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From "Terminator" to "Titanic" to "Avatar", director James Cameron has pushed Hollywood's technical wizardry to new limits, but human emotion must always come first, he told AFP.
In an era when special effects are much more accessible to filmmakers, and studios are willing to regularly spend hundreds of millions of dollars on blockbusters, it is the artistic talent that makes the difference, Cameron said during a visit to Paris.
Whether he can still strike the balance will be tested as the world finally gets to see "Avatar: The Way of Water" next week -- a sequel to his groundbreaking extraterrestrial epic that has been 13 years in the making.
"Anybody could buy a paintbrush. Not everybody can paint a picture," the Canadian director said. "The technology doesn't create art. Artists create art -- that's important."
It was originally hoped that a first sequel would be out in 2014, but Cameron's gargantuan ambitions led to repeated delays.
He does not come across like the sort of megalomaniac director of Hollywood lore -- describing his sets as "a big hippie commune with a bunch of really great artists."
But these hippies are armed with some powerful computers.
"We had over 3,200 shots, which is a lot to maintain high quality, high quality control," Cameron said.
"We brought in machine deep learning and plugged AI into various stages of the process to assist us... not to take the place of the actors at all but actually to be more truthful to what they had done," he said.
'Connection to nature'
The challenge was managing to draw emotion out of performances that were largely shot in front of green screens, and where most of the scenery and props would only appear later in the effects booths.
"The heart, the soul, the emotion, the conflict, creativity... all that happens first, and then all the technical work begins," he said.
Cameron has always justified the vast sums he has asked of studios -- "Titanic" was both the most expensive and most profitable film of all time following its release in 1997, only to be topped by "Avatar" in 2009 -- and he feels that responsibility "every day".
"I can't be whimsical or impulsive, I have to be very focused and dedicated to creating something that's both pleasing to me artistically, and that I think will be pleasing to the public and commercial enough to make some money," he said.
"It can't be too intellectual, but I can make it satisfying to me by putting in secondary and tertiary levels of meaning that I know are there."
Clearly, much of the impulse of the Avatar series is drawing attention to humanity's impact on nature, but the sequel also focuses on Cameron's aquatic interests.
Long fascinated by the sea, from 1989's "The Abyss" to "Titanic", Cameron became a deep ocean explorer for National Geographic in the 2000s and was the first solo human to visit the deepest underwater trench, the Mariana Trough, in a purpose-built submarine.
He sees "Avatar" as "awakening that thing in all of us, that connection to nature.
"The movie asks you to feel something for nature... It's about maybe feeling a sense of outrage," Cameron said.
"These Navi characters... they don't look like us, they're blue, they've got the ears and tails. But they represent the better angels of our nature.
"Maybe for 10 minutes after the movie's over, you see the world a little differently," he added.
© 2022 AFP
Last weekend, the criminal former president got his groove back. He said that the US Constitution ought to be terminated. No, really.
“A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude,” Donald Trump wrote, “allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”
This is nothing but sour grapes, yet Trump’s critics couldn’t help themselves. That says more about them than it does Trump, and that’s good information. It’s a good reminder that most Americans, with encouragement from the Republicans, believe the Constitution stands above democratic politics, as if untainted by human sin.
The opposite is reality, though.
The Constitution has been used for achieving political ends just like anything else that’s politically useful. Those ends might be empowering democratic politics to expand liberty, equality and happiness. Those ends might be stopping democratic politics from challenging the status quo. Alas, that’s more often the case.
Yet we cling to it as if we’d surely perish without it – as if a piece of paper were the only thing standing between the people and tyranny. It isn’t. Believing otherwise is foolish. We should put faith in the outcomes of democratic politics, not things said to stand above it.
Oh, the outrage!
On the one hand were conservatives who don’t want Trump to run in 2024. Here's the Post’s Marc Thiessen: “This is many things, but it’s not conservatism. Respect for the Constitution and its original meaning is the bedrock of the modern conservative movement … For someone seeking the Republican presidential nomination to call for the Constitution’s termination is nothing short of heresy.”
On the other were Trump’s critics saying see see tolljah! The Post’s Jennifer Rubin: “In a healthy democracy with two sane, stable and pro-democratic parties, it never would have come to this.”
Neither side seems to understand the truly radical thing about Trump’s statement, which is this: nothing, not even the United States Constitution, is untouchable. Nothing is or should be immune to democratic politics. In denouncing him, critics want him to stop acting politically. But Trump understands politics never stops.
Sorry, not sorry, he’s right.
