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A Reader Reviews DARK ANGEL

El Cosmico here, wondering when I will next have the fortune of sleeping...a fine reader has sent in another review of the upcoming Fox series by James Cameron, starring Jessica Alba (who I like better with short hair), that's right...Dark Angel.

You know, the one you've seen about a million commercials for? Yeah. Well, here's another look at it. Thanks Darkman!

Had the luck of screening the 2 hour pilot for James Camerson's "Dark Angel" series coming to Fox this fall.

This is a high production value show, almost feature level judging from the very good quality I saw in the screening copy. The only weak point is some of the visual effects look a little tacky, which is surprising since Cameron's is such a stickler for FX. Don't know if FX were Digital Domain or not (no credits) but hopefully they'll improve as the series progresses.

Anyway, the plot is classic "pilot story" stuff. It's basically an "origins" story, telling how the main character, a genetically engineered female prototype name Max was created as a government weapons project and how her and several other children escaped (in a very nice early sequence). Now. 20ish, she makes her living in a semi post apocalyptic Seattle as a bike courier with a load of colorful "characters" as her co workers I say "semi" apocalyptic because the cities still stand but the show refers to an EMP pulse in the past that basically fried the nation's major electrical/information infrastructure so everything is sort of jury rigged together. Not as primative as mad max but we're not talking "star trek" future here.

Max is still being hunted by the government/black ops types and still looking for the other children who escaped with her. I assume this arc will be the Spine "mythology" of the series that they will return to occasionally when they aren't doing stand alone episodes (ala X Files UFO/conspiracy plot). Max "supplements" her income as a thief and during a theft, hooks up with a hacker/pirate broadcaster battling against your "standard coorporate and/or government tyranny" who will become her "partner" in the series. Not a lot really happens in the pilot as they are so busy setting up the world and characters, but it definitely has potential if they can come up with good stories for these characters and the world they've set up. The series it most resembles in tone is the old Max Headroom show. Not as much comic aspects (after all there is no wacky out of control virtual character spewing one liners) but the downtrodden world mixed with media/techno savvy is similar. Unfortuantely, like "Headroom", it may be too smart for the room, or in this case middle America.

As the main character Max, Jessica Alba is borderline. She's a stunningly attractive young woman (and rumour is was cast because she looks generically "ethnic" but not of any one recognizable minority - apparantly an important consideration for foreign sales)but her acting skills are sometimes iffy. Max is supposed to be an intelligent, street smart person but I didn't really buy the tough girl routine Alba was playing. She's no worse than Keanu Reeves (in any movie) but I was hoping for better. Being genetically engineered, she is of course way stronger/faster than humans with the action scenes playing out in an odd slo-mo-pseudo-bullet-time(I-wish-we-had-more-budget-to-really-to-do-real-bul let-time-on-a-weekly-basis)effect. It's gimmicky and it'll get tiresome after a few episodes if they fall back on it to spice the episodes up with visual "whammies".

Overall, my feelings for the show is positive despite some weaknesses in the lead performance and effects. I only hope Fox gives it a chance and doesn't pull a "harsh realm" after 2 episodes.

Well, there you have it. My personal opinion on most pilots is that...I need to see more before I can judge a series. It sounds to me like this show has potential, but I have a feeling it'll be at least a couple of weeks into this one before I make up my mind.

-El Cosmico

elcosmico@aintitcool.com

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 3, 2000, 5:06 a.m. CST

    WHY ARE PEOPLE SO MEAN TO KEANU?!?

    by Beageal

    It hurts me. Makes me sad. Especially after this picture I saw of him tonight. Holy crap! His forest of pubic hair was on full display! More remarkable was where I found this pic--it was in one of those free magazines you pick up at the theatre to read before the show! The August 2000 issure of "Famous". Canada only, I suspect, but I'm sure you can find the picture out there on the internet. Just do a search for "keanu pubes -xxx -naked -nude -porn" Imagine some parenet sitting in the theatre with little Billy and his friends, waiting for the curtain to rise on "Pokemon 2000" when they look over and see Billy staring at Keanu's mammoth wooly jungle. And if that towel were just an inch further down...wow, man.

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 5:35 a.m. CST

    Cameron = Genius

    by Cruel Shoes

    I don't know anything about this show, haven't even seen a trailer. But I just spent the last two months reading and watching every frame of The Abyss: SE DVD. I suggest any Cameron fan start at the beginning of the disc and read EVERYTHING. The motherfucker is such a genius. And then after you've spent the time to practically be a part of the production on the Abyss, you take a step back and realize that he put that much effort into all of his movies and realize the scale and complexity and innovation and fucking pure passion this guy's put into ALL of his projects. He's amazing, and I haven't even gotten my T2 Ultimate Edition yet. Everyone gets pretty soured on Cameron because Titanic made so much money and won Oscars, nothing pokes a hole in the cult worship of an artist like rampant success (Forrest Gump and Independence Day were enjoyed soooo much in the theatre by people who would badmouth it a few months later). Don't worry, liking Titanic doesn't automatically mean you want to fuck Leo. I've got no opinion on the guy except he gets more ass than a rental car, but I like Titanic, because it exhibits every bit of the passion and dedication to filmmaking that Cameron does on his other projects. If this show exhibits 1/5 of Cameron's genius, it too will be brilliant. Oh, and Jim, QUIT BEING SO FUCKING CHOOSY ON YOUR NEXT PROJECT! TWO WORDS: THE BEACH.

