Archive for the ‘General Topics’ Category

Active 3-D’s Award Ceremony for 2010

January 3, 2011

Whilst donning my tuxedo, I must apologise for my absence of the last few months, sadly necessitated by the restructuring of my company. Let us, however, consider last year’s 3-D releases, blow some raspberries, and dish out out some trophies, shall we? Shhh… the lights are dimming…
[Some random dancing is followed by a respectful hush as the announcer is tracked to centre stage by a follow-spot. He isn’t famous, but that’s a budgetary issue… He begins with the evening’s announcements:]

First up, is the…

Active 3-D 2010 Award for the 3-D film that was:


Tron: Legacy – it was heartening to see original stars Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner return for the sequel, and the film contained some eye-ticklingly fanciful virtual environments – and a strong, driving soundtrack by Daft Punk. Its storyline wasn’t up to much, however, and its premise – that software should be available to all at no cost – flies brutally in the face of the film studios’ fight against piracy. Uncle Walt would’ve been horrified.

"And this pedal here accelerates box office receipts..."


That wasn’t as classy as one had expected.

Here, then, the…

Active 3-D 2010 Award for the 3-D film that was:


A tie, ladies and gentlemen:

Piranha 3-D – sadly, it wasn’t the tongue-in-cheek tribute to animal horror flicks that I had expected, but its crass attempts to please the older teen market at all costs were frequently laugh-out-loud ridiculous. Unintentionally so, of course. Richard Dreyfuss makes a funny cameo upfront which has all the movie buffs commenting that “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”, and its gasp-inducing, outrageous and counter-intuitive last few seconds were worth the price of admission alone!

Shrek Forever After was an entertaining-enough romp. I really believed that it didn’t deserve the vilification it received from so many loyal Shrek fans, despite the fact that its plot premise – of Shrek’s midlife crisis – was a bit heavy for junior audiences, and probably a bit depressing for the parents that took their kids to see the film.



With some trepidation, we approach the

Active 3-D 2010 Award for THE CURSE OF 2010

Without a shadow of doubt, this goes to Post-production 2-D to 3-D conversion, which plagued titles such as Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender. These were veritable crimes against humanity, whose stereoscopic cruelty was matched only by their godawful scripts and woeful performances.


Moving on to the …

Active 3-D 2010 Award for THE WORST 3-D MOVIE OF THE YEAR

Where do I begin? Jackass 3-D for its relentlessly juvenile celebration of bodily functions? It’s tempting, but then I’d be overlooking some other, even more depressing, screen-time wasters…

I’d love to choose the re-release (with additional yawn-inducing footage!) of Avatar, but I’ve already roundly slagged off that release (at length) in this blog.

Could it be that disappointing animated effort, Alpha and Omega? Close… but no cigar. Nope; the winner is a tie between… the envelope, please… The Last Airbender and The Clash of the Titans. Finding the biggest offender between them is akin to having to choose between Tuberculosis and Hepatitus…

Please insert brain here. (The Last Airbender)


And now… the big one; the…

Active 3-D 2010 Award for  THE BEST 3-D MOVIE OF THE YEAR

Without a doubt, Toy Story 3-D. This funny, moving and highly engaging franchise-closer was not only the best 3-D movie of the year, in this reviewer’s opinion, but it was one of the finest movies of the year, in whatever dimensional package!

To add to the thrill of it all, its release was preceded by reworked, now-3-D versions of Toy Story 1 and 2. Unlike post-production 3-D conversions of live-action 2-D movies, computer-generated animated movies are easy to convert into comfortably-viewed 3-D releases, as they are originated within a 3-D environment.

Toy Story 3-D beat out other strong contenders, such as the charming How to Train Your Dragon, the moving, very funny and stereoscopically exciting Despicable Me, and the dramatically sound Megamind 3-D.


3-D Strides the Red Carpet into Legitimacy

October 28, 2009

Director Joe Dante on the red carpet at the Sala Grande, at the 66th Venice Film Festival on September 11th. The beloved filmmaker went home with the first Premio Persol 3-D Award for ‘The Hole’.

