Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Who's the biggest 'Avatar' fan in Charlotte?

OK, I'm going to share an excerpt from an e-mail I received earlier this week, and I want you to guess whether the author of it is talking about "Avatar" -- which scored nine Academy Award nominations this morning -- or "The Hurt Locker" -- which garnered the same number of Oscar noms:

"I'm so in love with [it]!!! I will say that [it] is the best movie ever!! I have seen it twice. ... AMAZING!!! If my husband and I get another date night, that's the movie I'll choose!!"

I won't even bother insulting your intelligence. I'll just say that this kind of reaction is why James Cameron's crowd-pleasing piece of pop eye candy has taken $551.7 million out of Americans pockets ... and why Kathryn Bigelow's gritty war movie has made just $12.6 million.

"To get to those numbers, you need repeat business, you need great word-of-mouth, and you need to grab an audience basically across the board," Hollywood.com's Paul Dergarabedian told CBS last week after "Avatar" became the highest-grossing flick of all-time.

So whether or not Cameron wins Best Director when the Academy Awards are handed out on March 7, he's already won in the court of public opinion. "The Hurt Locker" is an important film, a film that shows the horrors of war up close, a film that most moviegoers will rave about, but one that they'll probably never pay to see again. "Avatar"? Some people can't seem to get enough of it.

In recent days, I've heard from a 55-year-old grandmother who's seen it three times and calls it "one of the best movies I have ever seen"; a woman who's seen it three times and "probably will see it again"; and a guy who's seen it twice in the IMAX 3D format. A couple of other excerpts from other fans:

"No one can deny that 'Avatar' is by far the most beautiful (in terms of imagery) movie ever made. It's opened the door for all sorts of 'unfilmable' stories to be made into movies, and for that Cameron should be applauded." --Clay Johanson, who saw the movie four times during its opening weekend.

"I think James Cameron just hit the mark again for mass appeal. There's a strong female lead and the love story for women. There's macho men and some mean air and land combat for the guys. ... It's pretty impressive that the same director was able to take two entirely different movies ("Titanic" and "Avatar") to box office heights no one else has." --Chris Beeman, who's seen both the regular 3-D and the IMAX 3-D versions.

Still looking, though, for an off-the-charts "Avatar" fan who lives in the Charlotte area. Someone whose number of viewings is in the double-digits. Someone who is considering naming their first-born daughter "Neytiri." Someone who believes "Avatar" has changed their life, and is doing things he or she never dreamed of doing because of it.

If you think you are the No. 1 "Avatar" fan in the Queen City, please e-mail me at tjanes@charlotteobserver.com and tell me your story.