Thursday, December 31, 2009

Drama Review: Avatar (2009)

First, I must say I am stunned. Not necessarily by James Cameron's Avatar, but by the fact that I managed to find any time to see a 160 minute-long movie! I got to finish 2009 by partaking in a bit of "film history." Sort of. I'm still reeling. And, yes, I will say that Avatar was visually stunning, if not a whole lot else. The plot was functional enough, better than average sci-fi, but the dialogue was mostly cookie-cutter, dotted with tough-guy one-liners.

To his credit, James Cameron does have a good director's sense of human emotion in the characters, and fortunately the CGI (or "CG") technology has caught up to his sci-fi vision. Did I say "human emotion?" Why, yes I did. But the creatures I am referring to, of course, are the distinctly non-human blue Na'vi aliens, all of whom are 10-foot tall, part ape, part tiger, and part Krishna.

I often hate CGI. I put up with it in some movies, like The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Those movies did very well with CGI and the trick-camera effects so that it wasn't too fake-looking. But a lot of CGI is irritatingly insubstantial. The animated characters generally don't appear as if they're actually interacting with anyone or anything in three-dimensional space.

Avatar avoids that. The blue aliens are enjoyable to watch. They emote convincingly. My favorite parts of the film, however, were the depictions of the alien flora and fauna of the distant moon Pandora. Everything was phosphorescent and seemed primeval, like psychedelic matte paintings out of a dinosaur book. And the fact that the movie was in 3D demonstrates Cameron's confidence that the film would not look fake. Of course, my friend and I opted out of seeing it in IMAX 3D. That might have been just too much.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Heart and the Real World

D. Boon (April 1, 1958-December 22, 1985). Singer, poet, painter, thinker, political activist, straight shooter, and of course a real-life guitar hero. Every time Dec. 22nd rolls around, I think about D. Boon. The last Minutemen show I saw was at the L.A. Street Scene, maybe just a few weeks before D. Boon died. I'll never forget him, bobbing and bouncing around the stage wearing multiple layers of clothes, always putting his heart into his music. A true mind-opener. Thinking a lot about him today.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Transcendental Journey With Carl Sagan in "A Glorious Dawn"

More synchronicity. Two days ago, I watched an episode of Cosmos on hulu. Cosmos had been, I now realize, enormously influential on my thinking in life. I watched it as a kid when it first ran on PBS, and Carl Sagan's insightful awe at the universe just-as-it-is filtered deep into my way of viewing things. That and the Vangelis-like spacey soundtrack. Awe is the answer. Anyway, just today a friend coincidentally posted this video of Carl Sagan taking us on a transcendental journey through space, earth, and the imagination. With a beat. It's the zeitgeist. Oh, yeah!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Feliĉa Akto de Rajtoj Tago!

Today is Bill of Rights Day, a day of recognition established by FDR to honor the anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. And what would a constitutional celebration be without some controversy? And what would life be without some synchronicity?

Yesterday, quite by chance, I came across a wikipedia article on Esperanto, the international language invented by L.L. Zamenhof in 1887. I was looking up something seemingly unrelated, and there it was.

Today, I googled "Bill of Rights Day," and--Behold!--there appears to be a somewhat minor controversy in that Google is honoring December 15th as Zamenhof's birthday and not as Bill of Rights Day. Some folks are upset that Google.com is decorated with the green flag of Esperanto and not the parchment of our freedoms.

Anyway, until yesterday I had never heard of L.L. Zamenhof. And here is his name jumping out at me from my googled list of news articles! A long time ago, I kept a journal of the weird coincidences like this that I was noticing in my day-to-day affairs. Call it Jungian synchronicity or Michael Shermer's more skeptical idea of patternicity, but it always has a strange quasi-mystical feel when it happens.

That is why today I am wishing you "Feliĉa Akto de Rajtoj Tago!" That's "Happy Bill of Rights Day" in Esperanto, of course. (I used an online Esperanto Translator program, so I have no idea if this is correct.) Now go out and exercise your freedom of speech in the language of your choice!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Crass Across The Universe

Penny Rimbaud (Jeremy Ratter) of Crass received an award from John Lennon in a Beatles art contest on the British music show Ready Steady Go! Did Greil Marcus include this in Lipstick Traces? Serendipitously great.