Many “serious” film critics have, for years, pooh-poohed 3-D as a “gimmick format”, and one not worthy of scholarly attention. Funny, then, that a 3-D movie (Disney/Pixar’s Up) opened the last Cannes film festival – *and* that the Venice Film Festival now has a special award category for 3-D films, sponsored by the Italian eyewear giant, Persol.

The nominees for the first Premio Persol 3-D award were Up, Coraline, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, The Hole and, depressingly, the godawful My Bloody Valentine. The latter nomination notwithstanding, this new category at the Venice fest indicates the seriousness with which the European movie industry now regards stereoscopic moviemaking. And the award went to… Joe Dante, for The Hole. The film has yet to be picked up by an American distributor, which probably explains why it hasn’t been scheduled for release in South Africa as yet. We’ll keep you posted, however – it’s only a matter of time!

One wonders whether those pompous old farts who’d written 3-D off are choking on their Perrier waters as I write this…

Titanic Goes Deeper

October 18, 2009
Kate and Leo launch themsleves into three-dimensional theatre-space

Kate and Leo launch themsleves into three-dimensional theatre-space

There’s no stopping Hollywood movie director James Cameron – and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way… The Hollywood Reporter informs us that he’s now tinkering with the idea of retooling his hit flick Titanic in order to have it re-released in 3-D.

The only aspect of that overlong, overindulgent film that ever appealed to me was its painstaking attention to historical detail. From the wall coverings to the furnishings to the crockery, Cameron saw to it that every detail of the film set was to be a faithful reproduction of the sumptuous, awe-inspiring real thing.

I didn’t care much for Cameron’s trumped-up, cross-class love affair between the working-class Leo DiCaprio and upper-class Kate Winslet, and I certainly could’ve done without Celine Dion’s heart (and high-pitched wailing) going on and on and on…

Cameron is a far better technician than he is a director. And if you don’t believe me, watch that superb 1958 British movie about the Titanic, A Night to Remember, and work out for yourself how many shots Cameron felt he needed to steal from it in order to enhance his product.

Would I visit my nearest 3-D cinema to see this dimensionally-enhanced Titanic? I would indeed. In his pursuit of technical and historical perfection, Cameron turned the backdrop of his movie into a living museum. And, if you’re in the business of duplicating reality, then stereoscopic 3-D is but a natural progression.

So, yes, I will endure this overblown epic again, because I believe that stepping on board the Titanic in stereoscopic, big-screen realism will be a thrill in much the same way as my childhood visits to the museum were. My little heart would tremble with excitement, as I knew that would be entering into other realities, far distant in time and geography from my orderly suburban existence. So bring it then, Mr Cameron, and I promise to sit through all 194 minutes of it. Although I can’t promise not to squirm during Celine Dion’s caterwauling…

Unkind Revisionism and 3-D Cinema of the 1950s

September 30, 2009
Never mind dialling M for Murder... how about dialling L for Lies?

Never mind dialling M for Murder... how about dialling L for Lies?

Wherever you see an article on the history of 3-D cinema, you’re bound to hear about how the fancy new digital systems make a laughing stock of the methods employed in the 1950s, which required audience members to don coloured-lensed cardboard specs.

Yes, few would deny that the new generation of digital 3-D systems is impressive, and yes, the method which used red/green or red/blue lenses (known as the anaglyph method) was widespread, because of its low cost, ease of deployment, and the fact that it allowed 3-D to be shown in any cinema. Yet anaglyphic 3-D was used in cinemas as recently as four years ago (‘The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl’), so let’s not just write it off as something that only happened in the “olden days”.

Furthermore – and most importantly – I can assure you that this wasn’t the only 3-D system used in the 1950s. Even though I hadn’t been born yet, I know this to be a fact, and get extremely irritated when uninformed journalists drone on about how terrible it was in the “bad old days”.

