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Dial M for Murder 3D – a review in 2 dimensions

 

The perfect murder?

Dial M for Murder 3D. During what has become my unofficial Hitchcockathon at the British Film Institute this month, I had the chance to watch a restored version of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1950s classic in 3D. Possibly a surprise given my aversion to this technique/technology but with such a legendary film-making figure using it way back when, it proved too tempting to resist. Let’s start with the basics (spoiler alert) of plot: ex-tennis player Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) plots to have his adulterous wife, Margot Wendice (Grace Kelly) killed by blackmailing an old friend from university days, C.A. Swann (Anthony Dawson). The scheme is elaborate and has taken months of planning and preparation. Confident his wife will be killed and that “the perfect murder” will have been committed, Tony’s dastardly plan is foiled when Margot kills the intruder, setting off a chain of events that lead ultimately to his capture.

Hitch wasn’t a huge fan of this film, making it because he was under contract and because another project had fallen through. Whether this influenced his use of 3D or not, I can’t say, but it is used sparingly and sensibly. I was certainly more aware of a lower camera angle to take in things like tables and lamps in the foreground, with the actors further away. And of course there are memorable scenes such as that where Grace Kelly reaches behind her to grasp the scissors. But that aside, we’re not “treated” to particularly staged shots as such and the movie feels very natural. It could well be that in choosing to keep the action 95% in the apartment (it was an adaptation of English playwright Frederick Knott’s successful play) Hitchcock’s hand was forced in minimal use of 3D. From his interviews with Francois Truffaut, we know that he chose not to open-up the film with needless outside shots of people approaching the apartment, or being taken in a police car to the courtroom. In fact there isn’t even a court room for that particular sequence.

With news that ticket sales for 3D films have been declining – presumably in part due to less content – I wanted to re-examine the subject and Dial M was the perfect opportunity. So, where does this leave us with a new but old take on 3D? Well, when it’s used like this, I cannot complain. It is when things start to feel contrived that I have problems and the sense of gimmickry overrides the natural flow or appearance of the film. And post-conversion is of a course a no-no in my book, serving nobody’s best interest. So, what are the motivations for audiences in watching 3D movies and more importantly, what are the motivations for film-makers wanting to use 3D? I remain convinced that viewers do not necessarily expect 3D in all movies and moreover, that entire movies need not be shot this way. If it was good enough for Hitch to use it in only 1 film and even then in very few set-pieces, then I think that speaks volumes. What is also clear, is that sales of 3D televisions are relatively poor. Even those that have sold, have not all been bought purely with 3D in mind – the purchase cycle of simply buying a new and Smart TV will take some credit here. Perhaps consumers just aren’t ready to sit at home and wear glasses for occasions where they are habitually used to not doing so.

This leaves moviemakers and what they want to gain by using 3D. Quite clearly we have the ultimate exemplar in James Cameron’s Avatar and some stunning scenes in Ang Lee’s Oscar

I love you darling & would never have an affair with this chap behind me

winning Life of Pi. However I would argue that one is a good film and one isn’t. In the case of Avatar, we have a (perhaps justifiably) hyped Fern Gully where the effects come thick and fast, but tellingly, is not a good experience in 2D. With Life of Pi, we have a more measured use of the effect and a darned strong film that will still work in 2D due to its superior story. 3D alone will not a good movie make; there simply needs to be substance over style. If Christopher Nolan – who knows a thing or two about making good movies that also make a metric f*ck ton of money – won’t work in digital, let alone 3D, how far can we expect the landscape to change? Martin Scorsese has of course released Hugo and has repeatedly said he is interested in the medium, but appears to have gone no further with it. For a technology that has been around for decades, surely we would have seen literally thousands more features employing three dimensions? We haven’t and what we have had has been generated in fits and starts – a few years where 3D is employed more heavily and then fallow periods where it’s back to usual.

