Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I may have more to say later, but Avatar... wow! I'm not sure Cameron built the epic universe he was after (ala Star Wars) but man did he do something special with the world building and animation. I can't really say it was special effects because nearly the whole movie was animated, but it isn't your father's animation. I am usually as stickler for effects that don't look quite right, or animation that seems stilted or mechanical, but my goodness... there was barely a hiccup in the nearly three hour movie. It was utterly believable; like he took a camera crew to another world and filmed it. The 3D engulfed me. The flora and fauna was breathtaking. And the acting via digital performance capture was top notch. I felt like the Na'vi were real flesh and blood people, with a full culture and attitude. It was just amazing.

Now to the epic nature of the story. This is really the only area I think Avatar fell short. For what it was, the story was solid. It wasn't cheesy, or unbelievable, but was it epic? Did James Cameron create a universe with the vastness, the "bigness" of a Star Wars, or Star Trek, or Middle Earth? I don't think so. Was it a big enough universe for one 3 hour movie? Yes. But big enough for a series of movies? Big enough to become an icon, a piece of American culture? I don't think so. Again it was amazing, but more in the immersivness of the world, and animation, but not universe. Will it make a boatload of money? You bet. Will I see it again? You bet. Will it be something that defines this generation of movie goers, like Star Wars did? I just don't see it. But only time will tell for sure. What I can tell you is the bar has been raised considerably. Movies of this nature (science fiction and fantasy) will never be able to get by with what they were doing a year or two ago. I feel some regret Avatar didn't happen before The Lord of the Rings. If you could marry the effects/animation/world building of Avatar, with the epic story of the Lord of the Rings, I would probably call it the greatest movie ever made.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

30 Books in 2009

One of the things I believe strongly, is if you want to be a writer, you must first be a reader. With that in mind I set out toward the beginning of this year to read (and track my reading) as much as I could. Now I have a pretty busy life. I have several hobbies, a wife and two kids, friends to hang out with, church events to attend, a business to run, etc, etc... so what this means is I have to work to carve out time to read. That said, I feel pretty good about finishing thirty books this year, including the daunting "Einstein" by Walter Isaacson. But something curious happened in my quest to be a prolific reader. I struggled to find books that I really, really loved. In fiction, there were only two, "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card and "The True Meaning of Smekday" by D.M. Rex. This may partly be due to the fact that I felt like I had to finish every book I started. Because if I didn't, then it wouldn't make my list. So I ended up reading some books all the way through that I normally would have put down. This took up time that I could have been reading something else that I might have loved. I also read a few series that ended up being okay, but just not great. I was invested enough that I wanted to see how the stories ended, but I can't see myself reading them again.

This all got me thinking about my own writing. Am I creating something that is just okay? Something that people might add to their list of books read, but not loved? If so, am I okay with that? Obviously there are many different tastes out there. Some people may have loved the books that I thought were mediocre. So there is always that possibility with my own work. I guess in the end I need to try to write something that I love, and hope there are others out there with similar tastes.

What about you all. What books have you read that you absolutely love? I'd love to add some into the queue for next year.