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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I went to see Avatar on Saturday with Myke Cole, Peter V. Brett and Laura Anne Gilman. (At the AMC Loews Lincoln Square Aud #9 (Majestic).

I liked it least.

To get one thing out of the way, right away: the 3D is amazing. We saw in RealD digital 3D. This is the third movie I've seen recently in 3D, after Bolt a year ago and then Up, and this was the first one where the movie just seemed made for 3D, where it was an integral thing making the movie something more than it was, and not just doing it for the visceral thrill of having stuff come at you. It's still not exactly comfortable to wear the RealD glasses over my real glasses, but it wasn't a huge bothersome thing, either. We were in one of the mid-sized screens at the theatre and not one of the much larger and bigger, but the glasses still provided some sense of panorama instead of making it too much like watching TV, which was something I hated very much about Imax 3D circa mid 1990s.


For all the exotic alien surroundings and languages and marvelous images and etc. etc., we managed to have one character telling another "at first I was only following orders, but then it really did become love that I was feeling for you, true real genuine love, and you have to understand that." That doesn't match the technology in the trailblazing department.

I can understand why Roger Ebert is quoted in the ads as saying, and in fact does say, that this gave him that Star Wars feeling all over again. Because the movie is kind of a mirror image of Star Wars. There are people attacking the Death Star, only this time the good guys are occupying the Death Star, and the bad guys are trying to get in their one good shot, and we're rooting for them to fail. Because this is a good Death Star. Kind of like how some other movie had a good witch and a bad witch, this is the good sacred hard-to-attack place that we cannot see destroyed.

All these gazillion dollars spent on the movie and they couldn't re-dub Sam Worthington's lines so he wouldn't lapse into an Australian accent. All the time. I mean, all the time. I don't know if I've seen another review to comment on this. I guess it must be different reviewers than were complaining in Season One of True Blood that the actors couldn't keep their accents, because those actors didn't have problems with their accents, while Sam Worthington is doing a Full Dundee constantly.

We all felt the movie seemed very, very long. This is one of those things where I don't quite understand why everyone I went to see the movie with professed to mostly love it, even as they all agreed it seemed long. Good movies don't seem long. I may have been a little more length sensitive than everyone else, because I was doing the Full ToeTapping every time Sam Worthington was doing his Full Dundee, and I was looking at my watch only constantly. But I'm sorry, great movies don't seem long while you're watching them, really and truly they don't.

Most of the characters ended up as archteypes if they didn't start out that way. No, cliches is probably a better word than archetypes. Bad military dudes, bad corporate dudes, valiant scientists.

The music annoyed me. I like staying for the end credits, listening to a John Williams put all his themes into 3:49 of good music over the end credits. Here, it was bad music, over credits that were put together so tightly that you couldn't really read them, and part of me was ready to bail before the credits were over because it totally wasn't doing anything for me.

We discussed afterward some of the various plot holes, though talking in the after-dinner event with a couple of Peter's friends, maybe many of those were covered in the dialogue. So perhaps it's not full of plot holes. But we could still see exactly what was going to happen when the film cuts back and forth from the struggling good guy to the struggling heroine who seemed down for the count, but guess what maybe she isn't and she'll get back into the game just in time to save the good guy's bacon. I'd say this is a spoiler, except anyone who's ever gone to a movie will see what's coming from several minutes away.

Part of me wants to go on trying to go into more detail on why I don't think this is a very good movie, but there's this other part of me that's already working overtime trying to forget I spent three hours of my life squirming and toe-tapping and waiting desperately for Avatar to end.

I'll close with a quote from Bull Durham:

Come on rook, shows us that million dollar arm, ’cause I got a pretty good idea about that 5 cent head of yours

Because Avatar's exactly that. It's got a five cent screenplay to go along with its million dollar arm, and I'm not going to give it a pass.

