“Dances with Shrek” or “Why You Shouldn’t Crown Yourself King of the World”

Like many other Americans, I recently spent $14 to witness a truly amazing 3-D spectacle.  Some people are calling this visual masterpiece “Avatar.”  I call it “Dances with Shrek.”  Sure the visuals are stunning and revolutionary, but the story?  Come on.  It reads like a fun romp through cliches of hollywood blockbusters past.  We have the jaded soldier finding meaning in life by becoming immersed in a native tribal culture.  We have a man and a woman who are physically different learning important lessons about accepting outer beauty by recognizing inner beauty.  We have a small band of disillusioned rebels overcoming a technologically superior force based on their grit, ingenuity, and a small shot of supernatural guidance.  The creator of this spectacle needs to learn one of the most basic of literary lessons:  the line between deep and spiritual is just a hair’s breadth away from cloying and emotionally manipulative.  Few can walk the line.   

I saw a news magazine interview with James Cameron, the producer, writer and director of “Dances with Shrek” a couple of months ago.  His attempts at false modesty were not convincing.  This is, after all, the guy who declared himself “king of the world” during one of the most-watched live television broadcasts of all time.  At first I didn’t want to see the movie at all, because I was disgusted by Cameron’s surety that it would be a masterpiece.  I eventually caved, frankly prodded on by my respected co-bloggers who were stunned by the same visual effects that eventually had me gaping in wonder.  As the credits rolled and I took off the 3-D glasses, I was kind of sad.  What a wasted opportunity.  The hundreds of people who developed that lush, enveloping world deserved a better story to backstop their efforts.  James Cameron deserved a better writer than James Cameron.  He should have looked at his colleague George Lucas, also a revolutionary master of visual effects, and realized that producer George Lucas teamed with screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and director Irvin Kershner equals the masterpiece “Empire Strikes Back.”  Producer George Lucas teamed with screenwriter George Lucas and director George Lucas equals the, um…well….piece of cinematic history that is “The Phantom Menace.”   

Hollywood is a unique work environment.  A lot of people’s jobs in the real world require ingenuity, creativity, talent, and lots of hard work.  Not many people’s  creative processes are evaluated in such exacting detail as a hollywood director.  And very few people get the feed-back that a hollywood producer does:  immediate numerical evaluation by a huge population.  When I write a work memo, I rarely get the chance to say “I’d like to thank Amy for editing my work, and John for sharing his granola with me, and especially Sarah for changing the toner cartridge in the printer.  I’d like to thank Mrs. Johnson from 8th grade English for insisting that I learn the difference between ‘you’re’ and ‘your,’ and my mom for making me do my homework night after night.  Most of all, I’d like to thank Jesus for gifting me with the innate insightfulness and writing ability that allowed me to create this masterpiece.  I’M QUEEN OF THE POLICY MEMORANDUM!” 

So, should I be thanking Amy for editing my work?  Heck yes.  I have a tendency to create complicated sentences and repeat words over and over in the same paragraph.  I type fast, and forget to spell check.  I need someone to tell me that my fundamental premise is flawed and I should start over.  Good work is often collaborative, and I thrive in a team environment.  Sometimes I do great work, and sometimes I fly by the seat of my pants and ought to work harder.  I occasionally get praised by my supervisors, but mostly I’m grateful they keep paying me. 

Anytime we get caught up in the brilliance of our work, in the blinding fantasticness of ourselves, it’s probably good to remember that in all but the most rare of circumstances, our efforts are compounded by those around us.  We’re polished and shined by support systems that ought to be recognized.  Most of all, we really are often blinded by our own efforts, and in those moments of self-glory may not realize that we’re crowning ourselves king of the world of dances with shrek.


  1. No, no, no, Karen. You couldn’t be more wrong.

    It’s Dances With Smurfs. :-)

  2. Sorry. Dances With Smurfs Meets Ferngully.

  3. The Japanese translation: Pocahontas Monkeycat

  4. Straight Talker says:

    Avatar story could have been much better. I agree. But it’s still a damn good flick, so what’s the point? Fox made handsome profit from their investment. Cameron will get funding for his next venture, etc. In short it was much more than good enough.

    If our church could even come close to Cameron’s standards in executing the Lord’s commission, we would have filled the Earth by now.

