It took about seven or eight hours to pack and load up, drive over to Brooklyn, unload and unpack. And then I had to wait an extra hour for the cable guy. Now I have to drive up to Wilton, Connecticut, and sort things out with the detective handling my brother’s death, the owner of the place where he was living (and where he died the day before yesterday), the state medical examiner in Farmington, and finally visit my mom up in Southbury.
Dana Goodyear‘s profile of Avatar director-writer James Cameron, titled “Man of Extremes,” in the current New Yorker is smoothly, beautifully written — a pure-pleasure, warm-butter read. Cameron “is six feet two and fair, with paper-white hair and turbid blue-green eyes,” she begins. “He is a screamer — righteous, withering, aggrieved.
“‘Do you want Paul Verhoeven to finish this motherfucker? he shouted, an inch from Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s face, after the actor went AWOL from the set of True Lies, a James Bond spoof that Cameron was shooting in Washington, D.C. (Schwarzenegger had been giving the other actors a tour of the Capitol.)
“Cameron has mastered every job on set, and has even been known to grab a brush out of a makeup artist’s hand. ‘I always do makeup touch-ups myself, especially for blood, wounds, and dirt,’ he says. ‘It saves so much time.” His evaluations of others’ abilities are colorful riddles. ‘Hiring you is like firing two good men,’ he says, or ‘Watching him light is like watching two monkeys fuck a football.’ A small, loyal band of cast and crew works with him repeatedly; they call the dark side of his personality Mij — Jim backward.
“The pressures on Cameron are extreme, never mind that he has brought them on himself. His movies are among the most expensive ever made. Terminator 2 was the first film to cost a hundred million dollars, Titanic the first to exceed two hundred million. But victory is sweeter after a close brush with defeat. Terminator 2 earned five hundred and nineteen million around the world, and Titanic which came out in 1997, still holds the record for global box-office: $1.8 billion.
“Cameron is fifty-five. It has been twelve years since he has made a feature film; Avatar, his new movie, comes out on December 18th and will have cost more than two hundred and thirty million dollars by the time it’s done. He started working on it full time four years ago, from a script he wrote in 1994.
“AvatarThe Abyss and the liquid-silver man of Terminator 2 helped to inspire the digital revolution that has transformed moviemaking in the past two decades.
“The digital elements of Avatar, he claims, are so believable that, even when they exist alongside human actors, the audience will lose track of what is real and what is not. ‘This film integrates my life’s achievements,’ he told me. ‘It’s the most complicated stuff anyone’s ever done.’ Another time, he said, ‘If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.'”
I was distracted yesterday, to say the least. And then I saw Amelia, which I’m not supposed to get into for a couple of days. And then I came home and watched the North by Northwest Bluray, which looks like a mint-condition celluloid print and not some digital recreation, which feels right. It’s “film” and not some razor-sharp, spiffily tweaked upgrade, all glistening and heightened to a fare-thee-well. It’s like watching it on opening day (8.6.59) at the Radio City Music Hall, dead center in the twelfth row.
Some of the shots and scenes seem a tiny bit darker than expected. Eva Marie Saint‘s face looks a bit washed out and lacks sufficient detail here and there (like the base she’s wearing is too light and she’s wearing too much of it). And there’s an overall sense of the color having been slightly pushed. But I love that you can now see a distinct criss-crossy pattern in Cary Grant‘s medium gray suit, and for the first time I noticed the wood grain that frames the phone booth that Saint is speaking inside of (i.e., conversing with Martin Landau) during the Union Station scene in Chicago.
There are tons of other observations, but the mover (a friendly Russian guy named Steve) will be here in 40 minutes and there’s still more to do. I’ve been up and packing stuff since 5:30 am. Back into it sometime around noon.