A Personal Update

“In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

This blog saved my life.

It came to me during my quarter-life crisis, when I dreaded I would die working the job I had settled for. Since creating it, I have come closer than ever to making my dreams come true.

Without it, I would not have been inspired enough to pursue this next opportunity.

I’ve devoted much of my summer to applying for a graduate program in creative writing. You can only go so long without indulging your passions before you’re motivated to invest in changing your own life.

This month, I found out I was admitted into the University of Denver, where my Master of Arts will be in creative writing (with a concentration in nonfiction).

At first, I was hesitant to go back to school because I graduated Colorado State University debt-free in 2015, thanks to the life insurance policy I inherited from my parents.

Unfortunately, though, my bachelor’s in film journalism hasn’t done much for my career except help me create this website. As much as I wish it paid the bills right now, it doesn’t, nor will it for the foreseeable future.

Not that money is everything – like I said, this blog is the reason I even survived the past year. After I finished college, I found myself trapped in an abusive relationship that cost me time and money I’ll never get back.

In addition to the undiagnosed, untreated bipolar and borderline personality disorder I was suffering through at the time, my world had become a living death as I wasted away my life digging myself out of the hole where my ex left me for dead.

Half a decade came and passed, and I started to believe it was too late for me. Every day, I would wake up dreading what my future would bring (or wouldn’t bring), and every night, I would go to bed regretting what I did (or didn’t do) with my past.

Worst of all, I wasn’t writing, because my time with my ex changed my passions – how could I force myself to live for movies again when I didn’t even want to live?

So, I followed the most basic rule of writing: write what you know.

Like the hundred-to-three-hundred-word news blog posts I published for class and the five-hundred-word streaming reviews I wrote for student media, I set reachable daily and weekly goals for myself, whether I felt like it or not.

And it paid off – first, with the Eighty-Eighth Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, then, with MovieBabble, and, now, with DU.

All that being said, I will be taking a temporary hiatus from this project to focus on my studies. Not only that, but I also need to prepare submittable material for paying contests to raise money for my tuition.

It is simply no longer feasible for me to honor my scheduling commitments here – it hasn’t been since I set myself toward this latest ambition – and you deserve better than that for your support, so I’ll return here when it’s my only priority, and until the next time I see you again, thank you.

Netflix review: Bernard Rose’s “Candyman” (1992)

As the Black Lives Matter movement marches across the globe to protest the murder of Black Americans at the hands of the police, activists are taking systemic racism to task.

One of the targets of their revolution includes Hollywood, which, historically speaking, is infamous for its whitewashing. The horror genre in particular negatively represents Black characters (if they’re even represented at all).

With its “racism as horror” allegory, is Bernard Rose’s Candyman (1992) ahead of its time, or is it of its time?

If you don’t know what to watch next, Candyman is available to stream on Netflix. The supernatural slasher stars Virginia Madsen as well as Tony Todd.

It appears on Bravo’s “100 Scariest Movie Moments,” Bloody Disgusting and UGO’s top slasher lists, Filmsite’s “Greatest Scariest Moments and Scenes” and “Greatest Film Plot Twists, Film Spoilers, and Surprise Endings,” and Retrocrush’s “100 Greatest Horror Movie Performances.”

Set in Chicago, Helen Lyle (Madsen) is a semiotics graduate student researching urban myths who hears a local story from the Cabrini-Green housing project about Daniel Robitaille, “the Candyman” (Todd).

According to legend, the Candyman can be summoned by saying his name in a mirror five times, before killing you with his hook hand. After putting the vengeful spirit’s existence to the test, Helen finds herself fighting for her life.

Candyman predates Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) by about twenty-five years, and Get Out is one of the greatest releases of its decade. Its racial commentary is as stirring as its scares are hair-raising.

Perhaps what’s so horrifying about it is the ways in which it relates to the contemporary American experience, and its realism to all who survive the horrors of racism.

And this is all due to the filmmaker’s script. In addition to intersecting Helen between misogynistic gaslighting and violence, Rose mythologizes his narrative with a story within the story about the Candyman’s origin.

White-on-black brutality has never truly stayed dead, and it is only a word away.

