Lots of interesting discussion this week about 3-D. I just spent a night at the drive-in in front of Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore thanking God and the ghost of Jack Warner that I didn’t cough up $12 a ticket for the kids and myself to witness this mind-numbing “comedy,” which isn’t a flea, 3-D or flat, on the ass of the surprisingly funny original Cats and Dogs (2004). Some wonder if the public isn’t starting to smell something funny about the jacked-up rates to see a movie that, in some cases, was never originally intended to be Comin’ at Ya! and is only 3-D because of a last-minute conversion that in most cases results in dimly-illuminated 3-D image that would have been far better left in two-dimensions. (See the recent Clash of the Titans, which I quite liked… in 2-D.) Meanwhile, Joe Dante’s The Hole, shot by the director as a 3-D feature, is having trouble finding screens this fall that aren’t being taken up by the likes of Megamind and Yogi Bear. Dante’s thriller is by all accounts terrific and certainly looks good:
Here’s hoping Dante’s movie can bring some fun back to 3-D and honor the process and the moviegoing public the way terrific films like How to Train Your Dragon and Despicable Me already have this year. Between The Hole and the prospect of a documentary about spelunking directed in 3-D by Werner Herzog, the master image-maker of modern documentary film, I’d say there’s some life left in the old stereo-vision concept yet.
So too, I’d guess, would Matt Zoller Seitz, who contemplates “3-D Filmmaking’s Radical, Revolutionary Potential” in a fascinating piece written for Salon. Matt begins by asking the right question: “Is digital 3-D the future of cinema or an annoying, overhyped fad?” Matt suggests that “(a)side from a brief flowering in the '50s, an aborted comeback attempt in the '80s and the current incarnation, which apes the preceding ones with more up-to-date technology, audience have gotten a limited, distorted sense of what 3-D is and could become.” He then posits a possible future for 3-D at the service of character-driven, more intimate, interior stories which he concludes, convincingly, could be “genuinely revolutionary,” if only the powers that be in the entertainment industry can be convinced/forced (in sheerly financial terms, one assumes) to look beyond what entertainment as they’ve always known it actually is—a tall order, to be sure. It's a compelling read all the way.
Conversely, Glenn Kenny’s piece at MUBI is all about the glorious past history of 3-D at the movies, written to coincide with a great program of classic 3-D pictures at New York City’s Film Forum. Kenny, a great writer, will get you all fired up about putting those antiquated red-blue cardboard doohickeys back on the bridge of your nose for this festival:
“New York's Film Forum and its ingenious, enterprising rep programmer Bruce Goldstein figured that the summer after Avatar would be a good time to book another 3-D festival, and this one's a doozy. The venerable Manhattan theater is working with swanky old, or maybe we should say vintage, equipment. Their 3-D system is analog, consisting of a silver screen, two projectors running in sync, and gray-tinted Polaroid glasses. All the films in the series are actual 35-mm 3-D prints.
The system places some interesting formal restraints on the films in question. Because we're talking about two projectors running in sync with each other, that would mean seamless reel changes would require...four projectors. Not happening, here, or in the '50s theaters where many of these films were first shown. Hence, these films run with brief, built-in intermissions. Also, a lot of them are reasonably short, as features go; of the three pictures I'll talk about in detail here, only one of them is over 80 minutes.”
Kenny’s description of the program includes a link to the full schedule at the Film Forum and will have you seriously considering a plane ticket east.
But I have to admit, other than The Hole, there is another 3-D movie coming in October which may not exactly point toward the future of 3-D movies as an intimate experience as much as it recasts (in a hopefully disgusting manner) the hurl-the-kitchen-sink-at-the-audience aesthetic of many of the movies on that Film Forum schedule. The trailer alone for this new film made it streak to the top of my most anticipated releases of the fall list—as you know, autumn being that time of year when studios bring out all their prestige release in time to make the critical year-end best-of lists. Well, other than me and maybe Steven Carlson, I’m not sure who would consider putting this one on their year-end best list, but that doesn’t make me look forward to it any less. Just imagine the things that are gonna get flung at the screen in this picture that decorum and the MPAA will not allow even a hint of in this trailer…
My 3-D glasses are polished and ready to go for October 15th!