3-Don’t

Visiting our friends Bob and Susan in California, we decided to see Up. Half of us wanted to see the 3-D version, one of us didn’t care, one of us wanted to see the actual, real movie. (No points for guessing which one was me…) As the anti-3-D contingent was outnumbered, 3-D it was.

I hadn’t seen any of the new generation of 3-D movies. Here are my conclusions: first, at least the glasses they distribute are less dorktastic. However, individually wrapping each one in plastic seems environmentally dubious and hardly justified by concerns about hygiene.

So, the previews began, and the first few were in regular ol’ 2-D. (Incidentally, the previews – and some movie patrons – were under the incorrect assumption that Up is just a kids’ movie. Sorry, but just because something is animated that does not mean it’s only, or even primarily, for kids. More on this later.) It became immediately obvious when the 3-D previews began, because if you hadn’t put your glasses on, suddenly it looked as if you were seeing double. Now I’m on vacation, and I had had a couple beers during the course of the day – but I was pretty sure this was my cue to put on the glasses.

The previews for 3-D movies started to confirm my worst suspicions about 3-D. Lots of crap moving rapidly toward the camera, lots of stuff placed in the near foreground to provide contrast for deeper perspective, etc. Worse, the clarity of the overall image was considerably less than in a 2-D projection, and quite often, the “three-dimensionality” of the image seemed to resolve into three or four planes…which had the paradoxical effect of emphasizing the flatness of each plane.

Okay, that was just the previews. Maybe Pixar would be smarter. To an extent, they were: fewer “gotcha” shots of junk flying at our heads, less of the pointless stuff in the foreground, etc. However, the 3-D effect seemed ultimately pointless at best and distracting at worst. It was pointless in that most often, one didn’t notice it – and distracting in that when we did, it either was a cheap thrill of the “oh wow cool landscape vista!” type, or noticing the previously mentioned lack of resolution and flatness within each plane.

That resolution was really obvious when the last part of the closing credits reverted to 2-D (cued, in a clever move, by a move on the soundtrack from full theater surround sound to a ’30s-sounding mono song): when I took the 3-D glasses off, the image brightened by several degrees, as if some dimming were necessary to get the stereoscopic effect working properly without relying on the old red/blue parallax method.

For the most part, judging from the previews in 3-D, that technology in movies is about where stereo sound was in the mid-sixties: full of crude effects for their own sake that call attention to the technology (like a xylophone whirling from channel to channel) and, in the case of the movie, take you right out of the story to notice the blinking dayglo text and marching ants surround of your website circa 1996. (I guess that’s two technological comparisons.)

By the way: can movie theaters please ban infants under age 3 from theaters? They cannot understand any movie, and therefore, they get restless and noisy. This showing was marred by a kid about 2 (as far as we could tell) squalling and crying throughout the whole movie. Dad apparently didn’t want to waste his eleven bucks, and it wasn’t until a couple of patrons (including, unsurprisingly to those who know her, Susan) shouted at the parents to take the damned kid out of the theater that Dad finally did so. Sorry: your admission price does not entitle you to ruin everyone else’s movie experience. As Dad was removing the crying kid, Mom spoke up in defense: “it’s a kids’ movie!” No, it isn’t. First: as I noted, animation does not a kids’ movie make: much in Up would be incomprehensible to little children particularly, even to teens. But even so: it certainly isn’t an infants’ movie. Movie theaters aren’t daycare centers (even in matinees – but this was an 8:15 showing). If you can’t afford a babysitter, you simply don’t go to movie theaters until either you can afford one or the kid is old enough to not wreck everyone else’s movies. Perhaps theaters should build soundproof, glass-encased areas, to which anyone with a child under age 5 or so is confined. That way, parents who insist on making Pixar their babysitter don’t bug the rest of us.

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7 Comments

Filed under grump, movies

7 responses to “3-Don’t

  1. How did you like the movie? Or was the 3-D ness of it all too distracting for you to focus? I liked it a lot but wished I would have seen the normal projection of it, instead.

