Random Factoid #535

14 01 2011

At the end of 2010, we heard plenty of prominent members of the filmmaking industry weighing in on the future of 3D.  I think James Cameron put it best when he said something along the lines of “it’s going to be a tool in the arsenal of filmmakers, much like color and sound.”  In my opinion, the sooner it becomes a serious filmmaking tool, the sooner it becomes eradicated as a marketing gimmick. And I think we are all ready for the 3D-conversion phase of Hollywood money-grubbing to end.

So, to quote Steven Zeitchick of The Los Angeles Times‘ title, “Why is everyone so on Baz Luhrmann for a 3D ‘Great Gatsby?’”  Here’s some of what he said:

“As the Aussie provocateur said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — at a panel moderated by our colleague Geoff Boucher; you can watch a video clip here — the director is debating shooting his F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation using that Z-axis. The logic, as recalled by Boucher (who spoke to Luhrmann at length about the issue), is that when we see a drama on the stage, we’re able to observe various levels of detail through the use of foreground and background. The 3-D format simply allows for the same experience on the screen.

Luhrmann is always shaking up the status quo, so it shouldn’t surprise us that he might try to marry a classic 20th century story with a 21st century format. He also seems to thrive on the negative reaction (which makes the irate, can-he-be-stopped reactions more than a little funny.)

And he clearly loves the grandiose; when we interviewed him about this project a few years ago he said (with appropriate grandiosity) that his ambition was nothing less than a movie that spoke for our gilded age. (‘People will need an explanation of where we are and where we’ve been, and “The Great Gatsby” can provide that explanation,’ he said.) What better way to make that kind of grand statement than to have Nick Carraway and Daisy Buchanan in three dimensions?”

Luhrmann is the perfect director to give the 3D tool on a movie that doesn’t particularly need the tweaking a trial run.  Audiences can see it done in his zany style and decide through their money whether or not it should continue to be done.  It’s pretty hypocritical for people to go crazy when Luhrmann suggested shooting “The Great Gatsby” in 3D because a similar risk was taken by James Cameron with “Avatar.”  3D was for animation and corny movies to throw things at an audience; it was not for serious filmmaking.  Now, thanks to his lead, directors like Martin Scorsese are shooting movies in 3D.

Filmmaking is about advancing the craft, and if we remain stagnant, it will die out and wind up like pottery.  I don’t want our great form of art and entertainment to become irrelevant, so YES, I am behind Baz Luhrmann.  (If he fails, we still have Fitzgerald’s book and the 1970s movie.)

Random Factoid #520

30 12 2010

With 2011 in our sights, many of 2010’s finest moments and achievements are being recapped (see my “10 for ’10” series).  The year’s reigning box office champ was not even a 2010 release but rather James Cameron’s “Avatar,” which made more this calendar year than “Toy Story 3” did in its entire run.

There are probably plenty of other milestones that “Avatar” piled up this year, but shockingly, one it didn’t receive was the biggest selling on-demand movie.  In case you hadn’t guessed it by looking at the picture, it was fellow Best Picture nominee (gag) “The Blind Side!”

Perhaps it might have emerged victorious had it been available on demand the day of its video release.  Comcast stated that “movies available the same day as DVD release are consistently among the top-performing content On Demand.”  And, as Cinematical pointed out, “Folks who loved it couldn’t wait to own it, even in a stripped-down edition, which explains the broken sales records for DVD and Blu-ray.”

In too many factoids to link back to, I have championed streaming and on-demand as the new frontier of movie rentals.  I’ve totally embraced it as I have 70+ movies in my Netflix instant queue and 3 movies waiting to watch on iTunes.  I always love it when movies are available day and date because I’m not too eager to leave my couch/bed to rent a movie.  If I hear that a movie is coming out on video (which I always do), I get upset when I can’t just hit a button and have it ready to watch on my Apple TV.

Lesson learned, Fox?  You couldn’t do much to keep “Avatar” from losing Best Picture, but you could have helped it win this award to add to a superfluous stack.

Random Factoid #511

21 12 2010

This is a big post.  A huge post.  So big it had to involve “Avatar.”


It’s been a fun 489 serious posts and 511 days blogging for/with you, so let’s keep the good times rolling.

