OSCAR TALK: Ep. 14 — ‘Avatar,’ ‘Avatar’ and ‘Avatar’

Posted by · 12:10 pm · December 11th, 2009

Oscar TalkWelcome to the latest installment of Oscar Talk, your weekly kudocast with yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood.

This week’s discussion is pretty much dominated by the unveiling of, arguably, 2009’s most anticipated film. So with that in mind:

Anne and I discuss the joy of James Cameron’s “Avatar,” including everything from technical wizardry, the film’s milestone status in the history of cinema and, of course, awards prospects.

With the critics’ awards kicking off this weekend, starting Sunday with the Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s list of kudos, we speculate on which films could get recognition and which films need the leg up.

Top 10 lists are hitting and Anne just published hers, so that’s food for thought. Mine will hit Monday.

Briefly we preview next week’s list of key dates, which include the BFCA, Golden Globe and SAG nomination announcements.

Have a listen to this week’s podcast below. Apologies for the audio on Anne’s side of things. It sounds a little muffled because we couldn’t get her external mic to work. Roll with the punches.

Oh, and as always, you can subscribe to Oscar Talk via iTunes here.

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→ 32 Comments Tags: , , | Filed in: Oscar Talk

32 responses so far

  • 1 12-11-2009 at 12:40 pm

    Michelle said...

    Good catch Kristopher….Horner’s score does sound awfully like THE PERFECT STORM. This is one of your’s and Anne’s best Oscartalk!

  • 2 12-11-2009 at 12:45 pm

    Alex said...

    Is Avatar as good as The Hurt Locker?

  • 3 12-11-2009 at 12:48 pm

    Loyal said...

    I love how exhausted you two sound. Avatar really worked you both over.

  • 4 12-11-2009 at 12:57 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Haha, the SEASON has really worked us over.

  • 5 12-11-2009 at 1:12 pm

    red_wine said...

    Kris, how can you think this is a great year! I really think it is thuddingly weak. I just don’t seem to have seen much distinguished fare this year at all.

    I would be SHOCKED if Avatar won Best Picture at LA. It could however win Production Design.

    Picture: A Serious Man
    (they chose Blood in 2007 so now they can go with the Coens. But there’s always Hurt Locker. If it comes down to consensus, that could win, everybody loves that movie.)
    Director: Bigelow or Haneke
    Screenplay: Coens or Haneke or Tarntino
    Actress: Swinton or Cornish
    Actor: Renner
    Supp Actress: Morton
    Supp Actor: Waltz or McKay
    Cinematography: Bright Star or White Ribbon or A Single Man

    I don’t think they vote to give a leg up to movies. I think they vote what they think is the best.

    And due respect to your enthusiasm, the fire has been flamed beyond control now. Guardian posted a negative review on RT and was torn apart with horrible humiliating comments within hours from fanboys who hadn’t even seen the movie. I hate when this kind of shit happens.

  • 6 12-11-2009 at 1:16 pm

    david said...

    Kris…please share your thoughts on Red Cliff after you view it if you will. Are you seeing the extended cut or the edited down version?? I’ve heard the latter makes the film seem almost incoherent at times.

  • 7 12-11-2009 at 1:23 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    you guys never talked about if AVATAR could actually win, could it?

    I think LA will throw support at Inglourious Basterds

  • 8 12-11-2009 at 1:26 pm

    Bryan said...

    So glad to hear about Avatar.

    I just read A.O. Scott’s review of Invictus. It basically reads like a lecture on what Nelson Mandela did, how it was awesome, how he is awesome and thus I should like this movie about him.

    And on to the next one…

  • 9 12-11-2009 at 1:27 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    red_wine: Because I have an opinion, just like the next guy.

    Anyway, I don’t think a Guardian review matters in the slightest. And fanboys will (and have, in many instances) change their attitude when they actually SEE the film.

  • 10 12-11-2009 at 1:32 pm

    Loyal said...

    Honestly, there’s only one thing more grating than a fanboy and that’s a hater.

  • 11 12-11-2009 at 1:33 pm

    aspect ratio said...

    Here’s a curious thought..

    ..could The Blind Side hurt Invictus, box office-wise?

    They’re both inspirational, true-story dramas involving racial harmony and two very similar sports. Having seen neither I can’t imagine that they are very much alike, but in (extremely) broad brush strokes on the surface they kind of are.

    Then again, The Blind Side plays to mid-America and Invictus plays to the coasts.

