The Billion Dollar Bet: So Who Wants Those ‘Avatar’ Sequels?

Nearly every single time I saw the news story regarding the Avatar sequels retweeted onto my feed last week, it was accompanied by the exact same message: ‘Who asked for this?’ The most successful film of all time, one that helped pave the path for Hollywood to embrace 3D and the advancement of motion-capture CGI, has left a curiously small cultural footprint in its aftermath. Despite grossing over $ 2bn, being the first film to ever manage this feat, Avatar didn’t inspire much in the way of fan enthusiasm following its undoubtedly major but shockingly brief moment in the zeitgeist. There’s no Avatar fandom waiting with baited breath for more from this universe, there aren’t thousands of pages of fanfiction developing the world further, and there was little in the way of cross media exploration — no TV spin-off, no array of video games, and so on. Now, you can see a Cirque du Soleil show inspired by the film, and there’s a world of Pandora for Disneyworld fans to check out at Animal Kingdom, including a bar with luminous green beer, but it’s still a movie that feels like a relic of a different era. Even Titanic, James Cameron’s previous billion dollar grossing phenomenon, stuck around longer in people’s minds thanks to a potent mix of Leo Mania, a dedicated female fanbase, and the inescapable Celine Dion earworm. Avatar was a flash in the pan that just so happened to make more money than all the other flashes in the pan.

Obviously, sequels were inevitable, but usually studios rush to capitalise on that first flush of success and get the new films out within the first couple of years. It’s been eight years since the film came out and news of the rest of the franchise has been thin on the ground. Production was supposed to start several times over the years before being pushed back for various reasons. Now, release dates have been set for the next four films in the series, and 21st Century Fox’s Lachlan Murdoch — yes, one of those Murdochs — revealed that the company has allotted more than a billion dollars for this saga. That means they’ll easily become not only the most expensive films ever made but the most costly back-to-back shoot, flying past the $ 623m budget for Peter Jackson’s overblown Hobbit trilogy.

The film is caught between two strange states of being — the abstract business side that ensures such practices will be a sound financial investment, and the cultural reality where audiences wrestle with their demand, or lack thereof, for what Hollywood is supplying. Looking at how much money Avatar made — over $ 2.7bn! — it makes total sense that Fox would throw these kinds of resources at Cameron. Remember, this is a man with a scarily good habit of making vast quantities of cash. Before its release, Titanic was written off in the trades as a vanity project, mired in scandal and a troubled production that would sink Cameron’s career according to industry insiders. It seemed like an utterly ridiculous idea to make an epic romance to the backdrop of a major tragedy where hundreds of people died. In retrospect, it’s still kind of barmy that such a thing was ever made, and yet its current box office gross comes in at $ 2.18bn, helped along by a recent 3D anniversary re-release. People loved Titanic and Cameron proved the doubters wrong again.

Betting against Cameron has always seemed like a loser’s folly, given his impressive box office receipts. He’s also arguably the only major director working today who has the freedom to experiment with evolving cinematic technology on such a scale. It’s one of his greatest calling cards too. Think of the moment in Terminator 2: Judgment Day where the T-1000 emerges from the floor, moulding from liquid metal to human form; or the alien water tentacle in The Abyss; or the sheer shocking grandeur of the Titanic splitting in two. Cameron is a brilliant director of spectacle, and he doesn’t mind waiting for the technology to catch up to him. That’s one of the major things delaying these Avatar sequels.

Cameron’s aims for the sequels are as ambitious as you can imagine — higher frame rates, 3D projection that doesn’t desaturate the colours on-screen, and taking special effects further than ever before. He’s even talked of one day making a 3D film that can be viewed without the need for 3D glasses. All of this would certainly create a must-see spectacle, and that’s probably more important for Cameron and Fox than whether or not people will care about the characters or plot of Avatar. Those elements of storytelling were always intended to be the mere foundation on which Cameron and his effects team could project their marvels. Avatar was less a movie than an event, one that audiences hadn’t experienced before so of course they were going to pay out for the full 3D IMAX experience. Nothing like it had been done before.