But, in many ways, you can still tell this was written by a white man. Candyman puts forward a number of toxic stereotypes about Black people, such as a superstitious lean and a hive-mind mentality which paints them as a sub-intelligent, quasi-barbaric horde.

Whether or not this was the director’s intention is irrelevant – what is relevant, is the outcome.

At least the reboot (produced by none other than Peele himself, and directed by Nia DaCosta) is sure to correct some of the picture’s more damning faults. Regardless, Candyman is still a classic for any fan of the genre (when viewed critically).

Indeed, where a lesser horror film would have patted itself on the back simply for making its monster Black (without lending a second thought to the larger implications), Candyman goes so far as to textualize those racial ramifications through a mainstream generic lens.

Amazon Prime review: David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012)

Where were you the first time you saw David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (2012)?

It takes a special film for this critic to remember the answer to that question.

Indeed, how could one forget staring into Bradley Cooper’s star fire-blue eyes and falling in love with the character who marked his metamorphosis into the “serious” dramatist who would go on to give us his A Star Is Born (2018)?

As for Jennifer Lawrence, the audience surrogate reacting to this beauty and charisma she covets for herself even though the gulf between she and Cooper is as tantalizingly close but frustratingly wide as that between the viewer and the silver screen, her dramatic catharsis is communal.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Silver Linings Playbook is available on Amazon Prime. The romantic comedy-drama was adapted by the filmmaker himself from the 2008 novel of the same name by Matthew Quick.

It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, with Lawrence winning Best Actress.

Set in Philadelphia, Patrizio “Pat” Solitano, Junior (Best Supporting Actor nominee Cooper), is released into the care of his parents, Patrizio Solitano, Senior (Best Supporting Actor nominee Robert De Niro), and Dolores Solitano (Best Supporting Actress nominee Jacki Weaver).

After spending eight months at a mental health facility for bipolar disorder, Pat attends a dinner party with his friend, Ronnie (John Ortiz), and Ronnie’s wife, Veronica (Julia Stiles), where Pat meets Veronica’s sister, Tiffany Maxwell (Lawrence), a mentally ill young widow.

Tiffany falls for Pat, but Pat is still in love with his ex-wife, Nikki Solitano (Brea Bee), who has taken out a restraining order against him after he beat her extramarital lover, and, so, Tiffany offers to give Nikki a letter from Pat if he agrees to enter a dance competition as her partner.

As one can plainly see from all the acting nods, Russell is an actor’s director. That Silver Linings Playbook is one of only a handful of films in Oscars history to be up for all four acting categories testifies to that.

But Silver Linings Playbook succeeds where, say, American Hustle (2013) fails because it is as narratively tight as it is dramatically fiery, while the overlong American Hustle is bloated with its cast’s improvisational excesses.

And Lawrence is every bit as bright as you would expect her to be. Between this, American Hustle, and Joy (2015), her creative partnership with Russell sings the song of a muse and her artist. Her alchemic transformation into Tiffany is a firework show.

Unfortunately, though, she continues the trend of women with mental illnesses being sensationalized on film. Another Lawrence collaborator, Darren Aronofsky, similarly exploited Natalie Portman in his Black Swan (2010), for which Portman also took home the trophy.

A person’s psycho-emotional suffering shouldn’t be a means to an end for actors looking to make spectacles of themselves.

However, Silver Linings Playbook humanizes Tiffany as a romantic lead, rather than villainizing her a la Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction (1986). She is no less magnetic than Cooper himself.

The film is miraculous in the romance it electrifies between two people for whom love is more painful than not, a spell only movie magic can cast.

Hulu review: Isao Takahata’s “Grave of the Fireflies” (1988)

Studio Ghibli is not all soot sprites and fire demons dubbed by Billy Crystal – indeed, Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies (1988) is one of the most devastating films you will ever see, anime or otherwise.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Grave of the Fireflies is available to stream on Hulu. The animated war film is based on the semiautobiographical short story of the same name by Akiyuki Nosaka. It stars Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Yoshiko Shinohara, and Akemi Yamaguchi.