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 6:14 a.m. CST

    the lie that is JC

    by buster29

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 6:27 a.m. CST

    the lie that is J.C II

    by buster29

    i feel that there is a legitamate arguement for a total reapraisal of the ouevre by the exulted one known to us mere mortals as James 'pirahna 2' Cameron. Abyss is actually an imaginative film. T1 can be summed up as people run away from the cyborg, the cyborg runs towards the people. T2 can be summed up as people and the cyborg run away from a different piece of metal. The different piece of metal runs toward the cyborg and the people. The screen play for RamboII is as an offensive peice of Reganistic filth that you will ever hope not to find. Titanic?? Total proof that 50 million pre-pubescant girls can be wrong. True Lies is without doubt one of the most racist flicks ever made. It probably never occured to gingered twat that muslims might not all be american hating fanatics although they have many good reasons to dislike the american leaders. Aliens rocked. History will not be kind to the bearded one just like his wife, that one out of terminator and dante's peak. The best bit of art he has ever been involved with was when his wife took him to the cleaners

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 7:43 a.m. CST

    In defense of James...

    by Bob A Fett

    James Cameron is an artist -- George Lucas is a hack. Got it? Good.

  • IE they plunder other cultures and give you cancer.

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 8:54 a.m. CST

    Buster29 - Plunder other cultures? Are you referring to the shit

    by Cruel Shoes

    Yet you make it seem like you've given definitive evidence that should convert everybody else or something. You boil down T1 and T2 in that way that could make any movie sound shitty. Wouldn't Citizen Kane be, "Guy with bad childhood starts newspaper, get's girl, still sad." And you said Aliens rocks, you mean "People run away from guys in costumes" rocked? By the way, I had the "racist" conversation on True Lies with a teacher who taught Middle Eastern Studies (6,000 years of culture to teach and the guy focuses on racism in True Lies?! Nineties education...) my only question is, haven't Middle Eastern Countries ACTUALLY done a lot of terrorism? I mean, a lot. Especially during the eighties, I remember not a day or two going by without ANOTHER skyjacking. How about the terrorism at the 1972 Olympics, perhaps that stuck in James Cameron's mind. Not every Arab is a terrorist in True Lies, just the ones who terrorize. If they were German, you'd have no problem with it, wouldn't even bat an eye.

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 9 a.m. CST

    Cameron and Lucas

    by PowderKeg

    They were both at the top of their game years ago but NO LONGER! They have both become h'wood shills creating shallow crap that panders to sub-intellects that need everything in a movie spelled out for them. I have seen the future and it is FINCHER! Fincher Fincher Fincher!

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 9:55 a.m. CST

    cruelshoes one man's terriost is another mans freedom fighter.

    by buster29

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 10:02 a.m. CST

    continued

    by buster29

    cruelshoes; perhaps arrogance did get the better of me and yes your right about aliens but perhaps in contrast Citz K is the human condition. Also i'd like to mention that whillst what we'd call crimes have been commited by people from the middle east. They are nothing in comparrison with the crimes western countries have commited in the middle east and it is the sort of gung-ho attitude displayed by JC and others that gets right up mt nose

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 10:41 a.m. CST

    Buffy competes with 70's and Titus, and now Angel competes with

    by Reverend Dave

    Please, someone invent subscriber-based TV shows quickly! I simply don't have enough VCR's for all this... Peace.

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 10:57 a.m. CST

    All you anti-Cameron, Lucas busters better recognize

    by Blue Devil

    George Lucas and James Cameron have done more for the world of cinema than everyone else combined (excluding Welles and Spielberg). Since when has it become a sin to create material the whole world enjoys? All you weirdos that believe great art is that which no one likes are idiots. I suppose you also believe Michelangelo is a hack because the Cistine Chapel is just a Bible rip-off. Get a life. Lucas and Cameron will go down in history as the cinema equivalent of Michelangelo and Da Vinci. 'Nuff said

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 10:58 a.m. CST

    James Cameron: Waaaaaay better than y'all think

    by Reverend Dave

    Handle this movie by movie: --Pirahna 2: He was young and needed the work. --The Abyss: Simply one of the best sci-fi movies ever. Suspenseful, well-acted, with ground-breaking special effects. --Terminator: Cheesy? Yes. But fun. --Aliens: The greatest sci-fi sequel ever? Kept the tone of the original while maintaining a completely unique identity. A war story told as sci-fi, dark and beautiful. --Terminator 2: Another of the greatest sci-fi flicks ever. Well written, paced perfectly despite it's length. The future Mrs. Cameron does a great job. So does the black scientist fellow. Even Arnie manages to emote a little. --True Lies: Eh. It had a little class for an action movie. --Titanic: Purely average love story saved by the gretest FX in movie history. Cameron DESERVED the director Oscar, not because the movie was so good, but becasue no director since Orson Welles has had so much resting on one movie. Add all that together and Cameron's worth all the money he gets. Peace.

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 11:29 a.m. CST

    Everyone has "bad guys"

    by TheOneCalledBen

    Pointing fingers never really solved anything. Arabs aren't always portrayed as bad guys in movies. Look at The Siege, one of the main GOOD guys was an arab. And also, if the bad guys were Germans or Brits or any other euros, no one would scream anything about prejudice, they'd just root for the good guy. I'm a bloody brit and i went to see The Patriot. Its a good movie, and i was standing up and screaming "No! Racial prejudice! They're portraying british people as oppressive, child-killing, terror-mongering bastards!" No, i rooted for mel gibson to hack those redcoats to pieces. Am I proud of my british heritage? sure...but i don't get up in arms about everything when someone portrays a brit as a bad guy.

