Thursday, September 2, 2010


A big Hollywood tizzy! In an interview on director James Cameron sniffed that Piranha 3-Dis exactly an example of what we should not be doing in 3-D. Because it just cheapens the medium and reminds you of the bad 3-D horror films from the 70s and 80s.

The comment came when Cameron, who at the beginning of his career partially directed the sequel to the original Piranha, 1981’s Piranha 2: The Spawning (he was fired mid-shoot), was asked by the interviewer if he felt any nostalgia in connection with the release of the 3-D version. “Zero,” he replied.

He may not, but I do. My pal Ron & I saw Piranha 2 in an otherwise empty theatre back in ‘81, & had an absolute blast, & we also fell deeply in love with actress Carole Davis (foreground)...

...who played a fish-victim in that film.

Piranha 3-D producer Mark Canton totally, uhm, rose to the bait of Cameron’s remarks & fired off a lengthy, outraged press release in response: “His comments are ridiculous, self-serving and insulting to those of us who are not caught up in serving his ego and rhetoric,” says Canton, at the beginning of around three pages of dangling-participle-filled indignation. From later on: “Not everyone has the advantage of having endless amounts of money to play in their sandbox and to take ten years using other people’s money to make and market a film...” Then, in case Cameron missed his implication, he adds: “…like you do.” Ouch!

Amusing though Canton’s spluttering is, I have to admit, I sort of agree with him—Cameron seems to be a pompous douche. Does he really think genre filmmakers should abandon 3-D so that it can become more respectable to the mainstream? For that matter, does he really think he’s not a genre filmmaker himself? What caught my eye in the interview (which I would probably not have read, by the way, if I hadn’t received Canton’s statement) was this remark from Cameron: “I think it’s healthy to work in a vacuum as an artist. I think movies are much too self-referential; I think Hollywood is much too self-referential. And I think that you see so many filmmakers that are just riffing on what other filmmakers have done, and riffing on pop-culture—those films will never be timeless.

Are you freakin’ kidding me?

This from the man whose Terminator was basically a remake of the “Soldier” episode from Outer Limits? From the man who built the masterly & terrifying spectacle of Titanic around a star-crossed love story out of the Young Adult section at Barnes & Noble? From the man whose Avatar, as has been widely noted, is really just Dances With Wolves in space? Don’t get me wrong—I like The Terminator (a lot), & I like Aliens & Terminator II (pretty well) & I certainly acknowledge that Titanic & Avatar, however stale they may be in dramatic terms, are both grand, unforgettable shows. Cameron’s a prodigiously talented entertainer, no doubt.

But for him to express distaste for the exact cinematic tradition out of which he himself built his career is pretty unbecoming. More than a decade ago he famously called himself the King of the World, but maybe Canton is right—maybe he’s really the King of the Sandbox.

If it’s any consolation to Canton, I had much more fun at Piranha 3-D than I did at Avatar. It has richer characterizations than Avatar, too. Seriously.

Monster-of-the-Week: A few weeks back we gave the nod to the ambulatory stop-motion fish in the original Piranha, so this week, in honor of both Canton & Cameron, let’s recognize the double-secret genetically-engineered mutant uber-piranha of Cameron’s sequel The Spawning.

Not only are these piranha adapted to salt-water—owing to a dash of flying-fish DNA, they can even get airborne!

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