January 19, 2010

"In Defense of James Cameron"

At Taki's Magazine, I write:

You might think that James Cameron, the man who wrote and directed the two biggest global box office blockbusters in history, Titanic and technologically groundbreaking Avatar, hardly needs defending. Yet, amidst all the denunciations of Avatar by neoconservative such as John Podhoretz and David Brooks, who are annoyed that the evil Earthling mercenaries use terms like “shock and awe,” and the more persuasive criticism from science fiction aficionados that the auteur dumbs down his movies for the mass market, it’s worth pointing out that the Cameron glass is half full, too.

Like many guys of a certain age, I’ve nurtured a love-hate attitude toward Cameron that goes back a quarter of a century to a point about five minutes into Terminator. That’s when it started to dawn upon me that the man behind this cheesy, low-budget time travel flick starring that muscle man who talks funny was the most ambitious and accomplished hard science-fiction filmmaker ever.

Yet, if Cameron had so much talent that he could make the movie of my dreams, then it is easy for me to assume that he should make it. And when he doesn’t, I tend to take it personally.

Nevertheless, Cameron deserves some vindication. For example, rather than being the America-hating leftist of neocon fulminations, Cameron is a worthy successor to the greatest American science fiction writer, Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988).

Read the rest there and comment upon it here.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

128 comments:

Peter A said...

Steve,

All that commentary and you never mention that Cameron is Canadian? By his own admission he also used to get picked on and bullied in school by the jock kids. Given those two facts it doesn't surprise me that he probably has a chip on his shoulder, favors the underdog and probably does harbor some anti-American feelings down inside. Not anti-American people, but anti-American power. The nasty corporations represented by sleazy white males in most of his movies seem to corroborate that.

Thrasymachus said...

Can't be pre-soldier and anti-war.

Tatosian said...

The terminator was no more than an action flick. Aliens was certainly better, but in the sci-fi realm, neither of those come close to Scott's Bladerunner.

keypusher said...

What I don't like about Cameron is the political correctness, of the most mundane kind. In Titanic, the rich are all humorless twits and the steerage class really knows how to enjoy life. Since the sinking of the Titanic is so fully documented, we can see how he takes every opportunity where the record is in doubt to trash those in authority (the steerage passengers are locked in, one of the officers commits suicide) while passing over the fantastic gap in the death rates of men vs. women and children in silence. Rose is a blatant feminist anachronism time-traveled back from late-sixties Vassar. Her Snidely Whiplash fiance takes a shot at the Sherman Act and later jumps off a building after the 1929 crash. In Terminator 2 the scientist who makes the breakthrough enabling Skynet to achieve self-consciousness (but repents) is black. And in Avatar the real issue is not that he identifies U.S. forces with the mercenaries, but that he sides unreservedly with the noble savages against the forces of civilization.

All that commentary and you never mention that Cameron is Canadian? Read it again.

Dutch Boy said...

Back when Cameron made Titanic, a reviewer wondered why, when they spent $200,000,000+ on the film, they couldn't have spent something on screenwriting (the script was awful).

Christopher said...

Steve: "Not surprisingly, Cameron, who was born and raised through age 16 in Canada, can’t be bothered with Heinlein’s contortions, so Avatar is politically simpler than its sources in the Heinlein canon."

Peter A: "All that commentary and you never mention that Cameron is Canadian?"

Would someone please explain this?

Anonymous said...

Cameron seems to like borrowing ideas: he was open about Terminator coming from Harlan Ellison stories.

Anonymous said...

'I Believe In Eco-Terrorism': Does James Cameron Live In a Malibu Mansion?
by Pam Meister
January 18, 2010
bighollywood.breitbart.com

EW: "Avatar" is the perfect eco-terrorism recruiting tool.

JC: Good, good. I like that one. I consider that a positive review. I believe in ecoterrorism...

Svigor said...

The terminator was no more than an action flick. Aliens was certainly better, but in the sci-fi realm, neither of those come close to Scott's Bladerunner.

Very true, but how relevant? How much of Blade Runner was down to Scott's design? Cameron designed the terminator to a point quite close to what finally appeared in the film. Scott adapted Dick's novel. Cameron came up with Terminator's plot on his own. Scott directed Blade Runner, Cameron created Terminator. The latter wound up a visual artist's project.

kudzu bob said...

"Steve, you're in way over your head once again. Thanks to Avatar's dismal box office performance, James Cameron will surely end up dumpster-diving for food."

With the tingling of my carpal tunnel, something stupid this way comes.

Take it away, Whiskey/Testing99--

Svigor said...

What I don't like about Cameron is the political correctness, of the most mundane kind. In Titanic, the rich are all humorless twits and the steerage class really knows how to enjoy life.

Indeed. Isn't it a bit juvenile to see life that way, or at least, present it that way? When filmmakers do this, all I see is an axe to grind. It comes across not a little as warmaking.

Svigor said...

Cameron seems to like borrowing ideas: he was open about Terminator coming from Harlan Ellison stories.

Another sign he's a visual guy, not a writer type.

Svigor said...

It comes across not a little as warmaking.

Gee, you know, it almost comes across as polarizing. Apparently this is yet another who/whom axis though, since it only seems to matter when non-liberals/leftists do it.

12 junkies said...

The terminator was no more than an action flick. Aliens was certainly better, but in the sci-fi realm, neither of those come close to Scott's Bladerunner.

Very true, but how relevant? How much of Blade Runner was down to Scott's design? Cameron designed the terminator to a point quite close to what finally appeared in the film. Scott adapted Dick's novel. Cameron came up with Terminator's plot on his own. Scott directed Blade Runner, Cameron created Terminator. The latter wound up a visual artist's project.

Terminator is a badass action movie, perfect vehicle for Arnold. It's also pretty funny. But, as sci-fi, it was nothing new. Killer robots have been the staple of the genre. Also, the time travel stuff was also done to death in novels.
Time travel was also used more meaningfully in Chris Marker's La Jette, which Pauline Kael called the greatest sci-fi movie ever. She may be right. Only 25 minutes, mostly still b/w images, but poetic and mysterious.
It was remade into the godawful Twelve Monkeys, which demonstrated better than anything that quality beats quantity.

cameron's camera said...

"By his own admission he also used to get picked on and bullied in school by the jock kids."

I guess he has something in common with Steven Spielberg.
Maybe we need more bullying of conservative kids. Maybe they'll go into art. So, PC teachers and ideology may not be a bad thing. PC may drive more conservatives towards angrier and more creative expression.

And, we should hire black kids to beat up white kids and Jewish kids to taunt--via superior wit--gentiles. That ought to put a giant chip on the shoulder of white kids who may then seek vengeance through the arts.
Ever notice happy, well-adjusted, complacent, and content kids don't become creative? A kind of obsession or anger drives artists.

Of course, anti-bullies become the biggest bullies--just like rebels become the biggest tyrants. Once they have the power and upper-hand, they just have to rub it in that they are right and we are wrong. Consider the crazy kid Tetsuo in the anime classic Akira.

Cameron too is a bully. But, all creative people are in a way. Indeed, nothing is more dictatorial than art. Art is alluring to dictatorial types because they can build their own kingdoms or utopias of the mind.
If one were happy with this world, one wouldn't need to create alternative universes.
Why was Hitler the most dangerous dictator of all time? He was an artist who wanted to turn the entire world into his canvas. He might have succeeded as a sci-fi writer, who knows? Come to think of it, Nazism was like a sci-fi movie made with real nations and people.
Of course, artists are like gangsters too, making up their own rules and reveling in the fantasies of violence and crime.
Cameron is artist as fuhrer, and Scorsese is artist as hood.

jody said...

in china, avatar is seen as a movie about property rights. they don't see it as having any commentary on race. the chinese government is actually pulling the movie from every 2D screen, for political reasons. they don't want too many people to see it and get any ideas about property rights. perspective does have a place on perception.

it was interesting to read about how china even protects it's domestic film industry the way east asian nations protect their home markets from foreign manufacturing. china blacks out foreign films on chinese holidays, and restricts the distribution of foreign films in china to 20 per year. if a chinese director is releasing an important movie, the chinese government puts that film in every theater and removes the american films for several weeks. the government regularly intervenes in film distribution, helping directors who they favor.

they also pull foreign movies from the theathers after they feel like it has made enough money, instead of letting the market decide. avatar's chinese numbers will be reduced significantly by these policies.

Tatosian said...

Svigor said...
"Very true, but how relevant?"
Well, the relevancy is no more or less than Scott's movie is far superior to cameron's sci-fi efforts.
Certainly one can be impressed with cameron's involvement in every aspect of his movies, but ultimately his movies will be judged and compared with other movies correct?
It's great that the terminator gave us some immortal lines, and the Alien gave us some unforgettable images, but in the end they are no more than action flicks in the sci-fi genre.
For all his involvement and expertise, those movies don't really come close to bladerunner. It's a better movie.
Look, Orson Welles made a couple of flicks in the noir genre and certainly welles was involved with nearly all aspects of his movies.
Is the lady from shangai a better example of noir than the maltese falcon?
I don't think so.
Is touch of evil a better flick than chinatown? Hard to say. I loved both those movies.
As for scott merely directing bladerunner while "Cameron created Terminator. The latter wound up a visual artist's project.", well, film is a directors medium isn't it? Scotts directorial skills make for memorable stories where cameron's artistic vision makes for technical extravaganza's with a memorable line here, or a striking image there.
The medium is about storytelling. Perhaps cameron should be developing in-home virtual realities with mix and match plots that the entire family can enjoy.
Perhaps not.
Again, Movies are storytelling and for cameron the story is secondary.

mirko said...

I never read Heinlein but I did see Starship Troopers which was awful. I hate all of Verhoeven's Hollywood movies. He did much better work in Europe--Soldier of Orange and the Black Book. When he makes Hollywood movies, the subtext is "I'm in dumb America making dumb movies for dumb Americans and the dumb Americanized world", and it's been noted by leftist critics who love him for it. There's a wink wink thing going on between Verhoeven and movie critics. Robocop and Starship Troopers are supposed to be sodapop-bubblegum fascism for consumerist dummies, thus revealing and mocking the shallow pretensions of fascism and the brutal nature of consumer-capitalism. It's as if movie critics are in on the joke where Verhoeven feeds pig slop to pigs who mindlessly slurp it all up. Michael Bay gets less respect because the sneering European-looking-down-on-Americans subtext is seemingly lacking.