But now, amazing effects are the norm, and audiences have less patience for gimmicks. Film fans have grown tired of cheap 3D transfers and increased tickets costs, to the point where IMAX themselves admitted that they planned to cut back on the number of 3D screening due to lack of demand. The issue of higher frame rates is one that’s struggled to translate to an enjoyable viewing experience. It made The Hobbit trilogy an oddly underwhelming visual experience, and the much hyped 120 frames per second rate of Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk was criticised by the few people who saw it in its intended form for being nearly impossible to watch. Cameron is the master of cinematic technology but the rest of the industry’s done a pretty good job of keeping up with him since Avatar was released, so getting ahead of the herd once again may prove more difficult than ever.

Ultimately, it probably won’t matter whether or not people actually want a whopping four sequels to Avatar. If James Cameron can make them must-see visual experiences, story or character investment will be redundant, and audiences will flock to see first-hand just how far Cameron can take the technology. They may not revisit the movie on DVD or spend hours talking about it on the internet, but by then the money will already be in the bank, and that doesn’t even include the immense power of the international box office in its current form (want to talk about who wants those sequels? There’s a film that did exceptionally well in China). We may not have asked for Avatar sequels but Cameron knows another thing very well — morbid curiosity will always win the day.

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It’s One Small Dollar For Taylor Swift. But One Giant Leap For Her Feminist Redemption Arc

If you haven’t been following Taylor Swift’s legal drama recently, you’d be forgiven for being a bit cynical about the second part of my title. You might be fully up to date with it, and still suspicious. In many ways, Swift is a problematic flag-bearer for feminism. But my goodness, she was superb in court. And when the jury found in her favour, this case felt like a landmark in terms of how sexual assault is understood and discussed.

First things first, this wasn’t a criminal case against David Mueller, the DJ from Denver who groped Swift during a photo opportunity in 2013. Oh no. Swift and her mother reported the incident, and some time later, he lost his job, at which point he decided to sue Swift for $ 3m in damages for ‘ruining his career’. Yep, that’s right. The groper was suing the gropee. What Swift did was countersue. And she did it well.

Her suit was for $ 1 — a symbolic amount. And she won, in every possible sense of the word. She’s a multi-millionaire; she didn’t need that dollar. What she really achieved was a high-profile declaration of where the damn line is, and what it means when someone crosses that line. She taught a generation about acceptable conduct, personal space, and where the blame lies.

Take a moment to enjoy how freaking awesome she was in court. Here are her 10 most powerful comebacks during cross-examination, according to Glamour.

(1) McFarland suggested Swift could’ve taken a break from her concert meet-and-greet if she was so shaken up by Mueller’s alleged assault. (Swift previously said she was distressed by the incident but carried on with her schedule because she didn’t want to upset her fans.) Swift’s reply: «Your client could have taken a normal photo with me.»

(2) McFarland noted that Swift is actually closer to Mueller’s girlfriend in the photo. (Presumably the point of this was to imply Swift could’ve been confused about whose hand, if any, grabbed her backside.)
Swift’s reply: «Yes, she did not have her hand on my ass.»

(3) McFarland suggested Swift’s bodyguard, Greg Dent, could have intervened if a sexual assault did occur. Vogue reports the lawyer then asked Swift if she was critical of Dent for not preventing the alleged incident.
Swift’s reply: «I’m critical of your client sticking his hand under my skirt and grabbing my ass.»

(4) McFarland argued there isn’t anything visibly inappropriate happening in the photo of Swift and Mueller.
Swift’s reply: «Gabe, this is a photo of him with his hand up my skirt—with his hand on my ass. You can ask me a million questions—I’m never going to say anything different. I never have said anything different.»

(5) McFarland argued Swift’s skirt showed no signs of disruptment.
Swift’s reply: «Because my ass is located in the back of my body.»

