AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.

Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Jan 04, 2010 12:15 pm

Hi, Chris,
That title should have been 'Why some Americans Are ... :tongue:

But I tracked down LeGuin's criticism of the Earthsea movie for you, since it's on the same issue:
http://www.slate.com/id/2111107/

Kim
(BTW, I'm thinking of running a poll on what people reckon *my* skin colour is ... what do you think of the idea? :tongue: )
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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby cooran » Tue Jan 05, 2010 7:54 am

Hello Kim,

Thanks for the link ~ interesting read. It must be frustrating to be an author and see films not reflect the truth of the novel.

As for the Poll ~ go for it! How would we ever know the truth though - even if at the end you published a photo .... then we could have a Poll on whether it was really you or not? Is blue the new black the same for butterflies? :tongue:

metta
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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby christopher::: » Tue Jan 05, 2010 11:46 am

I think Avatar is filled with paradox and contradictions, purposefully...

The feminist writer Maria Bustillos saw the movie as sexist male fantasy, with the Navi women "pornographically subservient to the alpha males."

I Hated 'Avatar' With The Fire Of A Thousand Suns, by Maria Bustillos

And yet watching the film what i noticed was how frequently Jake was submissive toward Nytiri, she played the "teacher" role in the movie, showing him how to shoot, fly, speak the language, etc. I think she saved his life not once but at least 3 times? Here's a guy who back in the human world is a "jarhead" in a wheelchair.

The paradox extends even outside the movie. This is an anti-military anti-capitalist "eco" flick which was backed by R. Murdoch, owner of Fox News, probably one of the most nationalistic and conservative Pro-War news stations in America.

Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ Is a Big, Dull, America-Hating, PC Revenge Fantasy

So, is Avatar racist? From one angle perhaps, and yet from another Cameron has offered one of the greatest "boundary crossing" romance stories ever put on film. Way beyond Jack & Rose in Titanic, where the divisions of class, wealth and social status were all they had in the way. Here's a human male falling in love with a 12 foot blue cat-like alien female, falling in love with her culture and planet as well- and audiences are pulled into that, applauding a movie where another "species" and "planetary culture" are presented as more attractive and fulfilling then our own...

What blows me away is how popular this story is, how people love seeing this.

The movie is already one of the top five most successful films in history. What does that say?
Last edited by christopher::: on Tue Jan 05, 2010 11:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jan 05, 2010 11:49 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:Kim
(BTW, I'm thinking of running a poll on what people reckon *my* skin colour is ... what do you think of the idea? :tongue: )

I would not even guess as to your gender.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Jan 05, 2010 12:11 pm

christopher::: wrote:The movie is already one of the top five most successful films in history. What does that say?

Hi, Christopher,
I think that says lots of people have seen it - and it doesn't say much more than that.
There is no need to make out that it is great art, profound, epochal, ... whatever, and trying to do so is a mistake.
:stirthepot:
It is a very well made Hollywood movie, with lots of money available to the makers and lots of money for publicity. Sure, it's a bit smarter than some - but then, many are so dumb that if they were people, they couldn't tie their own shoelaces. It's a bit nicer than some - but then, many are awful. :toilet:

The story is largely recycled from the sci-fi parts barrel - look at the darkroasted link a few posts back. Rather than seeing deliberate complexity and contradiction, I see some pretty stupid inconsistencies that could and should have been resolved before shooting started. (One little one: blue-skinned people couldn't have evolved in that environment, where they show up like a banana in a coal-scuttle. So why are they blue? (1) because that lets the audience see them, (2) because that makes them 'alien' or (3) because making them a more believable colour would have risked charges of racism. Choose any reason or several.)

That's all pretty negative, but only to counter incipiently excessive enthusiasm. I did like it a lot, but it's still illusion, still samsara.

:namaste:
Kim
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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby christopher::: » Tue Jan 05, 2010 2:04 pm

:anjali:

'Avatar': Why do conservatives hate the most popular movie in years?

