It’s the same thing every time I visit Las Vegas. I like it the first day, and I wanna get the hell out after 36 hours. The nonstop synthetic-ness of everything, the aggressive lighting, the feeling of being trapped, the incessant air-conditioning, the classic rock tunes playing 24/7, the complacent company of fat Middle American tourists dressed in ghastly leisureware and wearing bored expressions, the overcharging for wifi, the miles and miles of hallways inside Caesar’s Palace. I feel strapped to a gurney with my soul dripping out of an IV.
Will I last until Thursday? I guess I should tough it out, but the urge to escape is building big-time. Let’s see how it goes. Update: Eff Thursday — I’ve just booked myself on a Wednesday night flight back to Burbank. I’ll have a nice full day tomorrow (Laser Light Technology, two panel discussions including one with Martin Scorsese and Ang Lee, Sony Pictures presentation) and then I can catch my 8:50 pm flight.
Mixed reaction, not-so-hot buzz, uh-oh, “exhibitors were grumbling,” etc. Most Cinemacon journos reported this story in lockstep. They sniffed the room and asked around, and they weren’t wrong. But they all tweeted the same damn summary or close to it, which suggests they did a lot of talking to each other. As I wrote a few hours ago, the 48 fps 3D Hobbit reel did gave a kind of high-def video, “too real” quality…but it’s also amazing. A huge game changer. Younger viewers are going to go nuts for it, trust me.
The high-impact finale of this morning’s Warner Bros. Cinemacon presentation was the screening of the 48 fps Hobbit footage, of course. But the second biggest hit was some 3D footage from Baz Luhrman‘s The Great Gatsby. I’ve been fearful of this all along, imagining that Luhrman would smother the Fitzgerald novel under the Bazzy bombast. But i what I saw felt curiously alive and its own bird — a high-style reboot of classic Fitzgerald that doesn’t feel (at least during the short time it took to screen) the least bit antiquated or borrowed or strained.
It’s a 1920s recreation that doesn’t try to do anything except make the characters and the story feel “right.”
The footage from Chris Nolan‘s The Dark Knight Rises (7.20) felt like good stuff — moody, bracing, handsome, tightly cut. But the only thing that really stood out for me is that you can hear what Bane is saying now. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp took a bow before an extended Dark Shadows reel. The footage from Adam Shankman‘s Rock Of Ages was exuberant and splashy as far as it went. Director Jay Roach introduced footage from The Campaign, a Congressional campaign comedy costarring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis due in August — cleary a funny package.
For whatever reason WB honcho Jeff Robinov didn’t show footage or trailers or clips or a montage or anything from other 2012 titles like Argo, Magic Mike (why not?), Gangster Squad, Cloud Atlas and Gravity.
The state of cinema as most of us know it changed radically today when 10 minutes of footage from Peter Jackson‘s 48 frames-per-second 3D The Hobbit were shown on the huge Collisseum screen inside Caeser’s Palace today. 48 fps 3D is such a startling and game-changing thing that it’s like the introduction of sound in 1927, CinemaScope in 1953, and high-end 3D with Avatar. I was knocked back in my seat…open-mouthed. This is the most startlingly “real” form of cinema I’ve ever seen, so much so that it isn’t “cinema.” And there’s the rub.
It’s like watching super high-def video, or without that filtered, painterly, brushstroke-y, looking-through-a-window feeling that feature films have delivered since forever. On one level what I saw this morning was fucking fantastic, and on another it removed the artistic scrim or membrane that separates the audience from the performers. Which gave a little feeling of “hmmm.”
The effect is that you’re not really watching a “film.” You’re watching, it seems, high-def video footage that, in an earlier time, might have been shot simultaneously along with the traditionally captured, more cinematic version that would be shown in theatres…or so you would have told yourself as you watched it in 1998 or 2005 or whenever. Except this is now and the high-def, 48 fps footage we saw this morning is it — this is how the movie will actually look.
Forget the windowpane. You’re right there and it’s breathtaking — no strobing, no flickering, pure fluidity and much more density of information. This makes the action scenes seem more realistic because it looks too real to be tricked up, and the CG stuff looks astonishing for the same reason.
Believe it or not but I, Jeffrey Wells, a Peter Jackson and Rings trilogy hater from way back, am looking forward big-time to The Hobbit now. I really am. This is going to be amazing. Shallow Hal that I am, I’m now into it big-time.
In a manner of speaking I was creaming in my pants this morning. This is almost too good, I was half-telling myself. It’s the best 3D I’ve ever seen and probably ever will see in my life. 48 fps 3D is so much easier on your eyes than 24 fps 3D. It was like being on a strange new planet, watching this process. It looks a lot like 60 fps Showscan did way back when. But it’s not “cinema” — it’s the new world. You definitely can’t see this at home. Or at least you won’t be able to for a while yet.
Younger audiences and persons like myself will, I suspect, completely flip over this when The Hobbit opens in December. And I can’t wait to see 48 fps in 2D. In fact, I agree with a statement posted this morning by About.com’s Rebecca Murray that “once audiences get to see The Hobbit screened at the 48 frames per second rate, I can guarantee moviegoers are going to demand all films be presented at 48 fps.”
But because 48 fps 3D is not “cinema” in the pre-4.28-12 sense of the term, some have reacted very negatively to what we saw this morning. Older viewers especially. Guys of a certain age are going to dig in their heels and say “nope, not me, no way…this isn’t a movie …this is live video.” Grain monks are going to have screaming fits. I can hear the rants already: “It’s too CNN! Like a local newcast report with high-def cameras. It’s not dreamy or compositional enough. The worst technical thing that has ever happened to motion pictures! It’s the new Smellovision,” etc.
