Friday, October 8, 2010

Why Do 3-D Movies Suck?

It seems like every movie that isn't a straight documentary or romantic comedy is required to be made in 3-D lately (although the coming Harry Potter will likely not be), and there's even talk of re-releasing the Star Wars series in 3-D.

I haven't been able to find a general comparison between 3-D and 2-D ticket sales, but I've heard a lot of people including Roger Ebert, say they don't like watching most movies in 3-D. But why?

Well, for one thing, it usually gets very gimmicky, with random stuff flying out at you, which gets annoying, and the scene gets crowded and chaotic very quickly. Generally, standing in front of people going "look at me, look what I can do, look, look, look!" gets old pretty quick.

Also, picture quality tends to suffer quite a bit, with a loss in brightness and muddy special effects (one of the major critical complaints about The Last Airbender was that it was visually murky and hard to follow - when seen in 3-D, I saw it in 2-D and it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd read). This can be compounded by the one-size-fits-all 3-D glasses used by theaters. If they don't fit, you'll get a blurry picture, headache, and possibly motion sickness (they don't fit me very well, they're too close together so I'm just about cross-eyed the whole time).

And about those glasses... they're goofy looking and they act as a barrier between you and the screen, as well as your fellow movie-goers. Part of the fun of a good movie is being in an audience and sharing in a collective gasp or giggle, adding a layer of uncomfortable plastic puts up a psychological barrier to that (and, speaking of glasses, what do people who normally need to wear prescription glasses do?).

As Ebert points out, part of the art of traditional movie-making is manipulating the image to make us believe in the two-dimensional projection. Our minds fill in the gaps, making for a very convincing illusion. 3-D is not really unnecessary and tends to look LESS believable in a lot of circumstances.

While 3-D can work well for certain films in certain circumstances, in most cases it seems like nothing other than an excuse to jack up ticket prices. Here's hoping that "all 3-D, all the time" is NOT the wave of the future, I shudder to imagine watching Casablanca and having Rick's cigarette zooming out at me 10 feet long. And the Nazis. Please, please PLEASE can we not have 3-D Nazis?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Random DVD Review: Captain Corelli's Mandolin

First of all, a tip if you're trying to get onto the free wifi at Starbucks or Borders and can't get a connection, type "att wifi" (starbucks) or "wifi login" in your browser's URL window, that will often bring up the usage agreement screen so you can click the box and get online.

Anyway, on to the blogging.

I've followed Nicholas Cage's brilliantly erratic career for a while, and am always interested to see what he's doing with himself. I missed this one when it came out because the "romantic drama" marketing didn't much appeal to me, and it didn't seem to enjoy much critical success, although, while bored out of my skull recently I decided that the fact that there's a mandolin in it, and it's got some legitimate historical drama going on might make it something to pass the time.

Well, because of the movie's reputation, I went into it not expecting too much, so I was able to sit back pass a rainy evening without disappointment. It's not as bad as some critics will have you believe, but, like too many other Grand Historical Dramas (tm) especially those adapted from well-recieved books, it suffers from having a lot of good parts that never quite manage to flow together. It's not bad, it's just kind of bland. Oh, and since everybody was speaking English anyway, they shouldn't have made Cage attempt an Italian accent.

What was interesting about it was the historical context. The major even of the film is the Massacre of the Acqui Division, which took place in September of 1943 on the Greek island of Kephalonia. Italian troops, then allied with the Nazis, occupied the island for some time, but when Italy surrendered to the Allies, conflict arose. Things escalated and the Italian soldiers eventually rebelled against the Germans who still held control of the island. Germany sent in more troops and air support, and the Italian troops were defeated and taken prisoner. The Nazis then proceeded to kill about 5,000 prisoners of war.

What the movie gets right, I think, is the uneasy relations between the three groups on the island, its natives, who were nominally conquered but still offering partisan resistance, the Italians, most of whom were fairly reluctant to be there and often found more in common with the locals than their allies, the Germans, who had a much different take on the war.

Interestingly enough, there is a real-life basis for the love story between the eponymous Corelli and the local girl. A Sicilian artillery officer named Amos Pampaloni did fight against the Germans on the island after the Italian armistice, and was wounded and left for dead, and he did survive with the help of a local girl (although the actual romance may have been exaggerated) and the local resistance. He did not, however, play the mandolin (he was from Sicily, not Naples, the only region of Italy where the mandolin was currently a common instrument) in fact, his love was for cars, not music.

What the movie DOES get across is the brutality of the massacre, and the pointless loss of life between men who could have been friends (one of the German officers, an earnest young fellow, is portrayed sympathetically, and even befriends Corelli, but ultimately takes his part in the massacre).

It's worth watching for it's historical interest, and because of the questions it raises about life during wartime. While it's not a great movie by any definition, I'd say it's worth grabbing on Netflix if you've got any interest in the WWII era.

Also, it really makes me want a Neapolitan-style bowl-back mandolin like Cage plays in the film (yes, he really plays, fortunately his picking is a bit better than his accent).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

An Observation on Road Rage

Well, I started a new job yesterday, and totally missed my post (I'm still trying to keep up a daily Mon-Fri schedule on this). I'm looking at a lot of long days from here on out, we'll see how I can keep up.

In any case, as the new job involves way too much time spent driving around New Jersey, I just wanted to make an observation on the nature of road rage.

Why do people do stupid things in or around cars? I've read a lot of talk about how cars give people a delusional sense of power, or the isolation of all that steel and glass depersonalizes everything, etc, but I'd like to offer another hypothesis: people react the way they do because they feel powerless in a car.

Think about it from the perspective of your caveman brain now. You're driving along, minding your own business when some fool in an overpriced SUV swerves from the right lane, cutting you off and making you slam on the brakes, all because he's trying to get a car length or two ahead. The guy's obviously an antisocial jerk, and yelling and flipping him off gets no reaction, or at least nothing you can see through his tinted back window, he just ignores you and swerves around the next couple cars, making the guy who's now in front of you slam on his brakes, and almost causing you to rear end that one.

OK, annoyed yet? Now, what can you do about it? This guy just shoved you around like a playground bully. He made a bunch of folks miserable and almost caused them to get hurt for no good reason other than the fact he thinks his need to get home is more important than anyone else's.

So what can you do about it? This is where the anger kicks in, and the caveman brain rebels, because in civilized society, you can't do a damn thing. You're strapped down in a single position, cut off from everybody else by a big, clumsy hunk of steel, and bound by a mountain of restriction and regulation. SUV guy could've killed you by running you off the road, and you can't even say "hey" to his face. It's infuriating.

That is, unless you give into the caveman brain, which says, "I'll show him" and charge ahead to ram him, or follow him home and whack him with your tire iron. Deprived of even the basic human ability to make faces at the guy, our frustration only builds. THAT is why we get so angry on the road, not because our motorized conveyance gives us the powers of the gods, but because when we're locked into them, we don't even have the chance to be human.