25 December 2010

Swan Lake of Fire

There's a moment in Godard's Breathless when Jean Seberg's Patricia asks the famous novelist Parvulesco (played by the seminal Nouvelle Vague director Jean-Pierre Melville), "What is your ambition in life?"  Methodically turning his gaze towards her, Parvulesco triumphantly replies, "To become immortal....and then die!"  Fifty years later, Natalie Portman's ballerina, Nina, in Darren Aronofsky's exhilarating Black Swan must chant this mantra in her head at every pirouette.

Aronofsky's cinematic bitches brew begins with heavy doses of The Red Shoes, All About Eve, and Sunset Blvd., adds a corporeal helping of Kubrick's The Shining, and finishes off with Kafka's The Metamorphosis.  Claustrophobia, paranoia, and general creepiness ensue.  For a film staged within the uber-refined confines of the supposedly quietly classy world of dance, there is not a single moment of peace or general pleasantry.  Even Nina's hyper-pinked bedroom glutted with girlish knickknacks and stuffed animals has a pinch of psychosis to it.

At its heart, Black Swan deals with the obsessive convulsions in the pursuit of perfection.  In her innocence and vulnerability, Nina is the ideal virginal White Swan, but the ballet calls for the same dancer to dance both roles, and the Black Swan is a seductive force, using her sex like a flyswatter -- something the technically perfect but timid Nina is incapable of.  Under increasing pressure, Nina immerses herself so deeply into the dual roles of Swan Lake that she completely and abruptly loses grip on reality.  She suffers grisly hallucinations, simultaneously haunted by an evil twin (paralleling the ballet's plotline) intent on destruction and an ambitious incipient rival, Lilly (Mila Kunis), who is everything Nina isn't:  carefree, reckless, promiscuous, and enjoys exploring feminine nether regions, both her own and Nina's.  As if the pressures of the role of a lifetime weren't enough for poor Nina, she shares a domicile with her bizarrely controlling and envious mother played ominously by Barbara Hershey, in an inspired piece of casting.

With Black Swan, Aronofksy achieves what today's gross-out horror moviemakers would sell their souls to replicate, namely, produce a film whose every move, every scene, every word, is shuddersome.  The camerawork and sound editing will make your palms sweat, the scene-cutting will make you cringe.  The thing is, you'll love it, and you'll want much more.  The transcendentally exhilarating climax will give life to Parvulesco's romantic proclamation.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine and I were discussing which contemporary filmmakers we found most intriguing; whose films, when they come out, would make us raise an eyebrow and take notice?  Darren Aronofsky came up in the conversation as someone -- for me -- who fell into this category.  The sheer fact that all his films were so utterly uncompromising and dark earned him that status.  The complete dread evoked by Requiem For a Dream begins and ends any Aronofsky debate.  Yet, with this recent achievement, let me add, along with uncompromising and dark, Aronofsky has become breathtaking.

25 October 2010

You Will Meet a Short Ginger Cynic

“We are slaves to our desires,” is a recurrent theme in the work of Woody Allen, but with his latest effort, an accurate evaluation of this axiom begs adding the scornful, “and to our satisfaction.” Or dissatisfaction.

In the world of “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” just about every character wants something beyond their reach, a something (mysterious woman, literary success, reclaimed youth, illicit affair) they really have no inherent or moral right to have.  They covet wildly.  Besieged by dissatisfaction and ingratitude, they act out with shameless ambition.  The fear of being caught or found out doesn’t even warrant a pause – guilt and shame are nonexistent qualities.  As typical for most Allen characters, they are all hopelessly cultivated, wealthy, attractive, sexually adventurous and utterly insecure.
Roy (Josh Brolin) finished medical school only to spurn the doctorly life for the bohemian romanticism of a literary one.  Trouble is he apparently has only one good book in him – and three really bad ones.  The anxiety of his imminent doom is tempered only by the beautiful woman in red (Freida Pinto) he peeps through his window.  Roy’s father-in-law, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins), abruptly leaves his devoted wife of 40 years because “she was getting old and I refused to accept that.”  Impulsively marrying a rent-girl initially provides Alfie the robust rejuvenation he coveted, but quickly his life descends into bankruptcy and cuckoldry. 

