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  • First Goldman Sachs, Then BP, Now The Last Airbender?


    From what I have been reading about M. Night Shyamalan and his latest project, The Last Airbender, Lloyd Blankfein and Tony Hayward should really throw this poor guy a huge party.
    The New Airbender is the new PG-rated film based on a Nickelodeon cartoon. It is about a little monk named Aang who, as the avatar with special power to control air, water, earth, and fire, and his quest to restore peace to a war torn fantasty world.

    Personally, I really liked the movie. In fact, I loved it. It was visually stunning with spectacular special effects. There were no bloody gore and no foul language. The story was easy to understand and filled with morally righteous themes, with the characters speaking in short, simple sentences. This was a perfect film for children, and cool adults like me!
    Now, it was hard to believe that any disaster could top the near worldwide economic collapse generated by Wall Street greed or the worst oil spill in history caused by an oil giant but boy oh boy, one should never underestimate the power of a film to some. I was shocked when I read the reviews, many of which included references to committing suicide after watching this worst movie in history and threats to destroying the director’s career or killing him.

    Geez, and I thought people hated bankers and oilers.  At least that was justified but a kids' movie?
    The number of such ruthless reviews was staggering, and they appeared to be from die-hard fans of the original TV series because they almost always included comparisons between the movie and the cartoon.

    I could understand some of their complaints, though I was disappointed by the fact that if they were loyal followers of a story filled with such positive themes, they would not act so unforgiving, cursing and wishing ills upon the director and the fans of the movie (no, I am not an idiot or have bad taste in film because I like this movie), instead of providing constructive criticisms. 

    Listen to how the Japanese pronounces Aang's name in this Japanese trailer:

    Look, the movie didn't destroyed anything.

    These purists failed to see that Shyamalan merely gave his interpretation of the story.  He could not destroy the original ( and I absolutely believed he had no intention to), even if he wanted to, because it was already out there and deeply imprinted in the minds of many.

    What they also failed to realize was that Shyamalan's movie attracted a huge number of newbies who were unfamiliar with the cartoon series.  They loved the film and as evidenced by the reviews, were looking foward to the next part of the story.

    But of course a number of these selfish and bitter cartoon devotees would have none of that.  If they didn't like this adaption, nobody should.  So they unleashed brutal, negative feedbacks relentlessly on movie review sites and blogs to prevent sequels, with the same wonderul cast and crew, from being made.

    Click to view full size image

    In other words, the super picky purists, not Shyamalan, turned out to be the biggest threats to the development of this potential billion dollar franchise. 

    But, but, the perfect TV series. 

    Wake up.  That was done.  It was over, as in no-more.

    Now how many of you cartoon devotees would like to have another season of the show or some kind of spin-off? 

    Or maybe a re-make into live-action movie? 

    Well, you can't have that if the show's gone, can you?

    Shyamalan got you a bunch of very young fans and their parents all over the world.

    Take advantage of this and keep the interests alive! 

    Get all the movies out and get the franchise established, like what the Japanese did with Dragon Ball and Pokemon.  Then and only then can you start your perpetual whining and get things done the way you like. 

    You stop Shyamalan and Paramount now and I guarantee you nobody will touch this project again for a very, very long time. 

    As a true fan, is it not important to you to keep Aang's legacy alive? 

    Worse, thanks to you, such ridiculous backlash probably hurt the chances of other animated series or video games from ever being made into live-action movies, because studios now worried all such fans might be equally hard to please.

    There goes the chance for a live-action final fantasy movie no matter how many beg for it ( I personally want to see one really badly); TLA fans talk about what a big franchise they have; I'm going to have to say this one is even bigger worldwide...

    How could these people consider themselves true fans of the Last Airbender when they have obviously learned nothing about "accepting others' beliefs " and "promoting peace and harmony," both of which are commendable values strongly encouraged in the cartoon series?
    As if that wasn't bad enough, what I could not comprehend was the same type of merciless attack from the professionals. Renowned movie critic Roger Ebert completely trashed this film while New York Times gave it a failing grade.  Many essentially hated everything, including cinematography, that was done by none-other-than Andrew Lesnie.

    Yes, the very same Andrew Lesnie who won an Oscar for Lord of the Rings.

    The Last Airbender: Air Temple
    2003_the_lord_of_the_rings_the_retu.jpg image by IanTheCool

    Maybe I should get my eyes checked, because I honestly didn't see how this castle in Lord of the Rings qualified as breathtaking but the air temple only as fake and unrealistic.

    Some reviewers even went as far as openly asking readers to boycott Shyamalan to, well, essentially teach him a lesson for what they believed to be bad scripts.

    "So here’s my message to America, and the world: Stop enabling Shyamalan! I don’t care how many fond memories you have of 'The Sixth Sense,' or how much your pre-teen kids wanted to see 'Airbender' — the man has a serious problem, and it’s high time we stopped giving him the rope on which to hang a once-promising career."

    Ok.  This was hilarious.  If we or the kids wanted to see this movie, we were supposed to not go, because some strangers out there had a low opinion of the director?

    This was a PG film. How were the dialogues in this movie different from those you heard on Saturday morning cartoons?  What sounded simple and amateurish to an adult probably made it easier to understand for the kids.  How many of these critics discussed how good the movie might be for the film's intended audience of very young children?
    Furthermore, how could one justify such such low grades (8% on RottenTomatoes) for this movie when it contained so many positive lessons for our children?
    Poor Noah Ringer was blasted for being a horrible actor. Seriously? This little kid brought tears to my eyes in the last scenes, when he, standing all alone, had to transform his grief ( from memories of his teachers and friends, who all died because he ran away from his responsibility as the protector of this world) into his newly learned power in water bending. Even more difficult, he had to restrain himself from completely annihilating his enemies, the same ones who were responsible for the destruction of the air nation and the wars, because as the avatar, he was supposed maintain peace and not kill.  Ringer's touching performance during this emotional sequence was outstanding.
    This brilliant lesson against abuse of power alone made the movie worthwhile for children, and there were plenty more throughout the film. 
    I honestly could not understand so much hate against a movie director and a well-made family film. It was rather strange and troubling, especially when the efforts against this movie seemed eerily concerted and well-organized.

