Why Avatar Best Picture Oscar nomination would be wrong

LIKE everyone else in the world it seems, I have seen Avatar.

And like everyone else, I was blown away by the scope of James Cameron‘s vision in creating Pandora, a massively immersive world with the 3d technology only serving to heighten that sense of vivid realism.

But given what has happened in the past couple of weeks, can I just say what the fuck??

First of all, it brings in absolutely enormous box office revenues, $1.6billion at last count, surpassing everything bar Titanic which was Cameron’s last cash hoover.

I was absolutely amazed by that because whereas Titanic, and its stars, had obvious massive breakout appeal, I never expected Avatar to share that. I was expecting it to have a science fiction audience, with  film fans dropping by to have a look at what all the fuss was about.

But I guess that is why James Cameron is a multi-millionaire director of iconic films and I’m not. He wasn’t making a film, he was making a world and a movement (as he said in Craig Grobler’s excellent guest blog post) which people have flocked to again and again.

Hell, some people have even gone on record as saying their life is meaningless after watching Avatar, because it is so bland by comparison. (Note to them – just sort yourself out, sad case, for eywa’s sake)

Then it seems award ceremonies everywhere are falling over themselves to fall at Cameron’s feet and gush praise in his general direction, culminating in the Golden Globe best director and best picture prizes.

All of which puts the film as a virtual lock for a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, according to the smart money.

But hey, so what? I’m a sci-fi fan and a sci-fi film is overpowering everything else. I mean, that’s good news isn’t it?

I don’t know. I really don’t.

On the one hand it is wonderful that science fiction has such a powerful advocate as Cameron, who has such a fantastic track record in the genre. And he has created a remarkable spectacle, without question.

I think it is fair to say that the Academy owes the geeks one too, with any film that has a whiff of sci-fi or fantasy about it being seen as somehow less deserving than films in other subject areas.

But … the story is shit isn’t it – derivitive, one dimensional, predicatable. And the characters have as much depth as a puddle – the military chief (evil, vicious), the scientist (interested, driven) the Na’vi chief (noble, proud), the Na’vi girl (noble, proud), the Na’vi warrior (well, you see where I’m going with this) and so on and so on.

Strangely, Cameron cut the scenes out of the film that would have given it greater emotional resonance, as a readthrough of his screenplay shows – like Sam’s back story and the dark fate of Grace’s Na’vi school.

And I think that’s what really nags at me. To me, best picture films should be the whole package – and Avatar isn’t.

It’s not even my favourite sci-fi film of the year. Star Trek was more exciting and for emotional and engaging stories and acting, District 9 and especially Moon are head and shoulders above it.

But you compare Avatar’s unchecked march to the winner’s circle to Moon’s struggle to even get its film company to promote it to Oscar voters, and it just isn’t fair.

Like many others, I have tried my best to change that with the online campaign to recognise Sam Rockwell‘s performance with an Oscar nomination. The success of Slumdog Millionaire shows little films can make their mark, but Danny Boyle didn’t face a juggernaut like Moon does.

The scale of a film should not be the deciding factor, but with Avatar it undoubtedly is and while – as a sci-fi geek – I cheer its success, I also know there are more deserving candidates out there which leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

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