Friday, January 08, 2010
About those visuals
That’s funny—you don’t look Bluish....
Gotta run a bunch of syllabus-related errands today (for the graduate seminar on Stuart Hall), so I don’t have any time to direct you to Dissent‘s discussion of “Intellectuals and Their America” (with contributions from E. J. Dionne, Jr., Alice Kessler-Harris, Jackson Lears, Martha Nussbaum, Katha Pollitt, Michael Tomasky, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and Leon Wieseltier) or this discussion of why progressives can or can’t produce social change (h/t Roxanne Cooper), or Charles Homans’ take on the disconnect between the Obama Administration and the grassroots organization it built in 2007-08. Nor do I have time for any other occupatio. I just want to point out that everyone who says ”Avatar is stupid but it’s also really beautiful” is missing the obvious, namely, that—like it or not—the visual beauty of the film is the point. Yes, the story could have been better, more inventive, less Dances-with-FernGully. Of course. But if you were entranced by the landscape of Pandora, then—aha!—Cameron got you. You came into the film thinking, for the first half hour, that Pandora was a vicious hostile place that would kill you dead and eat your eyeballs for jujubes. Then you converted to Bludaism, and you got to experience how breathtakingly beautiful it really was, especially when you learned to ride the Hippogriff. Then you started realizing—as someone pointed out to me the other day—that all the human artifacts (outside the science lab, that is) were breathtakingly ugly: no streamlined white flying machines, just heavy gray-metal industrial equipment, open mines, a blighted, spewing refinery that looks like Elizabeth, New Jersey, and helicopters and gunships with big nasty whirly-ears. So there’s really no separating the form from the content, is what I’m saying. For better and for worse, the movie’s visuals are its content, and if you loved its visuals in the Pandoran forests, then there’s no escaping the conclusion: You Are All Jake Sully Now.