May 3, 2010

Why Roger Ebert hates 3D and why I hate when the top story at Slate right now takes me to a 3-day-old article in Newsweek.

Okay. Roger Ebert hates 3D because:
3-D is a waste of a perfectly good dimension. Hollywood's current crazy stampede toward it is suicidal. It adds nothing essential to the moviegoing experience. For some, it is an annoying distraction. For others, it creates nausea and headaches. It is driven largely to sell expensive projection equipment and add a $5 to $7.50 surcharge on already expensive movie tickets. Its image is noticeably darker than standard 2-D. It is unsuitable for grown-up films of any seriousness. It limits the freedom of directors to make films as they choose. For moviegoers in the PG-13 and R ranges, it only rarely provides an experience worth paying a premium for.
I agree. Fine.

But I didn't go to Slate last night to read Newsweek, and I don't think the top story at Slate should be 3 days old, whether it's really a Slate article or not.

What has happened to Slate? For years and years, I went there every day. Lately, I've noticed that I avoid the place, and I'd been wondering why. That Newsweek thing really irritated me, but it's not just that. When I go there I find a a list of tempting titles — must clicks. But click and be disappointed. I've been through that too many times. Now, I scan the teasers and just think: They're trying to make me click. Like I'm in some kind of battle with them and I win by refusing to click.

I don't go to the movies much either. Ads for movies feel the same way. They're trying to make me click give them $10.


Joe said...

I'm alarmed to find myself find agreement with Roger Ebert. Well, up to a point, he beats this dead horse a little excessively as he tends to do.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"What has happened to Slate?"

They have nothing interesting to say.

That simple.

Balfegor said...

What has happened to Slate? For years and years, I went there every day. Lately, I've noticed that I avoid the place, and I'd been wondering why. That Newsweek thing really irritated me, but it's not just that. When I go there I find a a list of tempting titles — must clicks. But click and be disappointed.

Sometimes I think the points they are trying to make are excessively twee and/or dumb. But certainly not enough that I don't visit. For me, the big thing has been that I usually entered the Slate website through links to Kausfiles, but now that's on a separate server, so I just don't visit Slate as much as I did before.

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, maybe it's that Kaus isn't there anymore.

Lem said...

What I find annoying about 3D is an apparent discontinuity.
Sometimes the effect is stronger than other times.. so much so that I start to look for it, distracting me from following the story line.

It takes away from the seamlessness, the illusion of a reality a good film is supposed to engage you in. 3D is the tell that reminds you of the swindle.

tim maguire said...

I have never been a regular Slate reader so I can't comment, but I generally approve of 3D. I can see what he's getting at--3D movies are overly dramatic schlock; the story telling suffers as the director contrives to maximize the visual thrills.

But you see this with all new technology (it is especially irritating with televised sports, where analysts get so carried away with their toys that they forget good game coverage).

I expect this period to pass as movie goers become less wiling to sacrifice story for glitz and directors learn how to use the new tool.

david7134 said...

We need to control and socialize the movie industry. These people are making far too much money, particularily when you see what they produce. Why haven't they been singled out like everyone else?

c3 said...

I lost vision in one eye so all of this 3-D is just more noise.

(I do miss the "Magic Eye" posters though. The joy/surprise of seeing a whole new picture in a picture was great.)

Chip Ahoy said...

It adds nothing essential to the moviegoing experience?

COME ON!!!!111!!ONE1!!!

It pops out at you. It comes out right at you! OMG I can't believe what I'm reading. That's similar to saying pop-up adds nothing essential to books. Nothing essential to a pop-up card. In my world it's essential. I don't even like reading books that don't pop-up. I do, of course, but I sit there the whole time thinking, "You're just so fucking FLAT!"

Incidentally, two nights ago I got third party feedback about the polar bear pop-up card I mailed last month. It was interjected mid conversation. I learned the person who got the card was thrilled. It's kept on display and gets shown to every visitor. Each page explained as if the visitor would fail to get the detail without the explanation. I love that. It shows me that pop-uppery affects other people like it does me.

This morning before coming here, I bought Star Wars by Reinhart, an incredible pop-up that culminates in an actual stand up light saber fight (that lights up). Reinhart grew up a Star Wars fan. I also bought the famous children's book The Wide-Mouth Frog by Faulkner and Lambert, with it's wonderfully amusing punch line delivered through a narrowed mouth "Well, you sure don't see many of those around here," followed by the quick escape "splash" that opens forward and outward to triple the size of the opened book then folds back when closed.

What would those stories be without that? Less! That's what.

I never ever EVER go to films for some serious social commentary. I only want light-hearted totally non-serious fiction for my entertainment dollar. Three-D is totally worth it.

themightypuck said...

Ebert is a stick in the mud. Let the market decide if 3d is worth it. Ebert thinks videogames cannot be art. Which is silly considering how many artists get hired to make videogames. This is just more get off my lawn shit from the old critic.

GMay said...

Went to see Clash of the Titans in 3D. Wasn't impressed after I got over the initial sick feeling. It was cool for about 5 minutes.

That's not worth the cost of an already overpriced ticket.

Trooper York said...

Based on the people you do Boring Heads with it is obvious that all the writers there are just a bag full of douches. So to speak.

Trooper York said...

Who cares what Roger Ebert thinks anyway?

What's the matter, they couldn't reach Rex Reed?

tim maguire said...

GMay, agreed. CotT was filmed normally and converted to 3D later and it shows--double images, out of focus, etc. But the story sucked just like in a real 3D movie. Imagine how much it would have sucked if it weren't 3D!

Check out Avatar. The visuals in that one are so awesome it almost doesn't matter that the story stinks.

Lance said...

It's not just Kaus. Slate's been going downhill since Kinsley left.

(Meanwhile, I go out of my way to read Kinsley's writing.)