Set in Kobe, Japan, around World War II, the movie opens September 21, 1945, with a teenage boy named Seita (dubbed by J. Robert Spencer) starving to death and his spirit joining that of his younger sister, Setsuko (dubbed by Corinne Orr).

Several months earlier, the two children are orphaned after a firebombing destroys most of Kobe and kills their mother (dubbed by Veronica Taylor).

Upon moving in with their aunt (dubbed by Amy Jones), Seita and Setsuko face the brutal reality of growing up as refugees in wartime Japan.

Studio Ghibli is known for its antiwar themes. For example, Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) is heavily influenced by the filmmaker’s childhood in postwar Japan.

Grave of the Fireflies is the dream factory’s most powerful tragedy, though, its young characters developed in such a way that only Ghibli would know how.

To be sure, it is because of the studio’s family-friendliness that Grave of the Fireflies is so mature and heartbreaking. Seita and Setsuko are childlike in a way that transcends across cultural as well as artistic boundaries.

That they are cartoon characters does not detract from their characterizations.

But the nationalistic, toxic masculine intent behind the picture sullies it somewhat. After all, Japanese audiences interpret Seita’s decision not to return to his aunt’s as a wise one, even though the consequences are deadly.

While there are cultural differences at play, Seita’s pride in himself as an imperial Japanese male should not be more important than life itself.

But intentionalism is a critical fallacy – there have been many filmmakers throughout history who did not mean to shoot unethical works but did so anyway – so the director’s interpretation is no less subjective than that of the viewer.

Netflix review: Sydney Pollack’s “Tootsie” (1982)

Hollywood has a longstanding tradition of producing comedies about men dressed up as women.

Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959), in addition to its six Academy Award nominations, was voted as the top comedy film of all time by the American Film Institute on their “100 Years… 100 Laughs” poll.

While a man in drag shouldn’t be the butt of the joke in today’s climate (nor should they ever have been), these pictures, when viewed critically, can still yield a smile to your face.

Sydney Pollack’s Tootsie (1982) is one of the most warm-hearted, least mean-spirited of these examples.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Tootsie is available to stream on Netflix. The comedy was nominated for ten Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, as well as Best Original Screenplay. Jessica Lange won for Best Supporting Actress.

Set in New York, Michael Dorsey (Best Actor nominee Dustin Hoffman) is an actor with a reputation for being difficult to work with.

When his friend, Sandy Lester (Best Supporting Actress nominee Teri Garr), tries out for the role of Emily Kimberly on popular daytime soap opera Southwest General, an unemployed Michael auditions as “Dorothy Michaels” and gets cast.

However, “Dorothy” becomes a star, forcing Michael into a dilemma wherein he must reconcile his success with his and Sandy’s relationship, and his feelings for costar Julie Nichols (Lange).

Tootsie is second only to Some Like It Hot on the AFI’s “100 Years… 100 Laughs,” surpassing even Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), and it is preserved at the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry.

It is as romantic as it is comedic. Between Sandy and Julie, the dramatic stakes escalate the tension to a breathless climax.

Indeed, Lange defines star presence as Julie. One of the greatest actresses of her generation, she may be more recognized now for her tenure on FX’s American Horror Story (2011-), but she hits her marks as the infamously Method Hoffman’s love interest.

She can be funny without coming at the expense of her pathos, and you can’t help but fall for Julie, too.

Aside from the film’s questionable sexual and gender politics, Tootsie also suffers from Hoffman’s presence in it. After all, he was a name named as part of the #MeToo movement.

Not to mention, he made self-congratulatory comments during an interview about how he needed to play “Dorothy Michaels” to learn sexism is a thing.

Again, Tootsie is for the critical consumer. If you can look past the era it represents, you will find yourself taken by its romance and its wit. It is a movie with both a heart and a mind, which is what makes it as comforting for the soul as falling in love itself.

Amazon Prime review: Steven Soderbergh’s “Side Effects” (2013)

“Imagine everything you ever wanted shows up one day and calls itself your life. And, then, just when you start to believe in it… gone. And, suddenly, it gets very hard to imagine a future… that’s depression.”

