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This Will Probably Incite a Riot

Since Sunday night I’ve planned to write a scathing post about the Golden Globes, a once “renegade” award platform, that gets a little closer to being Oscar Jr. every year.

But now it’s Wednesday, and Sunday seems like forever ago, and people probably don’t care. Instead of going into depth I’m going to complain about one small aspect of the Globes, and that was their readiness to suck off James Cameron just like everyone else in the world currently.

Let’s get this right: Avatar has one thing going for it and that’s the look, the beauty of it (if you’re so inclined). Not once in all the raves I’ve heard about the movie has anyone mentioned how well written, or acted it was. And that’s because it wasn’t. In fact, most people I’ve talked to have said “It’s not a great story, but it’s so beautiful.”

No I haven’t seen it, no I won’t see it. There’s no need. I’m quite willing to believe that it’s deserving of immense kudos when it comes to technology, special effects, makeup, and what have you. But there is no way, in my opinion, that a movie without great writing or great acting is anywhere close to be deserving of a title such as “Best Film.”

  • Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing but the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.

57 thoughts on “This Will Probably Incite a Riot

  1. Ooh! NPR did a story about how the people who make these judgments (best actor, best movie, etc.) are having a bit of trouble judging when there’s actually acting occurring. There’s the acting, and then there’s the CG.

    1. Well, for sure, there was the same dialogue regarding Andy Serkis in the Lord of the Rings films. But at least in those films the acting was talked about, I don’t remember for sure, but I think Gandalf was nominated for something. The writing was talked about. But with Avatar all you hear is “how beautiful” it is. That doesn’t make a great film, that’s just part of it.

  2. Yeah, I thought about posting something about how we’re going to have to reconsider what “best” means in contexts like this. Not to indulge in this cliche too far, but really, what kind of message does this send to the kids?

  3. Re: CG

    Here’s Cory Salveson synopsizing the end of a talk Coover gave about, among other things, hyper-texts:
    “The talk closes with Coover suggesting that, as it took millennia for cuneiform to deliver Gilgamesh, 150 years for movable type to deliver Don Quixote, and 200 years of American history to deliver the American novel, so it may be a while before we see similar texts in our own newly “conjured” medium.”

    Makes me think that it’s only a matter of time when this new medium will find its genius, or vice-versa.

  4. I am sorry to hear the Golden Globes is losing its anarchic appeal. As much as I love Rick Gervais, I was concerned when I saw they’d begun using a host.

    “A Single Man” is beautiful to look at and well-written and brilliantly acted.

    1. it had it’s moments, like awarding “Best Actor” to Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart, but in all each year they seem to move a little further from their roots as being somewhat stomach-able.

      i really want to see A Single Man.

      1. The Golden Globes were always fun because the starts DRANK. I will never forget Christine Lahti in the bathroom.

        I thought A Single Man was excellent. It’s hyper-stylized. I found the stylization, for me, produced an affective experience or whatever that brought me closer to the character — less inside his head and maybe more inside his body? … it reminded me of what I think I like about stylized fiction. I didn’t read much in advance so didn’t realize the director Tom Ford was THE Tom Ford. In retrospect I am glad, because I was thinking, “Who is this interesting director with the same name as the fashion designer? What else has he directed?” whereas my partner, fully aware the film was a fashion designer’s directorial debut, couldn’t help comparing parts of it to a perfume commercial.

        Anyway, critics seem pretty divided between praising the film as a whole and criticizing the direction but praising Colin Firth (everyone except some freak at the Christian Science Monitor seems to agree Firth kicked ass) — but most of the critics who dislike the direction seem to be proponents of a dichotomous artifice vs. authenticity framework I don’t really buy into and/or hyper-rationalizing the characters’ emotions and behavior (for instance, one critic complained all the protag’s memories of his dead lover — don’t worry, even if you’re unfamiliar with the Isherwood, ‘dead lover’ is still not a spoiler, this is revealed in the opening titles — seem rose-tinted. Ummm… yeah. Isn’t it pretty common to idealize people we’ve lost??).

        1. there were still some fun moments this year. and even though i don’t think james cameron deserved to win best director it was funny to hear him talk about how badly he needed to pee. it was also funny when one of the dude’s from twilight came out to present something and everyone was ignoring him, so blatantly so that the crowd chatter was as loud as his talking with the microphone.

