Looking for Lance (and finding Avatar)

• I loved this gem of writing advice from Roddy Doyle: “Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.” Now I don’t think he is making fun of depressed writers here (or the famous ones who committed suicide). But I like the mental image of the struggling writer looking to their mentor for inspiration and getting, well something other than inspiration I guess.

• The big story in Cape Town this week was the week-long presence of the world’s greatest cyclist and seven-times Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong. Apparently the number of watching spectators was almost double this year, and all to get a glimpse of the great man himself. I was watching on TV and, as luck would have it, just when Lance and the nine other riders made their winning breakaway with about 30kms to go, the live action feed stopped working because of the high winds. Instead we got to see helicopter shots of the breakaway group with no chance of identifying individual riders. It was so frustrating, especially if you drag yourself out of bed at 6.30am and sit patiently through the inane Lebo doing pretty mindless interviews every 10 minutes or so. Eventually we got to see Lance make his tactical charge straight into the howling south-easter with 1km to go but it wasn’t enough to set up his team-mate for the win. Very exciting though and my adrenalin was pumping from my leisurely position on the couch.

• The post-race interviewer wanted to know if legendary Lance had anything to say on the course. The guy who came second (Christoff somebody) said Lance was a bit alarmed when a cannon went off on one of the descents. “Why would somebody do something like that?” asked Lance. To which Christoff simply replied: “This is Africa.” I wonder if that is one of the abiding memories that Lance will take away with him from Cape Town. Crazy spectators letting off cannons. That, and the aerial shot of a Great White shark in False Bay.

• Today I finally got to see Avatar. The fantasy world that James Cameron and his team have created is breathtaking. Really excellent. I know a lot of people found it too long but I found it much easier to watch than the long battle scenes in the Lord of the Ring series. Even the inevitable fight-to-the-death sequence near the end, although predictable, was exciting. One thing that did grate a little was those scenes of the Navi people all moving in unison, swaying back and forth in a metaphor of a close community completely in sync with one another.

• Now that I think about the movie a little more, I also realise that these war epics very rarely show the suffering that war creates. We get the suffering after the initial attack on Hometree but the protracted fighting that inevitably ensues in this kind of situation? The countless wounded and traumatised people? No, we get none of those. The victors smile and the vanquished slink off to their space ship without much of a struggle. Interestingly, as viewers we have a lot of sympathy for Jake (who is a victim of war) but we’re spared all the other wounded veterans of this type of fighting. All in all though, a great way to spend close on three hours on a Sunday afternoon.


19 Responses to Looking for Lance (and finding Avatar)

  1. Anything has to be better than the interminable battle scenes in LOTR. Your story about writing made me laugh. I think a photo of a late bloomer who lived a long and happy life would suit me.

  2. seachanges says:

    Actually, the grim reality of war is shown in that other film that got away with the Oscars: The Hurt Locker (which, yes, shows real suffering, psychological as much as physical). A totally different film I imagine from the Avatar (which I have not seen yet). Hurt Locker is good and I can see why it got the Oscars, but it is not exactly an uplifting story, even if cinematographically it is excellent.

    • Pete says:

      Hurt Locker’s not out here yet but I’ll definitely go and see it. Partly to see why it won the Oscars, partly because I want to see what a really good, non-Hollywood type war movie looks like, and partly because I think that grim stories paradoxically make us feel better about being alive.

  3. litlove says:

    My menfolk very much enjoyed Avatar, although it is a leetle bit too long for me to be tempted by it. I’ll tell you something else that makes me shake my head, and that’s the training montage. Learning a skill takes YEARS not five minute of jump cuts.

    • Pete says:

      Exactly, Litlove. I’d forgotten all about the training montage. Here we have Jakesully learning to fly a dragon and scale vines and shoot with a bow and arrow in about 10 minutes of film time. Malcom Gladwell would not approve!

  4. natalian says:

    I will be attempting to watch Avatar 3D this week…I think with a large popcorn and a chocolate chaser!

