I’m definitely faster when I’m blue
It's me, hi, the problem is back in your inbox. Talking about Avatar 🙄
Hey, Happy 2023, the Newsletter is back, baby! It’s been a while.
The prospect of picking my newsletter back up has been daunting and paralyzing. But I want to do it so I’m doing it and here we go I’m doing it.
The last time you heard from me (unless you follow my spirals on social media), I released my third album, Televangelist. Then, I completely burnt myself out.
At the time, I was working nearly sixty-plus hours a week at my ‘day job’ on The Staircase for HBO MAX, which did give the record the financial boost needed to reach the finish line, but then the job ended, and the marketing and promotional budget became zilch. Such is life.
Still, it found its way to people!
A few months ago my song “Feeling Profound (On T.V.)” got popular on some playlists and became my first song to reach over 10,000 streams. Soon after I learned that one of my older songs “Ducks in a Row” had been used nearly 400 times in people’s Instagram Reels about ducks. That is very funny to me, haha. Soon it became the 2nd song to reach 10,000 streams, nine years after it was first released. Tens of thousands of people heard songs I made as a teenager for the first time. No matter how old or irrelevant I might find my art to be sometimes, it was brand new to most. I think that’s hilarious and very cool you can watch them here.
Fourteen months later, I’m very proud of what was accomplished, even if I don’t quite shout it from the mountaintops, but even more, I’m grateful for the lessons it taught me. Mainly that it’s better late than never… if you want to be of use to the future. If you wish to be brand new for someone. Thank you for being a part of it.
This is my second winter working in film production, so I should’ve known better than to not account for the weeks I knew I’d be out of work. All the structure that work gives me goes out the window and I slump right back into a sweatpants quarantine aesthetic that just is not en vogue right now.
After a year at Marvel (!!!), I start work on a new feature this week. For a few months at least. Then it’s on to the next lilypad. This industry is fickle and unreliable, but I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve been having. I’ve loved watching Twitter debate and theorize over Michael Peterson’s innocence on The Staircase (of course I’m partial to the owl theory!), seeing my name in IMAX 3D in the credits for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and being smack-dab in the middle of the ongoing war of art vs. commerce. Every day at work is an attempt at manufacturing something that’s never been seen before while watching it ricochet and filter through red tape, physical limitations, budgetary restrictions, and sometimes just plain poor (or brilliant!) decision-making, and that will never get boring.
In the meantime, I’ve been Avataring a lot, which is defined by me as using my AMC A-List subscription to book aisle seats at random screenings of Avatar: The Way of Water when I’ll be in the neighborhood and just sort of…pop into Pandora, sometimes for the full the three hours and twelve minutes, or… maybe just an hour or so.
It’s taking James Cameron’s ‘Use the bathroom, you’re gonna see it again,’ argument to the Nth degree by seeing his latest opus Avatar: The Way of Water a few times in various chunks throughout the week. Sorta like a Netflix movie. Funny how that works.
Whenever I feel the need to ‘escape’ from my present circumstances, instead of reaching for my vices, I’ve been leaving my phone in the car and sitting in the theater not thinking about Earth. Almost like a cheap spa. Not receiving push notifications. Not checking my email or bank account. Pandora. I’ve been to four screenings so far and I’ve maybe seen the whole film twice. No, I am not done going to see Avatar, either. Wanna come?
It’s been a little difficult to sparse just how ironic my love for Avatar is, or might be. Actually, no, it’s not. My love for Avatar and The Way Of Water is not ironic at all but all the haters have enflamed my staunch and fervent defense of the franchise, so I’ve dug my heels in and doubled down on my fandom. Which I recognize is a very me thing to do. I love righteous indignation!
To me, it’s extremely difficult to hate a franchise that is so unmistakably left-wing — critical of humanity, colonization, and capitalism, celebratory of nature and life. The military is presented like it’s Skynet and every colonization project is Judgement Day. On Earth, we have grown far too used to the destruction of our natural resources.
Avatar has become as expansive and exciting for me as Star Wars or Harry Potter. Franchises that transcend their texts and their creators, and become fanfiction playgrounds for storytelling and wonder. What’s missing in today’s cinema is a sense of longing. This is why I think people keep running back to Pandora, or maybe at least why I am. Unlike a lot of modern blockbusters that exist so bullishly in the real world, full of celebrity cameos, call-backs, and in-jokes. The Way of Water spends its middle hour just…hanging out. Swimming. Flying. Movies haven’t felt like invitations in a long time, and more so have felt like exclusive clubs with codewords and gatekeepers. Avatar doesn’t need you to go online and read Wikipedia pages for shows, books, and comics you have to read to ‘get it’. The film itself is enough.
"I like change. I'm a child of the '60s. I like it when things are chaotic. I think what we can see is an expanded form of cinema. I want to do a movie that's six hours long and two and a half hours long at the same time. Same movie. You can stream it for six hours, or you can go and have a more condensed, roller coaster, immersive version of that experience in a movie theater. Same movie. Just, one's the novel, and one's the movie. Why not? Let's just use these platforms in ways that haven't been done before." — James Cameron
What resonates with me about The Way of Water is that this entire project is not the work of one man but the drive of one. Hundreds if not thousands of people worked to bring this movie to life over its thirteen (!!!) year production, but if James Cameron woke up one morning suddenly disinterested in Avatar 5, it won’t happen. No Avatar movies would exist if James Cameron didn’t want to make them or decided to stop. It’s like seeing an olympian continue training and then breaking their record. One of our best filmmakers is dedicating the remaining twenty-five years of their career meticulously pushing the boundaries of film — the empathy machine it is — to tell a story they find vital enough to tell. The fact that James Cameron is interested in making three more Avatar movies makes me interested in three more Avatar movies. I heard the rough cut for Avatar 3: The Seed Bearer (it’s seriously tentatively titled that) is 9 hours long??? I don’t care how long it takes. Take all the time you need with that one, Jim. Better late than never.
2022 Album of the year: Badモード (BAD MODE) by Hikaru Utada. I’m partial to the pop perfection of “Find Love,” but this is probably the best song on the record. And this phenomenal video fits the water theme! Water connects all things, life to death, darkness to light!!
Okay, gotta go, I’m late/right on time to a showing of The Way of Water.
Expect to hear from me soon… anything specific you wanna read from me? What’s been your escape lately? What creates a sense of longing for you?
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