(6) According to Rolling Stone, at one point Mueller himself stated: «My hand came into contact with part of her body. I felt what appeared to be a rib cage or rib. … And it went behind her, and her hand, or arm, went behind my arm.»
Swift’s reply: «He did not touch my rib, he did not touch my hand, he grabbed my bare ass.»

(7) McFarland questioned why no one witnessed Mueller grabbing Swift’s backside.
Swift’s reply: «The only person who would have a direct eye line is someone laying underneath my skirt, and we didn’t have anyone positioned there.»

(8) McFarland asked Swift if she thinks Mueller got what he deserved. He was fired from his job at KYGO shortly after the incident, which is why he’s asking for $ 3 million in damages. Mueller claims Swift’s team is the reason why he lost his job.
Swift’s reply: «I don’t feel anything about Mr. Mueller. I don’t know him.»

(9) The defense asked if Swift is open to the possibility it wasn’t Mueller who supposedly grabbed her.
Swift’s reply: «He had a handful of my ass. I know it was him.»

(10) McFarland asked Swift if she had any feelings about Mueller losing his job because of the incident.
Swift’s reply: «I’m not going to let you or your client make me feel in any way that this is my fault. Here we are years later, and I’m being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are the product of his decisions—not mine.»

First thought:

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Second thought: Are we absolutely sure that ‘disruptment’ was the right word there, Gabe?

Where we might be feeling some (or lots of) cynicism is where Swift profits personally from this. As I said above, that $ 1 definitely wasn’t a profit. The most significant personal gain for Swift was in her approval ratings. It is the biggest possible boost to her feminist credentials, at a time when she desperately needed it. After the high profile humiliation of the Kim Kardashian receipts, the lingering spat with Katy Perry, the social media bashing from Calvin Harris, and the contempt she faced during her real-or-fake relationship with Tom Hiddleston, the Swift brand was in trouble.

I’m not suggesting that this was the root of her motivation with her countersuit. I imagine that many others will… I suspect her aim was noble, though she must have known that this would be good for her brand. My main question here is: does it matter if it makes her look good? Does the personal gain make us feel differently about the wider social gain? Is Swift so tainted as a public figure that what she has achieved will be diminished, or scoffed at? Can she be a feminist icon if her particular brand of feminism is also convenient for business? Swift’s politics have been (rightly) criticised in the past, as Ben Beaumont-Thomas notes in his Guardian piece today:

She stayed quiet during the Trump-Clinton election and over the upheavals surrounding Black Lives Matter, and eroded her black fanbase as a result of the latter. She tweeted about the Women’s March in January, but was criticised for not attending.

Extreme cynics will say that her fight against Mueller is engineered to reverse these perceptions in an era when being «woke» has major cultural currency. A more modulated argument is that the groping case, as with the response to Kanye West, shows that Swift only engages with social issues when they’re routed directly through her own life — that she responds to sexism only when she can best leverage social capital from it — ie when the story is entirely about her.

‘Haters gonna hate’ etc etc. Sorry. Maybe I’m being naive here, but perhaps this represents a political evolution for Swift, and a move away from the apolitical, neatly packaged, pretty-rich-white-girl ‘squad goals’ brand of sisterhood that she has previously espoused. Maybe that’s what her PR team want us to think…

Either way, a victory is a victory. If it translates into album sales, fair play to her. Because she has the power to encourage an awakening in others. She has the profile needed to show everyone where the boundaries of acceptable conduct lie, and who is to blame when those boundaries are crossed. By putting herself through this, she sets an example for others, and may give them courage to come forward as well. She has drawn attention to charities that support survivors of sexual assault and violence. All of this is priceless.

