AVATAR was of course the most hyped and talked about movie of 2009 and became the biggest box-office smash ever(not adjusted for inflation). There was nonstop buzz about the biggest budget ever, astounding breakthroughs in CGI and 3D imaging, epic preparation and herculean hardships, and conceptual genius/imagination. It has hailed as the magnum opus, the heroic fulfillment of a lifelong dream project, of the greatest living visionary film director in the world.
Though I missed the theatrical release–out of laziness than lack of interest–, it was impossible to neglect its presence as a cultural, political, and artistic phenomenon. Everyone was talking about it one way or another; and though there were detractors, even they admitted that Cameron had achieved something awesome and unprecedented. Whether one agreed or disagreed with Cameron’s politics, or liked or disliked his storytelling ability, the general impression was everyone should see AVATAR at least once to behold the most spectacular and thrilling realization of movie magic ever.
There was also a fair amount of serious discussion about its meaning and message, thus leading us to believe that, at the very least, thought-provoking ideas on politics, ecology, and spirituality were part of the package. So, when the film finally disappeared from the big screen, I felt foolish for having denied myself a round-trip to the wonderful world of Pandora.
Well, I finally caught it on DVD in 2D format, and of course I concede it can’t possibly duplicate or even approximate the 3D experience with wall-to-wall stereophonic sound. On the other hand, I most certainly would have hated the theatrical experience even more. I’d rather see a mountain of shit in a small 2D format than dive into it in 3D. AVATAR may really be the biggest pile of shit ever made.
Based on Cameron’s earlier films, it’s not like I expected anything profound or particularly meaning, but I did expect something bold and amazing, a giant leap in what the magic of movies could achieve. Cameron at his best did give us the solid THE TERMINATOR and TERMINATOR II(whose first third was excellent and delivered special effects genuinely amazing for the time). AVATAR, sorry to say, is massive failure in just about every department. It’s not just bad or misguided but horrible, so horrible that the only pleasure I got were fits of laughter triggered by the boundless idiocy and ugliness of the movie.
Stupidity in Hollywood movies–especially blockbusters–is nothing new, but pompous, heavy-handed, and delusional stupidity cannot so easily be ignored. The Oprah show is many times more insufferable than the run-of-the-mill talkshow because fat stupid Negress–and her mindless drones–act like they’ve reached the next level in the spiritual evolution of humankind. If Oprah were a director of sci-fi fantasy epics, AVATAR would be the kind of thing she would make.
I don’t understand how people can guffaw at BATTLEFIELD EARTH–which is indeed terrible–but then fool themselves that AVATAR is any better! Wait, I do understand. Travolta’s ‘epic’ is just plain ugly whereas AVATAR’s ugliness has been given just enough Avon Lady gloss to make it look beautiful, lush, and endearing. In other words, AVATAR is just BATTLEFIELD EARTH with lots of cosmetics.
AVATAR brims over with every New Age cliche, pop-spiritualist banality, and socio-political platitude one can imagine, so much so that its like self-parody to the nth degree, a kind of infinite jest where everyone involved, especially Cameron, seems not to get the joke. Rather than EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES, it’s like EMPEROR HAS CLOWN’S CLOTHES, a fact blind to so many since the clown’s outfit is so expensive and elaborate. Just as the likes of Fidel Castro and Kim Jong-Il fail to understand what jokes they’ve become, Cameron doesn’t get that he’s a circus clown than a ‘visionary artist’. AVATAR is like a ham-fisted literal adaptation of Jonathan Swift’s GULLIVER’S TRAVELS minus the satire, with Cameron the cosmic horse-whisperer(or bull-shitter)as the greatest baloney since sliced bread.
On the other hand, Hollywood being what it is, I can overlook the idiocies or ridiculousness of most movies and still enjoy the magic. The script, plot, and acting of ATTACK OF THE CLONES may be dreadful, but many of the set pieces are grand and spectacular.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, seen on its own terms, pulls us into a fairytale trance. Hokey but Spielberg knows how to play our senses like an instrument–with enchantment, suspense, and a sense of mystery. Cameron exhibited some storytelling acumen in THE TERMINATOR and the first third of TERMINATOR II but seems to have cast it aside for AVATAR.
But the poor script and simplistic characters aside, AVATAR’s worst offenses are its so-called ‘vision’ and special effects. For all its nonstop flights, fights, violence, destruction, and jubilation, AVATAR is numbing–to the senses and the mind–from start to finish. We are just dropped in the middle of Pandora where, almost immediately, we get the same old same old blockbuster shenanigans we’ve seen a million times, only greater in quantity and pompousness–and with none of the magic or mystery.
In AVATAR, there’s nothing like the preparation or buildup in JURASSIC PARK where the first appearance of dinosaurs really is a sight to behold(helped by John Williams’ perfect if formulaic score). You’d think someone who spent so much time and effort–even consulting with real scientists–to create an alternative world on another planet would devise a more effective and meaningful way to introduce us to the wonders of Pandora. But not only are we abruptly tossed into the jungles of Pandora but everything in it–plant or animal–is just a Pixar-like parody of lifeforms on Earth. Even the covers of old cheapie sci-fi novels had more imagination than this. Instead of rhinos, Pandora has hammerhead rhinos. Instead of leopards, it has leathery pumas with insect jaws. Instead of wolves, it has barking black canines. Instead of mushrooms, it has giant mushrooms. Instead of horses, it bull-necked orange horses. Instead of jelly fish in the ocean, it has jelly fish in the air–though we’re informed they are seeds of a great tree! There are also flying creatures with heads of snakes and bodies of bats. So, this is what passes for ‘visionary imagination’!! Another planet with third-rate variations of life forms on Earth? Anyone can dream up stuff like this? Hey, how about an elephant with three trunks? Or a kangaroo with wings? Or a gigantic three-headed flying creature? Whoops, been there, done that with Godzilla movies.
If not for the hype surrounding the budget and 3D effects, everyone should have seen AVATAR for what it is: just another jungle adventure, the most expensive Tarzan movie ever made.
It turns out that Pandora is populated with a tribe of intelligent, soulful, gigantic, and powerful creatures called the Navis. What can be said about this supposedly fascinating, mysterious, and exotic race of highly intelligent people on another planet? As far as I could tell, they are little more than overgrown humans with tails, elf ears, four fingers instead of five–how original and brilliant!–, funny noses, and blue skin(perhaps suggesting a connection to the sky and the sea). Physically the opposite of the short and stocky Ewoks, they however serve a similar purpose of reminding us of the virtue of harmonious co-existence with nature.
Navis also have queues–long kneaded or corn-row hair–which, when inserted into the elongated ears of certain animals, synchronize the consciousness of the Navis and the beasts. If a Navi needs to fly, he or she(or it)catches a winged bat with snakehead and sticks his/her/its hair into the beast’s ears. Well, at least it’s not some other Navi organ that’s not being inserted into the poor animal.
As personalities, Navis are drawn from the Hollywood school of caricatures, but I’m sure Cameron thinks merely the blend of stale stereotypes produces something bold and new. Navis are part Germanic barbarian, American Indian, African, Amazonian, Hawaiian, and more. There’s also an element of Eastern Mysticism, especially during a mass ‘spiritual’ gathering where the Navis sit and move in unison in honor of some nature spirit aptly called Eywa, which sounds like AWOL. The scene is reminiscent of the Balinese monkey chant in the film BARAKA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmLzm2rUx6Y
The message of AVATAR is nearly identical with that of BARAKA, a film composed of contrasts between the soulless/materialistic modern world and the spiritualist/timeless/cyclical/harmonious natural world(and primitive peoples). BARAKA is a simple-minded movie to be sure but nevertheless effective as a postcard travelogue through some of the greatest wonders of the world captured through magnificent cinematography. Though the message and images are idealized and willfully naive, BARAKA gets at least one thing right: we must appreciate and revere nature as nature. Though BARAKA left out the part of nature where mosquitos give you malaria, the wonders of nature do register as something unique to nature.
It’s a different matter with AVATAR. For a movie so enraptured with the gospel of nature worship, there isn’t a single element in the movie that looks natural, Earthly or otherwise. Granting that nature on another planet will likely be profoundly different from ours, everything on Pandora–even in the densest forests rife with life–looks totally gimmicky, synthetic, artificial, and fabricated(when they don’t look like kitschy sci-fi variations of life on Earth). There’s precious little difference between the forest of Pandora and the island jungle in INCREDIBLES. At least INCREDIBLES is just an action flick whereas AVATAR pretends to impart some profound wisdom about the world we live in and the world beyond.
Pandora is really nature for people who can’t appreciate real nature, just like Disney themeparks are for people who can’t appreciate real travel. It’s a get-everything-on-one-visit deal, a kind of Walmart or Country Buffet or Happy Meal of the imagination.
What are the laws of nature on Pandora? If one happens to be in tune with the great spirit, everything’s just dandy. If one kills an animal for food or self-defense, just apologize and all’s wonderful and well. This is surely inspired by the practice among certain American Indian tribes, but if for Indians it was an appreciation for food procured from a precarious existence, the apology by Navi hunters smacks of narcissistic ‘spiritualist’ projection by flaky liberals who think they are hipper, cooler, and wiser than thou. If for the Indians, it signaled a respite, a momentary grace, from the hardship of survival, it’s all a coy conceit in the hands of Cameron. In other words, Indians didn’t do it to be cool and show off their spiritual superiority but out of fear that a lack of respect may lead to spiritual retribution from the natural world.
On Pandora, it appears predators will leave you alone if you’ve earned street or jungle cred. What this is, I’ve no idea, but what would I know, as a modern corrupt person and all? And unlike real primitive peoples on Earth, the various Navi tribes seem not to war with one another, or even pull stunts like horse-thieving or wife-stealing. You don’t even have the token complications of DANCES WITH WOLVES and EMERALD FOREST which, at least, distinguished between nice primitives and nasty primitives. On Pandora, if you have the right vibes with the nature around you, almost nothing can go wrong. You can climb the steepest rocky cliffs at breakneck speed without worry, and even on the occasion you slip and fall, the drop will be padded by huge nurturing leaves, allowing you to get back on your feet without anything like a cracked skull or even a sprained ankle. There’s no need for medicine either as the spirit Eywa. Eywa–will heal you when you’re sick–that is if your Navi buddies get together for a Balinese monkey chant while some voodoo mama invokes the sacred energy from a year-round Christmas tree.
This is a very anti-septic view of nature where nobody gets dirty or hurt. And Navis don’t just drink water like most primitive people do. No, there’s always the purest water waiting within scented flower petals to quench their thirst. This is nature for mallrats, the children or grandchildren of the boomer generation. It’s nature as lava lamp marijuana high turned into a plastic Christmas tree for a Macy’s window display. When everything is made ‘magical’, nothing really is. On Pandora, everything lights up, floats, dances, glows, or wiggles–like the flowers and mushrooms in the Nutcracker episode of FANTASIA–when touched or observed. It’s sickening, like a meal comprising nothing but cream and sweets. This isn’t nature worth exploring and pondering for adult minds–or even young adult minds–but ‘nature’ where everything is fun for the kids.
The problem is AVATAR wasn’t made for kids–or only for kids–but for adults, and it completely fails as entertainment for anyone with an adult mind. On the other hand, many grown-ups seem genuinely impressed with the moronic monstrosity, and not just in America.
Something like this can work with genuine innocence, as with BAMBI and JUNGLE BOOK, which really are wondrous fairytales for children. They are fun for adults too but as children’s movies. AVATAR’s magic is too pompously elaborate and the message is too ‘intellectually’ ambitious for innocence or childlike faith. James Cameron, who probably considers himself as a fusionary, as well as a visionary, genius, has melded Disney with Apocalypse Now, and the result is miserable as both a story for children and movie for adults. This all comprehensive something-for-everyone is not a real vision but a titanic marketing ploy of a man too consumed with this ego to know he’s a modern day combo of PT Barnum and popular preacher whose main sucker is none other than himself. But when the biggest self-sucker in the world can sucker so many others, what can I say? The formula seems to work at the box office and even with the ‘critics’.
In the movie TITANIC–which I’ve never been able to see from beginning to end–, the entire spectrum of passengers range from the richest rich to the poorest poor, thus playing on both class resentment and class fantasies. The ordinary sucker for a movie audience can both hate the evil snobby rich and luxuriate in a virtual ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’. Similarly, there’s something in AVATAR to appeal to each and every movie going group. There’s fun stuff for kids, politics for liberals, weaponry for gun nuts, romance for girls, dude hero for dudes, spirituality for new age flakes, sacred Navis for non-white identity politics, and so on. Some would call this ‘ambition’, some would call this ‘opportunism’, some would call it ‘greed’; I would call it ‘headache’. If we wanna be generous, one could argue that Cameron had to appeal to a wide audience to recoup the gargantuan cost, but I find this argument less compelling since the most expensive element, the special effects, is by far the worst thing in the movie. Special effects, elaborate as they are, suck! It’s for people who confuse ballistics for the balletic, quantity for quality, gimmickry for poetry, delirium for dream. Non-stop bombasm and cyborgasm
don’t amount to a real adventure. This is worse than imagination as a roller coaster ride; it’s imagination as porn. AVATAR is just a big mindfuc*.
There’s another problem, a literal-mindedness that won’t even leave magic alone as magic. In STAR WARS, the Force was presented and understood as a mysterious force, that is until PHANTOM MENACE ‘scientifically’ defined it as a blood condition. Similarly, it’s not enough for Cameron to present pagan spiritualism as a fairytale. He has to pedantically map out the Eywa spirit on Pandora as a real operating ecological system. Cameron, for all his professed nature worship, is like King Midas who turns everything–even spirituality, nature, metaphors–he touches into the most literal-minded ‘science’ or mechanics. This is like an Evangelical who isn’t merely content to believe in the Creation but insists on Creationism, a ‘scientific’ explanation of God really works. Some even claim that God Himself can be proven scientifically. Such fools don’t realize that God loses the very quality that makes Him special if He can be proven or understood like a laboratory rat or a math problem. It’s not enough for these people, Cameron or Evangelicals, to have their faiths as faiths; they must have them as facts. They must convince others and themselves–or convince others in order to convince themselves–that myth and material reality are one and the same. It’s no wonder then that Cameron’s vision of the poetic is so prosaic and that things of ‘nature’ in his movies are as lifeless as man-made objects.
It’s bad enough for people to turn science into a religion, but it’s even worse the other way around. The snake oil or horseshit that Cameron is peddling is something like the Gaia faith that sometimes masquerades as science–just like Intelligent Design. Such ideas may have value as thought experiments but can be dangerous otherwise. If AVATAR was made with innocence, one could take it or leave it as one of those sci-fi fantasies. As a movie that confuses science and faith at a time when a whole generation of kids are lost in some postmodern maze where everything is nothing and nothing is everything, it only adds to the general confusion.
Another problem with AVATAR is the sheer ugliness, especially of the Navis who are presented as the highest and noblest life-forms on Pandora, if not the universe. They have the body shape of Manute Bol or Yao Ming, which is impressive I guess, but what’s with the gay-looking tails? And the Mr. Spock ears, goat eyes, and sheep noses? They are so repugnant looking that I don’t see any exotic/erotic/ecstatic appeal. One could argue that beauty and virtue are not one and the same, which is true enough, except that Cameron clearly thinks that he’s created very beautiful creatures and that their beauty is synonymous with their natural-spiritual virtues. I don’t know, what with their slimy blue skin, they look like giant frogs with goat heads–or ‘sea monkeys’ http://www.mookychick.co.uk/images/cruelty_to_animals/sea_monkeys2.jpg
Maybe we should not impose our standards of beauty on other creatures, but then Navis are essentially humanlike; they are indeed Cameron’s laboratory creation/projection of what he considers the best human and animal traits.(Personally, I prefer the Maori clones in STAR WARS.) They are the politically correct ‘multi-cultural/racial/species’ variation of the Aryan Superman.
Anyway, while I can appreciate a dog for a dog, a hog for a hog, a monkey for a monkey, I can only say creatures that look one-third human, one-third goat, and one-third frog are hideously ugly. Navi personalities are even less interesting and appealing. We get the usual gamut of primitive folks stereotypes: the proud warrior, the wise elder, the regal queen, and the horny tart who falls for the outsider. And what does Neytiri–the horny tart–do when endangered by enemies? She hisses like Catwoman. Oddly enough, her silly antics reminded me of none other than Sarah Palin, the so-called Mama Grizzly of wild Alaska. (Though ideological enemies, both Cameron and Palin seem obsessed with machines and nature, thus confusing one for the other.)
The script is beyond horrid but nevertheless doled out as helpful servings of timeless Navi wisdom–such as ‘You are Omaticaya now. You may make your bow from the wood of Hometree. And you may choose a woman. We have many fine women. Ninat is the best singer’–for us benighted humans distracted by and addicted to too much artifice(and computerized movies, one might add). Here are some more Navi profundities: ‘My grandfather's grandfather was Toruk Macto, Rider of Last Shadow’; ‘You have a strong heart. No fear. But stupid! Ignorant like a child! No one can teach you to see.’ By golly, how could we have done without wisdom through the ages? And I suppose no one could teach us to see, that is until James Cameron came along!
Some of the characterizations makes absolutely no sense. There’s one Hispanic chick, Trudy Chacon, with a crass attitude who then turns out to be a person of great conscience. What does it matter? We are to believe she’s inherently good because she’s (1) female and (2) a member of a minority. PC has given us the corrector than the character. No need to develop individual characters; just dole out goodness and badness according to racial or political types. But if AVATAR is set in the distant future, wouldn’t whites have become a relatively powerless minority by then?
