In this morning’s roundup of movie news ‘n’ notes from around the web, “The Last Airbender” is only the next example of a horrifying trend: really, really bad 3D.
Here we go again. It’s not that the critics all hate M. Night Shyamalan’s new movie – though they all do, pretty much – but that we’re back to the refrain we heard over and over back when “Clash of the Titans” came out.
I’ll let Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly sum it up: “As for the 3D, I'm tempted to leave responsible critical language behind and say, quite simply, that it sucks.”
And that’s only the beginning. A.O.Scott, the New York Times: “The long-winded explanations and clumsy performances are made worse by graceless effects and a last-minute 3D conversion that wrecks whatever visual grace or beauty might have been there. The movie is so dim and fuzzy that you might mistake your disposable 3D glasses for someone else’s prescription shades.”
Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times: “[I]t's a disaster even if you like 3D. M. Night Shyamalan's retrofit produces the drabbest, darkest, dingiest movie of any sort I've seen in years … It's a known fact that 3D causes a measurable decrease in perceived brightness, but ‘Airbender’ looks like it was filmed with a dirty sheet over the lens.”
Devin Farachi, Chud.com: “[T]he film's colors are constantly muted, and two major nighttime action scenes become indistinct. It's like watching a film through... well, a film. But a film of grime. It's a pain in the ass … [F]rom a consumer point of view, post-conversion 3D is once again showing itself to be a terrible scam.”
Christy Lemire, The Associated Press:"‘The Last Airbender’ often has a smudged and blurry look about it, as if there's some kind of schmutz on your clunky plastic glasses.”
It goes on like that for a while, with critics tossing around phrases like “avoid the 3D version like the bubonic plague” (Dustin Putman), “Really, I’ve got winking-Jesus postcards that look better” (Ty Burr, the Boston Globe) and “If anything, this conversion is worse than ‘Clash of the Titans’" (Kirk Honeycutt). The film is now at six percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes. Can even Armond White dare to praise it at this point?
Enough of that; perhaps we should turn to movies that look good for a change. The American Society of Cinematographers conducts a poll of subscribers to its American Cinematographer magazine to determine the best-shot films from 1998 to 2008, and the French film “Amelie” (shot by Bruno Delbonnel) tops the list, followed by “Children of Men” (Emmanuel Lubezki), “Saving Private Ryan” (Janusz Kaminski), “There Will Be Blood” (Robert Elswit) and “No Country for Old Men” (Roger Deakins). The rest of the top five: “Fight Club,” “The Dark Knight,” “Road to Perdition,” “City of God” and “American Beauty.” Just missing the top 10 is “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” which certainly would have been high on my list. Kris Tapley argues for “Assassination” as well, along with “The Thin Red Line,” while Jeff Wells thinks one of those two films, or “Zodiac,” should have replaced “Fight Club.” (American Society of Cinematographers)
John Horn looks at the troubled road to “Love Ranch,” which director Taylor Hackford had to rescue “from the rubble of unpaid bills, bankruptcy and litigation.” The tangled tale involves a small production and tiny promotion budget, the problematic participation of embattled financier David Bergstein, and finally a foreclosure that actually helped get Hackford the money he needed to finish the shelved film. Welcome to the world of independent cinema, circa 2010. (Los Angeles Times)
Greg Toppo finds four upcoming documentaries dealing with public education – and since four examples equals a trend, he writes a trend piece about how school reform “has gone mainstream,” and how that’s being reflected in the films “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” “Teached,” “The Cartel” and “The Lottery.” (USA Today)