Sunday, January 31, 2010

In case you missed it, Avatar is now the all-time box office champion

I meant to blog on this subject a week or so ago, but we've had some action and movement with the Senior Bowl; ego I have been pre-occupied.

James Cameron now owns the top two grossing films of all time. A few years ago, it looked as if Batman: The Dark Knight might have a shot at the title, but it fell well short of Cameron's Titanic. Now Cameron returns after a long hiatus and breaks his own record.

There are many hilarious aspects to this story, if you ask me. I recall some (now) hysterical headlines in the Los Angeles Times Entertainment section which indicated that fan interest in Sherlock Holmes was far greater than interest in Avatar. According to this now infamous piece, box office experts were projecting higher earnings for Sherlock than Avatar based on fan interest. Try to take a breath in between belly laughs. You'll pass out if you laugh too hard. God knows I fell out of my chair when I found that old newspaper laying on the floor next to my easy chair.

By now, we know that Sherlock Holmes made a little less than $200m at the global box office. Many of us were stunned that this movie made so much money. Sherlock is now finished in the Theater. Avatar is still rolling and still #1 at the box office. Sherlock is destined to circle the drain at A&E Network sometime in the next 12 months. On the other hand, Avatar is destined to become the 3d benchmark for the new Blu-Ray era.

Recently, I monitored some hard push-back against Avatar on a number of film fan sites. In particular the forums at and had a few anti-Avatar and anti-Cameron campaigns running through them.

One of the focal points of this critical attack has been District 9, oddly enough. Critics of Cameron have stated that District 9 cost a mere $30m USD to make, while Avatar cost some $300m. They prompt you to decide for yourself which turned out better, especially on bang-for-the-buck basis.

For me, that is a no brainer: Avatar wins hands down. I barely even liked District 9. It is visually ugly film. It contains a very dim view of humanity and the Prawns too. This is dark movie, full of ugliness and gross-outs. I guess that's nice if you are 13 going on 14. It also has preposterous narrative moments, things no intelligent Sci-Fi fan could ever possibly buy into. Worst of all, there really is no hero in the movie. There is not one truly likable figure in the entire movie. On the other hand, Avatar is a visually beautiful movie. It has good characters, who are easy to like. It contains a decent and even optimistic view of both humanity and the Navi. I found Avatar far more enjoyable than District 9.

There is no doubt that Cameron has his detractors. They were vocal in predicting his failure before Avatar came out, and they are trying to play spoiler now. So why is that true?

The conventional wisdom in the media press says that it is 100% pure unadulterated jealousy. Hollywood is one of the most jealous places on earth. It is full of artists and money men who are absolutely distraught that the world does not recognize their greatness. It is also full of 'successful' producers with 50/50 records. Many long-time survivors in Hollywood have one economic failure for every success on their records. You can't even join the club until you have declared bankruptcy twice, according to most reports. This is primarily because they insist on boring audiences about their psychological hangups in (so-called) A-Films that no one wants to see.

In this environment, James Cameron is a marked man. You have to remember that Cameron is a dude with an undefeated record. Cameron has never had an all-out financial bust. The closest thing to it would be Strange Days (1995). Even this made a small modicum of money. Cameron has never bored audiences with emotional melt-down movies about one of his divorces, so he stands accused of never taking artistic risks. Ergo sum, he does not deserve his success.

A friend of mine, who happens to work at NBC Universal, put an even finer point on it: Cameron is not liked because he is not Jewish, and has never partnered with the Jewish financial aristocracy of Hollywood. He has never had substantial Jewish partners in his projects. He has his own little Anglo Canadian band he works with. When he wants visual effects, he doesn't do it in California; he takes the work down to Weta Studios in New Zealand. Since he has not contributed to the Holy Temple on high holidays, he does not deserve his success. It irks them that this Goy owns the top two box office blockbusters of all time.

It should be noted, in passing, that this particular friend {who will remain unnamed} is totally Jewish and from New York. He says all these things in a mocking and derisive tone, because he doesn't like the attitudes of some of his bosses in the business. He is a big James Cameron film fan, and wants to be just like him in a few more years.

In any case, Hollywood is a place loaded with Schadenfreude; these guys rejoice in each other's failures. Most of Hollywood still awaits a failure from either Cameron or Pixar.