Trudy is something of a reprise of the tough Hispanic female soldier in ALIENS, who was pretty cool by the way. Trudy, in contrast, is pretty dull, and so it’s irritating than inspiring when she does the right thing.
In a movie so filled with nonstop ridiculousness and ugliness, one detail somehow manages to stick out above the rest: Sigourney Weaver’s avatar. For whatever reason, Cameron dressed it up in tank top and safari shorts, perhaps to allow easier identification for the thrill-seeking globe-hopper crowd. It’s kinda like Jane Goodall/Diane Fossey as fan of Bob Marley cruising around in Jamaica. Most annoying is the her avatar’s mug–basically Weaver’s face molded into a waxy globule. And you thought Jar Jar Binks was bad. http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/2010/marapr/webonly/images/sigourney-weaver-avatar.jpg
Oddly enough, the character I ended up liking most was the head villain, Colonel Quaritch. A heartless bastard to be sure, but at least he is SOMETHING: a mean son of a bitch hired to kill, and he does just that. We are supposed to hate him but he amply earns our hatred. In contrast, the other characters are nothing because they are everything. They represent the sort of heavenly fantasy of have-the-cake-and-eat-it-too. Thus, Grace(Sigourney Weaver)represents both the value of science/progress and respect for spirituality/primitivism. Jake, the lead character, represents a soldier’s soldier and a conscientious peace-nik, a sort of Ron Kovic of BORN ON THE 4TH OF JULY on another planet. Trudy the Chicana, whose conscience wins out over mercenary nihilism, is both an ace warrior and softie at heart.
No, I’m not suggesting one-dimensional characters(like Quatrich)are preferable to multi-dimensional ones but merely pointing out Cameron mistakes a two-headed narcissism for complexity and ambiguity. Colonel Quaritch’s narcissism encompasses only one quality–he’s a tough guy who likes to kick butt–, whereas the narcissism of the good guys hogs every virtue and talent under the Sun. This kind of megalomaniac liberal doesn’t totally go over to other side, like John Walker Lind who joined the Taliban. However one may feel about Lind, his conversion to the other side was total and sincere. He wasn’t pretending to be both a good American and an Islamic warrior. If the Earthling/white heroes of AVATAR really rejected their own kind and joined the Navis, that would have been less annoying than the pretension of belonging and being loyal to both sides. They are meant to represent the best of the Earthlings and best of the Navis. In other words, megalomaniac liberals, or megaliberals, really have no side except their delusional all-encompassing narcissism and boundless self-regard. They are the best of EVERYTHING. To maintain this illusion, the megaliberal never takes a good honest look at the real world and instead prefers to play with a fictional world of his imagining. In this sense, AVATAR is no more real than the globalist fantasies of men like Jeffrey Sachs and Bono with their vision of saving Africa, brimming with wonderful innocents they love so dearly. Of course, for all their stated love of all things African, they would never abandon Western wealth and creature comforts and actually live among the Africans and practice real Africa culture–as John Walker Lind did among the Talibans. In their privileged fantasies disconnected from grim reality, they conceitedly play at being both European and African, both Western and non-Western, both elitist(and superior to everyone else) and egalitarian(and one with mankind–and perhaps all living creatures.) Of course, if a privileged megaliberal ever came down to earth and confronted reality in the face, he would realize one cannot be or belong to everything, nor possess every virtue, skill, and quality.
As it happens, Jake the hero of Avatar is both a victim(paraplegic and champion of the oppressed Navis) and a victor(super warrior who kicks butt and vanquishes all), both Earthling and Navi, both a common soldier and a naturally superior individual(twin brother of a scientific genius). All forms of narcissism are irksome, but one obsessed with a single quality can be tolerable, as with the case of Col. Quaritch, possibly inspired by Col. Kilgore of APOCALYPSE NOW. But a single-subject narcissism isn’t enough for megaliberals. The good guys of AVATAR are projections of Cameron’s boundless multi-faced narcissism–physical, spiritual, moral, creative, etc. Cameron doesn’t make movies to explore but only to show off. Take a film he wrote–directed by his then wife Kathryn Bigelow–, STRANGE DAYS, which presents a world where good guys represent the perfect harmony of the male and female, white and black, genius and muscle, rich and poor, radical and harmonic, powerful and powerless, and etc and etc. Such harmony doesn’t exist in the real world–nor even in any interesting fictional world–, so Cameron creates it in his silly mind–not unlike the Wachowski Brothers of MATRIX movies where Marx and Calvin Klein, consumerism and spiritualism, intellectualism and populism, asceticism and sensualism, an old white guy and a old black woman co-exist in some super-unity, technology and the occult all exist in some ridiculous unity. (Even the idea that a black woman was one of the geniuses behind the Matrixian system is something that’s only possible in the megaliberal fantasy world. The megaliberal, obsessed with the need to believe in the equality between blacks and whites–or even in black superiority over whites in spiritual nobility–, creates fantasies like the Oracle in Matrix movies or Oprah, a figure of worship than mere popularity. And remember that TERMINATOR 2 had some black guy as not only the greatest scientist in the world but also a super noble Negro who done seen the misguidedness of his ways and sacrificed his life to save humanity. Only a megaliberal, or a stupid Blindsided conservative who’s seen too many megaliberal movies, can think this way.)
Cameron really thinks he’s some hot stuff, and he’s maintained this self-delusion as a fantasist. He doesn’t know nor care about reality and prefers to live in the reality of own making. That, in itself, is not the real problem; the problem is he mistakes and projects his fantasies as a kind of super-reality. In this regard, he has something in common with Howard Hughes. Cameron is both the Titanic and the Iceberg. He takes great pride in his technological knowhow and probably sees himself even as a scientific wizard and genius. But he also sees himself as a man in tune with the Natural Order–and even the cosmic order. His ego is both the Titanic, the greatest ship ever built, and the Iceberg that sunk it. Thus, Cameron’s ego is represented by both the war machinery and the great tree in AVATAR. Cameron has something like the Jesus complex. Recall that Jesus also had a two-headed narcissism–virtuous humble saint brutalized by sinful humanity and the mighty Son of God. He was both the ultimate victim and the ultimate victor, and this mindset seems to have seeped into the soul of Western man. Prior to the Jesus complex, men took narcissistic pride with one or few qualities that were more or less consistent as a package. It could be narcissism in being handsome, being smart, or being victorious in battle. Or for the more passive, it could be a moral narcissism in ascetic spirituality or virtuous life amidst adversity and hardship. But the example and model of Jesus made it possible for man to think in terms of a binary narcissism: as the biggest victim and the greatest victor. There was Jesus the powerless victim of Jewish prejudice and Roman brutality, helpless before his tormentors. But as the myth goes, Jesus turned out to be the Son of God, and thus, according to the law of Trinity, God Himself. But the Jesus Complex was less problematic when Western Man was a devout Christian for there was only one Son of God and only one true Messiah. Whatever Jesus may have been, man could not hope to be Him. Jesus Complex really began to get wacky in the post-Christian era when God was dead but not the God complex. Thus, individuals began to think that they were the new messiahs, the perfect union of physical and moral narcissism. On the Left, Che Guevara has been the ultimate icon of this neo-spirituality. Similarly, some secular Jews turned out more dangerous than religious Jews could ever hope to be. If religious Jews, no matter how arrogant, bowed down before the almighty God and revered Moses and the great prophets, secular Jews like Karl Marx thought and acted as though they were God, Moses, and the prophets. They lost the God but not the god-mentality. People like Richard Dawkins seem to think that if people lose religion, perfect rationality awaits them. But as he himself has unwittingly demonstrated, religion isn’t merely textual but psychological. Religion is, to an extent, a projection of one’s narcissistic ego onto the universe and then bowing down before it in the realization that no person, in reality, can match what one’s ego desires to be. Thus, religions are, at once, narcissistic/megalomaniacal and humble/reverential. What people revere and bow down to in religion may be called the Great Other, but it can also be said to be a megalo-amplified version of one’s ego. Thus, the paradox of religion is one is being humble before one’s own overblown ego. This is why it’s not uncommon for religious people to claim that they are speaking or working in the name of God or gods. People like Dawkins see religion as the core problem when, in fact, it is merely the projection of man’s natural psychological ego. Thus, crazy religious people and crazy non-religious people essentially suffer from the same malady: out-of-control egos. Religious nuts justify their craziness in the name of God, which is but a subconscious projection of their ego, and non-religious nuts–like Dawkins–justify their craziness by presenting their egos as the purest vessels of truth, justice, and integrity. Dawkins may scientifically be correct on most accounts, but he too suffers from a god complex.
There is something of a god complex in Cameron’s hyped compassion for the downtrodden and oppressed. His victims happen to be not merely victims but natural superiors, almost god-like beings. Indeed, we are supposed to be enraged with the injustice visited upon the Navis not only because it’s callous and cruel but because it’s an attack on a superior race, the Navi, by an inferior one, the human. It is what one might call an example of ‘reverse-fascism’. Similarly, an aspect of white guilt concerning the oppression of blacks owes something to the perception that blacks are indeed the superior race. It’s sinful enough to have oppressed any people but especially worse to have oppressed a superior people–just like it was worse to have killed the Son of God than merely any man. (Ironically, this horrible murder of the Son of God by man serves as the basis through which man can be saved from sin and eternal damnation. Man’s salvation–the greatest gift of Heaven–is thus inseparably linked to man’s sin–greatest crime of killing the Son of God. Since man killed the Son of God, only through the Son of God can man be redeemed, forgiven, and saved. A secular version of this is Holocaustianity, which says gentiles, especially white Christians, didn’t just kill any people but a great people, a special people, a noble people, a holy people, a Chosen People. Since white gentiles are forever stained with the holy blood of superior Jews, they can only be redeemed by a total worship of and devotion to Jews. In other words, whites have to kiss the ass of Frank Rich, Elena Kagan, and Tim Wise to enter moral heaven.)
For white Americans, a people so obsessed with sports, popular music, and extreme sex, it may seem only natural that black are inherently superior since Negroes are musically soulful, athletically gifted, sexually funky and masterful, and vocally boom-box MLK noble. Though South American Indians suffered a lot more than blacks in the New World, there’s less guilt about the brown natives since they are perceived as boring, short, stocky, and dull. White liberals acknowledge the tragedy and hardships suffered by the native peoples of America, but those ‘victims’ don’t capture the white imagination like Negroes do. Negroes have that bellowing voice, that flashy rhythm, them long penises, magnificent physiques, and athletic prowess. White Americans, especially white liberals, are always thinking of the Negro through popular music–blues, jazz, rock n roll, hip hop–, college and pro sports, and oral charisma(Martin L. King, Morgan Freeman, James Earl Jones, and Obama.) So, just as Leni Riefenstahl found a new god-like hero race among the Sudanese Nuba, Cameron created his own super race with the Navis. For all their prattling about equality and fairness, white liberals are obsessed with power and superiority, and their sympathies are likewise attached to things that strike their fancy as special or high-caliber. In STRANGE DAYS, Cameron’s ideal of the superior being was represented by the figure of the black amazon warrior played by Angela Bassett.
Alas, just as the Holy Land wasn’t spectacular enough for the life of Jesus according to George Stevens, Cameron isn’t satisfied with our dinky little planet in his search for super ideals, which probably explains his fascination with the future(super machines), ocean deep(higher aquatic civilization), and another planet(“‘more natural than nature’ is our motto”?). If Cameron is so obsessed with supra-human ideals, one wonders why he made the terminators out to be the bad guys? But then, there is a good terminator in Pt II and maybe, on some level, Cameron sided with the supermachines all along since most people in the Terminator series come across as pretty worthless. One thing for sure, there’s nothing poetic about Cameron. Even the emotions in his movies are monumental slabs or teutonic heaps. The poignance of BLADE RUNNER lies in the suggestion that replicants are not only ‘more human than human’ in their construction but in their fragility. Who can forget the scene where Rachel gets the first inkling that she may not be human? Cameron’s emotions are the tree that falls on the Navis or the iceberg that sinks the Titanic.
Anyway, planet Earth, even with its giant ice bergs, wild jungles, high-tech machines and weaponry, and black women with corn rows, isn’t sufficiently special and grandiose for Cameron’s ego. What cannot satiate his ego in reality, he finds through fantasy. In this sense, Cameron is the type of personality that was instrumental in the creation of myths and religions in the first place, one possessed of visionary power to see beyond the mundane. But as a modern man without the genuine innocence of shamans and holy seers of primitive tribes or past civilizations, Cameron cannot settle for fantasy alone.
Thus, Cameron sees himself as the embodiment of all things. He’s both the ultimate modern white man and the ultimate nature primitive. He’s the greatest embodiment of both science/technology and spirit/magic. He’s a one-man Promethean Renaissance Movement to end all renaissances. Lucas and Spielberg seem to suffer from a similar complex, but their megalomania are held in check either by greater intelligence, some degree of sense, and perhaps a degree of genuine humility. Cameron, on the other hand, is completely shameless. In fact, he doesn’t see himself as merely the best of both worlds but above both worlds. He’s the best Earthling and the best Pandoran–he created it, for Chrissakes! This Eywa spirit is indeed nothing more than Cameron’s own cosmic ego, bestowing harmony, love, justice, beauty, excitement, and wonders on wonders on every facet of the universe.
One might say the great Stanley Kubrick also suffered from a god complex, but there was an appreciation of mystery, a sense of awe to balance out the megalomania. Kubrick speculated as to the ultimate truth but revealed every unlocking of truth to be a maze within a larger maze ad infinitum. We want to know god–and may even want to be godly–, but it turns out we don’t even know ourselves. The power of the stargate sequence in 2001 derives from its disorientation of normal sense of time and space, tunneling through what seems like a unity of inner and cosmic realities.
In contrast, Cameron’s ‘imagination’ is kid stuff, or worse, kid stuff for dumb adults who think they are smart. For all the grandiose effects, we get magic or mystery as pure mechanics. And if Kubrick only speculated as to the nature of god, the mystery, or higher reality, Cameron is absolutely sure what it is–his ego. In AVATAR mankind explores another planet and the great wisdom to be discovered is none other than Cameron’s eco-fantasy. It’s Tarzan in outerspace as the mother of all gods. This nature/cosmic force is so strong that when Pandora’s forests are in danger, the Eywa spirit unites the energies of all animals and plant life to fight the beastly humans. This great moment of spiritual triumph is really a variation of Tarzan going Ah-ah-ah-ah and mobilizing the animals–everything from elephants to gophers–to come to his rescue. The sheer literal-minded fantasizing in AVATAR is numbing. Like dumb Evangelicals so certain that God and Jesus are gun-hugging good ole boys up in the sky, Cameron is dead certain that the ultimate truth of the cosmos is eco-liberalism and videogame graphics of his precious youth. God may not play dice but He plays Space Invaders.
It should be obvious by now that Lucas and Cameron are real dummies. No, not dumb in the sense of being retarded with saliva drooling from their mouths. They are smart enough to have succeeded in showbiz. They know what the public wants. They bring forth and utilize innovations to make movies more colorful and exciting. No mean feat. But intellectually and spiritually, they are not only shallow clods but insufferable shallow clods who believe in their own hype as modern mythmakers enriching our hungry souls famished by alienation and crassness. Since they lack genuine depth, they’ve created virtual depth via movie magic that enough people have mistaken for higher truth.
Though mere entertainers, they regard themselves as being on the same order as Richard Wagner. Neither is without strength, even virtue. Lucas made one of the best sci-fi films ever, THX 1138, and also AMERICAN GRAFFITI, an heartfelt coming-of-age movie set in the early 60s. The STAR WARS series did have some fantastic design and effects.
And Cameron’s been an able craftsman with the mechanics of death and destruction, and THE TERMINATOR is a minor classic. And ALIENS, though not my favorite, is certainly the most exciting of the ALIEN series.
The problem arises when Lucas and Cameron confuse their showbiz instincts with artistic/spiritual vision. On the evidence of THX 1138, I’m inclined to think Lucas at one time was capable of genuine thought but lost it along the way. Cameron, on the other hand, never knew how to think beyond machines and liberal cliches. If the first TERMINATOR is effective as an action film, TERMINATOR II philosophically grandstands about the hubris of technology, the evil of greed, and the end of humanity. Such things are the staple of innumerable Hollywood blockbusters, part of the formula, but Cameron really seems to think he has something profound and original to tell us. The most repulsive scene in TERMINATOR II was Sarah’s dream of the nuclear apocalypse. Reducing massive death and destruction into special effects gimmickry–as in so many lame-brained sci-fi movies–was bad enough, but, worse, Cameron self-importantly seemed to hold the conviction of being the lone brave voice calling humanity back from the edge of extinction. If the original TERMINATOR is a neat idea for a movie, TERMINATOR II has the feel of a testament for all of mankind. Perhaps, the liberal Cameron developed the idea for part II during the heyday of Reagan’s evil plot to blow up the world, but with the Cold War having ended abruptly, it must have been something of a bummer. The nuclear apocalypse stuff in T2 is like The Day After the End of the Cold War–politically and morally irrelevant.
