Posts Tagged ‘Titanic’

Showbiz Kids: The Oscars, Charlton Heston and Steely Dan

February 3, 2010

Before we begin, there are two important things to remember about the Oscars. The first is the Charlton Heston Rule. That rule is that the Academy is made up of a lot of people like the late Charlton Heston—old fogeys with traditional tastes. Wonder why Crash beat out Brokeback Mountain or There Will Be Blood didn’t take best picture in 2008? It’s not a hard or fast rule, but think about what your grandmother might vote for. There are a lot of retired actors and techies out there who have a say in what wins.

The second rule has been inaugurated this year. It’s the Steely Dan Rule. What do the ‘70s jazz-funk duo have to do with the Academy Awards? You might remember in 2001, their disc Two Against Nature beat out stiff competition from Radiohead’s Kid A. The reason commonly given was that the producers, engineers and other tech-heads who made up the Recording Academy wanted to recognize the painstaking approach Fagen and Becker took in the studio. Two Against Nature didn’t win because it was filled with great tunes like “Do It Again.” It won because, to a group of voters who use their ears for a living, it sounded great.

It’s this latter rule which makes me think that James Cameron is going to have a good night. Avatar is pretty much a turkey as far as movies go and a staggering display of kitsch. There’s no denying, however, that legions of effects people have spent a lot of time making it look good. That effort will, Squally thinks, be honored by the Academy. Cameron also gets the credit for marshalling that effort. Say what you want about Avatar. Like Titanic it took a guy with a genuine Napoleon complex to put it on screen. The Hurt Locker may be the better movie, but it’s still a more modest achievement—especially in terms of box office. At least Kathryn Bigelow gets a chance to work again, which nobody was expecting after The Weight of Water Avatar’s victory, though, is somewhat bittersweet. That the movie should be honored with a best picture nod when wiser heads understood that its acting and script were somewhere around the level of that Tucker Max flick is a pop culture crime of the highest order.

So now onto the rest …

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Avatar: Seeing is Disbelieving

January 11, 2010

Avatar has been hailed not as a film but a cinematic experience which was going to change the way we went to the movies. There was every reason to be excited. Number one, it was the first fiction film from the obscenely talented James Cameron since Titanic. During the past decade, he had been experimenting with the 3D IMAX format. Cameron was presumably looking for a way to make an even bigger movie instead.

The so-called King of the World was desperately needed. The Lord of the Rings aside, it was hard to think of a movie which had used computer effects in a convincing way. There were still glitches of movement and reflection to be worked out. Computer-generated characters seemed curiously weightless. More importantly, Cameron had demonstrated not only action chops but, in Titanic, a command of epic narrative. His scenes were expert demonstrations of a classical style of storytelling. This art was in danger of becoming extinct in an era of fast cuts and short attention spans. Cameron’s planet needed him. Alas, with Avatar he’s delivered his messiest film, one that’s ultimately more barnstorming stunt than coherent statement.

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2009 3D

April 9, 2009

3dIs 3D the future? The L.A. Times throws the idea out. On Cartoonbrew.com, Jerry Beck throws it back. It’s a time when knowing your history is instructive … or oughta be. In the 1950s, 3D was considered a TV-killer by the studios, as was Cinemascope and Cinerama. By offering audiences the sensation that things were coming out of the screen, it was hoped they’d turn off Milton Berle and spend their evening with the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Cut to half-a-century on and the threat to cinema is bigger–DVDs, films on demand, Netflix, home theatre systems which are more impressive than some hole-in-the-wall multiplexes … ugh! So again we have 3D, seen at its spiffiest in Coraline and Monsters vs. Aliens. We also have big, big screens, at least if you have access to a nearby IMAX theatre. The thing is, these tactics have been employed by the studios before and turned out to be passing fads. So does 3D, if you will, step off the screen and into our lives permanently?

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