Every Monday, FADER editorial director Peter Macia will ease in to the work week by writing semi-extensively and somewhat incoherently about something that is making his head hurt. This week, his take on the 82nd Annual Academy Awards.
Full disclosure: I did not watch the Oscars, but I checked some blogs this morning and watched the Today Show which was half-live from Los Angeles and so many people were still totally wasted when they came on to be interviewed by Meredith Viera and Al Roker it made me feel kind of vicariously drunk and celebratory. Gabourey Sidibe may not have been intoxicated but was super giggly and said "fer realz" about something serious, which should retroactively win her an Oscar. The Hurt Locker cast were disarming a few mimosas and Anthony Mackey yelled YOU ARE HOT at Viera before the interview even started, proving that Kathryn Bigelow is not only a filmmaker of high esteem but also must be so awesome that her entire male cast and crew are now going to be obsessed with beautiful older women for a majority of the rest of their lives. This is good, because I was reading this article recently about how French women don't age because they're being chased by French men until they die, and then I watched Halle Berry interview Penelope Cruz on the Oprah pre-Oscar special, and thought to myself, if Penelope Cruz and Halle Berry have to move to France to be appreciated, there is something terribly, terribly wrong with America. Bigelow, in addition to being beautiful, talented, really smart and not 20, also made Point Break and Strange Days, and then won two Oscars. Let that sit for a minute. That is like Wham! being asked to write a new national anthem.
But more importantly, she served James Cameron SO HARD. Like that dude, man, dude, YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO TALK SHIT TO OR ABOUT YOUR EX-WIFE EVER AGAIN. You are no longer king of the world, you are maybe lord of a rural county with a huge castle and shitloads of money, sent there by the queen because you're kind of ridiculous. To be shamefully honest, Avatar is one of only three best picture nominees I saw, and I saw it with my preteen niece and nephew who were extremely nonplussed. And here's why, that movie is soulless. It is, as you've probably read in a million other places, the all-time most preposterous white man's fantasy film ever made, and that's saying something because that's basically the only kind of film Hollywood made for about ten decades. I did pay $12 to see it, however, so I must take my (miniscule) share of the responsibility for it reaching earnings of over two billion dollars.
Two billion dollars is greater than the gross domestic product of 32 nations—good ones like Seychelles, Djibouti, Belize and many more. There is a country named Niue in the South Pacific with the lowest GDP in the world that James Cameron could probably buy with half of the Avatar proceeds, move to, and actually live out the movie with its Polynesian residents substituting for the Na'vi. He could make them all wear those rasta hats with the fake dreadlocks coming out and fly overhead every morning in a hang glider painted with lizard scales yelling stuff like, "To the Tree of Voices!" and "You're totally in 3-D!" And he could hang out at food stands eating pink taro and passionfruit like they were glorious alien plant species and good god DO NOT pass this on because he will probably do it. Maybe this is the future of Earth, super rich white dudes buying poor countries populated with brown people and acting out their fantasies, oh no wait that is the last 4,000 years. Or maybe we will all just lose perspective and willingly become Avatars for James Cameron's psyche.
Protesters dressed as Na'vi characters from the movie Avatar march in the West Bank village of Bilin near Ramallah. Photo: Reuters
That's basically all I know about the Oscars other than that there was apparently a near onstage fistfight between the director of the winning documentary short and its one-time producer. The director was a man, the producer a woman, and the film was the "uplifting story of a 21-year-old Zimbabwean singer-songwriter Prudence Mabhena, who was born severely disabled and has struggled to overcome poverty and discrimination." The producer "pulled a Kanye" and ran up onstage even though she was not supposed to be there. Prudence must be psyched. Kanye must be more psyched that he is now a noun that does not mean "to make great music."
The point here is that Avatar is evil on some level, it's just not clear what that level is yet. Cameron clearly has some knack for global mind control, and contrary to Titanic's harmless melodrama, Avatar is evidence of his willingness to use it to make people think things that are possibly not good. Let's say that the average ticket price was $10, which would mean that approximately 200 million people worldwide have seen it, assuming most people have seen it only once. A third of the movie's box office is domestic, so that means about 60 million Americans have seen it, or roughly 20% of the United States' population, and about 0.2% of the rest of world has joined in the fun. Now, assuming most of that 0.2% are from countries that are not vulnerable to unilateral invasion, Cameron is saying more than he's letting on. If the Sully character is a proxy for America (the true good-hearted America), and the Na'vi essentially represent all developing nations, Cameron is sending a very specific message to the world's corporate power structure (Giovanni Ribisi): "Dudes, we are willing to do anything for necessary resources, but we are also loose cannons and might form alliances with the resource-bearers and really fuck some shit up so maybe it's better if you just let us run things from now on. Also, recycle." Meanwhile, Hurt Locker is just about the damages of war, specifically the one we're fighting right now, which is, according to many, all about securing natural resources. It's worldwide box office is $21 million.
James Cameron is crazy. Every significant sci-fi movie he's made—The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Avatar—has been more about mega-corporations seeking resources and crushing humanity in the process than about anything else. He's given more inspiration to companies looking to make killer robots, seek oil in the deep sea, explore the outer reaches of space for post-Earth life than to his fellow human beings (That is if "we" actually all are fellow humans). Does anyone feel particularly psyched about our chances of survival after watching one of those movies?
You want to know what movie will make you feel psyched? Point Break. Made me want to be an undercover cop, a surfer and, oddly, a ballet dancer all in the span of 90 minutes. You want to know another one? Shallow Hal. Watched it twice this weekend on The CW.
And now, Zach Galifianakis as Gene Shimp...
Congratulations to all the winners and nominees.