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AVATAR we have a problem
August 21, 2009 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Meanwhile in Hollywoodland, the trailer for James Cameron's much anticipated AVATAR debuted online yesterday and ... ooops!

The 7 Eeriest Parallels Between Avatar and Delgo.

10 movies AVATAR unfortunately resembles ...

James Cameron’s Avatar is supposed to be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. So why does it look so familiar? One of the most disappointing things about the film’s promotion so far is how derivative the film looks in the trailer that debuted online today. And much of what we’re reminded of wasn’t even that great to begin with.

Previously on MeFi.
posted by philip-random (190 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
It would be kind of funny if this is a huge flop.
posted by elder18 at 9:55 AM on August 21, 2009


I endorse naked blue people jumping around a lot. I look forward to this movie!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:59 AM on August 21, 2009


I was saying to someone yesterday how much better District 9 looked than what I saw of Avatar. Part of the reason was that WETA really nailed the integration of practical effects with CGI, while Avatar looks like the decision was made to just chuck practical effects altogether.

Who needs dynamite when you've got a render farm? Well, with dynamite, it's easier to make things look real. Because it is.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:59 AM on August 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


"Cutscene" pretty much summed up the trailer for me.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:00 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've never heard of Delgo. Does this make me the ideal target audience for Avatar? (Then again, I keep thinking Avatar is going to be about Airbenders, so maybe not.)
posted by DU at 10:02 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm looking forward to it.

But I wonder why people expect James Cameron to make the best movie ever... there's not much evidence that he can.
posted by Huck500 at 10:03 AM on August 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


Andrew Lloyd Webber's Avatar
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:04 AM on August 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Have to say the so called "parallels"are pretty weak. "Gee this movie has flying creatures with strong female leads riding them" so does "Delgo" therefore it is a copy.

The script is where you find out if it is a copy or not.

I bet this one breaks big.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:05 AM on August 21, 2009


I watched the trailer this morning and really came away with a sort-of "meh" reaction. One of the comments in that "ooops!" link say it very well..."Looks an awful lot like a videogame cut scene" The most damning element of the review is the statement that one must see this movie in 3D for the CG to work its magic on you. That is an epic fail, considering 3D screens are still a relative minority.

The moment that clued me in that this thing was not firmly on the tracks was the sudden appearance of the too-familiar Stargate-SG1 "going through the wormhole" effect. Additionally, the whole thing (both the supposed "live action" and CG sections) swerved deeply into the uncanny valley over and over.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:06 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought the trailer was striking in the colors and ambiance. I apparently am in the minority. Glad I have the Internet to share that thought though!
posted by tittergrrl at 10:08 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, the 3-D technique used by Cameron is supposed to be the big technological game changer, not the CGI. Because extending the those 20 minute long CGI fight finales that all action movies seem to have these days to last the entire length of the film just isn't going to do it for most audiences.

If I want to see 2 hours of digital monsters fighting, I'll play a video game instead, thank you.
posted by TBAcceptor at 10:09 AM on August 21, 2009


Cameron does have a decent track record with making movies which please audiences in a deeper way than other films for some reason.

Terminator
Aliens
The Abyss
Terminator 2
True Lies
Titanic

All of which pushed the envelope in some way or other. I do'nt know about "best movie ever", but I personally appreciated more of those than I didn't. (Not a fan of The Abyss or True Lies, but I understand why people might like them.)
posted by hippybear at 10:09 AM on August 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm not even sure it looks like a cutscene... the action sequences look like in-game footage. The cutesy look of the CGI characters really doesn't work against the 'heart-pounding action' concept.

Agreed on the uncanny vally. It's like Uncanny Valley of the Dolls.
posted by unSane at 10:09 AM on August 21, 2009


Cyborg army dudes in mecha vs blue ninja amazons vs tentacled jungle monsters! Love it!

But clean up that CGI dude. And looking forward to blue ninja amazon cosplay.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:11 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The movie could be great, but it was just a really, really bad trailer. They try to do too much. It's like a trailer for a video game that everyone is going to buy anyway. Except no one will go to the movie.
posted by starman at 10:12 AM on August 21, 2009


Cool Papa Bell nailed it upthread.
That's why the LOTR flicks looked so much more incredible than the SW prequels.

Also topic sorta-derail: has anyone ever worked on a huge creative project and, thru lack of time/will/energy/resources just kind of cut corners and phoned in one or more elements just to get it done. And from that point on all you can see is that weak link? For a decade now, that's been my impression of the Gungan energy ball weapon things in Phantom Menace. It's like they didn't even try to come up with anything. Hell, laser spears would have seemed less hackneyed.
Just had to mention that. Cuz some of the fx work in this trailer reminds me of that laziness.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:12 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think what most people are missing here is that Avatar is going to be a 3D movie, meaning some kind of special glasses are going to be needed (or something in the projector, not sure where 3D technology is at the moment) to really "see" what this film is trying to achieve. So sure, the trailer you view on your computer screen is going to look lame and rather boring. Nothing realistic at all, etc, etc. But when it's up on that big IMAX 3D screen, with the full theater surround-sound pumping, it's going to make Transformers look like a 2 frame per second anime from the 1960's.

This is where Cameron is betting the farm. He's trying to get audiences to actually go to the theater to see his works, instead of shooting for DVD sales and after the fact marketing "franchise" profits. It's entirely focused on the audience going to the theater. It's not a bad plan, but it's something that is going to take a lot of new thinking on the part of the marketers to sell it properly, and to convince people in Western societies to actually leave their houses and go spend $15 on a movie, instead of waiting 6 months for it to come out on Netflix.

But, I could be wrong. Cameron could have spent the last few years playing video games and saying to himself "I'm gonna steal all the cool parts of cut-scenes from these video games and make a movie that is just a bunch of random elements from these other artists and sell it as my own".
posted by daq at 10:12 AM on August 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


I honestly do not see the big deal. This sounds like typical internet geek whining to me.

Just about all sci-fi stories today have some early 60s or 70s influence if not outright copying. Some say its too much like Starship troppers. The delgo comparisions are pretty weak sauce. You mean a male alien and a female alien get together? Or that alien warriors are fierce? Shocking!

The interwebs are full of analysis like "doesnt have a story" or "is a ripoff" all from an almost dialogue-less teaser trailer. Its really incredible. We have completely accepted the fact that we are now judging books by their covers.

How about I just wait for the reviews from rottentomatoes from people who know how to write and think about film and who have actually watched the entire film as opposed to random nuts on the internet?
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:12 AM on August 21, 2009 [11 favorites]


No one wanted 3D to take off more than I did, but I have yet to have a single overwhelmingly positive 3-D experience, even with recent movies that are specifically engineered to be viewed that way.

First and foremost, a good movie is an immersive experience no matter what. This Daily Mail article, says

"If you've had previous experience of 3D, your impression will probably be one of a flattish image with the occasional object 'flying' at you'.

But these advances are different - the entire screen has depth, taking on the appearance of a window through which the viewer is watching a 'world' on the screen, with a distinct foreground and background, rather than a flat, moving painting."


You know what makes the viewer think he or she is watching a "world" onscreen? Imagination. I can't for the life of me remember a movie-going experience where events seemed to be a flat, moving painting. If the film is good, then you find yourself occupying its world, period.

Also, I find that the experience of wearing the glasses is distracting, and is actually a constant reminder that what I'm seeing is being mediated and mitigated. I often catch myself wanting to take off the glasses to get a better, completely firsthand view of the movie. Additionally, there's something about the way 3-D manipulates your field of view that makes the screen seem smaller than it really is.

When I interviewed the director of My Bloody Valentine 3-D, he said all the same sorts of things that the Cameronites are saying about Avatar. There is a huge push for this to be the next big thing. Frankly, I just don't see what they're seeing. This sort of attention to detail must be a filmmaker's wet dream, but audiences are satisfied with so much less, as long as movies are good. I'm excited to see Avatar, but I'm really bummed to have an "immersive" 3-D experience (and ticket-price) thrust at me, so I will probably wait for the DVD.
posted by hermitosis at 10:13 AM on August 21, 2009 [13 favorites]


I think James Cameron makes GREAT movies. His worst is probably True Lies, which is still pretty good. Abyss is profoundly flawed but great. Titanic is impressive and enjoyable but riskless. Terminator, T2 and Aliens are argaubly the best big SF movies ever made. In each case the characters, and plot, and ideas in the films are as important as the universally impressive effects and envisioning.

Still, my confidence is a bit shaken. I remember when Titanic had not yet come out, the buzz for it was terrible - I was embarrassed for James Cameron because he was going to have the most expensive movie in history be a totally unredeemable flop. Remember how that turned out? I believe that Avatar will be good as a movie, even if it isn't good as a trailer, and that judging it from this trailer (and from the buzz, positive and negative!) is pretty foolish.

