The Academy Awards have expanded the number of best picture nominations to 10, and the buzz on Planet Earth is all about "Avatar."
Conservatives are enraged at the movie's anti-American, anti-military, pro-primitive themes, but they should understand that most spectators won't care what the movie has to say. They'll just enjoy the 3-D spectacle, fun in spite of politics. Adults ought to see it with a teenager. It's an expensive ticket that will be appreciated, and you can shape the discussion afterward.
I watched it with a precocious 14-year-old who has managed to escape the politically correct didacticism of education today. He said he liked the "spectacle" and told me not to worry about the message: The political cliches are condescending and racist but easy to tune out. I asked him to explain. "The movie portrays a superior disabled white man who joins blue Native Americans who wear primitive decorations, worship a tree, and who aren't very smart. Would you rather think about that or enjoy watching dragons fly?"
Most of the reviewers haven't seen it quite that way, but this kid got closer to the mark than the reviewers who imagine that David Cameron, the director, is Barack Obama's rival for the role of Messiah. Still, there are reasons to see the movie despite its goofy plot and the ludicrous oxymoron-like criticism of the American corporations whose technological inventiveness makes movies like this possible.
It's breathtakingly beautiful. The color is magical, the flora and fauna blossom in a gorgeous electrified Eden where superstar pterodactyls fly through the air with the greatest of ease at the speed of whoosh. Luscious dragons and death-defying monsters are more backdrop scenery than story intensive. The new technology is a marvel, and the 3-D glasses have improved since the 1950s.
A dated anti-Vietnam attitude lies at the root of the thematic sensibility, but such palaver is ancient history to the young -- and you can discount it as an anachronism, like a musty something in a museum. "Avatar" is more "Wizard of Oz" than "Apocalypse Now." It's entertainment first. As the Marine drill sergeant who barks at young recruits arriving on the Planet Pandora observes, "You know you're not in Kansas anymore."