Brian Edwards Media

Happy New Year – and a movie not to miss.

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A new year has arrived and with it, subject to debate, a new decade. May it bring you all good things and unwind all your recessionary tangles.

I don’t have the resolve to keep up new year resolutions and the end result is a feeling of failure rather than achievement. However, we have promised to see more movies this year, so to avoid this being a doomed New Year Resolution, we started this week. 

We love going to the movies.  We favour the grey power sessions – afternoon showings that come without giggles, texting or popcorn (god, don’t you hate the smell of that stuff?). We occasionally pay the price of loudly whispered elderly commentary, but on the whole the patrons are quiet and courteous and the cinemas mainly empty – we’ve even had an entire cinema to ourselves on occasion.

There’s no expectation of that sort of peace during the holidays, but sometimes you just can’t wait round for the silent season. So we went to see Avatar on Wednesday – and this is the point of this post.

Make a new year resolution: See Avatar.

I scoffed when I read blurbs about this being a new level in cinema, but it’s no exaggeration.  Simple and formulaic the story may be, but the execution is so brilliant that you won’t really notice until you’ve left the theatre. And, as the writers of children’s stories know well, a formula carries a strong pull.  You sort of know what should happen – but will it? Will there be the satisfaction of a familiar resolution? Will the bad guys get it in spades? Will the star-crossed lovers end up together? And how are they going to get out of this mess?

Actually, with animation like this, you could film the telephone book and make it riveting. It is lush and extraordinary, a visual feast that sucks you into a different world and allows the willing suspension of disbelief that is essential to real movie-going satisfaction. I suspect the last time there was this sort of leap in technical achievement on screen was when Disney brought out Fantasia.

Our movies guru advised against viewing Avatar in the Imax. Too overwhelming for tender souls like ourselves, he thought.  Possibly, the first time.  But I loved Dark Knight in the Imax – now I can’t wait for a vertiginous couple of hours of 3-D on the giant screen.

So – go to see Avatar. Go directly to see Avatar. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

It’s quite unlike any movie I’ve ever seen. And it’ll be even better in the Imax!

28 Comments:

  1. Thanks for the recommendation but I think I will exercise free will and pass on this one. A stack of library books waiting to be read holds far greater appeal and I do not have to listen to the wrinklies crunching popcorn although at least most are not into texting, thank God!

    Unlike you I find very little appeal in the cinema. The only film during which I have not fallen asleep in recent years was the Merchant of Venice and in my case that was the exception proving the rule; the rule being that I fall asleep in the first 10 minutes of any film.

    • Alas, poor Ben. You’re missing a great experience here. I’d challenge you to fall asleep. But I have to concede that if you don’t like movies, you’d probably hate this one!

  2. DEFINITELY ALAS, poor Ben! As he falls asleep within the first 10min., then he OBVIOUSLY missed what’ll become a war classic: “Saving Private Ryan”. The first 20min.were so harrowing that my hand retained my partner’s fingernail impressions for hours afterwards. WWII veterans came out crying, saying that was EXACTLY what they went through (er, the event, not the fingernails!).
    Movies can be shocking, eye-opening, thrilling, warming, escape from our crappy worlds for 2hrs. Ben must have a sad life if he finds “very little appeal” in entertainment…my GOD! Don’t get him started on his opinion of tv or radio!!

    yardyyardyyardy.blogspot.com

  3. Alas, poor Ben… Sounds like a line from Hamlet. I did see saving Private Ryan, or at least the first five minutes and then fell asleep.

    I will not bore you with my views on TV but for entertainement I prefer ‘live’ events; theatre, concerts where there is interaction with the performers. After that it is reading where my own imagination can form the pictures.

    No doubt I am missing a lot in my indifference to cinema but I shall have to live with your scorn and pity. Incidentally I did see a Japanese film called Departures the other week. I had to stay awake for the sub titles and thoroughly enjoyed it and can thoroughly recommend it.

    You may wonder why I go to the cinema at all but I feel marital relationships require me to make a sacrifice and indulge my wife’s pleaures.

    • You may wonder why I go to the cinema at all but I feel marital relationships require me to make a sacrifice and indulge my wife’s pleaures.

      Hmm…have you thought of taking her to Avatar? Ten bucks says it’ll cure your narcolepsy.

      And yes, it was – apologies to WS.

  4. Curiously I did suggest to my wife going to see Avatar, saying it came with Brian Edward’s recommendation. I am ashamed to say that she said a rather rude word regarding your husband and his recommendation and indicated that nothing would persuade her to see the film.

