back as domesticity has been in place and following the footsteps of women artist of the 70s, such as Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party (1979) or Miriam Shapiro’s Flying Carpet (1972), Mitchell includes the thoughts of women’s pasts. This gesture encapsulates third-wave feminism in all its glory. To include the voices of the past so that they could be re-worked and shaped into six ten-feet-tall creatures (and yes these voices are not speaking of light tea-time but of monstrous things). The observer is invited to engage with the past, piece it all together and look upon a new form that towers a few feet over him/her.

It is my speculation that the Ladies Sasquatch have come out to expose themselves, no longer wanting to be part of a mysterious mythology but wanting to become real and intricate themselves into our lives. They have come out to shock, play and scare us. To invite us to be part of them and them us. They may even disrupt the silence.


[i] Sabine Hikel “Allyson Mitchell: Leveraging Ambivalence” Canadian DimensionI (2007): 2

A Short Film About Love: Tomek, Magda and a telescope

Kryzsztof Kieslowski was a Polish director who fell upon cinama. Born in a Communist Poland to see it fall further into economic shaky ground. He himself may had not been truly involved in his country’s political struggle but his films themselves are embedded with a reflection of  its political time. Watching this film was tinged with the scent of Poland and its after-world war state. But more than just reflecting on occurances that are neither familiar nor close to my reality, A Short Film About Love, explores loneliness and love, aspects of humanity which no one escapes and everybody welcomes (at times).

Trailer

As you can tell from the trailer the film is not an elaborate ploy to entice the senses neither is it stripped to a film’s bare aesthetics. Rather the film has many long takes with sparce dialogue, has four settings and is mainly focused on two characters (it has more but we are mostly just concerned with two). To most the film may sound boring – it has no grand explosions or twisted ends – and you may wonder why even write about it? Well, it may be true that the film may have not moved at a high-pace, it did deliver interesting concepts on love and the loneliness that surrounds it.