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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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Afterthoughts on Tarantino

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IB11Jonathan Rosenbaum has written more on what troubles him about Inglourious Basterds. He makes, much more articulately, the point I wished to make about how it fails to convey any meaning: how its talk is idle. My response, one that JR claims to be waiting for (though it is not possible to reply directly as his blog is closed for comment), is that there will be no such reply: no one will be able to perspicaciously point us to anything Tarantino is saying about his subject or his medium (or persuasively argue that Inglourious Basterds is an experience worth having). What we might get, however, is analysis of the film as a phenomenon (a symptom): in the vein of K. Longworth’s post on Tarantino’s little omelette. She felt that I.B. seemed to be more symptomatic of the world of September 2009 than of the 2008 which threw it up. And when I watched the film, Slavoj Zizek’s preoccupation with the obscene fantastical popped into my mind (a similar connection was made by KL). Yet this film is the obscene fantasy of QT, and a select few peers. I am glad not to count myself among them, but also glad not to merely dismiss it as simple self-indulgence. It is, after all, quite obscene.

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Written by James P. Campbell

27/08/2009 at 22:13

News of the week

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My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

My vote for most conventionally subversive trailer this year. This is SO exciting – directed by Werner Herzog, produced by David Lynch, starring Michael Shannon (of Revolutionary Road, and whose performance in The Missing person was awe-inspiring). Loosely based around the story of a chap who stabbed his mother with a saber, having recently been cast in a Sophocles tragedy. Read what you will into this video:

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Written by James P. Campbell

23/08/2009 at 22:01

News of the week

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(500) Days of Summer

Widely celebrated in the US (ovations at Sundance; an opening weekend netting over 24 times its budget), this emocore indie monolith will soon reach these shores. I actually quite look forward to it – it has a guilty appeal, and for all its affected eccentricity (come on, just look at the title), derivativeness and nauseating too-cool-for-schoolery, it looks to be incredibly well written. Reviews so far have been mixed: see here and there.

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News of the week

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The Lovely Bones

Aww. Sweet thin Peter Jackson has directed The Lovely Bones, adapted for the screen by his usual team of Walsh and Boyens. Gladly, they have brought the magical tapestry of their visual imaginations to bear on the work, but the material does come across quite sickly. Little miss Salmon’s in-between is an extraordinary creation, evoking various works of Dali-esque surrealism. Unfortunately, the trailer sandwiches this between the deeply moving opening act, in which every reaction shot acts as a signpost, a bleary-eyed upward glance or a grieving burial in hands, and the third act’s hackneyed murder-mystery cliché. The actors are also distractingly starry, but on the whole it looks to be promisingly well-directed. Will its strength prove to lie behind the camera (“in my own perfect world”)?

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Written by James P. Campbell

08/08/2009 at 22:22

News of the week

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A quick synopsis of some things floating round the internet and film press this week which roused my interest.

The Fantastic Mr Fox

A Wes Anderson adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic, with a trailer much maligned by a blogger over at the Guardian online. I actually think it looks magnificent. Far from the source, perhaps, but it may well stay true to the spirit (as much as might be hoped from an Americanization).

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Written by James P. Campbell

01/08/2009 at 23:51

EIFF Awards 2009

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Today, the award winners of the 63rd Edinburgh International Film Festival were announced in a public ceremony at the Filmhouse Cinema, by artistic directors Hannah McGill and Diane Henderson, alongside patrons Sir Sean Connery and Seamus McGarvey.

MoonThe big prize, the Michael Powell Award (Best New British Feature Film) was inaugurated in 1993, and is supported by the UK Film Council. It was adjudicated this year by an international jury comprising Joe Wright (director of Atonement), Claudia Puig (film critic), Sacha Horler (actress in My Year Without Sex), Janet Street-Porter (journalist, author) and finally, Frank Langella (most recently starring in Frost/Nixon). Edifyingly, they deigned to select Duncan Jones’s majestic first feature, Moon. The jury citation went as follows: “We award MOON for its singular vision and remarkably assured direction as well as for the inspired manner in which it transcends genre. The central performance by Sam Rockwell embodies the film’s emotional complexity and compelling philosophical perspective”.

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