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pneuma fenestra
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Hi Ravi. thanks for taking the time to continue the dialogue. I really appreciate your thoughtful comments. And I'm glad you have been enjoying my notes about the film. First of all, please know that I respect your impressions and judgments about the film. Here are a few thoughts about your post. You argue that a great story must stand on its own. You seem to imply that "specifics" have some how dragged it down and sullied it. You seem to have an idea of an almost anteceptic, abstracted archetype that has only a "transcendent message." Is that sort of what you are arguing, or have I missed the point? For me, a great story must bridge the span of Universal and Applied. Just as an avatar is a specific incarnation of a universal principle - so a Great Archetypal story must be incarnated - told in some specific context. On the other hand, a story that is told too abstractly or generally, tends to lack tooth. In writing narrative, for example, this is always looked at as a flaw - where the dictum is "Show me! Don't tell me!" Good art usually details the specifics, and leaves the Universal Principles to the audience's discernment. This seems to be opposite to what you are saying. But I get the sense that there is something else bristling you, which is revealed in the examples you gave. That would be Cameron's importation of lefty politics into his movie, especially lefty politics that is grabbing shibboleths from the previous US administration. Si? If this is the issue, then I have sympathy with your position. I found both of those lines distracting myself. Juvenile digs, I'd say. (Let's face it - this movie is the ultimate "Tree Hugger's" fantasy victory!) I don't mind, however, that a movie is attempting to make commentary on our lives, values and politics. Cameron is obviously doing more than just entertaining us here - he is making us think about militarism, economic imperialism, climate health, indiginous peoples and their wisdom traditions, the love-hate relationship between science and industry, and much else. He uses often exaggerated caricatures to tell an allegory, stake out his position, and give us a dire warning. That's all fair game for a movie, as far as I'm concerned. And yes, I side with you - all of that could have been accomplished without personal digs at George W. and his people. Better accomplished. But that, I gather from research, is not Cameron's way. He can be a real personal jerk. He is a forceful personality, and has no problem exerting force in personal and professional relationships. He did not get to where he is by being a limp pansy. He has taken enormous personal and professional risk again and again. Just read some time of how the Titanic almost "sunk" for being way behind schedule and over budget. And initially utterly panned by the critics. He has done free dives (snorkel) for over 3 minutes, and to a 100 ft depth. His unabashed profanity and crude personal cuts at other people are legion. The crew working on the Abyss secretly called the project the Abuse. I do not underwrite or apologize for this behavior. I have experienced, several times in my life, that strong leaders are paradoxical. They may converse with what is divine on the one hand, but they seem to employ the devil to get the work done. This is a puzzle, one that I do not pretend to have the last word on. Who knows, but that the raw grit and angst of battle scenes in Avatar result from the actors really digging into themselves - and that they are aided by the Director digging into them, too. I found Neytiri's emotional fervor very effective. This is not unlike the Son-of-a-Bitch football coach phenomenon. By the way, I think you are not correct about the terrorist thing. We are told, and we see, evidence of the natives disrupting the operations of the invaders. When Jake wheels himself on the tarmac of Pandora near the beginning, he gets a good long glimpse of the enormous native arrows in the tires of a tractor. Jake himself, in his Avatar body, breaks the cameras of a bulldozer with a rock. As you know, the US invaded a sovereign nation, based on lies, and has continued to call native resistors "terrorists". I know we are not new in performing this sort of self-serving rationalization. This same disgusting spin has been used by invaders since the Pelopennisian War, and before, I'm sure. China is playing the same game with the Tibetans. They even call the Dalai Lama a terrorist! The American Radicals in 1776 were "terrorists" according to the British. But falsehood is always rot, and rot is disease, and disease leads to weakness, collapse, death. This jab of Cameron's may be worth considering, a stench worth rubbing American noses in, because we are ALL responsible for the crimes of our government. We all have blood on our hands, and our children will be paying the price. This is harsh, but our actions abroad have been much harsher.
Toggle Commented Jan 18, 2010 on Avatar Ga Ga at Pneuma Fenestra
Another very central theme in Avatar is "waking and dreaming." As Segourney Weaver pointed out in an interview at the Premiere -- the film begins and ends with the opening of eyes. It also opens with a narration from Jake's video log about dreaming. After he was disabled, he had dreams of running again, but in cryogenics you don't dream. As a driver in the Avatar program, Jake operates two bodies - the natural and the Avatar. The sleep of one is the waking state of the other. In the thick of his involvement, he becomes confused - as recorded... Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2010 at Pneuma Fenestra
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People. Look at the title: Avatar. Then look at the many Indian paintings of the persons of Krishna and Rama with blue skin -- BOTH are AVATARS of Vishnu. Vishnu means "pervasive" -- named after the sky. Tell me - this is only coincidental? Cameron has said nothing yet (that I have heard) about the choice of the word "avatar." Many are the battle scenes when Jake, bow in hand, looks identical to the Rama of Hindu legend, battling the forces of the evil Ravanna.
Toggle Commented Jan 6, 2010 on Why Are AVATAR Aliens Blue? at Avatar Blog
Of course, the strongest parallel is with Vishnu Avatar. Many times during the films battle scenes, one sees not Jake Sully but blue-hued Rama with his fearsome bow. The Bhagavad-Gita (The Song of God) gives the Avatar doctrine succintly: "Even though myself unborn, of changeless essence, and the lord of all existence, yet in presiding over nature - which is mine - I am born but through my own maya (illusion), the mystic power of self-ideation, the eternal thought in the eternal mind. I produce myself amongst creatures ... whenever there is a decline in virtue and an insurrection of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2010 at Pneuma Fenestra
Jake Sully is, of course, the protagonist. He is a crippled Marine veteran who inadvertently lands in the Avatar program only because his DNA is the same as his deceased identical twin brother. There are a few details which remind me of the Christ story. The Old Testament prophesies, "the stone which the builders rejected has become the corner stone." What a great saying, one which applies to many great stories of the triumph of underdogs. But here it is quite literally true. Jake is, at the story's opening, to all appearances, good for nothing at this point in his... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2010 at Pneuma Fenestra
Well, call me Avatar Ga Ga, but I went AGAIN today, January 4, and saw, felt, heard the film in all its glory at IMAX 3-D in Camarillo. While I LOVED the film in 2D, let's just say it is not fully INCARNATED unless you experience it as it is intended! Ravi, thank you for your post. I'm glad you appreciated my perspective, but after reading of your dissatisfaction with the plot, I would like to respectfully comment. Yes, there is a sense in which the plot is simple and predictable. But so is the Illiad; and the Ramayana; and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2010 at Pneuma Fenestra
There is a lot of depth to Avatar that requires some philosophy to uncover. I would like to know more about Cameron's writing of the piece, and the influences incorporated. To start with the name, "avatar" in Sanscrit (ancient mantramic language of the Vedas) literally means "a coming down". It refers to the descent of an exalted being into human form to give a new teaching, renew an obscured teaching, initiate a new epoch of growth or learning for a particular culture, present a new ideal type for moral and spiritual excellence, etc. In the Eastern doctrine it is the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2010 at Pneuma Fenestra
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