I didn't care for ALIENS--essentially Rambo in outerspace. All hardware, no heart. I prefer Alien 3 with its interesting setting and storyline. Fincher is a gifted and brilliant director who doesn't just pile it on but cuts through tight corners inaccessible to most other directors. Alien 4 too had a more interesting story than Aliens. And, Alien was better because it relied more on suspense than blowing things up.

Cameron's visionary-ness is both a plus and a minus. It fills him with ambition and workaholism, but as his overall message tends to be simple, he just pads his movies with more impressive-looking but mindless spectacle. Terminator 2 comes to a standstill after the tightly constructed first 1/3. Cameron wants to say something, but it's just the usual tripe about 'corporations bad'. Having nowhere else to go, he just expands the scale of the project to where ever bigger things blow up.

The best Heinlein derived sci-fi work may be the original Gunbuster(1990), the Japanese anime where Earthlings go up against an alien invasion. Though the central character Noriko is misconceived and insufferable, it's a pretty magnificent galactic war story partly modeled on Japan's experience in the Pacific War. Tremendous ending.

Peter A said...

""Not surprisingly, Cameron, who was born and raised through age 16 in Canada"

I stand corrected. Still, I think Steve glosses over this nationality question - Canadians, especially creative ones, often have a love-hate relationship with the US.

jody said...

oh dear, are we now seriously going to doubt that cameron is perhaps the greatest creative force in the history of cinema?

he came up with most of his creature design and technical developments from scratch, and he wrote all of his own scripts. for instance, he told stan winston what all the robots look like in the terminator, not the other way around. he sketched out all the art and models. taking all those things together, he's so far ahead of spielberg and lucas as a creator that it's mind boggling. his best movies were good enough that hollywood executives now turn them into endless sequels churned out by random writers and directors. ready for terminator 5? alien 5? predator 6?

spielberg likes to take B movie scripts and give them A movie production. he rarely writes, and admits up front this is the way he prefers to work. he's far more active than cameron, because he can be. when you're not creating every last detail, you can focus on taking other people's stuff and turning it into a movie.

lucas, he works slowly, like cameron, because it takes years to come up with everything from scratch. unfortunately he's garbage now. a blockbuster writer who lost his ability to write, an effects master who fell into a computer generated booby trap.

cameron just spent 8 years INVENTING HIS OWN CAMERA, then practically forcing the movie theaters to buy new projectors so they could show his film in wide release. then, after the premier, he actually had the nerve to come out and say that the new projectors were not good enough, and would have to be upgraded again, to run at 48 or 60 frames per second instead of 24.

he started an effects company with stan winston, specifically to beat george lucas, which they did. he designed most of the predator, in 2 hours, on an airplane flight with stan winston! this creature has appeared in about 5 movies already.

after stan winston did all the physical effects in jurassic park (this is the only reason jurassic park is a great movie - without the new, advanced effects, it's just another average monster movie), cameron showed him the script for avatar and they decided it could not be filmed. so they put it away for 10 years.

lucas' company, ILM, refused to do avatar, saying it was not possible, so cameron had to go to weta digital in new zealand to start production on avatar.

pat vlahos said...

"Well, the relevancy is no more or less than Scott's movie is far superior to cameron's sci-fi efforts."

Crucial difference is Scott's greatest movie was a huge flop whereas Cameron has enjoyed a series of superhits. Since then, Scott got smarter in business and dumber in filmmaking. He had a series of hits, almost all of them worthless. But hey, can we blame him? You have to stay bankable.
Generally, if you make a TRULY GREAT MOVIE, it will fail and you won't be given another chance.
If you make crap movies which make a lot of money, you are given more chances... to make crap movies. I think a lot of filmmakers choose to make dumb movies to remain bankable in the hope that they may one day have enough money and clout to make the movie of their dreams. But, by the time they get there, they are burnt out. Kingdom of Love was a real labor of love for Scott, but it sucked. Blackhawk Down was technically accomplished but soulless.

I was impressed with the technology in Attack of the Clones but the story was the same old adolescent tripe. Lucas and Scott probably thought they would one day make a film as Welles made Citizen Kane--without compromise. But, after awhile, even with all the money and power--or because of them--the main thing on their minds were more money and power than personal vision or creativity.
Lucas never made anything as good as THX 1138 and I doubt if Scott will make another Blade Runner. They went along with the system to eventually beat the system but got swallowed by the beast.

Of course, there is the rare filmmaker who makes a movie that is both genuinely adult and popular. Godfather was probably the finest of its kind. Spielberg made some of those too. But when he made his greatest film AI, it flopped.

I'm not sure what a 'hard sci-fi filmmaker' is, but no one tops Kubrick in the sci-fi genre. 2001 is one of the few movies in the genre that doesn't pander to kiddie sensibilities.

Btw, Scott was, for-who-knows-what-reason, given another chance to make a movie of his dreams after Blade Runner. Legend with Tom Cruise. A visionary labor of love but for some reason, just awful.

Anonymous said...

Starship Troopers was one of the best movies of the last quarter century.

It might be the only all-out-war flick I've ever watched wherein you get that foreboding sense of despair which says, "Oh shit, we might actually lose this thing!"

PS: It also has a thing or two to say about what can be accomplished in life by fellows who don't have particularly high IQs.

PPS: Plus it featured Dina Meyer and Denise Richards in their prime.

Whiskey said...

Perhaps one of your dumbest reviews yet Steve. Yes, it is dumb.

Cameron made a "noble savage" neo-Roussiean picture, based on 3-D effects and BAD science fiction.

NONE of his movies have ever been "hard" rather "soft" Sci-Fi. "Unobtainium?" The physics and way of fighting by the "evil Marines" are indeed, stupid, as are the USB ports the Navi use to control nature.

Cameron is profoundly stupid in a way that only a Celubutard (someone so retarded that thinking celebrity makes them "graced by Providence") could be. He's said (Cameron owns several mansions, and about 8 cars) that he supports eco-terrorism. I assume thats only for other peoples cars and mansions.

Avatar made money, but not profits. Just like Titanic. The highest grossing box office movie of the time, and Cameron spends ten years involved in ... Dark Angel ... on TV? Avatar at $150 million cost is a monster hit. Avatar at $300 million is a profitable movie. Avatar at $430-$500 million is something that will have to fight to make money, barely.

Why the frick aren't studios throwing money at Cameron? Duh. Cause he lacks any fiscal control to make movies that can make money (Avatar's box office derives almost totally from 3-D tickets). Explain to me how that translates into robust home video and TV rights sales?

AVATAR is like hard sci fi as Twilight is to real horror. The Navi are noble savages out of Dances with Wolves. They are not Alien (they are in fact more human than the humans). They have no culture, no music, no literature, no cuisine, no movies, no books, nothing to make them real. They are not even LITERATE (no written language).

Humanity itself is made simplistic not more complex via technology. The humans are Malibu Millionaire Marxist views: ugly mercenaries, an "enlightened" guy who rejects his own race.

jody is jokey said...

"after stan winston did all the physical effects in jurassic park (this is the only reason jurassic park is a great movie - without the new, advanced effects, it's just another average monster movie),"

Bullshit! It has great music, likable characters from old man to cute kids, great idea and setting. Yes, the special effects are great but look at the scene when the T-rex makes its first appearance. The suspense, the sound, the camera set ups and movement, etc. It's brilliant and masterful EVEN BEFORE the beast shows up. Spielberg pulled off it with Jaws too. Spielberg is a master of supsense like Hitchcock. He knows how to build a scene, layer it with tension, and how to make use of space. The reason why Jurassic Park III sucks in comparison is because it has the effects but no master filmmaker behind them.

Cameron may be creative but he will never be the fluid master Spielberg is. Spielberg has the ability to work BIG and SMALL at the same time. Cameron works BIG going on BIGGER. Spielberg is both monumental and minute in his approach. Only handful of directors--Eisenstein, Welles, Fincher, etc--have had this touch.

And predator sucks!! And, what's the BIG DEAL about the robot design in Terminator? Most of the time, it was just Arnold. When the skin peeled off, it was just a skeleton made of steel. Wow, what a work of genius!!!

jody said...

speaking of ridley scott, blackhawk down is easily as good as the hurt locker, yet it didn't even get nominated for best picture by the academy, let alone was it considered the clear favorite to win. and lots of people saw blackhawk down, too.

there's so much BS about the hurt locker on the internet (in the real world, nobody has even HEARD of it, let alone seen it) that i had to get the DVD the day it came out, just so i could see by what degree it has been overrated by film critics.

Anonymous said...

"Starship Troopers was one of the best movies of the last quarter century."

I heard Verhoeven took some ideas from ZULU. Wonderful movie that.

Tatosian said...

"cameron is perhaps the greatest creative force in the history of cinema?"
Stop it.
Stuffing five hundred pounds of technical gadgetry into a petite sized pant suit and calling it a movie doesn't make one the greatest creative force in the history of cinema.
Hell, cameron is to movies what phil specter was to rocknroll.
Innovative sure, but the greatest creative force? Ever?
Cut it out.
And I didn't think starship trooper was as bad as all that. I was glad somebody actually got around to making the thing.
Coulda been worse. Coulda been directed by someone like, say, cameron.
Just kiddin. He's a great director. Really. I'm not just sayin that either. Great.

Anonymous said...

Canadian, American, who cares? Hollywood is an empire unto itself. People there are the emperors of the imagination, and we are all colonized by their 'cultural imperialism'.

Most people go along, but some resist. I would say the personal filmmakers of Europe are the real Navi's of the creative world. They are the ones who are resisting the Big Mac-ization of human imagination that pours out of Hollywood.
Sure, stuff like Terminator 2, Matrix movies, and Avatar all pretend to have 'progressive' 'anti-imperialist' messages, but FORM IS CONTENT. The ACTUAL FORM of the Hollywood business model is to take over and destroy movie industries all over the world. So, the real CONTENT of Avatar is not 'small is beautiful' but 'I am Hollywood, your god, and you shall have no cinemas before me.'

Best imperialism sells itself as anti-imperialist.

Obama knows this trick too: best radicalism is one that appears non-radical. Thank you, guru Alinsky.

Tatosian said...

Yeah I don't know about 2001 being the best. Certainly Kubrick was a master and that one was a masterpiece.
But the original invaders from mars and the original invasion of the body snatchers were pretty creepy.
Different times but those were, again, pretty creepy.

Tatosian said...

And speaking of scott again, I thought the Duelist was a very good movie.
Certainly beautiful to look at and a not inconsiderable story.

Anonymous said...

Verhoeven's "Starship Troopers"?