Rialby said...

Just spend some money on a story. I saw "Up!" over the weekend. The 4 minute montage at the beginning is one of the most affecting things I've ever seen on film.

Lance said...

Remember when Emily Yoffe would do those great Human Guinea Pig pieces? Why in the world is she now writing that horrible Dear Prudence column?

Diamondhead said...

I still go to Slate nearly every day. I generally like Christopher Beam and Jack Shafer. But it seems like a high percentage of the articles are in one of two genres: 1) People are complaining about something some Democrat did/said, but it turns out the Democrat is spot-on!, and 2) Things might seem things are bad for Democrats but really they aren't so bad at all!

cokaygne said...

We joined Netflix about 3 months ago to watch British mystery TV programs. Along the way we have watched some movies. They all suck. American TV progams suck as well. It is sad. America has lost its cinematographic edge. Hollywood is the new Detroit.

Agree about Slate. They're trying to find a niche. It seems that all is aimed at insecure unmarried females. The news stands are full of paper versions of Slate.

The overarching problem is that America's creative class have built their careers on bashing America - which often richly deserves it. Then America elected a young African American as president along with a liberal Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. How can you bash that without appearing disloyal?

GV said...

A friend at NAB show in Vegas says it was all about 3D. A way to sell more TVs and video cameras. It is inevitable.

My first experience wasn't very good. I realized too late that my LASIK induced monovision was not compatible with 3D.

The Slate decline has been slow and steady. I was down to just Kaus, but now.....

Trooper York said...

Cockydude said:
American TV progams suck as well

I guess you never saw The Wire or Deadwood.

themightypuck said...

If American TV shows suck then British TV shows suck as well. Prime Suspect was good but you can't stream it on Netflix.

edutcher said...

Hate to agree with Ebert, but all the great special effects of the last forty years have made for lousy movies, by and large. As long as they can rely on the eye candy, they can coast along with pictures inspired by computer games and comic books.

Trooper York said...

Cockydude said:
American TV progams suck as well

I guess you never saw The Wire or Deadwood.

I did. The ones by HBO are the worst of all.

Slow Joe said...

Ebert is such a gasbag.

Directors do not have to make their movies in 3d, or color, or surround sound. Some do, and some do not. This is an additional tool that is obviously very useful to some kinds of action and lowbrow movies, and obviously not useful and even counterproductive to some films too.

Everyone knows that, and Ebert thinks he's brilliant to bring it up. Althouse knew she didn't have to use color in some photos. Even kids realize that sometimes.

I think Avatar was a terrible movie and I could really care less about 3D movies, but Ebert misses the true point of 3D for many people: Video Games. Video games are an incredible new field of art that some people of Ebert's age refuse to appreciate. Stubbornly. Video games convey messages and ideas that can be beautiful and much better presented than some mere film.

Because Ebert famously refuses to grant the artistic value of games and technology related to it, he misses that 3D can be incredibly immersive to the 'player' character.

You can feel the fear and speed of a race car, which is artistic if don well. You can see the walls of ancient Jerusalem contain you, or feel the rush of Joker's henchmen run towards you. Etc etc. 3D will make video games much better (in some cases). Because you are usually the mental state of the protagonist, it's much more helpful than in a film where you're often not seeing the main character's field of vision.

I could honestly care less about films. But I am pretty sure some movie makers will prove Ebert wrong to be so absolutist. And he acts like new transactions are a bad thing in his incoherent rant. They are not.

Alex said...

I did. The ones by HBO are the worst of all.

Gasbag. Just admit you're a crotchety geezer who wishes everything was still in 1955.

Freeman Hunt said...

3D will not be artistically important until a gifted cinematographer takes it up and composes shots utilizing all three dimensions.

Until then, it will sit in the trash culture ghetto.

Freeman Hunt said...

And 3D really is annoying and unnecessary until then. It excludes part of the audience who cannot watch it. It destroys the communal movie going experience by sticking everyone in blinders. And it forces you to wear ill-fitting glasses through the entire film.

Not to mention the time and resources going toward mediocre 3D concerns that are then not put toward tightening the story or some other thing that would actually make the movie better. This currently makes 3D movies more likely to be worse then their 2D competitors at the theater.

Tibore said...

"For others, it creates nausea and headaches."

(*Tibore raises his hand*) That's me.

Slow Joe said...

I wonder how much of this reaction is because Avatar was such a terrible movie that did so well financially.

3D isn't the problem, there.

Of course, it's a lot like CGI in that it aids those who want to make a thrill ride with no subtlety.

I don't really care about the actual theatre experience. If that's what you're after, go to a theater that serves beer and shows 80s films like Alamo Drafthouse.

It's tech in its infancy, and as always, people are pointing out the problems related to that as though they define the idea of 3d. That shit will fade in a few years. Perhaps we will all have our own 3D glasses that fit us well and compensate for our eyesight, so we can take them with us to friends' homes and movie theaters. (that's my beef with version 1.0... the Samsung glasses only work on Samsung TVs, etc).

There's a lot of opportunity for innovation, and I think in a few years, especially with completely computer generated content, 3D is going to be a huge benefit.

Trooper York said...

I mean didn't old Rodge lose his voice?

It's about time he shut the fuck up.

Big Mike said...

If Slate has dropped below Andrew Sullivan in holding your interest, well that says something.

George said...

Slate has really gone downhill since Kinsley left. Saletin is doing worthless link aggregation, Kaus (obviously) is gone, they have Tweedledee and Tweedledumber writing about the Supreme Court, and Tim Noah has turned from being a smart contrarian to a mean Democratic hack since his wife died. What's really decaying the site, though, is the lack of development of new, iconoclastic voices. Hell, even Hitch has turned into a parody of himself since he's been on his atheist kick.