That said, what a terrible trailer. Didn't we outlaw the "character opens eyes suddenly while hooked up to brain-hat - cue orchestra hit" shot?
posted by dirtdirt at 10:13 AM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


So at worst it's going to be one big ball of 3D animated eye candy?
That sounds pretty good to me.
With Cameron's track record I think it's gotta be entertaining. Maybe not as profound as District 9, but that's not what I was expecting from it.

I have to say, though - the aircraft look weirdly similar to those zooming through the forest in The Incredibles!
posted by wundermint at 10:14 AM on August 21, 2009


I loved that early image in the trailer of the floating chunks of terra firma ... but then I've always been a Roger Dean fan. But then it sort of goes down the cgi rabbit hole from there.
posted by philip-random at 10:15 AM on August 21, 2009


> Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2, True Lies, Titanic

...and now Avatar. Do all his movies begin with T or A?
posted by ardgedee at 10:15 AM on August 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


(Not a fan of The Abyss or True Lies, but I understand why people might like them.)

Have you seen the full director's cut of The Abyss? I just thought I'd mention that, as the theatrical release cuts out a whole substory that really guts the movie in a way it can't recover from. As a result, the movie ends with a abrupt turn that doesn't really make sense.

And while you're at it, watch the Making of The Abyss - it's probably the most interesting show about making a movie ever.

Finally, I wasn't "blown away" from the Avatar trailer, but it definitely caught my attention in a way that REALLY makes me want to see the movie - or at least know more about it. I'm far from "meh" about it.
posted by evilangela at 10:15 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Goodness gracious. Let's judge all future movies on the basis of their trailers. Aren't trailers just the product of PR people who try to make the movie fit into whatever pigeonhole they want to attract what they see as being the most desirable demographic? I mean, Adventureland looked pretty horrible when I saw the trailer, but that turned out to be a pretty decent movie. I'm sure there are better examples.

This is why I hate the whole "fail" thing. It's so easy to label something an "EPIC FAIL!!!!" without knowing anything about it and without doing any critical thinking.
posted by ekroh at 10:16 AM on August 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yeah, James Cameron has a pretty great track record.

Being a little older now, I can really see some of the complaints lodged against True Lies - mainly that it's misogynistic - have legs, but as a kid I absolutely loved it and was oblivious to such complaints. Even now when I catch it on TV I have a hard time changing the channel.

Terminator 2 and Aliens were, like, the formative movies of my youth. They are perfect. Aliens is pure fucking awesome from start to finish.
posted by kbanas at 10:16 AM on August 21, 2009


When I saw "ooops!", I thought the FPP was referring to, like, some glaring technical error or such. But I didn't get that from the links. Just to be clear: The "ooops!" is just because people aren't liking it...?

Because that's not really, you know..."ooops."

The trailer looks okay to me. But then, I've never heard of this movie before. Maybe this is something decipherable only to those for whom it has been "much anticipated."
posted by cribcage at 10:16 AM on August 21, 2009


I'm certain that the 3D projection system used will be similar to RealD or 3ality or Disney Digital, meaning that most 3D screens already in existence will be able to show the movie and theatergoers will get a pair of not-really-RayBans to wear during the show. I hope it isn't limited to only IMAX 3D, because our theater here in Spokane (although one of the earlier ones installed in the country), seems to be at the very end of the install plan for the 3D technology.

And yeah, it IS the new 3D filming technique which is supposed to be "the thing" for this movie. Immersive 3D, not gimmicky or plane-based. I, for one, will welcome that development.
posted by hippybear at 10:16 AM on August 21, 2009


The Avatar trailer did strike me as derivative and squenix cutscene-y, but it also served to remind me about Skywhales for some reason. (previously) Anything that hits my brain in similar places is at least worth ten bucks.
posted by Mizu at 10:16 AM on August 21, 2009


I was so nonplussed about this trailer, almost to the point of hilarity. All that sturm und drang for people who look like Jar Jar Binks and Spock got into Jeff Goldblum's Fly Machine.

This movie is going to stiff so hard that they'll use it in Mortuary Science 101 classes for the world's future undertakers.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 10:17 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just want to slap whoever decided it was ok to use that Papyrus-esque font in the trailer. It's like my elderly aunt did the typography.
posted by brand-gnu at 10:17 AM on August 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


I, too, was initially disappointed for the trailer. I think the real breakthrough in the movie will be the technical innovations. Being able to render the motion capture animation in real time and directing as if you're using a free floating camera in a game engine are both very big deals. Very few people have the technical expertise and the budget to get this done right now. I applaud any film that spends gobs of money at technical innovation. The most lasting legacy of Avatar, regardless of how the movie turns out, will be the countless engineers and techs who worked on making a very innovative system without any sort of real budget constraints. Now you have a lot of highly trained people spreading their expertise like pollen among the various studios.
posted by geoff. at 10:18 AM on August 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


(To prevent anyone else having to go look, here's how the 3D works: Exactly like the red/blue glasses only instead of color filters it uses polarized filters.)
posted by DU at 10:18 AM on August 21, 2009


As for the trailer, I think I built it up in my head, like I would watch this 2 minute teaser and I would never view movies the same way again, and obviously that just set me up for disappointment. I mean, it was a pretty cool trailer - guns, aliens, explosions - but there was no way it was going to change the landscape of modern cinema. That's just ridiculous.

Still, I'm excited for Avatar. I'm sure by December my hype-o-meter will have rebounded.
posted by kbanas at 10:19 AM on August 21, 2009


Evil Human spy learns the noble ways of the Savage IndianAlien, who lives in peace and harmony with Nature, just like the fairies in Ferngully, like a Ferngully Pocohantas mashup with alien sex. Also, he looks like a furry, so he's totally from a species evolved on another planet.

This thing is pretty damn hackneyed, plus, the CGI looks unconvincing. I expected better from Cameron.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:21 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Based on this trailer, I'm thinking the profoundest change Avatar will have on movies is that James Cameron will no longer be making them.
posted by DU at 10:22 AM on August 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ugh, just load the next level already.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:23 AM on August 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


This thing is pretty damn hackneyed, plus, the CGI looks unconvincing. I expected better from Cameron.

You say this based on a two minute teaser and a plot synopsis. I say this is foolish. You expected better from Cameron? You haven't even seen the movie! You haven't even seen a real trailer!
posted by kbanas at 10:23 AM on August 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


Is it just me, or do those aliens look a bit ... JarJar?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:26 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Erm, I guess it's not just me.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:28 AM on August 21, 2009


Well, the brilliance of Titanic was how seamless all the CG integration was with the live action. It's nearly impossible to tell where it all comes together, creating a reality which was never actually filmed, but is entirely believable.

I have seen the director's cut of The Abyss. I just didn't really like it all that much. Personal taste. As I said, I think Cameron has a great track record and can appreciate his movies even without them being to my taste.

Did anyone else see the U23D movie when it was out (for, like, one day)? That had some of the most effective use of immersive 3D I have ever seen. There were moments where the audience in the movie theater just blends seamlessly into the crowd at the concert and suddenly you're sitting AT THE SHOW! Really well done. (Although the sort of odd "pop-up book" camera angle they used for parts of the filming were just strange. Reminded me somehow of the old a-ha video, the name of which is eluding me right now. Cry Wolf?)
posted by hippybear at 10:28 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Looks sort of interesting, if a bit CGish. I'm guessing flat out realism is not the aim. The "FAIL!" stuff is obnoxious, as ever.
posted by Artw at 10:28 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Space marines in dropships vs elfilike alien archers on dragonback? It looks like Concept Art: the Movie, which is a movie that I would love to see.

As far as the visual quality of it goes, it seems that there's a lot of really huge depth of field in a lot of the busier scenes. I think that's what's leading to that "fakey game trailer" reaction from a lot of people. I wonder if this is for the 3D audience, allowing them to focus on the things that they want to see rather than have the emphasis thrown on whatever's in focus in the frame?

That's something that has knocked around in my head as more and more 3D stuff is arriving. Focus and depth of field are a significant part of the visual language of cinema, but I don't think they have the same utility in a 3d film. Maybe the solution is to play with the depth of the picture plane instead.
posted by Uncle Ira at 10:28 AM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


It is kinda hilarious to see so many people dogpiling on to call this a colossal and catastrophic failure that will bankrupt everybody and kill Cameron's career forevermore.
The last time that happened, the movie in question became the highest-grossing film in history and all. Just sayin'. Now back to the snark pile on!
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:28 AM on August 21, 2009 [5 favorites]



(To prevent anyone else having to go look, here's how the 3D works: Exactly like the red/blue glasses only instead of color filters it uses polarized filters.)


