Friday, May 20, 2011

My 500th post! Why I hate 3D!

500 posts. Where does the time go?

What started as a hobby has... remained a hobby, albeit one that I attend to much more frequently. Reaching 500 posts is a big milestone for me, considering that when I started this blog, I wasn't sure if I'd keep it up for 100 posts! I'm sure there are probably enough useful posts here to comprise a screenwriting book or two, which I suppose means that I'm a sucker for giving this all away for free. It's also gratifying for this to happen as I'm approaching 500 "fans" on my Facebook page (please "like" me if you haven't already) and closing in on 2000 followers on Twitter.

I've been thinking all week about what I should do for this post, especially when I saw it would land on my "Freebie" day of Friday. One thing that's become clear to me is that as much as you guys like my advice, you seem to really like it when I get up on a soapbox and rant! Some of my more popular posts have been things like calling G.I. Joe the harbinger of the apocalypse and comparing its cinematic merits to "Two Girls, One Cup." (Hi Mom... like I said before do NOT Google that!) My "Open Letter to Agents," taking them to task for the shit they shovel out, is also a fan fav. So it's clear to me that I need to celebrate 500 posts by picking on something and saying that it sucks.

While I was working that out, I was reminded that I really enjoy interacting with a lot of you guys over Twitter. There are certainly times where I'm more free to engage than others, but I really like when something I send out hits a nerve (in either a good or a bad way) and I see your reactions.

Yesterday was such a time. Amid tweeting links to an article about Playboy putting 57 years worth of archives online and Lars Von Trier's incredibly ill-advised statements at Cannes, I sent out a link to this article on James Cameron and Michael Bay talking about the 3D of the new Transformers movie. In it, I said, "I hope 3D dies soon."

Here are some of the responses I got:

@BlueRidgefilms - "amen to that. Pay extra for something that's going to give me a headache? Screw that."

@FrankenScript - "Not only do they want to make your ears bleed, but your eyes too."

@dansiger - "It's a scam. I haven't seen a movie yet that truly benefited from it."

@mrickett1 - "3D is just a pain in the ass."

@San_MonkeyGod - "I work on 2D & 3D films, as nice as it can be (Avatar) in most cases it doesn't really add anything - just B.O. receipts... plus piracy of film doesn't include the '3D experience' - one reason Avatar did so well."

@HannahSalt - "those self-rightous blue knobs from Avatar can keep their 3D, its naffa and hurts my eyes."

I'm pretty much in agreement with most of these statements. I think the 3D process has vastly improved since the days of red and blue glasses, but to me, it's still a gimmick, and as more than one reader pointed out, it's an easy way to raise ticket prices and thus, rake in more money.

I don't think anyone pointed out one of my biggest issues with it - which is the fact that the 3D glasses add depth at the cost of brightness and color vibrancy. I avoided all Avatar trailers until I saw the film opening day, so I was shocked when I started seeing the TV spots and realized how bold and brilliant the colors were intended to be. Comparatively, my experience was like watching the film through polarized sunglasses. I end up not seeing what the director intended me to see, and filmgoing is a less satisfying experience, especially at nearly $20 a seat.

Post-conversion 3D just flat-out sucks. A few other people expressed similar sentiments to me over Twitter and I couldn't agree more. If the film wasn't shot in 3D, then I cannot imagine any cogent defense for charging extra to present it as such. Also, if this post-conversion was a decision made after shooting ended, odds are the director would have composed his shots differently to take advantage of the depth. I'll give James Cameron this - the depth that his characters lacked was not missing in his visual compositions. He used 3D to its fullest advantage and attempted to create a real depth of field.

But then there's a director like Michael Bay, who - love it or hate it - uses more cuts per second than probably any director out there. With no time to appreciate the mise en scene, why go the 3D route? Before your brain can process what's on screen, he's already moved on to something else. The construction of the Transformers has already meant that some battle scenes have been nearly incomprehensible, where it's hard to tell where one robot ends and the other begins when they wrestle. (At times, it's difficult to even tell some of the robots apart in the quick cuts.) Bay's films are already a visual overload, why add a third dimension to that?

If I was a director, I'd do everything possible NOT to shoot my film in 3D. I can't imagine any director wanting to make their movie harder to watch, and for many people, the 3D is an annoyance rather than an enhancement. I make an effort not to by 3D tickets and going out of my way to find the (increasingly scarce) 2D showings. I fully intend to see Green Lantern, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Captain America all in glorious two dimensions, no matter what money-grubbing studio tries to make that an inconvenient option. I'd go so far as to call it a boycott. Feel free to join me.

I asked on Twitter if anyone out there was willing to defend 3D and I got far fewer responses:

@chilldivine "Not defending as much as sitting tight. Old Hollywood geek, so can't help but compare with reactions to first talkies..."

