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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Jim Cameron eager to mix it up with 'Avatar's' right-wing critics

February 12, 2010 |  7:28 am

You can always tell that the Academy has sent out its final Oscar ballots by the sudden reappearance of gaudy full-page Oscar ads in the trades, my paper and the New York Times. It also means that most nominees, fearful of making a horrible gaffe, are especially careful not to say anything that could possibly be viewed as controversial in their interviews with the showbiz press. 

Except, of course, for Jim Cameron.

Cameroncover He's on the cover of this week's The Envelope and he's clearly eager to mix it up with the multitudes of conservatives who've been trashing "Avatar," claiming that it's dumb, sanctimonious, anti-military, nuttily pro-environment and, as Big Hollywood's John Nolte memorably put it, a "Death Wish'' for leftists. Cameron isn't the sort of guy to take those brickbats lying down, even if means alienating a few Oscar voters, either because they agree with the conservative take on the film or prefer to vote for films that are free of any political leanings. 

As he told Glenn Whipp: "Let me put it this way. I'm happy to piss those guys off. I don't agree with their worldview." As for his detractors' contempt for his environmental consciousness, dramatized in the film by the callous destruction of the Na'vi's pastoral world, Cameron says that the film's environmental message is a lesson for all moviegoers to digest. He explains that our planet "will be a dying world if we don't make some fundamental changes about how we view ourselves and how we view wealth .... We're going to have to live with less."

Cameron admits that many people will wonder what a fabulously wealthy filmmaker ensconced in a Malibu mansion knows about living with less, but he says that "I think there's a way to live and raise your kids with a set of values that teaches them the importance of hard work, the importance of respecting other people and the importance of respecting nature."

Cameron says he did have second thoughts about using an explicit "shock and awe" Iraq war reference in the film, but he insists that it reflects a bigger point he was trying to make. "What I really was saying was, 'Listen to what your leaders are saying. Open your eyes. And understand what the run-up to war is like, so the next time it happens, you can question it."

People have debated for years whether message-oriented films actually have an effect on filmgoers' consciousness. Seeing a movie is such an internalized, diffuse experience that it's hard to know how much of an influence it leaves behind. But I would say this: You could not have spent 150 minutes immersed in the world of "Avatar" without coming away with a new respect for how much we should treasure the natural resources of our world -- or any other. 

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