So exactly like Captain EO then.
posted by anazgnos at 10:28 AM on August 21, 2009


Man, speaking of underwhelming trailers, have y'all seen the one for Fantastic Mr. Fox? Man. The animation just looks... awful.
posted by ORthey at 10:29 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


So do we get to talk about Warhammer 40k again, or what?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:30 AM on August 21, 2009


anazgnos: exactly like Captain EO, only with more sophisticated cameras to capture the 3D, full color included in the picture, and computer assistance to create better convergence points for your eyes within the 3D picture.
posted by hippybear at 10:31 AM on August 21, 2009


The hype is how imersive the 3D world will be, called by some a 3D drug trip (vs those in 2D or 4D, you know) Spielberg predicts it will be the biggest 3-D live-action film ever. More than a thousand people have worked on it, at a cost in excess of $200 million, and it represents digital filmmaking's bleeding edge.
"I couldn't tell what was real and what was animated--even knowing that the 9-ft.-tall blue, dappled dude couldn't possibly be real. The scenes were so startling and absorbing that the following morning, I had the peculiar sensation of wanting to return there, as if Pandora were real."
That is the hype around this film.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:32 AM on August 21, 2009


Do all his movies begin with T or A?

Piranha 2: The Spawning.

Or if you want movies he wrote,

Rambo. (the older one; the sequel to First Blood)
Strange Days
Dark Angel (some episodes)

I'm sure that around December 18 I'll either be in the middle of grading stats exams and want a break, or have just finished grading stats exams and deserve a break. So I'm in.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:32 AM on August 21, 2009


The question to ask is, "Based on the trailer, does it seem that I would enjoy watching this film while totally baked?" and after viewing it, I have to say that yes, it does. Of course, I liked "Krull" under similar conditions, so YMMV.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:32 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


So do we get to talk about Warhammer 40k again, or what?

In 40K the unbeliever heretic xeno-scum would be cleansed by the fire, without any of that attempting to communicate nonsense. And kissing would be totally out as "too girly".
posted by Artw at 10:37 AM on August 21, 2009


Not every movie can be as good as Krull.
posted by Artw at 10:37 AM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Terminator, T2 and Aliens are argaubly the best big SF movies ever made.

Terminator will always be a slasher film to me.
posted by brandman at 10:38 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


it's going to make Transformers look like a 2 frame per second anime from the 1960's.

I wish Transformers was 2 frames/second -- maybe then I could see what the fuck was going on.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 10:38 AM on August 21, 2009 [12 favorites]


I couldn't tell what was real and what was animated--even knowing that the 9-ft.-tall blue, dappled dude couldn't possibly be real. The scenes were so startling and absorbing that the following morning, I had the peculiar sensation of wanting to return there, as if Pandora were real.

Yeah, not really getting that from the trailer. Not getting OMG FAIL FAIL FAIL either.
posted by Artw at 10:39 AM on August 21, 2009


Hoo hoo hoo!

I wouldn't want to be James Cameron now!
posted by mazola at 10:39 AM on August 21, 2009


The trailer reminded me a lot of Final Fantasy, which I thought had excellent animation and cinematography but the story was just too Japanese for me.

Also, I'm not happy about this movie's title. Every time I hear it, it makes me think of a little bald kid with a blue arrow on his head.
posted by demiurge at 10:39 AM on August 21, 2009


Man, speaking of underwhelming trailers, have y'all seen the one for Fantastic Mr. Fox? Man. The animation just looks... awful.
posted by ORthey at 1:29 PM on August 21 [+] [!]


First of all, no it doesn't. Second of all, dude: Eponysomething.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:42 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Terminator will always be a slasher film to me.

Heh. I saw Terminator and T2 not too long ago and had that same thought. It's just a sociopathic killer on the loose, basically. T2 has no shortage of goring and stabbing to boot.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:43 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not a bad plan, but it's something that is going to take a lot of new thinking on the part of the marketers to sell it properly, and to convince people in Western societies to actually leave their houses and go spend $15 on a movie, instead of waiting 6 months for it to come out on Netflix.

...and therefore it is not a bad plan but an absolutely terrible plan.
posted by rusty at 10:43 AM on August 21, 2009


y'know...this whole time i thought it was ridley scott who directed this and was really excited, thinking it would somehow be 'about' virtual worlds, their effect on us, get into the ontology of it, etc. ...something like the way he did with 'thelma and louise' where the world of the men and the world of the women split and then continue to move further and further away from each other... then i realized it was james cameron...
yeah, this is gonna suck. but at least it might be fun, right? it's always fun watching a $400million trainwreck, right?

and why all the hating on 'true lies'?...that movie was FUN.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:44 AM on August 21, 2009


hmm the movie version of some dumbshit anime is not good you say
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:45 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder if there's something with the new digital/3D stuff that makes things look a lot more computer generated than they actually are when decompressed from H.264 and viewed on a high-resolution computer screen, instead of in a movie theatre? For example, large parts of the Coraline trailer looks very much CGI on my screen, but I have no memory of that when I saw the 3D version on the big screen.

As for Avatar, it has Cameron, Weaver, and explosions. That's good enough for me.
posted by effbot at 10:47 AM on August 21, 2009


I don't know. with the exception of Titanic, Cameron's track record is phenomenal. If you can find me someone with a more impressive action movie portfolio, I'd love to see it. I can't think of anyone with as many flat-out incredible action movies to his credit. in addition, he has routinely pushed for stories with:

1. strong, non-stereotypical female leads
2. avoiding racial stereotypes
3. human conflict providing more substance than just special effects.

now, for all his flaws (infamously silly dialogue, etc...) he really has made some seriously high quality flicks. for that reason alone, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, despite the meh factor of the trailer. ultimately, it wasn't special effects that made his movies good, and I hope he remembers that. with Titanic, he forgot that and what resulted was the most expensive movie ever made for a story that had been competently told a million times before on shoe string budgets, and it was terrible. but maybe in all the time since then he's remembered. I don't know. the whole 3d projection thing isn't inspiring a lot of confidence.

also, what's this Delgo movie? never heard of it.
posted by shmegegge at 10:48 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Optimus Chyme: "hmm the movie version of some dumbshit anime is not good you say"

you're thinking of a different Avatar movie.
posted by shmegegge at 10:48 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ok, I'm going to say this movie will be phenomenal, and I am basing this completely on Beowulf 3D.

Beowulf 3D had an awful, ridiculous, laughable story. But it had the most amazing 3D I've ever seen start to finish. It was a spectacle to behold and I have a projector at home and rarely leave the house for movies in nyc. Now we have James Cameron making a movie with tech a few years down the line and a lot more money.

I will see this as soon as is humanly possible in IMAX 3D based purely on that reasoning.
posted by slapshot57 at 10:48 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


What?! There are PEOPLE in this movie! I've just seen another movie with people in it recently - like LAST WEEK! There were ALL KINDS of people in that movie, too! Is Hollywood so COMPLETELY out of ideas that that have to put people in EVERY movie?!

Movie Exec: "Oh, I want to make a movie but I don't know what about."
Movie Writer: "Well, there are lots of other blockbuster franchises that have people in them. Let's do one of those."
Movie Exec: "People?! BRILLIANT!"

What the fuck, James 'Rip-off Artist' Cameron!?
What the fuck, Hollywood?!

PFT...People...
posted by Pecinpah at 10:49 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


If the braying nerds and the nerd dollar mattered that much at the box office then Watchmen would've not been a commercial failure. James Cameron will make a fuckton of money for Fox.
posted by basicchannel at 10:51 AM on August 21, 2009


Not every movie can be as good as Krull.

Yeah, but every movie should have the Glaive in it.

"You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!"

*snick fumwumwumwumwum chunk*
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:51 AM on August 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


Is there any film that is wholly original? Break down any story, scene, or character enough, and they're all basic formulas.

The Delgo parallels are rather uninspired:
1- heroic male leads who sprint through woodsy shadows in foreign lands - any film shot in forests could have this
2- tough but emotional female leads - really? Is this that unique?
3- female leads (among others) flying on the backs of winged reptilian beasts - limited to films with winged reptilian beasts
4- aircraft zooming through fields of massive floating rocks - more common in asteroid fields, but it happens
5- big, scary, fanged monsters - again, not terribly unique
6- alien warriors uncorking their fiercest battle cries - because battle cries are usually timid
7- all of the above as individual hurdles in the undying quest for love - like Romeo and Juliette, except more forests, floating rocks, and flying/toothy beasts.

As for the other list:
1- no more blue (aquatic) humanoids in tanks,
2- no more video game adaptations with featuring residents of the uncanny valley,
3- no more sleeveless space marines,
4- no more dragon riding,
5- no more sky armadas,
6- no more humanoid love stories,
7- no more scenes with main characters suddenly surrounded by enchanting faerie type creatures,
8- no more elves shooting bows + arrows,
9- no more disappointing prehistoric monsters, and
10- no more hybrid people/aliens who want to leave their prison-like operating rooms.

