• A link to break up my hiatus, due to popular demand: the teaser trailer for James Cameron's Avatar. It doesn't seem like the groundbreaking film many were hoping for, and I can only hope that the cartoonish look comes off much better in 3D, as it did for Beowulf. (4) #
  • A movie to wrap up the two seasons of HBO's Rome is apparently in the works.
    [Series creator Bruno] Heller would not discuss plot ideas, but the original series outline for "Rome" next called for the hedonistic Roman leaders to deal with the rise of a certain problematic rabbi...
    Ray Stevenson, who played the Shaftoe-esque character Pullo, is looking forward to reprising his role. This is by no means guaranteed to happen, but I'm excited. (via Roman Times) (3) #
  • The Millions blog has posted a list of their most anticipated books for 2009 and (so far) 2010. I'm with them on: Dave Eggers's Zeitoun, William Vollmann's Imperial, Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice, and Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, his first novel since The Corrections. (I know, no women writers on my list -- but I am looking forward to whenever Nicole Krauss publishes her next.) (1) #
  • Slate has an excellent five-part article on the backstory behind the Ricci v. DeStafano case that the Supreme Court is expected to rule on this Monday. This is the one about the city of New Haven throwing out a firefighter exam because it would've ended up denying promotion to every African-American that took it, likely a Title VII violation -- and the one that Sonia Sotomayor was criticized for ruling on the side of the city with no explanation. A fascinating article, and one that makes it clear (at least to me) that while the situation was hairy for the plaintiffs, it was a fairly clear-cut case for a circuit court. (Of course, the Supreme Court is a different matter, and has more free reign in overturning precedent.) (16) #
  • Variety:
    There will be 10 best picture nominees starting with the 82nd Oscar ceremony, [scheduled] for March 7, at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.
    My feeling is that this will make room for two types of movies that usually get snubbed: the well-reviewed big action picture, and the too small art film. E.g., last year this new rule may've made room for Iron Man and Frozen River. I like that. On the other hand, it will make Best Picture trivia that much harder. (via aicn) (12) #
  • In celebration of today's 10th anniversary of the release of Sigur Rós's Ágætis byrjun, sigur-ros.co.uk has put up a mini-site with memories, outtake sound clips, and videos. I first heard "Svefn-g-englar" in 2000 and immediately ran to the long-gone Other Music in Harvard Square to pick up an import copy. It completely blew me away in a way that I don't think an album has in its first listen since. If you haven't checked it out yet, now's the time. (4) #
  • Tibor Fischer received a galley of Inherent Vice, the new Thomas Pynchon book coming out this summer:
    The most striking thing about is that if you had handed me the first 30 pages, I would have staked my life I was reading the opening of the new Elmore Leonard.

