Fellow Movie Lovers
In Hinduism the word avatar, derived from the Sanskrit, avatana (incarnation) is primarily associated with the god Vishnu, the preserver. To straighten out the foibles of man he appears in human form; the two most recognized avatars are Krishna starring in the Mahabharata and Rama the hero in the Ramayana epic.
James Cameron’s (Titanic) Avatar is based on the 1992 book Cyber Punk by Neal Stephenson. You create your own three dimensional alter ego. Barely capable of navigating my DVR this is the culmination of my Virtual reality sensibility. But cloning I comprehend; never missing a party, how divine!
The story is preposterous but if you can suspend belief and don the three dimensional glasses you can enjoy the experience; although the bonding with one’s seat seems interminable.
We westerners have invaded Pandora (in Greek mythology the woman created specifically by Zeus to open the box and deluge the world with disease, evil, pain but softened with a sprinkle of hope); to mix with and understand the indigenous population and persuade them to relocate or suffer annihilation. The gestation occurs in a huge Petri tank and the process is fascinating.
The moral is achingly obvious; man’s greed for territorial expansion unchanged through the millenniums. An efficacious touch was the arrows vs. the artillery.
The actors, all gave notable performances but Stephen Lang, the epitome of military intransigence, is staggeringly real as Col. Miles Quaritch. He soars and scores a perfect missile in every scene.
What was problematic is the 3-dimensional filming technique; it has been around for many years yet never massively appealed to movie audiences.
The first attempt was in 1915 followed in 1922 by Power of Love at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The Italians and Russians venture into the genre in the 30’s and 40’s. The pivotal breakthrough was Warner Brother’s 3-D stereophonic sound, The House of Wax in 1953.
James Cameron a god in the film world creates the finest scenario for the 3-D experience. He eliminates the boundaries between the viewer and the film; we are in Pandora. Perhaps the flaw is the glasses; during the three hour Avatar I occasionally removed them and saw the blurred images and could no longer suspend my belief and with a shrug of the shoulders decided Pandora was not for me!
Federico Fellini’s 8 ½ opened in 1963. I was a student in Rome, Italy and this film, so revolutionary changed forever my expectations or satisfactions with the traditional Hollywood fare (Doris Day/Rock Hudson); guts, glory, fantasy and freedom, packaged so lusciously and sensually that Fellini became a shaman, guru to us expats in Rome.
Inebriates of Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimee, Anita Ekberg (La Dolce Vita); appetites never satiated, we went in ever expanding groups over and over to 8 ½, until every scene was permanently etched on our impressionable and fertile souls.
So my anticipatory taste buds were on high alert as I waited for the commencement of Rob Marshall’s (Chicago) rendition of Fellini’s 8 ½ …Nine. My hopes plummeted within minutes.
Daniel Day-Lewis (My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood) plays the stooped, tortured, ghoulish Guido, hiding behind dark glasses and cigarettes; so bereft of substance that at any second he might evaporate ghostlike in a haze of nicotine. He is a brilliant actor, miscast.
The plot revolves around the women he needs to survive; they are his sycophants. It is inscrutable what they see in him.
Fellini always said that 8 ½ referenced the number of films he had directed up to this point: not the women.
The women are resplendent. They sing, dance, gyrate, cry and pay homage to the dysfunctional Guido. Penelope Cruz (mistress) flawless; Marion Cotillard (wife) perfectly poignant; Nicole Kidman (muse) magnificent; Sophia Loren (mother) iconic;
Judi Dench (costume designer, his Edith Head) always dignified; Kate Hudson (journalist) completely compelling.
But the most sensational, lustfully luscious, Fergie (Black Eyed Peas) is mesmerizing as Saraghina, Guido’s youthful initiation into the enchantments of the female species. She bears a strong resemblance to Anita Ekberg and is hypnotic performing the only song worth humming or remembering, “Be Italian”.
A more satisfying two hours would be spent watching Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960),
8 ½, or my all time favorite Fellini flick, Juliet of the Sprits (1965).
Nine receives not 8 ½ but only………
TWO & 1/2 STARS!