If you don’t know what to watch next, Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects (2013) is available on Amazon Prime. The psychological thriller stars Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Channing Tatum. The filmmaker also cinematographed as well as edited the production.

After the release of her husband, Martin (Tatum), from a four-year prison sentence for insider trading, Emily Taylor (Mara) attempts suicide by crashing her car into the wall of a parking garage.

Doctor Jonathan Banks (Law), her assigned psychiatrist, prescribes her an experimental new antidepressant called Ablixa at the urging of her previous psychoanalyst, Doctor Victoria Siebert (Zeta-Jones).

When the side effects prove to be deadly, Doctor Banks finds his personal and professional reputation on the line.

Side Effects is Soderbergh’s masterstroke.

His filmography represents a range of genres, but an antiestablishment thematic stance (anti-corporate America in Erin Brockovich (2000), anti-DEA in Traffic (2000), anti-CDC in Contagion (2011), and anti-private insurance in Unsane (2018)) unites much of his work.

Side Effects takes on big pharma with an aesthetical style like only Soderbergh could be inspired by elegant muse Zeta-Jones to construct, as keen as the mise-en-scene in his Ocean’s series.

But it is Mara out of whom Soderbergh directs the performance of a lifetime. As mind-bending a character as Kim Novak in Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), Emily Taylor is a devastation for anyone who’s ever suffered from mental illness.

It is a sensitive, understated, multifaceted work of dramatic art.

But the film is almost a note-for-note twin to Phil Joanou’s Final Analysis (1992).

The Hitchcockian neo-noir thriller stars Richard Gere as a psychiatrist who meets a woman (Kim Basinger) through a patient (Uma Thurman), only to be caught up in the middle of a tumultuous marriage with her husband (Eric Roberts), to the doctor’s detriment.

If it feels like you’re seeing double, that’s because you are.

What Side Effects lacks in originality, though, it makes up for in quality – it is an evolution of Final Analysis, rather than a rip-off.

There is only so much wiggle room according to the generic conventions of the thriller – the goal is a single reaction, which is to thrill – and Side Effects is thrilling.

It is as thrilling for the critic to deconstruct as it is for the audience to be entertained by it, and that is what makes it the director’s magnum opus.

Hulu review: FX and Audience Network’s “Damages” (2007-2012)

Let’s face it: the Golden Age of Television is a sausage fest. The antihero dances perilously close to making folk heroes out of the violent white male. Female sociopathy is largely uncharted territory.

Consider Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) the exception to the rule.

If you don’t know what to watch next, FX and Audience Network’s Damages (2007-2012) is available to stream on Hulu. The legal thriller won two Primetime Emmy Awards during its run for Close’s portrayal of Patty.

It has also been nominated twice for Outstanding Drama Series.

Fresh out of law school, Ellen Parsons (Outstanding Supporting Actress nominee Rose Byrne) is offered a job at Hewes & Associates, a competitive (but infamous) litigation firm.

Her boss, Patty, is something of a legal vigilante, taking the law into her own hands if it means cutting down to size men who abuse their power.

Each season focuses on a different lawsuit from both sides of the case, with nonlinear framing devices generating binge-worthy suspense through central mysteries.

The relationship between Patty and Ellen mirrors that of Jesse Pinkman and Walter White, or Christopher Moltisanti and Tony Soprano, or Don Draper and Peggy Olson.

The mentor is toxic and abusive, while the protégé is the moral foil, coloring the conflicts between them in shades of morally gray.

But the mother-daughter dynamic between Patty and Ellen is distinctly feminine across a writerly landscape where women written by men all too often sound like they’re written by men – Patty may be a study in antisocial personality disorder, but she is still a survivor of misogynistic oppression, just like Ellen.

Patty also echoes Walt, Tony, and Don as the boss from Hell. To become the self-made success story of the American Dream they all are, each one of these characters, in his or her own respective ways, was forced to become something inhuman.

Indeed, those in power around them are no less self-serving, manipulative, and corrupt, and Patty does what she must to survive.

Which brings us to our next comparison: Patty and Daenerys Targaryen. Like Daenerys, Patty faces off against antagonists even more unlikable than herself, and so we empathize with her by comparison.

