SOT: Douglas Trumbull on the future of cinema.


farss wrote on 5/4/2012, 3:16 AM
"Perhaps that's because no one has produced a movie lately that has a truly compelling story."

I'm inclined to disagree. I've seen plenty of compelling stories well told.
I got to see them for free and those free screenings would have been the biggest audience they had. They ran for a couple of weeks in a couple of arthouse cinemas and that was the end of them. Of course nothing blows up in them and there's no CGI and no A list talent.

Conversely if I accept what you say, and you may well be right, the question is why not?
I've racked my brain for answers and I cannot find one.


Jay Gladwell wrote on 5/4/2012, 6:31 AM

"But I love the tracking shots (even if they are totally distracting at times)."

What's wrong with this picture?

Jay Gladwell wrote on 5/4/2012, 6:53 AM

"Conversely if I accept what you say, and you may well be right, the question is why not?"

Bob, I'm not sure I have the answer either. If you and I could provide the answer, we'd be rich beyond our wildest dreams!

But I think this thread is a fair indication of the problem, or at least the implied problem--for the most part, our society has become "lazy," and I'll leave it at that.

Another part of it, and this is what I think Kelly and deusx are battling over, is a matter of taste. Here in South Florida we have a great many people from the islands. They have a tendency to paint their house bright garish colors, like bright purple. Would I paint my house purple? Never! Not in a million years. Is it wrong? No. However, it goes against my sense of aesthetics. For example, why do some women who lean toward the side of corpulence insist on wearing clothes that are so tight it makes them look like the Michelin Man? Surely, their mirrors work as well as mine. Can't they see what I'm seeing? If not, why?

One last example, many have written about the Academy Award nominations for best picture of 1939: "Gone With The Wind", "Dark Victory", "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", "Love Affair", "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", "Ninotchka", "Of Mice and Men", "Stagecoach", "The Wizard of Oz", and "Wuthering Heights". Not since then has any one year given us such a collection of great motion pictures. Why?

farss wrote on 5/4/2012, 10:03 PM
"Not since then has any one year given us such a collection of great motion pictures. Why?"

The advent of colour might have something to do with it.
Also of course in 1939 the world was in turmoil, no doubt the desire for entertainment to be pure escapism was strong while others saw a need for profound questions to be explored.
I think the issue today is we are swamped by too many choices, I regularly find myself befuddled by the number of choices and find it more relaxing to choose none.
When asked "which is the greatest movie of all time" I still go back to Bladerunner. It has all that makes for great cinema, a simple story well told that can be as shallow or as deep as you desire.


Jay Gladwell wrote on 5/5/2012, 7:44 AM

Bob, perhaps I misunderstand you. Two questions:

1. Are you suggesting the advent of color had an impact on the quality of motion pictures?

2. Are you suggesting the world is in less turmoil today than it was in 1939?

I agree "Bladerunner" was an outstanding film, but the greatest of all time...? Just last night I watched a documentary titled "These Amazing Shadows" about the formation of the National Film Registry here in the US and how films are selected for the Registry. But it also went into how films impact as well as reflect the times of the society in which they were made (this doc was limited to films made in the US, obviously). One gentleman stated, "Stories bring people together. Theories push them apart." I guess the same could said of opinions. Frankly, I do not think there is one "greatest film of all time", but that's just my opinion. ;o)

PixelStuff wrote on 5/5/2012, 10:09 AM
Jay Gladwell wrote: "Frankly, I do not think there is one "greatest film of all time", but that's just my opinion."

Exactly. There have actually been twelve greatest films of all time.

(in no particular order)

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
The Matrix
Deep Impact
I Robot
Star Wars
Iron Man
Star Dust
Real Steel
Lord of the Rings
The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Chienworks wrote on 5/5/2012, 11:44 AM
I haven't seen all of those, but i can tell you that your list actually contains a few of the absolute worst movies ever made! ;)
Rob Franks wrote on 5/5/2012, 12:11 PM
"a compelling story, well told, will create the demand for the product"

Sorry... don't mean this as an insult, but don't you think that's a pretty narrow point of view?