How many other films before 2001 envisioned a future where a multiracial superpower is suddenly awakened by reality when one of its cities gets struck with disaster, declares war (less out of sound strategic interests and more to restore national pride and lost sense of security), and sends thousands of young men (and women) to bleak desert battlefields where their technological superiority is of limited use against hordes of enemies that attack with suicidal fury (resulting in many young men being beheaded, dismembered, disemboweled or sodomized) and find creative new ways to strike, including attacks on tourist resorts, and where some sort of the light at the end of tunnel appears only when the enemy leaders gets captured and taken out of their holes?

jody said...

bladerunner was awesome. i loved it. but aliens and terminator 2 mud stomp bladerunner it into the ground. sorry, but that's my opinion. it's just as valid as tatosian's.

the real science fiction movie that was a huge flop upon it's release, but that is now regarded as a masterpiece, is john carpenter's the thing. it has to be one of the best horror movies ever made. watching this for the first time, alone and in the dark, is terrifying. it's cronenberg level horror.

the amount of work that cameron put into avatar, literally meeting with physicists, biologists, and linguists to make sure everything on pandora was as realistic as possible, is unprecendented. after finishing production, they ended up with a nearly 400 page encyclopedia about how everything on pandora works. before production started on avatar, one of the crew members brought in the star wars and star trek versions of these things, and cameron scoffed at them and said they would do a lot better.

Svigor said...

There's a wink wink thing going on between Verhoeven and movie critics. Robocop and Starship Troopers are supposed to be sodapop-bubblegum fascism for consumerist dummies, thus revealing and mocking the shallow pretensions of fascism and the brutal nature of consumer-capitalism. It's as if movie critics are in on the joke where Verhoeven feeds pig slop to pigs who mindlessly slurp it all up. Michael Bay gets less respect because the sneering European-looking-down-on-Americans subtext is seemingly lacking.

The problem there is that his movies are so obviously shallow, fascist, hyperviolent, and nihilist that everyone with a 3 digit IQ gets the joke.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

Starship Troopers was one of the best movies of the last quarter century.

It might be the only all-out-war flick I've ever watched wherein you get that foreboding sense of despair which says, "Oh shit, we might actually lose this thing!""

"Starship Troopers" was a cartoon - Aliens crossed with Beverly Hills 90210. Entertaining, to be sure, but a cartoon (if you had to kill every single vicious bug on a planet full of vicious bugs, would you insist on machinegunning them all at close range?)

If you want to see a real depressing movie, check out Verhoeven's first war movie: "Soldier of Orange", which is about the dutch resistance in WWII. It's a downer - good movie - but a real downer.

Steve Sailer said...

The thing about Verhoeven that critics don't mention is that, aesthetically and thematically, he really is The Last Nazi. He fell in love with movies as a small child in occupied Holland watching Nazi propaganda films, and they left a mark. So, he goes about making movies that are pretty much what he'd be making if The Nazis Had Won the War, only he gives his movies a veneer of of satire to reassure critics that he's actually satirizing Heinlein's obsession with blondes (Starship Troopers) or Reagan's obsession with robot policemen (Robocop) or whatever cover story he comes up with that movie reviewers are dumbe enough to fall for.

share the fantasy said...

"the amount of work that cameron put into avatar, literally meeting with physicists, biologists, and linguists to make sure everything on pandora was as realistic as possible, is unprecendented."

Really? What kind of physics allows for floating mountains? What kind of biology allows a people of another planet to look 90% human? And how would linguists know anything about communication on another planet?!?

Btw, Cecil B. Demille also claimed to have done a lot of Biblical research with the help of scholars before embarking on such historically accurate epics as Samson and Delilah and Ten Commandments.

The ONLY sci-fi movie where the result conformed to extensive scientific research was probably 2001. Other than the weird stuff with the extra-terrestials, everything in 2001 could happen that way outerspace. And, notice there was NO SOUND in space. And gravity was always taken into account. There's even a toilet that does so.

2001 was a hit because it had no competitors and no one had seen anything like it before.

The effects were so jaw-dropping that Kubrick could get away with the 'boring' arty stuff in the movie. People just came to be amazed. It's also possible that people in the 60s had less of an attention deficit disorder since not every moviegoer had grown up on TV and rock music.

But, once guys like Lucas and Spielberg appropriated Kubrick's technology for razzle-dazzle sci-fi, there was no chance of another film like 2001--genuine big budget art sci-fi--suceeding at the box office. The effects were no longer new, and people wanted to see them in a videogamey roller-coaster fashion in movies like Star Wars or Aliens.

By some miracle, Blade Runner was made into a big budget sci-fi art movie.
Its backers probably expected Alien crossed with Star Wars crossed with Dirty Harry. Instead, Ridley Scott turned Philip K. Dick's world into a 2 hr Chanel #9 commercial. It was perfumed jewel than caramel candy.

Thrasymachus said...

All the later Terminators- 2 through the TV series- are about left-wing terrorism- a defense conglomerate is going to build robots that take over the world, and the few that know the truth are thus entitled to kill anyone who might be a part of this, in however incidental a way.

I was in the Marines. I read "Starship Trooper" and I thought it was kind of dumb. The movie was really dumb- soldiers standing up in the open, shoulder to shoulder, with no sergeant yelling "Spread the f*** out! Get the f*** down!"

inglorious buster said...

"The thing about Verhoeven that critics don't mention is that, aesthetically and thematically, he really is The Last Nazi. He fell in love with movies as a small child in occupied Holland watching Nazi propaganda films, and they left a mark. So, he goes about making movies that are pretty much what he'd be making if The Nazis Had Won the War, only he gives his movies a veneer of of satire..."

I'm not so sure because much the same could be said of Lucas. The final image of Star Wars was taken from Triumph of the Will. The battle scene in Attack of the Clones recalls the Battle of Kursk. The Jedi knights have Arthurian overtones which also inspired the Nazis. The obsession with mysticism and occultism can also be found in Himmler.

Spielberg also admitted to being influenced by Riefenstahl, though I see much less of it in his works than in Lucas's.

Come to think of it, Hollywood and Walt Disney did the "Nazi thing" before and better than the Nazis. For starters, the filmmaker Hitler and Goebbels admired most--the Jewish Fritz Lang--had already created monumental German cinema even before Nazis came to power. He and many other Jewish filmmakers later emigrated to Hollywood. But even had they not, Hollywood was filled with quasi-fascist monumentalists. Griffith set the standards in the silent era along with DeMille. If anything, Nazi film aesthetics were heavily borrowed or stolen from Jewish Hollywood. In many ways, Jewish Hollywood was no less 'Aryan-ish' than Nazi cinema. It was filled with tall golden gods like Gary Cooper and Greta Garbo. Hollywood made the biggest and grandest historical epics with mostly white people and white themes. I doubt if Nazi Germany would have anything objectionable in movies like Gone with the Wind or Gunga Din. Hitler loved Hollywood westerns, even ones produced or directed by Jews.

And look at the music composers of Hollywood. The great ones were Jewish, but who was their greatest inspiration? Wagner. Many Hollywood movies blasted with Wagnerian thunder, even when the movie was about Ancient Jews. Ten Commandments by Cecil B. Demille is like fascist epic of the Jews, with 'Aryan' Heston leading the Jews to the promised land. Heston is like the good Nazi while Brynner and the Egytpians are the bad Nazis. But, even the bad Nazi Egyptians are allowed to have their glory under the sun. They look MAGNIFICENT!

And no cinema had as many gorgeous and glorious Aryan blonde goddesses as classic Hollywood. Jews hated Nazism and what Wagner stood for, but they sure had a good eye for the marketablity of 'Aryanism' and epic bombast. As long as it was reprogrammed and made "Jew-friendly"--like Arnold in Terminator 2--, it was A-okay with Hollywood.

In the 80s and 90s, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the biggest action star, and what is he if not the ultra Nazi Aryan ideal type? Why did Jewish Hollywood promote such a 'Nazi-esque' figure--and Sylvester Stallone, the Italian Stallion fascist type? Because people love macho tough man stuff but also because Schwarzenegger were reprogrammed to be tame and politically correct--he even played a role as a pregnant man! Hollywood long ago appropriated Aryanism for their own profits and purposes. It goes to show brain controls the brawn, not the other way around. Aryanism sells and fascist aesthetics is very profitable, BUT they must be made to be PC, pro-Jewish, and multicultural. Or, we are allowed to enjoy their power and grandeur but reminded 'those are the bad guys'. So, we love looking at the magnificence of the EMPIRE in Star Wars, but pinch ourselves and cheer for the good guys. We get the thrill of fascist fun and the sermon on good-defeats-evil.

Tatosian said...

Ben Shapiro's got a list of the 10 worst directors of all time.
Ridley Scott's on there. Cameron isn't.

http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/bshapiro/2010/01/17/top-10-most-overrated-directors-of-all-time/#more-291078

Dutch Boy said...

Dear Thrasymachus: My army officer father always groused about Hollywood tactics too - infantryman bunching up so one mortar round or bouncing betty could wipe out the lot. "Dad", I would say, "bunching up is poor tactics but good theater - you can't film a platoon spread all over creation effectively." I didn't see the movie of Starship Troopers (bad reviews) but I thought an old Marine might like Heinlein's literary glorification of warriors (the Parris Island indoctrination didn't last, huh?).

William B Swift said...

I thought Bladerunner sucked, though not as bad as "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". The realThe Blade Runner by Alan Nourse was much better.

Good science fiction movies are action adventure, at least to anyone who reads much science fiction. Some of the worst, most hackneyed novels I have read have as good a theme and plot as even the best movies. Action/adventure and special effects are the only thing movies have going for them over books.

And the science and technology in the movies is always so dumbed down as to be outstanding only in its awfulness.

Anonymous said...

You've been demoted from God to minor deity, Sailer.

To the extent that we have issues making inroads with HBD and that there is some animosity manufactured toward white people, white men in particular, it has a lot to do with Hollywood movies. As a Hollywood movie promoter ("critic" is insufficiently forthright here) you're not exactly helping matters. You're still the stone cold nuts in my book, for what it's worth, but I just don't understand how and why you enjoy and promote Hollywood movies.

Truth said...

"Avatar at $150 million cost is a monster hit. Avatar at $300 million is a profitable movie. Avatar at $430-$500 million is something that will have to fight to make money, barely..."

Oh my god.

OH MY FREAKIN' GOD!

The man has made the #1 and #3 most popular movies in the history of the world.

GIVE IT UP; THROW IN THE TOWEL ALREADY DUMBSHIT! WITH EACH SUBSEQUENT "AVATAR LOST MONEY" POST, YOU MAKE A PROGRESSIVELY BIGGER ASS OF YOURSELF!

Anonymous said...

