Sunday, February 08, 2009

CORALINE & THE 3-D DEMONS

For the first time in my life, yesterday, I saw a movie in 3-D. It was kind of fun... but then I didn't care. I wanted to watch the rest of Coraline in 2-D. But I couldn't. I took off my glasses and the scenes were going in-and-out from regular to blurry 3-D perspective. It was distracting. This whole "3-D Experience" was kind of a chore.

True, that was my first time, but aside from the fun, party-game shtick of it all, I don't see the point. Does 3-D really enhance the cinematic quality of film, OR, does it actually subtract from the art of it by simply making it a more marketable form of entertainment?

The thing is, when I took my glasses off and caught Coraline in a sequence of typical 2-D, the colors were vibrant, loud, and more alive than when the images were able to lift themselves off the screen. I'd put my glasses back on, and it was like a shade had been placed over the lens of the projector. In my mind, Coraline lost much of it's visual grandeur in 3-D mode.


Yes, I'm sure there is plenty technical wizardry that goes into turning an animated film like Coraline into a 3-D experience, but much like a David Fincher movie, technical wizardry doesn't necessarily equal impressive art.

Nor does it automatically make for enjoyable entertainment.

Before Coraline began, we got hit with 3-D trailers for other upcoming 3-D features, but we also were told that the NBA would soon be available in 3-D. Um... please, please no! Actually, I don't care about basketball, but I could live my whole life without ever seeing a baseball or football game in 3-D. High-def is nice, now please STOP! If networks can give viewers the option of watching games in either 2-D or 3-D, then fine, but I really hope 3-D never becomes standard.

As for film and the upcoming 3-D surge? Well, I won't jump to any conclusions based on one viewing of one animated film... but I'm very skeptical, and worried, at the moment. Do people like James Cameron see 3-D as "the next step" for cinema, or just the business of movies? I mean, certainly someone like Henry Selick isn't fine with his movie not looking as nice with glasses on, right? I guess it's shamefully possible that he doesn't.

33 comments:

:Debbie said...

Actually, 3d really works conceptually for sporting events and concert films (like U2 3D). It's as if you were right there front row, best seats in the house.
I've never experienced a concert like I did w/u2 3d, and I'd argue that it was way better than seeing the band live. Sporting events/concerts is what really advanced the technology to begin with. More on this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U2_3D

Now, using 3d as merely a tacked on afterthought or gimmick to bring in dollars, then that's another issue all together.

Some of my classmates are making there thesis films in 3D. They're pretty amazing...but again, not tacked on as an afterthought.

i'm not very articulate right now, trying to get my shizzzz done tonight!

Rick Olson said...

Do people like James Cameron see 3-D as "the next step" for cinema, or just the business of movies?

Alas, I think the latter. It has the whiff of a technological advance to help shore up audience numbers, help pack em into the theater. Artistically, it's totally meaningless.

Debbie, what's "shizzzz"?

bill r. said...

I actually do believe that Cameron believes 3D to be the next step in film. I think he's sincere about that. But I also agree with Rick that it's artistically meaningless.

The only experience I've had with modern 3D is seeing the last Harry Potter in 3D Imax. It was...fine. Some of it was cool, and, I guess, impressive, but I'll tell you what, it sure don't make a bad movie good.

bill r. said...

Also, Fox, I wouldn't be too quick to condemn Selick for this. He is trying to keep old-fashioned stop-motion animation alive, after all.

Fox said...

Debbie-

Thanks. Yeah, I'm curious to hear more from you based on your background/skills.

I can definitely see that it may be something that takes getting used too. And since Coraline was my first 3D movie, I don't wanna jump to any hard conclusions, but I can't imagine watching a baseball game etc. in 3-D. They showed a clip and it "looked" cool, but I also felt like I was MORE separated from it that if it was in regular perspective,... if that makes sense. My eyes couldn't keep up with the actions of the other players b/c the one in the foreground was so pronounced.

Also, thinking about this more last night, I worry that 3D films could start controlling scripts or individual scenes in films. Meaning, producers will want more scenes that make the 3D more exciting for the audience (ie lots of scenes of somebody throwing something at the screen.)

Fox said...

It has the whiff of a technological advance to help shore up audience numbers, help pack em into the theater. Artistically, it's totally meaningless.

Rick-

My quick reaction is to agree with that, but since I understand so little of it, I'm willing to wait. I mean, I think a filmmaker who really understands the foundations of cinema as well as the prospects of 3D could combine them into something new... I just don't know if anyone is headed down that track. You know?

