Who will celebrate “Avatar Day”?

Who will celebrate “Avatar Day”? (photo)

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There was polite applause at Comic-Con when James Cameron showed footage for “Avatar” — it was neither the rapturous reception that some would have you believe, nor was it the kind of disaster that one could easily imagine when a crowd’s introduced to blue, ten foot tall blue, speckled creatures called the Na’vi from a planet named Pandora.

Sitting there in Hall H, I wondered why there wasn’t more acclaim — what Cameron had shown in 3-D was indeed something of a breakthrough, at least regarding how naturalistic the Na’vi were in an environment that completely came out of Cameron’s head and how, despite the blue veneer, one could see Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana’s performances through their CG-created forms in a way that still eludes motion-capture pioneer Robert Zemeckis. But the “Avatar” footage didn’t adhere to the unofficial Comic-Con rules for success: it wasn’t violent (though Worthington’s fight with a prehistoric-looking creature was exciting), it wasn’t funny (which is why both “Kick-Ass” and “Zombieland” were unexpected hits), and, most importantly, it wasn’t familiar — either a remake or based on a comic book or a toy.

Which is why, like CHUD‘s Devin Faraci, I wonder the audiences who win tickets to “‘Avatar’ Day” on August 21st, when over 100 IMAX theaters will show 16 minutes of slightly different sneak footage, will think. In a time where “G.I. Joe” can become a hit almost solely on its name value, will audiences be curious enough to take a chance on “Avatar”? (Or at least enough of them to cover its massive budget?)

It’s a question hinted at in Anne Thompson’s recent column about why she’d like to see the low-budget “District 9″ do well this weekend against the comparatively unoriginal “G.I. Joe.” And it’s a part of the recent online hubbub between Roger Ebert, A.O. Scott and Glenn Kenny, among others, who contemplate the dumbing-down of mass-audience movies and wonder why Cameron’s ex Kathryn Bigelow’s highly acclaimed “The Hurt Locker” isn’t doing better at the box office. And if even “Avatar,” one of the most expensive movies of all time, can’t intrigue with the promise of spectacle, maybe it’s less dumbing-down that’s the problem than laziness, with folks only drawn to what has nostalgic appeal. In which case, we can look forward to many long summers ahead that’ll offer nothing new under the sun.


Award Winners

Fred Armisen and Bill Hader to Receive American Ingenuity Award

Smithsonian Magazine honors Documentary Now!

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During its inspirational 50th season, Documentary Now! earned our undying love and support. Now it’s earning awards, too. The show’s creators and stars, Bill Hader and Fred Armisen, have won Smithsonian Magazine‘s American Ingenuity Award for the Performing Arts this year. Senator Al Franken will present the duo with the award in a ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 12th. No word on whether Blue Jean Committee will perform.

In addition to the award, Bill and Fred received another honor—the chance to get their mugs on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine‘s December issue. Looking good, guys. And for more Documentary Now!, check out the archives, music and full episodes.

Smithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian Magazine


Lorne Visits the Cat Ranch

Lorne Michaels Finally Talks to Marc Maron on WTF

Maron returns to IFC in 2016.

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A historic summit of comedic minds has finally happened in the Cat Ranch — Lorne Michaels sat down for an interview on Marc Maron‘s WTF Podcast. And you can listen to it here.


20 years ago, Marc had a meeting with Lorne about possibly taking over Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live. But then Marc never got a a callback—and his brief meeting with the SNL guru has haunted him ever since. This week on his WTF podcast, Marc finally got closure. As Marc wrote on his website, “In the history of WTF, Lorne Michaels is talked about more than any other person. Now he is finally a guest.”

In addition to discussing why Marc wasn’t ready to join the Not Ready for Primetime Players, the episode’s wide-ranging conversation also covers the reason Michaels started the show back in 1975 and what keeps him doing it each and every season.

Listen to WTF on iTunes or download from the WTF podcast website. And be sure to check IFC.com for more updates on Marc and season 4 of his comedy series Maron, which returns to IFC spring 2016.

Donna That 70s Show

Donna Rules

Love Donna From That ’70s Show? Take the Quiz!

Catch That '70s Show Mons & Tues 6-11P on IFC.

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Photo credit: 20th Century Fox TV

Donna is the strongest (and probably the smartest) member of the That ’70s Show gang. But how well do you know the sassy redhead? Take the ultimate Donna fan quiz and find out!



'Soft' Rock

Get Gentle and Soft With The Blue Jean Committee’s New EP

The Documentary Now! band has a new EP.

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The Blue Jean Committee is about to head straight up the charts with their new song “Gentle & Soft.” Is it us, or did it just get really smooth in here?

The band, whose tumultuous history was chronicled in a compelling two-part episode of Documentary Now!, is back with an extremely soft bullet with the release of Catalina Breeze, an actual 12″ EP with actual songs that you can actually (and should actually) buy. As Fred Armisen, who sings in the Blue Jean Committee along with his Documentary Now! cohort Bill Hadertold EW, he wanted the band to capture the ’70s California soft rock sound. “So the best way to do it for us would be to just spell it out and call the song ‘Gentle and Soft,'” Armisen said.

The EP, which will be released on November 20th, also features the classic BJC tracks “Mama You’re a Dancer,” “Walking Shoes” and the titular jam all about relaxing Catalina breezes. True to its name, the Catalina Breeze EP will hit you like the wind, rushing your hair into a halo, which is as gentle and soft as it comes. Head over to Drag City to listen to song samples and grab the EP.

For more Documentary Now!, check out the complete archive, episode clips, and music from the show.

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