The firt 'Terminator' worked around the dumb muscl-dude's acting limitations. Here's a German who can barely say 'Kill der Amerikanner!'
'Where is Sarah Connor'? In his range.



Robert Parker is dead. Ave atque vale.

Kijkfaas McGee said...

Avatar was retarded.

Shawn said...

Dude's been married 5 times. Wow, I hope I will have enough money to do that.

Anonymous said...

I wondered that about every Star Wars movie other than episodes IV and V. As I cringed through the painful hours of episodes 1-3, I said to myself, "with his budget, this is the best he can do? when thousands of brilliant Star Wars-loving geeks would work for him for free if they could?"

ricpic said...

Greatest creative force in the movies my ass. The guy's a Popular Mechanics geek director. There is no dimension in his work beyond the thrill of new technology. He's the equivalent of Fernand Leger, the cubist painter who could never get beyond the fact that the world could be broken down into geometrical shapes and then reassembled; as opposed to Braque or Picasso, for whom cubism was only a means to say something, or more accurately discover something new about the world that was more than the means, the cubes. Cameron is stuck on the means. More? There is no more for him. He's a case of arrested development.

Anonymous said...

Terminator and Aliens are both better SF and better movies than Blade Runner.

Anonymous said...

"Dude's been married 5 times. Wow, I hope I will have enough money to do that."

Does he keep marrying because he keeps on earning or does he keep earning because he keeps on marrying?

Anonymous said...

"I thought Bladerunner sucked, though not as bad as "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"."

No, you suck.

patricia said...

"You're still the stone cold nuts in my book, for what it's worth, but I just don't understand how and why you enjoy and promote Hollywood movies."

Don't be petty and narrow-minded. You sound like a Jew who says Jews should not listen to nor appreciate Wagner because he was anti-Jewish. Yes, Wagner was anti-Jewish but he was a great artist, and Jews who love music respect Wagner the artist.

Cameron may be part of the Hollywood crowd, but talent is talent. Many great leftist artists learned from rightwing ones. Isaac Bashevis Singer was a great admirer of Knut Hamsun. One of Philip Roth's main inspiration was Celine. Eisenstein watched and studied D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation many times. This is why the Left wins in culture. They may have the wrong political ideas but they have the right approach to culture. They have open minds, they learn and see; they absorb and appropriate things even from their enemies.
The idea that white or rightwing people should ONLY SEE white or rightwing stuff is a form of cultural inbreeding.
I suppose none of us should listen to rock or jazz either because blacks had a role in developing those forms or because Jews control the music industry. That is stupid.

Anonymous said...

But going with this theme, Bladerunner is the ultimate one.

It shows a dark gritty L.A. future that's not too far from what it is now. It's always night. Maybe a metaphor, maybe not. The buildings are pyramidal archologies right out of Niven and Pournelle. Blimps with large screen LCDs showing asian geisha girls float around the buildings. The streets below consist of grimy kiosks staffed by Asian grandmothers selling chop suey and DNA designer snakes.

Every white person you see is a robot. The town is run by Jews. They live in tall towers and design white robots called replicants. They put implanted memories into them. The white robots think they are real people but when they learn they're not, they cry. The scariest white robots are the Aryans. They're not allowed on the Earth. They're only allowed to be in Outer Space. They work near places called the Tannhauser Gate and see and do things no one has done before. They have built-in death clocks, to live only a few years, they are so dangerous. A small group of these Aryan robots come back for revenge against the people who made them. They get this revenge. Then they die.

The whole movie is an exact allegory for so many things in L.A. and in the modern world. Implanted memories = everything we are told about how bad we are.
How many of us can break out of this programming ? I mean, take the Red Pill.

Hereward said...

"And speaking of scott again, I thought the Duelist was a very good movie.
Certainly beautiful to look at and a not inconsiderable story."
And one made on a shoestring budget BTW. In some of the scenes, the extras were production assistants or other crew members Scott stuck into uniforms.

secret agent said...

There is a misconception that Nazi cinema was 'Nazi', but nothing could be further from the truth. 99% of German cinema during the Nazi period was not overtly political. They were pale imitations of Hollywood genres and conventions. Even Nazi war films were no more militaristic or crazy-war-mongering than Hollywood ones. And Nazi newsreels about the war front was much like their counterparts in UK and US.

Nazis were careful to maintain a facade of normalcy at the homefront. The Wehrmacht was in Poland smashing houses and killing lots of people, but most Germans at the cinema saw a world very much like the one shown by Hollywood movies. There were musicals, romances, historical epics, costume dramas, women's films, comedies(not very good ones for lack of Jewish talent).
Because of PBS documentaries and the like, we tend to think most Nazi films were either like Triumph of the Will or Jew Suss. But, most had nothing to do with god-warriors or evil Jews. Most were popcorn or pretzel movies.

Though Nazi expression in painting, sculpture, and architecture tended toward blatant fascist aesthetics, this wasn't so with most movies. The most lavish historical/war epic made by the Nazis was Kolbert--decent enough movie--, but it was no more
'fascist' in form than Hollywood spectacles.

In a way, there were more signs of proto-fascist aesthetics in German cinema prior to the rise of the Nazis. Mountain climbing movies like "Blue Light" and "Nibelungen" and "Metropolis". Fascism is nothing without visionary power, and the directors with the most powerful visions happened to be Jewish, and they left Germany after Hitler's rise to power.

German cinema under Nazism was mostly made up of hacks, and they churned out acceptable Hollywood imitations. It could have been that since Nazi Germany could only have one superstar--the fuhrer--, the movie industry discouraged the rise of any movie star who might rival his popularity or mythic greatness.

Much the same was true of Soviet Cinema. Because of the emphasis on collectivism and selfless duty, movie stardom was seen as narcissistic, bourgeois, and crass. So, even as Soviet cinema had its popular actors, there was no one like John Wayne, Cary Grant, or Joan Crawford--let alone Arnold or McQueen.
This also applied to directorial style. A director who was too strong on personal vision could be accused of formalism or art-for-art's-sake. The ideal artist made movies for The People. Even so, lots of fine movies were made, and on average, they tended to be more thoughtful, mature, and balanced than most Hollywood movies. Rarely do you find the GREAT BADASS HERO vs the EVIIIIIIL VILLAIN in Soviet Cinema. There are good people and bad people. But, there was never anything like RAMBO, DIRTY HARRY, or JAMES BOND. There was a popular spy series which lasted from early 70s to the end of the Cold War, but things unfolded on a human scale(and the hero had no supra-human powers).

Though Russians lost 20 million in WWII, depiction of most Germans was actually less cartoonishly hateful than in Hollywood movies. And, no movie was made where killing a whole bunch of American capitalist-imperialists was depicted as a cool and glorious thing.

Ironically, the insanest, most nihilistic, the most bombastic, most murderous, and most blood curdling movies were made in the democratic West or nations like Japan or Hong Kong. I guess combination of freedom of expression and thrill-seeking consumerism accounted for much of that.

AmericanGoy said...

"greatest American science fiction writer, Robert A. Heinlein"


Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

psy-phi said...

Off-topic.

I agree with some people here that Blade Runner is one of the greatest sci-fi movies. But, Terminator? Aliens? They are decent enough action films with neat sci-fi gimmicks.

A truly great sci-fi movie is bigger on idea, mood, feeling, and concept than on action, explosions, mayhem, and gimmickry. Great science fiction makes us ponder the possibilities of technology and science, the limitations of man. They also relate science & technology to spirituality, personal meaning, nature, ethics, and etc. Blade Runner is a great movie because, other than its visual power, it raises questions as to what is man, what is machine, what is god. Batty was designed to be slave-machine but made 'more human than human', more perfect than perfect. Thus, he becomes a punk god.

Sci-fi has to be the weakest genre in terms of quality along with horror. Not only are sci-fi movies prohibitively expensive to make, but most people's idea of sci-fi is space ships blowing up planets. So, mostly mindless junk get made.

http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/5/lem5art.htm

It's possible that fewer than 20 great sci-fi films exist. 2001, Blade Runner, and Thx 1138 are obvious choices. The deeply flawed Metropolis is important. The original Solaris was interesting. Stalker is one of the top three along with 2001 and Blade. Face of Another is another great one. So are Alphaville and Fahrenheit 451, which are strong on mood and tone. Tati's Playtime may quite qualify as sci-fi. Truly a visionary masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

Does he keep marrying because he keeps on earning or does he keep earning because he keeps on marrying?

Both, in a true vicious circle.

Anonymous said...

Though Russians lost 20 million in WWII, depiction of most Germans was actually less cartoonishly hateful than in Hollywood movies.

I wonder how Soviet cinema depicted Finns, western Ukrainians, and Croats.

Xenophon Hendrix said...

I've read all of Heinlein's books, most of them at least twice. My conclusion about Heinlein's politics is that they are complex and can't be accurately summarized by any of the currently popular shorthand terms. If one calls him liberal, conservative, libertarian, or populist, it will be misleading and lead to apparent contradictions that don't actually exist. His politics also changed somewhat as he aged, but not as much as some readers believe.

My favorite example about Heinlein is to consider the two novels Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land. The first one would give the impression to someone who has read no other Heinlein that he was a blood-and-guts conservative--join the army, and kill those Reds. The second novel, on the other hand, would give the impression that Heinlein was a libertine hippie--join a commune, and have free love.

Now, one might "solve" this seeming paradox by assuming that the two books were written at different ends of his career. Perhaps Heinlein became either more softheaded or more reactionary as he got older. That solution, however, is wrong. When Heinlein was working on Stranger, he stopped to write Starship Troopers, and then he finished writing Stranger. The books were published in succession. I don't have time to pile up proof, but I assert that they also are not contradictory in the least.

Some things about his politics are always true:

1. Heinlein had great respect and love for the military. His choice of career was officer of the U.S. Navy, and that is the career he would have kept had not his health failed.

2. Heinlein was always in favor of personal liberty. Calling Heinlein a libertarian, however, leads to confusion. For one, Heinlein was never a philosophical pacifist. Two, he was always a strong U.S. patriot.

3. Heinlein never believed in unlimited democracy. Like the Founders of the United States, he always knew that there never has been a democracy that hasn't destroyed itself. Many of Heinlein's works contain thought experiments about possible ways to tame the dangers of democracy.

4. Heinlein understood the inherent conflict between liberty and democracy. I can't remember the man's exact words, but he pointed out, for example, that the losing side of an issue that has been put up for a vote has lost some of its freedom. That is one of the reasons he preferred maximum looseness in government.