Bill-

Yeah. I didn't mean to sound so rude towards Selick. From the actual animation and work he did in Coraline, he obviously does care about the product and work. It just REALLY amazes me how much color is lost with the glasses on. I mean, that seems like a HUGE thing to me, but most reviews - that I've read so far - haven't mentioned it.

Fox said...

oh, and Rick-

"Shizzz" is short for "shizzznit" which is slang for "sh*t".

Obviously you're not as down with the urban lifestyle as I am.

Rick Olson said...

Fox, you are nothing if not a homey.

:Debbie said...

I think a filmmaker who really understands the foundations of cinema as well as the prospects of 3D could combine them into something new


...Um, U23D did just that.
I'd hold your reservations on 3D until you see it.

:Debbie said...

it's not fair to judge 3D on crap execution like, journey to the center of the earth. and, again. i haven't heard much about coraline's intent, but it's my guess that 3D was tacked on as an afterthought, since it's been in production for 5+ years.

:Debbie said...

Get out your red/blue glasses & watch this! very very cool:

http://santisan.free.fr/moving_still/index.htm

:Debbie said...

And, the 3D really adds a layer of depth to that video. With the glasses on, you can really see the reflections from inside the train window. It's kinda cool to watch w/out glasses too, but not as effective.

Just a small, tiny glimpse into what is possible....

Fox said...

Debbie-

I will definitely watch that tonight when I get home. I still have the glasses from Coraline, so I hope those work (but they aren't the blue & red kind... does that matter?).

I am holding my reservations on 3D movies, and I will for awhile b/c - like I've said - I've only seen one film this way.

I'm not questioning 3D as a creative medium in itself, but mainly in how it merges with film and if it can really improve the art of film. I think it's clear with the box office success of something like My Bloody Valentine that 3D can enhance the movie-going "experience" or "entertainment" value of a film. But what stood out to me with that particular movie (I saw the 2D version) was how it was entirely made in the service of the 3D effects. Shots were set-up, conceived, framed, etc. to make it more exciting in 3D.

I can't speak on U23D, obviously, b/c I haven't seen it, but isn't it just a concert performance? In that context, I can see why it would have value, b/c it's like experiencing an actual concert. My concern (I don't know if "concern" is the proper word) is over what could happen if most mainstream films start coming out in 3D? If so, I wonder if that approach to filming (the kind seen in My Bloody Valentine) will kind of negate the art of cinematography.

:Debbie said...

you're glasses won't work.
you have to have red/blue.

:(

and, yes, U2 3D was a concert film, but had great cinematography. They weren't just rolling footage.
they carefully constructed the frame.
picked the most dynamic shots, etc.

(there was one cheesy moment where bono did the whole pointing his finger in the camera, but only one moment).

:Debbie said...

3D lens flares! 3D dry ice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Krauthammer said...

I was reading an article written by D.W Griffith in around 1920 because I am a huge nerd, and he said that in 1000 years the technology would be sufficient to create perfect color and 3-d (although he didn't use that term) but it would remain completely silent, natch.

In the same article he said that because of film's universal nature, all wars would have ended by that time as well, so it's easy to take with a grain of salt.

Fox said...

It's a beautiful thought though, Krauthammer. Thanks for sharing that.

And it's a testament to Griffith that he's name came up in a post like this.

Anonymous said...

I must say, I was extremely impressed with the use of 3D in Coraline. It took about 15 minutes for me to wholly adjust to the experience, but I found that the 3D actually helped me lose myself in the story.

As far as the colors go, polarized 3D films are color-corrected to take into account the loss of light from the lenses, so what you were seeing through the glasses was the intended look of the film and reflects the way the film would be seen in a 2D theater.

Personally, I'm not too concerned about whether or not 3D is a gimmick to make money. I think its quite clear that its invention and reemergence were clear responses to a changing market, but so was sound, color and Cinemascope. I think it would even be fair to argue that, today, theatrical distribution itself is a gimmick intended to make money.

I guess it comes down to the experience, and whether or not you enjoy it. Thankfully all of these 3D films are distributed in both formats, for both types of audiences.

-Kurt

Fox said...

Kurt-

Thanks for the info on the color correction. That's comforting to know, and it's in tune with Bill's previous comment about how I jumped the gun in thinking that Selick "didn't care" about the look of it.

I'm also glad to know that Coraline is also in theaters in regular format. I didn't know that. I guess most of the hoopla over it was the 3D so I didn't even know there was an option at the theater (like there was with MBV 3D).

