Opinion – Why I Don’t Like Digital Film Projection But If You Do I’m Cool With That

Last week I saw the new Kevin James film, Here Comes The Boom and experienced something unprecedented. It wasn’t the film that amazed me (Staple sports film. Predictable, entertaining, worth ticket price.) but the digital projection itself. As the adverts and trailers “rolled” I noticed that the quality of the visuals was abnormally bad. I assumed that this was just a pre-film thing (surely no one would ever screen a film in this bad a quality…) but when the film began I couldn’t help but be distracted by the stupidly pixelated imagery that persisted throughout the entire thing – Kevin James meets Minecraft. Okay, it wasn’t Youtube circa 2006 but it was bad enough that I felt reasonably cheated out of my money.

After the film I brought this up with my friend, thinking it to be a pretty big issue with him too but he was mostly unfazed and claimed to not really notice it that much. After discussing, we came to the conclusion that as the “online generation”, we are so used to streaming and downloading pixelated entertainment from the internet that our tolerance of such things is quite high. But should it be? Especially for something we paid for?

This isn’t my first run in with digital projection either. Twice in the last 15-ish months I have had to postpone seeing two films (Real Steel and Moneyball for those interested) because for one reason or another there were “technical difficulties” with the digital copy of the film or projector itself.

Surely three disgruntlements with digital projections in my many years of cinema-going shouldn’t irritate me enough to write a 700-word article bemoaning the tech though, right? Maybe not, but then I have – so far – had zero bad experiences with a traditionally projected film so moan I shall.

My Here Comes The Boom experience probably isn’t an isolated incident either. There are many money-strapped cinemas in the UK, and whilst I haven’t had the chance to experience all of them it probably wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that there are other projections like this all over the country.

To be clear, I am not saying that all digital projection is bad. However, with great technological advancement comes great responsibility: the same day I saw Here Comes The Boom I saw Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part II on my own (a story for another time) in the same cinema. This was also a digital screening. Breaking Dawn Part II actually spends half of its run-time zooming into things and showing off super high quality detail (because Bella’s a vampire now!) and this second projection was just fine – impressive, actually. So why was there such a huge difference in quality in two screens at the same cinema? Surely there should just be one standard? I paid the same price for both films.

We are constantly harassed by anti-piracy adverts that refute the ever-bettering quality of downloads yet I can go to the cinema and pay for something equally “bad”?*

*- I understand that the point of those adverts is to highlight the illegality of downloading but they rely heavily on promoting the quality of the real product too.

Perhaps the most relevant anti-piracy advert to this argument is the one with the poor fellow who loses his friends for having a mildly bad quality download as a voiceover barks “Don’t be a downloady Brian! Nobody likes the guy with the bad quality illegal DVDs!” This is true, but as the quality of downloaded material increases, the line between the real deal and the ‘knock-off’ is quickly blurring, and if there are enough people in enough cinemas frequently receiving the same quality for something they could have got for free at home cinema could soon be in trouble.

Of course, this argument boils down to speculation and opinion; after all, my friend said he wasn’t that bothered by the quality of Here Comes The Boom and enjoyed the film nonetheless (a variable  in this opinion could be that I paid for his ticket, though). Maybe I only feel this way because I – perhaps ironically – already miss the imperfections, cigarette burns and old feel of real film being projected. Those things were a sign that I was at the cinema: they were experiences I couldn’t get anywhere else. I am all for paying for digital projection if it can maintain a high quality everywhere and have a smaller chance of mishaps, but as it stands, to me the score is at 3-0 to traditional film projection.

How about you? Have you had bad experiences with either type of projection, or do you reckon I am just talking a load of crock? Contribute!

A Few Obligatory Thoughts on the 2012 Oscar Nominations

In case you haven’t been lucky enough to have me mumble at you about the 2012 Oscar nominations in person, I thought I’d share with you some of my gut reactions to this year’s list of films of actor types that may win a fancy gold statue. For the full list of nominees have a look on IMDb, it’ll save me a lot of copying, pasting, and messing around with italics.

Extremely Lame & Poorly Reviewed
Somewhere amongst the nine nominees for Best Motion Picture of the Year is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, the family drama about a young boy searching for the lock to match a key left to him by his father, a victim of 9/11. What makes this film stand out, beyond its terrifying poster, is that it is the worst reviewed film to get nominated for this award for the past 10 years. At the time of writing this potential Oscar winner has just 47% positive reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes with a pretty damning consensus; “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close has a story worth telling, but it deserves better than the treacly and pretentious treatment director Stephen Daldry gives it.”

Albert Who?
Noticing that a film called Albert Nobbs had gathered three nominations I decided to look into it. Turns out that Albert Nobbs is a woman in 19th century Ireland pretending to be a man in order to survive, and is played by Glenn Close. Curious to see what Glenn Close would look like as a man I bravely Googled on.

Thanks Glenn, I didn’t need to sleep tonight anyway.

With Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sadly missing out on a Best Picture nod it’s great to see Gary Oldman getting his first ever Best Actor nomination, and not for his role in Kung Fu Panda 2. In Tinker Oldman ably held together a weighty bit of British cinema and showed hipsters that some people actually wear oversized glasses for medical reasons. What a guy.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Mediocre Biopic
With Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams both getting nominated for Best Actress, it seems that it really doesn’t matter how lukewarm the reaction is to your film so long as you give a scarily accurate portrayal of an icon. In a way it’s reassuring to know that no matter how mediocre the film you’re in, there’s still a chance to act your way above the rest of the film.