5. Heinlein always knew that the human race is still evolving. He understood human biodiversity without ever being a racist. He lived through the heart of the extreme environmentalism/behaviorist movements in the social sciences, but he never believed them. Heinlein always knew that genes mattered.

6. Heinlein also understood that in a still evolving species there would be winners and losers. Note well: never does he say that the losers deserve what they get and should be treated without compassion. Heinlein's main interest is on the winners, but throughout his writing history he does occasionally have thought experiments about ways losers could keep their self-respect. Consider "Jerry Was a Man" from near the beginning of his career and the Depression-era cooking scene in I Will Fear No Evil from near the end. Heinlein was a Darwinist, not a Social Darwinist, as some critics have charged.

Anyway, I have long since mostly given up on movies, so I'm not too familiar with Mr. Cameron's work. From the reviews, though, I suspect he lacks Heinlein's complexity and depth.

The Other Doctor said...

A truly great sci-fi movie is bigger on idea, mood, feeling, and concept than on action, explosions, mayhem, and gimmickry

Any truly great SF work is bigger on the inside than the outside.

Anonymous said...

Though Russians lost 20 million in WWII, depiction of most Germans was actually less cartoonishly hateful than in Hollywood movies.

I wonder how Soviet cinema depicted Finns, western Ukrainians, and Croats.


Mostly as comrades grateful for Soviet liberation. Of course, Soviet cinema covered up the great crimes of communism, but it didn't go out of its way to present the bad guys as subhuman villains of the Hollywood movie kind.

Luke Lea said...

Never having read science fiction as a teenager, I was more favorably impressed by how "unalien" a lot of the elements in the movie were: not only the Navi American Indians and their ghost dance, but the verisimilitude of the hospital scene coming out of surgery (I've seen that a lot, and so has Cameron evidently), and the Vietnam War scenes of course. But most affecting of all, to me at least, was the appearance of those giant contemporary Caterpillars bulldozing the forests: here come the developers!

Anonymous said...

"And speaking of scott again, I thought the Duelist was a very good movie.
Certainly beautiful to look at and a not inconsiderable story."

It's a good movie but there's NOTHING FRENCH about Keith Carradine or the other guy.

tanabear said...

The two biggest box office hits of all time are Gone with the Wind and Star Wars.

After watching Avatar this weekend I think I had the same response that Voltaire did after he read Rousseau's "The Social Contract."

"I have received your new book against the human race, and thank you for it. Never was such a cleverness used in the design of making us all stupid. One longs, in reading your book, to walk on all fours...."

It is interesting to compare this movie to Aliens in another respect.

In Aliens, the Marines and Ripley wanted to exterminate the aliens. The bad guy, Burke(a corporate guy) wanted to preserve them.

Burke: "This is clearly-clearly an important species we're dealing with and I don't think that you or I, or anybody, has the right to arbitrarily exterminate them."

Ripley: "Wrong!"

Vasquez: "Yeah. Watch us."

The blue, idyllic noble savages of Pandora are too beautiful to even be relocated. The nasty, slimy, parasitic aliens should be nuked!

Black Sea said...

The target audience for big budget films is made up of people just old enough to make it to a mall without adult supervision, but not quite old enough to buy their own beer. This must be taken into consideration when analyzing the work of any contemporary director.

I side with those who argue who that Blade Runner is more interesting than anything Cameron has done, or will do. I've never sat through the whole of Titanic, but the bits I've seen on TV have never given me any reason to.

I'm not much of a Sci Fi fan, but I did enjoy "A Boy and His Dog" (the film, I never read the story).

Mr. Anon said...

"Tatosian said...

Ben Shapiro's got a list of the 10 worst directors of all time.
Ridley Scott's on there. Cameron isn't."

Then clearly the list is wrong. Cameron never made a movie as great as "The Duelists" or "Blackhawk Down". By the way, the list you refer to also includes Michael Mann, David Lean, and Martin Scorsese, which leads me to question it's author's taste.

Mr. Anon said...

Steve, this post begs for another topic: "top ten best sci-fi" movies. Or maybe top five, since there aren't that many good ones.

Truth said...

"No, you suck."


OOOOOOOOhhhh, good one!

Truth said...

Best Science Fiction film of the last 15 years: 'Abre Los Ojos."

The American version was shit.

hal said...

Steve, this post begs for another topic: "top ten best sci-fi" movies. Or maybe top five, since there aren't that many good ones.

Not worth bothering. There just aren't that many.

2001
AI
Stalker
Blade Runner
Le Jetee
Alphaville
Fahrenheit 451
Solaris(Tarkovsky)
Terminator
Face of Another
THX 1138
Laputa Castle in the Sky
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Attack of the Clones
Matrix 2-3
Clockwork Orange
Zardoz
The Thing(Carpenter)
Jurassic Park
Planet of the Apes (original)
Escape from POTA
Videodrome
Dead Ringers
Galaxy Quest
Alien 3
Invasions of Body Snatchers
Invasions of Body Snatchers remake
Bodysnatchers (Abel Ferrera)
Manchurian Candidate
Demon Seed
Mars Attack

That's about it.

classe said...

Avatar has a problem like so many other Hollywood movies. They are all 'teachable moments'.

It's interesting that even movies made by European leftists tend to be less didactic and more respectful of the viewers' intelligence than Hollywood movies(left or right). European movies try to show reality as it is from many angles, and leave it up to the audience to think things through and arrive at their own conclusions.

Hollywood movies don't expect us to think--or don't trust us to be able to think correctly. So, they spell everything out for us. It's no wonder that Obama is such a Hollwood-like character. Both Hollywood and Obama are into 'teachable moments'. They win us over with dazzle, style, bombast, pizzaz, and effects--things that override rational thought--and then fill our heads with simple-sounding sermons or lessons. It's condescending and manipulative--like adults telling children fairytales with a moral at the end.

A European movie about school problems will be raw, truthful, and multi-faceted. A Hollywood movie, no matter how violent or crazy--often sensationalized--will sum everything up with a tidy lesson about how everything can be overcome if we believe in hope and change.

Kubrick was an exception but then he worked in UK.

Anonymous said...

You must give Cameron some credit. He was the first to put a tail in Ellen Ripley's butt and survive to tell the tale. I wonder if he would try taking that tank-top off, though. Anyway Ridley's Alien was the most tense SciFi I ever saw and Blade Runner with rains, floating geishas, bicycles, pidgeons, wet harlequin frame for Roy Batty's head, will be my favourite SciFi for ever.

Avatar is very good entertainment, but is no match for Star Wars IV's wonderment. What is the relevance of unobtanium when the rival universe has The Force? Who cares about evil corporations when Darth Vader is breathing on the back of your neck? There's no fantasy in Avatar deeper than what the eyes can see. 3D for the eyes, 1D for the soul, so to speak.

Svigor said...

Mars Attacks is an underrated film. It's not all that funny unless you see the politics. I was kind of surprised Burton would make such a "conservative" (for lack of a better word) film. I need to go back and watch it again, and figure out just what he was saying with Bening's character finally seeing the light.

Anonymous said...

"Ben Shapiro's got a list of the 10 worst directors of all time."

Not the worst directors, the most overrated directors. Big difference.

Svigor said...

The only problem with Blade Runner is the number of versions floating around. There seem to be a number of accidentally ethnonationalist undercurrents. I think it's the best Sci-Fi movie ever.

asagiri said...

The only problem with Blade Runner is the number of versions floating around. There seem to be a number of accidentally ethnonationalist undercurrents. I think it's the best Sci-Fi movie ever.

http://www.filmfreakcentral.net/moviebooks/futurenoir.htm

FUTURE NOIR: MAKING OF BLADE RUNNER is a must-read for fans.
There's a part that says politically 'conservative' Scott had disagreements with the liberal writer.

Interesting review by Rosenbaum who included it as one of the 10 best films of the 80s:

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/the-actual-definitive-ultimate-directors-cut/Content?oid=999753

Scott may be another politically ambiguous character like Cameron. There are conservative--even crypto-fascist--strains in some of his movies, but he has also made poltically correct movies like Thelma & Louise.

American Gangster was superb filmmaking and anticipated the rise of Obama.

Svigor said...

Ford famously won't talk about Blade Runner, ever. At least he hadn't the last time I checked a couple years ago. I suspect he smelled an Aryan rat, what with being totally upstaged by Hauer.

How could any list of the best Sci-Fi films not include Buckaroo Banzai? The sleeper's sleeper. Lithgow ("Laugh-a while you can-a monkey boy!") and Lloyd are priceless ("BigbooTAY! TAY! TAY!" and "not my planet monkey boy!).

Svigor said...

Ford's a prick like that. Seems way too full of him self, even if he is smart enough not to tip his hand most of the time. He actually had the gall to say in hindsight he wouldn't take the role in Star Wars again. Like he's some highbrow actor or something. Uhm, Earth to Ford, Indiana Jones? Of course, the common thread between his dissing of Star Wars and Blade Runner was that he wasn't the hero.

Not that I don't like his work, at least in ACTION films. His body language in Raiders was simply perfect (check him out right after Marion blows up, for example).

Svigor said...

Shit, I forgot the 80s DeLaurentis take on Flash Gordon too. Easily a top 10 sci-fi flick. I think it's number 2 after Blade Runner.

logos said...

"What I don't like about Cameron is the political correctness... In Titanic, the rich are all humorless twits and the steerage class really knows how to enjoy life...
In Terminator 2 the scientist... is black. And in Avatar the real issue is not that he identifies U.S. forces with the mercenaries, but that he sides unreservedly with the noble savages against the forces of civilization."

But, is it necessarily PC?
The rich-vs-poor thing in Titanic can be regarded as populism which has been old-as-the-hills in Hollywood. Republican Frank Capra made a whole bunch of movies in this vein. Moviemakers are like politicians. Movie audience, like most voters, are not rich. Most people naturally identify with the less fortunate. Why do all politicians, even rich ones, say they are for the PEOPLE against 'special interests'? Politics and mass culture have always been like this.

That said, Titanic is also a pro-rich movie because we are given a lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous glimpse into the privileged world. Same goes for Gone with the Wind.

Anti-rich movies are actually as hopeless as anti-war movies. No matter how much violence and gore anti-war movies give us, we are thrilled by the violence. Platoon scared me the first time but was exciting the second time. Movies about the rich may tell us that 'rich are greedy and shallow' but boy-oh-boy don't we just love to luxuriate in the jewelry, expensive clothes, and chandeliers before our eyes. DALLAS was a popular show and why? Sure, JR was a sonofabitch, but he was a rich sonofabitch we loved to hate. Even as we hated him, a part of us craved the power that he had. Godfather and Scarface have the same hold on us. On the one hand, yes, they are cautionary stories about crime and power. But, we love the idea of all that power, glamour, money, and respect.