The women show no better.  Roy’s wife, Sally (well played by Naomi Watts) at first comes off as a supportive and caring daughter and wife.  But those illusions fade when her boss chooses to have an affair with her artist friend instead of her, and her mother is told by a charlatan fortune teller that she shouldn’t give Sally the loan she desperately needs to open her own art gallery.  Avarice is rampant, pride a disease. Everyone's miserable. Not even the doe-eyed innocence of Dia (the mysterious woman in red) belies her faultlessness.  She is given to the same irrational dissatisfaction (and desire) as everyone else.

The problem is, even when they get what they want, they end up even more discontent than before.  Lives fall apart, relationships crumble, bank accounts collapse, frauds risk uncovering.  Woody Allen has always leaned cynical, but with ‘Stranger’ he’s promoted cynicism from bemusing leitmotif to central thematic element. He doesn't even bother much to developing the characters save the minimum exposition necessary to parade their selfishness. 

Most of us don’t know what we want, those of us who do figure it out are usually driven by wrongheaded and ungrateful motivations, and then when – always when, never if in Allen films – we do get what we want, we are punished heavily for it, usually by fate.  In the end, only the most delusional have a chance at approaching happiness.

27 September 2010

The Stupid Love Affair with Hyperbole

Dangerously inappropriate analogies have gained a sickening acceptance in this current cultural moment.  Obama proposes a 3% tax increase for the richest Americans and he's likened to Hitler.  A football "star" who in the span of 13 months has had $32 million deposited into his greedy coffers by the Washington Redskins likened his petulant reluctance to play in a 3-4 defense to a disavowal of enslavement.

These disgustingly hyperbolic analogies are disgraceful.  Even more criminal is the audacity of those perpetrating these shameful comparisons.   Stephen Schwarzman,  chairman and co-founder of the Blackstone Group, a private equity and financial advisory firm -- whose net worth is $4.7 billion -- commiserated with his fellow plutocrats that a tax increase would be "like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939."  Albert Haynesworth, said football star, a symbol of our generation's "me-only" attitude, explained his displeasure in playing within the defensive scheme his coaches have implemented with inspired uncouth eloquence:

"I guess in this world we don't have a lot of people with, like, backbones. Just because somebody pay you money don't mean they'll make you do whatever they want or whatever. I mean, does that mean everything is for sale? I mean, I'm not for sale. Yeah, I signed the contract and got paid a lot of money, but ... that don't mean I'm for sale or a slave or whatever."

Now that's class.  Worse still, Mr. Schwarzman, a Jew, and Mr. Haynesworth, an African-American, chose to dishonor the very ancestors (their own) whose endurance through unspeakable horrors made it possible for these two ungrateful villains to occupy the highly enviable positions they are in today.  

The Holocaust and Slavery, without too much debate, represent just about the most despicable mass crimes in all of Human history.  Crimes that are so unimaginably horrific, they defy any comparisons short of mass genocide and human rights abuses on an extreme scale.

Even the Soviet propaganda machine, which filled the pages of Pravda (Truth) and other Iron Curtain publications with endless recriminations of The West's bourgeois depravity never dared to compare Churchill or Eisenhower to Der Führer.  How ridiculous that we find ourselves less sensible than the Main Administration for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press under the USSR Council of Ministers.

Ostensibly, this regrettably spotlights our stupid infatuation with hyperbole.  If something brings a modicum of pleasure, it's instantly loved, and inversely, a small inconvenience warrants hatred.  It's linguistic laziness, intellectual extremism really -- the rejection of thinking through how to appropriately describe what you feel and/or think about a certain subject, instead settling for the most abominable representation imaginable, simultaneously appealing to the most abhorrent denominator.

Clearly -- and thankfully -- I'm not the only person who has noticed and has been similarly disgusted by this odiously cynical behavior.  As The Daily Show's Jon Stewart smartly chose as a slogan for his upcoming Return to Sanity Rally, "I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler."

24 September 2010


Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more:  it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

--Macbeth V, v

24 August 2010

Home In Israel

Reminiscing about my Birthright Israel experience more than two years later, my thoughts are flooded with memories of joyful laughter, stunning vistas, inspirational stories, and lifetime friendships. Atop the flood of unforgettable memories, three moments in particular stand out. 

