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The richest girl in town.

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Dances With Smurfs in Space. [Sunday, Dec. 27th, 2009|10:33 pm]
The richest girl in town.
Finally saw it.

I have a bunch of thoughts, though I have to say... James Cameron is a horrible writer. The dialog was atrocious. And everything else you've heard? That it's gorgeous? True. That it's the story of white manifest destiny transposed onto a human/alien conflict in which a white guy/human not only becomes an Indian/alien, but ends up being a better Indian/alien than has ever been EVAR? Also true. Very, very true.

Two things....

Sigourney Weaver's character was the best Nice White Lady ever.

For those white folks sitting around in denial that this was just a "space fantasy" (written for white people, I assume) and totally NOT about race (and racism) as we know and have known it and that anyone analogizing the Na'vi and name-your-indigenous population is just seeing things.... Well, denial's not just a river in Egypt.

Well, if nothing else that's been written about this film drives the point home, I found the casting... interesting. Here are the actors cast in the four major Na'vi roles:

Zoe Saldana as Neytiri


Laz Alonso as Tsu Tey


Wes Studi (who appeared in both Dances With Wolves and The Last of the Mohicans) as Eytukan


CCH Pounder as Mo'at


But I'm sure that's all just coincidence.

---

Anyway, other people said stuff about the film that I thought was interesting:

Annalee Newitz: When Will White People Stop Makng Movies Like Avatar?
SEK: Intentions be damned, Avatar is racist (as is praying for and/or to "JaMarcus Manning")
Nick Mamatas, our very own nihilistic_kid: ... Wouldn't it be better if aliens just came down and killed us all?
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: threemartini
2009-12-28 07:36 am (UTC)
And here I was feeling guilty for not liking it.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-12-28 04:01 pm (UTC)
Really? I think you don't have to feel guilty for not liking it. Tens of millions of people won't feel guilty for liking it.
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[User Picture]From: threemartini
2009-12-28 08:04 pm (UTC)
Yeah, maybe not so much guilt but, lately, I've been feeling like I think everything is racist and wasn't sure if it was my narrow perception or if other people were thinking it's racist too. (All the reviews I saw about the movie were completely positive.)
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-12-28 08:09 pm (UTC)
Well, lots of stuff is racist, so it makes sense you feel that way. Coincidentally, most people don't notice that fact, so.
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[User Picture]From: wordweaverlynn
2009-12-28 11:24 am (UTC)
"What these people need is a honky."
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-12-28 04:00 pm (UTC)
Hahahaha. Yep.
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[User Picture]From: jetspeaks
2009-12-28 03:46 pm (UTC)
CGI was pretty. The plot... I wanted to curl up and die.

The whole experience was saved by the adorably cute gay couple to my left, and my BFF to my right. And the marshmallows in my lap.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-12-28 04:01 pm (UTC)
It was gorgeous. I kept wishing it were someone else's project. You know, someone with a sense of subtlety and history and screenwriting ability.
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[User Picture]From: tristan_crane
2009-12-30 07:18 pm (UTC)

argh.

I feel this way about almost every single Hollywood film I bother to see.

So many talented writers and artists out there, and so much of the same hashed-over craptastic dreck being produced.

Did you read this - http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2009/12/26/notes122609.DTL

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[User Picture]From: rmjwell
2009-12-28 03:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you for writing that makes me re-examine the art I see. Whatever your intent for committing your thoughts to electrons, I'm glad you do. May I have your permission to post a link to this entry in my LJ and FB?

PS. The image links seem to broken in Safari.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-12-28 04:02 pm (UTC)
Feel free. Not sure why the images aren't showing up in Safari, but I'm on a PC at the moment and can't check. (Looks fine in FF and IE.)
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[User Picture]From: rmjwell
2009-12-28 04:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the permission.
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[User Picture]From: poeticalpanther
2009-12-28 05:34 pm (UTC)
Here through rmjwell: well said, gentlebeing, well said.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-12-28 06:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
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[User Picture]From: toy_of_thought
2009-12-28 04:21 pm (UTC)

<--- nwl

every time i get the suggestion that i go up north to teach (i.e., inuit and first nations kids) i remember this sketch.

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(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: toy_of_thought
2009-12-28 05:54 pm (UTC)

Re: <--- nwl

thanks. where do you live? (p.s.: i posted the video before i saw your comment)
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[User Picture]From: toy_of_thought
2009-12-28 04:45 pm (UTC)

Re: <--- nwl

i should note: there are plenty of aboriginal teachers up north and they do not need to fly in nwl's; see this video on aboriginal education in northern ontario, thunder bay specifically at 19:00

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[User Picture]From: toy_of_thought
2009-12-28 04:47 pm (UTC)

Re: <--- nwl

at 18:00 rather up to 20:00 or so
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[User Picture]From: flipping_hades
2009-12-28 04:40 pm (UTC)
Geez. I want to see the visual spectacle, but I don't think I can stand the movie (or giving that arrogant bastard James Cameron my money for it) just for some eye candy.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-12-28 06:18 pm (UTC)
It is pretty. And 3D!

Too bad you can't watch it with the sound off.
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[User Picture]From: parlance
2009-12-28 06:36 pm (UTC)
Too bad you can't watch it with the sound off.

