Yes, I had decided I had to see what "all the fuss" was about, and I wanted to see it in 3-D. My partner Jon agreed— and off we went.
Because we live in a small town, we had to drive sixty minutes to South County to find the one theater that has the special 3-D glasses. Whoa!— the early screening was sold out! I didn't realize it was going so strong after a month.
The kid at the door said, "Go watch something else and come back... try The Book of Eli.
All we knew about Eli was that it starred Denzel Washington and Gary Oldham. No slouches in the acting department, so we were game.
The storyline surprised me. It's about a hero in a post-apocalyptic world, who is traveling through Deadwood/Mad-Max-style Badlands, trying to deliver his One True Book to an oasis of Western Civilization on the other side of Chaos.
He is thwarted by A Bad Guy, who also wants this book, the book that will allow our villain to dominate his fiefdom. It's the King James Bible, of course. He says, "I need the words!"
Literacy is at a premium in this cruel world. Even though most of the Badland's books have been scorched by illiterate or vengeful mobs, one could still pick up a tattered copy of The Da Vinci Code here or there (I thought that was a great laugh line).
What is impossible to find in this scorched landscape is a Bible, because the Powers that Be, who created this misery, demanded that all copies be destroyed.
I had visions of zillions of motels all over the world, their Gideon's being seized and incinerated. Good luck!
Books that get published in mass quantities, like Bibles or Dan Brown, are very hard to get rid of. Ask any used book dealer! The idea that such a text would become rare is impossible— it's the oldest most continuously printed book in the world; you cannot beat it with a stick.
I can't fathom the Christianity-persecution complex— yet that's what you have to buy into to swallow Eli.
The other thing I didn't get, (which becomes a last-minute plot twist), is why the Bible's oral tradition is absent in our rivals' struggles, as well as the memories of their followers.
Here's these two antagonists, who both revere the Bible, and we're supposed to believe that neither of them can remember significant passages.. they rely on "This Last Copy" to save their prayers and parables.
My friends who were raised in Serious Bible Churches have practically memorized the Whole Bloody Thing— isn't that common practice?
Even I, poorly trained and an early convert to atheism, can quote scripture. I could get up half-demented and senile after a nuclear flash and teach Baby Jesus Sunday School if I had to!
Yet here's this world, apparently a mere thirty years into the "bad times", according to the script, and no one's even heard of the word "Amen" before.
Jon and I kept laughing, but it was like we were the only participants at Mystery Science Theater. The rest of the cinema was hushed.
Are the Hughes Brothers, the directors, recent converts to X-tian Paranoia? Are Denzel and Gary really Jesus freaks, or was this just another job to them? This movie has missionary zeal!
Part of its Jehovah's-Witness-at-your-doorstep vibe was its innocence, the idea that "God" has forsaken the world and only by getting his book back in print are things going to turn around.
Maybe I should work this angle with my publishers.
Nevertheless, Eli is entertaining. It made the two hour wait for the late night Avatar screening more than bearable. With our $3.50 hot dog in hand, the best deal at the snack counter (you can't even get a small Coke for 3.50) we finally got in line for our 3-D glasses at 10pm.
What followed during our Avatar screening made The Book of Eli look like a role model of sophistication and nuance.
I can't remember how long it's been since I was THIS offended by a movie. I wasn't laughing this time! I was yelling at the screen and threatening to leave, only kept in my seat by plotting the scathing review I would write later.
Here's Cameron's plot, which he says he's been dreaming of since childhood:
A seriously patriarchal, "woo-woo" society— who display uncommon physical talents while having a ridiculously child-like view of the world— live in a beautiful forest.
The women are in charge of "being really spiritual." Even though they ride and fight as well as men, they look up to the Big Guys when they get "upset." Daddy knows best!
The reviews that call this place a "lost paradise" have GOT TO BE KIDDING me. At any moment I thought the Blue Girl was going to burst out into a chorus of "I Will Fetch the Water" from Disney's Jungle Book.
CutiePie, the heroine who speaks like Suzie Wong, has a minuscule waist. Her perfect breasts were decorously covered— yeah right, the Blue People are natural prudes and anorexics. (By the way, they are not nearly as adorable and sexy as the centaurs in Fantasia).
Meanwhile, these babes in the woods are about to have their shit blown all to hell by the Facist Insect We Know So Well as "Team America."
Jon was as agog as I was. "The fantastic hubris of Cameron's plot," he said, "suggests that an American culture (ha!) has become so technologically advanced that it can project its exploitation into the distant stratosphere— BUT!— it hasn't advanced one iota morally or philosophically! Rather than envisioning a culture equal to its mind-boggling hovering aircraft and super-duper explosive technology— Avatar puts out a 19th century industrial capitalist motivation that seems backward— even now."
I hated both sides in Avatar. I couldn't enjoy anything, despite the fractal-fun-tacular. When the Blue People "win" at the end, I was like, "What?" '
Their planet is in ruins, with poisonous space junk smoking everywhere. The habitat has been destroyed, thousands are dead. Are they just going to sit and have a big yoga-prayer-fest so that "Ewa" comes and fixes it? Their culture is shown as being technologically illiterate!
I wasn't trying to be ornery; the wooden script and its hapless actors just kept interrupting any chance I had at suspending disbelief.
When I came home, googling, "I hate Avatar," I was stunned to find that little of this has been discussed, except for "radical" forays to ask if we dare consider the movie racist.
This film is antediluvian in its racism— there is no controversy! I can't remember the last time I saw this bad of a Western... oh yeah! It starred Kevin Costner as the Sad White Man Turned Happy Red Boy. I forgot.
I have to quote my movie date Jon again. "Where we should've had Ursula LeGuin, we got rehashed Zane Grey, replete with every Hollywood 'Natives' trope that was ever dreamed up at RKO pictures."
He and I were foaming at the mouth. But my friends had advised, "Just relax and enjoy the graphics, Susie."
Honestly, that was my plan! I had no agenda!
But I was not enthralled. It is far more beautiful to walk in a real forest, which I did this morning, as a reality check. I'm more in awe of one living redwood or oak. A Warner Brothers cartoon moves me more deeply than Avatar. It is more other-worldly to take a child to the Monterey Aquarium, or swim underwater in the Pacific. This movie is like the Emperor Who Wore No Clothes!
I'm a film lover. Cinematically, I am bewildered by JC's "Happy Meal" chicanery. I wonder if Cameron has the talent to capture one face looking into his lens and saying something real. If this is the future of American film-making, let me OUT.
Avatar's PR game snowed me. I can't believe the critical love-fest surrounding this movie. A more realistic assessment of whether you will "love" Avatar, would be prefaced with these cautions:
-- If you are an atheist, or god-doubting sympathizer, this movie will offend you. There is nothing more painful than watching a bunch of people getting blown to smithereens who all join hands and beg a deity to save them.
-- If you are feminist, this movie will offend you. Say no to Doe-Eyed Idiots.
-- If you are sick of everyone who isn't white in Hollywood being depicted as precocious darling colored children who like to sing and sway— you will be offended.
-- If you are an environmental activist, this movie will offend you.
-- If you write scripts, dialog, or have been fighting clichés your whole life, you will be offended.
And if you'll excuse me now, I have to go fetch some clean water— our local supply is dwindling and toxic.