  • 12 12-11-2009 at 1:43 pm

    aspect ratio said...

    As for Avatar, I’m glad to hear that the 2D version ought to be just fine. 3D, until it’s ubiquitous, ought to be cotton candy, an extra treat. Every movie should play just as well in 2D, especially as you say, it has to once it gets to DVD and Blu-ray.

    The biggest question for me about Avatar at the moment is really the Art Direction. They created a whole new world here, and it’s a knockout, yet the Academy has never nominated a film that relied so heavily on digital environments. Can it be nominated in a category that nominates an art director and a set designer, when it barely has any sets? Is its art direction considered a part of the visual effects instead?

    I’d certainly love to see that barrier broken, that would actually be a “game-changing” moment for that category, and could open up to Pixar films having a shot at nominations in the future.

  • 13 12-11-2009 at 1:51 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Your mention of the dialogue being corny at times yet never bad enough to detract from the story is reassuring, to say the least. I was pretty skeptical the minute I heard, “This is OUR land!” from the latest trailer.

    Then again, Terminator 2: Judgment Day had some bad lines (why would a Terminator need a vacation?) and that was one of the most gripping sci-fi films of the 90’s. I’m hoping Avatar is the same way.

  • 14 12-11-2009 at 2:21 pm

    Pablo (Col) said...

    The Hurt locker good ??!!! really ??? Come on… Flawless directing by Bigelow and maybe Renner was good but its not a great o good movie. At all. Very overrated.

    Avatar sounds outstanding. I differ that you say that two scifi movies cant get into the top 10. Star Trek has as much chance as Avatar, i think. And Up is clearly in, despite most of the people thinking animated films have “their own category”.

  • 15 12-11-2009 at 2:48 pm

    I'll always be blue said...

    I don’t see why this is considered a “milestone.” It’s just CGI actors using rotoscope and animation tools. Big deal. It’s been done a bunch of times before and nobody even noticed. What do you think Spider-man was? That wasn’t Tobey McGuire really flying around between the buildings! But unlike Cameron, Sam Raimi actually knows how to tell a story with live action material between the animated segments, material where you actually care about the characters.

    So there has been some Cameron-hyped advancements in CGI that might make actors a thing of the past? Is that something that an Academy full of actors is going to want to support? Doubtful! They never have before and there have been plenty of films that have used actor rotoscoping, even Jim Carrey’s CHRISTMAS CAROL does it. Is anybody talking groundbreaking on that? Or is it that Jim Cameron is just good at spinning himself as a technical genius? Is he really? Or is this just more of the same, with more money poured into it?

  • 16 12-11-2009 at 2:50 pm

    Kevin said...

    @I’ll always be blue: damn, someone sounds pissy

  • 17 12-11-2009 at 2:58 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Yeah, blue, you have no idea what you’re talking about. I can’t say it any more succinctly than that. But I guess I’ll try…

    The point isn’t rotoscoping, it is how photo-real these environments and characters look. (Spider-Man has always looked like shit, by the way.)

    Anyway, the point being, the more I read through your comment, the more it is painfully apparent that you don’t understand. This isn’t Zemeckis’s work. This is much more nuanced. This is Weta’s doing, greatly improved from the already wonderful work on Gollum and King Kong.

    When you actually see the film, I look forward to hearing that opinion. Until then, if I were you, I wouldn’t go around re-posting this comment. It could be a bit embarrassing for you.

  • 18 12-11-2009 at 3:07 pm

    Kevin said...

    Kris couldn’t have said it better. Weta is the greatest visual effects house in the industry. This isn’t just some run of the mill CGI blockbuster.

  • 19 12-11-2009 at 3:26 pm

    Craig said...

    Sam Raimi knows how to tell a story? The three Spiderman films are some of the worst I’ve ever seen.

  • 20 12-11-2009 at 5:08 pm

    Kevin said...

    The first two Spider-Man movies were the standard of superhero movies until Nolan put out Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. and in between those two Batman films, Raimi lost his mind and gave us Spider-Man 3, which is easily amongst the worst superhero films out there. The sad thing is that Spider-Man 3 kind of left the whole franchise on such a bad note that the coolness of the first two movies got soiled by an atrocious third film.