  5. That’s it straight talker…our church should have gone for a boring same ‘ol story with TONS of glossy special effects…

    I feel a thread jack coming on listing all the special effects that could have been used.

    sorry I missed avatar.-so really nothing to add

  6. Latter-day Guy says:

    Yeah, the plot was derivative, it’s true. I still had a good time. It was just one of those “Please-check-your-brain-at-the-door-and-enjoy-the-show!” entertainment experiences.

    Perhaps my favorite moment of the whole extravaganza was leaving the theater and hearing my younger brother say––referring to the death of the tribe’s chief––”Man, I couldn’t believe it when they whacked Papa Smurf!”

  7. Latter-day Guy says:

    “If our church could even come close to Cameron’s standards in executing the Lord’s commission, we would have filled the Earth by now.”

    Er… I don’t see how Cameron’s directing prowess (or lack thereof) could have much to teach us about accelerating the Church’s aggressive “breed-n’-baptize” program, but whatever. I will say that, in the next incarnation of the temple film, I am looking forward to a blue Adam and Eve with three-fingered “Simpsons” hands, and a buzz-cut Lucifer running around in a Robotech™ machine.

  8. Nice point, Karen. Fwiw, it’s hard to be king of any world when your daughters remind you daily that you’re not even #5 in your own house.

    I used to be amazed by such pronouncements – until I realized how often I have made somewhat similar statements about some arena within my own small world.

    I’m sure God has a sense of humor, or it wouldn’t be just Papa Smurf getting whacked in a visual masterpiece of a totally derivative movie. Most of us would be lying around like the snowmen in Calvin and Hobbes if He took us as seriously as we tend to take ourselves.

  9. Good reminder, Karen H. Thanks.

  10. MikeInWeHo says:

    Great post, Karen, although I think you’re missing some nuance here. Obviously James Cameron is the quintessential über-narcissist, but I suspect you’re incorrect to assume that he’s unaware that his stories are simplistic and derivative. On the contrary; he seems to know exactly what mass audiences crave.

    You can’t argue with success. Maybe he’ll get in front of the Academy Awards this year and proclaim “I’m the king of another world!”

  11. Awesome Karen.

    And just think what Cameron could do with Robot-Crow.

  12. StillConfused says:

    I have no interest in seeing the movie. I like silly pointless comedies, but not so much when they are actually trying to make a P.C. point. Also, not a big fan of blue people. Other than the oompa loompas and maybe the smurfs.

    I really prefer movies without tons of special effects. But I guess I am boring that way

  13. Alex T. Valencic says:

    I once had an English instructor who insisted that there are only about six original stories in the history of story-making. I find it hard to find a film that presents a story that isn’t cliche in some way or another.

    The wonder of literature, and film, and music, and art in general isn’t in the fundamental message of the presentation. It is in the presentation itself. And in this case, James Cameron’s presentation of Pandora was a heck of a lot better than the Bill Kroyer’s Fern Gully.

  14. Alex you have a point- it’s what Joseph Campbell spent his career saying: The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

    Yet the tale can be told masterfully (The Empire Strikes Back) Or not (too many to note…).

  15. I watch a movie to escape from all the problems life gives. Avatar did not disappoint. It seems to me that you people have way too much time on your hands to analize a movie. Boy, am I glad I don’t have to sit next to you people at the ward dinner party. There wouldn’t be much stimulating conversation. No offense.

  16. Awesome, Karen. I remember how resistant I was to collaboration when Segullah first started. I had my vision to fulfill and I just wanted other people to get on board and help make it happen, not to mess things up with THEIR ideas. Thanks to a team of extraordinary women, the blinders were soon ripped off and I was saved from perishing in the delusional pit of narcissism.

  17. Hey Mitch, you’re a jerk. No offense, okay? :)

  18. The righteous have nothing to be offended by. I don’t get offended.

  19. I’ve always thought that one of the reasons so many Hollywood movies stink is that there are too many people involved in making them.

  20. Happy to report that the British Academy awards just gave The Hurt Locker all the goodies over Avatar.

  21. I really looked a LOT like Pocahontas to me…. I mean… sheesh, it was basically a repeat.

  22. Straight Talker says:

    All I’m saying is why dump on Cameron, a master of his craft, for putting out something that was more than good enough (as proven by $ earned) but could have had a much better and deeper story, when Cameron is far better at his craft than our shrinking church is in fulfilling it’s purpose? Why dump on anyone for being more than good enough in a world fill with mediocrity?