While it's true we all enjoy a well told story, there are many ways of telling a story. Mix that with the idea that movies are SUPPOSED to be entertainment and what you have is an open door on as many different methods and ways of story telling as one can imagine. That would include such things as size, dimensions, effects, thundering 5.1 and 7.1 sound... etc

Was 12 Angry Men a great film which needed nothing in order to be great? Sure it was, but that doesn't make it the ONLY great way to create/tell a movie

The job at hand is ENTERTAINMENT. Sometimes JUST a good story works.... sometimes more is needed/wanted. Whatever the case may be at the end of the day the most important question is;

Was it entertaining (and not necessarily was it a good story).
JJKizak wrote on 5/5/2012, 1:41 PM
Well you can't beat the dialog in "Two Lane Blacktop".
"Shane" and "Sound Of Music" are two of my favorites.
arenel wrote on 5/5/2012, 2:11 PM
I am pretty much with Bob, Jay, and Chienworks. As a geezer who worked in the small pond of underwater filming (in the giant oceans,) I went to many UW film festivals and presented at a few. California kelp beds offer beautiful wide shots of the sun streaming down through the fronds, but the California Sea Otter makes its living there by finding a suitable rock and pounding a hole in the abalone's shell thereby acquiring a tasty meal.

I watched "Philadelphia Story," with Tom Hanks last night. That was a good story, well acted. Twenty years haven't hurt it much. Interpersonal and interspecies conflict are the storylines that generally interest me. We haven't told them all yet! I am not much interested in investing time in the "Transformers." I am betting that there might be better stories on TV.

PixelStuff wrote on 5/5/2012, 3:04 PM
arenel wrote: "Interpersonal and interspecies conflict are the storylines that generally interest me. ... ... I am not much interested in investing time in the "Transformers"."

Lots of inter-species conflict going on in Transformers. I can't imagine why you wouldn't be interested. ;-)
arenel wrote on 5/5/2012, 4:15 PM
Perhaps I made a premature judgement about the "Transformers" but the trailers that I saw were devoid of any thing that made me feel any sense of empathy.. Did I miss something?

farss wrote on 5/5/2012, 5:34 PM
1. Not directly, I mean color films and B&W films can be good, great or bad. I'm suggesting that the advent of color impacts how we respond to the image. I was quite taken aback by the very high quality stills that recently came to light of pre WWII Nazi Germany. My impression of those events changed dramatically.

Taking that on board I'm suggesting the movie makers realised they had a new tool to deal with and shifted the way movies were made.

2. It's all relative. Sure the world in still in turmoil but we haven't just come out of The Great Depression, almost recovered from WWI and then into WWII.

Neither of those are hard opinions, I'm really just offering best guesses.

"Frankly, I do not think there is one "greatest film of all time", but that's just my opinion"

Of course not, there's no greatest song, painting, novel or even bridge. On the last I favour the Brooklyn Bridge myself :)

Reason I mentioned that one film is because it pretty well contains all the elements of cinema today i.e. violence, CGI, digital painting, massive soundtrack etc but it still has a good story that is built on a simple concept that asks a profound question "what does it mean to be human". In other words you can today make a movie that will put bums on seats and do more than just entertain. I agree with others here, there are other current generation movies such as 'I Robot' that do well but that story is quite old. Personally I'm a fan of the old expressionist films but grainy, silent, B&W doesn't put bums on seats.

One gentleman stated, "Stories bring people together. Theories push them apart."

One of the best screenings of my life did exactly something like that. It got pretty close to a major punch up. The movie was "Land Without Bread". The line "as we approached the village we were greeted by a choir of cretins" is today, well, understandable that some will laugh. An equally small PC group in the cinema took extreme offense at the laughter, yikes!