In Cameron films such as THE ABYSS, TERMINATOR II, STRANGE DAYS(writer), TITANIC, and AVATAR, there is always some misunderstood outsider, a kind of lone prophet, who sees the real truth or the hidden future and tries to save mankind or the world from the brink brought upon by evil forces blind to most people. And in these films, there is a converted or ill-fated male character who, through his sacrifice, passes the torch of possible salvation to a super-female character. In STRANGE DAYS, the city of Los Angeles is about to blow up but prevented by a tough super-black woman working in tandem with a white guy with one last chance of redemption. In TERMINATOR, a doomed grubby guy from the future passes his sperm and warrior spirit to Sarah. In TERMINATOR II, Sarah is a ‘crazy’ misunderstood prophetess of doom aided by another male figure, the reprogrammed Terminator, who eventually sacrifices himself. The reprogrammed Terminator in pt II is like a ‘race traitor’ against his own kind. (To the extent that he/it acts according to reprogramming than real conscience, there is an unintentional implication that white ‘race traitors’ have been reprogrammed by liberal Jews than are acting in accordance to actual conscience.) In AVATAR, an Earthling white male sacrifices himself and, in a way, passes the torch to the Navi woman he falls in love with–though he is brought back to life by Ewya’s willow tree transfusions. And the guy dies for the girl in TITANIC. We wonder to what extent this man/woman thing is a marketing ploy to attract maximum audiences–action for boys, romance for girls–or a projection of Cameron’s boundless ego. Is it like Cameron is saying the white male can only wash himself of guilt by dying and passing his redeemed spirit onto the female? And, does Cameron identify with the female? Is he an spiritual, in not a physical, transsexual? In various Cameron movies, it’s as though the male character isn’t content within his own skin. Ed Harris in THE ABYSS finally access deeper/heavenly reality by putting on some underwater suit filled with liquid oxygen. The Terminator, bad guy or good guy, is like male fantasy: to be made of indestructible bones and flesh. The guy in STRANGE DAYS is always escaping into virtual reality, and the paraplegic soldier in AVATAR goes inside a Navi body, at first electronically and finally organically/spiritually. Perhaps, Cameron was a gimpy kid who felt frail within his own skin. Maybe tougher bigger guys pushed him around, and he couldn’t get the girls. He wanted the girls but felt more like a girl than a boy because bigger boys kicked his skinny ass. That may have been why he came to identify with the female–ALIENS also has two very tough female characters. It’s generally true that weakling men go for tough woman warrior stuff. In real life, top girls go with tough guys, at least during the crucially formative high school yrs, leading to potentially life-long psychological impact on loser-men. Weakling guys can only watch with envy, so they create in their minds a goddess-like female who’s too good for ANY man. The weakling cannot have her but neither can any other guy. This may explain why Cameron once married the ‘Athena-like’ Kathryn Bigelow. Since weakling males cannot have beautiful women–unless they strike it rich like Cameron–, they are content to elevate feminine beauty to goddess-like status that can only be worshiped from afar.
Or, threatened, insecure, or possessive males may choose to elevate the virtue of womanhood in order to keep women away from rival males. In the American South, woman’s virtue was important in keeping white women in the possession of white males since a more natural/animal/sensual state of things would have made the bigger muscled and bigger-dicked black males more attractive to skanky white women liberated from repressive and puritanical virtue. Ironically, though rock music was derived partly from black music, the white rock community fashioned it to keep white women away from blacks whose culture was defined by soul and disco. White males eventually lost their women to blacks with the predominance of rap and hiphop. Kanye West’s latest album cover, which shows a fallen white angel landing atop a Negro’s penis, says volumes about the profound sexual changes that have taken place in our culture. White women, once idealized as angelic in virtue and faithful to white males, have been denuded for their holy holes to be penetrated and ravished by Negro studs and Jewish hustlers. The real horror is that white angels are now being pumped by Negro penises. Angry white males used to draw the line between virtuous angelic white women who stuck with white men and dirty white skanks & lowly hags who had sex with black men. What’s truly traumatic to the Angry White Male today is that even the top quality white women are flocking en masses to blacks for super-orgasms from being conquered by super black muscle, sexual rhythm, and supersized dick. Even Good White Girls are wanting to saying ‘supersize me’ to Negro studs. Perhaps this was inevitable after the #1 white female white star named Madonna became the biggest mudshark in the universe. And Nicole Kidman did it with Lenny Kravitz, a Negro Jew. She had been Tom Cruise’s woman, thus creme de la creme in the world of celebrity. When a top star happily acts as a mudshark–to a Negro who’s also a freaking Jew–, you know white males are in big trouble. But, most Angry White Males are in denial and seek comforting therapeutism through stuff like Castefootball.org site that (mis)informs them that white dudes are indeed the top studs, athletes, and dudes in the world.
The loss of the traditional concept of Western female virtue is leading to the mudsharkdomization of the white female; and indeed, Jews targeted white female virtue in order to loosen white male hold on white females. Sexual virtue as defined by white males required white women to be virtuous, proper, and ‘stand by your man’–or jump off the cliff if a wildass Negro came too close. The loss of virtue among white females made them easier ‘pussies’ for horny Jewish men and wild Negro studs.
Among medieval knights, woman’s virtue was important for it meant the woman of quality could only give herself to a man of higher caste with proper manners, expensive arms, and social connections. Also, a woman of quality was reserved to a man who contested for the right to her hand under prescribed set of rules reserved for the nobility. Thus, a woman belonging to a proper knight was thought to be virtuous by her devotion to not only the man but the codes that made the man. She could not go panting after some Viking thug simply because he had bigger muscles, bigger axes, and bigger loot.
The white guy in the movie DEAR WENDY insisted on the code of honor for a similar reason. Since he could not compete with the big-muscled Negro in strength or charisma, he had to develop a quasi-fascist code to gain respect from his peers and the girl.
As it happens, among the masses, sensuality is more appealing than intellectualism, which is why Hollywood won over European cinema, Oprah won over all real thinkers, why rock/pop/rap won out over classical and modern Jazz, and why black male sexuality/manhood is winning over white male sexuality/manhood. Sadly for the Right, both intellectualism and sensualism are dominated by the Left, the Jews, and the Negroes; so, the White Right are double losers. They lose to the Negro-domination of sports and pop culture but also lose in the area of intellectualism and high culture to liberals and Jews.
Anyway, since Cameron was a white kid bullied by bigger white guys who stood between him and the girls, he perhaps came to idealize non-whites and women as allies against the tough evil white males. Similarly, as John Hughes grew up in white suburban privilege, his biggest personal contact with ‘evil’ involved snobby rich kids. Having no real knowledge of blacks or working class whites, Hughes filled his movies with endearing blacks or working class toughs as allies of the underdog white male character. People may think in universal–abstractly or idealistic–terms, but their feelings have been shaped by local–personal or biographical–experience. Some Jew who pontificates about equality and social justice could in fact be fueled by youthful experience of being pushed around big dumb Polacks. He may use positive rhetoric of hope and change but could well be guided by negative emotions of resentment and vengeance.
Cameron isn’t just a jerk who’s stupid but also pompous self-righteous. Prior to Terminator II, he made a movie called THE ABYSS in which we are taken to a wondrous realm of all-wise, superior, god-like beings on the bottom of the ocean. These creatures are, at once, completely in harmony with nature and totally immersed/advanced in technology; they are projections of Cameron’s megalomania as the king of all media, the perfect conduit between West and non-West, nature and machine, terrestrial and marine, male and female, Hollywood and art. His ecology is a form of egology. If the undersea creatures have created the most advanced technology so beautifully and harmoniously interwoven with nature and have learned to harness its full power–making waves rise sky high–, Navis happen to be ‘technologically’ hard-wired with the nature around them; it could almost be a planet designed by Steve Jobs. If you understand the nature’s software programs, like the Navis do, Pandora is a very convenient and consumer-friendly place.
Again, we see an infantile mentality at work that wants to have the cake and eat it too. People with adult minds know that everything comes with a cost. It’s like moves on the chessboard; each comes with an advantage and disadvantage. It’s like love; choosing one spouse means you can’t have others. But the liberal mind–infantile, narcissistic, self-centered, and boundlessly self-regarding–wants to have everything. It wants true love with the perfect wife but all the other pussies too. It wants technology-saturated urban living but also wants to feel one with nature. It prides itself on rationality and science but also hankers for spirituality(via New Age, flakiness, and Oprah). It espouses globalism where Western capitalism is predominant but also embraces the local cultures that need saving from western ‘imperialism’. It’s culturally elitist yet wants to be regarded as hip by youths, Negroes, and the unwashed masses. And so on and on.
For this reason, liberals can be a bigger pain the ass than red-blooded leftists. Leftists may be fools, but they stand for something well-defined. Communists hated capitalism. And ‘race traitors’ like John Walker Lind really did join the Taliban and dedicated themselves to another people or cause. Good or bad, they were true to themselves and honest in their commitment. Liberals, on the other hand, want to have it both ways. They live in a utopian fantasy world where the perfect harmony of all things can exist IF ONLY the world would listen to their wonderful advice(which only works out in Hollywood fantasies). So, Jewish liberals send their kids to elite schools but moan and groan about how we need to close the racial gap in education by doing something about all them Negroes. And they keep telling us that this gap can be closed and all races could be achieving the same results... if we only spent more money, if only we enacted more of their wonderful sounding educational reforms, etc.
But of course, the real world doesn’t work like that. There is a cost to every benefit. More technology means more harm to nature. Seeking excellence means more elitism and more social gaps. More freedom means more irresponsible behavior. There’s a minus to every plus. The most we can try is seek some degree of balance in the absence of perfect harmony. We can try to use technology as responsibly as possible so as to minimize pollution. But we cannot have a world where we can have the best of both worlds. Similarly, if you wanna be a great doctor, you’re not gonna have time to be a great dancer, or vice versa, unless you have the muscles/bones of a leopard and the IQ of 300. But, the silly liberal thinks he or she can be and do everything.
Of course, I simplify. Not all liberals are like this. There are many pragmatic and sensible liberals on certain issues. What I’m talking of is liberalism at its narcissistic and conceited worst, mega-liberalism(megalomaniac liberalism), and Cameron is the primary example. He’s like some kid who wants all 31 flavors of ice cream on a single cone and for it to be highly nutritious.
If most people are unhappy with the world because of the compromises and trade-offs necessary in life, Cameron is unhappy because it’s not perfect in the Cameronian way. When the undersea water creatures in THE ABYSS threaten to engulf and destroy all the land creatures, it’s really Cameron’s ego talking. A part of him wants to wipe us out because we don’t conform to his idea of perfection. But of course, the undersea creatures spare mankind because they’re moved by an example of selfless sacrifice and love on the part of a few humans. And who would these humans be? They too are projections of Cameron’s ego. Cameron is both the godlike undersea creatures and the heroic self-sacrificing human. He is both God and Son of God. Just as God forgives sinful humanity through Jesus, Cameron forgives humanity because, alas, he, the noble visionary hero, is one of them. He’d like to wipe us out, but then, he’d have to die too, and that’s no fun. Besides, if we are all dead, who’s gonna see his movies and make him to rich so that he can take flight from reality and dwell in his la-la land?
In AVATAR, Col. Quaritch asks Jake, ‘how does it feel to be a race traitor?’, but the real point of the movie is that Jake is not a race traitor but the savior of ALL races. It’s like Jews saw Jesus as a ‘race traitor’ but Jesus saw Himself as the savior of and messiah to all the races and not just the Jews. Thankfully, Jesus was wise enough to realize that His dreams could never be realized in the world of man, which is why there was need for a kingdom of heaven where good souls are united with God.
Cameron, the literal-minded dummy, really seems to think some utopian world is possible, one that synchronizes under the sun and between the stars. It’s not surprising then that liberals design and market some of the most ridiculous gears and gadgets for going on nature trips. They want nature but they also want all the hip amenities of modern life. (To be fair, most modern Americans are pretty lame nature trippers, taking their TV, computers, and appliances on camping trips. But liberals are more annoying for their conceited pretense of appreciating nature by tacking on their bodies every piece of trendy equipment advertised in glossy magazines about every activity under the sun, even walking!) For a race purported to be the perfect children of nature, the Navis are seriously hooked to electronics–or ecotronics. Their hairs are like fiber optics that can upload and download all sorts of stuff from nature–maybe even Instant Movies from Netflix. And nature seems to be over-abundant in providing them with everything they need.
It never occurs to Cameron that foraging for food takes up a good deal of time and effort for most primitive societies and that hunger is a common occurrence, along with high death rates among babies. One of the hoariest myths about primitive people is that they, in spiritual communion with nature, nobly resist the soulless and materialistic technology of modern man. This is a Western conceit, found on both the Right and Left. Western man, having created the modern world in which he grew dependent, even trapped, began to wax romantic about nature and people living ‘in harmony’ with it. In fact, no people ever lived in harmony with nature; they lived in struggle against it. Even nature doesn’t exist in harmony with nature. What we call the ‘natural harmony’ is the product of countless and ceaseless struggles among living organisms amongst themselves and with geography. Nature is constantly at war, with one species devouring other species, with males fighting for turf and females, etc.
AVATAR initially shows us the dangerous side of nature, but then, like so many Saturday morning cartoons, brushes it aside to assure us of the greater harmony of nature. It turns out if you earn sufficient street(or jungle)cred in this environment, nothing can really harm you. Getting to know nature is like getting to know the ghetto. If you understand the Nigga, even a white boy can be accepted among the bros, like the white hero in STRANGE DAYS. Similarly, if you understand the way of nature(or nacha), a wild pack of vicious black dogs won’t chew off your ass on Pandora. We learn Jake in his avatar body was attacked by the dogs because he provoked them in his ignorance(though I fail to see what he did wrong). In Cameron’s flaky universe, a membership in the beautiful nature club insures one from any possible harm from the surroundings. And necessary killings–hunting for food–are swift and merciful and nothing like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkN6C1ur1t8&feature=related
Of course, it helps to know black culture to ‘survive’ in a black community, and it helps to know wild life to survive in nature, but that’s not what Cameron is saying. His naivete wants us to believe that blacks and nature are indeed the most wonderful things in the world if you only get to KNOW them. (Perhaps, Cameron the white liberal was embraced by some hip Negroes and felt flattered that someone like him, a white dweeb, could be treated as a brotha. Gee, maybe he’s special and understands the Negro soul, so why can’t the rest of ‘racist’ white America do the same and be hip like him and hang with the brothas? It never seems to have occurred to the dummy that may he was treated well by Negroes because he’s a big name director and celebrity. George W. Bush was welcomed with warmth by Africans, and he also seems to have thought Negroes just love white folks like him who have the decency and compassion. It probably never occurred to idiots like Bush, Jeffrey Sachs, and Bono that they are treated as royalty by Negroes because they are influential or powerful figures. But how do real Negroes treat poor whites in America or in South Africa?) Well, I’m not about to go to Detroit and hang around with homeys to find out, nor am I gonna do what Grizzly Man did. In fact, even people who grew up with nature get mauled by animals. The thing about nature or high-crime neighborhoods is a lot of things are simply unpredictable. Even BAMBI is more truthful than AVATAR on these matters.
Anyway, the truth is most primitive peoples don’t like hardships anymore than we do; and whatever their hostility toward or distrust of outsiders, they love modern stuff that falls into their hands. Jared Diamond said of the primitive New Guineans that they couldn’t get enough of the white man’s ‘cargo’. Even what we consider garbage could be fantastic to these people. Consider the film GODS MUST BE CRAZY. A discarded Coca-Cola bottle goes a long way with the Bushmen. If nature seems magical to us because we live in a world of steel, glass, and concrete, it’s the opposite with primitive people. For them, nature is the same old same old. It’s something they see from morning to night. It’s like wallpaper. What is magical to them is modern gadgetry. And on some level, Cameron seems to understand this, which is why his mythical primitive people inhabit a kind of cyber nature that’s like a video game.
Contrast AVATAR with TARZAN. The latter may be no great work of art, but it accepts and grapples with the reality of nature. Tarzan grows up as a nature child, but the jungle is as horrible as it is wondrous. Tarzan has to fight and struggle–even kill–to establish his manhood/apehood. Jungle primitives can be awful savage and deadly. And even the apes that adopted him killed his parents when Tarzan was a baby. TARZAN is fantasy but filled with horrors as well as wonders. The tragedy of Tarzan is he isn’t fit for either world. Though he becomes the Lord of the Apes, he’s human in need of human company. But when he returns to the world of men, he cannot tame his wild nature. Compare that to Cameron’s therapeutic fantasy of having it both ways, where nature, as soon as one gets the hang of it, is as safe and fun as a rec room with all the modern gadgetry and amenities.
Consider David Lean’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. For a time, Lawrence thinks he can have the best of both worlds. He can be a great British adventurer/soldier AND a bona fide Arab hero and nationalist. He has fun for awhile, but then reality sets in, and he’s forced to realize he’s a stranger to both the British and to the Arabs, so again, the element of tragedy.