  23. Profit =/= worth.

  24. Okay, we’ve got someone getting ready to dust off his shoes in righteousness, and another who thinks James Cameron > “our shrinking church”…. It’s Troll Sunday folks!

  25. Latter-day Guy says:

    ST, I don’t think this post is about dumping on Cameron or anyone else. Did you miss the moneyquote?

    Anytime we get caught up in the brilliance of our work, in the blinding fantasticness of ourselves, it’s probably good to remember that in all but the most rare of circumstances, our efforts are compounded by those around us. We’re polished and shined by support systems that ought to be recognized.

    I think we all recognize that Avatar was a smurftastic good time––but could different/better collaboration have made it better? Probably so. And hubris is certainly one roadblock to successful collaboration.

    (For the record, I am still ALL about seeing Satan portrayed by a buzz-cut dude in a robo-suit.)

  26. Latter-day Guy says:

    Regarding “hubris,” see––for instance––comment 17.

  27. I don’t mean to be a troll, but this post topic could be a better one. If only every movie I see could be as good as Avatar.

  28. Bill and I enjoyed this movie a lot more than a lot of you guys. Because we paid $9 for our tickets. 3D too.

    You’re right about the “been-there done-that” plot but it was still worth seeing on the big screen in 3D.

    Shawshank Redemption is still my favorite movie.

  29. Mitch, don’t be such a … witch.

  30. Aaron Brown says:

    Karen, just admit you hate the environment, and people with different skin color than yourself. Thanks.

  31. Aaron Brown says:

    “Boy, am I glad I don’t have to sit next to you people at the ward dinner party. There wouldn’t be much stimulating conversation.”

    Agreed, Mitch. If I were sitting next to you, I wouldn’t say a word. But when you got up to get a second helping of bad Mormon lasagna and a bowl of jello, that cackling you’d hear behind you would be me and the others at your table, mercilessly making fun of you and your Neanderthal cinematic tastes.

  32. Karen H. said:

    “This is, after all, the guy who declared himself “king of the world” during one of the most-watched live television broadcasts of all time. At first I didn’t want to see the movie at all, because I was disgusted by Cameron…”

    Didn’t Joseph Smith also declare/annoint himself “king of the world” and then soon after ran for the President of the United States? It’s reported he annointed himself on more than one occasion, for what ever reason. Let’s hope others don’t just Joseph Smith for his declaration as much as you are judging Cameron for his. There ‘could’ have been more than one reason Cameron said what he did, just as there ‘could’ be several reasons why Joseph said/did what he did.

    LINK 1


  33. *don’t JUDGE Joseph Smith

  34. Straight Talker says:

    Isn’t it rather arrogant to criticize Cameron given his success? Just saying.

  35. Sometimes a movie is just a movie. Let it be.

  36. Jake Sully says:

    Wowee! Discuss a boring topic like eternal salvation and you all are as cozy as kittens together; mention pop culture and everybody starts ripping each other’s throat out. What a spectacle. I didn’t realize it was such a problem for people to have differing opinions on movies. I’ve got things all wrong in this church.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with Alex (comment 12) when he says derivative is the name of the game in Hollywood. Karen could have said virtually the same thing about 90% of the movies out there, but chose this one because of its prominence. However, I disagree that repetitive plots are bad in this case, because the need for more reminders that we are connected spiritually with our planet has never been greater.

    Say what you will about my political biases and cinematic tastes, I think this particular story was perfect for the introduction of a revolutionary new way of viewing films. If the cliche storyline gets people to think about our duty to the planet for even a second then it was worth it. I say Bravo to James Cameron. Call yourself king of whatever you want, buddy.

  37. Again, monetary success =/= worth.

    Holy mackerel, the Crazies are out today! Where’s Steve? My bannination stick is broken!

  38. It would be a great conversation at the ward potluck if I got to sit by Latter-day Guy, Straight Talker, and Jake Sully. As long as Aaron, Tracey, and Danithew are way over on the other side. Again, no offense. I just like sitting by interesting people.

  39. Maybe some of you don’t like Cameron or his movie because of your Republican background and/or your support of the decisions George W. Bush made years ago.

