Since I reviewed “Avatar” a couple months ago, James Cameron has gone on the defensive with the film’s multitudinous critics. The Right thinks the film is anti-business, anti-military, anti-human, anti-Western, and anti-American. One charge he actually LIKES is John Nolte’s remark that it is a “Death Wish” for leftists. Cameron claims, “Nature gets to fight back. It’s ‘Death Wish’ for environmentalists. When did nature ever get to fight back in a movie?” (Perhaps James missed “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”) Meanwhile, Cameron seems to have ignored right-wing critics like myself who claim the film is stupid.
That’s what I want to see Cameron address. I could care less whether the film is a slam against corporations, makes America the villain, or if it treats the military as a bunch of hate-mongering thugs, None of this is new to Hollywood. They’ve been making movies like that for at least the past fifty years.
I think if he really had to defend the intelligence of the film he wouldn’t be able to do it. Cameron is ignoring critics who found the film as dumb as a Supermodel, because it is also the one charge that might sink his Oscar hopes. Academy members wouldn’t vote for a stupid picture, and unfortunately many aren’t smart enough to know that it was.
They’re used to being called a bunch of anti-corporate, new-agey, anti military, enviro-hippie liberals. (In fact they’re quite proud of it.) One thing that Hollywood hates is being accused of stupidity. Deep down, actors know they aren’t hired for their intelligence — it’s why they have writers.
Many actors are college dropouts. Hollywood cherishes youth, and college years are when youth is in full bloom. Those who haven’t found success by the time they’re 18, won’t squander the prime of their careers on something useless like higher learning. The ones who do finish college tend to major in Theatre, earning degrees that require little substantial knowledge. Some liberal actors, like Martin Sheen flunked out as early as high school.
This insecurity draws them to people like Al Gore and Barack Obama; a notion that their support of these purportedly brilliant men indicates a level of higher understanding. They almost think they can gain intelligence by osmosis, that by being in the company of genius some might rub off.
I wonder myself about Cameron’s intelligence. You would think he’d have to be fairly smart. Usually science fiction nerds and special effects geeks come from that percentile that spend their school years having lunch at the lonely table, alongside advanced math students and the chess club. So you would assume that his intellect is above and beyond this movie.
But then I saw a clue why the movie is so stupid. And it’s as plain as the nose on your face. Or more correctly: as plain as the breasts on Na’Vi women. In an interview with James Lipton, Cameron admitted it.
Back in December of 2009, in a Playboy article, the director acknowledged there was no biological need for the breasts. So why did he do it, asked Lipton? He replied “”Because this is a movie for human people.” Rather than make the aliens repulsive (as they were in “District 9”) he wanted to make them appealing. So he acknowledged that he put breasts on the Na’vi women for no other reason than to gain sympathy from humans. In other words, he knowingly pandered to the lowest common denominator.
He also bragged about how he programmed the computers so that Princess Neytiri’s feather necklace would always cover her nipples, to assure a PG-13 rating. It also made the film a two and three quarters hour strip tease for adolescent boys; who spent the entire film hoping for an errant breeze; a pair of aces from a stacked deck; a chance to glimpse the mysteries of life in three dimensional, seven-story IMAX glory. No wonder there were suicides after the movie was over.
It’s really kind of funny if you think about it. Because without breasts, Jake Sully might have never fallen for Princess Neytiri, and without his Western American wisdom, the Na’vi would have surely fallen under the iron boot of the RDA Corporation.
Perhaps the Spirit Mother gave the Na’vi people breasts, because she KNEW, that someday the people would need to attract a lustful human of European descent to fight the duel over the homelands. Of course the Spirit Mother isn’t as wise as you might imagine either; she needed Jake Sully to tell her that she should rally the beasts of the jungle against evil corporations.
But from the audience level, if there weren’t breasts and six-pack abs to lust after, everyone might have CHEERED when a tree full of them was incinerated, and the Unobtanium was obtained; in Alanis Morissette style irony.
Which indicates to me that Cameron is by far more intelligent than the movie. Not only did he know he needed to anthropomorphize his blue creatures, he knows that he really shouldn’t talk about it too much. If this film walks away with Best Picture, it will probably be the biggest anti-intellectual coup since “An Inconvenient Truth” passed as an entertaining documentary, when it was neither.
Maybe Cameron should win the Best Actor.