There used to be a time when books like TARZAN and movies like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA were popular, but then, a more tragic sense of life prevailed back then. But after decades of consumeristic, hedonistic, and narcissistic ‘you can have it all’ and ‘customer is king’ mantra, people cannot handle complexity or tragedy. We want the market-tested fantasy of everything-turning-out-just-swell-for-all-the-good-people. Ours is the age of ‘gay marriage’ when marriage can be both traditional and homosexual. Ours is the age of Oprah where the some fat black woman on TV is both the kindly mammy and media mogul. Ours is the age of Obama who is said to be white and black, elitist and man of the people, American as apple pie and exotic as an Indonesian mango, a clean cut Negro and a cool Nigga, a friend of both Zionists and Palestinians. This is the age of Al Gore–and Cameron is essentially Al Gore of cinema–, the wise guru who promises to save Mother Earth from modern greed but also assures us that we can keep all our high-energy goodies as long as we pay carbon credits(and stuff HIS greedy pockets); we can have a huge mansion as long as we pay into Al’s company that plants more trees somewhere in the Amazon. Just listen to Al, and all will be Heaven and nothing will be Hell. We’ll have the best of nature and best of modernity. Ours is also the age of LIVE AID concerts where young people can get together, party to rock music, have orgies, and indulge in drugs while AT THE SAME TIME saving all those poor starving Africans in the Dark Continent. Get stoned, get laid, and save the world. It’s the age of compassionate conservatism of George W. Bush, where everyone can be a homeowner. Yes, we can have it all without anything resembling sacrifice or pain. Just listen to wise Al on the energy/environment and wise George on the matter of home ownership. We can have the cake and eat it too. Indeed, there was a similar mantra for the economy as a whole. In the late 90s, we had the dot.com bubble, and though it defied all economic laws, we were told it’s the NEW ECONOMY where information, not profits, is the thing that will perform the miracle of all miracles. Thus, everyone could become a millionaire by investing their money in dot.com this or that. And in the 2000s, everyone could get rich off borrowing money and buying a McMansion(or two); never mind that the economics of it didn’t add up. Just have faith in the wisdom of the Fed Chairman, the best and brightest from Harvard working on Wall Street, the Jewish media, politicians eager to buy votes with easy this, easy that. Forget about the old adage ‘No pain, no gain’. It’s ‘More gain, no pain’. We live in an age when every high school student who can barely make the grade is told that he’s really smart and should go to college. Of course, this mindset is nothing new, but ever since Christianity became the religion of the elites, there was the danger of it turning into a mass pathology. Jesus was an eccentric character, a man of both boundless humility and boundless megalomania, but in the world of man, he was clearly on the side of the poor, the weak, and the dispossessed. When this religion of the poor was adopted as the religion of the wealthy and powerful, it created a mindset among people to seek both ultimate power and ultimate virtue. Jesus is believed by Christians to be the perfect being–both the most righteous and the most powerful, both the humble brother of man and the mighty Son of God. So, Al Gore is a variation of this complex. He acts like Emperor Saint. His crusade is nothing other than to save the entire planet, whole of humanity, trees in the forest, and polar bears too. Unlike politicians and businessmen, he’s for PRINCIPLES!! But just look at the fat bastard, and he’s been growing fabulously rich and influential with this save-the-planet schtick. And isn’t it odd that Bill Clinton, who’s written a book called “GIVING”, has been TAKING in hundreds of millions of dollars? Given the course of communism, with its new egalitarian elites of boundless power and privilege pontificating about the common worker, this mindset is almost a universal disease in Western Man. And it is also the mantra of libertarian capitalism, where we are assured that human vices such as greed and avarice will produce the greatest good for all. Of course, there’s some truth to these ideas. There are ways of killing two birds with one stone, ways of doing things where everyone can benefit. And self-interest among individuals under the rule of law has produced the greatest amount of wealth the world has ever seen. But when this you-can-have-it-all mindset becomes a kind of an all-encompassing religion with its gurus, saints, dogma, and zealots, then it’s not just bad materialism but bad spiritualism as well. It’s especially disingenuous and dangerous when it promises us all gain and no pain. We’ve been told ‘Obamacare’ will not only insure and provide better healthcare for everyone but will reduce costs. And enough people actually seem to believe this fantasy. Whether one is for or against socialized medicine is one thing if one understands the trade-offs. The more important question is do we understand that for every gain, there is a loss; that for every advantage, there is a disadvantage? A particular gain may outweigh the costs of the loss, but there is no getting around the fact that there we cannot have the cake and eat it too. We can’t reduce taxes and increase spending and then expect a balanced budget. We can’t have monstrous trade imbalances indefinitely and maintain our standards of living. AVATAR condemns ruthless corporate greed, but Cameron’s vision of heaven on Pandora is one of boundless consumerist greed, where one can have both nature and shopping malls, or nature as a shopping mall. It’s not much different from Sarah Palin’s vision of Alaska as both a natural wonder and vast oil fields.
The Left is clearly more irresponsible than the Right on economic and political matters, but the Right, having pissed national sovereignty down the drain, cannot expect Americans to rely on good ole individualism and self-reliance anymore. People who’ve lost their jobs to illegal aliens and foreign workers are forced to look to government for support. And it’s just not true that every individual has the smarts, will, and vision to be the next Henry Ford or Bill Gates(and even if they did, a society can allow only so many winners among the far greater number of losers. Even if everyone could play as football as well as Brett Favre, there are only so many teams and so many positions.) Just consider a movie like FORREST GUMP, one of the all-time biggest hits. Why was it so popular? Because Forrest is both good/dumb and rich/fortunate. In other words, it’s total bullshit fantasy. In real life, we know that most decent dumb people don’t end up well. That’s the tragedy of life, that goodness isn’t enough for success. There are certainly millions of wonderfully affectionate dogs that are abused or worse. But movie audiences prefer the fantasy that if one’s good and virtuous, one can be as dumb as a doorknob and still succeed in life because some cosmic spirt of love and justice is looking over you. It’s Oprah-ism! This isn’t any different from the dumb nature message of AVATAR–if you worship nature, nature will provide you with everything, even internet connection through your hair follicles. AVATAR is environmentalism as a consumer electronics, the kind of stuff you trample over others to grab on Black Friday. It is not only delusional but debased.
Even tragedy in a Hollywood film has to be ameliorated by a miracle. This way, you can have a good sob and then be smiley-faced again. In THE ABYSS, we get the boo hoo over a character’s tragic death.... but lo and behold, the person springs back to life again!!! Have it both ways at Burger King! Of course, not every Hollywood movie is that idiotic.
Steven Spielberg is crowd pleasing director, but even his films don’t tell us we can have it all. In CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, Roy does lose his family and goes a little mad in his quest to make contact with extraterrestrial beings. If it were made by today’s hacks, maybe Roy would be reunited with his family before embarking on the space journey.
Now, Spielberg hasn’t been one of the most courageous filmmakers, though A.I, one of the handful of genuinely tragic sci-fi movies, is an exception(which explains its failure at the box-office, in which case, we have to blame the idiot audiences too who prefer crap like FORREST GUMP and AVATAR).
Superficial observers accused Spielberg of trying to have it both ways with A.I., concocting an happy ending with David reuniting with his ‘mother’ when the movie really should have ended with David trapped under the sea, beseeching the blue fairy to turn him into a real boy. But these critics haven’t really paid attention. A.I. is all the more sad because the ‘happy ending’ is a lie, a fairytale as euthanasia. There are no humans left in this future, and all robots–David and the creatures who thaw him from the ice–are orphans separated from the species that created them. David doesn’t reunite his ‘mother’ but merely encounters a facsimile–just like he himself is a duplicate of son of a scientist. David is a lie and the ‘mother’ that he meets in the future is also a lie. It is a deception to make him ‘happy’. David, forever condemned to be an innocent boy clinging to his ‘mother’, can only find happiness through fairytales that do not exist in reality. We tell fairytales to children as a kind of happiness-inducing drug, but children eventually grow out of this dependence. David is addicted to his fairytale and can only find peace through an overdose and extinction. Few things are as awful as hopeless hopefulness.
When children, with their limited mental and emotional capacity, lose their innocence prematurely–like the dirty urchins in LOS OLVIDADOS, PIXOTE, or CITY OF GOD–, they don’t become wise or adult. They turn animal. Children, in their simplicity, will believe in everything or in nothing..
The ending of A.I. reveals the fake wizard behind the OZ in the magic of movies. In a way, Spielberg was confessing his role in the business of deception, as a granter of false hopes to a public hungry for dreams and happiness. Of course, there’s a difference between what the future beings do for David and what Hollywood has been doing for us. The future beings are wise, kind, and infinitely well-meaning. They offer the golden lie to David as a kind of eternal pain-killer. In contrast, Hollywood is controlled by mostly crass, greedy, manipulative operatives who also happen to be narcissistic, self-righteous, and intolerant. Though Spielberg is a master director, one of the greatest ever, he too is a lying, cunning, deceitful son of a bitch. In other words, he’s a typical liberal Jew.
If future beings present David with a lie for his own good, liberal Jews of Hollywood feed the audience lies to castrate and lobotomize them–especially if the audience happen to be white gentiles. And if David is really a pitiable robot boy who only understands one ‘truth’–love for his ‘mother’–, most American moviegoers are not children and should be expected/encouraged to grow up. But, Hollywood movies encourage nothing but extended juvenilia since immaturity is easier to manipulate and exploit for maximum bucks. If young people had even an iota of sense, MTV would have gone out of business ages ago.
I can’t think of anyone who’s fouled up our movie culture more in recent times than James Cameron with AVATAR, the ultimate movie for mindless dummies. A movie like AVATAR does nothing for the mind. Great science fiction is supposed to be a mind trip, not a mindless dip. Not only does AVATAR do all the thinking for the audience, it’s the kind of thought that cannot be thought of as thought. And everything is deafening, blaring, obvious, and obnoxious. It’s sci-fi fantasy as Stalinist kitsch produced by Donald Trump.
‘Miracle’ has two meanings: the literal and the figurative or poetic. One is about what is actually shown and the other is more about the way of seeing. The human mind has a way of absorbing or normalizing stimuli that may initially seem wondrous. A man of the tropics who sees snow for the first time in the northern hemisphere will find it miraculous. But after awhile, he will regard snow as an Arab regards sand. Snow is no longer miraculous in the literal sense, but he still retains a poetic remembrance of his WAY OF SEEING, a virgin vision of snow as pure, beautiful, otherworldly.
To a man who’s never seen a large body of water, a big lake or an ocean will be a wonder of wonders. But if he settles by the lake or goes on long sea voyage, water will only be water. Of course, some things are more appealing regardless of their familiarity. Living in proximity to beautiful mountains and crystal clear lakes beats living inside a concrete cell. But it’s true that our eyes and ears lose interest in things we become overly familiar with. Even as fondness may grow, wonder and awe fade away. This is certainly true in love, where the relationship comes to rely more on affection than on passion with the passage of time. We develop fondness for certain movies through repeated viewing, but we can never regain the initial excitement of the first or second viewing. What had once felt miraculous comes to be taken for granted; it may even become mundane and invisible as our minds fill up with petty irritations looming ever larger in our lives. This probably explains wanderlust and an addiction to new stimuli in many people(or perhaps most modern people)–through travel and adventure if you can afford it, new music, new books, new movies, new technology, new fashions, new news. And when we run out of things to show or see, we recycle and repackage old forgotten material into something new as a neo-or-retro something or other. We are addicted to enchantment and wonderment, that first taste of ice cream. We look for new things in search of the same old sensation of being knocked off our feet.
We keep seeking the newer because everything new soon becomes–looks and feels–old. “Who wants yesterday’s papers, who wants yesterday’s girl? Nobody in the world.” – Rolling Stones. With ever greater thrills known and shown to men and women–through ever louder music, ever bigger movies, ever fancier special effects, ever wilder music and sex, ever faster sports, ever more gimmicky high-tech entertainment, ever newer drugs and substances, etc–, people seek heavier doses of newness but also lose interest in them faster than ever–though some things, like Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Ice Cream, Hip Hop, and Porn never seem to go out of fashion or demand; maybe they provide the ultimate sensations to the primary appetites of people. And of course, the appeal of sports is, even with the same rules every year, there’s the suspense of new outcomes–the big loser last year may be the big winner this year. And addiction to gambling is less about money than the thrill of something unlikely and unexpected, like hitting the jackpot. Even so, with all these stimuli, we are in the constant process of growing tired of everything.
The fading of wonderment is actually natural and necessary. If we remain in a state of constant wonderment 24/7, our brain cells would probably get fried. And a sense of wonderment could also interfere with the business of life requiring tough decisions and cold calculation. If a hunter is so dazzled by the beauty of the animal he’s about to kill, he may not chuck the spear. If one is so dazzled by a sight of a hurricane, he may just stand and watch than take cover. Beauty and wonderment fill our lives with pleasure, a reward that serves as an incentive for us to get off our ass and achieve something in life–more success, money, and power means more access to beauty and wonderful things. People want to possess beauty. Men want to possess the most beautiful women, rich people want to own the most expensive and beautiful works of art. People want to own beautiful plots of land. This involves struggle, which is often ugly. For the top elk to hump the best looking elk babes in the herd, it has to fight the other bucks. To make a lot of money, one has to be hard-nosed and ruthless, not the most beautiful of human traits.
While desire for beauty and pleasure serves as a powerful incentive for people to work harder to succeed and climb higher, thereby gaining access to more beauty and more pleasure; it can also induce people to be lazier and less motivated, especially if the beauty or pleasure can be accessed–if in inferior or second-rate form–by the masses. Consider all the young people who refuse to study because they get tons of pleasure from TV, pop music, internet porn, hook-up sex, videogames, drugs, etc. The lower masses may be addicted to an imitation of the real thing, but they may be crude and dumb enough to be satisfied. Many underclass blacks are content with Kanye West music videos and bling blings. They may live in dumps but as long as they wear the hip garb, dance to cool songs, strut round with gold chains, and pack guns inside their hang-down pants, they may feel like the greatest thing since fried chicken. And there are plenty of white trash who ruined their lives on meth. Why do anything constructive when you can enjoy so much pleasure and enter paradise–even if only hours at a time–by smoking illicit substances? The Founding Fathers believed in work ethic, and the ‘pursuit of happiness’ meant working and striving to find meaning and contentment through honest labor and attainment of knowledge, like the feeling of health sensed from the flow of blood after a good workout. Today, everyone feels ENTITLED to happiness with work, effort, and/or sacrifice. I WANT MY MTV... on the tax-payers’ dime. It’s the corruption of both socialism and capitalism; socialism as bread-and-circuses and capitalism as consumerist hedonism in the Republic of Orgasmo. But the masses are addicted to it, and the elites find it useful in keeping the masses in line. If even poor people can find their paradise through bling blings and Kanye West videos–if you can feel badass, cool, and rich by worshiping celebrities–, maybe they won’t rise up and rebel.
Anyway, in our distinction between the two modes of miraculousness, the poetic is clearly of an higher order than the literal, especially in the arts. Literal miracles are for children and for adults blinded by boredom–but then, most people who find everything boring are really just projecting their own boringness onto the world.
Jesus performed miracles–curing lepers, free fish and chips, making the blind see, resurrecting the dead, etc–because people, being spiritually blind and childish, would otherwise ignore him. It was ‘miracle for dummies’, like Sunday Schools used to give out baby alligators to attract more kids. As adults hold the attention of children with magic and fairytales, Jesus won converts through literal miracles–such as those described in the Gospels anyway.
Literal miracles have an appeal for it’s all too easy for us to grow blind to the real ‘miracle’ all around us, not least because our senses familiarize themselves with new stimuli, rendering them mundane. If backward peoples in poor countries are too hungry and survival-oriented to wax romantic about beauty and poetry, advanced peoples of rich nations are too busy consuming and discarding new stimuli to gain and retain genuine appreciation of anything. A starving person tastes food only in his stomach while an overfed person tastes it only in his mouth. Modern consumers keep buying stuff–clothes, dvds, books, gadgets, food, music, etc–just to have new things even when there’s no great desire to try them out. And so, clothes and shoes pile up in the wardrobe and closet, food fills up the fridge, books and dvds end up strewn everywhere. And of course, once something’s been already attained, it has already lost its luster of newness. Even hoarding has become a new kind of disposal. Consumers buy and hoard not for future use but to forget so that new stuff can be bought. (Who was responsible for modern consumerism? Was it the natural outcome of capitalism? Was it the rise of crazy irresponsible Negro culture as the new model for mainstream social behavior? Was it rise of easy credit and finance economy? Was it essentially the creation of Anglo-Americans? Or, was it Jewish-Americans? Jews undoubtedly played a major role in the development of modern capitalism, especially in the US. Department stores, Hollywood, new forms of banking and finance, revision of laws, advertising, etc. have Jewish fingerprints all over them. Was there a Jewish or Judeo-centric reason for the rise of this form of capitalism? It’s all the more interesting when Jews have long been stereotyped as tightwads, misers, cheapskates, etc. Why would a people so averse to freely spending their own money promote a system which encourages everyone else to freely spend theirs? Because a lot of goy money will flow to Jewish businesses? Because gentiles have to borrow from Jewish banks to buy from Jewish businesses? This way, Jews make money from profits of products they sell and from interest rates on loans to gentiles. Of course, Anglo-Americans created the American business model before the Jews, but German-American Jews, even before massive arrival of immigrants from Eastern Europe, had been instrumental in the expansion of modern capitalism in NY, the South, and the West. Levi’s Jeans is a Jewish product. Anyway, there was still a culture of thrift in Anglo-American capitalism, a sense of personal responsibility–even though, to be sure, there were lots of crazy speculators among Anglo-Americans. Anglo-American economic morality admonished white gentiles to work hard, be thrifty, save, and spend what you can afford–and don’t fall into debt. Also, its stress on social values tended to discourage indulgence and flamboyance, or at least for the masses. During the Gilded Age, many Anglo-American gods of business dressed and lived like kings, but their message to rest of society was still ‘live within your means’. Also, even the indulgently rich during the Gilded Age were careful to come off as classy and dignified, not merely fancy-trashy like Elvis in his ridiculous Graceland. But the rise of Jewish-American capitalism spread a very different kind of economic gospel to the entire masses of white gentiles. It said, don’t worry about debts and responsibility. Borrow as much as you can, finance everything, buy all you want and more for maximum pleasure. You can having it all by spending it all. Of course, Jews, wink wink, didn’t adhere to this attitude among themselves. Jews remained economically disciplined and focused on making more money. The gospel of spend, spend, spend was meant for non-Jews, for the dumb goyim, so that they’ll spend all their money on movies, dresses, magazines, and etc produced by Jews or by businesses operating with funds provided by Jewish banks. It was concentration-ism for the Jews and consumerism for non-Jews. It was like how the white man encouraged the Indians to drink all they want and turn into alcoholics dependent on ‘powerful medicine’ or like how the British tried to turn the Chinese into a bunch of opium-addicted Ching-a-lings. A group with a long-term strategy of gaining power over others do so by addicting them to short-term childish fantasies and pleasures. Through the instruments of modern capitalism–media, finance, entertainment, etc–, Jews have turned us into addicts of their opiates. People who go ‘Obama, Obama’ are like the untermensch in Aldous Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD who go ‘soma, soma’. Consider how Jewish businesses in the black community encouraged Negroes to buy this stereo, that tv, this car, that fur coat, etc, etc. without any thought of priorities. So, Negroes saved nothing and just went and bought anything they could with their paychecks. And if they didn’t have enough dough, they got loans or on some lay away plan which only loaded them with more debt. Jews wanted to grow rich, so they came up with a new economic model and consumer mentality–at least for non-Jews–whereby non-Jews would mindlessly borrow and spend and borrow and spend, all the while cunning ruthless Jews would lend and rake in and lend and rake in. But, we shouldn’t be antisemitic about this. Jews did devise innovative and efficient retail systems, improved customer service, and produced many excellent goods and services which did much good for the American economy. Also, to some degree this image of the Jew as tightwad and cheapskate is something of a myth, at least in the modern world. While it is true that non-rich Jews are indeed careful and responsible with their money, there are plenty of rich Jews who spend their money like a motherfuc*er. Perhaps, the wild consumerism of modern American capitalism is partly a projection of the Jew to have it all after so many centuries of deprivation. Even rich Jews had been deprived through the centuries, not only because of gentile discrimination and restrictions but because Jewish culture and religion forbade ‘good times’. Through the centuries, the Jews were drooling over blonde shikses, dying to possess and appreciate the ‘false idols’ of beauty–called ART–, enjoy stuff like Christmas, and be wild and free–like even poor dumb Irishmen or Russians drank, danced, partied, and acted plenty crazy. Just as Russians, liberated after decades of communism, simply couldn’t resist all that rock n roll and nouveau riche stuff, it could be Jews kinda went crazy after Emancipation. Even as they maintained and sharpened their economic strategy, something in their souls wanted to live in a world where the mantra was ‘you or Jew can have it all’. So, Jews weren’t always being tightwads to be tightwads but to make gain more wealth so they could make REAL money and have a superduper good time. A Negro with a 100 bucks blows it there and to boogie woogie and guzzle a case of Colt 45. A Jew, on the other hand, goes into business, collects the $100 from a million people, and then buys himself a huge mansion with a giant swimming pool and then bangs every blonde shikse he can find.)