    From an England article:

    ‘Avatar is the story of a US military expedition to exploit mineral wealth on a far flung planet in the middle of the 22nd Century. The humans resort to “shock and awe” tactics against the native Na’vi tribes, in order to secure the planet for business interests back on earth. As Cameron himself put it, just before the London premiere of Avatar, he draws a direct analogy between the war in his film, and the war on terror in real life, declaring:

    “We know what it feels like to launch the missiles. We don’t know what it feels like for them to land on our home soil, not in America. I think there’s a moral responsibility to understand that.

    We went down a path that cost several hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. I don’t think the American people even know why it was done. So it’s all about opening your eyes.”‘


  40. Mitch- Hey you know what’d be really great? How about if all the interesting people started their own blog and quit boring themselves by telling everyone else here how misguided and uninteresting they are.

  41. As the credits rolled and I took off the 3-D glasses, I was kind of sad. What a wasted opportunity.

    That is the best criticism that anyone can have of Avatar. What a wasted opportunity.

  42. SJT,
    you have never mistaken the political leanings of a majority of a blog’s authors and readers so badly…

  43. SJT,

    Maybe some of you don’t like Cameron or his movie because of your Republican background and/or your support of the decisions George W. Bush made years ago.

    I hate George W Bush and what Republicans stand for and I was still highly disappointed with Avatar. The plot sucked.

  44. I am not mistaken. I said “some of you”…not “MOST of you”. I watched this movie in California and then 2 weeks later in Utah. The audiences reactions in and after the movie were comepletely opposite. You can guess where I heard all the snickering when they said “shock and awe”. I stand by my comment. Maybe I just know where to hit a nerve and like doing it.

  45. Bye, SJT.

  46. Starfoxy, isn’t the original post doing just that? Avatar is a movie for pete’s sake! I don’t think one has to be a Democrat to like Avatar since it’s very much like watching a Western cowboy vs. Indian movie. Are you saying that you can’t watch anything that has a small trace of politics to it. My word, man! Don’t you people ever just watch a movie to escape!

    I will be fine standing next to you in the food line, but not at the table. No offense.

    SJT, would you like to sit at my table?

  47. Bye, Mitch.

  48. Um, yeah. It’s a movie. It ain’t that great (it may even be Phantom Menace bad). Can’t we all just get along?

  49. It was an o.k. movie. Glad we were able to rent a “burned” copy (no copyright laws here yet) and not pay $9.00. Is it really that much to see a movie by the way?
    I liked the analogy to the war and hope that people actually relate to that.
    It was a heck of good time though!

  50. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 49
    Watching a bootleg copy of Avatar on TV is like watching The Wizard Of Oz in black and white. It kind of defeats the purpose. I haven’t paid $9 for a movie in years. It’s $14 at the good theaters around here.

    And just to be clear, if anybody’s sitting next to Jake Sully at the dinner party…it’s me.

  51. Ah, Scott! This post was so close to delivering the third part in the acronym for classy exits from a bloggernacle conversation. L.D.S. = Law suit. Dusting of the feet . . .
    We could have prompted an S today.

  52. Did y’all seriously think the Empire Strikes Back was a good movie? That’s kind of disheartening to me. Was that the one with those highly improbable long legged tank things that were easily defeated by exploiting the obvious weakness of long-legged top-heaviness that no sane engineer would have designed into them? Or was that the one in which several ships with no working hyperdrive wandered to various star systems through normal space and it didn’t take them decades to get there? Ah, well, one man’s brie is another man’s rotten milk, I guess. =)

    Haven’t seen Avatar yet but I’m sure I’ll love the special effects. It does kind of amaze me how bad most Hollywood movies are, though. I can certainly understand Karen H’s point. Then something like “My Dinner with Andre” comes along and it’s so interesting and fertile with ideas, and leaves you thinking about it for weeks afterward. I wonder why more movies aren’t made that are quirky and weird and fun like that. Why when they have such a powerful storytelling medium, and so much money to spend, do they make the same 5 films over and over? I guess it’s sort of the same reason so many local bands play endless variations on the twelve-bar blues or whatever. It’s easy, everyone knows how to play it, and people seem to respond to it, so it’s safe.

    When I’m king of the world, I won’t let them do that anymore, okay? =)

  53. I haven’t paid $9 for a movie in years. It’s $14 at the good theaters around here.

    If only, Mike. Down here in South OC, it’s $20 for the IMAX tickets…

  54. Did y’all seriously think the Empire Strikes Back was a good movie? That’s kind of disheartening to me.

    Tatiana, statements like that are not well received by certain folks around these parts…I wish you well, should Steve ever see what you just wrote.