Now, for those of you not looking to read about a milestone, here’s the “Avatar” part of the factoid.  The Hollywood Reporter released a list of 2010’s most pirated movies, and by far and away the winner was James Cameron’s “Avatar.”  It was downloaded a whopping 16.5 million times.  If each of those pirates saw the movie in 3D, the highest grossing movie ever would have added another $190 million to its $2.7 billion dollar worldwide haul.

While I understand that since it was such a massive hit, it makes sense that it would be the most pirated.  But “Avatar” was such a true cinematic experience so enhanced by theatrical viewing that it seems strange all those people would pirate it.  I’m not into the whole pirated movie gig because I respect filmmakers’ right to earn money off their creative products, but I just don’t think that “Avatar” is a movie worth watching on a small screen.

I’ve probably talked about the value of the theatrical experience too many times to count, yet I find myself with a renewed vigor to defend it after hearing this report.  Theaters are where movies were born, and it’s the community that makes them feel exciting.  I’m sorry that technology has brought us to this point where it becomes so individual.

Random Factoid #508

18 12 2010

Eek, I’m really scrounging for factoids … and not finding much.  Honestly, a part of me just wants to say that I caught a really strange pop culture reference in “How Do You Know” today.  On Reese Witherspoon’s mirror, there are all sorts of inspirational quotes about courage and other virtues.  Then, there’s a quote from KeKe Palmer’s song “Bottoms Up.”  You got some swagger, better let ’em know; you got some swagger, better let ’em show.  It belongs right next to Shakespeare and Biblical passages.

(If you want to listen to the line, it’s around 2:10 in the video.)

Yet another part of me wants to tell you that my family’s Christmas tree was dubbed “The Avatar Tree” by me today after these horrific white orb lights we bought from Target make it look like those little dandelion spirits of the forest.  My mom and I were going to dismantle the tree and replace them with new lights, but we decided to live with “The Avatar Tree” rather than waste two hours of our life for a tree that would like pretty for a week.

Or perhaps I’ll just complain about how peeved I am with the ticket-taker at AMC Studio 30, who won’t stop eyeing me as if I’m a 13-year-old trying to sneak into an R-rated movie.  I showed you my ID once, I’M 18 YEARS OLD!

Maybe I’ll just cop out and post this funny cartoon I found thanks to /Film:

Speaking of WikiLeaks, has anyone noticed the resemblance???  It seems pretty obvious who’s going to play Julian Assange in the WikiLeaks movie.  Future Oscar-winning performance right here.

NPH Assange

I’m dog-beat, and this running around in circles trying to entertain you with a new factoid is about the best I can muster right now.  I’ve come up with stories, opinions, and all sorts of other stuff for 507 straight days – today is a sort of reprieve where I just use this post for an open page to express all the stuff running around in my mind.

Random Factoid #464

4 11 2010

Whatever you say, James Cameron.

According to 3D’s biggest cheerleader, “Once we get to auto-stereoscopic, that’s watching 3D without glasses, it is going to be the way we watch all of our media. That’s probably eight to 10 years away.”  Apparently two dimensions haven’t been enough to satisfy moviegoers for over a century, so now we have to watch everything in an extra dimension from now on?

He predicts that just like color made black-and-white movies obsolete, the third dimension will make the second go the way of the dinosaur.  At the moment, I don’t think I’m ready to have every movie in 3D, mainly because I don’t feel like every movie needs it.  Even when the technology becomes available, it’s going to take several more decades for the technology to trickle down into the price ranges of independent filmmakers.

But until then, can you imagine a time when your movie theater is all 3D?  When there isn’t a 2D Best Picture nominee?  When you show your kids a 2D movie and tell them that all movies used to look like this?

So I’m calling it: as soon as everything is in 3D, James Cameron will be making “Avatar 4D,” a revolutionary experience in adding yet another dimension to your moviegoing experience.

Random Factoid #434

5 10 2010

So apparently James Cameron wants our money again for “Avatar.”  As if he didn’t make enough on the rerelease in theaters, the first DVD release, and the record-shattering first release. Now, there is “Avatar: Extended Collector’s Edition.”  This time, Cameron is so nice he’s even going to include bonus features!

