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Tag: James Cameron

Editorials

Oscar-Winning Directors Who Deserved Their Award For A Different Film

February 17, 2021
Oscar Awards

In my last article, I looked at actors who’ve won Oscars but perhaps for the wrong role but it is not only those in front of the camera where this mistake has been made with these filmmakers perhaps getting their Best Director Oscar for the wrong film.

Martin Scorsese

"I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh" Goodfellas
“I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh” Goodfellas // Credit: Warner Bros

What He Won For – When The Departed finally got Martin Scorsese his Best Director Oscar there was almost a universal declaration that is was for the wrong film. In fact, this is the film that inspired the whole article, the classic example of a the Academy rewarding a career of greatness rather than the particular film.

What He Should Have Won For – There are a lot of contenders but it is a crime for which someone should be arrested that he did not win for Goodfellas. This is one of the best films ever made and in my opinion, edges out even The Godfather as the definitive Mafia film. This is an epic story of crime, friendship and betrayal with some of the most memorable scenes in film history such as the long take entrance to the Copacabana, Joe Pesci asking if he is a clown and the stunning final scene wrapping up what has happened with Henry Hill’s narration. It is a practically perfect film.

Alfonso Cuaron

Children Of Men // Credit: Universal Pictures
Children Of Men // Credit: Universal Pictures

What He Won For – Cuaron has two Best Director, one for Roma and one for Gravity. As I have not seen Roma I cannot comment but I have seen Gravity. Again this is not a bad film, it’s a very good film but certainly feels more like a technical achievement than an artistic one. It is the only film I have seen where I thought it made sense to be in 3D, where the director actually did something worthwhile with that technology.

What He Should Have Won For – One of the great overlooked and underrated films of all time – Children of Men. This is one of the bleakest settings for a film ever yet ends up being hopeful. There are technically brilliant shots – such as two incredible long takes, one of a conversation and subsequent attack in a car which I’ve never been able to work out how it was filmed to the shot near the end of the film of Theo rushing through a warzone which is a contender for the best scene ever filmed. But there’s also a lot of emotion and caring, Theo’s relationship with Kee is very touching and Theo transforms from one of the most jaded and cynical people you can imagine to someone willing to die for someone else.

James Cameron

Game over, man, game over! - Aliens // Credit: Twentieth Century Fox
Game over, man, game over! – Aliens // Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

What He Won For – In my younger less cinema-literate days I assumed there were two directors named James Cameron – Cool James Cameron and Not Cool James Cameron, one made brilliant sci-fi and the other made Titanic, but indeed they are the same person and Cameron got his Oscar for Titanic. This is a bad film that relies on the romanticism of the real Titanic. Certainly it is a visual spectacle and the sinking of the ship is very well done but still – it is a bad film.

What He Should Have Won For – Cameron can lay claim to making two of the best sequels ever Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Aliens but I think the latter narrowly takes it. In Aliens Cameron does something which is nearly impossible in that he introduces a young child character that not only isn’t annoying but improves the film. Ripley’s relationship with Newt basically becomes the central part of the film and has a big emotional impact. As well as this emotional weight the film has some of the greatest action scenes ever and is incredibly enjoyable. The Academy has a long history of disdain to science-fiction and not recognising the brilliance of Aliens is another part of that history.

Ron Howard

Frost/Nixon // Credit: Universal Pictures
Frost/Nixon // Credit: Universal Pictures

What He Won For A Beautiful Mind won four Oscars, including one for Ron Howard as director. Certainly not a bad film but hardly the best example of Howard’s talents.

What He Should Have Won For – Howard has a number of great films but Frost/Nixon is an astonishing achievement. An adaptation of a play where most of the dramatic moments are literally one person interviewing another does not scream cinematic but it is gripping. Perhaps the most dramatic moment, however, is not part of the interview, with Nixon calling Frost in a rant about they were both from humble backgrounds, were always looked down upon by the upper class and were going “to make them choke on our success” is unforgettable.

Also Read: Oscar-Winning Actors Who Deserved Their Award For A Different Role

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Editorials

Why James Cameron’s Avatar Sequel Has Come At The Right Time

January 17, 2020

In 2009, James Cameron’s Avatar took cinemas by storm. It quickly became the highest-grossing film of all time (a record that has since been beaten). The film had been in development for several years, along with Alita: Battle Angel, Cameron had been working on both in the years since Titanic, his previous film, which was released in 1997.