Jay Gladwell wrote on 5/5/2012, 6:31 PM

"[i]Personally I'm a fan of the old expressionist films but grainy, silent, B&W doesn't put bums on seats.{/i]"

And what a shame that is! They don't know what they're missing, in my opinion. ;o)

Recently re-watched Hitchcock's B&W "Rebecca" beautifully shot by George Barnes, a truly wonderful cinematographer. When black & white is done right, it's hard to beat.

farss wrote on 5/5/2012, 7:05 PM
"They don't know what they're missing"

That might be more relevant than you think. We seem to have a generation that lives in fear of missing something. That extends beyond cinema, just look at the popularity of extreme sports.

Anyways I'd better stop typing, I've got to get ready to shoot an event that's part of a local celebration of the life of Rabindranath Tagore.

Jay Gladwell wrote on 5/5/2012, 7:15 PM

"We seem to have a generation that lives in fear of missing something."

Yes, and therein lies the irony!

Rabindranath Tagore... learned something new. Thanks, Bob.

PixelStuff wrote on 5/5/2012, 9:40 PM
arenel wrote: Perhaps I made a premature judgement about the "Transformers" but the trailers that I saw were devoid of any thing that made me feel any sense of empathy.. Did I miss something?

If by empathy you mean wish you could be in their shoes or be along side them, or perhaps be glad you aren't in their shoes, then there was enough character development there for me to get that. In a technical sense the lighting, pacing, and feel of the movie were near perfect. Transformers might be Michael Bay's greatest film.

Then he went of the deep end and shot Transformers 2.
deusx wrote on 5/6/2012, 6:53 AM
>>>>Transformers might be Michael Bay's greatest film>>>

That's like zookepers saying: "The feces our chimps threw at us today were the best yet."

Seriously, Transformers is just noise, it's not even a movie. It has no real story, no logic or any sense to it. It' just loud nonsense. Have a naighbor's kid kick you in the testicles while you bang your head against a bus, just as much fun as watching Transformers.

Star Wars is garbage too. Even George Lucas' fans turned against him after these last few, and he's weaseling out by saying how Star Wars was always meant for kids. Transformers and Star Wars are an insult to any sci-fi fan who knows what sci-fi is. Sci-fi comes from the story, not clothes, weapons or vehicles used to transport people in the movie. Rebels against bad guys + a love story thrown in is not sci-fi just because you claim it happens in a galaxy far, far away and/or add a couple of cute robots and a 7 foot tall terrier.

Alien and 2001, those would be sci-fi. And only the first Alien of course. The others were garbage. The first Matrix was good, sequels were obviously just milking it for $$$$$$$ and had no real ideas to add.

Alien doesn't speak English like Luke Skywalker or Darth Wader. Doesn't engage in diplomacy ( he doesn't even know what that is 'cause he is a f&%$ing Alien ) or macho posturing like aliens in Star Trek or Star Wars.
Chienworks wrote on 5/6/2012, 7:25 AM
Ahhhh, you're completely backwards there. Star Wars was excellent sci-fi and a lot of fun. The Matrix (yes, even the first one) was some of the purest, most unadulterated trash ever produced. It violated all the rules of good sci-fi and was completely worthless, just an excuse to put as much violence on the screen as possible while trying to wrap it in a useless, pointless, self-contradictory story with an infantile plot. I couldn't even finish watching it.

See? It's all a matter of taste. Yours is different from others. Deal with it.
deusx wrote on 5/6/2012, 7:33 AM
It's not a matter of taste. You are simply wrong.

Sci-fi where everybody looks just like us, speaks english, same social hierarchy, diplomacy, love, hate. What the hell is alien or sci-fi about that? I can't talk about the story as there is none in Star Wars, at least not one that anybody over 9 should be discussing.

I agree that the last 30 minutes of slow motion, Armani, Prada wearing, we so awesomely cool in slow-mo violence in Matrix was crap, but the idea and the rest of the movie was OK. It was a good movie for what it was.