    My son, who has seen the film, chipped in and added his enthusiastic endorsement but all to no avail. I am almost tempted to go by myself except that I would feel out of place amongst the popcorn chewing and texting youth of the city. At my age having a pair of cardboard coloured glasses perched on the end of my nose would just add to the view that here was some geriatric weirdo trying to recapture his youth. At least when you go in pairs the reaction is only that the local rest home is doing its spring cleaning.

  5. PS And before BE gets all hoity toity about my ‘ageist’ comments I am of an age where I am allowed to be ‘ageist’, in the same way that Jews can get away with Jewish jokes

  6. I seem to be alone in loving movies. I intend seeing Avatar and on New Year’s Eve saw The Lovely Bones. I found it two and a bit hours well spent, given Sir Pete’s penchant for effects over emotion. I manage to find around 3-4 worthwhile movies or dvd’s a week. It helps to have a circle of like-minded friends to share these with. I also belong to Fatso which is a mail-order DVD club. In case you suspect I might be a callow youth I should mention that I am in fact an OAP nudging 70. My movie mates are of a similar age. I must agree with you JC about the distractions at regular sessions. I belong to the Skycity Cinemas Seniors Club. Costs $10 per year. Tickets are $6 and I get a free filter coffee as well! The customers, whose ages vary from younguns to oldies, are always considerate. I go to The Embassy in Wellington which is the best cinema I have experienced in NZ. No need for audio aids because the volume here is LOUD. Some of my less audio-challenged friends find it a bit over the top. Fine for me though. We have the occasional purchaser of a trough of popcorn. The theatre is so huge we can give them a wide berth. Oh and I also belong to The Library.

    • on New Year’s Eve saw The Lovely Bones. I found it two and a bit hours well spent, given Sir Pete’s penchant for effects over emotion.

      We saw Lovely Bones last week as well. I enjoyed it, but felt that at times the effects interrupted the flow of the story. I felt the same about King Kong – by the time we got to the buggy things in the cave I was muttering, “Oh, get on with it, Peter!”. One of my theories is that brilliant books seldom make brilliant films – they’re too dense and complex, and often too introverted for the screen. On the other hand, some quite badly written books translate really well to the screen – look at Jurassic Park, for example. The same with television: House of Cards and its sequel To Play the King were both great television series; the books were ho-hum at best.

      Like the idea of the Seniors Club at Sky City – I didn’t know about that. Must drag the aging Irishman down there. The Bridgeway in Northcote does a senior tickets at $10 and is a really nice little theatre with free parking and good coffee, and I think I heard that the Rialto has a geriatric special on Tuesdays.

  7. I thought that King Kong would have made a good 90min movie. Jackson, not happy that the film was 2 and a half hours long, added 30 more minutes. This would have been the risible canyon stampede complete with giant wetas!
    Talk about indulgent.

  8. Baz, since you live in Wellington you should go to the Lighthouse Cinemas. They are tiny and it is like watching a film in your own home. They are ‘uncool’ so youth avoid them. You are allowed to take in a flat white in cup and saucer. Never had a sniff of popcorn. Above all the seats are like armchairs; ideal for a snooze. All very civilised. These are now the only cinemas which I will now allow myself to be dragged to.

  9. Diverting slightly from the subject of this posting, but following the line of thought from several contributors prior…it’s certainly a characteristic of Peter Jackson’s films – that tendency to go too far in the Weta Workshops department. Great as they are, Sir PJ needs to pull back just a tad! Hopefully his rendition of the classic wartime “The Dambusters” won’t suffer unduly because of it.
    What about that one, Ben – will we see you there, popcorn, cellphone et al?

  10. Ben: “These are now the only cinemas which I will now allow myself to be dragged to.”

    And, of course, you take your favourite tartan blanket along, to cover your knees?

  11. Hi Ben
    Thanks for your tip. I was in fact an early adapter and often visited the first Lighthouse at Petone.Since becoming an OAP I discovered The Embassy. Like The Lighthouse you can take your coffee/beer/wine with you and the chairs are very comfortable, some of them soft leather. When the theatre was upgraded for the Lord of The Rings premiere several luminaries donated chairs and each has a little brass plaque. My favourite is Liv Tyler’s!
    For PhilBee
    The script for The Dambusters has been written by Stephen Fry. This bodes well.

  12. Simple and formulaic the story may be, but the execution is so brilliant that you won’t really notice until you’ve left the theatre.

    Not really — you never go to a James Cameron movie for narrative elegance, witty dialogue and nuanced characterisation, but even by his standards Avatar was crude and obvious.

    Perhaps I was spoiled by treating myself to the sparkly new BluRays of Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz — they’re still visually splendid after 70 years, thanks in so small part to the very best restoration money and obsessive care can achieve. (Ditto for the equally fine BluRay transfer of North by Northwest — my favourite Hitchcock.) Very nice to get cosy with three films that were made in an age where style and substance weren’t mutually exclusive.