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 12:50 p.m. CST

    I'm lucky....

    by Giga-Nerd

    Up here in the great white north, Buffy, Angel, That 70's show, Titus, and (Probably) Dark Angel all air on different days...Actually, Tuesdays and Fridays are pretty dead..

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 1:08 p.m. CST

    bad guys

    by ThereIsNoSpoon

    So now all villains have to be middle aged white male businessmen/politicians now? I'm Asian and I remember my community getting all up in arms about Michael Cimino's "Year of the Dragon" saying that we were portrayed as ruthless gangsters. Of course no one complained when John Woo's films started becoming popular here. You and I both know that Jhoon the Korean convenience store owner is not a gangster. You and I both also know that Achmed the cabbie is not a terrorist. And we all know that a house wife can not take out a room full of terrorists by rolling a mac-10 down a flight of stairs by accident. So what's your point?

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 1:18 p.m. CST

    Reverend Jim

    by ThereIsNoSpoon

    Oh and Cameron has, on occasion, been known to exhibit near godlike genuis. I feel that The Abyss is damn near a perfect movie. Possibly my favorite second only to Empire Strikes Back. Aliens has served as the template for nearly all SciFi/Action that came after it. T1 had a neat, low budget, B-movie charm, the managed to surprise you by delivering A-movie thrills, and most of all never lost sight of it's human core. But many who were God's in their youth can be mellowed by success and have their teeth dulled. Will we ever see another Raiders, Jaws, ET, or Close Encounters from Steve? Will we ever see anther Godfather or Apocalypse Now from Coppolla? Are Fincher and the Wachowski's doomed to mediocrity after three or four more groundbreaking films? Some of the old dogs do still manage to show us some damn cool new tricks. Remeber Unforgiven? Keep the faith.

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 3:55 p.m. CST

    Good Lord, you could crush cars with those lips!

    by user id indeed!

    I mean, she makes Steven Tyler look like Winona Ryder. There's a difference between "bee-stung" and "frightening to children". What is the genetic purpose of lipslike those? Are they a part of evolution? Is it just the next step up the ladder, like a sixth finger? Or are ever-so-few people being picked out by natural selection to be bestowed with this feature? And to what adaption does it pertain? What is the biological purpose for the "big ol' honkin' lips"? Dr. Freeman of the University of Eastern St. Louis had an interesting theory. He describes it as not so much a lip as a fleshy pouch that releases pheromones through the oral cavity. This natural stimulant creates the illusion of a master thespian, or "good actress", not unlike a moth unfolding its wings to appear bigger or more threatening. The subject does not need actual talent at all, as this pheromone tells everyone within a two-mile radius that she is automatically not only a gifted actress, but also attractive. This is commonly known in scientific fields as the "Jolie Effect". Most interesting, is it not? Next week we will examine the "Clooney Cut", and it's ability to make People think he is the Sexiest Bachelor in the World. Mesa say, recount the vote! I know a hefty percentage was for yours truly. This has been a Moment w/User ID Indeed!

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 4:31 p.m. CST

    "ppl" - STOP THE MADNESS

    by jorson2

    For heaven's sake, stop abbreviating everything! It's driving me nuts! I spent half my childhood in spelling bees only to grow up and see my entire generation abbreviate such SIMPLE words because they either can't spell it or are too lazy to type it! I'd suggest that if you're smart enough to criticize an art form, you're smart enough to learn how to spell and learn how to type! Also, learn the correct usage of commas and capitalization. It isn't hard, and IT ISN'T NERDY OR USELESS! Goodbye!

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 4:41 p.m. CST

    the lips

    by ThereIsNoSpoon

    Some of my more mysoginstic schoolmates refferred to them as "DSL"'s (Dick sucking lips) but I personally couldn't tell any significant difference between girls with them and girls without. I had a friend who was a stand in on Gone in 60. My friend is a model and as such is skinny as hell. Almost frighteningly so until you see that she does have a thin layer of toned muscle wrapped around her skeleton. She told me that Angelina Jolie was nearly twice as skinny. Like POW skinny. So my theory is that her lips are normal sized lips on an overly skinny person. My other theory is that they bought extra lip tissue from British men. (Think of Kenneth Branagh or Ewan Mac Gregor's mouth. You know what I'm talking about.)

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 10:47 p.m. CST

    Where is the love??

    by Psyclops

    Enough already!! I love Jim Cameron, he's made some intelligent and entertaining films. He is not a god, he's just one of the many brilliant film makers who can capture the wonders of his imagination on screen. As for George Lucas, 'Episode I' was a weak entry but I respect him as a director. Hell, he's doing what he loves to do! Others may appreciate it while some won't. By the way, it is okay to have your opinion on a particular person without having to force feed it to anyone else. There is no such thing as "You're wrong man! Cameron is a genius!"--or--"Fuck you, dude! He sucks balls!!"--It all comes down to what each person thinks and they are entitled to it. In the words of the great Lenny Nero: " One mans mundane existance is another mans technicolor!"

  • Aug. 3, 2000, 11:44 p.m. CST

    Buffy and Angel. No one else comes close.

    by BurninBullwinkle

    You know, I'd like to watch the Dark Angel show. It sounds like fun and Jessica Alba is VERY, VERY HOT! I watched Idle Hands three times when I rented it. Why? Because of the witty screenplay? HA! But between Cameron and Whedon, I'll take Whedon hands down. Shame on Fox for trying to split the genre viewers. This is like scheduling The Simpsons against Futurama. Why not pick a timeslot where you don't have to get sci-fi/action viewers away from another FOX created sci-fi/action show. That's just dumb business.