After technology finally caught up to his vision, development was paused on Alita and Avatar took centre stage (Cameron would eventually take a backseat on Alita, due to focusing on Avatar and it’s sequels). It was released to critical as well as commercial acclaim. While the film dominated the conversation in 2009, and sequels are planned, the film doesn’t have as passionate a fanbase as franchises like Star Wars or the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), leaving some to question the demand for a sequel.

However, a lot has changed since 2009, both in the world of film and the world at large, and many of Avatar’s themes are more relevant today than they ever were…

Imperialism

Jake Sully - Avatar
The struggle between the technology-based RDA and the nature-based Na’vi is at the centre (20th Century Fox, 2009)

The story of Avatar follows Jake Sully, a paraplegic marine who takes the place of his deceased twin brother and travels to Pandora, an alien planet whose atmosphere is deadly to humans. Sully and his team use avatars to explore the planet and interact with the local people, the Na’vi. After falling in love with one of the Na’vi Jake and his team of sympathisers switch sides, and help force the humans off the planet.

The final battle of the film revolves around the Hometree, a huge tree that, while considered sacred to the Na’vi, is on top of a large mineral deposit. Although Cameron has been understandably vague about some of the themes, he has hinted that the evil corporation may have connections with America and it’s pursuit of oil in other countries.

Cameron has stated the parallels to Iraq and Vietnam are “by design“. With a technologically superior military force, facing off against natives. While this has led some people to consider it an example of “The Messiah Complex“, a white man saving an indigenous people, a common complaint of several stories (and something Black Panther avoided) while others have disagreed with this, arguing that the main character is himself paraplegic, and actually discards his human body for his Na’vi avatar at the end.

Environmental Themes

Avatar, Dragons, Jake Sully
The Na’vi fight alongside the creatures of Pandora rather than against them. (20th Century Fox. 2009)

While climate change was an issue in 2009, it has become a far more pressing concern in the decade since Avatar. James Cameron has actually “declared war” on climate change and the film is very overt with its environmental message, rivalling Wall-E. The brief mentions of Earth refer to it as having “no green” and a “dying planet”. Pandora itself has an atmosphere that is toxic to humans. The film is set in 2154. Scientists estimate the planet could be well on course for such a fate. The energy crisis that results in the humans travelling to Pandora is another problem we are facing today. Science fiction is a way for us to explore our hopes and fears, and Cameron is clearly showing us his fears.

The Na’vi have the exact opposite relationship with their home planet. An almost symbiotic bond with nature, they can literally connect to other life with their hair. Cameron hoped the film would make people reconsider their connection to nature. The film clearly takes the side of nature being superior, with the Na’vi winning with the aid of the creatures of Pandora. Jake is originally promised a fix for his legs if he helps the RDA but is given a whole new (and physically superior) body by choosing nature over technology.

The Sequels

Jake Sully & Neytiri, played by Sam Worthington & Zoe Saldana
Only James Cameron knows for sure what the sequels will be (20th Century Fox, 2009)

Almost as soon as Avatar grossed $1 Billion at the box office, an (inevitable) sequel was announced. With several others planned, the first of which is aiming for a 2021 release date (although this is after several delays). With rumoured titles of “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Avatar: The Seed Bearer,” “Avatar: The Tulkun Rider,” and “Avatar: The Quest for Eywa”, the ecological theme seems to run through the sequels as well. Although very little plot details have been given. According to some reports, Fox had to donate a considerable amount to Cameron’s environmental fund before he would even sign on for the sequels.

The sequels will likely follow similar themes of the importance of nature, but the titles hint at slightly more specific concerns. “The Way of Water” could be focused on rising sea levels and the damage of human waste to ocean life forms. “The Seed Bearer” could deal with plant life, and Tulkun Rider on creatures and their habitat. In the lore, Eywa is a goddess of all life, meaning the film could deal with our connection to living things.

Whatever the sequels end up being about, they will definitely be incredibly ambitious, as with all James Cameron films. He has planned this world in great detail and clearly has a lot to say. What messages it brings will be revealed when the films are released…

Also Read: “Little Women” & Cinema for the self-partnered

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Reviews

Review: Alita: Battle Angel

February 21, 2019

Written by James Cameron (Avatar) & directed by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), YouTuber & Presenter, Rachel RNR reviews the Sci-Fi adventure film, Altia: Battle Angel.

What’s it about?

Set several centuries in the future, the story picks up when the abandoned Alita is found in the scrapyard by Dr. Ido, Alita has no memory of who she is, or the world she has found herself in.

Rachael RNR reviews Alita: Battle Angel (YouTube)

Alita: Battle Angel is out in cinemas now.