    Anyone complaining about a confusing story should take a ten year with you next time because I was pretty sure he could help explain the simple plot to you.

    Noah Ringer was great in his first acting role.  He looked just like the leading hero Aang and his bending moves were graceful and beautiful to watch.  To those who criticized his lack of light-heartedness, he was a happy kid before he saw the grave scene at the air temple; it was just too bad most of the movie focused on the more serious aspects of the cartoon.  Shaun Toub gave a stellar performance as Uncle Iroh.  No, he was not fat like in the cartoon, but did you think Michael Keaton and Tobey McGuire look like Batman and Spiderman?

    Aang/ Noah Ringer: same chubby cheeks!
    Same expression!

    The music by James Newton Howard was unparallel.  You could listen to the gist of this mesmerizing soundtrack in the following video:

    I think M. Night Shyamalan really put his heart into making this adventurous and inspirational film via a story-telling manner for the young.
    Kudos to him for making the effort to get $150 million for a PG-rated movie, filled great live actions and dazzling settings and effects comparable to those in The Matrix and Lord of the Rings.

    By the way, here is an idea: if Shyamalan can't obtain funding from Paramount for the sequels because of these reckless, unreasonably ridiculous attacks, he should approach Goldman Sachs and BP.  A few hundred millions don't mean much to them and they can give free copies to all their employees because, honestly, some of the executives there can definitely learn a lesson or two from this story.

    I have never written about a movie before, but I just felt I had to for this one.

    Take a journey into this enchanting, spiritual world with Aang.  You will be more than pleasantly surprised!

    Click to view full size image


    Jul 09 7:35 PM | Link | Comment!
  • FDIC: Let Us Sue Good Appraisers Too

    Come on.

    Give the FDIC a break.

    The insurance fund is in the red.

    It needs to force money out of all possible sources, good appraisers or not.

    "The FDIC continues to prove itself as the biggest current threat to appraisers and appraising.  Since January 1, 2010, the FDIC has filed 60 lawsuits as a plaintiff in federal court in connection with its receivership of failed banks...

    All claims by the FDIC against appraisers -- without exception -- have alleged that the appraisers 'overappraised' the subject property securing a loan.  The FDIC also doesn't hesitate to sue mere trainees, as is evident in the excerpts from a recent lawsuit shown here.

    While there are certainly examples of poor appraising in some of the lawsuits, I know that good -- in fact, excellent -- appraisers have been dragged into litigation or threatened by the FDIC.  The unfortunate fact is that the FDIC is looking at appraisers as if their reports are guaranties of value in the down market -- the FDIC is looking at them as far more than work product opinions generated by professional advisors.  When the FDIC threatens to sue an appraiser, it means absolutely nothing that the appraiser may have delivered hundreds of excellent reports over the years of a relationship with a lender and, particularly in the commercial context, may have served as a trusted advisor.  All that matters now to the FDIC is whether it can make a claim that the value was high in a report and whether it can force money from the appraiser.  As written here before, the FDIC's tactics will not only hurt the individual appraisers but also hurt appraising as profession.  The FDIC's tactics stifle good appraising.  They stifle appraisers' abilities to serve as trusted advisors and force them into defensive appraising, where the safest course is simply to "come in low" on value.  I'm not advising that "coming in low" is what appraisers should do -- it is just an inevitable result of the FDIC's overly aggressive tactics and a result being observed firsthand."

    Jun 10 4:30 AM | Link | Comment!
  • No More Tax Dollar For Wall Street Gambling

    "Why Financial Reform Hinges on Defusing Derivatives...

    How to defuse these 'financial weapons of mass destruction,' as Warren Buffett famously called them? Start with passing a proposal by Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln, known as Sec. 716 in the Senate bill, that would force U.S. banks to separate their swaps desks from their commercial businesses, said Stiglitz, of Columbia University, and former top Commodity Futures Trading Commission official Michael Greenberger.

    The measure aims squarely at Wall Street. Five institutions — Bank of America (BAC), Citibank (C), Goldman Sachs (GS), JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Morgan Stanley (MS) — control some 90 percent of the derivatives market. These banks "have to be told, ‘The risk is yours, not the American taxpayer’s,’ ” Greenberger said. “There’s no doubt that Sec. 716 will increase market discipline and will bring this $600 trillion market to a size that’s realistic. And the risks that are taken with these transactions will be cut down when [bank] shareholders or directors know that they, and not the American taxpayer, will be the lender of last resort.”

    Big banks and other opponents of the Lincoln plan, including the White House, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and FDIC chief Sheila Bair, attack it on several grounds. The most serious of these is that it would prevent banks from serving their customers. Detractors also say the measure would push derivatives trading overseas or into unregulated parts of the market.

    Neither claim holds water, Stiglitz and Greenberger said. Nothing in the legislation would prevent banks from setting up a separately capitalized affiliate for selling derivatives. What it would do is bar institutions from using federal deposit insurance and debt guarantees — a mammoth 'get out of jail' card for speculators — to subsidize their swaps business. Meanwhile, a bank’s derivatives unit would be fully regulated after it is spun out, they explained, dismissing as 'mythology' the idea that Lincoln’s plan would cause chaos in the financial sector."


    Jun 10 1:25 AM | Link | Comment!
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