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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt


..MCN Weekend
..The DVD Geek Vault

The first but certainly not the last time James Cameron’s monster blockbuster spectacle of 2009, Avatar, will be released on home video, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has issued the film on DVD and Blu-ray. The BD comes with both a BD platter and the DVD platter. There are no special features whatsoever, except for alternate languages and subtitling. The picture is letterboxed with an aspect ratio of about 1.78:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. In the history of his blockbuster films, Cameron has always been flexible with his image framing, and the picture fills a widescreen television with meticulous delights from one corner to the other. The image is so sharp that the differences between the DVD and the BD are negligible, although you feel the smaller details more intensely on the latter, and the action is vaguely smoother. As for the sound, the BD’s 5.1 DTS track has a great deal more punch and definition than the DVD’s 5.1 Dolby Digital, but there again, the movie’s audio has been worked over so elaborately that even the DVD is a totally thrilling and involving experience. The DVD has alternate French and Spanish tracks in standard stereo and optional English and Spanish subtitles. The alternate language tracks on the BD are in 5.1 Dolby and a Portuguese track has been added to the others, with additional Portuguese subtitling (there is no French subtitling on either platter).

If for no other reason than its boxoffice returns, the film represents a milestone in the integration of animation and live action, which is where movies have been heading from their very beginning (see George Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon, which, incidentally, should be added, perhaps at the top, to the long list of movies that Cameron can be said to have drawn from or imitated for his narrative). Not every shot is perfectly blended. The skins on some of the creatures don’t look real enough, and every once in a while a shot will feel subliminally but jarringly artificial. The overall impact of the work, however, is that it feels closer to the reality of Ben-Hur than to The Ten Commandments. Depicting a human who aids non-human characters in the defense of their verdant planet against scorched-earth ecological rape by other humans, the film runs 162 minutes, which may cut down on the repeat viewings a tiny bit, but not enough to degrade the juggernaut of the movie’s popularity for a long time to come, particularly if subsequent home video releases offer up additional footage or a presentation of the film in its artistically innovative 3D format. The characters are grownups, and very few of them are endearing. Indeed, for the climax, the viewer is rooting for the non-humans to slaughter as many humans as they possibly can. Given this valid but still unsettling inside-out moral orientation and a limit to the movie’s humor, the one aspect of the film that is undeniably responsible for its success is its vision. In the past, a single artist or a single writer would beguile the world with an individual imagination, but when movies were invented and became a popular artform, they also became a collaborative art, where dozens of different imaginations contributed to a single work. There is, in the visions of the world created in Avatar, an overwhelming sense of the interconnectiveness of the human imagination, and just as all of the beings within that world are part of a greater, functional whole, so is Avatar itself a starchild mass of what the future holds for human entertainment.

Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516) 594-9304 or go to his website at

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon