King Cameron redux? 'Avatar' aims for Oscar glory

The tale of big, blue aliens in conflict with rapacious humans on Pandora earned the Golden Globe awards for best drama and director.

avatar 311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
avatar 311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
James Cameron may get to proclaim himself king of the distant moon Pandora at the Academy Awards.
Cameron - who borrowed Leonardo DiCaprio's line from "Titanic" and declared himself "king of the world" when that film sailed to Oscar glory 12 years ago - positioned himself for a repeat with his Golden Globe wins Sunday for the sci-fi blockbuster "Avatar."
The tale of big, blue aliens in conflict with rapacious humans on Pandora earned the Globes for best drama and director, prizes that also preceded the Oscar run of "Titanic."
"This is a trip," said Cameron, recalling that as "Titanic" was becoming a box-office and Oscar juggernaut, he had thought to himself, "enjoy this ride, it ain't never going to happen again."
Yet "Avatar" has soared to a worldwide box office of $1.6 billion, second only to "Titanic" at $1.8 billion, and could end up surpassing his 1997 smash about the doomed luxury liner.
A key difference for Cameron's success this awards season is that he's doing it with a space fantasy, the sort of far-out tale that usually goes overlooked except for visual effects and other technical honors during Hollywood's prestige period.
"Hopefully, this is part of a trend of the acceptance of science fiction as a legitimate dramatic form of cinema," said Cameron, whose films include the sci-fi tales "Aliens," ''The Abyss" and the first two "Terminator" movies.
Globe acting winners also firmed up their Oscar prospects, including dramatic-performance recipients Sandra Bullock for the football tale "The Blind Side" and Jeff Bridges for the country-music story "Crazy Heart."
The musical or comedy acting prizes went to Robert Downey Jr. for the crime romp "Sherlock Holmes" and Meryl Streep for the Julia Child tale "Julie & Julia." Supporting honors were presented to Mo'Nique for the Harlem drama "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire" and Christoph Waltz for the World War II saga "Inglourious Basterds."
Like "Avatar," ''Titanic" was a visual marvel, but it was an epic period drama, too, the kind of movie awards voters have embraced since the early days of the Oscars.
Peter Jackson achieved rare awards acceptance for fantasy adventures with his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, though those films had a long and distinguished literary pedigree in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Cameron made everything up himself for "Avatar," a 22nd century story of interspecies romance set on Pandora, where intrusive humans are mining a priceless energy source, steam-rolling over the world's natives to do it.
Pandora's inhabitants, the three-meter, blue-skinned Na'vi, fight back with help from a paralyzed human (Sam Worthington), whose mind is transferred to an "avatar" resembling the natives. In something of a "Dances With Wolves" story, he finds a mentor and romantic interest in a fierce Na'vi princess (Zoe Saldana).
"Thank you for believing in blue people," ''Avatar" producer Jon Landau told the Globes crowd.
Assuming "Avatar" earns a best-picture nomination for the Oscars, it will have more company than usual. Oscars organizers have doubled the best-picture category to 10 nominees, aiming to bring a broader range of movies into the fold.
The Oscars often are dominated by small and sober dramas, but this time, blockbusters could hold sway in the top category. Along with "Avatar," potential nominees include two other sci-fi smashes, "Star Trek" and "District 9," the hit "Inglourious Basterds," and the animated blockbuster "Up."
Cameron said he was aiming only for a crowd-pleasing commercial success this time, not another awards contender.
"We have been down that road. It is a nightmare. You have to wear a tux all the time, and here we are again," Cameron said. "What the hell did we do?"
Maybe expand his Oscar kingdom to the cosmos.