  55. Re #47,

    What took you guys so long Scott? That weasel Mitch even openly admitted he was a troll early on. (No offense weasel-troll Mitch…)

  56. Wow, you go watch t.v. for awhile, and look what happens on your innocent pop culture thread.

    Just for the record, I would enjoy sitting next to all of you at a ward dinner party, and would find it endlessly entertaining.

  57. Stating ridiculous crap and insulting people, then following it up with a “no offense…” is not a Get Out of Jail Free card among the civilized.

  58. MikeInWeHo says:

    All right everyone, I’m off to see Shutter Island ($14.50 for the ticket, if anyone’s interested). This is the most entertaining thread on BCC in a while, in a car-accident-watching sort of way.

  59. BTW — I think Mike nailed it in #10.

    Derivative sells.

    (If you don’t believe me see every blues song in the world. They are all built on the same basic, derivative structure yet blues remains popular.)

  60. This is the most entertaining thread on BCC in a while

    Back-handed-compliment high five!

  61. It shouldn’t have to be said that in cinema, as in literature, a hefty bottom line is not the same thing as producing a work that serves any purpose greater than idle entertainment.

    If the latter is all that Mr. Cameron cares about, there is certainly a large market that will come, attend, and go home warmed and fed. With junk food, anyway.

  62. Latter-day Guy says:

    “And just to be clear, if anybody’s sitting next to Jake Sully at the dinner party…it’s me.”

    Mike, I think I’m going to laugh for a week about that one. Give this man a Niblet!

  63. Sterling Fluharty says:

    Avatar was liked by tons of people: 92% of Flixster users and 82% of professional movie critics at Rotten Tomatoes. With so many positive reviews and people paying billion of dollars to see this movie, I am not sure why so many of you have negative comments. I personally hope Up in the Air gets picture of the year and Sandra Bullock gets leading actress (I still need to see Invictus and Crazy Heart to decide on leading actor), so I am not rooting for Avatar. But will some of you please give me a convincing explanation for how so many reviewers and moviegoers reached the wrong conclusion in thinking Avatar was a good film?

  64. Sterling,
    I haven’t seen the film, so I can’t say whether it’s good, bad, or ugly. However, i have closely followed reviews of it, and can say that your reference to Rotten Tomatoes ratings is neutered pretty quickly once you actually look at the reviews instead of the numbers.

    Review after review after review says the same thing: boring plot, wooden script, and mediocre acting…but WOW THAT WAS NEAT technology–which is almost exactly what Karen wrote in the post here.

    In this particular instance, the effects were enough to convince most critics that Avatar was at least a mediocre film, which is all that is required for a fresh rating.

    I don’t have a dog in this race, since I haven’t seen it–but I know that 82% on one film is not necessarily the same as 82% on a completely different film.

  65. Sterling Fluharty says:

    Scott B.,

    Thanks, that makes sense for reviews, I didn’t read very many in depth. Would you say it mostly just the breathtaking CG that drew hundreds of millions to the movie theaters?

  66. Just saw ‘Princess and the Frog’ last week @ the $1.50 theatre and enjoyed myself thoroughly ! Funny stuff ! :)
    Seriously, though, don’t think I can watch a film that has tails on blue butts. Still teasing my husband several years later re: the blue guy w/ antennae on 1 of the Star Trek spin-offs. Laughed too much @ that so don’t think I will get far w/ tails. Also, hate James Cameron etc.

  67. This is better than Police Beat Roundtable. How about you make it a regular feature and post a movie review every week?

  68. Thanks, that makes sense for reviews, I didn’t read very many in depth. Would you say it mostly just the breathtaking CG that drew hundreds of millions to the movie theaters?

    I’d say it was 99% “the breathtaking CG” that has drawn the crowds; the advertisements themselves were built entirely around creating spectacle–all that talk about James Cameron waiting 15 years, yada yada yada.

    Also, “hundreds of millions” is a gross overstatement, unless you live in a world where tickets are only a few bucks and repeat viewers are counted as “new” each time…

  69. Sterling Fluharty says:

    #68: Avatar has grossed over $2.5 billion internationally. The New York Times said last month that the average ticket price is around $7.50. So that means over 300 million people watched the film.