As a host of critics have noted, the film offers a blatantly pro-environmental message; it portrays U.S. military contractors in a decidedly negative light; and it clearly evokes the can't-we-all-get along vibe of the 1960s counterculture. These are all messages guaranteed to alienate everyday moviegoers, so say the right-wing pundits -- and yet the film has been wholeheartedly embraced by audiences everywhere, from Mississippi to [Tokyo].

To say that the film has evoked a storm of ire on the right would be an understatement. Big Hollywood's John Nolte, one of my favorite outspoken right-wing film essayists, blasted the film, calling it "a sanctimonious thud of a movie so infested with one-dimensional characters and PC cliches that not a single plot turn, large or small, surprises.... Think of 'Avatar' as 'Death Wish' for leftists, a simplistic, revisionist revenge fantasy where if you freakin' hate the bad guys (America) you're able to forgive the by-the-numbers predictability of it all."

John Podhoretz, the Weekly Standard's film critic, called the film "blitheringly stupid; indeed, it's among the dumbest movies I've ever seen." He goes on to say: "You're going to hear a lot over the next couple of weeks about the movie's politics -- about how it's a Green epic about despoiling the environment, and an attack on the war in Iraq.... The conclusion does ask the audience to root for the defeat of American soldiers at the hands of an insurgency. So it is a deep expression of anti-Americanism -- kind of. The thing is, one would be giving Jim Cameron too much credit to take 'Avatar' -- with its ... hatred of the military and American institutions and the notion that to be human is just way uncool -- at all seriously as a political document. It's more interesting as an example of how deeply rooted these standard issue counterculture cliches in Hollywood have become by now."
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby imagemarie » Tue Jan 05, 2010 4:29 pm

:tongue: Others are critical too..

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/dec20 ... -d23.shtml

"An astonishing technology, but not necessarily the same thing as important or interesting filmmaking"..
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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Jan 05, 2010 10:38 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:Kim
(BTW, I'm thinking of running a poll on what people reckon *my* skin colour is ... what do you think of the idea? :tongue: )

I would not even guess as to your gender.

Hi, Tilt,
That was a joke, sort of, playing on a thread I started on e-Sangha that gave a lot of people a lot of thought-provoking entertainment.
I had been posting there regularly for a year without identifying myself as male/female before anyone publicly made an assumption about my gender (simply by saying 'Kim said she ...' or something). I used that as the trigger for discussing 'Does gender matter on e-Sangha?', given that it hadn't come up for a whole year and then was (as I revealed a long way down the track) wrong.
My eventual answer to the question was, 'Not much, but knowing more about each other strengthens our sense of community so unnecessarily hiding information about ourselves is generally not a Good Thing.'

I think the same can be said of ethnicity or skin colour. I'm not suggesting for a moment that anyone should be pushed into revealing personal information they don't want to share, just that openness has benefits.
But the point of my joke is that, mostly, we don't know the ethnicity of the people we're chatting to here and that (thankfully) it doesn't matter much at all.

:namaste:
Kim
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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby christopher::: » Tue Jan 05, 2010 11:12 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
My eventual answer to the question was, 'Not much, but knowing more about each other strengthens our sense of community so unnecessarily hiding information about ourselves is generally not a Good Thing.'

I think the same can be said of ethnicity or skin colour. I'm not suggesting for a moment that anyone should be pushed into revealing personal information they don't want to share, just that openness has benefits.
But the point of my joke is that, mostly, we don't know the ethnicity of the people we're chatting to here and that (thankfully) it doesn't matter much at all.

:namaste:
Kim


Good thoughts, Kim.

Back to the movie for a second, i think one of the interesting issues it deals with is not so much race as culture. Many of the battles on our planet now, among humans, are culture wars. The Western culture is presently dominant, has been subduing and dominating other cultures for the past 500 years. How to react to that? Last Samurai, Dances with Wolves and Avatar all suggest that people should fight back, literally or metaphorically...