I was born in a country, the former Soviet Union, where anti-Semitism was a matter of public policy. Being a Jew automatically disqualified you from many occupations, as well as matriculation to the best schools. Practicing Judaism or learning Hebrew was categorically illegal. In the face of such repression, my parents bestowed upon my brother and I the singular Jewish tradition they knew: pride. 

Due to my upbringing, even as a child I embraced my Jewish roots with fervor unusual for other children my age. I was six or seven years old when I first became aware of a place called the State of Israel, the Jewish homeland. And despite my young age, I instantly vowed to myself that my first act upon arrival to this special place would be to kiss its hallowed ground. My youthful precociousness surprises me now, almost 20 years later. But the very idea of Israel, of everything it represents to Jews and Judaism, has always resonated with me. So my first act upon exiting the main terminal of Ben-Gurion International Airport was to cross the street, find the first decent piece of soil I saw, bend down, and plant a passionate kiss on the face of the Holy Land. This was the first moment. 

The next moment occurred a week into the trip. We were awakened at 4 a.m. by a loud knocking on the door. It was time for the most anticipated part of the trip: sunrise atop Masada! The pre-dawn air in Arad was warm but dry. Being up so early made it difficult to spark excitement, but the 40-minute ride to Masada was an experience in itself. Although shrouded in darkness, the surrounding terrain outside the bus window resembled the surface of the moon — a fitting setting for a truly otherworldly place. 

At the base of the mountain, the excitement that had eluded me earlier finally set in as I raced a pair of IDF soldiers, who had joined us on our trip, up the mountain. Watching the sunrise atop this ancient mountain fortress redefined the phrase awe-inspiring. The first rays peeked over the Jordanian mountaintops in a scene uncannily similar to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. It did not escape me that this was the very panorama the Sicarii, the ancient Jewish insurgents, witnessed every morning during their yearlong siege by the Romans. 

What happened next ranks as the most spectacular moment of my life: Armed with my indispensable iPod, I plugged in my earphones and instinctively turned on the first track from Jimi Hendrix's Live at the Fillmore: Stone Free. Maybe it was the rocky formations surrounding me, or the thematic elements of the song ("I'm stone free to do what I please"), but the track matched the moment sublimely. As Hendrix's guitar seared, adrenaline burst into my arteries and I began to run down the descending path of the mountain, my increasing speed forcing me to jump from rock to rock.

As I approached, the other descending hikers turned with foreboding concern. The sound of my frenetic trek must have resembled the rumbling of a rock-fall. I felt superhuman. When I reached the bottom, in what must have been record time, I was overcome with emotion at the profundity of the moment. 

The siege at Masada may have ended tragically with the mass suicide of a thousand insurgents, but the story represents the best part of the Jewish character, of our perseverance, our traditions, and our community. It was two centuries later, and here I was standing atop the mountain at sunrise with my Israeli brothers, and then recklessly running down the mountain as if I owned it. The Romans had won the day back in 73 C.E., but history has proven that despite the efforts of countless nations, the Jewish people could never be fully pushed aside, nor the fire of our Jewish spirit ever extinguished. 

If that magical morning at Masada was the most exhilarating experience of my Birthright Israel trip, then the afternoon at Independence Hall in Tel Aviv was the most poignant. Here the curator narrated the story of the tenuous beginnings of the modern State of Israel. The part of his narrative detailing what happened just after the start of the War of Independence particularly pushed my emotions over the edge. 

The funds of the foundling state were alarmingly low. With nowhere to turn, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion sent then-ambassador Golda Meir on an emergency diplomatic mission to the United States. She was charged with raising one million dollars to pay for arms, munitions, foodstuffs, and other essential supplies. In just two weeks, stopping only in the East Coast cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, Meir returned triumphantly to Israel with more than $50 million in donations.

There were tales of families devoting their entire savings in support of the Jewish homeland. Tears streamed down my face as I recognized that it was this spirit of communal philanthropy that made Birthright Israel possible for me and countless other Jewish youths. I wish I could personally shake the hand of every benefactor. 

My hope is that I can thank them through this piece, my love letter to Israel. Because of their generosity I fulfilled a lifelong dream, forged new dreams, and felt truly, for the first time in my life, that I was home -- home in Israel.