    Anywho, I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who thinks Avatar has just leaped way ahead of the pack to possible front-runner status. If the film is as mind-blowing as the pretty much unanimous raves have indicated, I think it just became the film to beat, with a lot of things supporting it. I hate to use the same word as everyone else, but it’s a bonafide game-changer. Everyone is pretty much agreed that it’s mind-blowing, and the fact that it lived up to the massive hype always helps. Plus, lets not forget the HUGE box office potential.

  • 21 12-11-2009 at 5:16 pm

    SJG said...

    Wait, so did I hear Anne or Kris say that James Cameron might get a best director nod?

    I wonder if it will be awkward to lose an award like that to an ex-wife…

  • 22 12-11-2009 at 5:32 pm

    Kevin said...

    Cameron and Bigelow actually maintain a good professional relationship and are very supportive of one another. You can see that in Cameron’s short interview snippet where he talks about how The Hurt Locker was awesome and how he thinks it’s Bigelow’s year (I think the video was done at Comic Con over the summer when the buzz for The Hurt Locker exploded). Point is, there doesn’t seem to be any hard feelings between the two, at least professionally. And I imagine any soreness is water under the bridge, they divorced like nearly 20 years ago.

  • 23 12-11-2009 at 5:51 pm

    Kevin said...

    Sounds like Stephen Lang’s performance is something a long the lines of Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive.

  • 24 12-11-2009 at 8:14 pm

    Alex said...

    I still think Spiderman 2 is better than The Dark Knight. Maybe it’s Alvin Sargent’s involvement with the script.

    However, Alfred Molina was slightly less electrifying than Heath Ledger.

  • 25 12-11-2009 at 8:19 pm

    Alex said...

    Also, I’ve been trawling through reviews and found this negative one from Australia’s The Age.

    “But as a story designed to engage, enthrall and entertain adult audiences for almost three hours, it is a major disappointment strewn with weak characters, environmental platitudes and anti-progress cliches.”

    “The lush alien world Cameron creates is a magnificent, photo-realistic landscape of multi-coloured dragons, dinosaurs, endless waterfalls and floating mountains. But with its patronising, predictable images of noble savages, evil technology and gigantic bulldozers crunching their way through precious alien rainforests, the film often feels like a megalithic piece of green propaganda. As superbly rendered as his 3D world is, Cameron has populated it with characters who are strictly 2D. And sometimes not even that.”

    “A compulsive envelope-pusher, Cameron invented a pioneering camera system and ground-breaking visual processing techniques for the film, but perhaps he should have spent a little less time obsessing over the technology and a tad more developing the story beyond the compendium of cliches it regrettably is.”

    From what I’ve read elsewhere, it seems to succeed in spite of its goofiness.

  • 26 12-11-2009 at 8:23 pm

    James D. said...

    That isn’t the first time I have heard you praise 2009 as a year in film. I disagree completely, but at least you can enjoy cinema after years of working in the industry.

  • 27 12-11-2009 at 8:41 pm

    Speaking English said...

    “Coco Before Chanel”… that’s a snooze. Also “The Young Victoria”… same thing. HA! Love the enthusiasm.

  • 28 12-12-2009 at 7:35 am

    Jon said...

    Flux Vortex? Google it. It’s actually the correct scientific term. Believe it or not, even unobtanium is a reasonable term. Engineers have long (since at least the 1950s) used the term unobtainium when referring to unusual or costly materials, or when theoretically considering a material perfect for their needs in all respects save that it doesn’t exist. By the 1990s, the term was widely used, including in formal engineering papers such as Towards unobtainium (new composite materials for space applications).

  • 29 12-12-2009 at 12:46 pm

    Austin said...

    Avatar is gonna win it all!!!

  • 30 12-13-2009 at 4:35 am

    jimmy two-shoes said...

    sounds like anne saw the cameron cnn interview. she’s pretty much quoting it verbatum when talking about the titanic inspiration. it’s obvious because he said it. in those words.

    otherwise quite exciting!

  • 31 12-17-2009 at 12:38 am

    Anna said...

    2009 the best year of the decade? I think it’s middle-range at best.

    2007 owns all.

  • 32 12-27-2009 at 7:00 am

    Big Braveheart said...

    Hurt Locker could win as it deals the dangerous realism of war and how much bomb disposal exports put there life at risk for others.

    Inglorous Basterds has a good shout too as it is a great piece of pulp war fiction and combines
    English & foreign language film to make a mainstream arthouse film for the millenium.

    Avatar looks great but may be just an effects-driven drama.

    Tom Hardy for best actor for Bronson!!!