I disagree. 48 fps is too jolting and breathtaking. I believe that henceforth 48 fps will not just become the norm but we’re going to hear calls for up-rezzing classic 24 fps films to 48 fps. Douglas Trumbull has allegedly done such conversions, and I for one would be highly in favor if they caught on. And yet 48 fps kills that classic filtered, strobing effect that we’ve known all our lives. It’s a shocker, all right, and I’m not sure if the industry as a whole is going to be on my side of this.
But any action or spectacle director henceforth is going to have to use 48 fps, 3D or not. It’s just too astonishing to dismiss.
From AICN’s Moises Chiullan: “I have major reservations, but at the same time am beyond awed at many elements of what hit my visual cortex. Recalling the sweeping landscape shots they opened with now, I almost feel tears welling, and I can’t explain why. It was overwhelming in the most literal sense. It directly assaults your synapses with twice as much information through your retinas as you have become conditioned to expect from traditional cinema. I did not see the digital seams around creatures like Gollum and the trolls, a major benefit over 24fps. The creatures had a sense of mass in the environment, which was disconcerting in a good way.”
Yesterday LexG went hogwild with one of his longing-for creature-comfort tirades and shat all over the trust and respect that I offered in unblocking him a week or two ago. He could climb to the top of the Las Vegas Eiffel Tower and jump off, pulling a detonator string three or four seconds later and blowing himself into several dozen pieces of flesh, guts and bone, and he couldn’t be more dead than he is right now. Mark my words, he’ll never appear on these pages ever again. May God strike me dead with a lightning bolt if I relent again.
I captured what I could of Sacha Baron Cohen‘s visit last night to the Dictator screening at the Rave plex in Las Vegas. You can’t see much but at least you can hear some of the jokes. I’m loading this before it’s fully processed but I have to split in five minutes so that’s all she wrote…for now.
Sacha Baron Cohen and Larry Charles‘ The Dictator (Paramount, 5.16) screened late last night (11:30 pm) to a packed house at Las Vegas’s Rave plex. I was there — alert, laughing, surprised, pleased — along with Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson and Hitfix‘s Drew McWeeny (who drove up from Los Angeles just for this) and several Cinemacon invitees. And the film works — it’s frequently funny and fast-moving and inventive. And it’s not just another Borat-Bruno here-we-go-again yaddah yaddah, which I had feared it might be.
Okay, don’t trust me (I don’t care) but it was clear to yours truly and presumably others last night that (a) The Dictator is much, much better than Bruno, (b) it’s not a victim-punking mockumentary but a ludicrously farcical movie-movie with an arc and character development and a payoff — a personal journey of awakening (“like Eat Pray Love,” as Cohen’s General Admiral Aladeen quips during the last third) that is mostly ridiculous but isn’t dismissable, partly because (c) it has actual political content and a great political third-act speech that for some reason reminded me of a payoff moment in a Preston Sturges film (like Hail the Conquering Hero, perhaps).
And it has a brilliant 9/11 terrorist humor scene — yes, that’s what I said. And it makes superb use of a severed head. And it lampoons Middle Eastern sexist-animal attitudes like no film ever has or likely will again (conservative asshole males in Middle Eastern countries are going to have a problem with The Dictator).
And it has two…okay, two and a half clever and amusing supporting performances that generate their own action. I’m speaking of Ana Faris, playing a kind of romantic straight woman role and delivering the emotional anchors as the manager of a Brooklyn natural-food store (and wearing a mousey little pixie cut with her natural brown hair) who befriends and gradually becomes close to Cohen’s Aladeen, and Jason Mantzoukas as a bearded rocket scientist from Aladeen’s home country of Wadiya who was thought to be executed but wasn’t and emigrated to the US, and who befriends Aladeen as a kind of struggling equal and co-conspirator. The good half-performance come from Ben Kingsley, who is his usual expert self but hasn’t been given enough of a part.
The political speech that I love so much addresses the notion that the U.S. is almost as much of a dictatorship as Wadiya. Cohen explains how and why in ways that Bill Maher has articulated many times, but it’s refreshing and delightful to hear a genuinely truthful and blunt and ballsy observation inserted into a comedy of the absurd.
McWeeny has called The Dictator “the single most degenerate Jerry Lewis film ever made” and “a profoundly dirty movie” and that “there are few lines Cohen does not happily cross in his desire to upset.” Yeah, okay. The Jerry Lewis film I was thinking of was Visit To A Small Planet.
McWeeny notes that the script (by Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer) has “a few big set pieces that are in startlingly bad taste…if you are easily offended…hell, hell, even if you’re not easily offended…chances are Cohen will find the thing you won’t laugh at, and he’ll push that button repeatedly.” Which is the Cohen m.o., right? I think we all know that, and that the shock aspect is the point and so on.
I have to take a shower and get the hell out of here so I can catch the 9:30 am Warner Bros. presentation but The Dictator is, to repeat, a much more satisfying package than anyone anticipated, or so I suspect.
The screening began about a half-hour late due to Paramount publicists holding things up so that Cohen-as-Aladeen, dressed in white military jacket and beard, and four or five Wadiya armed soldiers could enter from the rear and Cohen could do a comedy routine (which he had delivered a few hours earlier at Ceasar’s Palace in front of a big Cinemacon crowd).