99% of Hollywood movies have the same moral dynamic. They tempt and allure us with a 'sinful' fantasy life but then ends with the reminder that it's better for us to ordinary and decent. We can even tell ourselves that most of us aren't rich BY CHOICE; oh yeah, we willfully chose to be humdrum and poor because we would never make a Faustian pact with the Devil. But, then we keep returning to the movies to see yet another's Devil's temptation of power and riches only to be reminded at the end that it's all sinful and wrong. It reminds me of how the character of Jack keeps returning to the Overlook Hotel in new incarnations in The Shining.

As for the black scientist in T2, Cameron was probably making up for a near total absence of blacks(or Hispanics)in Terminator 1. Similarly, Empire Strikes Back suddenly gave us Lando Calrissian. Also, given that blacks make up a huge percentage of the movie-going public, it was probably a smart business decision. And, what with all the awesome fascist imagery he was toying with, maybe it was safer to have a black-guy-as-positive-role-model so as to neutralize the liberals who might otherwise have jumped him.

As for Avatar, it's not quite PC because the human guy joins the SUPERIOR RACE. Navis are like nature Nazis. Navism isn't very PC, is it?

And Cameron is a man of huge ego, not a humble dweeby white guy. Avatar is more about egology than ecology. Hey, a white gentile now made two biggest hits of all time, and he plans to make more. We should have more white guys with such balls and vision. And all that "PC" stuff just suckers a lot of liberals and people-of-color to come and plunk down $20.

What amuses me is that Avatar is supposed to be pro-nature, but the 'nature' we see is the kind that can ONLY exist in computerized utopia. In a way, Cameron is like Tyrell in Blade Runner. Tyrell made the androids 'more human than human'. Cameron makes his paradise 'more natural than nature'. He's a funny guy.

Udolpho.com said...

Heinlein was a really terrible writer. He is the Internet libertarian gun nut of his time. Some huge piece missing from that brain. But most of the science fiction "greats" sit somewhere between godawful and unintentionally funny. It's a fiction ghetto.

But Sailer is right, we won't see "realistic" aliens because too much money is at stake. Would love to see someone do a Lovecraft take on alien life though (it didn't make much sense but it was 1000x more imaginative than blue furries or guys with messed up noses).

Cameron is a hack. He's made three entertaining movies which still had issues, his sexual ideal appears to be a muscular tranny, his dialogue is always super-corny super-trite super-cliched, and he has prole hangups that require GOOD characters and BAD characters with zero complexity. My cat is more complicated than anyone in any Cameron movie. The guy actually put the line "We're not in Kansas anymore" not just in the movie but in the trailer. That kind of thing only happens when no one around you can tell you "no".

chelobek said...

Is Avatar really the most expensive movie ever made? Maybe by today's dollars but I wonder how much Cleopatra(with Taylor)would cost if made today.

And, there is Soviet WWII film called Liberation(in five parts but one unified narrative)made in the 70s that would probably cost at least 1/2 billion if made today. It looks like WWII was fought all over again just to make this movie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_7HNqdEWwo&feature=related

And, the Soviet 'War & Peace'--9 hr movie--made in the 60s reportedly cost 100 million dollars then. If made today, maybe 700 million?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SVC_9V8K5Y

Anonymous said...

The most lavish historical/war epic made by the Nazis was Kolbert--decent enough movie--, but it was no more
'fascist' in form than Hollywood spectacles.


Kolberg, not Kobert.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAleIlsFxP8&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbr6NYRp9z0

Ray Sawhill said...

"Ultimately, I suspect that Cameron, despite his remarkable fluency as a visual storyteller, is less interested in making movies about science fiction heroes than in being a science fiction hero himself ..."

That's a great line!

Anonymous said...

"Look, Orson Welles made a couple of flicks in the noir genre and certainly welles was involved with nearly all aspects of his movies.
Is the lady from shangai a better example of noir than the maltese falcon?"

For Chrissakes. Maltese Falcon may be perfect noir but Lady from Shanghai transcends the genre. Maltese is a fine piece of clockwork, but Lady is a pandora's box. What you see is what you get with Maltese Falcon, and it's pretty good. But, there are many angles and tangents to everything in Lady in Shanghai. The whole movie is like a hall of mirrors. Welles wasn't just a technician like some 'visionaries' are today. He was a true magician.

Ray Sawhill said...

FWIW, I liked the first "Terminator" a lot, and haven't enjoyed much Cameron has done since.

Also FWIW, put me down as a huge fan of "Starship Troopers" the movie. Try thinking of it this way: as a midnight-movie style satire/goof mashup on patriotic war movies, "Star Wars," and bright-eyed egalitarian hyperbuff multiculturalism. It's *meant* to be ridiculous, but exciting, but ridiculous, but sexy, but ridiculous, but ...

But then Heinlein doesn't mean much to me. If he did, I might well not like the movie.

Hmm, I wonder if the "Heinlein means something to me" element might not have a lot to do with people's reactions to the movie of "Starship Troopers."

Steve Sailer said...

Ray says:

""Ultimately, I suspect that Cameron, despite his remarkable fluency as a visual storyteller, is less interested in making movies about science fiction heroes than in being a science fiction hero himself ..."

"That's a great line!"


Thanks.

That was the key to the essay. When that finally dawned on me, I realized I could work backwards from that to organize my 25 years of random observations about James Cameron.

Anonymous said...

Svigor,re Mars Attacks..
I'll have to watch that again. The last time I watched I was increasingly irritated by certain PC elements.

The redneck boy who wants to fight the Martains and is ridiculed, his family live in a trailer!

Rod Steiger's general keeps wanting to fight the Martians but the movie invites us to laugh at him. Yet events in the movie prove him 100% correct.

Jim Brown and his sons otoh get to fight and kill Martians and the movie asks us to approve of them. Whats the difference? Well Jim and his boys are black and Rod is playing *yawn* a redneck, 'nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Hal, what is it with this Alien3 s**t?

It could have been good but the director/scriptwriter had obvioulsy never watched Alien or Aliens before they made it.

Maybe Im just too pedantic.

For instance...

In Alien3 Ripley waxes lyrical about spending so much of her life fighting Aliens. Nooooo! But discounting hibernation periods of decades (which don't count) the subjective events of the first two movies only take place over a matter of hours with a few months spent on Earth at the beginning of Aliens. From Ripley's pov she only saw her first alien a few months previously.

Im sitting there watching that annoying my gf in the seat next to me, this is when it was first out, muttering and ranting. It gets worse every time Ive seen it again!

Anonymous said...

As for Avatar, it's not quite PC because the human guy joins the SUPERIOR RACE. Navis are like nature Nazis. Navism isn't very PC, is it?

Of course it is, any race can call itself superior, or be called superior, as long as its not white people who the ones being described.

Asian cognative elites are superior to whites, thats fine.

Black athletes, superior to whites no problemo.

Curvaceous Carbon-based Life Form said...

"Any truly great SF work is bigger on the inside than the outside."

Great comment!

The SF work is bigger on the inside than the outside because some of it exists in the fourth spacial dimension:

Example:

-And He Built A Crooked House by Robert Heinlein

Curvaceous Carbon-based Life Form said...

Hal,

HOW could you list the best science fiction movies and leave out Star Trek II, Wrath of Khan?

Come ON! Kirk howling KHAAAAANNNNNN!
will go down in history as the greatest slice of ham and cheez in cinema history.

Just recalling it makes me hungry for an omelet.

And without ST:WoK, no Galaxy Quest:

Gwen DeMarco: What is this thing? I mean, it serves no useful purpose for there to be a bunch of chompy, crushy things in the middle of a hallway. No, I mean we shouldn't have to do this, it makes no logical sense, why is it here?
Jason Nesmith: 'Cause it's on the television show.
Gwen DeMarco: Well forget it! I'm not doing it! This episode was badly written!

Curvaceous Carbon-based Life Form said...

Once upon a time a dude with the anagrammatical pen name of Reginald Bretnor composed a short story in answer the Udolphic curmudgeons:

Bug-Getter
http://www.bretnor.com/BugGetter.html

David said...

>I would say the personal filmmakers of Europe are the real Navi's of the creative world. They are the ones who are resisting the Big Mac-ization of human imagination that pours out of Hollywood.<

Good line. More power to them.

Anonymous said...

"Also FWIW, put me down as a huge fan of "Starship Troopers" the movie. Try thinking of it this way: as a midnight-movie style satire/goof mashup on patriotic war movies, "Star Wars," and bright-eyed egalitarian hyperbuff multiculturalism. It's *meant* to be ridiculous, but exciting, but ridiculous, but sexy, but ridiculous, but ..."

You have to take it as a joke when the top military command post goes to Oprah. Under Obama that may well be possible.

TCO said...

Hey stud. Read the biography of Cooper (King Kong director) that came out a few years ago. (If you are cheap, use your public library and interlibraryloan it from another system if your county does not hold it.)

That dude was Cameron on steroids. A pioneer in stopmotion animation, color, sound. And a RADICAL adventurer. The guy was LITERALLY a POW for a year by the Russians! Even as a wealthy man, he always remembered what it was like to starve for a year!

He flew with romantic valor in WW1, then for the Poles, then for the Flying Tigers in China in WW2 as a balding late 40 year old! He even went to the Naval Academy and got booted his senior year. Bunch of amazing parallels to Heinlein...or Cameron...

Anonymous said...

"Heinlein was a really terrible writer. He is the Internet libertarian gun nut of his time. Some huge piece missing from that brain. But most of the science fiction "greats" sit somewhere between godawful and unintentionally funny. It's a fiction ghetto."

When will you piss off and read your Victorian chick-lit somewhere else?

kelpera said...

"Asian cognative elites are superior to whites, thats fine."

I hear this far more from the right than from the left. The left argues that Asian IQ is higher due to cultural--not racial--factors. When Charles Murray wrote an essay on higher Jewish IQ in Commentary--a conservative Jewish magazine--he noted that it was the FIRST TIME such article was ever allowed. Most Jews--right or left--are anxious about discussion of higher Jewish intelligence. They fear the rise of resentment on the part of gentiles--whites, blacks, Hispanics, etc. The PC line is NO race is smarter than other race; some races do better in school because they come from better homes and have better family life.

Most discussion of higher Asian IQ due to RACE come from 'rightists' like Rushton and Watson.

"Black athletes, superior to whites no problemo."

Ask Jimmy the Greek!!

