Saturday, March 3, 2007

I Wouldn't Pay Those Taxi Drivers Either

While blogs are, ostensibly, an excellent way to keep track of personal data, upload photographs, exchange news, declare enlightened opinions and so forth, everybody knows that they were originally created for one lone reason: ranting. In keeping with the time honored tradition I am creating a label (“Shameless Rants”) where I can restrict my raving and foaming of the mouth. Readers should fill free to skip or indulge in a shared gripe. And now my first entry:

So many special effects seem dated within ten years of the film they were made in (or even when they were made), but none ever lasted so long, was used so much and is so obtrusive to witness as rear-projection backgrounds to give the "illusion" that vehicles are moving. It’s not just that everyone notices how fake the second layer looks, the problem is we can't concentrate on anything else.

When a movie uses a background that is moving out-of-sync with the foreground, projecting actual locations behind laughably obvious studio props or inconsistently matching the lighting, focus and angle, the audience can’t help but have their eyes affronted, their mind distracted and their mood disintegrated. If anyone in old movies ever wore their seatbelts there might at least be some excuse for how come nobody is experiencing the bumps and turns. Maybe the lack of any real travel explains why movie protagonists never pay for taxis when they get out.

We have rear-projection to thank for spoiling the suspended disbelief of countless chases, car-ride conversations, sailing excursions and plane trips. Even some of Hollywood’s greatest directors, such as Alfred Hitchcock, fell victim again and again.

In the 1930's rear-projection actually won an award for best technical achievement and in its day it probably merited the excitement. If only we could have abandoned it sooner. Credit goes out to directors like Lars von Trier in "Zentropa" who managed to successfully revive the effect for his own artistically self-conscious purposes.

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