Maybe there are scenes that match the pacing and feel more than the snippets of text imply, but trying to avoid these 17 stereotyped scenes would only lead you to other scenes that have been done before.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:53 AM on August 21, 2009


I saw a trailer yesterday that got me much more excited.
posted by COBRA! at 10:54 AM on August 21, 2009 [10 favorites]


with the exception of Titanic, Cameron's track record is phenomenal.

I think Titanic is a pretty significant part of Cameron's resumé, whether you personally enjoyed it or not.
posted by Mister_A at 10:55 AM on August 21, 2009


I wonder if there's something with the new digital/3D stuff that makes things look a lot more computer generated than they actually are when decompressed from H.264 and viewed on a high-resolution computer screen, instead of in a movie theatre? For example, large parts of the Coraline trailer looks very much CGI on my screen, but I have no memory of that when I saw the 3D version on the big screen.

*cough* Coraline was puppets *cough*
posted by Artw at 10:56 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I saw a trailer yesterday that got me much more excited.

Oh yes. Oh yes indeed.
posted by Artw at 10:57 AM on August 21, 2009


Oh, and let me get in on the Krull love. I fuckin' loved Krull.
posted by Mister_A at 10:57 AM on August 21, 2009


hmm the movie version of some dumbshit anime is not good you say

holy shit
posted by hamida2242 at 10:58 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know. with the exception of Titanic, Cameron's track record is phenomenal.
Highest grossing film of all time, 11 Oscar wins, including Director, Cinematography and Picture.

Tough crowd.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:59 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


(although looking back at my linked trailer, I note that Dean Venture-- when he's not loving and being loved by Hitler-- does fly a winged lizard through some floating rocks)
posted by COBRA! at 10:59 AM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


» I just want to slap whoever decided it was ok to use that Papyrus-esque font in the trailer. It's like my elderly aunt did the typography.
It's not Papyrus-esque. It is Papyrus. And yeah, the hell.

For Cameron’s next trick, he’ll be helming a $150M rom-com with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Title credits to be set in Comic Sans, with some Curlz MT thrown in for extra pizzazz.

</lolfonts>
posted by sidesh0w at 11:01 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


avoiding racial stereotypes

Ahem. The Arab villains/buffons/terrorists in True Lies are about as stereotyped as they can be - to quote Christian Blauvelt, "This film is perhaps the ur-text for depictions of Muslim terrorists; they’re bloodthirsty, willing to torture women and children, wish to destroy the United States and Israel, and are cartoonishly incompetent yet still menacing enough to be taken seriously."
posted by effbot at 11:01 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


*cough* Coraline was puppets *cough*

That was my point, of course.
posted by effbot at 11:02 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


By the way, is it supposed to be capitalized like that? AVATAR? Is that how we can tell the difference between the topic at hand and the one with the air bending? And if so, why the caps? Is it some sort of contrived acronym? I assume that the Cameron fanboys can fill me in on the full deets.
posted by Mizu at 11:03 AM on August 21, 2009


I was saying to someone yesterday how much better District 9 looked than what I saw of Avatar. Part of the reason was that WETA really nailed the integration of practical effects with CGI, while Avatar looks like the decision was made to just chuck practical effects altogether.

Um...

When the film was conceived, I just assumed Weta would do all of it, because they were huge. But I hadn’t factored in that James Cameron would bring Avatar there and basically consume all of Wellington, and New Zealand as a whole. So Weta was not able to do most of the film, but they ended up doing the mothership.

Avatar is filmed in the old "Spruce Goose" hangar, the 16,000-sq.-ft. space where Howard Hughes built his wooden airplane. The film is set in the future, and most of the action takes place on a mythical planet, Pandora. The actors work in an empty studio; Pandora's lush jungle-aquatic environment is computer-generated in New Zealand by Jackson's special-effects company, Weta Digital, and added later.
posted by rory at 11:08 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those big blue elves with tails make my heart a stone.
posted by moonbiter at 11:15 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cameron does have a decent track record with making movies which please audiences in a deeper way than other films for some reason.

Terminator
Aliens
The Abyss
Terminator 2
True Lies
Titanic


Don't forget Aquaman.
posted by Bonzai at 11:16 AM on August 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


If I want sci-fi fantasy and amazing fx, I'll wait for Gentlemen Broncos, uh, I mean Broncanus.
posted by vronsky at 11:16 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


effbot: "avoiding racial stereotypes

Ahem. The Arab villains/buffons/terrorists in True Lies are about as stereotyped as they can be - to quote Christian Blauvelt, "This film is perhaps the ur-text for depictions of Muslim terrorists; they’re bloodthirsty, willing to torture women and children, wish to destroy the United States and Israel, and are cartoonishly incompetent yet still menacing enough to be taken seriously."
"

it's a fair point. I think his other films have been better about this, but True Lies is not a very good movie for a bunch of reasons, and that's definitely one of them. thanks for reminding me.
posted by shmegegge at 11:17 AM on August 21, 2009


Ahem. The Arab villains/buffons/terrorists in True Lies are about as stereotyped as they can be

I actually walked out of True Lies because of this. A movie full of villains that were quickly identifiable because they all looked racially similar to my brother-in-law (who was Greek) was just nauseatingly offensive.

As for the rest of the Cameron portfolio, it's hard to argue with the Terminators and Aliens in terms of full-on suspense and action, masterfully handled ... but from that point on it gets pretty dodgy for me. Abyss fell apart badly at the end (in both versions). Titanic was astonishing to look at but dramatically DUMB, the actual history of the disaster being far more interesting than Cameron's fictionalizing (Billy Zane firing off his f***ing gun below decks for Christ's sake!?!?).

As for AVATAR (all caps because that's how I happened to type it the first time; no deeper reason than that), what I find intriguing is that it's now looking like it's success may well be dependent on its effectiveness as a good old fashioned story, as opposed to a spectacle.

This is good.
posted by philip-random at 11:19 AM on August 21, 2009


I think the reactions say far more about the jaded nature of fandom and the internet than it does about the movie itself.

Then again, I LIKE the idea of "Aliens meets Ferngully".
posted by happyroach at 11:20 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Crapatar.
posted by ColdChef at 11:20 AM on August 21, 2009


dirtdirt: "I don't know. with the exception of Titanic, Cameron's track record is phenomenal.
Highest grossing film of all time, 11 Oscar wins, including Director, Cinematography and Picture.

Tough crowd.
"

Yeah, look, neither Oscars nor ticket sales are good metrics for quality. 2001 lost best picture to Oliver! and Brando's work in Streetcar Named Desire lost out to Bogart in African Queen. It's just not a great way to gauge quality. and ticket sales... I mean, shit, is Michael Bay an auteur for selling tickets? if you like Titanic, then awesome. really. enjoy it in good health. but for me, it's his worst picture, and vastly overrated. but it's just my opinion.
posted by shmegegge at 11:20 AM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Something tells me "Aliens meets Ferngully" would have a VERY different plot.
posted by hippybear at 11:22 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember in the 90s all the doomsayers expecting Titanic to sink because of it's tremendous budget, its love story and the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead.

This movie is going to make zillions of dollars.
posted by cazoo at 11:23 AM on August 21, 2009


African Queen is a fucking awesome movie and should be watched at least once a year, preferably around Christmas or Easter, along with The Great Escape and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
posted by Artw at 11:24 AM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


strong, non-stereotypical female leads

Michelle Rodriguez has become her own stereotype. Please, no more.

Have you seen the full director's cut of The Abyss? I just thought I'd mention that, as the theatrical release cuts out a whole substory that really guts the movie in a way it can't recover from.

Ugh. Really? Can others confirm/deny? Because I thought The Abyss sucked ass, but loathe as I am to subject myself to it again, I might do if the new cut transforms it into a halfway decent film.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:24 AM on August 21, 2009


I think they recut it as Sphere.
posted by Artw at 11:25 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


it's his worst picture, and vastly overrated.

For me it's his second worst, and how could it not be overrated? I still think, you know, it's hard to see it as a blotch on his record.

For what it's worth, both Oliver! and Bogart as Charlie are pretty good, even if not the best that year, despite their Oscars. I'd put Titanic up there - maybe not worth everything it got, but it's surely worth TALKING about, and deserves some of the accolades it gets. Michael Bay is a whole different kettle of fish.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:28 AM on August 21, 2009


I hadn't seen a 3D movie since Friday the 13th 3D back when I was in high-school. Then a couple of weeks ago we took the kids to see that stupid goddamn 3D movie about hamster spies. I have to say: the 3D made that awful, awful movie slightly more tolerable. It was really excellent 3D. Much better than I remember from Friday the 13th 3D.