If people could really SEE, they would find miracles all around them, even in the mere fact of being alive. Indeed, many people come to appreciate the miraculousness of their lives only when they lose something dear: a limb, eyesight, hearing, or a loved one. A person who can no longer see realizes that the ability to see is itself a miracle. To a deaf person who hears for the first time(thanks to the miracle of modern medicine), all sounds are mysterious and wondrous.
This is why the truly miraculous movies are those which help us to see anew than movies that merely show us the ‘new’. Take a film like ANDREI RUBLEV, SOLARIS, STALKER, VERTIGO, UGETSU, VAMPYR, LA JETTE, MULHOLLAND DR, and ALPHAVILLE. They have no or minimal special effects and indeed present much that is outwardly familiar. But like a great painting by a master, they make us see the people, nature, and the world with a new perspective, through different lenses. Nothing fantastic happens before our eyes in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE but we, along with George Bailey, gain realization of the miracle or wonderfulness of life through the opportunity of seeing the world with new eyes. Though Jean Cocteau was considered a leading film artist of his time, his films now seem less miraculous because his magic tended to be literal–often the product of camera tricks. Of course, there’s a place for literal magic and miracles in art and culture, but it’s essentially kid stuff, not something that should be invested with too much meaning, as Cameron has done with this trash miracle epic.
Reality itself is strange, and no amount of science will crack its deepest mysteries, and even things we understand rationally remain strange nevertheless. The ‘how’ never really answers the ‘why’. Besides, even as we know clouds are water molecules up in the sky, they will always be something more to the romantic in each of us. This isn’t to say everything in the world is equally miraculous or wondrous, but there is a special strangeness about everything. The poetic sense of miraculousness is about the way of seeing, the way of understanding and reminding ourselves that the world around us that we take for granted is abound in miracles. Literal miracles are for people who simply cannot see the miracle, just like sugar on fruits is for those who cannot taste natural sweetness.
This is why Christians who need to see literal miracles–suckers for images of Virgin Mary on toasts or backs of turtles–in order to validate their faith have no real understanding of ‘miracle’. They wanna see tricks because they’re blind to the miracle of Creation itself. (On the other hand, perhaps the People of the Book–Jews, Christians, and Muslims–are less attuned to the poetic miracles due to the myth of the Fall. The Genesis speaks of Eden where man lived in a miraculous unity with God and nature, but then came the fall of man accompanied by the fall of Creation. Given the arid climate and harsh terrain in which Judaism developed, maybe Jews had a difficult time convincing themselves than anything could be miraculous in and of itself. There was no manna on Earth; it could only come from Heaven. As for the injunctions against idolatry or false idols in the Old Testament, this could be interpreted and/or practiced as a prohibition on either or both literal and poetic miracles. In a way, God was telling the faithful to appreciate the things of this world–nature, beauty, expressions, music, etc–for what they are than transform them into objects of worship. Anti-idolatry isn’t necessarily anti-art for it prohibits the worship than the mere appreciation of human expressions. But the nature of religious dogma being what it was, many Jews forbade replicas of any human or animal form altogether, a tradition later picked up by devout Protestants and Muslims. The real danger of idols was less what they replicated in form than what they suggested in spirit. The Golden Calf, after all, wasn’t just a sculpted form of a baby cow but an object of worship or counter-worship. People had a tendency to worship their own miracles of creative genius or expression. Greeks didn’t just sculpt beautiful figures but developed a cult of beauty to be semi-worshiped. At its worst, the cult or idolization of beauty could lead to Nazi madness. On the other hand, we need only consider Jonestown, the Taliban, and the Killing Fields to know that any fanatical belief system, ideology or idology, is a form of madness. Anyway, the bigger danger of anti-idolatry is not just the banning of art and expressions–literal miracles–but of the appreciation of beauty–poetic miracles. Not only is art criminalized but appreciation of beauty becomes a thought crime. If spirit is all that matters, the only truly good thing in the world, then all things of the world pertaining to sensations are sinful or, as Buddhists might say, just a false illusion from which to seek release.)
A radical atheist might even go further and say God or gods themselves are literal miracles for people with shallow understanding/appreciation of the true mystery of reality; religious people need to objectify, personify, or idealize reality into a set of deities because they simply cannot ponder and accept mystery as mystery. The dumber atheists argue there is no real mystery and everything can be understood through human intellect and reasoning, which is a kind of worship of rationality.
At any rate, it’s not a simple case of either/or, a zero sum game where one has to embrace only literal miracles or poetic miracles. All movies are like literal miracles in a way. It is a magic lantern show conjured before our eyes in a dark room. And who can deny the joys of special effects since the earliest days of cinema, and isn’t cinema itself a special effect that enlivens a blank screen with personalities, places, movement, sounds? Who can deny the awesomeness of the parting of the Red Sea in TEN COMMANDMENTS or the stargate sequence of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY(which, by the way, is an instance of both literal and poetic miracle in its fireworks and mystery, not only impressing us with what is shown but re-evaluating what it means to ‘see’)? It is through cinema that ‘we all dream of being a child again’, to borrow a saying from an old Mexican villager in THE WILD BUNCH. And long before movies, people told innumerable tales and epics of heroes, monsters, fairies, gods and goddesses, quests, magic, etc.
Even so, miracles that are only literal tend to be superficial, offering gratification without lingering effect. Their value vanishes the instant they’re removed from our sight. They signify nothing, engaging only the simplest sensations and barely touching on emotions. For any miraculous object to gain poetic potency, for it to do something more than dazzle our eyes and quicken our breath, it has to seep into the realm of emotions leading to the deeper well of memory. For our emotions to be genuinely stirred, the object has to suggest, promise, or inspire something more than its literal value. Rosebud in CITIZEN KANE is more than just a sled because we learn, though Welles’ powerful imagery and narrative, its poetic significance to an old man facing death and dreaming of childhood. The monolith in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY isn’t merely visually stunning but emanates with the aura of mystery, foreboding the stargate sequence which reveal grander mysteries yet. Poetic miracles unfold within us as a kaleidoscope of possibilities, at once ephemeral and eternal. It leaves a residue, of curiosity, fascination, and longing. It takes us away from our comfort zone of conventional morality, pleasures, and expectations. Consider the time travel sequences in Chris Marker’s LA JETTE that are both fantastic and poetic, or physical and psychological. We shift and sift not only through time and space but through memory and dreams. Even seemingly mundane things take on a deeper meaning and significance.
Something that separates Spielberg from most of his peers has been his ability to inject intimacy, a quality of innocence and vulnerability, into his grandest spectacles. His films retain a human element humming with the song of childhood. JURASSIC PARK, though mostly an action-packed dinosaur epic, glows with affection, especially for children, awakened even in the cool heart of its lead character–played by Sam Neill. (The same cannot be said for LOST WORLD, as horrible as JURASSICA PARK was wonderful. For one thing, it was impossible to feel any sympathy for the ugly and obnoxious pickaninny child and even more ludicrous to believe that the tarbaby could be the biological child of the Jewish guy played by Jeffrey Goldblum. It was just racial agitprop on Spielberg’s part, suggestion that noble Negroes and wonderful Jews are brothers and sisters, even father and daughter. It’s interesting that Spielberg, though very Jewish in look and personality, has done his best work with non-Jewish subjects and characters–though CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, with the very Jewish Richard Dreyfus, is an exception. Perhaps, it’s because he grew up watching Hollywood and Disney fantasies dominated by larger-than-life handsome/pretty white faces. For a geeky Jew kid in a world of Jews who didn’t even celebrate something as wonderful as Christmas, Spielberg must have been both envious and obsessed with the handsomeness and happiness of the goy world. It was to him what the Land of Oz was to Dorothy. No wonder he loves the idealized portraits of Americana by Norman Rockwell. For the young Spielberg, non-Jewish whites were big, tall, handsome, brave, and adventurous whereas Jews were a bunch of clever but funny-looking schlemiels–not glamorous. Spielberg the Jew kid longed for the goy world he couldn’t enter because his parents said ‘No’ and because goy kids said, ‘Jewboy’. It’s no wonder that Spielberg is attracted to stories like EMPIRE OF THE SUN and A.I. where a child remains outside the object of his desire in a kind of Kafkaesque conundrum. To the Japanese pilots, the English kid is an amusing nuisance; and to the ‘mother’ in A.I., David is just a bothersome robot. But there is still the everlasting hope of being embraced by the ideal hero or mother figure more desirable than the actual mother. Notice the emotional parallel between the children gaining Sam Neill’s affection in JURASSIC PARK and the frightened Jews winning the heart of the ‘Good German’ in SCHINDLER’S LIST. Since Spielberg admired larger-than-life white gentile heroes but also feared their potential hostility towards him, he created a movie fantasy filled with good decent handsome white gentiles who loved Jews or children or at least could be morally/emotionally manipulated to do so. Though SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is about saving some goy kid, the implications are larger. Christian soldiers battling the Nazis to save a single life echoes the theme of SCHINDLER’S LIST where the hero finds higher meaning by the saving of an even single Jewish life. SCHINDLER’S LIST is strange as a Holocaust film for having as its main character a big, tall, handsome, Aryan German. ‘How to re-program the big handsome Aryan to love the short ugly Jew’ has been what Spielberg’s movies have largely been about. But developments since the 60s perhaps took Spielberg by surprise. Just as Americans expected the USSR to remain a great power for many more decades to come, most Jews in the 60s thought that white gentile–especially WASP–power would be a formidable challenge to rising Jewish power deep into the future. But just as the Soviet Union collapsed suddenly, white gentile power came crumbling down almost overnight, with Jews gaining near total control of all elite American institutions and with black males whupping white boys in sports and in the bedroom. Today, white women are being converted to mudsharkdom at rapid rate while white males either willingly surrender to the new reality or desperately and pathetically deny it to shore up their vanishing male pride. Jews probably had no idea that their victory over the Wasps would be so fast, so dramatic, so total. Just look at Southern California. In the 60s, it was the land of blonde surfer dudes and Anglos. Jews in Hollywood saw a very white and generally conservative California–outside places like metropolitan LA, San Francisco, Berkeley, etc–and probably expected California to remain that way for a long time. But with invasion from Mexico instigated by Jews in government and business, California has become a state owned largely by Jewish elites, who now play divide-and-rule among the whites, blacks, browns, and Asians. Spielberg grew up looking up to white gentiles as big, tall, god-like race of people, but he must now be amused by the fact that whites now line up to kiss Jewish ass.) Whatever the business angle, Spielberg’s movies have genuine magic because, on some level, Spielberg believes in the magic himself; movies were his religion since childhood. The impact of movies on Spielberg as a child was like the ray that burnished Roy’s face in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. It was the Burning Bush, a calling from a divine source. If Michael Bay only knows how to work big and pile on mega-effects, Spielberg knows how to access the heart. It’s the difference between mechanics and magic. The final segment of A.I. is both magnificent as special effects and stirring as poetry. Like other great directors such as Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock, Spielberg works both big and small, both loud and quiet, both grand in vision and attuned to details–also grave and funny.
Though we associate miracles with something positive, there is always an element of darkness in miracles, or all true miracles. First, there is the strangeness, however pleasant or gratifying, an intimation of power over or beyond us. There’s anxiety about this power–is it beneficent or hostile, loving or hateful, trustworthy or devious? To farm animals, the food provided for them must seem like manna from heaven but what is their ultimate destiny? Remember Hansel and Gretel? The Jewish elites say they are looking out for the good of humanity, but what they really up to? Spielberg gives us wonderful miraculous movies, but what is the real agenda of that high I.Q. Jew and others like him? What if the fairy godmother who gives you candy is really a witch handing you poison?
The story of Adam and Eve is a miracle story but also a nightmare story. Adam was created and placed in a paradise whose wonders he was blind to. He couldn’t appreciate perfection since it comprised every inch of the Garden; it was like wallpaper. He felt bored and lonely, so God gave him the miracle of the woman, and they had each other, but they still felt bored. Though they were surrounded by beauty, harmony, and perfection, the Garden of Eve was to them what Walmart is to an American: it had everything and offered no surprises; when everything is miraculous, nothing feels miraculous. So, the Serpent came along and promised them a zing of a miracle: if they ate from the Forbidden Tree of Knowledge, they would see, hear, feel, and understand far-out stuff. Eve got spaced out and then so did Adam. They saw the wonders with new eyes–as if through God’s eyes–, but this was too close for comfort to God, and so He said no more of that. And then, the Garden of Eden turned into harsh wilderness in which one had to struggle to survive.
So, the miracle of ‘knowledge’ was not only the wonder of wonders but the horror of horrors. And this is why the best Christmas Stories have a dark underside. If most Christmas movies don’t work, it’s because the miracles are all feely-good(and even the villains are pretty harmless). But consider A CHRISTMAS CAROL or IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE; their power derives from the dark side of miracles. The miracle that Scrooge is shown is really a nightmare, and it is only through this nightmare journey that he sees the world through new eyes. And the miracle wish granted to George Bailey–he wishes he hadn’t been born–proves to be a Midas-like hellhole too. The miracles in these stories aren’t merely outlandish but lead the characters towards deeper understanding and appreciation. To this extent, the exile from the Garden of Eden, though an anti-miracle, could also be interpreted as a kind of miracle, or the dark side of miracle. For it is only through this exile that Adam and Eve gain a true appreciation of God’s powers and gifts. If the forbidden fruit opened the eyes of Adam and Eve to the power of God, their exile opens their eyes to the need for God. And since they have to struggle to grow food, seek shelter, raise children, and survive, they gain a deeper appreciation of the rare things in life that bring happiness.
In this sense, a true miracle is something to behold than to hold. And it has to be earned. The story of Jesus would be meaningless had it been a pleasure cruise. Instead, he survived, rather miraculously, Herod’s slaughter of the firstborns. He performed miracles among the poor and sickly. He was captured, persecuted, and executed before His spirit triumphed over the flesh. If the Son of God was born happy and lived happily ever after, and if everyone could enter Heaven, what need for miracles, literal or poetic? In the case of Siddhartha, it’s been said he was born rich and happy and knew nothing of unhappiness, poverty, disease, and death. He had no need for higher truth since everything seemed so paradisiacal. It was when his eyes were opened to reality–the suffering and death–that he sought the deeper meaning of life. And the Holy Grail in film EXCALIBUR gains significance through the hardships of the Quest. Furthermore, Perceval realizes the Grail is less an object than a state of mind, a way of seeing, feeling, understanding.
One of AVATAR’s biggest problems is the conception of Pandora as a perfect paradise. Cameron’s message is simply, ‘without evil Earthlings, Pandora is the Garden of Eden of wondrous unity and harmony nurtured by the spirit Eywa. As it happens, tragedy befalls Pandora only as a result of human invasion–a puerile cops and robbers morality tale. If Pandora is so wonderful and if humans–enough of them anyway–are so evil, then there is a simple solution to eradicating evil from the world: just get rid of humans.
