Dear friends,

As you know Christmas is coming up, and there are things to say in the art world. However, I thought I would continue my exploration of what I call Lamo Cinema, or late modernism cinema and discuss this Christmas' science-fiction blockbuster Avatar, the science fiction action adventure epic film written and directed by James Cameron.  Whose other films include;The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994), Titanic (1997), and Spider-Man and Dark Angel.

Avatar, as a Science fiction film is a typical film genre that uses science fiction: speculative, science-based depictions of  far-fetched theoretical phenomena generally unrelated to science, such as extra-terrestrial life forms, alien worlds, esp, and time travel, often along with futuristic elements such as spacecraft, robots, or other esoteric technologies. Science fiction films have often been used to focus on political or social issues, and to explore philosophical issues like the human condition.

And I thought I would do it again in my inimitable Wikipedia links style.

Dikipedia, the LaMo free style encyclopedia

Where I mix and match across many fields, both real and imagined, mashing up the theoretical with the purely biased, but providing some relative release with links to help clarify what I sincerely hope to be the complete confusion that results.  Please note, I have not seen this movie, so this is conjecture at its worst. It might be a turkey.

Avatar Plot

In A.D. 2154, the story’s protagonist, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is a former U.S. Marine who was wounded and paralyzed from the waist down in combat on Earth. Jake is selected to participate in the Avatar program, which will enable him to walk. Jake travels to Pandora. This world is a lush and sentient-inhabited jungle-covered satellite Alpha Centauri A, 4.3 light years from Earth.

Pandora's biosphere is filled with incredible life forms, some beautiful, many terrifying. This world is also home to the Na’vi, a sentient humanoid race, who are considered primitive, yet are more physically capable than humans. Standing 10 feet tall, with tails and sparkling blue skin, the Na’vi live in harmony with their unspoiled world. As humans encroach deeper into Pandora's forests in search of valuable minerals, the Na’vi unleash their formidable warrior abilities to defend their threatened existence.

Jake has unwittingly been recruited to become part of this encroachment. Since humans are unable to breathe the air on Pandora, they have created genetically-bred human-Na’vi hybrids known as Avatars. On Pandora, through his Avatar body, Jake will be able to walk again. Sent deep into Pandora's jungles as a scout for the soldiers that will follow, Jake encounters many of Pandora's beauties and dangers. There he meets a young Na’vi female, Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña).

Over time, Jake infiltrates the Na'vi clan, and falls in love with Neytiri. As a result, Jake finds himself caught between the military-industrial forces of Earth and the Na’vi, forcing him to choose sides in an epic battle that will decide the fate of Pandora. A trailer for it is here:

Plot Analysis

Generally it looks to me as if  James Cameron wishes to continue to build on an utopianist view that attempts to reconcile humanity with technology (as seen in Aliens, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day,)  where two protagonists, who face impossible odds, work together to achieve their goals, with strong female characters (Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley being the most famous) and continues his mild undercurrent of feminism.

"Philosopher Stephen Mulhall has remarked that the four Alien films represent an artistic rendering of the difficulties faced by the woman's "voice" to have itself heard in a masculinist society, as Ripley continually encounters males who try to silence her and to force her to submit to their desires. Mulhall sees this depicted in several places in Aliens, particularly the inquest scene in which Ripley's explanation for the deaths and destruction of the Nostromo, as well as her attempts to warn the board members of the alien danger, are met with officious disdain. However, Mulhall believes that Ripley's relationship with Hicks illustrates that Aliens "is devoted ... to the possibility of modes of masculinity that seek not to stifle but rather to accommodate the female voice, and modes of femininity that can acknowledge and incorporate something more or other of masculinity than our worst nightmares of it."

Avatar also seems to have elements of Superhero fiction is a genre characterized by beings with much higher than usual capability and prowess, generally with a desire or need to help the citizens of their chosen country or world by using his or her powers to defeat natural or superpowered threats.  it as much as both Jake as an avatar and the Na’vi, are more physically capable than humans. Authors of this genre include Stan Lee (co-creator of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Hulk); Marv Wolfman, the creator of Blade for Marvel Comics, and The New Teen Titans for DC Comics; Dean Wesley Smith (Star Trek, Smallville, Spider-Man, and X-Men)

While the Na’vi's home environment is a fantastical magical realist wonderland and Utopia it finds itself smack up against the usual corporate/government/societal dystopia with the repressing power is a private company supported by military power. These stories generally include the motive of commercial profit instead of, or in addition to, the benefits of increased power and authority. As seen in the Alien series, Resident Evil and its sequels and RoboCop and its sequels.

But I'm not sure how it will play out but what I hope he adds in addition to these traditional science fiction genre times will be an exploration of, how can I say this discreetly?