  70. I’ll keep arguing because i am arrogant like that.

    First, i don’t believe the $7.50 average ticket price for one second. Second, did you take into account the dude I know who has seen it 4 times? Net out repeat viewers, and tell me if you don’t get to a number that makes “hundreds of millions” seem a little bit hyperbolic, even if technically accurate?

  71. Sterling Fluharty says:

    #70: I just read that 80% of tickets for Avatar, in the U.S. at least, were 3D. And $7.50 average is definitely based on mostly 2D ticket sales. http://www.natoonline.org/statisticstickets.htm So it was probably more like 200 million ticket sales for Avatar. And you bring up a good point about repeat viewers, although if watching the film is as painful as this post & comments suggest, I really feel bad for all of those movie masochists ;-)

  72. Err, plug in “Dances With Smurfs” into Google.

  73. Latter-day Guy says:

    Just FYI, Sterling, while I do use RottenTomatoes, I have found that Metacritic generally gives me a better idea of how well a film works. (This is due to the fact that the critics are able to give scores out of 100, as opposed to either Rotten/Fresh; the average scores there are actually a pretty good reflection of reality.)

  74. Everything Karen said is true, but Avatar is a great movie anyway. And that’s why James Cameron is King of the World.

  75. Sterling Fluharty says:

    #73: Thanks! I will have to throw that into the mix along with IMDB for future reference.

  76. Sterling–I have no idea if it’s painful or not, but based on what I know about my own movie preferences, I’m not expecting to be thrilled. I can handle subpar effects if the writing is good, but it’s difficult for me to not get frustrated with the reversed scenario. We shall see…

    Latter-day Guy,
    RottenTomatoes also uses a similar standardization for critics’ reviews, although it’s not as good as MetaCritic’s, imo. If you look at any given film on RT, this is evident. For example, the “average” rating on Avatar was 7.4/10, which is clearly lower than 82%. Interestingly, if you look at the “Top Critics” score, the Fresh/Rotten meter is 92%, but the average rating is only 7.6/10. So, while the fraction of the big name critics reviewing it favorably was higher than that of the mainstream critics, they didn’t actually rate it any “higher.”

  77. Most attempts at collaboration tend to force innovative ideas through the proverbial meat grinder. But occasionally there are true successes in collaboration. I think Disney (classic) is one of those success stories. He allowed his artists to have maximum input while never taking his finger off the story. And I think this is where the rub is in the cinematic arts. All too often there’s one tension or another pulling at the core content — whether it be a producer’s agenda to make big bucks or a director’s agenda to forward his personal vision or what-have-you.

    Somehow Hollywood has got to find a way to protect story without cutting off valuable and even necessary collaboration. And though I’m not really sure how this is to be done ultimately, there is one key point of contention that I stand on: The movie industry has become entrenched in technology and, in the process, has removed itself from it’s literary foundation. It needs to return to literature as it’s guiding star.

  78. MikeInWeHo says:

    Why does Hollywood “need” anything? In the horrible economy of 2009, the industry still passed the $10 billion profit threshold for the first time. Given where I live, I know lots of people who make their living in various aspects of that business (fwiw: Not me. I pick up their psychological rubbish). They’re a lot smarter than the shows on TV might suggest. I would never defend their morality or motives, but sheer cleverness….you bet.

    It’s simply incorrect to assert that people like Cameron are “entrenched” or clueless in any way. On the contrary. Here’s an industry utterly under siege by new copyright-busting and market-fragmenting technologies, yet seems to be adapting. Contrast Hollywood’s ongoing success with, say, the midwest industrial economy. How it all pans out is anybody’s guess, but I would not bet against the people who run the movie and TV studios.

  79. I just saw Tatiana’s comment about Empire Strikes Back. SHAME ON YOU PEASANTS.

  80. Speaking of derivative plots, I like Avatar because (in addition to being derivative of the whole Dances with Wolves genre) it is derivative of the whole “Independence Day” genre of meany aliens coming to earth to suck us dry/kill us all except that it subverts that genre by showing us a more realistic turn of events given our on-planet history and continued course of behavior/action: that we humans from planet Earth would surely be the aliens invaded another planet to usurp its resources and attempt to annihilate its sentient population.

    We humans are more like the Predator in the eponymous film than the humans in Independence Day.