Here’s what NPR‘s Linda Holmes wants to see included:

1. Alternate audio track in which the humans speak Latin and the Na’vi speak Klingon

2. Deleted cameo by Steve Martin as shorts-wearing waiter who serves wine on Jake and Neytiri’s first date

3. “Behind The Making Of 17 Featurettes” featurette

4. Locker-sized Jake Sully poster with “AVATAR” spelled out in pink bubble letters

5. Bonus video: “How To Make Your Own Motion-Capture Feature Film Using A Disposable Camera, A Utility Knife, A Car Battery And 400 Ping-Pong Balls”

6. Blooper reel, including embarrassing love-scene moment where hair braid is accidentally inserted into ear

7. Secrets Of The Flying Horsey Thing

8. Feature-length commentary by James Cameron comparing every scene to similar but slightly inferior sequence in The Hurt Locker.

9. Alternate audio track in which every long and thoughtful pause is accompanied by “The Syncopated Clock.”

10. Teaser trailer for Avatar 2: The Day The Giant Magic Trees Turned.

While all those things are worthy of a good laugh and worthy of my money, I don’t plan on buying “Avatar” on DVD until it comes with a program to turn yourself into a Na’Vi with the full body suit and I can add myself into the background of every scene.  The movie will be on HBO in the next month or so, and the special features will pop up on YouTube soon enough.

Random Factoid #416

17 09 2010

What happened to bonus features?  Seriously.

They used to be my favorite part of buying DVDs when I was eight or nine.  I would shell out $20 for Disney classics I didn’t really want to see that much just so I could watch the special features.  Mini-documentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, outtakes – I loved it all.  It was only about four or five years ago when I realized that all I actually wanted to see was the movie itself.

That transition in thought apparently came just in time because most studios don’t even include them on the discs anymore.  Anybody notice how even “Avatar,” the biggest movie of our time, didn’t even have a trailer?

Why is it that no one wants bonus features anymore?  I miss having them as an option when I want something more than a movie.  I don’t need a documentary as long as the movie itself like the Criterion Collection of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” but something would be nice!

Is anybody else up in arms about this new development?  Anybody with any insights on why they are gradually disappearing?

Random Factoid #402

3 09 2010

Cinematical brought up an interesting topic – foreign movie titles and their relevance.

I’ve had plenty of exposure to them, as anyone who has been reading this blog since January knows.  I spent three weeks in Argentina, driving past plenty of movie theaters and billboards.  Some movies kept the same title (“Sherlock Holmes,” for example, needs no translation).

But there were plenty of wacky titles, my personal favorite being the change from “It’s Complicated” to “Enamorándome de mi Ex,” translated to “In Love with my Ex.”  Not even kidding, I think that’s actually a better title.  I did a whole report before my trip on movies, and an important part of my presentation was the changes in titles.  Since both Argentinians and Americans love movies, they would make great dinner conversations.  It helps to know that “Avatar” is still “Avatar” and “Despicable Me” is “My Favorite Villain” (“Mi Villano Favorito,” for any Spanish scholars out there).

Here are some findings based on the articles report:

“Get Him to the Greek” has received a limited release in Paris, retitled as American Trip, while “Youth in Revolt” has been changed to “Be Bad!”. The former sounds vanilla, though the German version, pictured above, looks better; I prefer the Spanish title, “Todo Sobre Mi Desmadre,” which sounds positively decadent (“All About My Total Chaos?”). But I like the idea of Michael Cera trying to “Be Bad!” (love that added exclamation mark, and the phrase comes straight from the movie). In Mexico it’s known as “La chica de mis suenos” (“The Girl of My Dreams”), which sounds pretty sappy.

It’s interesting to see how movies play under different titles in different countries.  A lot of times it’s because our cultural lingo doesn’t read well outside of America, but sometimes it’s for other reasons.  Any titles you wish you could change in English?  I know I’d change “Knight and Day” to … well, something else.

Random Factoid #395

27 08 2010

Avatards, reassemble today!

James Cameron gives us 9 new minutes of his global phenomenon “Avatar” in 3D and IMAX exclusively today. Here’s what we’re getting:

Cool stuff. All cool stuff. There’s a big rousing sequence where they’re hunting these herd animals called sturmbeests. There’s another new creature that you haven’t seen before called the stingbat. There’s a really powerful emotional scene toward the end of the film where the leader of the Na’vi is dying after a battle. There’s a bit more in the love scene with Jake and Neytiri. There’s more bioluminescent stuff in the night forest. Little bits and pieces here and there.

