Thursday, December 24, 2009

Avatar - A Film Reflection by Patty Mooney


As James Cameron's "Avatar" rolls out to 3D and IMAX screens across the nation, it becomes very clear that we're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy!

As a kid I grew up watching "The Wizard of Oz," the most spectacular movie of its time, every year from the 1960's through the 1980's. I remember the year my parents purchased a color TV in 1966 and having all my friends in the neighborhood come over to watch it. The leap from black and white to color was a major cultural event.

The release of "Avatar" breaks new ground in ways that "Wizard of Oz" did in its time. "Avatar" truly ushers in the 21st Century - something that Y2K pretended but was unequipped to do. Thanks to cutting-edge effects software and the melding of many brilliant minds, "Avatar" transports the viewer to another planet called Pandora, where all things Earth are left far behind. The story revolves around Jake Sully (played by Australian actor, Sam Worthington), a wheelchair-bound veteran Marine who has lost both his twin brother and the use of his legs. He has nothing else to live for so he accepts the military's offer to compensate him royally to "stand in" for his brother in the Avatar program on Planet Pandora.

The indefatigable Sigourney Weaver plays Dr. Grace Augustine who leads the science team that is running the Avatar program. Their mission is to learn more about The People - the Na'vi - of Pandora and the composition of their planet. Dr. Augustine is less than enthralled when the military, and the corporate shill played by Giovanni Ribisi, deliver Sully into her lab to take over the Avatar that his brother had once inhabited.

Jake's initial experiences as the Avatar are comedic as he realizes he has a working set of legs and can use them to full advantage. He is like a child, rambunctiously testing his new body and limitations. He feels invincible. And then one day, during a science sortie, he becomes separated from his group when he is chased off a cliff by a raging rhino-like creature, and must spend the night defenseless against all the flesh-eating animals that roam about in the dark. It is then that he meets Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a beautiful Na’vi woman. When she first lays eyes on him she is ready to kill him but a sign appears, to dissuade her. She takes him to the encampment of her people who are also ready to rip him to shreds but the sign is vehement and undeniable, not to mention a wonderful show of special effects. It is decided that Neytiri will teach Jake everything about the Na'vi.

Stylish in our 3D glasses, We the Audience begin to see the conflict between science and its respect for Nature, and the corporate military complex which seeks to destroy and overpower what it cannot understand nor respect. Jake Sully is quickly positioned in this crossfire. Colonel Miles Quaritch is the commanding officer, a prick of the first order played by Stephen Lang. Quaritch thinks of the science team as a bunch of naive tree huggers and diplomacy is not a word in his vocabulary.

He "requests" that Jake report to him without informing Dr. Augustine, and at first Jake is fine with it.

After a science team member sees Jake delivering a report to Colonel Quaritch in his war room, Dr. Augustine transports the team to a location on the planet where they can conduct the Avatar experiments without the Colonel horning in. This essentially buys time for Jake Sully to learn more about the Na'vi people, the planet, the woman, himself, and that the planet is a living organism (much like Earth, right people?)

There are a few political statements in the film. The devastation of Amazon forests is reflected by the concerted raping and pillaging of the land by Earth's military. Ribisi as Parker Selfridge ("selfish?"), decides that genocide is the best way to go so that he can freely mine a precious metal, "unobtainium," and this hearkens back to Bush II who took us all into Iraq over oil. It takes us even further back, to the decimation of the indigenous people of the United States after Christopher Columbus arrived, claiming to have "discovered" a continent that was already populated. An indigenous people with arrows against intruders with machine guns, tanks and bombs... Hmmmm, it sounds a bit like Afghanistan today, doesn't it?

Good versus evil is a classic plotline and in Avatar it is played out to its fullest glory, along with all the other classics: man against Nature, man against woman, man against himself, mind against body, thought against action. I found it riveting, and I plan to see it again, just to pick up all the nuances I could not possibly have noticed the first time around. Maybe I'll make a tradition of it and see it annually. You know, like the good old days.

Avatar Panel


The Avatar Panel at San Diego Comic Con 2009; Photo by Patty Mooney

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jingle Bells - A Video

My cousin sent me this and it's perfect to share with you for Christmas. He is in a men's chorus and in this clip, they sing "Jingle Bells" at a local mall. They do a nice job..... Check it out!



Monday, December 21, 2009

Black Cat Under the Tree, Ben Lomond, California

Panther relaxes under the Christmas tree.

Snowman and Santa on Ladder, Ben Lomond, California

We have spent several years enjoying Christmas festivities in Northern California. This is a photo from a few years ago, a very feisty Snowman hails a miniature Santa.

Mine, All Mine


Mine, All Mine, originally uploaded by cleopatra69.

Christmas is a time of intense stretching and posing

Making Christmas Cookies With Evonne

More chocolatey goodness!

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Look What's For Christmas Dessert

This is one of the chocolatiest chocolate cakes I ever had.....

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Downtown Santa, circa '70's


Downtown Santa, circa '70's, originally uploaded by cleopatra69.

Reflection of a rather seedy Santa in the window of the downtown San Diego library

Christmas in Balboa Park


Christmas in Balboa Park, originally uploaded by cleopatra69.

Santa and his reindeer are about to take flight from a mossy green stretch of lawn in Balboa Park, San Diego, California.

Poinsettia Reflection


Poinsettia Reflection, originally uploaded by cleopatra69.

The reflection of Spanish Village in a window at Balboa Park, San Diego, during the Christmas season

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Birthday to "A Diary Left Open!"


Well dear readers,
My blog, "A Diary Left Open" turned a year old very quietly (while I was not looking) on November 25, the day before Thanksgiving. At the time, Mark and I were feverishly preparing to head to Long Beach for a three-day video production gig. "You worked on Thanksgiving?!" you may be thinking..... YES. And we give thanks for the work. Entrepeneurs never know where their next check or gig is coming from, and in this economic climate, we are very happy we had a chance to squirrel some nuts away in our tree trunk.

Thanks for being here to read and/or follow my blog - it means a lot to me. When I first started it, I decided to just write as though to myself, to record my life and times. I hope you have enjoyed reading and following as much as I have enjoyed sharing my cherished moments, thoughts, dreams, experiences, poems, and the various "flotsam" I come across, ranging from the sublime to the absurd. (It's my job to make you laugh!)

As Sherrill the Egg Man (who is no longer with us) used to say, "The only thing separating us is our skin." Ain't it the truth!