Monday, January 04, 2010

January 4, 2010
Took in a slew of movies over the holidays, including Up In The Air, Cinema Paradiso (thanks Steve Peroni), The making of Stagecoach (thanks Brad and Grandma Betty), Two Lovers (thanks Blockbuster) and It's Complicated, And, of course, the game changer: Avatar, which is so much a Western it's not even funny.

He breaks a bronc, only this time it's a quasi-dragon, he is accepted into the tribe, a la Dances With Wolves. There's a huge battle with horse riding natives.

As mentioned in the New York Times yesterday, the movie makes a heavy-handed point that technology is bad, which is quite ironic considering the army of technicians who made this juggernaut of a 3D wonder, then unleashed it around the world with the latest techno-software-pipeline distribution system (the movie just broke a billion dollars worldwide this past weekend and $28 of our dinero is in the kitty).

We saw it in 3D Imax. We went early on Saturday to Desert Ridge and the first showing at 11 was sold out. We asked for the 3:15 showing and the kid told us, "We have five seats left." We took 'em, got in line early and fought our way in to the box with the 3D glasses in it being held by an usher, only they aren't called ushers anymore, are they? Floor flushers? Popcorn bag extractors?

To think that 3D failed so miserably the first time around ( a half century ago!). Remember the famous Life magazine photo of the theater full of people in baggy clothes wearing goofy looking paper glasses? Well, they're plastic now, but just as goofy looking. And, hey, the baggy clothes look is back in style as well.

The look of the movie is spectacular, of course. Things in the foreground come clear off the screen and right into your lap, and, about half way in, you hardly notice anymore, until a firefight when a cruise missile comes straight out into your face and you wince like a playground kid in a rock fight.

But the techno advance I am the most intrigued by is, you guessed it, the word balloons. Or, in this case, the translation subtitles. Normally, when someone speaks a foreign language, a long line of type, usually reversed out in white, appears along the bottom of the screen. This presents a problem when two people are talking at the same time. This is handled by a line of dialogue with a space, or, sometimes a rule separates them. In Avatar, James Cameron, has utilized a floating type font (way too fancy for my tastes—it's what we call a Showing-Off-Type-Face) which appears in front of the character talking. Picture a huge scene with hundreds of Lakota, I mean Near-has, or whatever they're called, and the hero says something. The translation appears just in front of him, taking up a tiny, but very specific portion of the screen, so that we know it's him talking. It's amazing and still kind of clumsy, or antiquated. But that's just me obsessing about how to handle word balloons. Ha.

As I told the Top Secret Writer, Cameron has been working on the Avatar project for four years and when he started he didn't have the cameras needed to pull it off so he invented them. Meanwhile, we have been working on Mickey Free for about the same amount of time. One of these days I intend to solve the word balloon problem, not to mention perhaps even storyboarding the damn thing. Well, "It's a new day" (and a new decade) as the Apache Kid might say (and does).

Gee, I wonder what ol' McGinnis has to say about this?

"Imagination was given to us to compensate for what we are not; a sense of humor was given to us to console us for what we are."
—Mark McGinnis

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