If you happen to be one of the remaining twelve, let me sum up Avatar as briefly as I can. The year is 2154 and Army grunt Jake Sully is drafted to take over his deceased twin's project on the distant planet (moon?) Pandora. Man has set up camp here since Pandora is rich in a certain mineral, but standing in the way of mining said mineral are the local inhabitants, large blue-cat-people called the Na'vi. Jake is supposed to infiltrate the Na'vi using his avatar - his own blue-cat-person - and report back to the corporation in charge of mining. However, Jake gets lost on his first mission into the jungle, is adopted by the locals, falls in love with the chief's daughter, and chaos ensues.
We as an audience learn all kinds of things about ourselves through the course of the film, such as...corporations are bad. The military is evil. Destruction of one's planet is dangerous. Annihilation of an indigenous population is tragic.
It was a very entertaining film, minus one obvious concern. I think I saw this movie before, but it was called 'Dances with Wolves.'
And, if you really wanted to get technical, there was a heavy dose of 'Jurassic Park' combined with the 'Star Wars' movies (pains me to even type that) with a little sprinkling of 'Harry Potter' thrown on for good measure. Clearly, James Cameron comes from the John Williams' School of Original Thought.
I'm not trying to knock the movie - the special effects were worth the ticket price alone - but it was just really disappointing that the most buzzed about movie of 2009 is nothing more than a poorly-drawn collage of other popular movies. I understand there are only so many themes to draw from (Man v. Man, Man v. Nature, Man v. Self, Man v. Destiny, etc) but Mr. Cameron saw fit to combine every single one of these into his three hour epic. The characters were one-dimensional, the plot lagged numerous times, and there was probably about 40 minutes of movie that could have easily been left on the cutting room floor.
My main entertainment came from watching Brian (cute in his black-rimmed 3D glasses) make faces (read: grimaces) during the film. He hates schmoopy girl-guy love stories. He dislikes long films. He can't stand heavy-handed, deliberate messages, especially involving (::cough, cough::) native populations. There was plenty of eye-rolling, heavy sighing and aggressive popcorn eating. I think he might have even slurped his soda in an angry manner. He summed it up quite well as we were walking out of the theater: "That's three hours of my life I'm never going to get back." It's not that I enjoy watching Brian upset, but he's such a mild pepper of a guy that when he does get fired up, it's highly entertaining.
So we had quite the animated conversation afterwards, and both of us agreed we are shocked at the number of awards this movie has received and is currently nominated for. Again, aside from the special effects (which were truly amazing - love those mountains!), the plot was so cliched and the dialogue so vapid that I am a little concerned about thought process of Academy voters. (and, as you can see from the 'About Me' on the right side of this page, one thing I cannot stand is the cliched plot. Argh.)
Ultimately, on Oscar Sunday, this is my argument against Avatar winning best picture. If you want to see a great war movie, rent 'The Hurt Locker.' If you want to see a 'fish out of water' film involving discrimination, racism and aliens, watch 'District 9.' If you are anti-corporate America, check out 'Up in the Air.' If you want to watch the protagonist overcome his own demons, see 'Up,' 'A Serious Man,' or 'Precious.' And if you want to root for the underdog overcoming all obstacles, be sure to watch 'The Blind Side.' (sorry, I haven't seen 'Inglorious Basterds' since I am not a Tarantino fan. At all.) The point of this: pretty much every other nominated film captures its theme better than Avatar. And while James Cameron can never be faulted for thinking small, he may need to learn, 'less is more.'
(A for special effect, though)