    • you never go to a James Cameron movie for narrative elegance, witty dialogue and nuanced characterisation, but even by his standards Avatar was crude and obvious.

      Can’t disagree with this, Craig, but oddly enough it didn’t bother me, probably because I was expecting the script to be dreadful. There was a slight Victorian Music Hall feel to the script and it worked in an odd way. Like a children’s movies, morality plays can get away with the melodramatic, particularly when they’re extravagant with the special effects. And I can’t believe that someone who calls a new mineral “Unobtanium” is writing with his tongue anywhere but firmly in his cheek!

      Baz has sent through the link to Simon Morris’s review of Avatar, Lovely Bones and Sherlock Holmes – worth a listen. http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/atm/atm-20100104-1430-At_the_Movies_for_4_January_2010_from_Matinee_Idle-048.mp3

  13. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/new/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=3557877

    Great article, this.

    James Cameron, Peter Jackson, Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg et al are to great enduring filmmaking, what McDonald’s and KFC are to haute cuisine: popular junk. Especially, when compared to the likes of William Wyler, Frank Capra and Fred Zinnemann.

  14. Yo, Judy — read today’s Herald ‘TimeOut’, on page 3?
    I put George Lucas’s 1977 film, Star Wars, as the Start Point, where filmmaking went into inexorable/terminal decline. Formulaic dreck. And his sequels, with a character called Jar-Jar Binks?. Jesus Christ!! Avatar is just an extension of this.

    I rest my case, your Honour.

    • Trouble is, Merv, that you’re missing something. Like the people who could never see past Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy, you’ve got yourself stuck in a time warp of appreciation that can’t accept new styles of film-making. That’s fine if it keeps you happy, but if oldies like BE and me can go WOW at brilliant new CGI technology and thoroughly enjoy the innovations that are taking the craft to a different level, then maybe you could take a deep breath, leave your preconceptions at the door and give it a go with an open mind.

      By the way, we’ve seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo this week – worth dealing with the subtitles for an edge of seat movie (though someone’s got to invent subtitles that consist of both black and white, so the damn things don’t keep disappearing!). Don’t take your auntie.

      Watch out for Precious, coming up next month. Very powerful, and wonderful performances. You’d enjoy this one, Merv. Not a CGI effect in sight. Don’t take anyone’s auntie!

  15. JC: “Like the people who could never see past Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy, you’ve got yourself stuck in a time warp of appreciation that can’t accept new styles of film-making”.

    That remark is not only simplistic, but patently untrue. As an aside, I have done quite a bit of film critiquing on IMDb and Amazon.com. Also, I have read a lot of Pauline Kael’s film critiques. Films are a passion of mine. I have a love of films, that started when my Mum took me to movies at a very young age (pre-school).

    I’m not stuck in a “time warp”, at all. And, while I can be impressed by techno wizardry aka CGI, it often means the film’s narrative is subservient to the Special Effects. Today’s filmstars are shallow Hollywood cardboard-cutout archetypes. Devoid of depth, and the acting lacks emotional verisimiltude.

    Last Saturday, I went to the Rialto to see the French film, “Summer Hours”. I like Quentin Tarantino’s work, such as: Jackie Brown, True Rommance and Pulp Fiction. My taste in films isn’t confined to Indie, or those hotshot auteur directors. It’s mainstream, across a very broad spectrum.

    • Today’s filmstars are shallow Hollywood cardboard-cutout archetypes. Devoid of depth, and the acting lacks emotional verisimiltude.

      Sweeping generalisations don’t advance arguments, rather they undermine them. Some filmstars have always been shallow and of limited talent, even in the halcyon days of your memory. And some have been brilliant, and are so today. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t have enjoyed any movies since the 70s. I find it interesting that many films I remember as being superb when I first saw them now appear wooden and stagey, and disappoint to the extent that I don’t finish watching them. Less a case of rose-tinted nostalgia than an advance in both filmmaking and naturalistic acting techniques.

      while I can be impressed by techno wizardry aka CGI, it often means the film’s narrative is subservient to the Special Effects.

      And, yes, that can be to the detriment of the film – The Lovely Bones being a classic example. See my comments upstrand.

      The point that is being missed here is that filmmakers create in different genres for different tastes, expectations and experiences. I watch movies on an almost daily basis and I choose them according to my mood and appetite. Sometimes I want Filet de boeuf en croute, and sometimes I want fish ‘n’ chips and icecream. Sometimes I want The Pianist and sometimes I want Avatar . What I don’t want is a movie that’s pretentious or trying to masquerade as something that it isn’t. Therein lies almost inevitable failure – not to mention extreme irritation on my part.