For such an obvious racial fact, it has been rarely discussed in the MSM, though things are gradually changing because of overwhelming and undeniable evidence.

Sure, MSM will celebrate black athletic triumph as a proof of 'we sure have come a long way', but it's still mostly taboo in most circles to say that blacks are Racially advantaged in sports.

Some denounce it as a form of crude racial stereotype: blacks-as-beasts. And, even though blacks themselves know they are stronger and tougher, they prefer not to discuss in the MSM since it may alarm white people, especially when it comes to street crime. Blacks are still the minority, and it's to their advantage not to alarm white folks too much.

Anonymous said...

"Heinlein was a really terrible writer. He is the Internet libertarian gun nut of his time. Some huge piece missing from that brain. But most of the science fiction "greats" sit somewhere between godawful and unintentionally funny. It's a fiction ghetto."

Agree with previous comment: this is pure idiocy/snobbishness. This "fiction ghetto" has produced better stuff in the past half century than anything produced by the literary click in the same half century. Literary pricks wouldn't know decent writing if it bit them in the tuckus.

hal said...

"It could have been good but the director/scriptwriter had obvioulsy never watched Alien or Aliens before they made it."

Fincher has filmmaking style to burn. Other directors did a good job showing the alien monsters from the human angle.
It's as if Fincher, through control of mood and labyrinthine set ups and movements, took us inside the monster's head.
It's no longer them vs us, but them inside us. This was rendered only physically in Alien--with baby alien popping out of John Hurt's belly--, but Alien 3 has a creeping sense that the Alien is taking over not just the stomach but the brain. We don't just fear for our flesh but for our soul. Only Fincher could pull this off for he knows angles and grooves inaccessible to other directors. He knows both physicality and psychology. He has the rapid-fire bravura showmanship of Welles and the masterful methodology of Hitchcock.

The director's cut--if ever made available--could be even better as Fincher was upset over the final cut done without his supervision.

hal said...

"HOW could you list the best science fiction movies and leave out Star Trek II, Wrath of Khan?"

Because it didn't have Tattoo yelling "Hey boss, the Enterprise, the Enterprise!"

freeze said...

I wonder if Cameron is a fan of Hayao Miyazaki of Mononoke Hime, where a Jungle Bookish girl joined the wolves and beasts and fought the humans.

There were themes similar to Avatar in Thin Red Line by Terrence Malick. There was a vague message about peoples from civilized and technological worlds--Americans and Japan--blowing things up in a natural paradise.

I think the movie begins with one of the American guys as a semi-deserter who, having departed from the field of combat, prefers to cavort with the natives, go swimming, and eat coconuts. He rejoins the US military and doesn't turn traitor, but throughout the movie we sense that he's spiritually with nature than with Man. A spiritual traitor?

Thin Red Line, along with Lawrence of Arabia and Merry X-Mas Mr Lawrence, is one of few movies where it's not a simple case of either/or, obvious good vs bad. A key character comes to sympathize with something outside his own culture, but there's no easy way out from reality, no eldorado of the moral clarity.

Anonymous said...

"Agree with previous comment: this is pure idiocy/snobbishness. This "fiction ghetto" has produced better stuff in the past half century than anything produced by the literary click in the same half century. Literary pricks wouldn't know decent writing if it bit them in the tuckus."

Is 'Giles Goat Boy' sci-fi?
How about 'After Many a Summer Dies the Swan' or 'Ape and Essence'?

My understanding is that if it's more satire than gadgetry, it's literature. If more gadgetry than satire, it's sci-fi.
So, Brave New World and 1984 are not sci-fi but Fahrenheit 451 is.

Curvaceous Carbon-based Life Form said...

"Because it didn't have Tattoo yelling "Hey boss, the Enterprise, the Enterprise!"

Poo. Tattoo's hopping and squealing's got nothing on Shatner's facial contortions.

I mean, you can SEE the waves of overemoting rippling across his lip. Acting that bad takes talent.


Geez, what planet are you from?

Steiner said...

Cameron's sci-fi vision was burned in by the "hard" science fiction of the 1950s he read as a kid, such as Heinlein's. Too bad the discoveries in physics and biology of the last thirty years or so have made it increasingly unlikely that any physical human will ever travel beyond the inner solar system. Ultra-high energy cosmic radiation, the impenetrability of the relativity barrier, the persistent vulnerability of the human organism to zero-gravity, these are a few of the issues which the "classic" sci-fi writers either assumed away or didn't have to address. Today we know (a little) more, and the better guess is that no Marines will ever descend to the surface of a alien world in a super landing craft like some futuristic Normandy invasion. Cameron's vision in Avatar or Aliens 2 is no vision at all, it is bad science pimping for fantasy.

Then there is the Clarke/Kubrick take: that the universe is comprised of principles, energies and motivations that are not only unknown to humans, but unknowable. An artwork that embodies this view, like 2001, is a seldom thing. There's a reason the film rights to Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, which is even darker than 2001, have kicked around Hollywood for sixty years without a green light.

navi blue said...

There's a love element in Avatar, right? Are we to assume that the main reason he switched sides was because he was too busy chasing tails, or one particular tail?

Love and lust make people do strange things, which is why it's even been employed in war. Real-life James-Bondresses used allure and charm to get info from the enemy.

In Romeo and Juliet, it's love between the boy and girl which enable them to see beyond tribal loyalties--though one can argue they become blinded by conjugal loyalty.

And Michael Corleone is pulled deeper into the whole Sicilian thing when he meets and marries Apollonia in old Sicily. His case is like a double betrayal. When he joined the US army, he was betraying the family and the clan. When he joined the Family and married Apollonia, he was betraying Kay and the American way.

Love Story has a kind of a class- traitor in the golden rich guy who gives up the family fortune out of love for some working class ethnic girl. Oliver goes to live among 'the people'.
There's something like that in Forsyte Saga too, a class-traitor in the form of a rich guy who disobeys his father and marries a humble maid or governess.

The element of love both heightens and confuses the issue in Avatar. His love for the blue giantess could be interpreted as love for her culture or love beyond culture(his and hers).

Well, it could have been worse. At least it's not Brokeback Pandora, with the Marine guy falling for some gay Navi. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

-And He Built A Crooked House by Robert Heinlein

Is this about George Soros?

Anonymous said...

"Svigor,re Mars Attacks..
I'll have to watch that again. The last time I watched I was increasingly irritated by certain PC elements."

Lighten up, the movie makes fun of everybody.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:

Though Russians lost 20 million in WWII, depiction of most Germans was actually less cartoonishly hateful than in Hollywood movies.

At least some of the blame goes to
a certain self-hating Georgian who felt so threatened by a military coup, that he all but destroyed the Soviet officer corps.

I wonder how Soviet cinema depicted Finns, western Ukrainians, and Croats.

Why would the Soviets have any bad will towards Croats? Particularly the anti-Tito nationalist Croats.

Mostly as comrades grateful for Soviet liberation. Of course, Soviet cinema covered up the great crimes of communism, but it didn't go out of its way to present the bad guys as subhuman villains of the Hollywood movie kind.

If anything, it was western communists, and now post-communist Russian and Serbian nationalists, who demonize these and other ethnic groups.

albertosaurus said...

Whiskey writes:
Avatar made money, but not profits. Just like Titanic.

This character Whiskey continues to write about Cameron, Avatar and Hollywood economics.

Cameron first. He was one third of a conspiracy with Speilberg, and Lucas to establish 3D so as to get butts back in theater seats. The other two seem to have dropped out but it looks very much as if Cameron will be in all the history books as the father of modern 3D. The Consumer Electronics show that just closed in Las Vegas was dominated by 3D. All the techie writers and commentators were unprepared for this sudden revolution. Panasonic, Sony and LG are rushing 3D products to market. It was all precipitated by Cameron and Avatar.

Avatar. This is a movie you watch in spite of its plot. Like Gladiator which was not based on Rome itself but on the previous Roman movie The Fall of the Roman Empire, Avatar (as many have noted) is based on Dancing with Wolves. Why not? There was a lot of money at stake and Costner's film was a successful template.

Hollywood economics.
The studios made $42.3 billion in 2007. Only a tenth of that came from American theaters. DVDs are a much greater source of revenue. However fully 38% of all DVD sales come from one retailer alone - Wal-Mart. DVDs are now at a crossroads. In South Korea in 2006 they bought $1.3 billion worth of DVDs. In 2007 they bought only $80 million. The reason - high speed Internet.

Fiber To The Home(FTTH) is also coming to the US. Already much of the East Coast has FIOS the Verizon fiber service.

Last year in the US we saw the roll out of digital TV. Comcast cable quadrupled their HD broadcast and OnDemand offerings. NetFlix introduced High Definition movie streaming. The NetFlix HD is 720p. The cable HD is largely 1080i. The new Blu-ray disks are 1080p. All of these make the DVD standard of 480i seem old fashion.

This means that DVDs - formerly the most solid revenue stream for the studios - may be in big trouble.

The P&A (prints and advertising) expenses of many movie releases are greater than all the domestic box office receipts. So it may very well be that even Avatar may not make any money this year. The back end revenues won't be known to anyone for at least a year.

Further clouding the financial picture is the fact that many if not most people (myself included)went to see Avatar for the 3D not the plot. This 3D experience will not be available on network TV, Pay for View, or DVDs - all traditional studio revenue sources. It probably will be available in 3D on some kind of Blu-ray disk - but when?

I just don't know but - not to worry - Whiskey has all this stuff figured out.

Svigor said...

I don't know about sci-fi because I don't read it. But I do know fantasy is a ghetto. Megatons of trees, all killed for nothing. The genre as a whole is crap. The best thing I've read since Tolkien is that Song of Ice and Fire stuff and it's just worth reading, and I skipped huge parts of it. I assume sci-fi is better, due to its much better rep, but I bet there's tons of crap there too.

It's kind of amazing, the percentage of fantasy I pick up and drop after a chapter or two. It's got to be up around 99%.

Svigor said...

Just look at some of the fantasy authors who are "Tolkien this" or "Tolkien that," and how godawful their work is. Take Robert Jordan. He produced reams of complete shit, and he's called the "modern Tolkien" and such.

Anonymous said...

"Like Gladiator which was not based on Rome itself but on the previous Roman movie The Fall of the Roman Empire"

No, it wasn't. You mean Demetrius and the Gladiators.

Mr. Anon said...

"Svigor said...

It's kind of amazing, the percentage of fantasy I pick up and drop after a chapter or two. It's got to be up around 99%."

I Agree. There is Tolkien, which is as rich and deep and organic as the oldest mythology, and then there is everything else, most of which is dreck (foremost among the dreck is anything that George Lucas has laid hands on).