  • Aug. 4, 2000, 12:11 a.m. CST

    jessica alba

    by pogo on my own

    she is damn near perfection. I would tune in regularly to watch her sleep.

  • Aug. 4, 2000, 2:17 a.m. CST

    Ummm... On Israel and Arabs...

    by Tall Papa J.

    I'm not going to waste too many words on this one. I have to go to bed and wake up early because I have a hella lot of work to do. Yeah, there are violent Arabs. But no one seems to question *why* Arabs launch katyusha rockets at Israel and all that stuff. I'd hate to say it, but Israel's not nearly as innocent as you'd think by watching that box in your living room. If you read around enough, you'll notice that just about every single time Lebanon has launched rockets into Israel, it's been retaliation against some Israeli helicopter attack (the helicopter kindly donated by U.S. military & co.). But hey, you don't see that on t.v. or in the newspaper, so the damn commies must have made that up! Yeah, right. There are stories of Israeli troops attacking Lebanese (and even Israeli) hospitals that were donating blood to Palestinian citizens injured in Israeli artillary attacks on small unarmed villages. There are stories of Israeli troops harassing Palestinian civilians in the most disgusting, degrading ways possible. So, remember that maybe the 'god damn Arabs' have a reason to be pissed. As for the Palestinian 'indoctrination camp' remark, yeah, they might exist, but I think the beginning of your sentence sums it up: "I saw on t.v. the other day..." You'd figure that most people would recognize their televisions for what they are... privately owned indoctrination camps that fit comfortably into your living room. Yay! And just to comment on JC, I like most of his films. The Terminator movies were decent sci-fi action movies (I still remember the first time I saw T2 in the theater as a kid; I was blown away). The Abyss was amazing. Aliens... well, Aliens was just awesome. I refuse to acknowledge True Lies and Titanic though ;). I still have faith in the asshole, however. Just wish he'd stop dumping his wives every 5 years or less. **disclaimer: I'm not anti-semitic, as someone will probably assume automatically that I am based on my criticism of Israel. I'm not anti-Israel, i.e. I support the idea that they should have their own nation and such. But I don't support violence, oppression, and other associated actions under any flag. And yes, I do believe that Palestine should have their own state. I'd say they deserve one after being told to pack up and out in 1949, and to leave their rights at the door.

  • Aug. 4, 2000, 1:48 p.m. CST

    The James Cameron Nervous Breakdown Theory

    by Blue Devil

    I firmly believe that Titanic will go down in history not only as the greatest film of all time(i.e. highest cost, highest gross, best overall achievement, etc.) but as the film that broke James Cameron. I think he suffered a nervous breakdown during the making of that film and will never again write, direct, and produce another film (at least not for a veeeery long time). Just look at it: he was on the deep dives, he was the DP for the underwater footage, he wrote the film, produced the $200 million gargantuan, directed the film which (at the time) set the standard for FX, supplied Jack's drawings, and edited the thing! That's why he hasn't made a film since and why he's now working in TV. AND why Dark Angel is not up to par with his track record. It may be an okay show, but I don't really see it as James Cameron's. I think he's producing it to earn some dough, keep his name out there, and probably because Fox asked him to do something. All I know is, if does break out of his slump, there's going to be hell to pay. I'll be the first to buy a ticket for that film.

  • Aug. 4, 2000, 2:23 p.m. CST

    Good theory, bluedevil-

    by ThereIsNoSpoon

    Addendum - One of my friends is an FX supervisor who worked very closely with Reverend Jim up through T2 and she observed something - every Cameron film is about whatever his state of mind regarding the females in his life are at any given point. Terminator and Aliens were both "I love my mother", the Abyss was "I love my wife", T2 was "Girls are lame, lets do a bunch of boy stuff this time" True Lies was "Women are all evil and will only be redeemed in my eyes after suffering humiliation and degradation" and Titanic was "My god, am I really a jaded, cynical old crust who has forgetten what romance is all about?" He's been with Suzy for a while now, perhaps he no longer has any issues to work out. Wait, the show has a female protagonist - let's see how that turns out.

  • Aug. 4, 2000, 7:41 p.m. CST

    You people really need to start watching better movies

    by zuuzuu

    I mean, I'm hearing y'all throw around things like "James Cameron is without a doubt the best director ever" and "Titanic will go down in history as . . ." etc. Maybe I'm just an art house snob, but comparing James Cameron, George Lucas, and Steven Spieburg to Orson Welles (as one of you enthustiastic kids did) displays some durn crude judgement. Hey, I liked the Terminator movies, but the "'Way Cool' Factor" of the movie-watching experience can only take you so far. Lookee here, I'm going to throw a few directors' names out and let's see how many of you guys can catch: Kurosawa, Ray, Renoir, Godard, Fellini, Bergman, Ford, Lang, Murnau. And those were just the ones I can name off the top of my head. If you've never seen films by these people, you should hold off on the "Best Ever" speeches. And I'm sure a lot of you are going to write back telling me how I'm being a prick or whatever, but when I was a kid I used to think the same way about "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones," and then I discovered that there were tons of other films out there that beats those movies hands down, only no one ever gives these directors press coverage. And yes, perhaps this particular website isn't the proper forum to get one someone's case about being shallow, but if all these people continue to live under the midconception that James Comeron is a genius, then the *real* best films of all time will never get seen. And Hollywood will continue to shovel out crap like "Wing Commander" and "She's All That" because they know the audience is just that stupid.