    The lean, witty lines recounting the exploits of hippy private dick Doc Sportello in Sixties LA (albeit with a nod to Raymond Chandler) absolutely smacks of Leonard and his humorous imagination (how about a crooked Jewish property developer with Nazi biker bodyguards?).
    Will this become the new gateway Pynchon, replacing The Crying of Lot 49? (via omnivoracious) (1) #
  • Tom Goldstein over at SCOTUS Blog predicted nearly two years ago that Sonia Sotomayor would be nominated to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. The same blog also has five or so lengthy posts analyzing the decisions and written opinions of Sotomayor -- here is the first one, the others can be found here. (1) #
  • Very positive review for Punch-Out!!, the just released Wii remake of the Nintendo (NES) classic. Highlights: they've upped the silly ethnic stereotype quotient, added new characters, and after you beat the game and play it again the characters' weaknesses change. (8) #
  • Fantastic:
    (1) #
  • If watching Amanda Palmer from The Dresden Dolls participating in a Lexington High School musical production about Anne Frank inspired by and using the music from Neutral Milk Hotel's classic album "In the Aeroplane over the Sea" is your sort of thing, tune in here at 7:30 PM EST tomorrow on May 8th for a live webcast. (1) #
  • Trailer for Best Worst Movie, a documentary about the fans of and the people involved with the 1990 horror flick, Troll 2. During my high school days, we would often spend our weekend nights renting the worst looking VHS at the local Blockbuster and Troll 2 was probably our favorite, meriting repeat viewings. The existence of this documentary proves that our experience was not unique. (via fimoculous) (5) #
  • Nate at FiveThirtyEight looks at the potential effects on national elections if Texas were to split up into five states, as they are entitled to do per the agreement made when they entered the Union in 1845. Short answer: Democrats would do slightly better in presidential elections, Republicans would do slightly better in the Senate, and the House wouldn't change much at all. (2) #
  • Tone Matrix, a neat Flash-based sequencer. It's easy to whip up a cool loop, although I wish there was a way to save your work besides taking a picture. Even the first one I tried sounded pretty good -- here it is if you want to duplicate:
    (2) #
  • This Sunday is Easter and today is Good Friday, which is a good excuse for me to post some clips from an old favorite of mine, Norman Jewison's 1973 rock-operatic film Jesus Christ Superstar. Here's Judas, complaining about Jesus' popularity, and here's Jesus' final encounter with Pontius Pilate. And of course no JCS post is a complete without a link to the Mr. Show parody of the film: Jeepers Creepers, starring Jack Black. (1) #

Are we in a 3-D bubble?

Regular readers of this blog know that I'm a big proponent of 3-D cinema. Well, Daniel Engber at Slate has written an article criticizing even recent advances of the technology that for the first time has given me pause.

He starts by arguing that even though 3-D technology has improved and there are far fewer complaints of eye soreness than its earlier iterations, there is an inherent issue with viewing 3-D on a flat screen:

Something different happens when you're viewing three-dimensional motion projected onto a flat surface. When a helicopter flies off the screen in Monsters vs. Aliens, our eyeballs rotate inward to follow it, as they would in the real world. Reflexively, our eyes want to make a corresponding change in shape, to shift their plane of focus. If that happened, though, we'd be focusing our eyes somewhere in front of the screen, and the movie itself (which is, after all, projected on the screen) would go a little blurry. So we end up making one eye movement but not the other; the illusion forces our eyes to converge without accommodating.

That movement sustained through an entire feature, he argues, causes eyestrain.

He also makes a point about people who have depth perception disabilities, which I first thought about seriously when I asked a small group of people to see Coraline 3D with me and two of them admitted not being able to fully process 3-D effects.

Five percent to 8 percent of the population is stereoblind and can't convert binocular disparity into depth information. That means they can't appreciate any of the 3-D effects in a RealD or Imax movie. An additional 20 to 30 percent of the population suffers from a lesser form of the deficit, which could diminish the experience of 3-D effects or make them especially uncomfortable to watch.

Certainly it was an issue for the colorblind when color film came about, but they could still watch the movie. But those incapable of viewing 3-D film experience unpleasant effects such as double vision.

And then there's the issue of permanent consequences if we start watching more and more things in 3-D:

[A]udience-members may experience very mild, short-term vision impairment after a movie ends. I won't pretend there's any hard evidence that these transient effects could develop into permanent problems. But if 3-D becomes as widespread as some in the industry claim—every movie in three dimensions, for example, and television programs, too—we'll no doubt have plenty of data...

All good points, although I have to admit that I haven't experienced much unpleasantness myself when seeing movies projected in RealD.

Maybe we'll never get to the point where everything is in 3-D, although I wonder if there are eye issues with holographs. Yet, I still consider myself a 3-D optimist, and I suspect that once the marketing hype of James Cameron's Avater picks up, which should begin fairly soon once a trailer comes out, we're going to see a lot more journalism about the viability of 3-D as a ubiquitous cinematic technology.

Thu, 04/09/2009 - 6:37pm