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Why I Think Roger Ebert Is Obsolete (and You Should Too)

Accept it, sir: 3D is here to stay

Roger Ebert just wrote an op-ed piece for Newsweek that blew my mind.

I am forced to write yet another post to attempt some sort of counter-balance to his blatant obsolescence (as he is obviously not ignorant to the facts any longer).

Not only has he not learned from "Avatar" and the optimism 3D has given Hollywood, he has retreated further back into his world. He has blasted yet another salvo at, well, basically the world, now that practically everyone has been to Pandora and now owns it on disc.

Take this excerpt, for example: "3D is a waste of a perfectly good dimension. Hollywood’s current crazy stampede toward it is suicidal. It adds nothing essential to the moviegoing experience. For some, it is an annoying distraction. For others, it creates nausea and headaches. It is driven largely to sell expensive projection equipment and add a $5 to $7.50 surcharge on already expensive movie tickets. Its image is noticeably darker than standard 2D. It is unsuitable for grown-up films of any seriousness. It limits the freedom of directors to make films as they choose. For moviegoers in the PG-13 and R ranges, it only rarely provides an experience worth paying a premium for."

Stunning, isn’t it? 3D adds nothing essential. Interesting. I guess we should all poke out our left eye now, shouldn’t we? We don’t need to see in stereo.

He alludes to distraction, yet for most people, five minutes into watching "Avatar," you forget you are wearing glasses at all. Nausea and headaches? Again he is shooting off fear, uncertainty and doubt by talking about BAD 3D — like "Clash of the Titans" and/or the statistically very small number of people who literally can’t see it effectively.

Yes, the business side of Hollywood is enjoying more revenue to offset the development and future of 3D — but we live in a capitalist world driven by supply and demand. The market will set the price. Do you think people would flock to theaters at $50 a pop? I think not. 3D is darker than 2D — yes, so? If directors pay attention to this, it does not matter — Cameron paid attention with "Avatar" and hence no lighting issues. Get over it. 3D is unsuitable for grown-up films, he says. If anyone cares to enlighten me on what he means here, by all means do so! Dramas? Art films? What?

In other words, if you have something serious to say to me, Mr. Ebert, you had better shut one eye. What a joke. In fact, you should be winking when you say these things, Mr. Ebert, because it sounds like you are completely in jest.

Lastly, he says 3D limits the freedom directors have to make movies. To this I have to say: Hogwash. Directors are limited to making movies with sound nowadays, aren’t they? Dolby sound? With color? Oh, the humanity, to be forced into making a movie that actually draws our audience closer to the storyteller! To be fully engaged and engrossed. What a pity to force 3D upon ourselves.

His arguments against 3D are baseless and he knows it. So what is his motivation to broadside 3D like this? Self-promotion? Ego? How dare Hollywood do something like this without consulting with me? Someone paying him to say these things? Only Ebert can answer these questions.

Surely it has nothing to do with his opinion, does it? Hmmm. Perhaps it does. Perhaps obsolescence is upon Mr. Ebert finally. In fact, I know it is. And he knows I know.

Who am I to criticize one of the greatest movie critics of all time? I have done it before, if you recall. Clearly Roger Ebert fits the description of a great critic, if not the de facto standard. He has entertained and informed movie fans since 1967 when he first set up his typewriter for the Chicago Sun-Times. Ebert’s movie advice has been, for the most part, excellent. Logic and an innate blend of artistic criticism and empathy for the public audience has set him apart from the now massive vault of available online movie pundits.

And I clearly fall into the last category. I am just a simple movie blogger who happens to love and embrace stereoscopic 3D. I am clearly biased and invested in the new industry. So what makes me think that I should challenge the man? Because he is wrong. Dead wrong.

The downfall of Ebert lies in his luminous past. He is so entrenched in his rich history of Hollywood that he cannot move a limb toward its future. Quicksand of the mind, if you will. The more he moves toward wanting to understand and enjoy 3D, the deeper he recedes into his opinion. Perhaps the first ill-conceived opinion of his life.

Unfortunately for him, the world has embraced 3D — not meekly or as a generational blip, but a full-blown revolution in filmmaking. Whether he sees this embrace is unknown to me. At least he recognizes the accomplishment of "Avatar."

Ebert tries the trusted old trick of misdirection when he actually strays WAY off topic to bring up faster frame rates as being the technology we need now rather than 3D. Yes, I agree, faster frame rates would be awesome! WITH 3D!! The two are independent thoughts, my fellow movie critic.

What upsets me the most, other than the influence he has on the movie going public, is that Mr. Ebert is artificially bringing directors on his side. Another excerpt: "Having shot ‘Dial M for Murder’ in 3D, Alfred Hitchcock was so displeased by the result that he released it in 2D at its New York opening." Mr. Ebert. Stop trying to confuse your readers! It is pathetic. Hitchcock used old-school 3D, NOT modern 3D. They are so vastly different. And YOU know it.

Moreover, he said: "I once said I might become reconciled to 3D if a director like Martin Scorsese ever used the format. I thought I was safe." Wrong again, Mr. Ebert. Even his admitted hero, Werner Herzog, is shooting a 3D movie about prehistoric cave paintings in France!

Yet he freely admits all of this! He knows he is one of the last few influential people speaking out against 3D and you can tell he feels his back against the wall. Even his much-loved directors are leaving him squirming.

Of course, he can take solace in the fact that Michael Bay is still on his side. *snicker* And do you really think the studios can force a man like Scorsese or Herzog into shooting 3D? Seriously, think about it.

Look. The time has come to admit that you were wrong, Mr. Ebert, and move on. It is only going to get worse for you. In the coming years, 3D will be improving by leaps and bounds due to a number of factors: Technology is improving every day ("Tron: Legacy" and "Avatar 2" will make huge strides yet again); 3D film crew expertise is growing exponentially; 3D is getting cheaper to shoot and convert; and more and more independents soon will be involved.

If Roger Ebert refuses to acknowledge that Hollywood is on the cusp of something magnificent and not "suicide," then surely the man is now obsolete. It pains me to say this yet again, but it is so true.

Time to retire and enjoy the spoils of your career, Mr. Ebert.

Look at it this way, folks, at least there will be one more aisle seat available for someone who cares.
 

BIO

 Jim Dorey is the creator and editor of MarketSaw.com, a site focused on 3D movies and technology. Jim has been featured in many media outlets such as Wired, Slate and Computer Graphics World, helping to bring the viewing public closer to what is the modern 3D experience. Endorsed by leading companies such as RealD and widely read by industry visionaries and the general public, Mr. Dorey is in a unique position to evangelise stereoscopic 3D and to ensure its continued success.

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