Still - and admittedly I am jumping ahead here with my concern - I worry about non-animated films being shot in order to be presentable in 3D. (Again, I use the example of the 2D version of My Bloody Valentine that I saw.) They would fall out of being films and become similar to the production of a video game or rollercoaster ride in that way, and I'm not so sure that was the case with sound & color when they were introduced to film.

Yes, sound opened up the areas of sets and spaces for crews to film in, and color affected the use of costuming, set design, etc. but I think those elements moved cinema forward... where as with 3D, I don't know if that can happen. Right now, 3D feels like a corruption of film rather than something that enhances it.

Krauthammer said...

I tend to be a reactionary in these matters, I sometimes mourn the loss of silent film for example, so the idea of all films being in 3-D does make me a bit queasy.

When people (well, just James Cameron) start talking about how inevitable it is that all films will be in 3-D it makes me skeptical. We've gone through this kind of thing in the 50's and 80's and yes, the technology has improved, but in my mind blockbusters coming out using the technology doesn't impress me. We'll only know that 3-D has truly taken over when some little Romanian movie about a farm-boy's grandmother dying of TB in the 1880s : IN 3-D! Then we'll have met Griffith's ideal. But not until then.

MovieMan0283 said...

You should really head over to Bright Lights After Dark and check out Erich Kuersten's similar musings on the thought "technical wizardry doesn't necessarily equal impressive art." His reaction is to Revolutionary Road (which he didn't like either) and more on the subject of "craftsmanship" than "technical wizardry" but the idea is similar.

Richard Corliss wrote an article recently which essentially says, "technical wizardry equals impressive art." I really have to get around to bashing that soon on my blog (but then I've got to get around to a lot of things on my blog...)

Anonymous said...

I guess I just don't buy the distinction that you're making, Fox. Isn't it possible that 3D filmmaking might just bring the cinematic experience closer to the dimensional experience of our real lives? I certainly don't look at a sunset and think to myself, "This would be so beautiful if it were only in two dimensions." And while I understand an audience's skepticism of such a clearly commercial venture, I think its entirely possible that this technological advancement may bring with it beautiful works of art, works of art that would not have been otherwise possible.

I think about this quote by Fritz Lang all the time...
"[Cinemascope] wasn't made for human beings, it's only good for snakes and funerals"
-Fritz Lang, 1963

Can you imagine The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in 4:3 aspect ratio? Or 2001? Days of Heaven?

I believe that all these advancements are simply creative implements, reflecting the skill and vision of the artist.

Most of the drawings I've seen in my life have been ugly and uninspired, but it hasn't made me lose faith in the pencil.

-Kurt

Krauthammer said...

Okay, Kurt, I'm obviously not Fox, but I wanted to respond to this. If I've misread you or seem unreasonably aggressive, please forgive me, it's very late.

Isn't it possible that 3D filmmaking might just bring the cinematic experience closer to the dimensional experience of our real lives? I certainly don't look at a sunset and think to myself, "This would be so beautiful if it were only in two dimensions."

Okay, my first thought about this is: why not just watch the sunset then and abandon movies? Go out into the world and experience the majesty of nature firsthand rather then shadows, no matter how realistic, projected onto walls? I don't think that we should think that art should be there just to record nature to the best of its ability, it's why the best music made by mankind isn't a birdcall impersonator. In many ways it is in limitations that artistry is formed, and there are still areas that are best explored through the two dimensional"canvas" if you will. It's why painting isn't inherently inferior to statues.

I do agree that 3-D has expressive and artistic potential, but I'm naturally skeptical of any claims of evolution in art. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly may have benefited from cinemascope, but do you believe that all, say, Metropolis was missing was a wider aspect ratio? Or color? Or sound?

Again, if I've misread you, or if you feel that I'm totally on the wrong track, please point it out. But that's what I got from your post on a quick reading.

RC said...

i talked about this last week on StrangeCulture related to the 3-D hype and personally i think it's a chore.

Maybe if 3-D was possible without the glasses then it would be better, but otherwise, 3D shapes the story...it's a forced effect...

it's like...well, since it's in 3D lets make it so water barrell explodes, their's confetti at the party, the dragon races towards the screen, etc. etc. for way too long, way too many times.

Fox said...

