Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Peter Jackson, acclaimed director of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, was in a bit of a pickle last year when he announced that he was going to shoot its prequel ‘the Hobbit’ at 48 frames per second – the usual and requisite amount is 24 fps. Digital projection systems are programmed to operate at 24 fps, which means that for ‘the Hobbit’ (to be released in two parts, in December 2012 and 2013) to hit screens later this year, they’d need an upgrade to facilitate the doubling of rate of projection. 

In addition, in what he dubs ‘the mega-epic pissing contest’, Film-Critic Roger Ebert (writing for the ‘Chicago Sun times’) takes the case of James Cameron (‘Titanic’, ‘Avatar’) who has come out saying that he’s planning to film ‘Avatar 2’ at 60 fps! He also adds with detail on how almost 17000 screens across North America are ‘already’ potent enough having done what’s necessary and are set to project images at 48 fps with a surcharge to be added to the basic cost of the movie ticket. About 39000 screens, he says, would have to do the same by the end of the year, and they’d all together have to be prepared when Cameron brings his bomb along in 2013. 

If this was a pissing contest, they’re crossing streams; it’s pouring on our faces. 

Now, it’s common knowledge that 3D projection had, by itself, caused a hike in ticket price in the past, for a decrease in brightness and picture-quality – for which you don’t need statistics to substantiate. All you have to do is lift your glasses the next time you’re at the theatre. That should help distinguish to yourself the film you wanted to watch from the one you were made to. 

Worse is the fate of enduring a film that has merely been ‘3D-fied’ as opposed to a film that was born so. There are films shot in 3D (like ‘Avatar’) and there are those which incorporate 3D elements through post-processing (like ‘Clash of the Titans’). The comparison is akin to that between a good photograph and one that’s Photoshopped – there’s something lowly about the latter that you can tell but you don’t have enough to file a complaint. The technology is new, it seems exciting; kids love it, parents don’t seem to have a choice – ‘Schindler’s list’ doesn’t play in theatres anymore. Martin Scorsese has endorsed it, with specific reference to Georges Melies’ idea of Film as ‘Spectacle’ in ‘Hugo’, his own authentic contribution to the 3D universe. 

It’s like the surgical procedure that a Good Doctor showed and the quacks of the world were quick to claim license to carry it out on their own. 

We’re days past the premiere of arguably the most awaited movie event of a decade, made by a man who has constantly turned 3D down with a different plan for grandeur in mind. I say ‘decade’ with comfort because I’m sure they didn’t ‘wait’ for movies, back in the day. Today, people play audience to a Trade Fair at home, on TV sets and the internet and it’s like the title-credits are losing out to pre-release marketing as far as ‘first impressions’ go. Speed-Dating seems to have won the People’s Choice award trumping good old-fashioned meet-cute. Trailers are ‘pleasure Bots’ in this lucid dream that plays out like a Philip K. Dick novel of man causing his own disappointment. 

I was as eager to watch ‘the Dark Knight Rises’ as it hit the screen on the 20th of July. But I hate to think my interest in it needn’t have been my own. I don’t know how much of it was ‘felt’ and how much ‘drilled into’ my head against my will – it’s like second-thoughts in the middle of a leap of faith as a voice inside says ‘suicide’. The film has been around for a year almost, debuting online with a teaser that ‘leaked’ and a Prologue last fall as popularized by director Christopher Nolan, having started it with the last instalment, ‘the Dark Knight.’ 

My opinion on the film aside, there’s no doubt that Nolan, with such impressive films as ‘Memento’, ‘Insomnia’ and ‘Batman Begins’ to his credit, would come up with (fairly) engaging fare. Isn’t the hype, in that case, a sort of insistence upon a point that has already been made? 

But then Nolan doesn’t believe in 3D. He’s wary of the ill-effects. In a time where the most obscure of family fare comes slapped with the 3D tag like free candy, it almost appears noble that he denounces it. Or is it? 

An IMAX ticket (in a report by Penn Manor High School) costs about $15.50 (for adults). A regular movie ticket costs about $9.50, while a DVD, let out a few months post-release, costs about $15. I don’t even need to point you to the outrage. Of course, this isn’t a move on my part to question the filmmaker’s intentions. He insists on spectacle, where the spectacle exists by itself; it merely needs to be told. He’s someone doing the telling. I understand. I’m a lover of this spectacle and wouldn’t intend blasphemy. 

Isn’t it a semi-fantastic, wishful thought to say that, though, these days? A more appropriate line would be to say that “the spectacle is manufactured and exists to be sold.” The Weinstein Company would counter-sign it with MPAA approval. 

I’d like to close this write-up with a line from Chomsky’s ‘the Common Good’ (1998), the context being how we fancy ourselves to be in an age of uprising against the totalitarianism of institutions, be it a State, an Education system or even the Entertainment industry; how we think nothing escapes our sensibility, even if not our attention. 

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” 

In other words, Christopher Nolan is smart. Peter Jackson is smart. James Cameron is smart; the Weinsteins are smart and so is the MPAA. 

The big question here is “Are we?”

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