AI is everywhere

It’s difficult to ignore the internet conversations about artificial intelligence (AI) that can do more than just create Disney-fied, fantasy images and avatars of oneself; it can also answer essay questions and compose fictional novels based on prompts of your choosing. I had fun playing with it, but it also scared me so terribly that I couldn’t sleep. My work might be done by AI. A lot of people’s work could be done by AI.

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Surprisingly, this week’s blockbuster is a sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time, 2009’s “Avatar” (Though, if adjusted for inflation, the number one movie is “Gone With the Wind”). The sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” cost $250 million to film, however others estimate $350 million if marketing, advertising, and other costs are included.

“Avatar” came out 13 years ago, and I remember very little of it save that the landscapes were breathtaking and the technology had advanced significantly. It made a big impression, but as one Forbes writer described it, it left “no pop cultural imprint.” I had to look up Jake Sully, the main character’s name.

To refresh our recollections, corporate forces are sent to Pandora’s jungle moon to exploit a natural resource known as unobtanium while destroying the magnificent planet of its people, the stratesque, blue-colored Na’Vi. Jake is a paraplegic marine who lives in and controls a Na’Vi “skin” and eventually fights the company.

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The tale has been likened to “Fern Gully,” “Dances with Wolves,” “Pocahontas,” and “The Last Samurai” while it earned honors for cinematography and art direction. It’s also a little paradoxical in that the storyline is about not exploiting natural beauty and corporate greed, yet the film is driven by money, statistics, great ambition, and technology. Would the Na’vi have a movie theater and video games if they existed?

The new film promises more of the same, but with more sophisticated effects, giving a virtual getaway for those wishing to walk into a created fantasy world at the IMAX, away from the city’s traffic, dreary skies, and congestion. Another three “Avatar” films are on the way, and who knows what the technological landscape will look like by the time the final one arrives.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio film is made on a modest scale yet deals with tremendous emotions. It is both enchanting and melancholy in that it employs stop-motion animated puppets that appear like ornate carvings to give it this fairy tale aspect, and there are music, but it also starts with the loss of Geppetto’s precious kid, Carlo, who was killed during a seemingly random bombing assault. Because the plot is set in Italy during the Mussolini period, it contains elements of del Toro’s previous masterpiece, “Pan’s Labyrinth” (set during the Spanish Civil War).

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“Pinocchio” investigates what it means to be human in the face of death and oppression. I checked back on the ChatGPT website, which I experimented with last night to compose a few children’s tales, just before handing in this 100% human-written piece. It’s currently at capacity – I assume it’s too busy producing last-minute term papers? Christmas is coming, and while the world becomes more chaotic, stressful, and demanding, may we all find time to enjoy a true, authentic, and real moment devoid of distraction.

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