Bravo, Taylor Swift. Bravo.

via GIPHY

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Florida Man Named Jay Trigger Walked Into Dollar General, Gun Drops Out Of His Pants, Shoots Him In The Ankle

Like I’m going to pass up the opportunity to blog about a felon named Jason Trigger when he walks into a Dollar General, has a .25 fall from his waistband only to have it go off and shoot him in the ankle. I took a look at Jay Trigger’s Facebook account and the guy tweeted this Tupac meme at 12:22 p.m.

One thing led to another and Jay shot him self Sunday. Weird timing.

More from WFTS – Tampa Bay:

A Florida felon was arrested on Sunday, June 11 after he walked into a Dollar General Store in Hudson and accidentally shot himself in the ankle.

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office arrested Jason Trigger, who has multiple prior felony convictions and charged him with felon in possession of a firearm.

Deputies say Trigger walked into the store and a .25 caliber handgun fell from his waistband and landed on the floor and discharged into his right ankle. Trigger left the store and went to Bayonet Point Hospital, where deputies located him.

Jay Bear needs to smile for a mugshot. At least he’s not dead. Be happy, bro.

Golden State jersey?

Let’s go back to 2014…smile!


Sports Gossip, Sexy WAGs, NFL and Hot Cheerleaders: BustedCoverage

Kirk Cousins 24 Million Dollar Baby, Johnny Back Where It All Started & Spiranac Season Is Here

You can buy the Biggie Smalls death car

Just like the Tupac death car that was listed earlier this week, you can also get the Biggie death SUV for the same price — $ 1.5 million. It’s also listed from the same memorabilia dealer, Moments in Time… Days before the 20th anniversary of the death of Brooklyn rap legend the Notorious B.I.G. (a k a Biggie Smalls) on March 9, the SUV he was riding in when he was shot is going up for sale. And it still runs. The price of the car is now $ 1.5 million, although after Smalls’ death it was bought by a woman who had no idea of its provenance.“My guess is that the car was sold for roughly $ 10,000. The woman that bought the car needed something that could fit her family of six. She had the car for four years before she realized that it was Biggie Smalls’ car,”  Gary Zimet, memorabilia dealer at Moments in Time, told Page Six.

Numbers from:

This Way Out®:


Sports Gossip, Sexy WAGs, NFL and Hot Cheerleaders: BustedCoverage

A Twelve Million Dollar Sex Abuse Verdict Against Boys Scouts of America Has Been Overturned

The Irving, Texas, branch of the Boy Scouts of America was sued in 2012 by a plaintiff identified as John Doe. The suit alleged that an older Scout had assaulted him three times while he was in Troop 137 in New Fairfield in the mid-1970s, beginning at the age of 11. He accused the national Boy Scouts organization of being aware that abuse was widespread and not taking action to protect younger Scouts from predators.

Read more…


Jezebel

‘Atlanta’ Recap: Trying To Make A Dollar Out Of 15 Cents

THE STORY SO FAR…

Earn: After an unsuccessful attempt at buying himself a kids’ meal from the local fast-food joint, he still finds himself on the outs with Vanessa, due to 1) her having to bail him out of jail 2) lack of proper financial support to help her raise their daughter, Lottie 3) lack of proper financial support to help raise their daughter, Lottie, due to his continued pursuit of a career in rap. So Earn decides to take Vanessa out on a date to The Indigo Lounge, where happy-hour prices last all night long (and also where valet parking is just some random dude with a vest he found on the street and a knock-off toy lightsaber for directing traffic, and who will also come to your table and alert you when you’re abut to be towed), if only to keep from having to spend more than the $ 96 he has in his checking account ($ 62 after purchasing his MARTA pass). Once they arrive, Earn soon discovers that due to new ownership, the all-day happy hour prices are now a thing of the past and this look …

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… ends up being permanently etched onto his face as both he and Vanessa review the menu and Vanessa goes on to order a delicious and pricey meal with the help of their waitress, who is more than happy to make recommendations that will get them to spend more money.