  5. Avatar really was beautiful, and the CG was amazing, but it doesn’t really live up to the hype everyone has created, and certainly not “Best Film” material. I mean, comparing it to Cameron’s other work “Titanic” is a no-no. Titanic had everything: effects, moving storyline, etc while Avatar is really, really, really good and high-grade eye candy.

  6. Thank you for this, Ryan. When I heard Avatar got Best Film, along with other accolades, I.. well. I just sighed in resignation.

    1. i yelled at the tv. as far as i’m concerned it could have been The Hurt Locker or Inglorious Basterds, but really anything but Avatar and i wouldn’t have complained.

          1. Duly noted. I’ll get it on my Netflix. I just have to remember to get Gonzo in the mail. I watched that on Tuesday and have yet to send it out.

  7. These kinds of awards, like most awards, have nothing to do with what is “best.” The films that are nominated and that win have massive lobbying campaigns behind them. The whole thing is really an advertising campaign, little else. Complaining about what wins is really complaining about a film having a larger advertising budget than another one.

    Which is possibly worth complaining about. But it’s best to remember that merit has nothing to do with any of this.

    (I was tempted in writing this comment to soften my claims somewhat, e.g. “merit has little to do with this,” but from what I’ve seen of the industry, I think the absolute form is more correct.)

    Remember also that shows like the GG and the Oscars are shows that need to draw audiences and advertising dollars. People tune in wanting to see AVATAR win, just like they wanted to see TITANIC win a decade+ ago. The people who make these shows aren’t stupid. They want their viewers to be happy. They reward the films those people like as much as possible.

    Cameron makes big dumb action spectacles that are still “awards-ready.” He knows how to draw accolades from both audiences and critics. That’s why he’s one of the most powerful directors/producers in Hollywood, if not the most powerful.

    1. while i do understand this about awards shows, it’s also not 100% of the case. there’s no way someone like jeff bridges would’ve won best actor if it was. and seeing as the golden globes have built a reputation on being the more attune film awards it was disappointing to see them fall in line with the avatar machine.

      1. It’s not true 100% of the time, but it may as well be. That 1% of the time when it isn’t true is the bone they throw to cynics like you and me.


                1. my wife plays the game with me, too… i think it’s the frequency with which i play it that makes her think me ridiculous. but as you say, i give her many other reasons as well.

    2. In 96, can you imagine if they decided to have Secret and Lies win over the English Patient? Just the title alone. What a bummer that would’ve been to the public?

      I wish Kelly Reichardt would have been up for best director. More for Old Joy. She’s one for the long take list Adam! I believe the first shot in Wendy and Lucy is 5 minutes or so.

      1. I thought about her films, but couldn’t remember any specific examples. I remember the cutting as being pretty normal, in fact (normal for indy films, that is). Whereas I was looking less for single standout shots, and more for a very long Average or Media Shot Length.

        I’m planning to rewatch her stuff, though, one of these days. I’ll keep an eye out.

        I have to say that I’m not a huge fan of her work—I know, I know—although I have nothing against it, either. I’m just not all that impressed, honestly. (Compare her films to Loden’s WANDA, for instance.) But I’m really glad she’s out there, and hope she’s very successful.

        What I appreciate most in her films is how she actually spends time showing what the contemporary US looks like. For example:


        Most contemporary US films are shot in la-la land, and bear no resemblance to the world I see all around me. bravo to Reichardt for filming the landscape as it is! We need more filmmakers doing that.

    1. That’s a great example of how clever Cameron can be. Now everyone will talk about how gracious he is. The guy knows how to be successful! Never underestimate James Cameron!

      1. oh yeah, i have no doubt it was a calculated move, but at least it was the truth. she did deserve it. and even if he didn’t mean it at least she got some level of recognition.

          1. i didn’t think it would win best film (i did think Inglorious Basterds had a shot. in the golden globes “of old” it definitely would have taken it), but pretty much everything i’ve been reading has agreed that Hurt Locker is a lock for best director both in the globes and oscars.

  8. This reminds me of a conversation I had with a lighting student at Sarah Lawrence.

    He said, “Without us, actors would be in the dark. Without actors, we could put on one hell of a light show.”

    Jeff VanderMeer agrees.

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