Currently the Islamic "extremists" on our world have taken to battle in a very literal way, much like the Navi in the movie. Avatar presents "Custers Last Stand" done over again, in a sense. It alludes to the Muslim/Western tensions symbolicaly, though not overtly. This is a pretty powerful message.

Now, as Buddhists we can stand to the side and say "we wouldnt do that, no way." Buddhists are beyond warfare and violence. But if the pressure were on bigtime, to destroy all Buddhist culture, destroy the teaching and transmission dharma, would we see Buddhists fighting back like this as well?

Interesting and important issues raised, imo.

:stirthepot:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby Dan74 » Tue Jan 05, 2010 11:41 pm

Any time a big blockbuster movie raises any issues worth thinking about is a cause to cheer. This of course doesn't make it a "good movie", but it perhaps does more good than a brilliant art house flick seen by 100000 people... I am not sure.

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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby zavk » Wed Jan 06, 2010 12:00 am

Interesting opinions from everyone. Haven't seen the film, but I plan to.

It is perhaps not surprising that the film has attracted praise from some and criticism from others, given that it employs the fictional trope of the 'noble savage'. From around the 17th century, the figure of the 'noble savage' has been a locus for debates about what it means to me moral, to be progressive, to be civilized, and so forth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_savage

The figure of the 'noble savage' can be an effective trope for interrogating the status quo. But I think it is important to keep in mind that it can equally be employed to mask, if not reinforce, problems in the status quo.
With metta,
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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby bodom » Wed Jan 06, 2010 12:45 am

Heard its pretty good. I like camerons movies especially aliens and terminator,

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby christopher::: » Wed Jan 06, 2010 2:28 am

zavk wrote:Interesting opinions from everyone. Haven't seen the film, but I plan to.

It is perhaps not surprising that the film has attracted praise from some and criticism from others, given that it employs the fictional trope of the 'noble savage'. From around the 17th century, the figure of the 'noble savage' has been a locus for debates about what it means to me moral, to be progressive, to be civilized, and so forth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_savage

The figure of the 'noble savage' can be an effective trope for interrogating the status quo. But I think it is important to keep in mind that it can equally be employed to mask, if not reinforce, problems in the status quo.


As a teacher living overseas (in Japan) i very much welcome a film like this- it provides an opportunity to bring topics up in class that would normally seem "off topic." I just mentioned Avatar to a class and two students said how impressed they were with the messages about the environment, human greed, the interdependence of the Natural world, etc...

So, 2 thumbs up from me. Not saying the "noble savage" is a realistic image, but it is a concept/archetype related to other ideas and issues that are worth having people think about, imo...

Dan74 wrote:Any time a big blockbuster movie raises any issues worth thinking about is a cause to cheer. This of course doesn't make it a "good movie", but it perhaps does more good than a brilliant art house flick seen by 100000 people... I am not sure.



I think so. Countless animals and plants (and cultures!) are on the brink of extinction now, here on our planet. There's very little time left for humans to turn things around. Hopefully, one way change can happen is if people start identifying with Nature, this planet, other cultures and fellow creatures as members of our extended family, community, home, imo...

Image

The Metta Sutta

“May all beings be filled with joy and peace.
May all beings everywhere,
The strong and the weak,
The great and the small,
The mean and the powerful,
The short and the long,
the subtle and the gross:

May all beings everywhere,
Seen and unseen,
Dwelling far off or nearby,
Being or waiting to become:
May all be filled with lasting joy.

Let no one deceive another,
Let no one anywhere despise another,
Let no one out of anger or resentment
Wish suffering on anyone at all.

Just as a mother with her own life
Protects her child, her only child, from harm,
So within yourself let grow
A boundless love for all creatures.”