05 August 2010

Ode on a Rebecca Hall

YOU unravished bride of quietness
      You child of Midsummer's Titania
You overwrought Iseult of Hibernia
Our elusive untrodden love
      intensifying mutual rapture
Haunting my mind's eye before
      I was ever aware of yr existence
Perhaps -- my earth mother -- you bore
      me in the hazel warmth of Elysian Spring
Mesmerising in yr parching allure
      Bold lover, uncloying, as you sing

Why must you subsist in the flesh?
      Tormenting me with blissful celluloid clarity
Why mustn't the specter of yr forever remain
      in the smoky rings of my mind's charity?
I search yr taciturn gaze, yr burning forehead,
      in every lass I meet
Fooling myself, but really bitter & indignant
      at cruel Nature for failing to deliver you
      into my enfolding heat

As a boy I ran to you
      to share in triumphs
      to console personal offenses
      in my desolation
As a man I engaged in foolish -- eviscerating --
      affairs with marbled doppelgängers
      whose insouciant rejection, this nighttime thief
      unwearied by betrayal, left me 
in despondent grief

I weeped when you hanged yrself in Victorian England
      loved & unloved, by twins of magical pursuits
Lamented as you denied the passion within you
      for a philistine suit     
      in tragically melodist Barcelona
Stared at yr pastel sun dresses in the pious
      headiness of Nixonian California

The slight curls willow around yr
      creamery face -- punctuated
      by bitten lips of mysterious uncertainty
The sun highlights the freckles
      under yr innocent eyes
      around yr garland cheeks
Portending an epic innocence of which
      I desperately long to confederate
A naïve dreamland devoid of shame
      of deceit, 
      of avarice, of conceit
All breathing human passion above

When all yr lovers go to waste
      I shall remain in my woe
And speak this truth with immortal taste
'Rebecca is truth, truth Rebecca -- that is all
     I know on earth, and all I need to know.'



31 July 2010

Restive Pain

frivoling unanesthetised
    soapy afternites
  ameliorate jerk-off boredom

postal stink on
                      bedroom walls
rounding callers on
                   downtown falls

regal voyeural games
   twisting scorn into release
paintings hang
   unsubstantiated fame

       I empathise scared to be
feasting freedom delights
    thinking on C lights


21 July 2010

Imperial Boredom

Before I commence with my review of Bret Easton Ellis' latest novel, Imperial Bedrooms, I want to take a moment to expound on my views on Criticism -- and Critics, in general.  Philosophically, I am against the whole enterprise.  I've never understood the compulsion to write about a work of art that wasn't any good.  I'd much rather write about a work of art that inspired, enlightened, enthralled, or empowered me.  As is true with people, I would rather prefer not to engage with someone or something that does not interest me.  Clearly, my views are my own; they're highly flawed, and my position wide open to numerous attacks.  The real reasoning here is to act as a segue to my review of Imperial Bedrooms.

As a rule, I love Bret Easton Ellis' writing.  At his best, he's the preeminent satiric voice of our generation (being the hyper-materalistic mass communication savvy proud philistinism of the past 30 years).  He is savage, unrelenting, infinitely self-reflexive, and horrifically hilarious.  From my very first reading of American Psycho at the tender age of nineteen, I have been an absolute Easton Ellis devotee.  I instantly devoured (pun intended) every piece of his writing, enthralled by the totality of the literary universe he had created.  Like so many great writers before him (I'm thinking Faulkner), he engendered his own creations into an already familiar world of celebrities, socialites, and the uber-rich.  Collective apathy strikes a central chord.  Confusion is rampant.  Substance exists only as a worthless commodity to be scorned and ridiculed.  As Victor Ward, the male model "protagonist" of Glamorama, dismisses whenever challenged about the minutia of his shallowness: "Spare me."