He had me at “more in the love scene.”  I mean, who wanted that scene to end SO soon?!  (There’s a hint of facetiousness that I hope you picked up on.)

But seriously, 8 months for a re-release?  It seems a bit soon, even for the biggest movie in recent memory.  Cameron describes it as “a limited special edition. It’s just an experience you can have with your family at the end of the summer. The last hurrah in theaters.”  Judging by the lineups at the theater this weekend, it’s probably the best thing out there besides “Inception.”  Just the sad state of Hollywood this time of year.

I think that after the past 6 months have brought nothing but 3D controversy and argument, maybe “Avatar” will remind audiences of what good use of the technology looks like.  Perhaps they will then apply that sentiment and make a ruckus for all the false 3D filling theaters recently.  I can dream, can’t I?

I’ve been to two re-releases in my lifetime, “E.T.” back in 2002 and “Grease” in the ’90s.  Both of those were fun to see with my parents because we were able to share in the theatrical experience together as they relived the wonder and the excitement of the first time they saw it.  I feel like “Avatar” holds that same sense, and I can’t wait to one day watch the movie with my kids whenever its 3D technology and groundbreaking effects look like rubbish.  But, in a purely hypothetical situation, if I had conceived a child the day “Avatar” was released, it would still be in utero for this re-release!  So perhaps it is a little too soon, yet everyone could use the escape to Pandora in order to escape the dismal titles on the multiplex marquees.

Random Factoid #389

21 08 2010

Smoking in movies.  The MPAA is cracking down on it like Congress is cracking down on steroids in baseball.

The movement to get cigarettes out of the fingers of our favorite movie stars has been going on for quite some time now, but James Cameron definitely threw some kerosene on the fire last December when Sigourney Weaver’s Grace lit up liberally throughout “Avatar.”  When I saw it, quite frankly, I laughed.  I saw it as James Cameron’s big “*&$% you, MPAA, I’m an artist and I’ll do what I want!”  Here’s what he actually said about it though:

“I wanted Grace to be a character who is initially off-putting and even unpleasant. She’s rude, she swears, she drinks, she smokes. She is not meant to be an aspirational role model to teenagers — in fact our young protagonist, Jake, through whom we experience this story, finds her to be obnoxious at first. Also, from a character perspective, we were showing that Grace doesn’t care about her human body, only her avatar body, which again is a negative comment about people in our real world living too much in their avatars, meaning online and in videogames. In addition, speaking as an artist, I don’t believe in the dogmatic idea that no one in a movie should smoke. Movies should reflect reality. If it’s O.K. for people to lie, cheat, steal and kill in PG-13 movies, why impose an inconsistent morality when it comes to smoking?

I do agree that young role-model characters should not smoke in movies, especially in a way which suggests that it makes them cooler or more accepted by their peers. In the same way that I would never show lying, cheating, stealing or killing as cool, or aspirational, I would never portray smoking that way. We need to embrace a more complex set of criteria than simply the knee-jerk reaction “smoking is bad, therefore cannot be shown.” It should be a matter of character, context, and the nature of the portrayal. I think the people who are earnestly trying to do some good in this area would be more supported by the artistic community if they were less black and white in their thinking. Smoking is a filthy habit which I don’t support, and neither, I believe, does ‘Avatar.'”

I agree with Cameron totally.  If smoking in movies sends a message, either blatant or subliminal, that cigarettes are cool, then that’s worth cracking the whip on.  But the purposes of historical accuracy or showing the true nature of tobacco, then I think it’s totally fine.  And also, as Cameron said, would you rather have a teen who picks up smoking from a movie or picks up murdering?  I think that choice is pretty clear.

It’s silly, in my opinion, for the MPAA to add worthless descriptors like “brief smoking” to the ratings of movies.  Are there really parents that concerned about their kids’ response to seeing cigarettes in movies that they need to know before seeing it?  There’s no replacement for good parenting and informing children of the danger of tobacco; you can’t let the MPAA do that job for you.

As long as the cigarette police don’t interfere with the art of film, I’m fine with the crusade.  For those of you who believe in the fight against smoking in movies, here’s some good news for you.

