Avatar

Is one of the stupidest movies ever made:

If Avatar were drawn like a regular cartoon, or had been made on soundstages with sets and the like, would it be interesting? Would it hold our attention? The answer is, unquestionably no. There’s no chance anybody would even have put it into production, no matter that Cameron made the box-office bonanza Titanic. So the question is: Does the technical mastery on display in Avatar outweigh the unbelievably banal and idiotic plot, the excruciating dialogue, the utter lack of any quality resembling a sense of humor? And will all these qualities silence the discomfort coming from that significant segment of the American population that, we know from the box-office receipts for Iraq war movies this decade, doesn’t like it when an American soldier is the bad guy?

Podhoretz’ review is chock full’o’spoilers, but when something is as apparently ridden with PC cliches as this, it’s pretty hard to spoil it. Let’s hope they can apply the film-making technology to a good movie soon.

[Monday morning update]

Kurt Loder over at MTV has similar thoughts:

Cameron is a great action director. There’s a lot to look at here: the luminescent glow of the jungle in which the Na’vi live, the ancient Tree of Souls with which they commune, a spectacular range of mountains hanging high in the sky up above Pandora — and there’s a lot going on. The director and his battalion of digital technicians have cooked up a fantastical bestiary of Pandoran creatures — futuristic hammerhead rhinos; dogfighting battle dragons; and, in one virtuoso sequence, a vicious six-legged thingy that chases Jake through the jungle and off the edge of a cliff (see trailer). The meticulous detail in which these creatures have been rendered, and the complexity with which they’re arrayed in the film’s exotic environments, are undeniable marvels of moviemaking art.

Unfortunately, whenever the action lets up and we’re returned to the piddling story, the picture slumps like a failed soufflé. It’s also heavily laced with political instruction of a most familiar sort. Cameron, who’s now 55, is a self-acknowledged aging hippie, and his boomer worldview is strictly by-the-numbers. Quaritch and Selfridge are evil Americans despoiling the Na’vi’s idyllic planet in exactly the same way that the humans have (we’re told) trashed their own native orb. The invaders are armed with deplorable corporate technology (an odd animosity in a major-studio movie that reportedly cost more than $300 million to make), and they speak the familiar — and here rather anachronistic — language of contemporary American warmongering. (“We will fight terror with terror!” “It’s some kind of shock-and-awe campaign!”)

The Na’vi, on the other hand, with their bows and arrows and long braided hair, are stand-ins for every spiritually astute and ecologically conscientious indigenous population ever ground down under the heel of rampaging Western imperialism. They appear to have no warlike impulses themselves, and they live in complete harmony with their environment. (They even talk to trees.) Why, the movie asks, as if the question were new, can’t we be more like them?

No one argues that it’s not a brilliant technological feat. It’s just a shame that it seems to have a cliched, politically infantile story line.

I Love The Sound

…of exploding watermelons in the morning:

Polly Toynbee is blaming the whole fiasco on false consciousness.

…Sometimes we’re inclined to dismiss Polly as a loveable comedy figure, what with her lovely house in Tuscany contrasting so amusingly with her prolier-than-thou politics, and the never ending japesomeness of her deft, lighter-than-air prose.

But you know what? When she reveals her true colours, as she does here, I think she’s really, really scary. Her whole article teeters on the brink of demanding an eco-fascist world government to save us all from ourselves.

Save us from people wanting to save us from ourselves.

Top Science Stories Of The Decade

Without getting into the issue of whether this year is the end of the decade, Alan Boyle has a list of science stories of the ten years of the double goose egg, of which this is definitely the last. I have a couple nits, though.

First, SpaceShipOne and the X-Prize had nothing to do with science really — they were engineering achievements. Spaceflight is not synonymous with science, and the notion that it is is one of the things that holds us back from doing more of it, and more cost effectively.

And if the 2007 Nobel prize to which he is referring was Al Gore’s, it had nothing to do with science either, unless it was bogus science, as his “documentary” was (for which the Oscar should also be revoked). It was a Peace Prize, not a science prize.

Lit Crit

…of Al Gore’s poetry:

I have read worse poems than “One Thin September,” but not all that many. It is a dull, anaphoric litany riddled with malapropisms and marred by an unabashed tendency to pure bathos — no different from his prose. Close assessment of the piece might offer a corrective to those who continue to venerate its author.

…In sum, “One Thin September” is a dreadful piece of unmitigated fustian in every possible respect — tonal, structural, lexical, semantic, metaphorical — and should never have seen the light of print. If anyone ever needed fresh evidence for Al Gore’s want of discernment and unstinting self-infatuation, this is it. Those who don’t have the time to wade through 400 pages of largely tendentious argument and special pleading may content themselves by reading the poem. It tells them all they need to know. And the irony is unmistakable. For no matter how reluctantly, we owe him a debt of gratitude for this unintended exhibition.

One of my tests of someone’s political judgement is whether or not they any longer take Al Gore seriously.

The Force Of The Gore Effect Is Strong In This One

Kyopenhagen abounded in irony, as all of these circuses do, but I found it quite delicious that Obama (and Pelosi, and many other DC denizens) had to rush home from a global warming conference to avoid getting shut out by an approaching blizzard* in the nation’s capital.

I would also note that, while I’m agnostic, I like the old phrase, “Men make plans, and God laughs.” This may put a dagger through the black heart of the health-care disaster, or at least its being passed by Christmas, which means that it may be dead for good (or at least this session, which will buy a lot of time after next year’s elections). But I won’t consider it over until it’s over.

* Yes, I do know the difference between climate and weather. When it’s warm, it’s climate; when it’s cold, it’s weather. Thanks for asking.

Thoughts On Corporatism

From Ross Douthat, and Jonah Goldberg, which is on full display in the health-care debacle, with the weird and awkward bear hug between Washington and the insurance companies:

If you want to know why business takes such an interest in Washington, the answer can be found in your low-flow toilet, in the warning labels adorning your cars, in your 8 zillion page tax returns. It can be found while you wait on hold trying to get a human to answer your questions about your health insurance. And the answer is most certainly somewhere in your box of cereal, made with grains subsidized by Uncle Sam and coated in sugar that has no business being grown in the United States of America. Corporations meddle in Washington because Washington meddles with them.

It is simply naive to believe that a businessman will have no interest in politics when politicians have taken a great interest in him. And it is grotesquely unfair to assume that businesspeople are corrupt simply because they want to support politicians less inclined to hurt them.

Yes, Bill Gates learned that lesson the hard way.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!