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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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'It bashes you over the head': Another critic takes a swipe at 3-D movies

Jack_black I'm beginning to think that the real problem with 3-D films is that they just provide us with too much sensory stimuli. When I paid a visit to 3-D evangelist Jeffrey Katzenberg's cozy DreamWorks animation campus recently, I got to see 20 minutes of the studio's upcoming 3-D film, "Puss in Boots." The footage was delightful, loaded with all sorts of inventive visual ideas and infectiously likable characters. But perhaps because there was already so much going on up on the screen, the 3-D felt totally superfluous. I kept wanting to take my glasses off. The 3-D effects felt more like a distraction than an enhancement.   

Clearly I am not alone. Judging from a host of recent news stories, the 3-D bloom is off the rose, with films like "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and "Kung Fu Panda 2" making significantly less money from their 3-D showings than from regular 2-D. Meanwhile, people who get paid to see movies are also hopping off the bandwagon. The latest critic to take a swipe at 3-D is John Podhoretz, who reviews film for the Weekly Standard. A leading neoconservative, Podhoretz spends much of his time writing about politics. It might be fair to say that we're on opposite sides of the political spectrum,

But when it comes to movies, we often find ourselves in total agreement. And never more so than when it comes to 3-D. As Podhoretz put it in a new essay titled "The Next Big Thing: It's Not 3-D": The problem with 3-D may be rooted in the fact that audiences were spoiled by the splashy 3-D effects of "Avatar," whose creative use of the medium hasn't been duplicated by subsequent releases. He concludes:

The truth is that 3-D can’t save Hollywood, because the technique doesn’t add anything to the moviegoing experience. All movies are 3-D in the sense that we already perceive what we are watching in three dimensions. The rules of perspective, and its effect on our cognitive faculties, have long seen to that. So 3-D doesn’t add; it bashes you over the head. That is the message audiences are delivering. Hollywood, like everyone else, will have to live with shrinking profit margins.

Podhoretz joins an ever-growing assortment of top critics, notably Roger Ebert and the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern, who have found themselves consistently underwhelmed by the whole 3-D gestalt. It can't be a good thing when the people who care the most about movies are the ones who are leading the charge against the medium's most highly touted technological advance. But that's the problem with 3-D. It still looks a lot more like a canny strategy to boost revenue than an actual leap forward in film artistry.

-- Patrick Goldstein 

Photo: Jack Black, left, with German actor Hape Kerkeling at the Berlin premiere of "Kung Fu Panda 2." Credit: Jens Kalaene/European Pressphoto Agency


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3D is potentially great. I would love to have filmed every one of my documentaries in 3D, to show the expanse of cloud-filled sky and flat immense land of California's Central Valley for example, or water flowing toward the camera across the once-dry San Joaquin River.

As for theatrical films, what would the shadows and darkness of Nine's dance numbers with dancers kicking sand have looked like in 3D. On television, how about Lost with its Hawaiian locations to convey a sense of people, well, lost in the enveloping tangle of jungle or facing the seemingly limitless barrier presented by another of my expanses, the ocean.

I've experimented in my editing system with 19th century stereo views of the west using the red-blue analglyph process. Pretty great. If anyone wants to help me film the next documentary in 3D, I'm ready and waiting. I'd love to see if we could show some of the anti-3D critics something different than they've seen so far. There's more to 3D than so far meets the eye!!

3-D can't die soon enough. As Roger Ebert pointed out recently, 3-D is even ruining the 2-D filmgoing experience due to lazy theatre staff not removing the polarizing filter in front of the digital projector.

3-D is a distraction from the movie, a degradation of the motion picture image, and a scam to get more money unjustifiable from the filmgoer's wallet.

I now specifically avoid film showings in 3-D and theatres that are lazy with their digital projectors (I'm looking at you AMC Century 15 in Century City).

I recently saw several new films projected from 35mm prints with professional, bright, correct projection. Now, those films looked move vivid and lifelike than any 3-D movie I've seen.


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