Remove its metaphors, and AVATAR’s message is as follows: if we get rid of 99.9% of evil white people–except wonderful progressives like Cameron–and their non-white flunkies(black and brown mercenary soldiers)–, and if we were to leave the world to nature and primitive peoples, Heaven and Earth would be the same.
It might do some good for Cameron to watch Werner Herzog’s GRIZZLY MAN, which, though respectful of wildlife, has no illusions about nature’s pitiless cruelty and amorality. Spirituality is something we channel from and impose on nature; it is not to be confused with stark realities. Treadwell’s mistake about the bears was akin to white liberal fantasies about blacks–that if we all praise and worship MLK and sing happy songs and boogie woogie with the blacks, racial harmony will be at hand. In fact, many blacks, like wild animals, look down on white people as ‘pussyass mothafuc*as’. Black males wanna beat up white guys or toy with them as beta-male pussyboys while sexually conquering all the white women. But, this reality is just too much for most white people, liberal or conservative. Liberals prefer the fantasy of the Noble Wonderful Negro while white conservatives dream of the Nice Clean Cut Negro good enough to marry and hump one’s daughter.
Modern white people are so used to thinking of animals in terms of domesticated dogs and cats or those ‘beautiful’ and ‘noble’ animals of the wild running in graceful slo-motion in TV documentaries that they tend ignore the bloodthirsty nature of these deadly and amoral creatures. A person who adopts a tiger cub, thinking it’s going to remain cute and cuddly kitty forever, is in for a rude awakening when the cub grows to be a 800 lb predator within a year. Similarly, white liberals who saw blacks as peace-loving childlike folks who only wanted equal justice were only deluding themselves. The cuddly Negro gorilla baby they brought into their home grew into a 800 lb gorilla Nigga that be out to kick the white boy’s ass and hump the white ho’s poon.
Cameron is essentially Timothy Treadwell as a successful filmmaker in Hollywood. But, if the damage caused by Treadwell was limited to himself, his girlfriend, and the bear put down for eating his dumb ass–and if his ‘tragic’ story taught us something real about the man and nature–, the harm caused by Cameron and AVATAR is bound to be much more far-reaching. Millions of idiots around the world may actually buy into Cameron’s dangerous and delusional New Age flaky nonsense.
James Cameron is also like an Alex Kurtagic of the Left. If Kurtagic is obsessed with some shallow and trashy conceit of ‘Aryan’ superiority, Cameron is obsessed with the ‘superiority’ of the Other and the Exotic. Both have serious problems with humanity and reality as they really are. If their interests were limited only to fantasy and escapism, no problem; but it just so happens that both push their fantasies as a political formula to shape and guide us in the real world. To what extent they are being cynical/devious–to attract and fool the dummies and suckers–or earnest/genuine is anyone’s guess, but it would be miserable and pathetic in either case. That Cameron is a billionaire superstar while Kurtagic is peddler of thirdrate New Age music for skinheads makes it amply clear that the Left has more talent for making and marketing trash than the Right, but trash is still trash.
Anyway, if Pandora is supposed to serve as an allegory of the harm done to Earth by modern white man, then evil could be banished from the world simply by getting rid of all white people(with a few exceptions like Cameron). It’s like Nazis and communists pretending that evil could be wiped off the Earth by killing, respectively, all the Jews or all of the bourgeoisie(and reactionaries). If reality were so simple!
Cameron, the man with the god complex, sees himself as kind of Star Child at the end of 2001. He’s the next step in the evolution of man; he’s wiser than all of us dummies. And since we are so stupid and decrepit, he imagines and creates his own orgasmic paradise, Cameron’s Camelot, forbidden to us rotten humans who only know how to exploit and destroy–though we are allowed a 3D peek for a not-so-small price.
So, what is the nature of Cameron’s visionary miracle? It expands our perceptions only in the most literal sense–3D glasses. Every miracle is familiar, cliched, and well within our comfort zone. There’s nothing to challenge assumptions and expectations. Instead, Cameron merely sprinkled $300 million worth of glittery dime store confetti on video-game-and-Saturday-morning-cartoon graphics. It’s a big ugly pile of kitsch. Like Stalinist and Nazi aesthetics, it monumentalizes simple ideas and imagery in the mistaken conviction that pomp and scale alone make the art. Kitsch is worse than mere trash precisely because of its delusions of grandeur. SMURFS is dumb cartoon; AVATAR is bad religion.
It’s like the Oprah Show which, despite or precisely because of all the spiritual and moral grandstanding, ladles out the same lame save-the-world, hug-your-neighbor, and feel-the-real-you-within-you chicken-soup-of-the-soul platitudes.
For young people, AVATAR will likely close than open their eyes to the full spectrum of what nature has to offer . While nature can be dramatic–roaring lion, thunderous waterfall, leaping whale, elephant herd stampeding Negroes to death, etc–, there’s the other side of nature calling for calmness and concentration, a certain meditative patience on our part. Not everything in nature is snap, crackle, and pop. Not everything comes with a button which when pressed lights up the room and goes whirly twirly. Pandora’s nature is really stuffed with leafy Playstations or Xboxes. All the fun wonders under the giant tree is just a variation of toys under an aluminum Christmas tree. AVATAR, as a summer movie, extends Christmas all year round. And like Christmas, it’s a perverse and shameless fusion of spirituality and commercialism. But if Christmas at its best does have something uniquely beautiful and moving–well illustrated by MERRY CHRISTMAS CHARLIE BROWN–, I can’t find anything to recommend in Cameron’s
movie. AVATAR isn’t something good that went bad–like Christmas through over-commercialization–but something crassly stupid to begin with. I cannot accept AVATAR as a pro-nature message that went awry or got lost, which would at least be understandable and even forgivable. The real ‘spiritual’ source of AVATAR is not Cameron’s love of nature but his love of his own delusional love of a nature that doesn’t even exist. And this delusion isn’t only intellectually shabby but a means to justify insatiable greed by spiking it with cure-all snake oil. It is a fraud of a fraud, wrapping crass commercialism in false spiritualism which is just another form of commercialism.
Pandora is not a speculative imagination of another planet; it is a gadget, a big screen version of the Apple Iphone. 3D effects only encourage the experience of Pandora as a plaything for one’s fingertips. Spiritually, it’s a movie equivalent of a McChurch where God and Jesus are evoked through loud rock songs. These cultural phenomena infantilize mass tastes by expanding the comfort zone. Even far away places like another planet in the distant future is little more than a projection of the faddish fantasies of today’s audiences and consumers. While drawing larger audiences and followers and promoting greater tolerance and diversity, the end product becomes ever more eager-to-please and diluted of anything unique or meaningful. It expands the market while diminishing the imagination. It brings more people under the same bland and platitudinous roof.
This has been the downside of New Age from day one. If the neo-spiritual emphasis on greater curiosity and respect for other cultures and religions was laudable, the attempt to fuse a new spiritual outlook embracing everything and offends no one produced sappy and flavorless world buffet faiths and attitudes, the bloodless veganism of the soul. Cameron may believe his New Age-ism is open-minded and generous, but it’s really infantile and selfish. He hogs everything for himself by being everything to everyone, except for those bad evil nasty ‘white racists’–even so, there’s enough bang-up blow-em stuff in AVATAR to delight all the Ah-nold and Rambo fans on the Idiot Right. Cameron also wants both science and religion, not in separate rooms but in the same room. He wants Pandora to be both a scientific speculation of another planet–why else would he have consulted real scientists?–and a moral/political/spiritual allegory about problems on planet Earth itself. Because of this ‘visionary’ greed that masquerades as ambition, because Pandora tries to be everything, it is ultimately nothing. PLANET OF THE APES was clearly meant as allegory and clearly not to be taken seriously as science. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was a thoroughgoing effort to imagine actual space travel and worked on that level. AVATAR, as science, mythology, allegory, action movie, romance, videogame, theme park ride, and etc, doesn’t work on any level–except in confirming P.T. Barnum’s adage “there’s a sucker born every minute.”
There’s a book by Stanislaw Lem, SOLARIS, adapted for the screen by Andrei Tarkovsky and Steven Soderberg. Tarkovsky’s version is fascinating if muddled while the Soderbergh version is nearly unwatchable. Anyway, novel’s central theme concerns the structural–also spiritual in Tarkovsky’s film–tendency on the part of humans to absorb and interpret new reality through familiar paradigms. No matter how mysterious or mystifying, mankind has a way of personifying or projecting its fantasies, desires, and dreams onto things it doesn’t understand. When early man looked up at the sky, he played connect the dots across the stars to replicate mental images of the things of his world. The desires and dreams can be personal obsessions, biases, fears, and hopes. So, the mysterious planet of Solaris serves as a cosmic mirror of mankind, personal and collective, as it ponders the universe from which it evolved.
This is also true of how we perceive other cultures and other historical periods. Most movies about ancient history project today’s obsessions and anxieties onto past events. Both TEN COMMANDMENTS and SPARTACUS used ancient history to dramatize the political conflicts of the 20th century. TEN COMMANDMENTS could be seen as an allegory about the Freedom-loving and god-fearing West versus godless tyrannies of Nazism and communism. SPARTACUS(starring Kirk Douglas) was conceived as an allegory of Third World uprising against Western imperialism, the leftist resistance against the Nazis, or the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s and early 60s. Recently, 300 served as a kind of Neo-conservative fantasy of white America battling swarthy Iranians and Muslims. Even the designation of another culture or people as the Other is, to some extent, a form of projection, a way of dumping one’s faults onto the outsider or the enemy. As Joachim Fest said of Hitler, everything negative he said about Jews applied to him as well. He was dishonest, radical, hateful, cunning, shrewd, amoral, arrogant, devious, untrustworthy, selfish, and ugly(at least by his ‘Aryan’ standards). Today, everything that liberal Jews say about ‘evil racist whites’ really apply more to themselves. The liberal Jews at NY Times are among the most hateful, condescending, contemptuous, arrogant, hideous, devious, dishonest, cunning, disgusting, greedy, supremacist, and hypocritical maggots on the planet. In a similar sense, AVATAR is very much a reflection as well as an exploitation of how the human mind works.
Even though AVATAR’s anti-war message alludes to the Iraq War, the irony is Cameron has far more in common with Neocons than he might think. Neocons projected their fantasies of happy democratization onto Iraq, as if Iraq would almost instantly blossom into a modern democracy once Hussein was removed. In reality, Iraq turned out to be a very different nation and culture resistant to the fantasies imposed by AIPAC-led US forces. Neocons refused to see Iraq as Iraq and preferred to see Iraq as an ideal projection of their imagination. Cameron opposed the Iraq War, and there’s even a moment in AVATAR when the assault on Pandorans is referred to as ‘shock and awe’. But Cameron projects his fantasies onto the Other no less than the Neocons do. Cameron doesn’t see primitive peoples as they really are but as ‘noble savages’ of the romantic Western imagination. He’s like an engineering major whose entire world-view came from the outdated writings of Margaret Mead.
If Neocons believed Iraqis needed to be saved and protected from the likes of Hussein to be happy and free, Cameron thinks the primitives need to be saved from the evil modern world to be happy and free. Like the ghosts in SIXTH SENSE, both Neocons and James Cameron only see what they want to see. (To be sure, radical ‘isolationists’ also have this tendency, with the likes of Ron Paul too often blaming all the world’s ills on America’s meddling. They project their arch-conservative notion that each culture and nation is fixed and unique, thereby incapable of transcending its ‘cultural and historical limitations’ and reaching higher international standards. This is patently false when much of the world has indeed risen and made considerable progress toward modernity in terms of science, technology, economy, and human rights. Though ‘isolationists’ are genuinely and rightfully worried about out-of-control military spending, the heavy price of intervention, and negative consequences of ‘empire building’, they also oppose globalization because it leads to increased flow of non-whites into white nations and because certain non-whites nations are succeeding all too well in their modernization efforts. The problem with China, for instance, is not that it’s failing to modernize–like much of Africa–, but succeeding too fast.) In today’s world, Cameron’s delusions may cause less havoc than those of Neocons, but as mentalities go, they are cut from the same cloth–an arrogant and willfully naive refusal to see reality as reality.
Though the future of Iraq is anyone’s guess(and things may improve in the long run), the Neocon magic bullet was bound to miss the mark given the distorted lens of the rifle scope. Cameron’s view of nature and primitive peoples is also warped given his ideological and ‘spiritual’ lenses. The silly notion that primitive people are noble savages who can only be corrupted by modern man is one of those hoary cliches that never go away.
In fact, if a primitive people could get their hands on modern weaponry to mow down rival tribes, they’d do so in a heartbeat. At most, one can argue that primitive peoples, thanks to their reverential(and fearful)superstitions about nature and death, tend to spiritualize their vices. A New Guinean headhunter, for example, believed that he absorbed the spirit of those he beheaded. And African witch doctors sincerely believe in the medicinal value of Albino body parts. Given this spiritual mumbo jumbo, I suppose one could argue that murder among primitives has a ‘sacred’ quality. If modern armies killed millions through the cold machinery of death(though, to be sure, the bloodbath was often carried out in the name of noble causes such as justice, patriotism, honor, glory, etc), the Aztecs massacred countless people in the service of their gods. Using this logic or illogic, I suppose one could argue that there’s a certain innocence and purity in primitive bloodbaths; they don’t know any better. On the other hand, couldn’t one argue that a cultural system that inspires and even encourages that amount of bloodletting is spiritually corrupt? (LORD OF THE FLIES poses an interesting question for the explosion of savagery among the children seems both innocent–return to nature–and corrupt–imitation of the adult world.) For all I know, superstitious Chinese may torture and kill all those animals–dogs, cats, bears, tigers, etc–on the basis of certain spiritual concepts of life forces and essences, but does this make torturing a cat or skinning a dog alive any less horrible? Let us assume that a ‘spiritualist’ Chinese sincerely believes that the meat of a dog that’s been horribly tortured to death has some magical yin/yang or chin/chang value that’s good for the human body and soul. Thus, he is technically a spiritualistic than a materialistic killer, torturer, and eater of the dog. One could argue that he’s not corrupt, like a modern whitey who has lots of animals slaughtered just for burgers and hotdogs. Unlike the modern materialist western eater of ‘materialistic’ food, the Chinese spiritualist eater of the dog thinks he’s imbibing the magical essence of the dog.
On the other hand, if the whole point of spirituality is to bring us up to an higher level, to help us feel something other than petty self-interest, and to make us better appreciate the wonders of the world, isn’t the kind of spirituality that encourages the most hideous sadism, vile cruelty, vain narcissism, and self-centeredness the worst kind of corruption one can imagine? Would any decent kind of spirituality urge people to inflict the worst kind of horrors on helpless animals just so humans can get highs from eating their flesh? Furthermore, the practice of such barbarism is even worse among the Chinese because they are a people of high culture–and therefore, should know better–whereas primitive people like uga-buga African Negroes exist in a half-animal state in which spirituality is linked to the animal world. Primitive spiritualism aids the survival of primitive man in a dangerous world of animals and hostile tribes. A spiritualism centered around warriors and hunters can’t help but be cruel and beastly.
Of course, there’s much color and beauty in primitive cultures too but inseparable from the horror. This is especially true of Germanic myths whose beauty and strength(and fatal nobility) reverberate with and are carved by darkness, thunder, and portent of doom. In this world, beauty is not an abstract essence existing apart from the horror but a quality of strength arising from the struggle with the horror. A healthy wolf, powerful and beautiful, is the product of endless generations of bloodcurdling savagery.