    • Pete says:

      I’m sure you will love it. I sometimes wonder if 3D isn’t hyped a little too much but you’ll be able to tell me after seeing this one. The special effects in 2D were mind-blowing so expect to be impressed I’m guessing.

  5. Grad says:

    I haven’t seen Avatar. Do you think it deserved the Academy Award? I was surprised it didn’t win, there was so much press about it. I don’t to go movies very much, and I understand this one should be seen on the big screen. So not sure if I’ll see it or not.

  6. Pete says:

    Well I haven’t seen most of the movies that won so I’m not in a position to judge. But Avatar really doesn’t need an Oscar to add to its popular success. Whereas the smaller movies badly need all the accolades they can get. I think Avatar will still be good on DVD though.

  7. doctordi says:

    Love the Roddy Doyle quote, Pete. And personally I can’t bear the idea of one of my literary heroes unblinkingly staring at me while I set about butchering the language. I’d really rather hack away unsupervised, thanks very much.

    “This is Africa” – fantastic response to Lance’s question, I love it. Like that’s a discrete, ideal explanation for everything.

    Avatar – I enjoyed it, except when it got to swaying/sermonising/’We are the World’ saccharine guff. I really don’t need James Cameron preaching to me about the environment – give me a break.

    • Pete says:

      Di – I know, it’s a bit rich Hollywood lecturing us on saving the planet considering their carbon footprint. And as for the authorial photograph, I would choose looking out at the ocean any day over whoever happened to my favourite author that week.

      • doctordi says:

        Exactly – it reeks to high heaven! Astoundingly hypocritical. For all that, I did think he did an awesome job and it was great entertainment.

        Yes, agreed. And anyone, who could choose just one author to feature atop the desk? It would make me feel horribly disloyal… but the alternative cast of thousands silently condemning my efforts offers no comfort either…!

      • doctordi says:

        And ‘anyway,’ that’s supposed to read!

  8. fnd says:

    I’m afraid that I don’t know anything about Avatar except that there is a lot of hype about it. I don’t see that changing much. It looks like a load of c-p, but that is only my uneducated view. When films are praised mainly for their special effects, I become wary.

    I was very surprised by the lack of spectators when we went to watch the cyclists. Admittedly by the time we got to our viewing spot Lance and co were probably in the showers, but we had a great view and were sharing it with only about four other people. We were standing on the new Anzio Rd bridge at about 9am, so we could see the hundreds of cyclists screaming round Hospital Bend below us. My 4-year old loved it.

    • Pete says:

      Fnd – Glad to hear your 4-year old enjoyed watching the Argus from your good spot at Hospital Bend. And while he is a bit young for Avatar, I think you might still enjoy it unless animated movies are really not your thing. Not sure why I’m suddenly selling the movie though!

  9. Courtney says:

    really good advice about not putting a picture of one’s favorite writer up, especially those who have committed suicide. One of my friends has this wretched poster of Susan Sontag all bedraggled and dirty posted above her writing desk – she says she posted it to remind her to always take a shower. I’ve never needed reminding in that regard but I still thought it was funny.

    • Pete says:

      Courtney – That’s hilarious. Does she need reminding? Perhaps it’s encouraging to see other bedraggled writers although I would probably be distracted by wondering about Sontag’s hygiene habits.

  10. fnd says:

    I think that it does depend on your reason for having the portrait of your favourite author on your desk. If it is there for inspiration or aspiration, I’d agree with Roddy Doyle. It could only lead to depression. But there are other reasons – especially for those of us who don’t write: veneration, for instance. Or as a work of art in its own right: I find the portrait of Alexander Pope by William Hoare, for instance, fascinating in that it reveals (and simultaneously disguises or hides) the humanity and frailties of the poet; and the portrait of Lord Byron by Thomas Phillips for exactly the opposite reason! (Poet as human/poet as hero.)

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