      A film like Avatar is created purely for entertainment – a feel-good visual treat with no illusions of worthiness. It’s not there to make you think, or educate you or improve your mind. It’s just there for fun. Would it have been improved by a better, wittier script? Of course it would. But it’s still a damn good movie, and I will watch it more than once.

      I have done quite a bit of film critiquing on IMDb and Amazon.com. Also, I have read a lot of Pauline Kael’s film critiques.

      I have to assume that you watched the movies you posted comments on. Have you seen Avatar? And if not, aren’t you passing judgement without the prerequisite evidence? Watch it and hate it, by all means. But at least reserve your “critique” until then.

  16. In my previous post, there was an error to my ‘Cut and Paste’ link to this article:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=3557877

    A great piece of writing. And so true, too.

  17. I agree with much of what you say, and we probably aren’t poles apart. But this comment from an Amazon.com reviewer holds special sway:

    “Every now and then, a film is so bad, so wretched, so devoid of any socially or artistically redeeming value as to take on a life of its own, and by the very denial of value, acquire a value unto itself”.

    I believe one can extrapolate on that remark, and apply it to a broader context, in filmmaking. I still believe that Star Wars was the watershed in moviemaking history. A pivotal moment, signalling the change as to how movies were to be made. To become less dialogue and character-driven, trending more towards visual hyperbole (action-driven) and sensory stimulation (Special Effects).

    “I find it interesting that many films I remember as being superb when I first saw them now appear wooden and stagey, and disappoint to the extent that I don’t finish watching them”.

    Very true. Some films hold up better over time than others. West Side Story now seems dated and corny. For some reason, Brit. films date better than their American counterparts. Get Carter, The Ipcress File and The Long Good Friday — still remain terrific films, even by today’s standards.

    I’m inclined to think that there is a correlation between how well a film holds up over time and its musical score; which gives the film its emotional resonance, as well as driving the narrative.

    Films which featured the work from composers — Ennio Morricone, Maurice Jarre, Dimitri Tiomkin, Jerry Goldsmith, Nino Rota (and names I can’t recall), their films have an enduring quality. Almost timeless. Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather (P1 and P2), Patton, to name a few.
    Phillipe Sadre’s work in Roman Polanski’s 1979 film ‘Tess’, to me, is the gold-plated standard; where the music is so evocative that it becomes a narrative, itself: lyrical, lush, affecting, vibrantly playful — and hauntingly tragic.

    I will go and see Avatar, at the cinema.

    • “Every now and then, a film is so bad, so wretched, so devoid of any socially or artistically redeeming value as to take on a life of its own, and by the very denial of value, acquire a value unto itself”.

      Absolutely! The “So awful it’s brilliant” syndrome. These films are a 100 minutes of helpless laughter. Unfortunately I can’t recall any titles off the top of my head. Want to nominate some?

      I agree Polanski holds up well. Surprisingly enough, so do some of the old classic westerns.

  18. Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant, Tess, and Chinatown (Great) — all hold up; I haven’t seen his earlier films, Repulsion and Knife in the
    Water.

    High Noon and The Ox-Bow Incident — I would regard as classic westerns. Morality tales of human failings and weaknesses; very atmospheric, to the point of being elegiac.

    As for the So-Bad-it’s-Good genre: “Pam Grier, step up and take a bow” (for those Blaxploitation films from the early 1970s). The Mini-Skirt Mob (1968), Planet 9 From Outer Space (1959), Food of the Gods (1976). Sadly, it featured the hugely-talented Pamela Franklin, but when her star persona had flamed-out and her film career was in freefall. She was an Oscar-nominee for Best Supporting Actress in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1968). Maggie Smith won the Oscar for Best Actress, that year.
    Oh, that remark from the Amazon.com reviewer, refers to the film “Leaving Las Vegas”.

    • In the immortal words of John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious!”

      I love Leaving Las Vagas – seen it at least three times.

      Someone out there – support me!!

      High Noon – in spades. Caught it again on Sky recently. Even today, that would be impressive directing and editing!

      Get Knife in the Water out from a video shop. You won’t be disappointed.

  19. “In the immortal words of John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious!” (I reckon I’ve used that exact phrase a couple of times, myself).

    Apologies: it wasn’t “Leaving Las Vegas”, the author’s comment referred to “Showgirls”. Here is the link to Joanna Daneman’s review:

    http://www.amazon.com/Showgirls-Fully-Exposed-Elizabeth-Berkley/product-reviews/B000PMFS2I/ref=cm_cr_pr_link_5?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&pageNumber=5&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending

  20. “By the way, we’ve seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo this week – worth dealing with the subtitles for an edge of seat movie……”

    Verdict: 6.5/10