Sunday, May 31, 2009

Jason watches UP in 3-D

Let me get this out of the way first--Pixar's unbroken streak of success is safe. Not only have they made a beautiful, exciting, funny adventure flick, for the second movie in a row they have brought tears to my eye. Damn you Pixar, I'm supposed to be a jaded, bitter old soul, stop making me have feelings!

Second, if you haven't seen UP but are planning to, you should run out and rent the 1925 movie THE LOST WORLD. It's one of the seminal adventure flicks, and features stop-motion monster effects by one Willis O'brien. O'brien later practiced his craft on a little movie called KING KONG. Anyway, UP is a direct homage to THE LOST WORLD, to the point that the destination is the same in both movies. Watch THE LOST WORLD, and appreciate that Pixar, despite being on the cutting edge of technology, has really built its success on classic storytelling (I had a similar admiration for the end credits of WALL-E). By the way, if you've already seen UP, you should still go out and watch THE LOST WORLD and then watch UP again. See how much more you appreciate it. And if there's a theater smart enough to do a double feature of THE LOST WORLD and UP, it officially wins the designation of coolest theater in the world.

Now you could get a plot review or any other raves anywhere else, so instead I'll use the rest of this review to talk about the 3-D aspect. This is of particular interest because my beloved Cinequest film festival will be doing a special lineup and panel discussion on 3-D filmmaking next year, and at last Friday's happy hour I happened to (very drunkenly) talk with Cinequest founder Halfdan Hussey about 3-D film. It still feels like a gimmick to me and in particular I told him "I haven't yet seen the film that has to be seen in 3-D". Well...I still haven't. Don't get me wrong, UP is great and a little bit greater in 3-D, but you can still fully appreciate it in 2-D. To it's credit, UP is not full of the 3-D gags that take you out of the story and leave you waiting for the next finger poked in your eye. It's simple a good story, beautifully rendered, that works fine in 3-D.

With 3-D technology getting cheaper (or so I've heard), some independent films can soon get in on the act. After Friday night, I was thinking that as more and more filmmakers can use the technology, one will finally truly create something that makes the best use of it--the mythical movie that must be seen in 3-D. And that will be the breaking point, when 3-D stops being a gimmick. Now, I think it'll be something different--a combination of two factors. First will be 3-D at home. Already a possibility, and there have been a few gimmicks as such. The main problem is that you need glasses for everyone--so you sell/distribute them to everyone (or include them with the DVD). But then maybe not everyone has a pair, so you need to make the program watchable in 2-D as well. Often to overcome 3-D movies are released in 2-D on DVD (interesting to watch what Disney will do with UP--will they include 3-D glasses for the whole family? How many people).

So that's the next break that will revolutionize 3-D. Get rid of the freakin' glasses. Philips had developed an auto-stereoscopic 3-D monitor, that sadly they're shelving due to the economy. I actually saw a demo of this monitor years ago (I work for Philips in the Healthcare division, and they brought it around to demo). It was impressive, although (at the time) not a big screen and you needed your head centered at just the right distance from the screen. I've heard they've overcome these and built prototype large-screen 3-D TVs. This is the future, and when 3-D no longer requires glasses (by the way, those glasses are not friendly to the front row, I had to move 3 rows back to watch UP), that will be the real revolution. In particular, if you can watch 3-D or 2-D shows from the same TV screen, or on the same movie screen, then 3-D vs. 2-D will be like the difference between color vs. black and white (which is to say, certain artists looking to evoke a bygone time will make 2-D movies, but the majority will be shot and viewed in 3-D).

So that's my prediction. Studios (and some indies) will make 3-D movies for a while, but it will remain a gimmick until you can watch them without the glasses. Best minds in the world--get on it!
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