You just gave me the reason to wait for DVD.
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[User Picture]From: jcruelty
2009-12-28 06:19 pm (UTC)
i think i might be the only person in the world with 0 desire to see this movie... not cos of any subtext, i just don't wanna
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-12-28 07:32 pm (UTC)
I was excited to see it when the project was announced. But the story itself is just... painful.
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[User Picture]From: black_pearl_10
2009-12-29 03:51 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: rxw
2009-12-28 07:31 pm (UTC)
> For those white folks sitting around in denial that this was just a "space fantasy" (written for white people, I assume) and totally NOT about race (and racism) as we know and have known it and that anyone analogizing the Na'vi and name-your-indigenous population is just seeing things....

http://www.derailingfordummies.com/

also, cleolinda has an interesting take on it: Honestly, I feel like the No One Disabled Can Ever Be Happy angle that's more offensive.

that being said, I'm going to see it for the Spectacle. even before the reviews started coming in, I knew that a) James Cameron has no subtlety and b) he can still craft a story that moves. it's really interesting to see that everyone who has any critical thinking skills and has studied narratives says more or less the same thing.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-12-28 07:51 pm (UTC)
That's a really good review, and I like that she pointed out that other angle, which I was aware of but didn't dwell on much. I did hate the way the military men were portrayed in this film--that they were automatically set up to be insensitive, unintelligent, and needlessly cruel. I mean, I guess I'm just thinking that in light of the number of soldiers being injured and disabled in our current conflicts, American (and really--this film doesn't make room for The Company's mercenaries to be anything but American) military folks would be a bit above making "meals on wheels" jokes about a Marine in a wheelchair.

It was just another element of the movie in which James Cameron decided to forgo any kind of subtlety to bash! us! over! the head! with his simple-minded sermonizing, because otherwise we'd all be too stupid to get it.
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[User Picture]From: rxw
2009-12-28 08:01 pm (UTC)
I theorize that Cameron has internalized the idea that everything has to be broad and hamfisted so it appeals to everyone. avatar has to make money domestically and overseas.

or maybe he really is as brutally simpleminded as his movies suggest. it's a mystery!
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[User Picture]From: penguingod
2009-12-29 05:26 pm (UTC)
Fucked up truth of it is, outside of your LJ and circles of people like it, people are too stupid, in a manner of speaking.

I haven't seen it. I was stoked that humans were the bad guys, for a change. I like the idea of beating people over the head with stuff that will challenge their ethics, make them think a bit. I'm gonna see it, 'cause it looks like it's gonna be a good time, in spite of the fact that it's (as I figured) problematic (like pretty much everything else).
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[User Picture]From: liquid_siftings
2009-12-28 08:52 pm (UTC)
See! If we white folk were to conquer/save you magically innocent, simple, and pure minorities now, we'd be much cooler about it this time!
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-12-28 10:23 pm (UTC)
And that's perhaps what's most disappointing. This movie takes place in the year 2154.
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[User Picture]From: sparklydevil
2009-12-28 10:18 pm (UTC)
I have no intention of seeing this (the blue people scare me) but I was curious if you'd seen District 9, and if so, what you thought of it?

I saw it for the first time last night and was appalled by a couple of different things...
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-12-28 10:22 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen it yet, but I've heard some ... interesting reviews of it. Now that it's on DVD, I do want to check it out.

The first non-fawning review I saw was this one: http://dcmoviegirl.blogspot.com/2009/08/early-review-district-9.html

Edited at 2009-12-28 10:23 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: sparklydevil
2009-12-28 10:29 pm (UTC)
I'd love to hear your take after you've seen it. Overall I felt like it was a great concept, with a lot of lost opportunities, and some unforgivably racist portrayals. But definitely worth checking out...

Sorry to hijack your space smurf thread!
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-12-29 06:07 pm (UTC)
No worries! It's right in line--and has been brought up in several conversations about DWSiS.
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[User Picture]From: bucky_sinister
2009-12-29 05:20 pm (UTC)

A Man Called Horse

See it? I'm trying to think of an earlier movie of the same ilk.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-12-29 06:06 pm (UTC)

Re: A Man Called Horse

Never seen it. Can't think of much in the way of older films, but that's probably a failure on my part.

There's Apocalypse, Now, based on Heart of Darkness, of course. The Last of the Mohicans. Dances With Wolves. And pretty much any pulp romance written by Cassie Edwards.

Still in the Mighty Whitey category, but with less assimilation, Amistad and Schindler's List, since Spielberg is too much of a coward to ever have a hero of the oppressed be the oppressed in his historical epics.
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[User Picture]From: bucky_sinister
2009-12-29 06:22 pm (UTC)

Re: A Man Called Horse

AMCH is from 1970. I'm sure there's an earlier example. "Hombre" has Newman as an Apache-raised man, close but not the same, there's not the acceptance arc. There's also a weird vein of "half breed" characters in the 60s and 70s, ie Billy Jack.

In other matters, there's quite a few films about white northerners who sort things out in quaint lil southern towns. white southerners, if smart, are evil, racist, and tyrannical. The "good" ones are too stupid and helpless to fix anything. There's often a Magic Negro or a Stepin Fetchit type to round out the cast.

But missing from this trope is the "rites of passage" that are in films like Avatar. So they're not the same but similar in some respects.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2009-12-29 06:27 pm (UTC)

Re: A Man Called Horse

That was part of my issue with the primary villain in Avatar--he's got the requisite 1) scar and 2) southern accent.
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[User Picture]From: bucky_sinister
2009-12-29 06:31 pm (UTC)

I took it as an Ahab-thing.

Yes. The scar.
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