Wednesday, October 21, 2009

James Cameron's Best Defense Yet

No Movie a Day for today...tomorrow will be tough, too. In the middle of searching for an apartment, getting a haircut, etc. Plus introducing my brother to the glories of Speed Racer, one of my ten favorite films of all time at the moment. Anyone has a problem with that...step right up.

Anyway, I wrote this yesterday, because I'm just that kinda guy.

"If you set your goals ridiculously high and it's a failure, you will fail above everyone else's success."
- James Cameron ("Man of Extremes," The New Yorker)

That's the man's career in a single sentence. Never mind that the statement only kind of makes sense, depending on your worldview. But that's not the point. I believe that James Cameron believes it, and the result has been some of the most imaginative, exhilerating, and truly heartfelt summer blockbusters of all time. I agree with Devin Faraci's assessment that the article kind of confirms Cameron to be "a pompous asshole," but I sort of feel like he's earned the right. On the other hand, you have guys like Michael Bay or Brett Ratner or McG, who have similar reputations, but without an ounce of the creativity (Bay and McG do have the formal talent, though).

It's not just that Avatar, the film Cameron will be unleashing this December, is an original, big-scale science fiction movie that has me excited. That'd be pretty exciting itself, these days. It's that there's a whole new world created here, an entire ecosystem built from the ground up, in which Cameron's making his film. There are few filmmakers with the pull in the industry to pull that off; even fewer with the talent. I disagree with Faraci's assessment that attention to details could somehow hamper a film; unless it's a film that spends a lot of time describing those details, they can only add to it. But that's part of the weird culture that's sprung up around Cameron - one determined to find ways to make him fail, as the article notes.

Most of it, in the case of this film, has cropped up around the photorealism Cameron was claiming he'd accomplished in a computer-generated world. And now he's getting shit for not delivering that, and for some reason people are really holding this against the film. My attitude is, "okay, so what?" He set his goals high, perhaps didn't achieve them (the final film will be the sole determining factor, as trailers rarely present fully-finished footage), but when it comes down to his accomplishments with computer technology, it looks good enough for the film he's trying to make (fantastical space adventure).

The reason people latch onto it, though, is that it's tangible. It's something definite, that goes beyond any sort of subjective, and it's this sort of thinking that is sinks cinema. It's the reason studios both big and small force stories into three-act structures featuring relatable-but-likable characters, even if that means sacrificing well-rounded character, motivation, momentum, excitement, suspense, or any other element that would make a story worth a damn. All those elements can't be calculated; they have to be created. And uncreative, unoriginal people are constantly looking for ways to seem creative and intelligent.

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