It’s exciting enough that the little seen film Beginners might get some free press thanks to Christopher Plummer’s nomination, but the fact that Captain Von Trapp has been nominated for Best Supporting Actor twice out of the last three years is almost too much too handle. Excuse the hyperbole, I’m tired.

Woody’s Back
Woody Allen has another hit on his hands as Midnight in Paris garnered four nominations, and three of them are the kind that people actually care about. Shame I have 45 Woody Allen films to get through before I’m allowed to watch this one.

How Could They Leave Out ________?
For every nomination which warms the cockles of your heart there will be dozens of omissions which are completely outrageous and terribly short-sighted of the academy, only in your humble opinion of course. For me there’s not enough love for Drive and Olivia Colman has been robbed, robbed blind I say! I’m sure you have your own opinions, but how can they be as important as mine?

A Few Surprising Screenplays
The fact that fantastic Iranian film A Separation and delightful silent film The Artist are both nominated for Best Original Screenplay, a category normally filled with English scripts filled with dialogue, shows a fun bit of diverse nominating from the academy. It brings to mind the fact that the only time Buffy was nominated for a Golden Globe for writing was for the almost silent episode Hush. For anyone not sure why I’m rambling about Buffy, why not have a look at what the script for The Artist looks like, you can download it here.

The Difference Between Sound Mixing and Sound Editing is…
The same as the difference between Drive and Moneyball, apparently. These two categories, for Sound Mixing/Editing, have always baffled me and no more so than this year where they share a fourfilmnomineecrossover.

Is the Animated Feature Oscar Just for Kids?
I had a theory that Best Animated Feature only goes to the most accessible end of the animated film genre. With a few “proper” animated films on the shortlist, Chico & Rita and A Cat in Paris among them, I look forward to being proven wrong. The absence of Cars 2 from the list gives me hope.

If nothing else, at least we’ll get to see this fella again (I hope):

2012 Golden Globes Nominations

With awards season truly hotting up we are treated with the nominations for the 2012 Golden Globe Awards. They’re an interesting bunch, a lot of the more challenging and/or smaller films have been passed by. The Los Angles Times has it spot on when they say that the nominations seem to recognise those works featuring the A-list actors, more accessible films and less dark dramas. No Tyrannosaur or Like Crazy to be found below.

What you will find is my gut reaction and my opinions for each category (apart from Best Original Song and Best Original Score as that is not my strong suit) whether you want it or not. Continue reading

Out Now – 25th October 2011

It’s Oscar season! With this being a baseball movie I am at a loss to try to comprehend the plot. What I can say is that this film stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright and Philip Seymour Hoffman and yet none of these are the most exciting cast member, that title belongs to Chris Pratt. Pratt is an amazing comedic actor, keep your eyeballs on him.

The Deep Blue Sea
Sadly not involving hyper-intelligent killer sharks. Instead a poorly reviewed romantic period drama starring Tom Hiddleston and Rachel Weisz.

To quote my rave review (cruelly left off the film’s poster): “In short, a moving and hilarious film about living with cancer. Who knew a Seth Rogan project would almost make me cry?” Fans of indie drama and broad comedy can unite and see who lasts the longest without crying.

My Week with Marilyn
Michelle Williams is Marilyn Monroe! Kenneth Branagh is Sir Laurence Olivier! Emma Watson is some random costume woman called Lucy! Eddie Redmayne is the lead! You know him! He was in an episode of Doctors eight years ago!

Dream House
Rachel Weisz (again) stars in this horror alongside her new husband Daniel Craig. Apparently this is the film where they moved from friends to friends with a serious commitment to one another, so there’s something to look out for if the plot is a little lack-lustre.

Take Shelter (limited release)
In my (mostly) rave review I used phrases like, “infinitely better than Evan Almighty“, “Shannon is brilliant”, “a clever, well told story” and “an enthralling watch and a great showcase for Michael Shannon”. Michael Shannon plays a man who thinks the world is going to end and then it either does or doesn’t. If your local cinema isn’t showing this film, move.

An African Election (limited release)
“An African Election is a political documentary that exposes the never-before-seen, nitty-gritty of political electioneering in Africa.”

Resistance (limited release)
“In 1944 a group of women in an isolated Welsh village wake up to discover all of their husbands have mysteriously vanished.” Oooh a thriller. Shame this will be overshadowed in this over-saturated week of releases. A cast of Iwan Rheon, Michael Sheen and Andrea Riseborough is worth leaving the house for.

We Were Here (limited release)
A moving look at the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco. Sadly only showing at the ICA, why not work it into a trip to see where the Queen lives?

Revenge: A Love Story (limited release)
Quirky romantic comedy in which a man’s girlfriend is raped by a psychotic killer leaving him to seek revenge.

Parked (limited release)
“Fred Daly returns to Ireland with nowhere to live but his car. Then dope-smoking 21-year-old Cathal parks beside him, and brightens up his lonely world. Encouraged by Cathal, Fred meets attractive music teacher Jules. Growing closer, these three outsiders are set on a course that will change their lives forever.” WARNING! The synopsis on the official website includes that most familiar of phrases, “forms an unlikely friendship”.