I did rather like Roger Zelazny's stuff though - it wasn't staggeringly great, but it was almost always witty and entertaining. "Nine Princes in Amber" was a great read.

Anonymous said...

"Just look at some of the fantasy authors who are "Tolkien this" or "Tolkien that," and how godawful their work is. Take Robert Jordan. He produced reams of complete shit, and he's called the "modern Tolkien" and such."

I've not read Jordan's works, but I'd like to nominate David Eddings to stand along side him. He has wrote the odd decent book (Redemption of A-something was good), but his main series got weak quickly. Still Jordan is probably more offensive on the grounds that he is still active and probably has some sort of standing contract that will lead to ever more books.

The best currently active fantasy writer is Terry Pratchett and he's a comedy writer (and he's now got Alzheimers) so can't really be counted with Tolkien.

Anonymous said...

"But most of the science fiction "greats" sit somewhere between godawful and unintentionally funny. It's a fiction ghetto."

Is? No. Was? Yes. In the 30's and 40's John Campbell's "Astounding" pretty much invented science fiction as we know it; the age of "Astounding" was "the Golden Age of science fiction". There had been sf pulp magazines before but they were quite terrible.

And "Astounding" was...still terrible. The main contributors are mostly forgotten, and deservedly so; only two names really survive: Asimov (still terrible; the man had zero literary talent, none for words, none for character, none for plot. He was smarmy too) and Heinlein. And while I understand Heinlein is not popular with men of Udolpho's inclinations, he was actually a very fine writer (when he disciplined himself - this was, in his later years...rarely).

From the 50's onward, if we discount Asimov who still wouldn't shut up, Udolpho's description of "between godawful and unintentionally funny" really doesn't describe the prominent SF writers of the day, which I suppose is what he means by "the greats". Most of these "greats" are pretty decent; Bester was shallow but urbane and imaginative, Zelazny was very good in a sort of noirish way, talented but cold - and Dick was the best writer in the 2nd half of the 20th century. His later novels are all remarkable and distinct literary accomplishments - for example, "A Scanner Darkly" is one of the few, few examples of "black comedy" that is actually plotted like a great comedy, and is actually hilarious. The hash-smuggling scheme is one of the funniest things ever penned....

Or take the problem of writing a narrator of the opposite sex - there are plenty of good novels where the writer does this, but they are NEVER exquisite examples of psychological portraiture, because men and women don't quite understand each other - or so I thought until I read "The Transmigration of Timothy Archer".

Gene Wolfe is also fine if you have a long, long, long attention span.

SF is only a "ghetto" to people who think science fiction = Asimov & Flash Gordon & Terminator. Certainly it's a "popular" literary form, meaning the demands on style are a bit looser and the demands on plot are a bit stricter than in Updike/Bellows/Roth "littrary" fiction, but this is not entirely a bad thing.

David said...

albertosaurus said

>it may very well be that even Avatar may not make any money this year. The back end revenues won't be known to anyone for at least a year.<

I believe that's Whiskey's point, and if so, he's right.

Folks, a $300 million film that earns $300 mil in box office receipts is not breaking even. A $300 mil film with $400 mil box is probably not breaking even, either.

The movie biz is more complicated than the general public understands. Many people have to be paid off when a film is advertised distributed and exhibited, and this is done mostly on a percentage basis, not a hard number basis. As albertosaurus points out, the back end is the studio's great hope, the point where its head breaks the surface and profitability becomes possible. Usually a theatrical release functions as no more than an advertising campaign for the back end.

To mess with the back end is to go after Hollywood's balls with a blade. This is what is occuring now, in slow mo.

Marc B said...

Terminator is one of the greatest films ever made. The remaining strains of teenage nihilist in me forces me to pull for the Terminator. Cameron and Schwarzenegger collaborated to create the perfect amoral and remorseless Teutonic killing machine.

albertosaurus said...

David aid:

I believe that's Whiskey's point, and if so, he's right.

No that was not Whiskey's point at all. He had said that Cameron was in disfavor with Hollywood because he spent too much money on creating his films. He cites no evidence for this whatsoever. Whiskey thinks that Cameron can't raise money because of his profligate reputation and that's why he hasn't made a movie for more than a decade. This is contra-factual. He announced years ago that he would make Avatar when the photo realistic technology had developed enough to fulfill his vision. Cameron was not a pariah in Hollywood. For Whiskey to say so is just perverse.

My point was different. I pointed out that a number of the traditional back end revenue sources like DVDs are in the midst of a technical revolution largely because of high speed Internet access. DVD revenues crashed in Korea a few years ago it could happen here. Also Avatar the movie that is a smash in theaters for 3D won't be available for home consumption in 3D. This may mean that Avatar won't do well after its initial theatrical run.

This is ironic. Avatar was meant to be a means by which theaters again became the main focus of movies. But the facts that Avatar is so theater centric and that theaters are now a relatively minor part of studio revenues could mean that Avatar makes a lot less than it first appears. This phenomenon has little to do with the initial costs of filming or Cameron's supposed inability to stay within a budget.

Avatar was intended to be revolutionary. It is. However by its very nature, it can't make money the way a more conventional movie would. Or maybe I'm wrong. No one knows - least of all Whiskey. It remains to be seen if a film intended to make most of its revenues in 3D equipped theaters can do well with 2D DVDs and cable TV.

Anonymous said...

The kind of question raised about Star Trek the Next Generation also applies to Avatar. If future mankind has such awesome technology so as to travel to distance planets in a nano-second and colonize them--and produce all sorts of biotechnological miracles--, how come it haven't found a cure for baldness or paralysis yet?

Svigor said...

Jordan is dead, died some time ago. I think someone's been contracted to finish his abominable series though.

Svigor said...

I did rather like Roger Zelazny's stuff though - it wasn't staggeringly great, but it was almost always witty and entertaining. "Nine Princes in Amber" was a great read.

I read a couple of the Amber books a long time ago. It struck me as more sci-fi than fantasy, but yeah it was better than most of the complete shite published as fantasy.

Svigor said...

The kind of question raised about Star Trek the Next Generation also applies to Avatar. If future mankind has such awesome technology so as to travel to distance planets in a nano-second and colonize them--and produce all sorts of biotechnological miracles--, how come it haven't found a cure for baldness or paralysis yet?

You could make a whole blog about the scientific stupidity of Star Trek. But the problem's kind of inherent to hard far-future sci-fi. If we're going to have warp drive and transporters, medical (and weapons, and computer, and tons of other stuff) technology would be light years ahead of where it is in Star Trek. And where's the fun in that? AIs would be doing all the heavy lifting, super biotech would do all the terraforming, etc.

Weaponry has to be the funniest part, though, because it's so obvious. WWII tech small arms are superior to those gay phasers. A couple of Italian soldiers with SMGs would roll up the whole Enterprise security detail. And haven't these people ever heard of nukes? Nukes would be like five bucks each in the 25th century, right?

And don't get me started on comm tech and stuff like that. The blackberry's got TNG whipped. And AI too. "His pattern indicates 2 dimensional thinking." I'm spitting out my popcorn so I can ask Spock WTF they don't have computers running a million sims on navigation and maneuvering and tactics.

But again, I usually give them a pass if it's not too bad, because FFS they're just trying to write a stupid story for cryin' out loud. Even so, the "Christ, no cell phones in the 25th century?" moments seem to come thick and fast.

Anonymous said...

"how come it haven't found a cure for baldness or paralysis yet?"

It has, but Sam Worthington's character can't afford it (spinal repair, not dimoxinil). The proceedure must be enormously expensive, since otherwise you'd think the USMC would have paid for the proceedure. It's a plot device, Picard was only a baldy because Patrick Steward was and is bald, the avatar character is crippled because it suits the plot.

"Jordan is dead, died some time ago. I think someone's been contracted to finish his abominable series though."

After reading this I just looked him up on wikipedia and you're right and the series will last to 14, so three that are coauthored.

Not that many if you consider that Christopher Tolkien has published dozens of books based on his father's various unfinished manuscripts.

selective consciousness said...

Navis are more like the gods worshiped by primitive peoples than primitive peoples themselves. Navis are not only inhabitants of nature--like the people in Apocalypto--but 'spiritually' tuned into nature. Primitive peoples admired, worshiped, and envied the gods who had the ability to take on various forms--plants, animals, man, water, air, etc--and effortless harness their power. Humans lived in nature but had to struggle to have enough to eat and fend off wild animals. In contrast, there was a masterly ease among the gods who were 'tuned into' nature like we are plugged into electricity(and the net, cell phones, satellite tv, ipod, etc). The spiritual realm of the gods unified the world of men, animals, past, present, water, heaven, etc. Long before man invented the telephone, gods could commune with one another or with animals or humans--through dreams or visions--in an instant over great distances. Gods could take flight, swim like the fishes, change forms, be immensely power, loom gigantic, or disappear like shadows.
Look at the powers of the Navis, and they are more like nature gods than nature peoples.

In this sense, Avatar could be less about the physical conflict between modern man and primitive man than between modern mindset and mythopoeic spirituality. Just as 'Jihad' can be interpreted as 'war against the infidel' or 'war against infidelity within oneself', Avatar can be seen as a denunciation of modern man's destruction of nature and nature tribes or modernity's destruction of our inner dream-myth world. It could be a Jungian thing like in 'Excalibur' where Merlin says 'one god comes to drive out the many'.
Merlin isn't opposed to technology per se but man's changing perception of reality.
Nature, pristine or not, is already dead in the eyes of those who are blind to its sacredness and beauty.

So, Navis may represent a spiritual link to nature than nature itself. War waged on them isn't merely political or economical but spiritual. It's not only genocide but deicide--of the collective consciousness of man.

trillion dollar hammer said...

"It has, but Sam Worthington's character can't afford it (spinal repair, not dimoxinil). The proceedure must be enormously expensive, since otherwise you'd think the USMC would have paid for the proceedure."

I don't know. It sounds as though a civilization can afford bullet trains but not hammers.

BoyAmongYou said...

Whiskey said...

[...] the USB ports the Navi use to control nature.

1/19/2010


I lol'd

It's like trying to sell shamanism to the i-Pod generation, how would you do it?

I don't blame Cameron for his shallowness. If you want to make outrageously expensive movies and market them to outrageous ammounts of peoples you gotta go with the Zeitgeist as much as possible if you don't want to go the way of the Dodo (or the way of Idiocracy, for that matter)

He made me go to a cinema theater for the first time in yeards (3D) and that's an accomplishment in itself. What a visual fest!