Isn't it possible that 3D filmmaking might just bring the cinematic experience closer to the dimensional experience of our real lives? I certainly don't look at a sunset and think to myself, "This would be so beautiful if it were only in two dimensions." And while I understand an audience's skepticism of such a clearly commercial venture, I think its entirely possible that this technological advancement may bring with it beautiful works of art, works of art that would not have been otherwise possible.

Kurt-

I totally agree with that. I definitely think it's "possible", and I'm not standing strict against hope that someone will achieve that type of beauty with 3D someday,... I just don't see it yet. (Again, I'm fully admitting that I'm practically a virgin when it comes to the technology.)

But let me set up an example to better explain what I'm thinking about (I'm not saying you're not following me, just maybe that I'm not explaining myself so well... which wouldn't be the first time).

Let's take that scene from No Country For Old Men where Josh Brolin is being chased by the dog. That's an awesome, intense scene. I think most fans of the movie would agree that it's pretty flawlessly put together. Now, let's say it was directed by the Coens with the knowledge that the film would be released in 3D. Would they have then purposefully inserted a shot of the dog flying towards the camera so the audience could get a big "whoa!" moment? If they would have, then I think that is a compromised vision. And THAT'S how I think 3D can corrupt filmmaking.

Now, you may say, "Well, that's just the Coens adapting their vision to technology", and that would be a valid argument. I don't pretend to be cemented in my position. I'm not. If a director ends up merging beautiful cinematography with 3D imagery I will be the first to praise it. I'm not gonna be stubborn on this.

I just now that 1.) I would have rather watched Coraline w/o the 3D, and 2.) watching My Bloody Valentine in 2D was pretty ugly and unenjoyable.

Fox said...

Richard Corliss wrote an article recently which essentially says, "technical wizardry equals impressive art." I really have to get around to bashing that soon on my blog (but then I've got to get around to a lot of things on my blog...)

MovieMan-

Wow. I definitely need to read that article, and then check in with your blog with your post on it. If you have the link to the Corliss piece would you mind posting it here for me (us)?

Fox said...

I don't think that we should think that art should be there just to record nature to the best of its ability, it's why the best music made by mankind isn't a birdcall impersonator.

Krauthammer-

I like your point here. It makes me think of James Cameron and some of the bigger movers & shakers who claim that ticket sales are down b/c audiences aren't "wowed" anymore by what they see.

There is truth to that, but I also think that attitude also underestimates why audiences aren't going to the theaters like they used too. There are a multitude of reasons, yes, but one of them is the poor quality of films coming out of Hollywood. And I don't mean visual/special effects quality, but heart & soul quality. If Cameron and Co. don't fix that, then the 3D revolution might just be a temporary band-aid.

And further to your point. If a 3D artist wants to replicate the moon or a rainbow for us that is technically impressive for sure... but then what? It's the way to make that relevant within the art of film that matters.

RC-

Of course you got on this before I did! :) I will be heading over to Strange Culture as soon as I finish with this comment.

Oh, and I can't remember where I heard it, but I think the technology to make 3D movies WITHOUT the glasses is already underway, or maybe it's done. I don't know. But it IS coming. Perhaps that will be the first step in an improved direction.

MovieMan0283 said...

Here it is:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1869200,00.html

What's most astounding is that 20 years ago Corliss got into a tiff with Ebert in which he accused him (politely) of dumbing down criticism and playing Hollywood's game. Guess Corliss tried the kool-aid and realized he was right after all (I discussed this article here:

http://mooninthegutter.blogspot.com/2009/01/inspiring-careers-in-modern-cinema-paz.html

if you want some more of my thoughts on the matter, but I still hope to do a full-length post, probably not for a week or two though).

aunt john said...

But really, how was Dakota Fanning's voice over performance? And master-thespian Teri Hatcher?

Anonymous said...

I guess I didn't do a very good job of making my point earlier.

What I'm trying to say is twofold:

1. If we see in 3D dimensions every day of our real lives, why would this necessarily be a bad thing to replicate in the art we experience?

and

2. Why should we reject a burgeoning art form simply because of the ineptitude of its pioneers?

--Kurt

:Debbie said...

What Kurt said...

Fox said...

2. Why should we reject a burgeoning art form simply because of the ineptitude of its pioneers?

Kurt-

I don't know if that was directed at me or another, but I think it's clear from my comments and this entire post that I never suggested anything close to that.

As to your first question:

1. If we see in 3D dimensions every day of our real lives, why would this necessarily be a bad thing to replicate in the art we experience?

I don't think it would be a bad thing, but do you see my point about the example of No Country for Old Men?

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