:heart:
Last edited by christopher::: on Wed Jan 06, 2010 6:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby Ben » Wed Jan 06, 2010 4:15 am

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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby withoutcolour » Wed Jan 06, 2010 5:20 am

Amazing, beautiful, breathtaking.
Saw it in 3d, and I wouldn't see it any other way. It wasn't 3d in the sense that things reached out to you and you were like WHOA Something's Coming At Me! It made you feel like you were actually present in the environment.
The visuals were unlike anything I had ever seen, I felt like my brain had trouble keeping up with what I was seeing.
The characters were great, the animals were amazing, and because they took the care to animate them so well and give them animal behavior, you almost believed they really existed. They did a great job making you feel like this was plausible, including the depth of the Navi people's culture, and their amazing facial expressions. It made me think of the study scientist's did about the continuity of human facial expressions worldwide.

And to those who complain that the plot has been done over and over... I would just like to offer this: many great stories have been told over and over since the beginning of time. Things that resonate with humans tend to show up in stories, similarly, across all cultures. It is part of the human condition to tell these tales of our species and its interaction with each other and the world. I feel like this story could be told by the early humans hunting in the wilderness, and also by the war-inundated technologically-advanced peoples of today. It is timeless.

Aaaand, finally. I really dislike when people begin inserting racism and sexism and all other -isms into areas where they don't exist. If you think those issues are in ANY movie, then they are there, because your brain is inserting them there. Everyone needs to stop imposing things that don't exist (See: Resident Evil 4, Disney's Pocahontas.)

(Manapa: I love Avatar: The Last Airbender too. I was a bit irritated about the name of this movie, but once you see it, the name makes a lot of sense. And the Airbender movie is coming out in July I think? Damn M Night Shyamalan is making it so I'm not particularly enthused because he irritates me. I will definitely see it though. I love Avatar:TLA.)

Anyway, great movie. Go see it. :clap:

-wc
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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Jan 06, 2010 10:26 am

Chris wrote: Is blue the new black the same for butterflies? :tongue:
Chris

Nah - green is the new blue. :tongue:

I'll be away for the next week or so. Maybe I'll change it back when I get home again - the Ulysses really is a great colour. :smile:

Kim
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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby bonnee » Sat Jan 09, 2010 3:43 am

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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby christopher::: » Sun Jan 10, 2010 3:29 am

bonnee wrote:the white messiah - again.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/08/opinion/08brooks.html


Interesting.

Cameron could have made the exact same movie with Will Smith in the lead. Would that be the myth of the black messiah? There'd be talk then of how people have worshiped Obama, and that the movie was meant to be about him.

They could have made the corporation Chinese, then some would say it was racist that way. The Navi could have worn long robes and beards and prayed on rugs.. Then the link to Afghanistan/Iraq would have been overt and some would be saying the movie was meant to be a call for jihad...

Avatar explodes with symbolism, that's for sure. People focus on what their own beliefs and perceptions highlight in the story, imo...

In terms of visual influences, i kept thinking of the ukiyoe landscapes of Hiroshige and the floating mountains of Roger Dean...

Image

:smile:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby salmon » Thu Jan 14, 2010 2:36 am

Didn't Mr Cameron mention in a recent interview that AVATAR has Hindu origins?
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Re: AVATAR- the Movie: Pros & Cons?

Postby Lampang » Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:57 am

Last Samurai, Dances with Wolves and Avatar all suggest that people should fight back, literally or metaphorically...


Critics of these films would say that that's exactly what they don't suggest; they suggest something more along the lines of "One white guy will be along in a while to save you from the other white guy."

They could have made the corporation Chinese, then some would say it was racist that way. The Navi could have worn long robes and beards and prayed on rugs.. Then the link to Afghanistan/Iraq would have been overt and some would be saying the movie was meant to be a call for jihad...


Well, they could have done but the film's clearly meant for a largely western audience to watch and - as a consequence - feel good about themselves and (a) it's going to make them feel better about themselves if they see themselves overcoming themselves (rather than the yellow peril) and (b) it's going to be more effective if the film maps onto reality more closely and - at least for the time being - it's western states which are invading other countries in pursuit of scarce resources. The noble savages are unlikely to work as Pashtun tribes-people simply because the audiences - largely - wouldn't care about them. The story would then be a rather different one of bringing democracy to far-off lands.
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