…smoking in high-grossing films fell to 1,935 “incidents” last year, down 49 percent from a recent peak of 3,967 in 2005. The study defined an incident as the use or implied use of a tobacco product by an actor, with a new incident occurring each time a tobacco product went off-screen then came back, or a different actor was shown with tobacco.

Random Factoid #360

23 07 2010

As I said recently in Random Factoid #351, I have become obsessed with listening to segments of NPR on my iPhone.  I heard a fantastic one yesterday called “The Lost Art of Credit Sequences.” Either click on the bolded link or on the picture to go to NPR’s site to listen to the segment.

If you listen, and I hope you do, you’ll hear Bob Mondello wonder why directors have moved away from really utilizing an opening credit sequence.  The two highest grossing movies of the last decade, “Avatar” and “The Dark Knight,” gave us virtually nothing – a helicopter shot of Pandora and a bat symbol emerging from blue flames.  So why is it that we just have to jump straight into the movie now?  The credits sequences are fun, and I always enjoy seeing a good one.

Really, the only director I can think of that still utilizes them well is Jason Reitman.  All three of his movies have done a great job setting the mood for what is to come, particularly the lovable “Juno.”  I can’t find a full YouTube link, but here’s the animation and the song.

I also really love the credits for “The Kingdom,” but here’s my all-time favorite: “Monsters, Inc.”

So what’s your favorite?  And why are they dying?

Random Factoid #315

8 06 2010

I’m pretty obsessed with movies, but I don’t think I will ever go this far.

Thanks to the Cinema Obsessed girls, I discovered learnnavi.org.  On this site, you can literally learn the language spoken in James Cameron’s “Avatar.”  It is literally just like learning Spanish, French, Latin, or whatever language you take.  There are noun declensions and verb conjugations.  There is vocabulary.  If you had any doubts that Cameron didn’t pull out all the stops for the movie, they will vanish after 30 seconds on this site.

I might pick up a few casual words from the Na’vi vocabulary.  I’d like to see the look on someone’s face when I say “irayo,” and they ask what the heck I just said.  The look would probably be even better once I’ve told them that I have just thanked them in Na’vi.

Check out the site by clicking on the logo below.  It’s fun to explore and to see the extent of “Avatar.”  Clicking on it doesn’t make you a nerd…

Random Factoid #308

1 06 2010

A few days ago, I had to run an errand at Best Buy.  I thought I would take a “shortcut” through the DVD section and peruse for a good bargain.  However, that longer walk took me by the TV section, where the Samsung 3D-TV was featured prominently up front.  There were some comfortable recliners to sit in while watching, but perhaps more importantly, they had “Avatar” in 3D on the TV.  I mean, how could I not sit down and watch some of it?

I turned on the glasses – yes, you literally have to turn them on – and allowed myself to reenter the world of Pandora.  It was good to be back, but I do think it’s a very different and superior experience to watch it on the big screen.  But the colors and the picture quality and the amazing cinematography still shine, even on a TV screen.  I fast-forwarded (because I couldn’t work the remote and couldn’t change by scene) to the scene where Jake learns to fly for the first time because I didn’t have the energy to fast-forward all the way to the climactic battle.  But in between, I got to see plenty of other visual marvels of the movie: fighting the giant creature in the forest, flying through the Hallelujah Mountains, and swimming through the neon nighttime forest.

So, if I had the kind of money to spend on a 3D-TV, would I buy one today?  Probably not.  I don’t think the technology or the movie selection is quite all there yet.  “Avatar” revolutionized 3D, and Hollywood needs to decide how to incorporate 3D into the future of cinema before I commit to it.  Plus, the glasses were giving me a headache (although I think headaches go away once you’ve used a certain type of glasses enough).

In addition, Samsung gave these health warnings in Australia:

3-D TV viewers [should] stay away from the TV if “you are in bad physical condition, need sleep or have been drinking alcohol.”

The Los Angeles Times further muses on the implications of these warnings.

Yikes! Wouldn’t that pretty much wipe out the possibility of most male sports fans ever having a chance to watch any 3-D programming? The Variety story adds that “aside from warning that strobe lights can trigger epileptic seizures — a known risk for pretty much everything from TV screens to traffic lights — it urges viewers to stop watching and consult a doctor if they experience any of a slew of possible symptoms, including dizziness, cramps or loss of awareness.”

