Friday, February 04, 2005

Still swimming in the deep end

After seeing a TV review of James Cameron's new documentary, "Aliens of the Deep," I was intrigued by the footage showing a variety of bizarre aquatic life, including something that looked like a large underwater curtain. (I know, great description. End of a long week.) But I did find myself wondering the same thing Bryan Curtis asks in this Slate article: When is Cameron going to make another feature film? (As opposed to a documentary.) Here's Curtis's theory on Cameron's current career path:

"What happened to James Cameron? He hasn't directed a feature since he began working on Titanic 10 years ago, delving instead into utterly safe—and utterly mediocre—documentaries. Critics have mockingly compared him to Steve Zissou, the hero of The Life Aquatic, and like Zissou, Cameron seems waylaid by a severe case of filmmaker's block. His is an unusual problem: Hollywood has polished his reputation too much. Titanic and its attendant glory lent him a Spielbergian gloss of respectability, and Cameron, a B-movie wizard who was never high on respectability, doesn't seem to know quite what to do with it. He's an auteur turned recluse—Cameron obscura."
I'm not a huge fan of Cameron's films, though I liked the first two "Terminator" movies and consider "True Lies" a guilty (very guilty) pleasure. Like many people, I detached my retinas while rolling my eyes during Cameron's "I'm the king of the world" Oscar acceptance speech. But the guy does damn interesting things in his movies, always trying to push the boundaries of filmmaking technology. And if he wants to take a break and figure out how to incorporate 3-D technology into his next movie, or wait for projection technology to catch up with him, I believe he's earned that.

Though I admire Steven Soderbergh as a director, I would've liked to see what Cameron ould've done with the remake of "Solaris." Stanislaw Lem's original novel not only detailed what was happening to the astronauts exploring the planet Solaris, he portrayed the planet itself - and I think Cameron (who was a producer on the film) could've created some compelling imagery of that.

But I agree with Curtis in that I'd like to see good directors make more films. (David Poland has an interesting take on this at The Hot Button.) My friend Pete and I got into an interesting chat about this a couple of months ago. I expressed my frustration with guys like David O. Russell and Quentin Tarantino, who make fascinating films, but take years off between projects. There's something to be said for working when inspiration strikes, but pushing yourself to find that muse is a valuable creative exercise, as well. Pete seemed to disagree with me, maybe not in spirit, but perhaps in philosophy.

Cameron's spent a lot of time looking for his next muse. It'd be nice to see him finally get out of the pool and towel off. (And maybe he has. Rumor has it he's going to adapt the Japanese manga "Battle Angel Alita" into a film.)