Catching up with news from this weekend:
1. Buzz is mounting for James Cameron’s 3D blockbuster, “Avatar,” which opens Friday, and it’s largely positive so far. “Watching ‘Avatar,’ I felt sort of the same as when I saw ‘Star Wars’ in 1977,” writes Roger Ebert. “That was another movie I walked into with uncertain expectations. James Cameron’s film has been the subject of relentlessly dubious advance buzz, just as his ‘Titanic’ was. Once again, he has silenced the doubters by simply delivering an extraordinary film. There is still at least one man in Hollywood who knows how to spend $250 million, or was it $300 million, wisely.”
Variety’s Todd McCarthy: “Avatar is all-enveloping and transporting, with Cameron & Co.’s years of R&D paying off with a film that, as his work has done before, raises the technical bar and throws down a challenge for the many other filmmakers toiling in the sci-fi/fantasy realm.”
Time Out Chicago’s Ben Kenigsberg is more ambivalent about the picture, writing that “Cameron once again proves he’s a visionary, but the mythmaker who gave us ‘The Terminator’ remains MIA.”
2. “What is it about Manhattan that lends itself to the madcap genre so perfectly?” asks The L Magazine’s Zach Wigon in light of Film Forum’s massive, 39-film retro Madcap Manhattan, which kicked off Friday.
“Several titles have been in heavy rotation on Film Forum’s calendar for years—but can you really complain about another showing of ‘My Man Godfrey’?” writes Melissa Anderson in the Village Voice. “Second-guessing the lineup is inevitable: If you’re choosing one Scorsese, why ‘King of Comedy’ and not ‘After Hours’? Why the downer ‘It’s Always Fair Weather,’ the follow-up to ‘On the Town,’ instead of the effervescent original? But that’s just caviling: This retrospective is balm, a much-needed alternative to the bloated Oscar bait and other white elephants of December.”
The Brooklyn Rail’s Sarahjane Blum: “I want to say which film is the ‘one’ to watch, and I can’t. If you can only see two make them ‘The Thin Man’ and ‘Swing Time.’ There is no excuse to miss Astaire and Rogers dancing on a big screen. But you really should see ‘Lady for a Day’ too, if just to marvel that Frank Capra could make a film that doesn’t make your skin creep with faux nostalgia.”
3. Finally, as the deluge of year-end lists and awards continues to mount, thankfully there’s David Hudson over at the Auteurs Notebook tracking them all. Just in: “The Hurt Locker” tops The New York Film Critics’ Circle awards, following up on its win with the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.