    By the way, in Predator, how could the alien appreciate the subtleties and contours of the human skulls it was collecting if it was virtually blind absent its infrared vision, which was the trick Arnie learned to beat it at its own game. That’s why the part when the Predator pauses to admire Arnie’s impressive skull bothers me so much.

    Clearly, the Predator was a Marine in an Avatar unit.

  81. Yes, Steve, # 52 was very disturbing indeed. I don’t even know where to start. NO ONE CRITICIZES MY IMPERIAL WALKERS.

  82. AT-AT’s are only the coolest armored vehicles EVER.

  83. This also goes for Richard Dutcher who acted the same way as James Cameron with Mormon cinema. The difference is that Dutcher started making movies Mormons didn’t want to see and so he left the Church.

  84. Jettboy, let’s stay on target here. Also, I don’t think it’s particularly charitable or helpful to make generalizations or assumptions about why other people have left the church.

  85. Anon for now says:

    “The difference is that Dutcher started making movies Mormons didn’t want to see and so he left the Church.”

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc, much?

  86. Karen, I fear that you give Avatar a little short shrift. It was an amazing piece of filmmaking, and the most immersive movie experience since Star Wars. Derivative plot, wooden characters, offensive treatment of native peoples….. yes to all of those. But we should not underestimate what Cameron has done with Avatar – it is a revolutionary piece of craft.

    Like you I kept saying afterwards, “just imagine if someone talented had written the script.” But that doesn’t undermine how indelible some of the film’s images are in my mind… the first leap off the waterfall, the horse burning in the jungle… very powerful stuff, even if cliche. My point, I suppose, is that even if Cameron isn’t the King of the World, he is still worthy of a lot of praise.

  87. Steve, you make a good point. I don’t think in my original post that I adequately dwelt on the power of the visuals in the movie–which I agree were jaw dropping. I just kept thinking, what if….what if….

  88. Karen, just so. And it’s OK to keep asking, “what if…”, but I don’t think we should let that thinking get in the way of appreciating the movie before us, necessarily.

  89. Steve’s a sucker for anything with spaceships and aliens so take his comments as such. Though I do agree with him that District 9 was the best film of 2009.

    And while I’m here, let me just say that Hurt Locker was overrated. There, I said it. I feel better.

  90. Wow, Tim…..
    1. Yes I am a sucker.
    2. LOVE D9
    3. I absolutely loved Hurt Locker.

  91. District 9 is the best film of 2009? Better than Hurt Locker? Are you guys serious? Nice that a film out of South Africa got some traction, but did they really have to clobber us over the head with the apartheid metaphor quite so heavily?

  92. Besides, City of Men already covered that ground, no?

  93. They actually abandoned the metaphor about half-way thru (thankfully) once the film shifted away from it’s documentary style.

    Avatar was far more heavy-handed in the metaphor department, IMO.

    Hurt Locker was good, but, I don’t know, I guess I was expecting more after all the praise was hearing.

  94. Mike, I voted D9 as best 2009 film before I saw Hurt Locker. I would vote Hurt Locker best now.

  95. Can we talk about Up in the Air? It was deeply stupid.

    Again, James Bowman for the win: “Film critics are so easy to please. You just have to give them a high concept, a bit of politically correct cynicism about the evils of ‘capitalism’ or the ‘system’ or the armed forces or the government security apparatus, add a couple of hip, attractive and sexually adventurous people with a vulnerability or two between them, some nostalgia about families or small-town America, finish it all with an unhappy but ambiguous ending and, voilà, the next thing you know you find your movie on their list of the year’s ten best.”

  96. Steve Evans — I took Ebert’s word for it and rented District 9. It took me two sittings to get through it. Please tell me something about it that might redeem it in my mind, because when I finally finished it, I felt like I would have better used my time by just staring at the wall for two hours.

    The thing I can agree with you on is that Hurt Locker was much better.

  97. Hunter, there’s no accounting for taste.

  98. The Fantastic Mr. Fox, on the other hand, was, well, fantastic.

  99. Mike,

    Re: Comment #78–

    I agree that the film industry is practically depression-proof. It doesn’t “need” anything to dig it out of an economic whole that it’s not in. By the same token McDonalds doesn’t “need” anyone to improve it’s menu to make it the number-one fast food franchise of all time. It’s already there. However, if you want to get something of better quality — be it food or story — then something should be done to find it or improve it.