While most journalists leave speciality journalism such as financial writing to the niche writers, many unqualified hacks will blithely tackle the topic of movies. Allow me to remind those guilty parties that writing about the movies – and particularly about the specialised area of 3-D – is not for the standard-issue journo, who should rather stick to the day-to-day issues of whipping up fear and anxiety.

Wicked Lies or simply Convenient Exaggeration?

Jeffrey Katzenberg: 'Wicked Lies' or simply 'Convenient Exaggeration'?

Jeffrey Katzenberg, the chief executive of DreamWorks Animation, gleefully tells us how the current crop of 3-D films is a far cry from that of his father’s era. He, too, harps on about “those kind of goofy red and blue” specs.

“Let’s be honest,” he wails, “the 3-D was pretty terrible.”

He continues with the lame lament that “the technology was primitive, the film was blurry, people got head-aches and actually some of them got nauseous.” Well, either Katzenberg has a wildly distorted view of movie history, or he’s just making his predecessors look bad in order to boast about the industry’s new toys. (We love ya, Mr K, but you have to give those hardy pioneers credit!)

In the same way as certain unproven theories on global warming are trotted out as unchallengeable gospel by most journalists, so the “bad 3-D in the ’50s” myth is being passed on into popular culture by an uninformed press. The oldest news agency in the world (one of the three largest) also gets it wrong. Agence France-Presse (AFP) was quoted by newspapers in South Africa and around the world, and it’s that same old saw: in the 1950s, 3-D movies had to be seen through coloured specs, and the experience always gave you a headache – or possibly even made you nauseous.

Let’s deconstruct the lie, shall we? Firstly, many of us have seen movies in the anaglyph system without getting headaches or having to check into the nearest clinic. We aren’t all as physiologically frail as these reports would suggest.  Secondly, and this is what the revisionists neglect to mention: in the better 3-D cinemas of the ’50s, a superior 3-D system was also on the market, using two synchronised projectors and a polarised system which required the audience to wear specs with light grey-lenses, similar to those in use today.

I can attest to that fact, not only academically (as I know my movie history), but with the evidence of my own two eyes. I was fortunate enough, some years ago, to catch a special 3-D screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Dial M for Murder’ at the Studio Christine cinema in Paris. The film was exhibited in exactly the same way as a 1950s presentation – two synchronised 35mm projectors projecting through linear polarising filters. Audience members – just like those of the 1950s – were handed cardboard specs with grey polarising filters.

Paris's Studio Christine (somebody say Amen!), where the awful untruths that I had suspected were unequivocally laid to rest.

Paris's Studio Christine (somebody say Amen!), where the awful untruths that I had suspected were unequivocally laid to rest.

The result was impressive: rocky-steady, crisp, clear stereoscopic cinema. So fifty-odd years ago, the industry did indeed know a thing or two about 3-D! Granted, those setups required skilled projectionists, and, in the wrong hands, yes, it could have led to the headache (and conceivably even nausea) scenario. The point is that, without the luxury of today’s video technologies, those technical boffs of five decades ago made that proverbial silk purse out of a sow’s ear. And it looked mighty fine.

Most of today’s projectionists couldn’t even tie their own shoelaces without a diagram, so clearly, an easier-to-operate system was required. The current digital system makes it nigh-on-impossible to show 3-D films badly, although, having said that, I’ve been to some 3-D cinemas in South Africa where the black masking around the screen has been set incorrectly, and “broken the 3-D window” (i.e. spoiled the 3-D effect). To be fair, this may be more the fault of the theatre’s 3-D set-up teams than that of the projectionists.

The Real D digital 3-D system which is deployed throughout South Africa uses circular polarisation systems instead of linear polarisation. This allows one to tilt one’s head without losing the 3-D effect. Of course, why you’d want to tilt your head during the movie is anyone’s guess…

Obviously, the addition of multi-channel digital sound, along with the advance of filmmaking techniques and the wider, brighter screen that digital projection has afforded the format, has raised the 3-D cinema experience to new heights, but PLEASE, can we dispense with that nasty lie that the 3-D experience of days gone by was always a head-crushing nightmare?