Granted, this is pretty extreme, even for Trump. It’s not everyday you hear a former Republican president belittle what most Republican voters believe is a sacred text akin to the Ten Commandments.
But it’s not extreme because most Republican voters believe it’s a sacred text. It’s extreme because it sabotages why most Republican voters say it’s a sacred text. They say that because appeals to the Constitution slow down, encumber or stop democratic politics. The more the GOP can stop democratic politics, the more they win.
Think about it.
Democratic politics is a numbers game. The more people who want X, the better chance of X becoming a reality. That includes the law, government policy and amending the United States Constitution.
The Republicans, by their nature, are a minority party. They represent mainly the very obscenely rich, religious zealots, paramilitary cranks and a smattering of intellectuals. That’s it. If politics were just about numbers, the Republican would lose.
So they have a huge incentive to bring into democratic politics, or protect what’s already there, ideas and concepts that they can present as untouchable by humans - as if they were given to us by God Himself, the unquestionable referee of politics. If God says X, it’s X, and the GOP, by some miracle, always knows what God wants.
With these ideas and concepts, the Republicans can say that we, as a government of the people, can’t do something, and by saying that we can’t do something, they are serving and protecting the orders of power that democratic politics always seeks to weaken by flattening. You can see why accusing Trump of heresy isn’t about ideology.
His heresy was giving the game away.
Does it do what we say it does?
If Trump is a heretic, so are the Supreme Court’s Six.
They have done plenty to give the game away by throwing out legal precedent, fabricating history and otherwise making things up.
As destructive as Trump has been to “constitutional conservatism,” the Six have been more so. In effect, they admit in their written opinions that the Constitution isn’t a covenant between and among consenting members of a free community. It’s a weapon of the GOP for slowing down, encumbering or stopping democratic politics.
Given that, shouldn’t we rethink what we say we believe about the Constitution? So far, not so good. A bipartisan chorus of voices rose up to defend the Constitution as if it needed defending from Trump.
New York Congressman-elect Mike Lawler told the Associated Press: “The Constitution is set for a reason, to protect the rights of every American. I think the former president would be well-advised to focus on the future, if he is going to run for president again.”
Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, went even farther, laying it on thick by saying that the Constitution “is a sacrosanct document that for over 200 years has guaranteed that freedom and the rule of law prevail in our great country. Attacking the American Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation.”
I mean, I get why the White House said this, but c’mon. The Supreme Court’s Six don’t buy that. Why should we? Does the Constitution “protect the rights of every American”? Does it guarantee “that freedom and the rule of law prevail in our great country?” Mmmm.
That’s hard to square with a new report by the Post showing that fatal shootings by police officers have increased, even as many go unreported. Does the Constitution stop police from killing people? Did the Constitution prevent police powers from killing George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and others?
In anything, the Constitution can be, and has been, used to rationalize giving agents of the state more power, even to the point of manufacturing legal immunity so they can kill even more people.
If not the Constitution, what then? What is the bulwark against tyranny? Normal, ordinary democratic politics – raising organized hell, strategic pressure on key decision makers – does more to prevent agents of the state from crushing people than much else.
What then is the White House talking as if democratic politics were bad by way of the Constitution standing above it? Part of me thinks it comes from continuing to believe people like Marc Thiessen and their bad faith. He said: “Respect for the Constitution and its original meaning is the bedrock of the modern conservative movement.”
Because its original meaning was anti-democratic.
There are 2 crimes DOJ can 'prove simply' against Trump if Jan. 6 committee makes the referral: expert
The House select committee has agreed to make criminal referrals to the Department of Justice at the conclusion of their investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection, and legal experts expect Donald Trump will be one of their targets.
The panel hasn't announced who will be the subject of a referral or how many individuals will be targeted, but former U.S. attorney Barbara McQuade told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" the former president will almost certainly be recommended for prosecution on at least two charges.
"It's hard to imagine that list will not include Donald Trump," McQuade said. "We heard [Rep.] Liz Cheney give a summation where she talked about evidence that Donald Trump and others in his close associates engaged in conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of an official proceeding. Even if they don't have evidence that connects Donald Trump to the actual physical attack on the Capitol, those two crimes can be proved simply by the pressure applied on Mike Pence to try to delay and subvert the counting of the election on Jan. 6."
"I'd be really surprised if his name is not on the list," she added. "It would also include others assisting in that plot, like John Eastman and Jeffrey Clark, but, of course, remains to be seen. Now it's largely symbolic. The Justice Department will do what it wants to do, but I think it's important that symbolically this committee does give that referral to send the message to the country that this is what we found, and I think that's important for accountability purposes."
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