…Opinion from 3-D experts was split. According to Lenny Lipton, whose StereoGraphics firm has sold 150,000 pairs of active-shutter 3-D glasses, “We never had a single complaint of the kind noted in the Samsung warning.” Variety also talked to Martin Banks, a University of California professor of optometry and an expert in depth perception, who said “there’s essentially no evidence to back up some of these concerns,” though he acknowledged that the idea that 3-D viewing can contribute to motion sickness is “not ridiculous.”

…There was a celebrated incident in Japan where the slow strobing in an early version of active-shutter glasses induced seizures in some children. Even Banks’ own studies have found that eye strain can result from the way 3-D forces viewers to converge their eyes on points at different distances. “As the viewing distance gets shorter, the likelihood that this conflict is going to cause problems increases,” Banks concedes, which means that TV viewing could prompt more dizziness or eye strain than watching movies on a distant screen.

So I’ll keep my distance from the 3D-TV.  It has a place – at Best Buy, not my own home.

Blogathon Alert: He Shot Cyrus’ “Best Post”

22 05 2010

Hello all.  Hope this post finds you in good cheer.  It most certainly does for me, seeing as this is my 500th POST!!!

Anyways, enough with the pretenses and onto the main event.  I’ve got a stake in a big blogathon over at “He Shot Cyrus;” it’s the first time I’ve ever really gotten involved in one of these things.  Fellow bloggers are submitting a piece that they believe to be either their best or their most underrated.

It’s definitely worth a look; after all, it’s all your favorite bloggers (including myself) presenting their best work.  What’s not to love?

The piece I chose to submit was my feature from a few weeks ago “More Reflections on Avatar.”  I spent a lot of time writing it, and I do think it has a lot of good analysis and some of my deepest thinking yet.  I’d love for you to give it a second glance.  It may not be the best thing I’ve ever written, but I’m sure it’s one of my most underrated.

And don’t just go and look at my piece.  Look at everyone’s stuff because it’s all phenomenal.  It’s a great way to remind yourself of all the talent there really is out there, and I’m proud to cohabit the web with them.  Today is the second day of the three day event, so be sure to head over and do some great reading.  You might wind up discovering some new sites, much like I did.

And a big thank you (or perhaps “muchas gracias” is better) to El Gringo, who wrote some very nice comments about the post and the site in his write-up.

Random Factoid #281

5 05 2010

Following a series of linked posts the other day, I wound up at this interesting USA Today article: “What happens to those 3D glasses after Avatar?”

Here’s an excerpt, featuring some pretty astounding statistics:

Laid end-to-end, the 3-D glasses worn by avid Avatar-goers since the blockbuster movie opened 46 days ago would reach from Los Angeles to Angmagssalik, Greenland — about 3,987 miles.

That’s a whole lot of plastic. With about 75% of people who see Avatar seeing it in 3-D, it works out to about 42.1 million pairs of glasses worn, or 935,834 a day.

Four companies provide 3-D systems for showing the wildly popular sci-fi epic in the USA: Dolby Laboratories, IMAX, Real-D and XpanD.

Each has a recycling program in place, for hygiene and to keep what would otherwise be a mountain of plastic out of landfill.

Real-D has the lion’s share of 3-D projection systems in the USA, accounting for at least 700,000 3-D glasses used a day. It distributes cardboard containers so movie-goers can recycle their glasses. According to Real-D’s Rick Heineman, the glasses are shipped to a cleaning facility near Los Angeles, where they’re sanitized, checked for defects, repackaged and shipped out.

Real-D provides the glasses for most of (if not all of) the 3D movies I see.  I must say, their cleaning facility is slacking.  When I went to see “How to Train Your Dragon,” there was a humongous scratch on my lens!  If you know me or have read any factoids, then you can probably guess this did not make me happy.  Eventually, I was able to get past the scratch and enjoy the movie.  But if that scratch had been on the lens during “Clash of the Titans,” I might not have been so kind.

I have a good pair of 3D glasses hanging from the karaoke machine in my room.  Maybe I ought to keep them in my car and take them to all 3D movies I see.  Can’t trust Real-D anymore.