  • Aug. 4, 2000, 7:46 p.m. CST

    You people really need to start watching better movies

    by zuuzuu

    I mean, I'm hearing y'all throw around things like "James Cameron is without a doubt the best director ever" and "Titanic will go down in history as . . ." etc. Maybe I'm just an art house snob, but comparing James Cameron, George Lucas, and Steven Spieburg to Orson Welles (as one of you enthustiastic kids did) displays some durn crude judgement. Hey, I liked the Terminator movies, but the "'Way Cool' Factor" of the movie-watching experience can only take you so far. Lookee here, I'm going to throw a few directors' names out and let's see how many of you guys can catch: Kurosawa, Ray, Renoir, Godard, Fellini, Bergman, Ford, Lang, Murnau. And those were just the ones I can name off the top of my head. If you've never seen films by these people, you should hold off on the "Best Ever" speeches. And I'm sure a lot of you are going to write back telling me how I'm being a prick or whatever, but when I was a kid I used to think the same way about "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones," and then I discovered that there were tons of other films out there that beats those movies hands down, only no one ever gives these directors press coverage. And yes, perhaps this particular website isn't the proper forum to get on someone's case about being shallow, but if all these people continue to live under the misconception that James Comeron is a genius, then the *real* best films of all time will never get seen. And Hollywood will continue to shovel out crap like "Wing Commander" and "She's All That" because they know the audience is just that stupid.

  • Aug. 4, 2000, 8:08 p.m. CST

    ZuuWho?

    by Blue Devil

    I have heard of those directors you have mentioned and I have seen their films. Let me tell you, the longest hour and a half of my life was spent watching a Godard film. Kurosawa is pretty good and so is Ford. I still stand by my views on Titanic and James Cameron namely because of the extreme sensibilities of the filmmaker. The Searchers is a great film by Ford, but have you seen it lately? It definitely feels dated and the dialogue is very hokey at times. Now, have you seen Citizen Kane or Lady From Shanghai lately- I swear, Welles was so far ahead of his time that his films still seem fresh today. Titanic is one of those films that will still seem fresh fifty years from now. I have no doubt about that. Cameron's sensibilities are so acute that anything that bogs the story down in any way is jettisoned from the film. Terminator is pretty hokey at times but that's because he was maturing. He is a master at his craft, no doubt about that. The biggest problem with foreign filmmakers is that their emphasis lies with character, not story. Thus, you have hours of people talking and nothing happening. Why would I pay to see that? The brilliance of Cameron lies in how he builds a character while advancing a story (Aliens is the best example). I agree that people should watch other films but don't assume that they don't. I have and I know what I like.

  • Aug. 5, 2000, 11:26 a.m. CST

    Directors Of All Kinds (What's Wrong With That?)

    by Vincennes

    Man, this stuff seems to come up all the time. What I want to know is why can't someone like directors like Welles, Godard, Kurosawa and their ilk, as well as more "mainstream" filmmakers? I know I can. The problem seems to be with the definition of "art". I, myself, find it impossible to define, but many here--as well as those I encounter in my everyday life--seem to draw a line at making a film that has "mainstream" sensibilities and seeks to do nothing more than entertain. Personally, I think you do not need to have far-reaching sociological ambitions to be an artist. I have many ways to like, or love, a film. Some appeal to my intellect--like The Usual Suspects--and some to my emotions (I can watch E.T. at any point following the scene where they find him by the stream and cry like a baby. I have such strong associations with that film due to being a young boy and seeing it in the theater 7 times). Others strike at my love of the filmmaking craft and I can appreciate the work that went into them and can be amazed at what the filmmaker was trying to do or say. And some, while definitely in the minority, appeal to me with a combination of any of those elements. That being said, is not artistry for the sake of entertainment still artistry? I think so. For me, directors do not HAVE to make a statement or shed some light on the human condition. I want a cohesive plot line, interesting characters and a compelling narrative. Films of many genres and styles can meet those criteria and I seek out any and all that I think might offer just that. As for Spielberg...well, that man is solely responsible for so many memories in my life that I could not, and will not, quantify or qualify his work. I do know that I will be there for every film he makes. (Yes, even such "flops" as Hook and Always.) George Lucas...this is a bit tougher. The man is a innovator of the highest caliber, and he ain't a bad producer, either. His technological contributions to filmmaking are nothing short of astounding. As for my opinions of him as a director, I am more ambivalent. Right now, he stands 50/50 for me, with THX 1138 ultimately disappointing and as for The Phantom Menace...well I'll leave that one alone. That beings me to Cameron. I doubt that many would argue that his technical abilities are top-notch and unassailable. Sure, he could use a hand with the dialogue once and awhile (o.k. even more often than that) but his storytelling abilities are amazing. He knows how to structure a narrative better than anyone I can think of right now. The pacing is always spot-on and always serves up more than I expect. And I think that cuts to the heart of this discussion for me. Simply put, Cameron makes movies that remind me why I love going to the movies. I ALWAYS get my money's worth. Gilliam, Fincher and the Wachowski's (although time will tell) are other favorites, and when it comes to directors, I will almost always favor more visually-oriented ones, but that is just a personal taste. But that does not stop me from LOVING films by Kevin Smith and Neil LaBute whose power comes from words and characters and DEFINITELY not from any sort of visual flair. So, I may not have seen, nor want to see, every film by Truffaut (who was in The Beard's CEOTTK) and think that Altman's films are tedious and self-indulgent, that is just how I am. I have probably missed dozens of masterpieces and some may mourn that loss. But I never restrict myself from ANY kind of film and, for that, I consider myself pretty lucky indeed.