But unlike Daenerys, Patty is an ethically written female antihero, in that she is never presented as a “fallen woman” too emotionally unstable to do the right thing with her own power, but, rather, she beats the men around her at their own game.

Even though Patty holds her own with the boys (unlike Daenerys), Damages would be one of the classics had been canceled after its third season.

The transition from the thirteen-episode seasons on FX to the ten-episode seasons on DirecTV marks a change in pace and tone like something out of a different (and lesser) show.

Even the greatest series are in the business of making money, and that means staying on the air until they are no longer profitable, no matter how slow and painful a death that may be.

But for the first three-fifths of its run, Damages is one of the all-time best, which is more than can be said for almost every other series out there. Like Close herself, it is not talked about enough. And its parallels to real-world cases makes it that much more watchable.

Netflix review: Gore Verbinski’s “The Ring” (2002)

“Seven days…”

If you don’t know what to watch next, Gore Verbinski’s The Ring (2002) is available to stream on Netflix. The supernatural horror film stars Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, as well as Brian Cox.

Ehren Kruger’s screenplay is a remake of Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (1998), which is an adaptation of the 1991 novel Ring by Koji Suzuki.

Set in Seattle, teenaged Katie Embry (Amber Tamblyn) dies seven days after watching a cursed videotape, and her friend, Becca Kotler (Rachael Bella) is institutionalized upon witnessing it. Katie’s aunt, Rachel Keller (Watts), an investigative journalist, looks into the death.

Once Rachel watches the tape, she receives a phone call telling her she’ll die in seven days.

The Ring popularized the American remake of the Asian horror flick, and for good reason. Eastern storytelling differs from Western storytelling enough to put off even the most literate fans of Hollywood horror.

With this zeitgeist commodifying the crosstalk between the United States and the Asian market in the 2000s, it has ushered in the “Asian New Wave” of the 2010s, culminating in Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019) becoming the first non-English language film to win Best Picture.

Such is the power of The Ring. Like Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) before it, it is as mystifying as it is horrifying. Its cast of characters is written and performed as paranormal sleuths trying to outwit the evil force, not just warm bodies waiting to get killed.

That is what makes us care when the horrors befall them. As with James Wan, the horror maestro of our time whose jump scares are actually scary, every frightening image in the cursed videotape is meaningful.

They are not grotesque for the sake of itself – they three-dimensionalize the vengeful spirit until we are as afraid for her as we are afraid of her.

The resolution, however, is ambiguous to the point of being barely intelligible. While it works better than a storybook “happy ending” would have, it still leaves too many loose ends for comfort.

Even when opening up to the possibility of a franchise, though, a good ending will answer more questions than it asks, or, at least, it’ll raise questions we can answer for ourselves.

Like Katie, dare yourself to watch The Ring, and like Samara, it’ll crawl out of the screen at you.

Amazon Prime review: Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Favourite” (2018)

One of the greatest films of its year features this scene.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite (2018) is available on Amazon Prime. The period black comedy was nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Olivia Colman won for Best Actress.

Set in 1704 England, Anne, Queen of Great Britain (Colman), is an invalid and incompetent monarch. Her “favourite,” Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Best Supporting Actress nominee Rachel Weisz) – yes, that Churchill – is the de facto ruler of the empire.

But when Sarah’s younger, impoverished cousin, Abigail Hill (Best Supporting Actress nominee Emma Stone), shows up looking for a job, a bitter rivalry ensues between these two ambitious women for the queen’s “favour.”

Lanthimos is the leading absurdist of his craft, and The Favourite is his most commercial effort without losing any of his voice, which is how it was showered with such attention from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Compared to his The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), this satire, though just as alienating to audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, is still more laugh-out-loud anachronistic than it is chuckle-to-yourself uncomfortable.

But it balances these more ridiculous themes against such subtextual social commentary as the desperation of the lower class to climb out of their plight as well as the blind eye the upper class turns to that plight so they can race ducks and lobsters instead.

And the auteur directs out of his three leading ladies equally tragicomic tours de force, but none more so than Colman. She caricaturizes Queen Anne hysterically, but also sensitively.

