Thursday, March 4, 2010

FotM: Adam's vote goes to . . .

Look, I still don’t like the idea of 10 nominees for best picture. I never have, and probably never will. That said, choosing who I would vote for if I were a member of the Academy was surprisingly simple.

Currently, I’ve seen 7 out of the 10 nominees. There are at least 4 or 5 pretty good films in the bunch, with 2 that I’d say come the closest to being “great.” I’ll come right back to that . . .

I guess that you could say I’m an intellectual sort when it comes to films. I like films that try to tackle big themes, cover new ground, and communicate that elusive something. While I love being entertained, I don’t consider the having of a good time to be the ultimate goal of a film, or the chief sign of its quality. There have been a number of films (Fight Club, anyone?) I’ve seen that I didn’t necessarily enjoy that I consider to be examples of true craftsmanship, and I’m glad I watched them. Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that my way of looking at films is the “right” way of doing it, and that other approaches are wrong.

That would be stupid.

My point is this. I don’t normally go for the popular choice. When people were proclaiming The Dark Knight the single greatest thing since the dot got put before the com, I was one of the few pointing out what I thought were flaws. When people went nuts over Star Trek, I . . . well, you remember.

So, having said all of that, making my choice for what I would vote for as the Best Picture of 2009 was surprisingly simple.


Nothing I saw in 2009 equals the experience I had with James Cameron’s juggernaut. The only other film that I considered for this slot was Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, but, as great as IB is, (and it is one of the best films an already venerable filmmaker has ever made) I don’t think that anything released between 01/01/2009 and 12/31/2009 comes close to the monumental achievement that is Avatar.

I’m astounded at the fact that almost everything I saw at key points on the screen was created by a computer. Watching it for the first time, I was skeptical of the idea that the incredibly lush world of Pandora was digitally generated. I mean, come on, obviously those blue guys were fake, but what about that tree? The water in the lake? The wind from the helicopter blades moving through the grass? Surely that had to have been real. No computer can make something look that good, and that authentic. There’s no way it could have been left up to processors and microchips.

But it was, and, while it was beautiful, there was even so much more to it than that.
See, Avatar is the kind of thing that George Lucas wanted to make with his Star Wars prequel trilogy. What he didn’t seem to realize is that mere visual trickery isn’t enough to make an audience invest in something. Our brains may enjoy the sight of a superbly created digital world, but our hearts want something to hang their proverbial hats on. I was sold on this thing, man. I wanted to see the Na’Vi triumph over the invading human scum, and I wanted Jake and Neytiri to end up together so desperately.
What Cameron’s done here is truly remarkable. He didn’t just demonstrate a mastery of CGI that no one to date has equaled. He made a film in which, even as your mind is marveling at what it’s watching, you partially (even totally) forget that what you’re seeing is created by a computer. Your heart simply sees a man and a woman standing side by side in a gorgeous place that’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

So, with respect to Quentin Tarantino & Kathryn Bigelow, on Sunday night, Best Picture (and for my money, Best Director) should go to James Cameron for Avatar.

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