23 May 2011

Why I Hate the Silver Screen

I don't know why it's taken me so long to come to this conclusion, but I don't like going to movies. Not at all. Now, I love movies, really, really love 'em. Or maybe, better said, I love "film." I love compelling visual narratives that make more sense of life than really exists in live. Great film has shaped my worldview much more than books have. That's how I'm wired. I'm a sensualist.

But movie theaters are a terrible place to see films, or movies. First, I don't know how to have a thoughtful and meditative encounter with a film when I'm sharing it with a couple hundred strangers. It's like reading a book with someone looking over my shoulder. But more basically, I just find theater speakers too loud and the screens too big. I have terrible, fussy eyes. I visually cannot take the whole movie screen in, and I find frenetic action on-screen, especially, to be visually and physically fatiguing. I've never wanted a 50" TV with 200w of surround sound at home. My little computer monitor and headphones are optimal, for me.

Worst of all are 3D movies. They are dim, the colors cold, the contrast low, the glasses uncomfortable, and they give me a headache. And 3D adds nothing to a movie's immersiveness. It's a gimmick to which you, in any case, quickly become habituated. I could go on, but Ebert has already given 3D a good and proper thrashing.

Now, as if I needed another reason to give up on movie theaters, I read today that many theaters are not bothering to change from their 3D to 2D lenses when showing the latter. The result is all the downsides of 3D (up to 85% darker, flat colors, plain ugly) even with 2D. The problem, apparently, is that the Sony 4k digital projectors that many theaters use are extremely tamper-resistant, making the lenses a pain to change. A small misstep and the projector can lock you out, causing logistical nightmares. Since the 3D lenses are of course absolutely necessary for 3D movies, some managers are saying, just leave 'em on.

So if you go to a 2D movie and it seems maddeningly dim, complain and ask for your money back. Hopefully a lot of other people will do the same. Customer contempt really should not be tolerated.

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