@indieflickchick - "I love having the 3D option. I think to force things in 3D is a little much but it also has to do w/ the subject matter... and figure out how to most wisely use it, we can really make some awesome entertainment. For exple: Final Destination, Piranha 3D. Using 3D as a tool to move the audience, to involve them at another level."

I'm not going to pretend that a few Tweets send out on an afternoon are at all a scientific survey, but it is interesting fewer people were as passionately pro-3D as others were con. It's also probably worth noting that people who follow me on Twitter and who take the time to reply to me are probably more likely to agree with me. I don't exactly make it a point of following people who I regularly disagree with, so it's not unlikely that my followers and I are of like minds.

Do the pro-3D people have a point? In 1932, film theorist Rudolf Arnheim published Film as Art, in which he expressed the view that silent film was inherently superior to the "talkies" that were rising in popularity. His case for film as art was that it must strive to be different from reality, and that by adding sound to the moving image, the unique nature of film was compromised.

I recall the first - and only time - I read Arnheim's book. It was in a film theory class headed up by a professor who was an incredibly entertaining storyteller, but not always as apt at making those stories useful to our education. He lectured on Arnheim's tenants, which to me seemed pompous, archaic and anathema to everything I enjoyed about film.

Frankly, I thought Arnheim's views were garbage. The professor wrapped up the lecture with the note that Arnheim's book's publication coincided with the ascent of Adolf Hitler. Since he was a Jew, Arnheim's books were banned. I offered to the friend sitting next to me that the suppression of this book proved that the Nazis accomplished one good thing under their reign.

And there I just had a Lars Von Trier moment. Having made that gaffe, I could say I sympathize and understand Von Trier, but I suspect that would get me into trouble with Cannes. It's not that I care about missing the films - but I'd had to lose out on the parties.

So in hating 3D, have I become Arnheim? In 50 years, will some film student have this blog post directly downloaded into his brain and snicker at my naivete? (All together, "You should be so lucky.") I don't care. I hate 3D. And why is the music so damn loud? And what's with teens and their low-hanging jeans?

I can't think of a better way to spend my 500th post than tweaking 3D and evoking something I learned from one of my most memorable professors. Sir, this dry martini is for you.


  1. I'm with you on the boycott. The only 3D movie I've seen that I didn't feel completely uncomfortable watching was Green Hornet. But even so the 3D added nothing to the movie. Avatar had some nice visuals. But the movie was generic and mediocre. And again, the visuals didn't add much at all for me. Plus the glasses were a pain in the ass to have on for over two hours.

    Maybe if the glasses were more comfortable and the plots and characters in these 3D movies were better I could tolerate the experience a bit more. Until then I'm saving my money.

  2. I think the only time I get excited when something is in 3D is when it's a B-Horror movie, like My Bloody Valentine or Piranha. I don't know why, but 3D and B-Horror movies go so well together. But other than that, 3D it pretty pointless. I don't appreciate having to spend the extra 3 dollars all the time for a movie that would work just as well, if not better, in 2D.

  3. I won't see a movie in 3D. Avatar gave me a headache.

  4. Congrats on 500 posts! And yes, you have lost out on millions of dollars by giving away all this good information for free...oh well, your readers thank you.

    I agree that 3D is superfluous. "Hey, you know what would make this movie better? A migraine."

    I was curious to know your take on 2D IMAX movies. I've had good and bad experiences and even with the good ones I still tend to leave with a headache. Do you feel as though IMAX is a gimmick, like 3D, or do you think it serves a purpose?

  5. Congrats on #500. You made it!

    Agreed on 3D. Do. Not. Like.

  6. I thought 'Coraline' was breathtaking in 3D.
    That being said, I haven't been big on any live action films in 3D.

  7. eshawcomedy - I'm somewhat neutral on IMAX. I find it's less obtrusive to the film than 3D is but it's also not a huge selling point for me. I respect Christopher Nolan's efforts at using it in mainstream films, but for me, it didn't make a great deal of difference. In fact, when I watched The Dark Knight on Blu-Ray, I found it rather distracting when the aspect ratio changed back and forth as the IMAX scenes came up.

    I've never gone out of my way to see a movie in IMAX, I can tell you that.

  8. Tony - I think B-Horror works with 3D because we watch them for the exact reason that they are tacky and fun, so having an eye ball fly at you in 3D does add to the experience. Doesn't work with a more 'serious' film.

    Generally I hate 3D, it hurts my eyes, and doesn't add to the film.

    Bitter - probably the reason that more people comment against 3D is because people such as ourselves will avoid watching a 3D film, so it matters. I don't know any pro-3D people who would flat out avoid a 2D film... yet.

  9. I'm with you on the boycott. 3D just gives me a headache and takes away from my enjoyment of the film. I would much rather watch it in good old 2D like I always have. I also think it is getting ridiculous that everything has to be in 3D now. It doesn't even (usually) add anything to the movie. I figure it is just a fad that will pass with time, but either way I don't plan on jumping on the 3D bandwagon.