The Mind Fuck Genre

The leading exponent of which is Philip Kindred Dick (Dec. 16, 1928 – March 2, 1982) the American novelist, short story writer, and essayist whose published work during his lifetime was almost entirely in the science fictionsociological, political and metaphysical themes in novels dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments, and altered states. In his later works, Dick's thematic focus strongly reflected his personal interest in metaphysics and theology. He often drew upon his own life experiences and addressed the nature of drug abuse, paranoia and schizophrenia, and transcendental experiences in novels such as A Scanner Darkly and VALIS.

"I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards," Dick wrote of these stories. "In my writing I even question the universe; I wonder out loud if it is real, and I wonder out loud if all of us are real." Dick referred to himself as a "fictionalizing philosopher."

In addition to thirty-six novels, Dick wrote 121 short stories, many of which appeared in science fiction magazines.nine of his stories have been adapted into popular films since his death, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly and Minority Report.

Dick's stories typically focus on the fragile nature of what is "real" and the construction of personal identity. His stories often become surreal fantasies as the main characters slowly discover that their everyday world is actually an illusion constructed by powerful external entities, vast political conspiracies, or simply from the vicissitudes of an unreliable narrator. Alternate universes and simulacra were common plot devices, with fictional worlds inhabited by common, working people, rather than galactic elites. "There are no heroes in Dick's books," Ursula K. Le Guin wrote, "but there are heroics.

Dick made no secret that he was heavily influenced by the writings of Carl Jung, the Swiss founder of  as this "Analytical Psychology" (to distinguish it from Freud's theory of psychoanalysis). Jung was a self-taught expert on the unconscious and mythological foundations of conscious experience and was open to the reality underlying mystical experiences. The Jungian constructs and models that most concerned Dick seem to be the archetypes of the collective unconscious, group projection/ hallucination, synchronicities, and personality theory. 

Mental illness was a constant interest of Dick's, and themes of mental illness permeate his work. The character Jack Bohlen in the 1964 novel Martian Time-Slip is an "ex-schizophrenic". The novel Clans of the Alphane Moon centers on an entire society made up of descendants of lunatic asylum inmates. Also is Drug use was also a theme in many of Dick’s works, such as A Scanner Darkly and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Dick was a stimulants user for much of his life.


The Mind Fuck Genre had its roots, I believe, in Cold War propaganda about the North Korean’s success at brainwashing and, in short order, that spawned film and literary boom in paranoid novels and movie plot lines of spies, saboteurs, double agents, and triple double agents to stoke the emotional flames the cold wars culture of fear.  The most paranoid feature of these plots werethe often demonstrated circularity of plotting developments where the protagonist was often brought full circle to find out that in uncovering his true mission and real identity, he had actually had been just executing the very mission that the villains he had been fleeing had previously implanted in his brain from the beginning, therefore challenging the concept of free will and determinism.

Invariably the Mind Fuck Genre center on dedicated totalitarian, corporate technocrat, or secret agency villains whose power/control quest to create perfect robot soldier/assassin zombies, who can still function as they traverse a treacherous landscape from total paranoia to schizophrenia to narrative realism to surrealistic subjectivity after their brains, their bodies, and their souls have been tortured into submission by both low to high tech brainwashing machines. The Mind Fuck Genre invariably involves involuntary repetitive penetrative sexual humiliation, which usually justifies the heroes revenge.

The Bourne Series of movies has to do with Matt Damon’s existential quest of to discover why he is a one-man wrecking crew and why, when given certain Pavlovian commands, he turns into an icy unstoppable assassin? The Manchurian candidate, Frank Sinatra’s 1962 movie that foreshadowed the JFK assassination is a perfect example early example of the Mind Fuck Genre phenomena.

It was only a matter of time before many contemporary movies’ initial pretext showed ordinary Joe’s, just trying to make a living, being snatched off the streets to become unwitting terrorists, double agents, fall guys and murderers of great skills, even if they had the occasional twinge of existential remorse. Karl Marx’s theory of the social alienation of LaMo capitalism gets morphed into full scale sociopathic schizophrenia and both heroes and villains are converted to subject commodities to be redrawn for profit and prestige. While subtly commenting on diverse social issues such as xenophobia, propaganda, and cognitive dissonance.

My personal bias about the evolution of the Modern story is that it came into its own during the birth of the popular novel during Romanticism, and then evolved into symbolism, with its humanist concerns. (With authors like Charles Dickens, who influenced both James Cameron and Philip K. Dick) which easily evolved from symbolism into an existentialist surrealism, with its psychiatric and political  components, and then on to magic realism, which sought to blend elements of the Western Enlightenment with the subjective and magical, which has had success in movies and South American literature, but not really an art, and then morphed into something I call non-magical realism.Which you can see in movies like the perfect sunshine of the spotless mind.  which really is a one-act play staged on a set inside a mind that is being shrunk, as an experiment in progress of br andain washing

I guess I would call Avatar a LaMo non-magical realist science-fiction adventure film with themes of imperialism and biodiversity.  I'm only guessing now but I think that Avatar could be a pastiche of five different highly employ natural science fiction films.