It didn't make the story any better, of course. But I'm very impressed by the new 3D technology and looking forward to a new wave of crap movies with better 3D. Especially using BitterOldPunk's standard.
posted by Cookiebastard at 11:28 AM on August 21, 2009


Durn Bronzefist: "Michelle Rodriguez has become her own stereotype. Please, no more. "

true, but that's post his involvement.
posted by shmegegge at 11:28 AM on August 21, 2009


I couldn't even make it through the trailer without getting bored. Never a good sign.
posted by bunnycup at 11:29 AM on August 21, 2009


Ugh. Really? Can others confirm/deny? Because I thought The Abyss sucked ass, but loathe as I am to subject myself to it again, I might do if the new cut transforms it into a halfway decent film.

FWIW, I've only seen the director's cut of The Abyss, and enjoyed it. Granted, I only saw it once because it was like a four-hour movie spanning quite a few laserdiscs.
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:29 AM on August 21, 2009


Those guys sure do love their Command and Conquer Orcas.
posted by lumensimus at 11:29 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


also, I'm not dissing on African Queen or Bogart. I love them both, but Brando redefined screen acting that year, and the academy didn't recognize him for it.
posted by shmegegge at 11:29 AM on August 21, 2009


As I recall, both versions have the "aliens as deus ex machina" at the end, which was sort of what bothered me about it. I don't recall being more impressed with the director's cut, although the story is a bit more fleshed out and such. Again, my impression. YMMV.
posted by hippybear at 11:31 AM on August 21, 2009


Anyhoo, After Last Season turned out to be a real movie thing. Here is a group of people discussing the movie. Here is a review.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:33 AM on August 21, 2009


Cookiebastard - You want to see Up or Coraline that way.
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


When Friday The 13th Part III in 3D was playing at the cinema when I was growing up. I took peeled grapes into the theater with me for one of the showings I attended. Sat close to the front of the theater. At exactly the correct moment, just as Jason SQUEEZES the guys head and his eye pops out and flies straight out of the screen, I threw them over my shoulder into the crowd behind me. One guy screamed out loud. It was perfect.
posted by hippybear at 11:34 AM on August 21, 2009 [19 favorites]


This looks like a very interesting story - and I would go see it on story grounds alone. (what's with the planet, is it broken up? flying around everywhere! it's like Niven's Integral Trees or something).

But the Farscape/Henson/Weta fan in me thinks that they might have been better off mixing CGI for background and machines with makeup and prosthetics for people (of all sizes and colours).

on preview: Just because he changed acting doesn't mean it was a good thing. I think Bogart is better than most post-Brando actors - I like presentationalist acting, and so do many modern audiences, as we can see from the on-going popularity of British actors (who are mostly trained in presentationalist techniques, rather than more internal techniques).
posted by jb at 11:35 AM on August 21, 2009


Does anyone else think it looks exactly like it's set in Netherstorm? I am not sure whether that's a bad or good thing.
posted by saturnine at 11:37 AM on August 21, 2009


I would see After Last Season in IMAX 3D.
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:38 AM on August 21, 2009


Those guys sure do love their Command and Conquer Orcas.

That's clearly a Nort Atmocraft.
posted by Artw at 11:39 AM on August 21, 2009


Ugh. Really? Can others confirm/deny? Because I thought The Abyss sucked ass, but loathe as I am to subject myself to it again, I might do if the new cut transforms it into a halfway decent film.

My take on the original Abyss was that the ending just didn't work. Lots of cool drama and deep suspense ... culminating in a surprise Close Encounters Of The Third Kind sort of moment that felt like it stumbled in from another movie, and I ended up laughing at it. So the big difference in the Director's Cut is that it tries to set this surprise ending up a bit better, and then spends more time delivering it. But I still ended up laughing at it.

So no, don't waste your time.
posted by philip-random at 11:39 AM on August 21, 2009


No one wanted 3D to take off more than I did, but I have yet to have a single overwhelmingly positive 3-D experience, even with recent movies that are specifically engineered to be viewed that way.

UP was the best use of 3D I've ever seen in a movie, it really enhanced the experience with looking like a cheap gimmick.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:40 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


you're thinking of a different Avatar movie.
posted by shmegegge at 10:48 AM on August 21


holy shit
posted by hamida2242 at 10:58 AM on August 21


In my defense, as soon as I hear anything even tangentially involving anime, my brain shuts down and I just say whatever about how anime is dumb and terrible. This movie should be called "Not-the-Anime AVATAR: A Totally Different Film that Does Not Involve Anime."

ps look at how dumb i am
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:40 AM on August 21, 2009


> I remember in the 90s all the doomsayers expecting Titanic to sink because of it's tremendous budget, its love story and the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead.

Yeah, I was one of those people. My line of thinking was; it's over three hours long, a huge downer, you know how it ends...who's going to want to see that? I lost ten bucks to a friend betting that it wouldn't make over $100 million. But I won the money back by betting the same guy Private Parts wouldn't go over $100 million, so it was all good.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:41 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, seconding the props for the 3-D U2 concert movie. Regardless of what you think of U2, it looked amazing, total next-level, you-are-there shit. Coraline looked great, too.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:45 AM on August 21, 2009


Being able to render the motion capture animation in real time and directing as if you're using a free floating camera in a game engine are both very big deals. Very few people have the technical expertise and the budget to get this done right now.

It takes money to get it set up, and it's certainly not a perfected art form, but places like Jim Henson's Creature Shop have this sort of gear and are using it to do stuff like kids' shows for PBS. Not the biggest budget ever, public television-- I worked at the Creature Shop last year on an HDPS show and we were a merry, ragtag band indeed. A couple of my former coworkers, including my old boss, are pulling down an engineering Emmy for it at the end of the month.

Certainly, Cameron paid a lot more for Avatar than we did for Sid the Science Kid, but we had some of the same motion-capture technicians and so on. I think we did OK. ;)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:45 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Here's the REAL question... Will I be allowed to purchase a ticket to the movie WITHOUT the $3 markup on the ticket "for the glasses", since I already have three pair from other movies I've seen? Or will I be forced to once again accept a "fee" that isn't part of the "ticket price" but which is nonetheless mandatory?
posted by hippybear at 11:46 AM on August 21, 2009


You know, the small thing about this trailer that actually makes me want to see it is that it promises the return of that signature James Cameron color palette--everything done mostly in blue, green and red, with a strong emphasis on blue. Sure, the aliens are blue, but everything in Cameron movies is often blue, and no one handles the color precisely like he does (for example, see the final third of Titanic, much of Terminator 2, and pretty much all of The Abyss). I wonder if that will even come through in 3-D.
posted by Prospero at 11:47 AM on August 21, 2009


ah hah hah
I love the smell of movie snobs in the morning. It smells like ...bitterness and desperation... and oh wait..is that cheetos?
posted by concreteforest at 11:47 AM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


I watched the trailer twice, once in standard, then a second time in HD.

Reaction to the standard trailer: meh.
Reaction to HD: AWESOME!

I'm normally not that impressed by what HD brings to the table, but for whatever reason it made Avatar leap from bland to incredible for me. That inclines me to believe those who say the film will need to be viewed in the format the director wants me to see it in if I truly want to appreciate it and experience it.

I'm not going to let myself get too excited about it, but it's currently high on my Must See list.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:48 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


So the big difference in the Director's Cut is that it tries to set this surprise ending up a bit better, and then spends more time delivering it.

For me, the director's cut of The Abyss still has the same final act problems, just more of them. BUT the Director's Cut adds a lot of other stuff - interpersonal stuff between Bud and Lindsey throughout the movie, and stuff with the crew throughout the first act. You know, the sort of thing that gets cut from movies for length. The stuff that makes movies GOOD. I say the Director's Cut of the Abyss is better than the original cut, much better, but you should still stop it before things get silly with Bud at the bottom.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:49 AM on August 21, 2009


Having only ever heard the title of the movie mentioned here and there, knowing nothing about it beyond that, the trailer made me wanna see the movie. Not necessarily in a movie theater however.

Maybe this is just a classic case of inflated expectations for most of the people that are reacting negatively?
posted by pyrex at 11:50 AM on August 21, 2009


After the character wakes up as the blue dude and the trailer moves on to shots of the jungle world, the whole thing looks to me like it was built in a computer. I think they should have ran with that - instead of being on a different world, it could be in a Second Life world, and instead of naming it Avatar, they could have called it Tron 3.
posted by Staggering Jack at 11:50 AM on August 21, 2009


The only thing I remember about True Lies (which I saw in the theater!) was Arnold scaring and torturing his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis). It was painfully unpleasant and uncomfortable to watch.
posted by chowflap at 11:54 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


hippybear: Well, the brilliance of Titanic was how seamless all the CG integration was with the live action. It's nearly impossible to tell where it all comes together, creating a reality which was never actually filmed, but is entirely believable.

Seriously?

