You know how there are some movies that you just have no interest in seeing, despite the fact that you like the genre and similar-looking movies?  Well, that is how it has been for me with Avatar.  Maybe it was the non-stop promotion insisting that I would like it or the incessant fanboy bellowing declaring me an idiot for even thinking about not seeing it or, heaven forbid, not liking it.  As the release date grew closer, I kept wondering how any movie could live up to the hype.

And if this were a normal review, I would tell you that Avatar did.

But this is not a normal review…

Rich talked me into going to see it in IMAX 3-D at Pointe Orlando (the only true IMAX in Orlando) on opening night.  A buddy of his from work had gotten a bunch of tickets and had a whole group going.  I agreed since this would be the best chance of me actually seeing it on the big screen.

For those that have been out of contact with society, Avatar is the story of a soldier who “inhabits” the body of an alien as a way to find weaknesses, but ends up helping the alien race he is supposed to hate.  Now if this plot sounds familiar, then you are alive.  It was the real-life story of Pocohontas and the big-screen feature, Dances With Wolves.  So that Avatar should really be named Pocohontas: Dances With Smurfs.  I can see why James Cameron hid so much detail of the story from the public – we would figure out that we had already seen it.

Now I will not deny that Avatar is leap in technology for movies.  Cameron did a good job with that.  But much like Lucas with the last three Star Wars movies, Cameron has spent so much time on the effects that the story suffers.  Sadly, based on the box office take, no one seems to care.  It might win Best Picture at the Oscars, which would be a blow to movies with an actual story and did not need effects to tell it.

My advice:  see it in a true IMAX theater with 3-D; if you wait until DVD/Blu-Ray, then you will hate the movie…

The Blind Side

Since the Oscars are coming up, I should knock out the reviews I have pending that are actually in Oscar races.  Our first entry is the “based on a true story”” movie, The Blind Side.  The story centers around Michael Oher, a homeless  teen, who is taken in by a family in Mississippi.  What follows is his discovery of football and attempt to get into college via football scholarship.

Sandra Bullock plays the mother in what will turn out to be the performance of her career.  The only cosmetic change was a bleaching of the hair.  What we get on-screen is a caring woman deciding to do the right thing, regardless of what others may think.  Bullock almost didn’t take this role until she met the family.  Given her rollercoaster career of mediocre to bad movie choice, one can only wonder what she turned down that would have been great.

While The Blind Side is nominated for Best Picture, it was not a top-10 movie for 2009.  This is a made-for-tv-like movie that got a big screen treatment because of Bullock and is better than expected because of an unbelievable performance.

My advice:  Check it out if it is still playing in your area; otherwise, get the DVD.

Oscar Nominations: Can Cameron Be Dethroned?

Well, Oscar nominations were announced a few days ago and I am still mulling over the choices.  I liked most of the nominations, but still can’t believe the power James Cameron seems to hold over Hollywood?  Avatar was definitely a technological wonder, on par with how Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Lord of the Rings changed movies during their time with effects.  The story, while decent, was flimsy when compared to the other nominees.

But I am getting ahead of myself….

For each category, I will give my thoughts and picks (yes, I am committing them a month early).  I will save the big categories for last – that’s right, I am a mean writer….

The categories I know nothing about

The two Documentary categories and the Foreign Languages category will have to do without my witty thoughts.  I know nothing about the nominees, therefore it would be wrong of me to speculate.  The same is true for the two Short Film categories and the Costume Design Category.


More than likely Avatar will win this one, but Inglorious Basterds did a great job in capturing the look and feel of Nazi Germany without resorting to fancy tricks.  Harry Potter has the same old feel and The Hurt Locker looks like any other modern Middle-Eastern war flick.

Most Likely:  Avatar

Who I Want: Inglorious Basterds

Art Direction

Again, Avatar is the strong favorite.  I liked the look of Sherlock Holmes, but it was nothing extraordinary.  Nine has to overcome a high bar because it is a musical, so everyone expects a spectacle.  I could see an upset here with Doctor Parnassus sneaking in.

Most Likely : The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus


Star Trek will walk away with this one.

Visual Effects

Only three films nominated and all are sci-fi/fantasy.  Any other year and Star Trek takes this one.  But once again we have the buzzsaw of Avatar.