    At the point where the villain has set fire to the floating house and is laughing maniacally surrounded by his slavering dogs, a piping voice in the row behind ours asked, “But I thought this was a funny movie?” I’m generally pretty unfazed by kids at the movies; but then I don’t often (that I can recall) see people bringing infants to movies. My favorite story along those lines was going to an 8:00 showing of Eyes Wide Shut in Easthampton back when it came out, and seeing a lot of people in the theatre with their under-10-yr-old kids, and wondering why. I never found out why, and the answer is probably “unable to find a baby-sitter”; but that just seemed like a really weird choice of movies to bring your kid to.

  2. Susan

    First, Jeff is right in most details. With a couple of exceptions: We went to an evening showing to avoid kids–HAH! And the only evening showing at an appropriate time was 3-D. Also, Jeff didn’t rant enough about the sheer number of trailers for the film. I counted 8.
    But Jeff is otherwise right on. . Go see it in 2-D. Great movie .

  3. I purposely didn’t say much about the movie itself, because I didn’t want to try to combine a review with my grouchy musings about 3-D.

    But I loved it. The fact that Pixar’s been successful with nearly all of its movies ought to tell other studios that you can be smart, witty, clever, emotionally intelligent, and tell a good story that looks good, without pandering. Other studios, however, are either a bit slow on the uptake or are incapable of finding or recognizing the necessary talent, it seems. Instead, let’s remake for the third time a TV show from the ’70s that was crap in the first place.

    As for the kids thing: While I do wish parents would take care to figure out whether a movie is appropriate for the age of their own children, I don’t mind a bit of child-like cluelessness as you describe, as long as the parents realize that they should tell Junior that it’s rude to talk out loud during movies and that they can talk about the movie afterwards, if Junior is confused or has questions. But you know, some parents… We went to an R-rated movie once, at a 10pm showing…and halfway through the movie (that is, at nearly 11pm), three or four kids ranging in age from about ten to the mid-teens starting wandering around the theater. A few seconds later, an actual adult called, in full voice, to his kids to let them know where the rest of the family was. Aside from what the hell are these kids doing at an R-rated movie they couldn’t understand, these folks were under the misperception that the theater was their living room.

    I will now stop, to prevent this comment from devolving into a full-bore rant against selfishness and its social institutionalization…

  4. jwo

    I agree with you that if someone – kid or adult – is making a ruckus and causing a commotion enough to disrupt everyone’s experience, then that person should leave. period. And I agree that a 2 y.o shouldn’t be at an 8pm show.
    But your assumption that “UP” isn’t a kids’ movie because they can’t understand it is silly. Pixar markets it to kids, clearly *they* think it’s a kids’ movie. And Pixar’s movies often work on several different levels, to make them enjoyable both to kids and adults. WallE is a good example – it has a message, it speaks to adults, but all my 3 y.o. thinks is “robots are cool!”.
    Usually all this can be avoided by sticking with the late shows….but in this case, the parents were apparently clueless.
    Oh, and a 2 year old isn’t an infant – infant generally means 1 or younger. If you’re bringing a kid that young to a movie it simply is because of a lack of babysitter, (and yet the older sibling wants to see the movie, perhaps) then the anti-bugging people rules apply all the more, of course.

  5. I’d say it’s not only a kids’ movie: the tone of her comment implied that we had no business criticizing the behavior of any kid in the theater, because the movie was for kids. As I said: there’s much in the movie that kids simply won’t get. In fact, though, her remark was irrelevant: the squalling kid was not old enough to appreciate any movie, and a squalling kid at a movie theater should be removed by the parent immediately, as soon as it becomes apparent this is not a brief five-second one-time outburst. Instead, this went on intermittently, minutes at a time, throughout 3/4 of the movie until finally Dad took the kid out.

  6. Closing tags: FAIL!

  7. I actually thought UP was much better as a “children’s movie” than as a Pixar-style movie for kids that winks to adults — I loved the silly action-movie stuff and the caricatured Good vs Evil stuff, but found the sentimentality labored and overdone. But all together a highly enjoyable film, way better than either of the previous two from Pixar.

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