I was 13 or 14 and saw it on the big screen, and I spent half the movie laughing at the corny seams all over the Huge Dramatic Shots. I can't even imagine watching it now, with a dozen years dating the CG.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:57 AM on August 21, 2009


*cough* Coraline was puppets *cough*

While it is all stop-motion animation, there's an awful lot of VFX personnel listed on IMDB for Coraline-- for one thing, the puppets were rapid-prototyped on a 3D printer off CG models to get the full range of facial expressions without spending a decade modeling actual figures and faces by hand.

(If you're a Maya geek, that link has some interesting bits about what you have to consider in your models if they're going to be sent to a 3D printer instead of a render farm.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:59 AM on August 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Do all his movies begin with T or A?

No, I think he usually bags an actress halfway through production.

zing!
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:03 PM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The only thing I remember about True Lies (which I saw in the theater!) was Arnold scaring and torturing his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis). It was painfully unpleasant and uncomfortable to watch.

For a light hearted action movie theres all kinds of stuff about True Lies that’s jarring as fuck, the creepy controlling nature of the Arnolt character being chief amongst them. You could take the ethnic stereotype terrorist out entirely and have a good basis for a Hitchcockian thriller about a total psychopath.
posted by Artw at 12:05 PM on August 21, 2009


On reflection, you probably meant the ship sinking. That looked pretty good at the time, though I can't imagine it aged terribly well.

I was referring to the piles of CG they tacked on out of laziness, like shooting a sunset on the ocean on a soundstage and adding a digital ocean and digital sunshine. Looked like hell and made the whole thing completely ridiculous and impossible to take seriously.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:11 PM on August 21, 2009


WTF is up with the old lady throwing the necklace into the water? That's worth money, you silly cow!
posted by Artw at 12:13 PM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ocean of secrets my ass.
posted by Artw at 12:14 PM on August 21, 2009


There is a huge push for this to be the next big thing.

And it will fail. It will succeed at being a fad for a while. Then it will die.

- 3D keeps failing over and over. It seems to become a fad once every 15 years or so. Then it withers and dies.

- Smellovision failed.

- Sensoround failed.

- Even most non-linear or experimental story-telling techniques fail. (Here, I'm defining "fail" to mean that they don't catch on to become lasting trends.)

Why? Because they are not needed for the narrative experience. Artists really really want to innovate, and I sympathize with the urge. There are a vocal minority of people who get into seeing technical innovations and experimentation, but most people respond to simple storytelling. They get temporarily wowed by the latest whatever, but they quickly get bored with it and then simply want a good story.

Our brains seem to be hard wired to respond to character-based stories with beginnings, middles and ends. And to get bored by icing that gets put on top of that.

It's great to see a movie on a huge screen, but it doesn't surprise me that TV stole a large portion of the audience from the cinema. Because ultimately even the size of the screen is secondary to simple narrative. I don't know of any great movie that I can't stand to watch on television. I would much rather see "2001" or "Gone With The Wind" in the cineplex, but ultimately I just want to see it. I just want the story.

The only innovation that is likely to stick is one that aids "this happened to our hero; and then this happened; and then THIS happened..."

Sound aided this, so sound movies lasted; color didn't aid it as much, but it aided it a little and didn't hurt it, so it's here to stay. It's hard for me to think of anything else that we need. Cinema is already streamlined to contain those aspects necessary to tell a story. Most other innovations are gratuitous.

If you want to add a sticky feature to movies (or novels or theatre...), here's the acid test:

1) Do you want to add it because it's cool? If so, it probably won't be a lasting trend.

2) Do you want to add it because it is integral to the narrative process? If so, it may well last.
posted by grumblebee at 12:19 PM on August 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Here's a thing I threw together because god damn if this doesn't look like a disney movie:

Colors of Avatar
posted by CharlesV42 at 12:21 PM on August 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


I've just seen the 20 minutes footage preview in 3d, and I have to say that the visuals really are amazing. The alien world is just beautiful, and I can't wait to see the whole film.
I don't much care for the character design though, also the "noble savage" thing they are trodding out there seems to be a bit over-played.
And I also don't know if my eyes can take 90 minutes with these polarised glasses
posted by kolophon at 12:24 PM on August 21, 2009


Colour movies will never last!
posted by Artw at 12:24 PM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


avoiding racial stereotypes

Ahem. The Arab villains/buffons/terrorists in True Lies are about as stereotyped as they can be - to quote Christian Blauvelt, "This film is perhaps the ur-text for depictions of Muslim terrorists; they’re bloodthirsty, willing to torture women and children, wish to destroy the United States and Israel, and are cartoonishly incompetent yet still menacing enough to be taken seriously."



Please don't tell the people of Iran this, they just 'elected' Mahmoud Ahmadinejad their president.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:28 PM on August 21, 2009


- 3D keeps failing over and over. It seems to become a fad once every 15 years or so. Then it withers and dies.

It's the glasses. Once they develop an immersive 3D technology that doesn't require the audience to wear anything, then 3D will become the norm. I wear glasses anyway, and putting 3D specs over my trifocals is just not my idea of a fun evening. Genuine PITA.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:29 PM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kids these days. Back in my day we had real imagination. We could put ourselves in an imaginary world just by listening to the radio! You and your fancy moving pictures don't come nearly close enough to real life for me.
posted by scrutiny at 12:32 PM on August 21, 2009


Please don't tell the people of Iran this, they just 'elected' Mahmoud Ahmadinejad their president.

Talking about stereotypes...
posted by effbot at 12:33 PM on August 21, 2009


Seems like as of this year 3D is standard for all animated features and I see no reason why it would not continue to be so for the indefinite future.
posted by Artw at 12:33 PM on August 21, 2009


Don;t tell the people of Iran that OHenryPacey just called them Arabs.
posted by Artw at 12:33 PM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I suppose it's possible that 3d will disappear again, but considering that every single animated film now is in 3-d, I get the feeling this time it's different. In the past, you'd get, what, maybe one 3d film a year? There have already been like six this summer, and w/ CG animated films it's just as easy to create it in 3d as it is in 2d. The only thing that would kill it off is if people stopped going to see them, but if every film is in 3d, that won't happen.

Plus, right now it's the only thing that they can market as something different than watching it on blu-ray.
posted by nushustu at 12:45 PM on August 21, 2009


it won't take that long before everyone will have a 3d TV at home anyway. Also here is a flash video version for those of us without quicktime.

And yeah, the trailer looked like pretty cheezy, I mean to me it did look a lot like a cheezy video game cut screen both in appearance and content. Like a crossover of Halo and WoW or something (I mean I'm not too familiar with those games, but yeah).

But, who knows maybe the plot is really good, or maybe it's mind blowing in 3D or something. You could probably put together a "bad" trailer for some of his other movies.
posted by delmoi at 12:46 PM on August 21, 2009


Don't tell the Arabs or the Persians that they look like philip-random's Greek brother-in-law.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 12:48 PM on August 21, 2009


Why? Because they are not needed for the narrative experience.

Do you mind? The Mercury Theatre on the Air is on.

Bah. On preview, scrutiny beat me to it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:49 PM on August 21, 2009


Don't tell any Greeks they look Turkish, or vice-versa.
posted by Artw at 12:50 PM on August 21, 2009


To be accurate -- Smellovision was never adopted beyond the one, maybe two, possibly three films (if you count John Waters' use of Odorama), and Sensurround had the drawback of destroying the buildings in which it was installed. We have already seen more 3D movies produced in this current wave than were made in the previous couple of waves combined, I think.

I agree with the assessment that it will require the development of immersive environment creation without the need for glasses. There was an article I just read today about 3D television, which of course requires glasses. If you can't just casually wander through the room while the TV is on and get glimpses of it piecemeal (which is how many watch television), it will never take off.

I haven't yet seen an application of 3D, outside of perhaps that U2 concert film, where I felt the 3D was a feature and not featurebloat. Perhaps Avatar will change that. Perhaps not. Right now the creation of 3D is to lure people out of their 100" screen and Dolby True Digital 9.5 surround equipped living rooms and into the theater to deliver an experience which cannot be created at home. And I support the communal aspects of movie-going, so that's great. It's a shame that it takes a gimmick to convince people that group experiences might have a quality that solitary ones do not.
posted by hippybear at 12:58 PM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ahem...I'll just leave this here.
posted by GavinR at 1:00 PM on August 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


I saw the trailer yesterday, not knowing or hearing anything about this movie until I saw a poster for it in the theater the day before, and I was blown away by how pretty it looked. I think there are a lot of arrogant assumptions going on here, and the "FAIL" that's being thrown around is rather narrow-minded. 3D movies are nowhere close to dying out - they're moving in the opposite direction, at an exponential speed. All directors and artists love to claim that they have made the next amazing step, but as with any claim coming from someone invested in a project, take it with a small grain of skepticism. Not outright disdain for the whole film. That's what doesn't make sense to me here. It looks like it'll be a beautiful, entertaining hour and a half of cool things that don't exist in our world. That's always a hit in theaters.

