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Archive for December 2009

Avatar ***

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There have been many interesting things written about Avatar already, and it’s only been officially on screen in the UK for about 40 hours. Here was my immediate gut reaction:

Pandora, and the technical aspects of Avatar (excluding its irrelevant third dimension) are laudable; while Cameron’s script is vacuous, expository, even laughable. He gives the actors so little to work with that each character takes a turn as charisma vacuum, blurting incredible morsels that force one’s eyes from the screen (hands over one’s ears). The plot turns on cliché and a deluge of derivative science fiction paraphernalia. The score is risible, forgettable, generic action fare, exploiting tropes such as the operatic and the Middle-Eastern wail. It’s peppered with grunts, whoopees and “nooooo”s. Visually, it’s the same old story. Cameron is gracious enough to forgo the Michael Bay school of nausea-inducing blur, that which conceals deficiencies in graphic design while creating an artifice of movement. In its place we still have “intensified continuity”, the ADHD-symptomatic style paradigm of the day. It may generally be crystal clear, but these quick action cuts generally comprise self-consciously derivative figures like ‘soldier impaled’ and ‘slow motion mid-air projectile launch’. The svelte ten foot blue cat women have their nipples concealed with conveniently adhesive necklaces and bead bibs, because apparently animated cat nips would push Avatar into 15 rating territory. So would swearing or real blood. Forgettable, although it might grab at the child in you (or which you in fact are) for sheer (derivative) imagination. Can’t fault Cameron as a maker of worlds, even if the populace spouts drivel.

I’ve since seen a few interesting pieces, including this trio of articles from The House Next Door: by Keith Uhlich, Simon Abrams and Ali Arikan. Arikan is particularly amused, provocative, and I think we both remember the smurf analogy drawn by South Park. His semi-serious remark about “the total, totalitarian triumph of the surface and the cosmetic over content” called to mind an observation I made last night.

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Written by James P. Campbell

18/12/2009 at 18:23

Posted in News, Reviews

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Only When I Dance ***

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Only When I Dance

Press notes describe Only When I Dance as an uplifting documentary, set against the well established image of the inherently violent and starkly deprived Rio Favelas. That isn’t quite accurate. We follow two teenagers from Complexo do Alemao, only one of whose dreams get a chance to flourish. The quietly determined Isabela and confident, colourful Irlan both aspire to high-flying careers in ballet. An odd choice, it would seem, for kids coming from one of the toughest areas of Brazil. It would be unfair to claim that both face great obstacles to success, since in the shallow world of classical dance, only first place counts, and Irlan has the talent and the looks to secure prize wins, full financial backing and the devoted attention of his trainer. Whereas Isabela – who suffers all the (sometimes desperately) cruel turns of fate, whose family place their hopes and financial destiny on her delicate shoulders, and who through ignorance and miscommunication is made to feel overweight and inadequate – Isabela, with neither the expected figure or track record, cannot afford to fail, financially or emotionally. She faces an uphill struggle from the start, as a black girl in a country where the colour of her skin will make it impossible to secure tenure with a dance company.

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Written by James P. Campbell

05/12/2009 at 09:57