As a longtime 3D fan, I’ve been puzzled and discouraged to hear more than one director refer to “subtle use of 3D” in their films. Excuse me? I may be wrong, but I don’t think “subtle” and “3D” belong in the same sentence. The whole point of 3D is to provide an enhanced movie-watching experience. At its best, it can be a lot of fun—whether it’s Charles Bronson leaping out of the dark to pounce on Phyllis Kirk in House of Wax or a winged creature taking flight in How to Train Your Dragon.
Director John Chu decided to have fun with the medium in the new Disney dance movie Step Up 3D, and as a result his movie is—
For a variety of reasons, I had low expectations for this fantasy-action yarn—and even lower expectations for its 3-D presentation, as I learned that the process was layered onto the movie after the fact. As it turns out, the film was better than I expected, while the 3-D was even worse. The glasses I wore at the official Warner Bros. press screening were heavy and cumbersome, and what I saw onscreen—dimensionally speaking—wasn’t worth the bother. This cheapjack approach could kill off audiences’ desire to see 3-D movies, and certainly may—
Now that my eyes have uncrossed, I can tell you about the incredible experience of attending The World 3-D Film Expo this past month at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.
I knew it would be fun to see a lot of vintage 1950s films in genuine, double-system 3-D—the best method of all, which uses polarized filters and requires two projectors in “interlock” synchronization.
But I didn’t know that the festival would turn into a happening. My friend Michael Schlesinger, who helped to host the festival and provided many prints through Sony Pictures Repertory Division, likened it to Woodstock, and that’s exactly what it was: Woodstock for movie geeks.
Those geeks included a hardy handful of contemporary filmmakers who are also world-class film buffs, including Joe Dante, John Landis, Curtis Hanson, Guillermo Del Toro, and Quentin Tarantino, who confessed to me on opening night that he was playing hooky from finishing the sound mix on his new movie Kill Bill. He so harangued his editor, Sally Menke, that she finally agreed to let him go to see Andre De Toth’s The Stranger Wore a Gun if he’d take her along, too.
I was lucky enough to have seen some of the more popular titles during the last big 3-D revival, during the late 1970s and early 1980s in New York City. Both the 8th Street Playhouse and the venerable Thalia showed double-system prints of—
Remember when it was fun to go to the movies? That feeling of enthusiasm, bordering on sheer abandon, that’s largely disappeared from the moviegoing experience was recaptured at World 3-D Film Expo II at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood this month.
Jeff Joseph, Dan Symmes, Bob Furmanek and a hearty staff of film fanatics, organizers, projectionists, collectors, and volunteers turned the ten-day event into a “happening” of major proportions. As with Expo I three years ago there weren’t a lot of young people in the audience; they’ve grown up in the era of multiplexes and IMAX, and the notion of gathering to watch a bunch of often-tacky 1950s movies holds no allure. It’s their loss.
Opening night provided a perfect example. There wouldn’t be much reason to revive Those Redheads from Seattle, a 1953 Pine-Thomas production released by Paramount. It’s a pleasant-enough musical, but watching a double-system print projected by two interlocked projectors in Polarized 3-D—on a highly reflective silver screen, erected just for the festival—made it An Event. Who could have guessed that this modest film, produced by the B-moviemeisters popularly known as “the two dollar Bills,” would have such inventive use of 3-D?
An establishing shot of a steamship at night has a taut—
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