Thursday, 28 November 2013

Modern cinema doesn't work with my eyes

A few years ago I went to see Toy Story 3 in 3D, and wrote that I was pretty sure I couldn't see the 3D effect. Now I've seen Gravity in 3D, and I'm definitely sure I can't see the 3D effect. Maybe the fact that it was three years between these films shows that I might not be that interested in 3D. But I saw many other films in that time. Nice, enjoyable 2D films that displayed easily visible images. The problem is, as I have already said twice, I can't see the 3D effect. I don't really know what it is, but it sounds impressive when other people describe it. Things fly out of the screen and hover right in front of you, like you can touch them. But around 10% of people can't see this, and it disagrees with some people so much that it makes their head hurt. It's not so dramatic for me. When I put the 3D glasses on they only have the underwhelming effect of turning a blurry mess into a normal looking film, which is useful, but I didn't need an extra pair of glasses for that before. It looks like the film is on the screen, but a bit darker. There definitely isn't anything getting closer to me. There is nothing hovering, and I don't feel like I can touch it.

I have pretty normal eyes. They are short-sighted, or long-sighted (I can't remember), so I wear glasses. I can see real things that are in front of me, and can see when things are getting closer, because they are really there. But there is some technology in these 3D films that doesn't work with my eyes. This isn't really a problem, except that it has ruined a good film for me. I'm sure Gravity is good, because I was able to see most of it. The effects were very impressive, even when I'm wearing what are now just effectively rubbish sunglasses. But I didn't enjoy it. The main point of Gravity is the visual spectacle, and I couldn't see the visual spectacle, at least not the good bits everyone else was seeing. At no point was I immersed in the film, because I was always wondering what I was missing. I wanted to know what everyone else could see. This has never happened before. I've seen lots of films. I think I'm quite good at watching films. This was the first time I felt inadequate.

It's like being on a rollercoaster, but my car takes a slightly different track that doesn't have any loops or drops, and just ambles along. I can see everyone else speeding around me, but I have to just fold my arms and feel annoyed. That's what Gravity made me feel - annoyed. It's not intense, or gripping, or a brilliant showcase for the wonder and awe of cinema - just annoying. I don't think they were going for that. And so the obvious solution is to not watch 3D films. I can do that, because they're not very important and very easy to avoid for years, but I just wonder what I'm missing. I want to know what these floating things look like. I want to know if it would really seem like something was hurtling out of the screen towards me. And I want to know what it's like to watch Gravity.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Some thoughts on some television

The advantage of having a blog is that I can write down random, half-formed thoughts and keep them forever, as if they were important. So here's some words on two things that have no connection other than being here on the same page.

Boardwalk Empire
This show is still a mystery to me. It's on its fourth season now, and it's pretty good, but I completely forget about it when it's not on. Completely, like I hadn't been watching it for thirty hours. And then there's new episodes, and I'll watch them and enjoy them and be reminded of all these men in hats. I still don't know some of their names, but a lot of them want to murder each other. Often in very stylish, violent ways. The problem is, I wouldn't mind if I never saw another episode, even though it's impressive. I don't know what it's doing wrong. It has some of the best performances on television (Michael Shannon, in particular, always looks like he's about to burst) and some of the most intelligent, thoughtful writing. Maybe I'd enjoy it more if it was focused on one tight group of characters. Having a vast and separate cast can work brilliantly, like in The Wire or Game of Thrones, but here it might be too big for its own good. I want more of Richard's story, and Nucky's relationship with his brother and Margaret, not more conversations with gangsters I'm not sure I recognise, who mention other gangsters I don't think I know. I will watch every episode and enjoy them, I just wonder if, outside of a few brilliant characters, Boardwalk Empire will be remembered as one of the greats.
The Newsroom
I liked the first season of The Newsroom. I wrote a long defence of it, which usually happens when I'm annoyed that other people have different opinions to me. It was a show that had problems, but I thought it would be better in the second season, when it could really settle in. Now, after nine new episodes, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that the second season is a huge improvement over the first, and one of the most enjoyable pieces of television this year. The bad news is that I have to praise it rather than rant about it, which is less fun for me, and makes shorter blog posts. So this time there was a proper running storyline, less focus on real news, and no silly love stories. We've spent time with these people now, and they're still a family. Don and Sloan, who weren't much of anything before, become two of the most likable characters. And that's it, the whole thing is likable. It would be easy, and boring, to over-analyse the politics of it, and miss how much fun it is to spend time in Sorkin's fantasy newsroom. There needs to be more.