I’ll theorise that when studios have conducted market research over the years and have perhaps asked “what do you want to see more of in movies?” cinema-goers haven’t replied in their droves “oooh, definitely more movies in 3D please”. So why this push over the last few years? I’ll refer to a recent interview with James Cameron where he talked about making 3D movies where you don’t need to wear glasses (which would be a great start) but also in which he talked about his own company pushing that technology into theatres. I think this is perhaps the biggest clue of all: money and James Cameron’s belligerence in using technology from which he stands to make even more of it. There’s just no pleasing some people is there? Don’t forget that the third dimension costs more (of our!) money and is also no guarantee of a great film. I personally don’t want to ban movies in 3D, but at least give me the choice please. And whilst I won’t be betting against James Cameron, I’ll wager we have a good many years ahead of us before he gets his wish.

Getting back to the film that started this verbal meander, I’d like to recommend everyone to watch it – 3D or not. Grace Kelly is as beautiful as she ever was, the story is clever and Hitchcock gives us genuine will he-won’t he? moments, stringing the audience along right to the very end. Measured use of 3D adds a little bit of something to an already great film and if you’re in France, this will be the first time those old enough to watch the original get to see it as the director intended. For some reason, the French theatres at the time couldn’t be bothered to install the necessary equipment spend the necessary money. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that, from the nation that gave birth to cinema.

 

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3D rant

For this, you DO need crappy glasses

No, you don’t need crappy plastic glasses to read this one. I was sat in the pub during the week, watching football in 3D and thinking to myself “this is quite shit”.  OK, shit may be a bit harsh, but it just didn’t do anything for me.  Maybe a little bit of extra depth, but the most notable thing was the Sky Sports logo coming out of the screen. So what’s all the fuss? I ask myself.  Firstly with football and perhaps sport in general, it isn’t filmed in such a way that the ball will come flying towards you as it screams into the goal, or that a tackle is shown heading right for you.  When watching sport, you need a complete picture and that means wider camera angles, further away from the action.  And of course this lessens the impact of 3D viewing.   I wouldn’t say that the experience is a total washout, but just nowhere near what is promised.

3D does have some advantages

However, this did all get me thinking about 3D in general – on TV, at the cinema – and where we’re going with it.  Already there are what I’ll refer to as divisions.  Firstly, we have films such as Avatar and JackAss 3D.  Filmed in 3D and deliberately so, so as to take advantage of the medium these look great and have been designed to maximise the viewing experience.  However, what we also have is films that are adapted 3D; such as Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland.  Whilst I don’t have a problem with this, it seems to me a bit of a cop out and it would also appear that studios and theatre owners have a battle on their hands.  Not that the battle is due to “real” 3d or otherwise, but could we be witnessing more of these conflicts as more and more releases contain 3D?  Quite posibly yes, is my theory.

But as the march towards total 3D continues apace, could there be an even bigger hurdle to overcome for total and utter 3 dimensional domination?  According to this report 12% of Britain is 3D blind, meaning that whatever 3D is dished-up, be it at home or on the big screen, a lot of people will genuinely not care  - far more than I don’t care because I see it as an unnecessary gimmick.  These people won’t be buying the TVs or the DVDs and they sure as hell won’t go to watch the films.  But then, is 3D really anything serious?  Is it the make or break between a good film and a bad film?  I think not.  Whilst Avatar is the highest grossing film of all time, it didn’t win a “proper” Oscar, it just looked great.  Nothing wrong with that of course, but this reviewer has had enough of what is essentially an old technology being stuffed down his throat in all 3 glorious dimensions.

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Gold 4 Macs and the effects of the Global Economic Meltdown

Let’s Agree 2009 kinda sucked!
Since last year, the economy is in shambles which has effected the day to day lives of pretty much for everyone except for the crazies on MTV’s Cribs.

Michael Jackson is no more, the James Cameron Avatar hype has almost died down (with the exception of weekly Box Office updates and if the movies has beaten Titanic or Gone with the Wind) most of the banks have caught their second breath and are running ads on TV like nothing happened in 2009.

( I’m looking at you Barclays…)

But the one thing that has annoyed me the most except Banks trying to be our friends again is the worrying trend of:
People wanting my Gold…

I’m just glad I don’t watch day time TV as you would be bombarded by horrible, cheap looking ads to the point where you start feeling guilty and want to buy gold so you can give it to these companies!
I came across this little mock up video on Geekologie.
Nice tie in to the Ipad launch…

Enjoy!