What to watch?

It's New Year's Eve. Josh and I have been looking over the cinema listings to find something we can go watch tomorrow afternoon. If we're hungover and our parents are tired and cranky, it's the best option.

There are 13 films showing at the cinema closest to us. You'd think we'd be able to find something amongst them, wouldn't you? Well, we're struggling. The one film that I really want to see isn't showing until Sunday. That's not so effective for our hungover-cranky-parents-avoidance tactics. Nine of them just don't appeal. The reviews have been terrible, or they're not what I want to watch on New Year's Day with my little brother, or they're part of a series, the preceding six I've not seen. Five of them are in 3D. Now, I'm okay with not wanting to see nine out of 13 films because I'm a vaguely discerning film-goer. But dammit, I am not okay with not being able to see five out of the 13 because they're in 3D.

Call me a grumpy old moo if you wish, but 3D really doesn't do it for me. If you're interested, I'll tell you why. If you're not interested, I'll still tell you why, but you don't have to listen.

Ocular deficiency?

I've several gripes with 3D. I'll start with the most significant one. It gives me a headache. After ten minutes of sitting in front of a 3D projection wearing those ridiculous glasses, my eyes begin to throb and my brain begins to rebel. This is not fun. I do not enjoy this sensation. I go to the cinema for pleasure (even if that pleasure might involve shedding tears, jumping six feet in the air, or laughing so hard my sides hurt), not to get a headache.

I used to think it was just me, but it turns out that it isn't. I'm not alone in the 3D-induced headache phenomenon. Now, I think that film-makers might be missing a trick here. You see, they're actively discouraging me (and quite a few others, it would seem) from going to see films because I find it a physically unpleasant experience. This seems, well, illogical to me. I know that creative types aren't always the most logical of people, but they do want people to go see their films. Deterring people by giving them headaches doesn't strike me as a feasible business-model.

Those ridiculous glasses

Actually, I'm not overly bothered by the aesthetics of 3D glasses. I wear sunglasses practically all year. And if you are worried by the aesthetics of looking like Brains from Thunderbirds, I'll remind you that it's dark in a cinema. What I am bothered by is the principle of 3D glasses. I shouldn't need an accessory in order to see a film. I should just be able to turn up and watch it, just as we have been doing for the past 100+ years. Oh L-rd, the hideous thought of designer 3D glasses has just popped into my brain. Heavens no!

And the photographer in me is bothered by glasses, too. You see, they contribute to a 30% loss in the colour of the picture. Yes, you lose a third of the sharpness of the image with the Gerry Anderson-homage specs. Sorry, but if 3D films are supposed to immerse you in the world of the film, they're missing out on a third of something that I consider important to that feeling of immersion. That sense of immersion can be created just as well with beautiful camera angles, creative lighting, intriguing depth of field, sublime colour, and a tight, well-acted script. If I wanted to get really preachy, I'd come out and say that 3D is detrimental to the art of cinematography, rather than developmental.


The ever-entertaining BBC film critic Mark Kermode despises 3D. If you think I'm ranting here, you should listen to him. He thinks it's a gimmick, a gimmick that film-makers have pulled out of the box of previously-tried and discarded fads in an attempt to combat piracy. Oh yes, 3D isn't new. It's been around since 1890, and it's pushed on the cinema-going public periodically until we get bored of its gimmickiness.

I suppose it is a pretty good anti-piracy measure if people don't want to see films in 3D anyway. And for those who do, I'm sure they'll soon find a way to pirate 3D films.

The Rubik's Cube of cinema

Martin Scorsese loves 3D. I was pretty surprised by that. He says that every shot makes you rethink cinema and that making a film in 3D is like solving a Rubik's Cube. That's fair enough. If you practise a craft, you're always rethinking what you do and how you do it. Whether you're a cinematographer, a photographer, a writer, a musician, an artist, a dancer, it's about always trying to do something better.

But Scorsese has said something else about 3D that I found ludicrous. I'll quote him.

But it has a beauty to it also. People look like… like moving statues. They move like sculpture, as if sculpture is moving in a way.

Are you serious? A moving statue? Give over! In 2D people can look like people. I think I'll stick with that, thanks.

Dressing up

For me, 3D is some ridiculous fashion craze. It's as if a trendy Shoreditch-type was rooting around in her mother's wardrobe and found a 1980s jumpsuit lurking at the very back. In her fashion-forward wisdom, she started to wear it and set a bit of a trend. It was only a bit of a trend, though. We caught on pretty quickly that our mothers had consigned jumpsuits to the backs of their wardrobes because they looked ridiculous and if you're desperate for a pee, getting out of one can be a bit of tribulation. So we put them back where we found them. Of course, our daughters will find them in 20 years' time and the sorry cycle will repeat itself.

Back in its box

Yes, 3D might be worth it for one or two scenes in a few films. But I can't justify those one or two scenes against the headaches, the loss of image quality, and the need for accessories. Right now, 3D isn't at a point that it is discernibly improving the cinema-going experience. Sure, there are 'event' films like Avatar that have people swooning, but in general, 3D still has a long way to go.

I'm really hoping that film-makers will put it back in the dressing-up box. Doubtless our kids will find it and drag it out for a quick spin in twenty years' time. But for now, I can live without it.

Goggle-eyed with:

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