  • Aug. 5, 2000, 3:11 p.m. CST

    "Best director ever" pronouncements

    by zuuzuu

    I don't mean to say I don't like mainstream directors. Hell, I saw the X-Men movie on the first day and didn't care if the characters were a little fluffy in terms of development. I'm complaining about how everybody here feels the need to drool over guys like James Cameron and call him or Lucas or whoever the "Best Director Ever" when it's obvious they don't know what they're talking about. I'm calling for some people who make those statements to back their asses up with some brains, cuz it's tiresome.

  • Aug. 5, 2000, 4:45 p.m. CST

    Overzealous Cameron fans

    by zuuzuu

    And for those of you who are still under the impression that I'm an art-house snob, one of my favorite movies is "Face/Off," which I think is seriously underrated by a lot of critics who think it's just an action movie. I also love, and not in an ironic way, a lot of monster movies from the fifties (especially the original "Night of the Living Dead"). But reading all these people call Cameron the "Best Ever" is just plain offensive. The Terminator movies are great entertainment, and the characterization is a lot richer in those movies than in 99.9% of action movies, but no way in hell does James Cameron ever transcend his genres. "The Abyss" isn't going to make someone want to re-evaluate their ethical system, "True Lies" isn't going to open someone's eyes up to beauty they've never noticed before, and "Titanic" isn't a succinct and textured parable of the human condition. Other, better directors have accomplished those things, while also deliviering an entertaining punch for those who don't want to get too into it.

  • Aug. 5, 2000, 5:46 p.m. CST

    Good post Vincennes

    by Blue Devil

    I never said James Cameron was the greatest director ever, I said Titanic will be considered the greatest film of all time (afterall, it takes more than a director to make a film. Can you imagine Titanic without James Horner's score? Or Star Wars without John Williams'?). I wholeheartedly agree with Vincennes- I have seen other films, and I gravitate toward Cameron, Lucas, and their ilk. I also like Mann, Carpenter, Hawks, Huston, and the list goes on. I can't help it, that's just the way I feel.

  • Aug. 5, 2000, 6:52 p.m. CST

    am I the only one that noticed...

    by Beorn

    that when our beloved "dark angel" is flying through the air in the TV trailers, the cables she is swinging by are easily recognizable. It almost looks intentional. FRODO LIVES

  • Aug. 6, 2000, 3:27 p.m. CST

    1982 Oscars: Gandhi versus E.T.

    by SnidelyWhiplash

    I've read every post on the art versus popular argument and I keep thinking about the 1982 Academy Awards because that was a time in film history when this argument was discussed by just about everybody. From film critics to people who hadn't been to the movies since Star Wars, five years prior. I saw all five movies nominated that year. The others were Sydney Pollack's Tootsie, Sidney Lumet's The Verdict and Constantin Costa-Gavras' Missing. I basically remember everyone saying Oh it's got to be either ET or Gandhi. Many people said Ghandi would win because of the subject matter. Poor ET. Speilberg himself was one of those people. And sure enough, Gandhi won. I was disappointed and so were many other people. But looking back all these years latter, I'd have to say Gandhi deserved to win best picture for many of the same reason's Titanic won. Making that movie was a tremendous achievement. Richard Attenborough had to fight for years to get it made. Gandhi was four hours long with an intermission and I was a teenager when I saw it. It held my interest for the full four hours. I didn't know who Mahatma Gandhi was or much about the history between Britain and India. But it was just an excellent movie. How the Oscar voters picked between those five movies for best picture and Ben Kingsley, Paul Newman and Dustin Hoffman for best actor I'll never know. But when we start talking about the greatest directors of all time I think you have to look at the person's range and quality of work over time. Any director who made the first five minutes of Jaws as well as the flying bicycles scene from ET, the little boy looking up from excrement in Schindler's List and just the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan deserves to be on that list. In my opinion the jury is still out on James Cameron, Richard Attenborough and even George Lucas.

  • Aug. 6, 2000, 6:27 p.m. CST

    James Camerons movies HAS a message

    by andreasingo

    I don't like what I hear here. James Cameron actually has a message to tell in most of his movies. Examples: T2 - the value of human life. Abyss Directors cut - How mankind have to learn to live in peace. I think James Cameron is the best hollywood director working today. Why? His movies has besides the obvious action and SFX, character development and good story. He is the master of thrills and visual flair. He is involved in every piece of his movies. He is a writer AND director. A true filmmaker.

  • Aug. 7, 2000, 10:46 a.m. CST

    Dark Angel trailer, Great Directors

    by Jonny Quick

    Just FYI, the cable on which Jessica Alba "flies" in the "Dark Angel" trailer is painfully obvious because it IS supposed to be visible. The character is supremely strong, fast, and tough for a human being, but she can't fly. She's swinging from roof to roof or roof to wherever, but she has her cable attached at the small of her back, so she "dives" from place to place. It's really not much different from the leaps that Harry Tuttle makes when he exits the scene in "Brazil." As for great directors ... Cameron will never be on my list. He's a wonderful technician, but not much of a writer. He tends to go for the obvious emotional moment, his gestures are overly large, and he generally gives a character one note and continues it -- sorta like Philip Glass. He writes, designs, and creates wonderful visuals, especially SFX visuals, but he won't be a great director until he cares more about characters. Story grows from character; anyone who's every read "Poetics" can tell you that. Lucas is a different case. He's a bland writer who has one true triumph under his belt, "American Grafitti." He's a mediocre director, with one true triumph, "Star Wars," and one vastly better but less gosh-wow sucess, "American Grafitti." Who cares that he's produced so many lousy story ideas, weak genre films, and downright frightful flops over the last 20 years? Clearly not the faans who generally write to talkback. As for the greatest directors, yeah, some of them are on that list. But where are the modern greats? Try watching Soderbergh, Scorsese, Altman (yes, even when he's boring, though you must avoid "Quintet"), Paul Schrader, and a handful of others. Not John Woo or Cameron or Lucas or even Spielberg, though I'd certainly put Spielberg a lot higher than his partners in crime and genre.