I'll allow for differences in style preference, but some of the scorn towards AVATAR seems incredibly silly.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 1:00 PM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Despite all the hype, Avatar's premise has always sounded really bland to me. The trailer did not change my mind on this note, but it did remind me that Cameron is one of the best there is at reasonably intelligent spectacle. So I'm sort of excited for that reason alone. The aliens look really goofy, though.
posted by brundlefly at 1:03 PM on August 21, 2009


Artw, I pretty much want to see every movie that way.
posted by Cookiebastard at 1:06 PM on August 21, 2009


Internet nerds rejecting an entire film based on ~115 seconds of footage? Yeah, sounds about right. I don't think, however, this constitutes a "problem" for the production. I've come to believe that the power of "meh" is so unassailable online that, were it announced that Jack Kirby were to return from the dead, announce that he'd been studying with Renaissance masters in the afterlife and was planning to return to the Fantastic Four with an enchanted pencil that would animate his panels like photographs in The Daily Prophet, somewhere, on some board, someone would comment, "Meh, I liked Devil Dinosaur better."
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:06 PM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am hoping Avatar is as good as The Abyss or something, but the trailer made me think that George Lucas and James Cameron aren't familiar enough with what video games have been doing for years. Also, I was relieved that I wasn't the only person who thought of Delgo, whose production story--it was some guy's dream that he staked everything on--is really sad.
posted by Kirklander at 1:21 PM on August 21, 2009


hippybear, it's often the "communal aspects of movie-going" that have kept me from seeing movies in the theater more than 2 or 3 times a year in the first place! (Though a good comedy can be made better by watching in a crowd.) Having to get there early to get a good seat, being distracted from the movie by people talking, cell-phones, people having to squish in front of me to get by to go to the restroom, etc. All of these things annoy me enough that I'd usually rather wait a few months and watch it in my living room where I can pause the movie to use the restroom or visit the fridge, eat a decent meal while watching if I want, etc.

So a gimmick like excellent 3D will get me into a theater. I mean, there's no way in hell I would have taken my family to the hamster-spy movie, at a cost of like, 40 or 50 bucks, if that dumbass movie had been in regular 2D. Really, I wouldn't even have rented it for $2.50 to watch at home. 3D, and the zany jive-talking voiceover work of Tracy Morgan, was all that movie had going for it.
posted by Cookiebastard at 1:24 PM on August 21, 2009


The game looks pretty good. Although it too looks like a video game cut scene!
posted by brundlefly at 1:33 PM on August 21, 2009


Cookiebastard: Yeah, I hear what you're saying. Although what you describe is more accurately named "rude behavior by poorly socialized people" than what I meant when I was talking about communal experience. It's a shame that your experiences are ruined by things which I was taught by the age of 4 are inappropriate in an environment where an audience has come together to pay attention to a performance. (Even if that performance is a projected, pre-created experience, others in the hall deserve a quality experience more than I might need to tell the person next to me that I don't like her dress, or whatever.)

Some of the most fun I ever had in a movie theater? Going to one of the re-releases of Star Wars IV in the theater. Despite anything that Lucas may have done to bastardize the movie, it was amazing to sit in a crowded theater for the first time in over a decade, and to listen to the kids in the audience, many of them taken there by parents around my age, making the same kind of involuntary reactions to the action on the screen that I know I made when I was 9. (My favorite moment was listening to two kids arguing during the closing credits about whether the Death Star explosion was "nuclear" or not. Total classic fanboy moment between two 8 year olds.)

Maybe you should come visit here for your AVATAR experience. We have extra rooms here, and the audiences seem to be more subdued than in other cities around the country, from my experience anyway. :)
posted by hippybear at 1:43 PM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kind of reminded me of "Omaha the Cat Dancer."
posted by KokuRyu at 1:55 PM on August 21, 2009


Well, I watched it in HD and it looks even more like a game in which you have turned anisotropic filtering up to 11. Nothing's really *sharp* in the rendered sequences, quite unlike the filmed portion. It has a huge air of unreality about it. I'm not buying it. I think it's a bomb. It'll do reasonably at the B.O. but nothing like enough to make its money back.

I'm familiar with games wanting to look like movies. But if you want a movie that looks like a game, I'm guessing TRON is going to be the winner here, as it steers clear of the uncanny valley which AVATAR seems determined to pitch an enormous tent in.
posted by unSane at 1:58 PM on August 21, 2009


My wife and I watched the trailer yesterday. Is there supposed to be something amazing about this movie in the trailer? We didn't find it innovative, not even sub-spectacular.
posted by Chocomog at 2:01 PM on August 21, 2009


I've seen at least 1/2 a dozen 3D movies in the last couple of years and have liked the effect in general. It does seem to work better in animation than in live action movies, Beowulf and Coraline are the best one's I've seen.
posted by octothorpe at 2:02 PM on August 21, 2009


My take on the original Abyss was that the ending just didn't work

They were setting up the sequel, Son of Abyss.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:27 PM on August 21, 2009


This looks to me just like Old Man's War, or maybe the sequel The Ghost Brigades.

If it is anything like those, it'll be great!
posted by poe at 2:47 PM on August 21, 2009


Metafilter: 164 comments about a teaser trailer.
posted by neuron at 3:01 PM on August 21, 2009


I only just recently figured out that the kerfluffle about Avatar wasn't referencing Shyamalan's adaptation of the cartoon series of the same name (which is called The Last Airbender instead).

Also, the premise (sans the whole remote-control body thing) is very similar to Battle for Terra, by Mefi's own kcalder.

Also also, they stole those flying machines from Halo 3!
posted by Rhaomi at 3:30 PM on August 21, 2009


It's entirely focused on the audience going to the 3D equipped theater.

Fixed that for you. I know in the past 5 years or so 3D has really taken off and in most major cities you can find a 3D capable theater. But does anyone know the numbers? Do more than half of all Americans have a 3D theater within, say, 15 miles of their home? This is the big gamble of this film. Because based on that trailer, it looked like the latest sub-Pixar Dreamworks animated feature.

Another gripe: maybe this will be explained in the movie via some true science fiction, but what's with the Star Trek-esqe "aliens who look like humans almost exactly but have a funky color and weird ears and a funky brow. Oh, and they can speak English just fine". Huh? That's not science fiction, that's fantasy. I forgive Star Trek for doing this; it was almost certainly a budget decision to make the aliens just humans-but-a-little-different, but come on, Cameron. For $400 million you can film diaphanous blobs and create a new language.

But I digress. I live in Japan, which by the way is Hollywood's 2nd biggest market after the U.S., and here the total number of 3D/IMAX theaters comes to a whopping zero. Doesn't exist here; the theater industry here is fairly lame and a lot of theaters are pretty old and in lousy condition. If the magic of Avatar is based on its 3D appeal, approximately zero people in Japan will experience that. Including me! *sobs, cries in beer*
posted by zardoz at 3:48 PM on August 21, 2009


2. avoiding racial stereotypes

One thing that Avatar does have going for it is the fact that the characters, who are inspired by Asian and Arctic peoples, and live in a setting inspired by Asian and Arctic cultures, have been cast as white.

Oh, except for the villain.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:15 PM on August 21, 2009


And now I go to crawl into a hole and forget this thread existed, because I somehow managed to forgot that Shyamalan is the one directing the Avatar based on the cartoon show, and had no idea that there was an AVATAR directed by James Cameron scheduled to come out soon too.

Ahem.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:18 PM on August 21, 2009


zardoz: you have no idea how shocked (not shocked-SHOCKED!) I am to hear that Japan has so few 3D-equipped theaters. And only 3 IMAX theaters nationwide? That is astounding to me. I am so used to hearing about tech and stuff in Japan and weeping silently inside at how backwaters we are here in the US with such things, and now you spring this on me. And Google seems to back you up!!! It does seems that most of the 3D screens in Japan are part of motion rides and not for movie viewing at all.

While I haven't seen that many of the new 3D films, it does seem like something the Japanese would be totally into. By the time AVATAR comes out, perhaps they will have installed a few, using that film as the impetus. (Of course, they've been saying "THIS is the movie that will get every theater owner to convert" about every big-name 3D film that is released here for about 3 years, and it hasn't really happened yet.)

I have yet to see an IMAX 3D film. I'm not even sure I want to. I've really only enjoyed two actual Hollywood movies in IMAX so far... Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (Episode III), and Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones. (They took the digital master files for Ep. II and re-rendered it into IMAX format and clarity directly, and the details were breathtaking.) Most of the time, the screen is too big and modern action sequences are too fast for my optical processing system to grok what is actually happening on screen. I'm very happy with a decent regular-screen showing of something, as long as it isn't theater 36 at the cineplex, which is really a converted janitor's closet with 5 seats and an old classroom projector.
posted by hippybear at 4:35 PM on August 21, 2009


I think Cameron guessed that the trailer would not get across what is impressive about this film, which is why they have scheduled 15-min previews of 3-D footage at various Imax theaters all over the world today.