It would not come as a surprise to this critic if the performer studied up on borderline personality disorder in preparation for this role.

In addition, Robbie Ryan’s cinematography aestheticizes the film with its signature photography. The wide-angle lenses are like watching the subjects through a fishbowl.

Not only is it visually unique, but it is also artistically eloquent; time may distance us from this cast of characters, but we can still see their conflicts reflected back at us as if they are our own, even as history warps it.

While The Favourite does not presume to be historically accurate, its source material is still a character assassination. It is loosely based upon Sarah Churchill’s memoir, which is (understandably) biased against Queen Anne.

All parties involved are long dead, but still, is it ethical to knowingly and purposefully misrepresent historical figures?

Or maybe The Favourite is meant to be read as a parody of this hyperbolically bitter artifact of poison-pen revenge – either way, it is a treat for those who acquire the taste for it.

Hulu review: James Cameron’s “Avatar” (2009)

Sir Alfred Hitchcock… Stanley Kubrick… Orson Welles… and James Cameron.

Although Cameron’s oeuvre is “lower” art than these other three directors’ filmographies, he is still not justly recognized as an auteur.

His masterpiece, Titanic (1997), while not free of imperfection, was the first film to gross more than a billion dollars worldwide, and is tied for first for the most Academy Awards nominations and wins for a single release, a fiscal style which continues to influence the industry at large.

His Avatar (2009), the follow-up to Titanic, pales in the shadow of its older sister.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Avatar is available to stream on Hulu. The epic science fiction film was up for nine Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Cameron also wrote the movie, which would go on to surpass Titanic at the box office.

Set in the year 2154, humans have depleted almost all of Earth’s natural resources, leading the Resources Development Administration to mine for unobtanium on the habitable moon of Pandora, which a native species known as the Na’vi calls home.

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a wheelchair-bound former United States Marine, is recruited to replace his deceased twin brother on a mission to explore Pandora with his genetically matched human-Na’vi hybrid, also known as an “avatar.”

Jake meets and falls for a Na’vi princess named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and finds himself torn between following the orders of the colonialist RDA and following his heart.

Avatar took home the Oscars for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Visual Effects, and, with its pioneering motion-capture as well as 3D technology, it reserves the right to rest on those photographic laurels. It still very much dictates the cinematic conversation today.

There was a time before Avatar, and, now, we live in the Year of Avatar 2020.

Dramatically, the film has its moments, too, if not with the same impact as Titanic. Even at its distended runtime, it is still a digestible romantic hero’s journey. In addition, it is a thematically well-intentioned parable against imperialism.

But the path to Hell is paved in good intentions. Like Kevin Costner’s Danes with Wolves (1990), the white-coded hero saves the day after appropriating this “exotic” culture for himself.

Plus, this reviewer watched Avatar and Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg’s Pocahontas (1995) back to back one time and it was four and a half hours of the same story.

The originality of Avatar has been criticized ad nauseam, but it still bears repeating. All dramatic narratives (or, at least, the well-written ones) follow a template of rules, and they do so for a reason – because the rules work.

But there is a difference between honoring the rules by writing your own which are equal to them if not better, and letting somebody else’s rules do all the work for you – the unimaginative screenplay is secondary to the exactingly detailed world-building.

Additionally, according to feminist theory, Avatar could stand some improvement. Neytiri qualifies as one of Cameron’s pseudo-feminist “strong, independent women,” who are written with such masculinity, they might as well be men.

Back to Titanic, Kate Winslet’s character is the best-written of this author’s signature trope, because her arc develops her from a damsel in distress to a rescuer to a self-preservationist without sounding like she was written by a man, and the same cannot be said for Neytiri.

Cameron’s trademark technique is to get record budgets greenlit for original properties (and then profiting off their record returns), and, for that reason, Avatar is a worthwhile lesson in cinematic history.

It to this day shapes everything to come after it, and, though not Cameron’s masterwork, it still epitomizes his boy-like wonder over unexplored universes.

Cinema, at its most “cinematic,” is dreamlike, childlike, and transporting, and, so, Avatar has colored the cinematic arts in cosmic shades of blue since its premiere more than a decade ago.