Though ancient Greeks had a great appreciation of nature, their conception and representation of beauty developed a life of their own divorced from nature. (This process was three-fold: Anthropomorphism, Athena-ism, and Platonism. It was through Anthropomorphism that the Greeks conceived of their gods–idealized beings–as wholly human in form distinct from nature. Though the gods governed natural forces–and were created from nature–, they’d attained independence from and mastery over nature. The Greek gods thus represented the World of Man–Zeus as father figure, Hera as mother figure, Ares as warrior figure, Artemis as hunter-figure, Aphrodite as the sexual figure, etc. Two gods that rose above mere anthropomorphism, however grandiose, were Apollo and Athena, not least for their affiliation with wisdom. Though Apollo is the greater god, Athena is more representative of man’s higher attainment of idealism and concept of beauty. Unlike other gods whose creation was, more or less, ‘natural’, Athena was created artificially or conceptually. She was ‘born’ of the head of Zeus. If most Greek gods were ideals of nature and man, Athena was an ideal of an ideal, the next step, the Star Child among the gods. As such, she is the ultimate representation of physical beauty, wisdom and intellect, strength and power. She is a female god with many male attributes; as a fusion of opposites and contradictions, she is also the most sublime of the gods. If Apollo represents the blaring light of truth and wisdom, Athena’s qualities are more like daybreak and sunset, a synthesis of polarities and contradictions, a glimpse of man’s capacity via intellect and imagination, however rare or difficult, to rise above and go beyond elementary natural/social definitions and determinism. In this sense, she is also the ultimate proto-fascist goddess for there is no single image, ideal, quality, or value that can define her. It is also significant that Athena, though female, is solely the creation of the male god Zeus with the aid of another male god Apollo–who wields the phallic axe that splits open Zeus’s vaginal head. Because man cannot create or bring forth life by giving birth–like a woman–, his creativity manifests itself through music, art, philosophy, and spirituality. It could be gay men are even more obsessed with the arts and philosophy because their frustration is bound to be even worse. Though born of male physique, they possess the emotions of pussy-bitches who wanna play with dolls and have babies. Unable to have kids, they compensate by obsessing with beauty via ultra-idealization. Unable to be women, they create the ideal image of femininity in their minds to be ‘born’ through their artistic expression, and of course, a whole bunch of gays work in fashion and design. And of course, ancient Greek society was relatively tolerant of gays. As Greek society developed even further and its thinkers came to rely less on literal interpretations of religion and sensory observation of nature and society, the idea of beauty and perfection became more separate from tangible forms and familiar imagery, thereby unleashing the next step in the idealization of the higher truths; similarly, written language began as pictographs of real objects, then became minimalist abstractions of images, and finally came to represent the phonetic sounds–the soul–of language. Anyway, the lesson to take from this is NO PAIN NO GAIN. As we all know, pregnancy and childbirth are never easy for a woman and bring about–even require–a great amount of disturbance–physical and psychological–, anxiety, agony, and pain. Similarly, Zeus’s mental birth of Athena was no breeze for nothing great can be had with ease. It required severe birth pangs of the mind, the most physical and spiritual agony he’d ever known. Similarly, any true artistic or intellectual achievement requires heartache and headache, tons of suffering. A woman doesn’t have a child simply because she wants one; the path to heaven is through hell. Similarly, wishful thinking alone doesn’t lead to art or philosophy. There must be genuine inspiration followed by long dreary grunt work. Wishfulness and fantasy–what Alex Kurtagic recommends through examples such as William Pierce’s TURNER’S DIARIES and the awful music of Winglord–are not only insufficient but wholly misguided. Also, Athena, though conceived of ‘artificially’, formed and emerged from the dark and hidden zone within Zeus’s mind, a place of mystery unknown even to the great god himself. Thus, all great art isn’t just a pretty picture or pleasant sound, something superficial like a postcard or elevator music, that soothes our eyes and ears but something sublime and strange that took shape and form within the mind and soul–just as even the most beautiful people originated in dark wombs and oozed out with blood and slime. So, any man who wishes to be creative must be willing to accept the pain and suffering; he must undergo the mental equivalent of childbirth. For his mind to give birth to new art or a new idea, his brains must function as a mental womb that nourishes an idea or image as it grows and grows, until finally ready to squeeze out of the mind as ruptured pussy. The sublime rises from the slime; perhaps, it’s no coincidence that ‘puss’ and ‘pussy’ sound alike. The conception of art and culture by antisepticist fools like Kurtagic is concerned only with the shallow, ideological, and political content of creativity. They are uninterested in the area from which creativity, ingenuity, obsession, and vision arise. Their only interest is the racially or ideologically ‘correct’ component of art. Thus, they judge art and culture with only eyes and ears divorced from the heart and soul. This Neo-Nazi view of art defines worth by asking ‘is it Aryan on the outside?’, ‘is it ideologically pro-white?’, and ‘does it touch all the bases of western superiority?’ Their appreciation of art and culture doesn’t begin with admiration of genius or vision but with cultural correctness; thus they prefer bad art over good art as long as the former brandishes all the correct racial and ideological motifs and mannerisms.)
Human beauty represented by Greek sculptures is an essence that may have originated from nature but is not part of nature; it is a distillation of nature into an ideal. Though Greek artistic representation often portrays humans–or idealized human forms–in the nude, the effect tends to be more artificial than natural, less a vision of man-in-natural-state as man-denuded-to-his-conceptual-essence. Greek civilization was not only far more advanced than Germanic Barbarian culture but the natural world of the Greeks tended to be milder, clearer, and more distinct in terms of both borders within nature and borders between man and nature.
In contrast, Germanic Barbarians inhabited a world of thick forests, dense fog, formidable mountains, cold winters, etc. They were more likely to surrender to and blend with the insurmountable awesomeness of nature. So, if Greek beauty radiated with a quality divorced or distilled(refined) from nature, Germanic Barbarian concept of beauty glimmered with gold meshed in with the rock, dirt, and sand.
The concept of beauty in AVATAR is clearly closer to the Germanic(and other primitive cultures) than to the Greek, but it is sterile and uninteresting just the same. Other than the gross unpleasantness of the Navis’ appearance–my impression anyway–, it’s a toothless celebration of ‘natural beauty’. Germanic, African, or American Indian, primitive beauty is nothing without the element of darkness and horror. After all, it’s not a purified quality abstracted into an essence but a clump of power and health that is half-man, half-beast. Though Navis do look half-man/half-beast and though they are plenty tough and strong, they’re presented as picture perfect creatures in a picture perfect world. Without the invasion of humans, Pandora would be one dull place without discord or disharmony. Sure, some animals would growl, brawl, and devour each other, but they would only be the rhythm section of the bigger song and dance of happiness and harmony. ‘Utopian nature’ as a literal concept isn’t only an oxymoron but a complete absurdity. Look beneath the rugged and dangerous exterior, and the nature on Pandora might as well be one giant Swiss watch. Superficially, Pandora may be bursting with sounds and colors, but there are no surprises or mystery. It’s just a utopian fantasy of a stupid white man. Furthermore, given the lack of innocence, it’s far worse than anything by Rudyard Kipling and Edgar Rice Burroughs. In this day and age, when we possess far greater knowledge and perspective than people in the past ever could, a movie like AVATAR could only have been made with willful ignorance and bad faith. It’s like someone who knows all about WWII and the history of communism still maintaining his innocence about Hitler and Stalin’s great crimes. Insistence on innocence where innocence is no longer possible is madness or folly. James Cameron strikes me as a mad idiot, but in a world of mad idiots and damned fools, it certainly has its rewards.
AVATAR’s dumb idealization of primitives IN THIS DAY AND AGE is as delusional as the willfully amnesiac reverence of Che Guevara that continues even among the educated class. (On some quarters of the Alternative Right, there is a mindless reverence of Yukio Mishima as some sort of saint-hero when in reality he was an exhibitionistic and egotistical jerk-off. Admire his fiction if you must but don’t mythologize him into what he wasn’t.) Or, it’s like Pat Buchanan, in this day and age, still pretending that evolution is false. Such willful and stubborn ignorance is either the product of bad faith or pathology. Humanity being what it is–deceitful and stupid–, why encourage and spread even more lies and stupidity?
Even so, if Cameron’s utopian delusions about primitives and nature ended with the message ‘we should just leave those people alone’, that wouldn’t be so bad. But, that’s just too humdrum for Cameron’s ego. The very Western liberals who claim to appreciate primitive peoples for their down-to-earth innocence and Third World peoples for their salt-of-the-earth nobility also say we must open our borders to them so they can be like us. Liberals also say we must pour ever greater amounts of money and foreign aid to help, heal, and develop all those Third World nations. As usual with these idiots liberals, it’s a case of ‘have the cake and eat it too’. On the one hand, we corrupt Westerners should stop all this evil globalist imperialism and leave those people alone! On the other hand, we rich people in the West must ‘give back’ and do more to save the world. Cameron wouldn’t agree with American conservatives who want to dismantle the American empire, bring the boys home, shut our borders, end massive immigration, and let Americans mind their own business while the rest of the world minds its own business. Oh no, the very liberals who say the West is to blame for everything also say the West must fix everything–precisely because the West is to blame for everything. And when Western efforts to save the world fail–as it usually does–, liberals dump all the blame on the West and then say the West must do EVEN MORE to fix the mess it caused by trying to fix the mess in the first place, and so on and on, without end in sight. The likes of Bono and Geldoff may not want to militarily invade other countries, but they want to funnel Western wealth to corrupt gangsters and crooks in Africa with the knack for hoodwinking gullible and morally narcissistic Western liberals so easy to guilt-bait and flatter; the likes of Bono and Geldoff also want to open the gates of the West to endless immigration from Africa. Their experience of blackness comes from pop music, BBC news reports of poor suffering saintly Africans, and one-sided documentaries on MLK and Civil Rights Movement. In their silly little minds, having more blacks in the West only means having more saintly and wonderfully childlike blacks, cool pop music, and noble-sounding & spiritually uplifting Negroes like MLK and Mandela–neither of whom, upon closer inspection, was noble or decent in any real sense. Cameron is a typical idiot liberal who wants to have it both ways, a man of boundless moral guilt and boundless moral narcissism. In the old Christian tradition and secularized neo-Christian formulation, his sense of guilt is precisely and paradoxically the source of his pride. He’s better than most white people because he’s filled with guilt and conscience, at least in sufficient doses for him to grandstand as a ‘race traitor’ to his own avaricious tribe. Besides, he does ‘good work’ as a missionary through his movies. Bono sings his songs, Cameron makes his movies, and both get to play Dr. Livingstone.
Upon closer inspection, what kind of missionary work is this? Christian missionaries were convinced of their spiritual righteousness and went among the heathens to spread the ‘one true faith’. Whether they were right or wrong, good or bad, is a different issue altogether. They believed in something and had a specific goal. At face value, Cameron may seem like a reverse missionary, a man who brings the wisdom/truth of nature and/or primitives to the modern west. The problem is he’s white and modern like the rest of us, so who is he to be telling us anything about the non-white world? Furthermore, what he tells us about nature and primitives, literally or metaphorically, has nothing to do with any kind of reality. Worse, his image of the West as entirely soulless, mechanical, and amoral is also a lot of horseshit. If anything, it seems the problem of the modern world is it tries to be too humane, too generous, and too moral. That’s why whites don’t do anything about out-of-control immigration; they are too ‘nice’ to say or do anything that might be deemed ‘racist’ or evil. In fact, American and European hospitals go out of their way to provide free food, clothing, schooling, medicine, housing, etc. to lazy poor people, to illegal aliens, and even to rotten criminals. Would you rather be a paraplegic in the modern west or in the jungles of Africa? Would you rather have a toothache in US or Canada or in the Amazons or Congo? Indeed, how do Navis treat their own who are paralyzed from waist down? Oh of course, the willows from the big tree of Eywa spirit provides free and perfect healthcare for all!! ROTFL.
When George Lucas made his first three STAR WARS movies, cinephiles cut him some slack because, after all, THX 1138, his science fiction art film, flopped at the box office. Though released in the early 70s when Americans were supposedly receptive to personal filmmaking, it turned out to be a resounding commercial flop, along with most films of its kind. Movies like EASY RIDER and M*A*S*H were exceptions to the rule, and in retrospect, their appeal probably had more to do with sensationalism than with passion for art. Young people dug EASY RIDER as a rock n roll movie, and M*A*S*H was ANIMAL HOUSE or STRIPES for anti-war liberals with a sham veneer of satirical sophistication–and even spawned a long-running TV sitcom. Robert Altman’s truly worthy achievements like McCABE AND MRS. MILLER and NASHVILLE failed to draw audiences.
Given the low level of film appreciation among moviegoers and the prohibitively high cost of filmmaking, we could understand why Lucas decided on something like STAR WARS. The first three STAR WARS movies were frustrating for film lovers because they had so much that was impressive, even great: state of the art special effects, ingenious set designs, epic scope and mythic aura. It could have been a modern myth in the making, a work for the ages, but Lucas played it safe–understandably. He needed a hit, and so he watered it down for 10 yr olds. It had real flavor but too much cream and sugar were added. RETURN OF THE JEDI, for instance, has a magnificent opening scene with Darth Vader’s private ship entering of a magnificent battle cruiser. Awesome stuff, but then, we are taken to a muppet planet where Jabba the Hutt and his toadies party to jazz polka. Later, there’s a thrilling chase scene with the levitating bikes amidst giant trees, but then the forest produces the Ewoks, a race of furry dwarfs who manage to defeat the Evil Empire with stone-tipped arrows. And the concept of the Force, though initially mysterious and fascinating, manifests itself mostly as a trick to toss objects or tele-choke people. What could have been a truly magnificent epic amounted to little more than a B-movie serial done with A-movie production values.
It got progressively so silly that the relation between Luke and his father, Darth, was little more than soap opera as space opera; and despite the abundance of thrilling effects, the spectacle of a mighty galactic empire being defeated by a bunch of fishheads, Chinaman frogs, and jungle teddy bears was underwhelming to say the least. Imagine the Nazis being defeated in a single afternoon by the Little Rascals led by Kermit and Miss Piggy. RETURN OF THE JEDI was essentially Space Nazis vs Astro Muppets, alternately awesome(with visual effects) and ludicrous(everything else by the third installment.) It would have been less depressing if STAR WARS had no redeeming value whatsoever. As it happened, Lucas had great material and failed to deliver as an artist(though he certainly succeeded as an entertainer judging by box office receipts). But we, or enough of us anyway, told ourselves that Lucas didn’t have much of a choice. Filmmaking is expensive and risky, and a single major box office failure can destroy the biggest players in the business. Recall that Francis Ford Coppla, after his triumphs with THE GODFATHER movies and APOCALYPSE NOW, was driven to bankruptcy by the abject failure of ONE FROM THE HEART. So, we rationalized that Lucas made necessary compromises to make the money before he could do something truly personal and artistic.
Lucas had great successes with the first STAR WARS trilogy and equal success as the producer of INDIANA JONES trilogy. He became one of the biggest players in the business. Also, film technology had advanced by leaps and bounds by the late 90s, and so when it was announced that Lucas would be working on the next set of the STAR WARS trilogy, we crossed our finger and thought he’s finally going to do it right. He has the money, the fame, a vast loyal audience, and the technology. He’s not gonna water down his ideas for the kiddies like the first time around. Besides, a generation that grew up on STAR WARS was older and ready for something a bit more mature. So, what did we get? PHANTOM MENACE, by far the worst of the STAR WARS series. And if you think Ewoks were insufferable, how do you like Jar Jar the Jamaican reptile? We couldn’t believe the shit we were watching. It was worse than a prank; it was a bad joke, one that Lucas didn’t get but was on us. Conversely, even as PHANTOM MENACE managed to be even more juvenile than the first three films, it was ‘spiritually’ many times more pompous, as Lucas had become quite self-conscious as the pop icon of New Age profundity. Campbell’s misguided praise of his STAR WARS trilogy really got to him. So, we learn that Annakin was born of a virgin mother!
So, THIS was what Lucas had been dreaming all these yrs? THIS was his idea of finally doing it right? THIS was his idea of personal filmmaking without compromise? PHANTOM MENACE was so terrible and disappointing that it blinded many people to some of the real virtues of ATTACK OF THE CLONES and REVENGE OF THE SITH, which though worthless as storytelling and character development, presented some of the most amazing art direction, special effects, and action scenes. And because the STAR WARS universe is mostly technological, it didn’t matter if things looked artificial, synthetic, plastic, metallic. Like TRON, the bulk of the story unfolds in the realm of electronica. The oppressive saturation of CGI in every square inch of Peter Jackson’s LOR trilogy and AVATAR is far more problematic because nature and mystery have been made to look fake and digitalized(though in the hands of a truly gifted filmmakers like Spielberg and his crew, even digitalized nature, like the dinosaurs in JURASSIC PARK, can be special). AVATAR and LOR are to nature what Kindle is to a book–offering easy access but lacking texture and substance. AVATAR is really a $300 million imitation crab meat.
Anyway, with the second STAR WARS trilogy, it was obvious to everyone that Lucas has become a man of boundless greed and bottomless idiocy. He had the chance to redeem the STAR WARS concept, but all he did was tinker with special effects(though very impressively in ATTACK and REVENGE). Worse, if Lucas had few competitors when he made his first STAR WARS movies, he should have known that he wasn’t the only special effects ‘visionary’ in the 1990s and 2000s. Cameron had already proved himself with TERMINATOR II and MATRIX came out in the same year as PHANTOM MENACE. And Jackson was soon to release LOR movies and there was a series of big-budget superhero movies with cutting edge computer technology. CGI had become commonplace–even FORREST GUMP used it–, and every studio was making its lavish special effects strewn blockbuster. What Lucas and Spielberg had nearly monopolized in the late 70s and early 80s was now an open field. In this competitive environment, Lucas could have given the audience better script and storytelling, good acting, and some worthy meaning/emotions to take away from experience, but I suppose the Force doesn’t work that way; it only cares about money. The irony is that though the second trilogy made lots of money, it might have made even more with better storytelling. But no such luck for the audience.
It’s like this. Some rock albums sold millions of copies upon release, only to be forgotten soon after, while others continued to sell. People still buy the albums of the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Who, and Pink Floyd. Though Herman’s Hermits and Bay City Rollers had gold and platinum records in their time, who buys them today? Though there’s just enough amazing stuff in ATTACK OF THE CLONES to qualify it as a classic–albeit a superficial one–, the bulk of the second trilogy will not be remembered 10 yrs from now. And if the first STAR WARS trilogy was amazing in its time as the only movies of its kind, the second trilogy is part of the non-stop computerized high-tech buzz all around us in movies, videogames, tv shows, and even youtube amateur hour. The second trilogy could gain legendary status only with a good story, something Lucas proved incapable of–even after two decades of preparation.
Like Lucas, Like Cameron. Cameron too has no excuse this time around. If we could cut him some slack for THE ABYSS, TERMINATOR II, TRUE LIES, and THE TITANIC, there’s no excuse for the absolute idiocy of AVATAR. We can no longer tell ourselves that Cameron is a man of great intelligence and imagination who buttered up his previous projects to survive in the business. The hype leading up to AVATAR’s release assured us that he finally got everything his way without compromise. This was to be his magnum opus showing the world what he’s really capable of. So, what did we get? This ‘visionary masterpiece’–supposedly to cinema what Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung was to opera–is little more than the most expensive jungle-themed screensaver of all time.