And then something disheartening happened.  As brilliantly relayed in Lunar Park, Easton Ellis, the man (as opposed to the character), had always been part of the world he so viciously skewered.  Like Fitzgerald before him, his work has so much bite because it's filled with intense self-loathing, a self-loathing borne out of a desperate desire to be accepted and inculcated into a world they both inherently despised, but were nonetheless inescapably addicted to.  What set them apart, however, was that they remained ever the hawkish observers, and consummate craftsmen.  In Fitzgerald's case, if his work suffered, it wasn't out of laziness or complacency, but deepening depression and almost unthinkable alcohol abuse.  With Easton Ellis, it seems he's finally caved into the world he'd battled against since his shockingly precocious first novel, Less Than Zero, and peaked out with American Psycho

Imperial Bedrooms
, meant as a sequel to Zero, feels like half an effort, a middling cash-out, like a final semester paper that was begun the night before and completed just before dawn, barely reaching the exact minimum required word count.  Gone is the forceful condemning satire, the insanely labyrinthian self-reflexivity, the endless burrowing into the nothingness that is possible in our postmodern American souls.  Instead, we get a rehashing of the same themes:  paranoia, drugs, voyeurism, sexual manipulation, and perfect looking chicks.

At a mere 164 pages, it flies by so fast you forgot you were reading anything cohesive at all, just some stupid vignettes about even stupider amoral people.  Not only did I not care about the characters, I didn't even care about not caring about them. 

As I mentioned before, I loathe to write about something I dislike.  And truth be told, Bedrooms does contain a few redeeming qualities.  The ever-present sharp wit is still there, and no one can roast the inherent absurdism of a current fad like Easton Ellis.  But from an author whom I love, whom I've personally witnessed achieve momentously transcending literary greatness, to just fade away the way he has is saddening.  Like a star quarterback who keeps on coming back even though the only play he really has mastery over is the screen pass.  Does he really need the money?  Hasn't his ego been thoroughly stroked with the meteoric success he achieved over twenty-five years ago? 

Easton Ellis likes to epigram his books with song lyrics, often adopting David Byrne's Talking Heads' repetoire...so allow me to follow in suit, from 'Psycho Killer'  (apt choice I'd say!) although instead as an epitaph to his writing career:

"When I have nothing to say
my lips are sealed
Say something once
Why say it again?" 

14 June 2010

Annus Mirabilis

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.

Up to then there'd only been
A sort of bargaining,
A wrangle for the ring,
A shame that started at sixteen
And spread to everything.

Then all at once the quarrel sank:
Everyone felt the same,
And every life became
A brilliant breaking of the bank,
A quite unlosable game.

So life was never better than
In nineteen sixty-three
(Though just too late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.

Philip Larkin

04 June 2010

Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

It used to be that trucks that were carrying gasoline said that they were inflammable, and as it happened a lot of people, even people who worked around these trucks, would be found lighting up cigarettes and unfortunately blowing up the trucks. Why would they possibly do that? A pair of linguists discovered that there was this unconscious association with this word inflammable, which they thought meant not flammable. So now all gasoline trucks say “flammable,” which wasn’t even a word beforehand.

01 June 2010

human becoming

become a victim of yr own
be drunk and sad-sad so maybe
then you'll understand why yr
so unhappy
be rowdy and cause ruckus
holler at cute skirt as it passes
puke, smoke a cigarette, and write
for the masses
that will only
hassle you when all you need is a
when depressed, turn to conformity
it will ease yr pain and yr
family's lingering embarrassment
when meditative and contemplative, turn
to TV to kill off all individual
drink triple espressos and use
condoms when being intimate
remember to stay under control at
all times and never let yr conclusions
be too drastic
when fucking, talk dirty and call
her a slut
be happy

31 May 2010

For You, My Dear

When you walk
 you float
If you trip
 everyone stops
You only care to win; so,
like your father,
you can gloat

I saw it all but yr nasty flattery
destabilized me
You blew yr affection out before we
even started
Anything goes
as long as
in the end
you get to play

you say I care too much
about trifling people
you don't concern about
the one who adores you

you pretend
you don't know

a dvd bootlegger at the metro stop
disapproves of you

I met you more
than halfway
you just kept

Kinky Destroy

Elisabeth with an S
she protests

miscommunication wires
uncontained by Oceans death
decisive derisions jog
    emasculatory gamut

Eunuch in Tunic!
Guard the Harem!
Disco! Crisco!
Feed the seraph

lusty eggs mature
stench narrows into
Answers? ephemeral

Boy Scout! Cub Scout!
kamp kommando
Liar! Fire!
Blow my candle

14 April 2010


In third grade I read
        aloud the name José 
   and pronounced it "joes"
the teacher's restrained giggle was
      like a clarion
    reddening my cheeks
    lowering my eyes