    We see Avatar as “pushing the envelope” in film making. Well that’s what everyone thought of “Jurassic Park” with all of it’s wonderful CGI. How many folks are watching JP nowadays? Not too many I dare say. And why? Because for all of it’s innovative quality and cool premise it lacked in the story department. There isn’t much reason to return it now that the novelty of CGI has worn off.

    The same will happen with “Avatar” after the it’s innovative novelties have run their course.

  100. Eric Russell says:

    Hurt Locker was a crapfest. Even I don’t think the Army is as bad as they’re portrayed here, and I have a pretty low opinion of that organization, so that’s saying something.

    Best picture of the year was A Serious Man.

  101. Jurassic Park is quite popular in my house with under-10 set.

  102. MikeInWeHo says:

    The Hurt Locker made me jumpy for a few hours afterward. Ka-boom!

    A Single Man may be the best movie of the year. I doubt it’s selling out much in Provo.

  103. Avatar was an amazing viewing experience, but given some time and distance, its story has become a glaring weakness. I had planned to go back and see it again, but after a few weeks…..not so much.
    A lot like I felt after watching Cameron’s other huge spectacle, Titanic.
    Visually stunning, in a huge movie experience way, but left me wanting something better than what I got. Kind of like dining at Claim Jumper.

    And I’m with Steve about Empire Strikes Back. I find your lack of faith disturbing.

  104. My problem with both Avatar and District 9 is that neither movie engaged me emotionally. I “appreciated” both movies, but wasn’t moved by either. But I found both Hurt Locker and Up in the Air incredibly affecting, though for very different reasons. My only quibble with Up in the Air is that there’s NO WAY someone as suave and charming and deliciously cool as George Clooney would ever deign to work for some stultifying Midwestern company with a nerdified Jason Bateman as his boss. And yes, I’ve been trying for weeks to work the words “quibble” “deign” “stultifying” and “nerdified” into one complete sentence.

  105. I don’t know, Angela. People always say I am far too handsome, charismatic, and intelligent to be an economist, but here I am.

  106. Steve Evans says:


  107. “People” = Scott B. to himself in front of the mirror

  108. Wait, Scott thinks he’s “people” now?!?!?!?!

  109. Dropping By says:

    I have no intention of seeing an “Avatar” movie that doesn’t have air, earth, fire and water bending.

  110. Scott B. is people! HE’S PEEEEEOPLE!

  111. “I have no intention of seeing an “Avatar” movie that doesn’t have air, earth, fire and water bending.”

    Amen. Can’t wait for the real Avatar to come out!

  112. JMax, Hunter, & Brad,

    Well played.

  113. Alex T. Valencic says:

    Jack (99) Blasphemy! Jurassic Park is an AWESOME story and a wonderful film!

  114. I have no intention of seeing an “Avatar” movie that doesn’t have air, earth, fire and water bending.

    Oooh. I so hope M. Night doesn’t screw up the marvelous Avatar: The Last Airbender saga in his film version this summer. It was one of the best TV series in the last decade. Surely he won’t screw it up, right? Right??

  115. Keep holding your breath, Geoff J. There are a lot of us in line right behind you.

  116. Well, the trailer does look promising.

  117. 103
    Okay, I’ve dealt with the criticisms of Avatar, District 9, Up in the Air, etc. And I’m fine, I can deal with people having different movie tastes than me.

    But sir, how DARE you knock ClaimJumper.

    The dust on my feet feels heavy to bear much longer.

  118. Mommie Dearest says:

    Best Avatar/Smurf reference, ever:
    Q: Maybe you just didn’t dare to hook into the PandoraMatrix.
    A: If by “hook into the PandoraMatrix” you mean, “sniff paint thinner until you’re so stupid that you enjoy a $500 million dollar episode of the Smurfs” then I guess I didn’t dare.


  119. 152 @ # 117 (or 117 @ # 152)

    When a salad plate could have served as a lifeboat for the Titanic, that’s Cameronesque. At least I didn’t make a comparison with a Michael Bay movie, in which case the salad plate also comes with subwoofers and a flammable liquid accelerant for visual effect.

  120. Holden Caulfield says:

    OK, Karen H. You keep doing whatever it is you do and James Cameron will keep doing what he does. He can keep making the biggest movies ever and you can keep writing your criticisms on the internet. I’m thinking he comes out ahead.

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