Especially pathetic and sad is that so many movie critics bought into this tripe. Of course, many admitted the story was the same old formula but defended the movie on its technological and ‘visionary’ merit. But really, its so-called imagination and special effects, as elaborate and expensive as they may be, are the worst things in the movie. There’s something debased about a society that confuses production values and quantity/intensity of hype with genuine worthiness. No wonder so many architectural monstrosities(whether they be modern, neo-classical, post-modern, etc)have garnered so much undeserved attention. Just look at the hideous Pompidou Center. And though Albert Speer was generally a fine architect, he was at his absolute worst when channeling Hitler’s megalomania–especially the bloated dome atop the central building in the city that was to be Germania. I guess it didn’t occur to Hitler and Speer that one of the core virtues of classicism is balance, proportion, and order. Then, how does it help to put a giant Humpty Dumpty in the middle of a great capital?
In a way, AVATAR is a cinematic equivalent of that atrocious dome. It’s about bigness of ego than of the imagination. Like all kitsch, it takes a simple or stupid idea and then inflates it to giant proportions in the deluded idea that grandeur equals value. I suppose there is something of value to size itself; big things do impress us. But if you expanded a flea to a size of an elephant, it would still not be an elephant. It would just be a grossly oversized flea. If you pile cow dung high enough, it’s still cow dung. Cameron makes movies like the Nazis and Soviets choreographed parades and rallies. There’s something both humorlessly totalitarian and crassly nouveau riche about his imagination, as if he can only prove his worth and greatness by too-much-ness.
Take the magical tree on Pandora. We sense little of its mystery and wonders; the only thing that registers is its size. It is to nature what Speer’s dome would have been at the center of Germania. Cameron clearly drew inspiration from the massive world tree called Yggdrasil in German mythology, but its imitation in AVATAR is only a physical protrusion, not a mysterious presence. In Germanic mythology, Yggdrasil cannot be visualized as a whole or single entity–at least not by the human mind–because it isn’t just the tree of the world but, in a way, the world, with its branches, trunks, and roots coursing through the entirety of the realm of man and nature. Its significance and power are like those of the dragon in EXCALIBUR, which also cannot be seen in its entirety–unless one wants to be toast. In AVATAR everything is object-ified and materialized to such an extent that its ‘spiritualism’ rings false.
Though Cameron has often been hailed as an ‘epic filmmaker’, this is true only in the most superficial sense. Epic is not just about quantity and size, but the SENSE of quantity and size. One of the biggest problems of Peter Jackson’s LOR trilogy was incessantly flippant camera movements that sabotaged the epic sense of scale. With the camera flying about everywhere like superman without meaningful vantage points, the world is rendered small than big. If our view leaps over mountain in nanoseconds, they might as well be molehills. Compare the mountains in the opening scene of AGUIRRE THE WRATH OF GOD with the mountains in LOR. The Andes of South America are smaller than the mountains in LOR, but they possess a towering awesomeness, forbidding and beautiful, in the film. Suppose the camera just swooped up like an jet fighter and flew all over the place in AGUIRRE. It might be fun like an amusement park ride, but what meaning would it have within the context of the movie? Do we want movie imagery to serve a theme or serve as a theme park?
If LOR had, on occasion, accentuated or framed certain episodes with a majestic bird’s eye view from above, it might have been purposeful enough. Eagles do soar the sky, and a world such as that of LOR even have sky spirits. Therefore, a meta-dimensional glimpse of the world, used carefully and meaningfully, can add to the epic grandeur. But instead, LOR gave us non-stop hyper gimmicky visuals of videogames. It was as if Iron Man had been hired as the cinematographer. With visuals such as that, the tallest mountain and highest clouds are reached in a second, and another second takes you down to the deepest recesses of the underworld. This is more a magnified flea circus than epic filmmaking.
Something feels epic because space and time–and the narrative unfolding within them–feel big, and they feel big because we feel small. The concept of heroism derives from the scenario of little man tackling the challenges imposed by the bigger world and forces, much bigger than what man is used to. Even when the protagonist is a kind of superior man, like Heracles, the story has epic dimensions because he goes up against forces looming larger than himself. In terms of the narrative, the heroes of LOR do indeed face some great challenges, but in terms of visual style and action-centered storytelling, Jackson’s movie adaptation lacks genuine mythic aura. It’s more in the Saturday Matinee serial mode of INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM. It’s insta-epic, like a TV dinner heated in a microwave.
Though grandeur is crucial to epic narrative, we must remember that grandness registers only when the scales are set right. To an ant, a molehill is a mountain. To us, it’s just a molehill. To us, a skyscraper is huge. To Godzilla, it’s just some object to knock over. If we were to make a movie with ants as protagonists, we need to see the world through their eyes, not our eyes. Only through their eyes can their world have elements of epic grandeur.
LOR movie trilogy is a stupid literal-minded attempt at epic filmmaking for a generation of kids suffering from attention deficit disorder. Unless their senses are electro-sensory-overloaded at every turn, they–with wires and gadgets stuck into every one of their bodily orifices–instantly lose interest.
In LOR, when the visuals were not flying around like a rocketship, there was the cliched use of grandiose slo-motion, a hoary substitute for depth, beauty, and meaning. According to Jackson’s thinking, the world is epic if you can go from valley to the clouds in a split second; and the world is meaningful and mysterious if characters gallop through the forest in slo-motion. And it’s all done in the manner of music videos and tv commercials.
Slo-motion can be used meaningfully, but it’s not a shortcut that automatically bestows meaning to a scene or passage. As a visual cliche, it’s akin to strings for instant mushiness in pop music. It is unearned and irritating.
Compare Jackson’s uninspired and sometimes gratuitous use of slo-motion with John Boorman’s in EXCALIBUR to accentuate or rhapsodize an heightened moment of reality: when the sword first emerges from the lake, when Arthur calls on its power and strikes Lancelot, and when it returns to the Lady of the Lake. Boorman used it as brush whereas Jackson used it as a hammer. And though the running time of EXCALIBUR is 140 minutes as opposed to nearly 10 hrs of the LOR trilogy–and though the former takes place in a fixed locale as opposed to the sprawling adventures in Jackson’s movie–, it has a genuine epic-ness lacking in LOR. Take an early scene where Merlin stands along a lake and awaits the emergence of the Sword of Power. Boorman’s careful choice of shots–of the mist, the lake, the dreamy aura of the forest(so unlike the either glossy or fuzzy look of CGI nature in LOR)–conveys a world of beauty rife with mystery, magic, terror. Now, suppose Boorman’s visuals in that key moment had zoomed all over the place, going from Merlin to the top of the mountain, then plunging into the bottom of the lake, and then spinning out of the water along with the sword. That would be just hype, not epic.
And what was great about the dragon in EXCALIBUR? It wasn’t literalized but conveyed as a spiritual and sensual essence that seeped, swirled, glimmered, and slumbered everywhere. In the mist, the moonlight, glistening lakes, blood-soaked soil, the serpentine curves of Wagner’s music; we felt its power, both of light and darkness, permeating through everything in Uther and Arthur’s realm. The effect was poetic, intimating the presence of something beyond the net of immediate senses.
And though EMERALD FOREST is something of an artistic failure, it too uses visuals in a purposeful manner–at least when compared to the LOR trilogy. The scene where a hawk’s eye view hovers over the Amazonian jungle forest isn’t just a cheap effect. It’s signifies the dream imagery of a young man’s Jungian contact with his deeper animal nature(or something like that). It is meant as an out-of-body experience, like the experience of flight in dreams; the young man undergoes a rite of passage, a spiritual journey into heart of nature, both physical and psychic.
Now, consider the opening scenes of Akira Kurosawa’s RAN. Lord Hidetora, atop a mountain plateau with his sons and retainers, surveys the world. What accounts for the grandeur in that elevated setting? If Kurosawa had used the camera like Jackson, Cameron, or (Michael)Bay, the sense of Hidetora’s hard-earned mastery over his domain–the peak of power achieved through ruthless determination over a lifetime–simply wouldn’t register.
Hidetora, confident of his power and authority, makes a rash judgement, and Kurosawa introduces images of looming clouds in the distance, beautiful in the light of the sun and threatening in their solemn advance. Again, suppose Kurosawa had sent his camera flying off into the sky, and our view circled and then entered the clouds and then flew back and spun around the characters atop the mountain hill several times before finally zooming into Hidetora’s face. It would be visual stuntmanship, not visual storytelling. (If that’s what people want from movies, they should go for bungee jumping or play videogames.)
Later in the story, Kurosawa choreographs a great massacre in the Third Castle, a scene that may well have inspired the attack of the giant tree in AVATAR. In both RAN and AVATAR, there is a spiritual dimension to the mayhem. (It could also be argued that the youngest son Saburo, by disobeying his deluded father and joining a rival clan against his elder brothers, is a kind of a ‘race traitor’.) In AVATAR, the felling of the ancient(almost timeless)tree clearly signifies the murder of nature, beauty, and eternity(or eternal truths) by the avarice, depravity, and insatiability of hyper-modern industrialism, militarism, and consumerism.
In RAN, the first half of the violent centerpiece–the film’s highpoint–is presented only with austere and brooding music minus the live-action sound, the purpose of which is, as Kurosawa explained, was for us to gaze upon the carnage as the gods would see it. The absence of sound creates a distance between the view and the violence, as if the gods, with their bird’s eye view, are gazing down at man but are too far away to hear his cries. (Later, there’s a blind character perched atop a ruined castle in the closing image of the film. If gods can see but are deaf, perhaps men can hear–words as lies–but are blind to where lies lead them.)
Kurosawa understood the significance of stillness as well as of action, very much in evidence in the aforementioned scene, with its powerful contrasts between the ever-shifting tumult below and the magisterial permanence above. There’s also the ambiguity; some gods may weep, and others may watch coldly, while others may have spun the very fates unfolding before their–and our–eyes. RAN is far from a perfect movie. It sags in the middle, and the kid who plays the jester is nearly insufferable in the last 2/3 of the film. Nevertheless, even though the setting and the duration of the story involve events that unfold in a Japanese fiefdom over several days, it is a genuine example of epic filmmaking, especially because of Kurosawa’s understanding of scope and scale. It is a world in which man is at once small and significant. Small when threatened by larger forces, social and natural. Significant in the heroism, however futile, and the tragedy, however deaf the gods may be. Even if we don’t matter, we feel that we matter, which is the source of our follies and our hopes.
AVATAR and LOR trilogy represent a very different kind of cinema, created by people who really should be designing videogames. However many years Jackson and Cameron may have labored on LOR and AVATAR, their works reek of impatience, infantilism, and the crassest form of exuberance. It’s showboating by geeks dumb enough to think they’ve created something of artistic worth. While I’m all for movies as entertainment, I don’t like soda-pop hyped as wine, or worse, sodapop mixed with wine.
I had a wonderful time with Peter Jackson’s KING KONG. It was about a young woman who befriends a big lonely animal, and it had moments that were cute, fun, or exciting. It even had magical moments, as when Naomi Watts charms the befuddled ape with her silly dance routine or when they go ice-sliding in Central Park. King Kong has no pretensions. It’s just a great fun movie. LOR, on the other hand, was hyped as a cultural event. I haven’t read Tolkien’s novel and have no desire to, but my hunch is there’s an interesting story and some wonderful ideas buried in those 1000+ pages. I can’t imagine a book of that size–and reputation–being little more than a series of head-bashing among white-bearded old men, hairless gorillas, Keebler cookie elves, and virtually speechless warriors.
As a counter or antidote to the empty fireworks-and-roller-coaster-ride movies of Jackson and Cameron are the works of Hayao Miyazaki, at least his two masterpieces from the 1980s before he too succumbed to the sheer voluminous excesses of movies like SPIRITED AWAY and HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE. Miyazaki’s two best films are undoubtedly NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND and LAPUTA, CASTLE IN THE SKY(both of which should be seen in the original Japanese dialogue with subtitles for the Disney dubbing is pretty terrible and misses the spirit, though to be sure, the Japanese voice for Nausicaa always struck me as too cute.) Though both NAUSICAA and LAPUTA too have their moments of intense action and thrills, Miyazaki was not only more deft and ingenious in terms of film grammar and expression but possessed a rare sense of wonderment verging on spiritual awe. Miyazaki doesn’t just plunge us into another world and slap us silly with stunts and gimmicks.. NAUSICAA begins with meditative calm deep inside a toxic forest, and we gradually take in the sights and sounds of this strange world, one of boundless beauty and fathomless danger.
Unlike Cameron’s world of AVATAR, where, even in the quietest moments things are always tuning in and turning on for the benefaction of our senses, NAUSICAA calms our senses to watch and listen more carefully. Cameron is always doing everything for the viewer whereas Miyazaki appeals to and invites our fascination and curiosity.
If NAUSICAA is marred by too many events and storylines–like AKIRA, it’s a compression, thus simplification, of a long series of graphic novels–, LAPUTA may be the best film of its kind, indeed among the greatest films ever made. Miyazaki, like Cameron, is fascinated with machines and flight, but if Cameron merely conquers and masters space, speed, and great heights(to the point where they become almost casual), Miyazaki conveys and retains the awe-inspiring possibilities of technology. In most Cameron movies, machines are just big toys one uses to travel faster or blow things up. In AVATAR, the war machinery and technology amount to little more than a futuristic G.I. Joe collection and model toy sets. Contrast that with the freakishly monstrous robot that emerges from the dungeon in LAPUTA, a creature of genuine terror and fascination. Miyazaki sees the gothic angle of things.
The difference is Miyazaki makes adult films for children while Cameron makes children’s movies for adults. At his best, Miyazaki makes grown-ups remember and re-experience the dream of childhood. There’s nothing dream-like about Cameron, for whom everything is and must be physical. Worse, Cameron’s idea of romanticism is pure schlock, the visual variant of Celine Dion songs, or is it the other way around?
When soaring through clouds in LAPUTA, we’re not just up in the sky; we are in another world. When flying about in AVATAR, we are zipping only through physical space. No amount of outlandish acrobatics can hide the lack of poetics throughout AVATAR. And since every stunt is mastered so easily at breakneck speed in the AVATAR universe, there’s little to suggest anything like growth, development, or process.
We’ve come a long way since 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, which was inevitable in some respects. In Kubrick’s film, the wonderment lay in the symphonic motions of ships through space, realized convincingly for the first time with surely with the greatest leap in cinematic imagination and technology. Things didn’t have to blow up or cruise about at ‘light speed’ to mesmerize the audience as nothing like 2001 had ever hit the screen before. But, once this aspect of space/sci-fi experience was expressed on film, moviegoers were bound to ‘more’ from space adventure. So, subsequent sci-fi films had different–more conventional–uses for space: galactic battles, travel at the speed of light(always without instances of whiplash), and planets blowing up real good.
Even so, the whole point of space travel and exploration in sci-fi is to take us to strange different world. ALIEN is less interesting for the monster narrative than Giger’s outstanding realization of an extinct extra-terrestrial civilization. And BLADE RUNNER, Scott’s even greater sci-fi film, presented one of the most interesting visions of the future, thereby elevating it far above the conventional sci-fi movie centered around story, characters, and effects. The future in BLADE RUNNER isn’t just a gimmick but another place and time. This is also true of A.I., where two layers of the future, plausible or not, command our attention through a blend of familiarity and strangeness.
And THX 1138 also had a great sense of place, a world of therapeutic claustrophobia where everyone’s allotted his ‘logical’ place in the system. Interestingly enough, daring films that create and dwell in a truly strange and fascinating worlds usually turn out to be box office flops, and this was true enough of THX 1138, A.I., and BLADE RUNNER. Meanwhile, stuff like STAR TREK movies, AVATAR, and STAR WARS, which focus mainly on story and effects and whose supposedly strange worlds are actually all-too-familiar, turn out to be huge box-office hits. This means that most sci-fi fans and moviegoers just want the same thing in different packaging. They want the same burger but from different joints.
LAPUTA, though a work of animation made for children, is one of the great exceptions to the rule. Thankfully, it was a huge success in Asia at least, which allowed Miyazaki to make more movies, though I wished he had quit with Mononoke Hime, which though deeply flawed, had several moments of greatness. (SPIRITED AWAY and HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, on the other hand, I’m afraid to say, were almost as horrible as AVATAR.) The sky adventure to the castle in LAPUTA is breathtaking and beyond words. Unlike in AVATAR, where distances never seem to matter, there is very much the sense of an epic journey of discovery in Miyazaki’s masterpiece. Who can forget the scene where Pasu and Sheeta cling with their lives to the glider as it’s swallowed up by storm clouds? And the way Miyazaki introduces us to this castle, peeling away layer after layer of misty haze and daze to reveal the incomparable wonders and treasures, is the hallmark of a true visionary and master filmmaker. LAPUTA is a great symphony, and AVATAR is a rock concert, a very bad one at that. Rock music can be great, but epic storytelling needs symphonic form, with its movements and gradualism, and rich variations of themes. In other words, a symphony doesn’t load everything on the listener at once, like a rock song in a few minutes. AVATAR is little more than visual jamming, and it gets tiresome fast, which is why Cameron ramps it up more and more, which in the end makes it only more tiresome, until one’s nerves are fried from the sensory overload.
Miyazaki knew when to hold a scene, when to stop and gaze at the grandeur of the world of his imagination. As action-packed as LAPUTA is, there are moments that, so to speak, step out of the car and take in the scenic view. With Cameron, everything is seen through a car moving at 100 mph. And even when we come to a standstill, everything has to charged with 1000 volts of electricity. Even at night, Pandoran jungle is lit up like New York.
So, if you want to experience something truly dazzling, check Hayao Miyazaki’s NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND and LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY. Due to lower budgets, the animated motion in these films may seem flawed by Disney standards, but the breadth and depth of vision are almost unparalleled not only in animation but in all of cinema. AVATAR, on the other hand, is for retards.