After dinner ends (and Vanessa pays the tip that Earn refused to do, because «it’s bad enough that she earns less than you ’cause you have a dick?»), Earn is once again reprimanded by Vanessa for his career pursuit, which results in him pleading his case to her and asking her to believe in him and know that he can make this work, if not for him then for their daughter. Vanessa, instead of softening up and embracing Earn after being convinced by his wise and passionate words, pulls a Dr. Huxtable-from-the-pilot-of-The Cosby Show-back-when-you-could-watch-The Cosby Show-without-being-reminded-that-it-was-created-by-and-starred-a-fucking-monster and tells him that everything he just said was the absolute dumbest of shit. Earn then steps outside and calls to report his debit card stolen so that he can avoid paying for dinner. If there’s anyone who has a photo of Julius from Everybody Hates Chris in his wallet as a reminder of what not to spend money on, it’s definitely Earn.

PAPER BOI: «I sell drugs. It’s lucrative. Sell it ’till you get rich. How else you pay for studio time, clothes, videos, weed without some lame-ass job?»

All of which explains why Paper Boi and Darius agree to a drug deal with a group of Mexicans called The Migos. Darius, who insists on conveying an air of professionalism, handcuffs the briefcase to his wrist as if he’s Donald Pleasance in Escape From New York… right before he forgets to bring the key for the handcuffs with him.

As it turns out, the group of Mexicans who Paper Boi and Darius are meeting up with aren’t even Mexican, but an actual rap group known as The Migos (let the good people at Wikipedia fill you in on who they are here). Qua, the leader of the group, greets them both in the usual welcoming manner: he pulls some half-naked man out of the compartment in his RV and then generously gives him back his clothes before telling him to make a run for it, so he can use his beloved rifle, Percy, to shoot him dead from afar. (He’s much better at shooting retreating targets in wooded areas than Paulie Walnuts and Chris Moltisanti, that’s for sure) After convincing them that they’re both legit and not there to do them any harm, mostly by having The Migos (as well as Qua’s cousin Tanqueray, who seems like a cross between Michael Pena’s character from Ant-Man and a very cheerful-but-socially-awkward version of DJ Khaled) listen in on a phone conversation with Earn as he begs Paper Boi to transfer $ 20 to his account so he can pay the bill for dinner, Paper Boi and Darius exchange the merchandise with them and everyone goes their separate ways. As to how the briefcase was removed from Darius’s wrist without the handcuffs key: it wasn’t, as The Migos simply took all of the merchandise out of the briefcase and left it handcuffed to him.

ANY CAMEOS FROM THE CAST OF COMMUNITY?: No.

HOW MANY F-BOMBS WERE THERE IN THIS EPISODE?: I honestly lost count, as I was too busy sitting in shock and awe over the fact that FX shows are now permitted to let their characters curse as much as they do without any bleeps or the audio being dropped, and that The People v. O.J. Simpson wasn’t a one-off.

ANY TIME-TRAVELING ALIENS IN THIS EPISODE?: Why would there be— (sighs) No, Dustin, there were no time-traveling aliens in this episode or in last week’s episode. Stop taking Ambien with your Chinese food when you’re watching stuff!

TO SUM IT ALL UP: Another solid episode with very impressive comic timing, especially from the main cast. Far too many of us have had that moment where we feel an ever-growing sense of dread in the pit of our stomachs as we look at our checking accounts and really don’t like what we see, followed by having to financially bite off more than we can possibly chew, and Glover sold those moments well, reminding us of why he is so determined to be a success in his duties as Paper Boi’s manager. And Brian Tyree Henry and LaKeith Stanfield are also doing great work, especially as they slowly end up asking themselves what the hell did they just walk into during every passing second of their deal with The Migos. It’s like the drug-deal scene from the end of Boogie Nights, minus Alfred Molina or teenage Asian boys tossing around lit firecrackers every fifteen seconds.

This episode of Atlanta was brought to you by the not-entirely-proud fraternity of Broke Phi Broke, where their motto is, «We ain’t got it!»

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