Most Likely:  Avatar

Who I Want:  Star Trek

Sound Editing

All 5 movies are strong candidates.  I do like the inclusion of an animated feature.  This is one that Avatar will have difficulty in winning, which is fine.  It can lose some of these races.

Most Likely:  The Hurt Locker

Who I Want: Up, but it is close with Star Trek

Sound Mixing

Again, all strong nominees – well, maybe all except Transformers, which was as bad on the ears as it was on the other 4 senses.  Again Avatar walks away empty-handed.

Most Likely:  Inglorious Basterds

Who I Want: Star Trek, but IB is not a bad choice

Original Score

This is a very tough category.  For me, it comes down to the two animated features.  Fantastic Mr. Fox had a quirky whimsy to it, but Up is more timeless.  If Avatar wins this one, then Cameron has sold his complete soul.

Most Likely: Up

Original Song

Disney has been missing from this category over the past few years, but I am not sure that even Randy Newman can help them grab the gold.  That said, Disney is about the only thing that could derail Crazy Heart.

Most Likely:  Crazy Heart

Screenplay Adapted

This is really a 2-dog race between Precious and Up In The Air.  The gold will go to Up In The Air as consolation for not winning anything else.

Most Likely: Up In The Air

Poised to Make an Upset: Precious

Screenplay Original

I see a dark horse rising with The Messenger or A Serious Man.

Most Likely:  The Messenger

Who I Want: Up

Supporting Actress

Mo’Nique is the heavy favorite and also satisfies Oscar’s desire to recognize someone not usually nominated.

Will Walk Away:  Mo’Nique

Supporting Actor

Christoph Waltz is the safe bet, but I see a dark horse.  Woody Harrelson has gotten  a lot of good press for The Messenger, but suffers from visibility.

Most Likely:  Christoph Waltz

For the Steal:  Woody Harrelson

Leading Actress

Sandra Bullock is riding a wave that is almost unstoppable.  Even if it is Meryl Streep that wins, this will be a huge upset if Bullock’s name is not read.

Will Walk Away:  Sandra Bullock

Leading Actor

Jeff Bridges finally gets rewarded for his career.  Tough break for all of the other candidates.

Will Walk Away:  Jeff Bridges


This is where the ex gets revenge.  One can only hope that James Cameron has no blackmail material on the voters.

Most Likely:  The Hurt Locker

Proof of No Backbone in Oscar: Avatar

Animated Feature

While I love Up, its spot should have gone to Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs.  Then Mr. Fox would have won this category.  But there is no way Oscar goes home with anyone in this category except Pixar.

Most Likely: Up

Best Picture

Thankfully, this is not a lock for Avatar.  The Hurt Locker is building momentum.  However, both should watch out for a Crash-like outcome from Precious.  Of course, I would love to see either of the Up movies win.

Most Likely:  Avatar (arrrrrgh)

Most Likely Upset: The Hurt Locker

Who I Want: Up or Up In The Air

So there you have it – my picks, as determined while sitting in an airport.  Cameron could have a Titanic-like night in one of two ways.  Way one is realistically with winning Oscar gold.  The figurative way is to walk away with only technical ones, thus “sinking” his dreams.  While many experts are putting stock in the fact that Avatar has no acting or writing nominations, one should be careful.  After all, Titanic had 11 nominations and only 3 wins, none coming from acting or writing.  Oscar would do itself a disservice to rehonor a film we saw in the early 90’s when it was called Dances With Wolves.

But, then again, look how long it took Martin Scorsese to earn Oscar Gold….

SAG Awards

If you televised an awards show and nobody watched, would movie studios strike outside?

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) had their annual awards dinner to honor actors and casts for movies and television.  TNT and TBS aired the show simultaneously, with TNT reairing it 2 hours later.  I wish I could say it was fun to watch, but it was somewhat boring.  Here were the highlights:

  • Betty White – Much like Scorsese at the Golden Globes, Betty White showed us how to make a speech.  You could see her passion and love for her craft.  As she said, she is 88 years old; it will be a sad day when she passes away.
  • Alec Baldwin – This has nothing to do with his speech or award.  During the time he was on stage, I kept flashing on the scene in Team America where they had Baldwin addressing FAG (Film Actors Guild).