I will give higher marks to our dinner afterward. We stumbled/meandered our way from place to place near Lincoln Center with too long a line and then decided to head down 9th Avenue. We settled on a restaurant called Whym. The food was good, the desserts outstanding. Many restaurants have nice-sounding desserts that end up looking like they came from Sweet Street but I don't think I've had anything quite like their S'mores-wich, and the Apple Pie Spring Rolls were also quite good. In both instances I've seen items like on many many menus, but rarely with the execution. I'm tempted to go back right now and see how the Banana Cream Pie holds up. Definitely a place I would consider going back to. And reasonably close to the Random House building... Hmmm, maybe it's time to start trying for some more lunches with my friends at Random House.


Jean said...

Quite agree that its worth the money though it was quite a dumb film in terms of its narrative.

Tim Akers said...

I've been avoiding it for the reasons you list. Even the screenwriting that made it to the trailer made me cringe. I feel like I should see it, but it's like exercising. I know I should, but I don't.

Will be curious of your take on Sherlock Holmes, should you see it.

Myke said...

Fair warning about those Apple Pie Spring Rolls - those suckers are *hot*. I still have a scorched tongue from biting down too quickly. Joshua also isn't giving enough credit to the outstanding cocktails.

Unknown said...

I saw Avatar in 2D and felt it was a visually stunning movie even in that format. Plot holes and inconsistencies aside, I believe they did a good job of world building. You're right that the characters were cookie cutter (but Hollywood gets away with that, whereas few book writers can).

I agree the movie was too long (about 30 minutes), especially since I drank a large soda. Still, I sat through the entire feature with no restroom break. I guess that more than anything says how much I enjoyed the movie. However, I have no interest in seeing a sequel.

The Brillig Blogger said...

Sherlock Holmes is on my list. I liked the idea of it from the coming attraction, which struck me as Sherlock meets Indiana Jones. Laura Anne Gilman said it's more steampunk. And Myke can do a Facebook message to everyone about his cocktails if he wants.

Bill Swears said...

James Cameron managed to pull off "Titanic" apparently without a script, and make a mint. Avatar may not be a great movie, but it's going to be influential. Especially since it's already brought in 623.5M worldwide, according to Box office mojo. I'd heard that it cost something like 300M to make, though that estimate is apocryphal. Nonetheless, that sort of ten day take makes it a juggernaut, and one that will impact movie maker decisions for quite some time.

The Brillig Blogger said...

I would love to see a movie that would match the million dollar arm with a head worth a little more than the five cents in this movie. And I'm sure it will happen.

Bill Swears said...

I finally attended Avatar, with my 10 YOA daughter, and both of us loved it. We attended a 3:05 showing on Sunday, which is normally dead time at the theater in Anchorage. The next two XD showings were sold out, and they were running it in traditional 3D in at least two theaters with another running it in 2D. overall, they're running at least twice as many showings of Avatar than they're bothering to advertise, and filling all the showings.

Now, I'm that guy who gets up and leaves the theater once or twice in any given movie because all of them seem to use forehead braille to get their points across. Leaving for a few minutes is more polite than making the comments that want to come out, and I tend to see idiot plot devices coming from a distance.

I left Avatar once, when I sorely needed to, and when I returned, my daughter started explaining what I'd missed before I'd gotten fairly seated. Walking out of the movie, she said to me, "I feel like I could fight anybody in the world right now."

There are no plot surprises in this movie, but then, at 17 YOA, the only thing in Star Wars that really surprised me was Princess Leia blowing a hole in the prison block wall, and the heroes ending up in a trash compacter. (Huge plot hole, forgiven because it was fun).

My WSOD hung through, intact, and the things Jake Sully survived in order to fit in with the Na'vi all looked like they could kill him in a heartbeat. As a pilot who's flown in some fairly hair raising mountainous conditions, I found it really hard to sit still during the dragon flying scenes.

Instead of feeling cheated by the somewhat inexorable story arc, I felt like the latter half was filled with scenes that were implacably necessary, given the setup and today's general audience. I actually found myself beginning to like the Colonel, and hope that he'd be really hard to kill. But the Colonel absolutely had to die, or my daughter would have been deeply disappointed.