Monday, March 8, 2010

An open letter to James Cameron

Disappointing news last night ...

I would certainly like to see an SF film get Oscar "Best Picture" recognition. You, Mr. Cameron, of course have far better reason than I to be disappointed.

That said, I don't believe Avatar deserved to win. For me, the film was too much an instance of technique trumping tale. As in, "Let's see ... how can I showcase 3-D?" The plot was minimal, predictable, and unoriginal. (Re the last-mentioned, think Dances with Wolves in space.)

And that's a shame, because you can tell a great story. I can watch (and have) The Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss again and again.

I get that the new wave of CGI, performance-capture animation, and 3-D cry out for an epic canvas. Let's have that grand (and three-dimensional) canvas -- but telling a story worthy of the scale. They are out there. From the SF canon, consider these (alphabetical by author):

Starship (aka, Non-Stop), Brian Aldiss

Sundiver (or others of the Uplift universe), David Brin

Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card

Riverworld series, Philip Jose Farmer

Deathworld, Harry Harrison

Mars Crossing, Geoffery Landis

Ringworld, Larry Niven

Titan, John Varley

A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge

Great stories and grand scale (and I could go on). I would rush to the theatre to see any of these books  realized as big-budget, modern-FX epics -- and I doubt I would be alone.

And maybe grand technique and story together will bring better news in an upcoming awards ceremony.

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