  • Aug. 7, 2000, 2:39 p.m. CST

    Jonny Quick

    by Blue Devil

    No offense, dude, but it seems like you've got a pretty slow taste in cinema. You've chosen what are widely considered great directors, but your taste is obviously not the Cameron-Lucas-Spielberg style of film. Namely, action oriented, story driven films. Your list is composed of directors mainly known for character-driven films. I actually liked "Erin Brockavich", which means that you probably hated it. Have you seen "Ready to Wear" or "Kafka"? I do agree with Scorsese though, but he has been slipping lately.

  • Aug. 8, 2000, 7:54 p.m. CST

    Titanic a "classic" in 50 years? Bah.

    by Darth Brooks

    Titanic will be VERY dated by the time 2048 rolls around. Consider the time-frozen names of the subs - "Snoop Dog?" isn't that a bit NOT timeless? The pure emptiness of the storyline (Buxom girl mooches ride home for Mom and self on boat from fiancee, Buxom girl gets the hots for Pouty Artist, Buxom girl burns up three chances to save her life, only to cost Pouty Artist his life) will make this a tepid, unpopular flick at showings on the cable-equivalent of the decades hence. Don't believe me? I point to Exhibit A: how many times have you watched "Billy Jack" since its 1971 release, and not wanted to puke yourself from all the tripe on the screen? I hope Linda Hamilton has "I GOT MY HALF!" etched on the front lawn of her mansion. Hope Suzy was worth it, Jimmy!

  • Aug. 9, 2000, 11:40 a.m. CST

    Darth Shnook

    by Blue Devil

    Listen, Titanic will still seem fresh the way Gone With The Wind still seems fresh- it's a period piece! The two genres which stand the test of time better than anything else are period pieces and sci-fi (good sci-fi). Titanic came out 3 years ago but is set in 1914, why did it not feel dated three years ago? Because it is a period piece! Gone With The Wind came out fifty years ago and was set during the Civil War. It wasn't dated then and it's not dated now. Have you seen Blade Runner, Alien, or any of the Star Wars Trilogy? Good sci-fi stands the test of time because it is set during a time outside our own. Obviously, the old Star Trek series looks dated but that's because they had no budget. But to be honest, there is a charm and style to the old series which I way prefer over anything Star Trek that's come out in recent years. The reason these two genres stand the test of time is because they don't fall into current trends. Have you seen Star Trek the Motion Picture? The damn thing looks like a seventies disco in space! It's terrible! Good Westerns also stand the test of time but I consider those period pieces as well because they are set around the Civil War era as well. Titanic will stand the test of time and will be considered one of the greatest (if not the greatest) films of all time fifty or even five hundred years from now! (Don't we still look at the Sistine Chapel with awe?)

  • Aug. 11, 2000, 11:22 p.m. CST

    Let's see if I can keep this short....

    by Lightstormer

    James Cameron = my idol. OK. At least I can start with that statement. Over the past 6 years, James Cameron has become more and more my own personal North Star of filmmaking. As a kid, I learned all about Lucas, Spielberg and all the other 80's blockbuster greats, but it wasn't until 1994, when I read the cover story in the July issue of Premiere magazine that I finally found somebody I wanted to *be*. The article was ostensibly about True Lies, but it was really a biography on the controlled insanity / underappreciated brilliance of Jim Cameron. I was hooked immediately. He was fired from Piranha 2, because he was told his footage was "shit." "Nothing cuts!" the producer told him. So... Jim decides to use his credit card to jimmy open the door to the editing room night after night to re-edit the film *his* way. Things like that. Things that say, at least to me, this is a guy who refuses to lose. He gets the job done, by any means necessary. (And please don't correlate that to his "tyrannical" demeanor on his sets. Jim knows he's not the nicest boss in the world sometimes. But as Michael Biehn said, "When Jim throws a tantrum, it's more like the *film* is throwing a tantrum." Basically, the amount of responsibilty he takes on with every film seems to warrant a little loss of manners-control every now and again.) One thing a LOT of people fail to realize or recognize is that Cameron does more per film than any other filmmaker around can claim. The plainly visible jobs: Writer, director, producer. Not that these are small jobs --any one of them-- by any stretch of the imagination, but even more than these, he is the authority of just about all other functions on the set. Somebody who had worked with him before said (paraphrasing,) "Jim can do anybody's job on the set, and probably do it better. He just needs us 'cause can't do it all at the same time." How many other directors could design the Queen alien? How many producers would have the smarts to design and construct camera rigs and equipment? (I'm not bullshitting you. Jim and his brother, Mike, own patents on film equipment.) How many Hollywood writers could give collegiate dissertations on physics, art, poetry, philosophy, natural sciences, and space exploration? Hel-lo... is the word "genius" really so outlandish an adjective at this point? Cameron is an EXTRAORDINARY writer. The guy that said the script for Rambo II was "Reaganistic bullshit" apparently ONLY SAW THE FUCKING MOVIE. What we know as "Rambo II" is really what happened to Cameron's script *after Stallone got his hands on it.* Look at the credits: "Written by James Cameron and Sylvester Stallone." I've read Jim's screenplay... IT'S NOTHING LIKE THE FINAL FILM. Sly actually dumbed his character down immensely. He probably wanted Rambo to be more the strong, silent type. Jim's version of the character was cool, brilliant, and even occasionally witty. Anyway, the Sly effect notwithstanding, Jim's writing is hands down the best way to learn how to write a script. I learned more at 14, reading the book of the T2 script than anything Syd Field ever taught me in books twice as long. But even Field would agree that Cameron is a master of story structure, and... hear me now and believe me later, folks... STRUCTURE IS WHAT STORYTELLING IS ALL ABOUT. Sure, Titanic was chock-full of dialogue that makes me groan. But the pacing, the storytelling... can't beat it with a stick, if you ask me. And by the way, just because you've seen his movies doesn't mean you know his writing. You have to actually *read* his scripts. Trust me on this. Aliens, The Abyss... these are just the tip of the iceberg. (Iceberg?) Go to the Cameron page and check out the script for "A Crowded Room," or any other script you find there, and check out how engaging and intelligent a writer he really is. Now, am I just a blind wannabe flunkie here? Not really, because I do concede that Jim's villains could typically stand to be fleshed out much more. With Terminator, he had an excuse... Arnie was a robot, with one mission. OK, fair enough. But Coffee (in the Abyss) could have used a bit more oomph, Cal Hockley made screenwriting history as "evil, talking cardboard," and Aziz (True Lies) was practically non-existent. So there you go... Jim's not perfect. But I still say he's a genius. He puts more than his heart and soul into each of his movies. He puts everything possible into them. What else can I say? At least, in such a limited venue of discourse, anyway. I can't keep things like this short, and I apologize to those whom I have bored to sleep, but whenever I read people trashing the guy that redefined the word "filmmaker" for me, I always jump into the fray and shed some light where there usually isn't any, that light being a real understanding of the skill and involvement the man brings to his work. I only hope I can show the same kind of dedication to the movies that I want to make. At least at that point, win or lose, I'll still be proud of the effort I'd given. --RH