Last week I ordered a bottle 
         of Rosé wine
     in the company of a woman
the menu neglected the accent
  while the waiter haughtily
      corrected my "rows"

02 January 2010

White Shame in 3-D -- Film Review: Avatar

I'm no expert on science fiction films, and although I don't consider myself an ardent aficionado whatsoever, there exist a handful of films for which I have a great affection.  It has occurred to me that reduced to core principles, the genre of science fiction consists of two basic archetypes:  a.  advanced human society engenders inanimate objects (i.e. robots) with artificial intelligence to improve their lives only for the sentient computers to spiral diabolically out of control and attempt to enslave or exterminate humans; or b. advanced human society encountering advanced alien lifeforms, whether they come to us or we go to them is left to the descretion of the filmmaker, but a semi-apocalyptic battle for superiority is inevitable.  Naturally, there are many instances of these archetypes overlapping and the preeminent science fiction film of them all, the one that really defined the genre, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey synthesizes them with such profoundly bizarre virtuosity that all subsequent forays into science fiction are relegated to its shadow.

There is also the fantasy subcategory, where the filmmaker creates an entirely original world that is only faintly recognizable to our own.  With Avatar, writer and director James Cameron embraces archetype B, heavily imbuing it with CGI phantasmagoria, simultaneously adapting colonialist excursions Dances With Wolves and Pocahontas

First let me address the highly touted technological aspects of the film, and then I'll deconstruct its themes.  Effects wise, Avatar has no equal.  Cameron's vision of an alternate Earthlike planet, Pandora, complete with incandescent plantlife, hexapod animalia, and 10 feet tall humanoids is impressive not only in its conception but more so in the execution.  Imagine the Amazon rainforest on steroids and then imagine explaining that vision to graphic artists so that it'll actually look cool.

The version I saw claimed to be 3-D IMAX, however, it seemed to me to simply be a converted theatre with a slightly larger screen hauled in a week before.  I would think that seeing Avatar at a screen solely dedicated to IMAX would have made the visual experience even more satisfying.  I am skeptical regarding the 3-D part as well.  Certainly there were moments in the film where objects felt like they were coming out of the screen, and perhaps in a 164 minute film the 3-D novelty wears off quickly, but it seemed like 3-D IMAX in reality means Super High Definition.  (Quick note to James Cameron:  3 hours of wearing uncomfortable and unsightly glasses is too much) 

As I state in my opening remarks, the plotting is nothing new.  In the year 2154, a human mercenary is recruited by a corporate mining company to the planet Pandora, in the Alpha Centauri star system, to inhabit the bluish 10 foot tall body of the genetically engineered native Pandoran humanoid lifeforms, the Na'vi -- hence the title Avatar.  His mission is to infiltrate their society, learn their ways, and convince them to abandon their home, a collossal tree called appropriately, HomeTree, so that the corporation can mirthfully mine the element "unobtainium" which goes for $20 million per kilo on the Earthly market.  A middle schooler can see where this is going.  

The allegory is so thinly veiled that it hardly qualifies being called an allegory.  Besides being blue and accessorizing tails, the Na'vi conspicuously resemble the American Indian, and their manner of social interaction is a goofy synthesis of Apaches on the warpath in old Westerns and tribalist histrionics of the animated Pocahontas.  The heavy-handed subtext is clearer than the 3-D resolution:  the white man perpetuating imperialism upon an unsuspecting and defenseless native population for the purpose of exploiting natural resources.  Pandora could have just as easily been called Iraq, or Vietnam, or Dakota.  It is no coincidence that all the antagonists reek WASPish, and in fact I didn't notice a minority on the mercenary (bad guys) side until the final 15 minutes.

James Cameron is the modern day Cecil B. DeMille, a pure epic storyteller.  Like most epic storytellers, the draw is in the spectacle, not the narrative.  No one went to see The Ten Commandments to be ecumenically educated, and thirteen year old girls didn't return to the cinemas six weekends in a row to follow the labyrinthian plot twists of TitanicAvatar is a good movie, a servicable movie, with above-average action sequences and superior CGI effects, unfortunately it disavows the audience's inherent sophistication, or rather, discredits it in favour of iridiscent 10 foot tall perkiness.