I went to see one of the previews in London.

I can confirm that the trailer does not do this film justice. When you see proper, extended scenes with the Na'Vi characters conversing with each other and interacting with the environment it is very believeable. The look in the Sigourney-Weaver-Avatar's eyes when she warns Sam Worthington's Avatar to run, the moves that Zoe Zaldana's Avatar makes when she tackles a pack of dog-like creatures, the scenes where Sam and Zoe talk to each other - they are very impressive.

And the 3-D was amazing as well, very crisp and precise, so clear and artifact-free that within 20 seconds you are just in the scenes, and not thinking about the 3-D aspects at all, just experiencing them.

Its not quite perfect. Perhaps 5% of the time, you can see that you are watching a CGI creature. But 95% of it is perfectly done, you believe that you're watching a 10-foot high blue alien, channelling the brain waves of Sam Worthington or Sigourney Weaver. And I think that 95% will be enough to make watching the whole film an amazing experience.

There have been fantastic levels of hype around this movie, and it wont be able to live up to all of it, but it definately does raise the CGI bar, especially in terms of exp​ression and movement.
posted by memebake at 5:15 PM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


hippybear-
yeah, it is ridiculous that there are no feature 3D/IMAX theaters in Japan, but I guess it's just not a Japanese `thang. And the industry is as unimaginative, bureaucratic, and backward thinking as any Japanese industry can be, which is pretty damn backward thinking.
posted by zardoz at 5:54 PM on August 21, 2009


In urban areas in the US, 3-D theaters are pretty prevalent. In fact most of the theaters I've seen in, say, the SF and NYC areas have at least 1 3D room. Not sure about the rest of the country, but I bet a fair amount of Americans can see it in 3D.

Also, it won't be too long before it's available at home. You can do it already on your PC, but it's kind of expensive and basically works for only some games. 3D-"ready" TVs are being advertised, and Sony is saying Blu-Ray will support it in 2010 : article
posted by wildcrdj at 5:55 PM on August 21, 2009


But is it worth downloading and installing quicktime??? Possibly not
posted by mattoxic at 7:21 PM on August 21, 2009


With the exception of The Terminator, Cameron's movies don't age well for me. I thought Aliens was the greatest thing ever when it was released, and I was really looking forward to seeing it again when I got the box set... Only to find it almost unwatchably cliched and dumb compared to the original, which is still just as great as it always was.

T2 was great in parts, but that kid ruined the movie for me with his squeaky voice and horrible acting, and the end was laughable. Again, I liked it when I saw it on opening day.

True lies, the same. Loved it when it was released, not too good, now.

And personally, I don't give a crap about 3d, the IMAX footage in Dark Knight was the greatest thing I've seen in movie tech ever. No glasses needed.
posted by Huck500 at 10:41 PM on August 21, 2009


OK, I'm back from Avatar Day in LA. Pretty much what memebake says. I did have one rather astonishing moment where my 60-prism-diopters-out-of-alignment eyes apparently decided to behave for once and the entire scene sort of... wrapped around me. It was a nice touch and completely threw me-- that's never happened for me with other 3D trailers and previews. If Avatar's all like that for you folks without visual impairments, which I assume it is, Cameron's done very, very well.

(I realize they're going to focus, for the years to come, on making 3D cinema ubiquitous. I have very little hope for them ever trying to make it accessible for those of us who can't converge an image without serious help.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:04 PM on August 21, 2009


Also topic sorta-derail: has anyone ever worked on a huge creative project and, thru lack of time/will/energy/resources just kind of cut corners and phoned in one or more elements just to get it done. And from that point on all you can see is that weak link?

The scenes in Hell from Spawn were not completed in time for the release, so they were just cut in in their unfinished form and left at that.
This is clear when you notice that Malebolgia just bobs his head back and forth, and his lips flail completely out-of-sync with the dialogue he's supposed to be saying.
The FX house responsible apparently didn't get paid for their work.

Not that anyone should be proud of that movie... :)
posted by I, Credulous at 12:30 AM on August 22, 2009


As far as the visual quality of it goes, it seems that there's a lot of really huge depth of field in a lot of the busier scenes. I think that's what's leading to that "fakey game trailer" reaction from a lot of people. I wonder if this is for the 3D audience, allowing them to focus on the things that they want to see rather than have the emphasis thrown on whatever's in focus in the frame? asks Uncle Ira.

This is likely a factor. Cameron gave an interesting interview to Vaiety about 15 months ago in which he goes into considerable detail about the technology and challenges of working in 3d.

I strongly suspect Uncle Ira is right here, because the usual pattern of shooting wide open for a shallow depth of field is likely to work against the illusion in 3d; suddenly your character on screen is going to speaking earnestly in front of a blurry, defocused background which will fight you every time your eyes try to shift to a different depth plane, giving the illusion of a floating talking head.

I'm willing to gamble that Avatar destroys all preconceptions on a technical level and is truly immersive etc. etc., just because Cameron is no fool and has always been at the forefront of FX design. I do have major reservations about the setting and so on in common with many others here...and yet it's possible that he deliberately chose a narrative so over the top that it simply would not work unless you had that immersive experience, as opposed to a more realistic setting where the 3D might be dismissed as pretty but superfluous.

Think back to early sci-fi classics, like the Melier Bros Trip to the Moon (Georges Melier famously said at the time that the cinema was an invention with no future) while Metropolis earned many distinctly sniffy reviews at first. Camerons' cinema is certainly spectacular rather than personal, but he is concerned with rather deeper human problems than directors like Michael Bay.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:51 AM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


zardoz, there are quite a few 3D theaters in Japan! There are two within 15km of me, and I'm not even in a hugely major city. Warner Mycal has digital 3D screens in more than 40 of their theaters, Toho has a whole bunch more, and I'm sure there are others.
posted by bakerybob at 7:00 AM on August 22, 2009


What the trailer does not show, but will certainly be a dominant element of this film, is Cameron's almost unparalleled genius for staging action. I mean, complain all you like about the hackneyed dialogue in Titanic, once that ship starts sinking, OH MAN. And I don't know that there has ever been an action sequence as audacious as the Terminator's assault on the police station in the first Terminator movie. And the other thing that Cameron is exceptional good at is blending action with new technology, which is precisely what this film is.
Regardless of the fact that the trailer might not be dazzling, any genuine fan of movie action should nonetheless be looking forward to this film with great anticipation.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:34 AM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sure I read somewhere that the new 3D TV techologies will not require powered glasses. The polarization will be in the lens. This means that people will start buying their prescription glasses as "3D ready" so that they can watch 3D screen content with their normal eyeglasses. Pretty cool.
posted by autodidact at 9:30 AM on August 22, 2009


Ferngully 2
posted by A189Nut at 10:25 AM on August 22, 2009


The polarization will be in the lens. This means that people will start buying their prescription glasses as "3D ready" so that they can watch 3D screen content with their normal eyeglasses.

It's a great concept, unless you've tried to read an LCD display while wearing polarized lenses. Then you realize how many of the displays around you already have polarized elements, and how much wearing full-time polarization will cripple you in daily life.
posted by hippybear at 12:06 PM on August 22, 2009


that kid ruined the movie for me with his squeaky voice and horrible acting, and the end was laughable

That's just how I felt about Titanic.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:10 PM on August 22, 2009


bakerybob-thanks for that! I checked a while back and came to the conclusion that they didn't exist here. I happily stand corrected.
posted by zardoz at 6:40 PM on August 22, 2009


You know, it'd probably be pretty easy to construct 3d cancelling glasses for the 3d averse - just use the same polarization on each eye and they'll get the same image.
posted by Artw at 7:42 PM on August 22, 2009


unless you've tried to read an LCD display while wearing polarized lenses

The RealD system uses circular polarization; the glasses behave differently than sunglasses. I got curious while I was waiting for Up to start, and grabbed Mrs. Spatula's glasses and looked her lenses and mine at the same time while rotating them relative to one another, and got really confused because they never blacked out.
posted by Rat Spatula at 2:10 PM on August 24, 2009


AVATAR-DELGO-FERNGULLY ... seriously.

As to the Delgo/Ferngully comparison, I think its a reaction to the shocking unoriginality of the concept and visual design. Has Cameron been in a bubble for the last ten years? Has he not kept an eye on the latest sci fi trends? Why didn't anyone tell him his groundbreaking vision wasn't so groundbreaking... sigh.
posted by philip-random at 9:49 PM on August 27, 2009


Delgo may be, in fact, the biggest proportional box-office wipeout of all time, having cost some $40 million and grossing $694,782.

Ow.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:14 PM on August 27, 2009


Hitler is not impresssed
posted by Artw at 10:44 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


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