  • Aug. 13, 2000, 1:46 p.m. CST

    you people make me sick(well, some of you)

    by FaithInGeorge

    How in the world can you say Cameron is a genius and Lucas is a Hack??? Yes, Ep1 had flaws...but I look at it, as does alot of SW faithful as the "experiment" film of the new trilogy. The Film is the set up, where as the next two are the real stories. Lucas, as quoted by Irvin Kershner, "Directed" ESB(which is THE greatest sequel ever made)...Kershner basically did what Lucas said. Reports I'm hearing about Ep2 have already made me realize that Lucas is going to redeem himself in the eyes of the idiots who spent 99% of their 20 times seeing Ep1 bitching about JarJar Binks...who to me, wasn't even why Ep1 had it's problems. Ep2 promises to be Darker, extremely serious and not having a happy ending, and Ep3 seems to me to have all the makings of a Shakespearen Tragedy! Why don't you think about what Lucas did for filmmaking, NOT only in the realm of Sci-Fi/Special Effects action films, But In the Independent community. His development into cost effective ways to make movies. Ep1, to put on Film cost $3.5 million, just to shoot it on Celliod. Ep2, with using Digital, only cost Lucas $11,000.00 and he can view what he shot a second after he shot it, so he can not only save $ on processing Dailies and waiting to send them to ILM when that whole process which takes days. He can see if the take works and move on quickly, saving money. This also saves time because ILM simply recieves the finished shots via a secured Net Link and while the crew in Australia sleeps...ILM in San Fran are adding effects and compositing shots. Around the clock production. I think you nay-sayers will be eating your words May 2002!!!

  • Aug. 14, 2000, 6:03 p.m. CST

    best?

    by ThereIsNoSpoon

    What's your definition of best? top grosser? Most number of top grossing films? Single top grossing film? Critical acclaim? Innovation and influence? Respect and admiration of other film makers and peers? Consistency in never making a "bad" film? Balls to experiment and break from traditional film making, at the risk of making a bad film, possibly to make something truly great that no one has ever seen before? Big, blanket, sweeping statements like "_______ is the best director ever" peg you as someone who doesn't think very deeply. It's like arguing over weather the Hulk could beat Superman in a fight when you were 5.

  • Aug. 14, 2000, 6:09 p.m. CST

    Oh and Lightstormer -

    by ThereIsNoSpoon

    Burke and the Queen Mother Alien - two fantastically written, designed, acted (?) and realized villains in the same movie. One showed just how truly low human beings can stoop. The other was terrifying in that it wasn't evil at all, but a living embodiment of the cold, logical cruelty that is the survival of the fittest - To an alien, Ripley would be just as terrifying . . . And there were 65 patents on film equipment that was invented for the Abyss.

  • Aug. 14, 2000, 6:27 p.m. CST

    I grow weary of this Talk Back

    by Blue Devil

    It has become painfully obvious to me that we all have our opinions and beliefs and that no one is going to shake us from them. The biggest problem we have here is the action/adventure (emphasis on story) group vs. the character (emphasis on adding depth to the characters) group. Cameron will never be a Godard just like Godard would never have been a Cameron. The big difference is that I'm not bagging on anybody. I respect all filmmakers for who they are and I appreciate the contributions they all make to the field. My style is the Cameron style and I will defend him to the day I die. Now, can't we all just get along?

  • Aug. 15, 2000, 12:47 p.m. CST

    Finally....the "flipper" girl has grown up!

    by roy_Fokker

    And now I can watch her guilt free! You go Jessica Marie Alba...make your loyal fans proud. (oh yeah...thanks for the butt-shot in "Idle Hands"...it made the movie watchable.)