Raz came over yesterday evening to check out the high def player; one of the films we perused was Batman Begins
. I mentioned that this is a film I feel works better at home than in the theater, which surprised him because I am usually such a strong proponent for theatrical viewing. The reason is that I feel that the tight close-ups and quick cutting of Batman Begins
works better on a smaller screen rather than a larger. In fact, I felt the IMAX presentation was a disaster for this very reason.
Now, I really enjoyed Batman Begins
repeatedly, but it showcases a major problem with theatrical presentations, which is that often enough the films themselves are no longer being made for the large screen. An extreme close-up can be very effective on the big screen ― see: any film by Sergio Leone ― but I believe it is the sort of thing that needs to be used in moderation ― Leone balances his ECUs with much longer shots ― otherwise you get a sensory overload (which was certainly the case with the IMAX presentation).
Similarly, MTV-style quick cutting, while extremely useful at times, is something that can easily generate confusion on a large screen if there isn't enough time for the eye to register the shot composition. This is easy enough to pick up those shapes and patterns on a television monitor, but on a larger screen there is much more surface area for the viewer to peruse.
This is one of the reasons why I feel the most successful IMAX blow-up I've yet seen was Alfonso Cuarón's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
. It is perhaps one of the more cinematic films of recent years, where the cutting is at a leisurely pace and close-ups are eschewed except when called for. At no point did a shot go by in which the viewer having missed the information it contained.
This is yet another by-product of the video explosion, and yet another sign that theatrical presentations will one day, sadly, become a thing of the past. This will effect have a different effect on various films depending on their aesthetic. Dramas will most likely be effected the least; some may even be strengthened by the more intimate venue. Epics and films of the fantastic will become somewhat less so without the visual scope a projected image can afford. Horror and comedy pictures rely most strongly on the communal experience viewing a film in the theater offers (which is why situation comedies have laugh tracks). Action movies can go either way; while Batman Begins
certainly seems to work better on the smaller screen, there are any number of other examples where this is not the case.
It's a shame, because I've always loved the whole ritual involved with going to see a movie. However, dropping standards in film formats (Super 35) and prints (grainy, low contrast prints produced at high-speeds), theatrical presentations (incorrect projection ratios, lousy sound, failing projector bulbs) and audience behavior (many people who go see movies in the theater don't understand that it is not acceptable to act as though they're in their living rooms) have all conspired to cause even a die-hard moviegoer like myself to question whether it's worth the effort in this day and age.
The best presentation I saw all last year was of a 25 year old film
at a venue famed for its presentations. It's pretty sad that one has to go through such lengths to get a film look and sound decent with the plethora of theaters out there to choose from.
- Intrada's release of Bruce Broughton's The Blue and the Gray whetted my appetite for another epic Civil War mini-series; happily, they read my mind over at Varèse Sarabande, and amongst their Soundtrack Club releases Sunday night was Bill Conti's music for North and South!!! This release is yet another dream come true!
- Speaking of Intrada, I received their release of John Addison's score for Swashbuckler yesterday, and was surprised to recognize that part of the main theme was used in the "Zinc Oxide and You" segment of Kentucky Fried Movie. So far, nobody else seems to have noticed this.
- Tadlow will be re-recording El Cid, my favorite Miklós Rózsa score, on March 13 and 14! I'm very excited about this, as Rózsa's own re-recording with the Graunke Symphony is only LP length, and I find the Sedares recording to be somewhat limp and unengaging.
- While Ralph Nader has done much good in the past, it is clear that he has long outlived his usefulness. Not to mention the fact that his ego has expanded to the proportions of a class IV celestial satellite (only one of the many resemblances he now has to the Death Star).
- They have updated the software on our work BlackBerries. The program crashed three times in a row before I could get it to boot properly. Quite an auspicious start. I did notice they changed the name of the thing from "vMobile Lite" to "vMobile NY," possibly to keep me from continuing to refer to it as "vMobile Shite."
- This picture is a follow-up to my previous entry, in which I had posted The Adventures of Thirok, the Straphanging Barbarian™ and is included here for purposes of context:
ROOTIN' TEUTON GUY!