>>>>Well you can't beat the dialog in "Two Lane Blacktop".<<<

Jeff Daniels in the Squid and the Whale probably could
AtomicGreymon wrote on 5/6/2012, 8:05 AM
I'll watch a movie on a mobile device in a pinch, if I'm sitting on a train or in an airplane (assuming the inflight movie doesn't agree with me) with nothing better to do.

But I simply can't understand how people can regularly use such devices in order to watch film and television content when better options are both easily available and easily affordable. Not that long ago I was spending time with some friends, and eventually it was decided to put on a movie (any movie, really; just for something to do to kill the time). There was a perfectly good (not great, but acceptable) 42" HDTV with a Blu-Ray player in the room, but instead the host whipped out a cheapo $450 laptop from Best Buy, browsed to a pirate movie site and started up a camcorder-filmed bootleg of a movie currently in the theatres.

The legal and ethical issues of the choice of content completely aside, I honestly felt like asking "what in the name of god are you thinking? There's a bloody full-sized TV in the room with a blu-ray player, and you're crowding 5 people on a couch around a laptop sitting on a coffee table... a laptop with a low-quality, narrow viewing-angle LCD panel... to watch a camcorder filmed recording of another screen?!?!?!"

I found the whole situation so depressing, the picture of everyone squeezed around that bloody laptop, I eventually went out to the kitchen and had a drink just to get away from it. If that's the future, then save me now. That wasn't a case of "good enough" vs. a videophile's viewing preferences. I don't consider myself a videophile, and in no way was that viewing experience "good enough".

I fully understand the appeal of mobile viewing in those situations in which it's appropriate, but that's all. I see no reason why I should give up the quality of a (well-projected) theatre experience using equipment I simply cannot afford to buy for home use. Nor do I see any reason to view things on mobile devices in a home setting when large-format TVs are a better choice and nearly ubiquitous at this point. Why choose at all, when you can have both quality and convenience; each in their place? I routinely go see movies at the theatre... and if I enjoy it, then I'll buy it on Blu-Ray. If I want to watch it on-the-go (which is rare for me, but sometimes I will), then I'll either use the digital copy that came with the Blu-Ray or (if it didn't include one) I'll rip it and make my own. There's no reason to give up quality for convenience, or vice versa. Have both!
riredale wrote on 5/6/2012, 1:42 PM
Heh--this thread has morphed into an interesting discussion of "best" and "worst" movies.

To me, the best movies are the ones that I want to see multiple times, perhaps because they are technically brilliant and/or they deliver a strong emotional response from me. I also enjoy certain soundtracks. For example, while I could never sit through a complete showing of The Dark Knight (really bad people, things blowing up, dark scenes, unrealistic physics--okay, I get it), Zimmer's score is wonderful--give me a day or two with that soundtrack on a Vegas timeline and I could deliver a 4 or 5 movement symphony that could hold its own against the traditional classical composers.

Shifting gears completely for a moment, I was lucky to be a member of several committees when HDTV basics were being nailed down. The aspect ratio question was largely handled by NHK in Japan, who developed the first practical HDTV systems. They did a pretty good audience study and discovered that the preferred aspect ratio was about 5:3 (15:9) which is why they tooled their CRTs and cameras for that shape originally. Then Dr. Kerns Powers, a friend at Sarnoff Labs in Princeton and a giant in the industry, proposed 16:9 in a paper as being more compatible with a variety of production shapes. In reality we all knew the non-Japanese technocrats were desperate to slow down the oncoming Japanese technology train (Sony, NHK, Matsushita, Toshiba) and give the American and European companies a chance to catch up. The 16:9 ratio was one of those ploys ("square pixels" was another). It worked, though what ultimately derailed NHK was the development of MPEG2 (mostly in the US), now the standard compression mechanism for a then-new technology called "DVD."

EDIT: One more thing. To me, Sci-Fi is really hokey, because the movies cheat so much on the physics. Yeah, you can imagine going 5x the speed of light, but that doesn't mean you can really DO it. So if we cheat there, then hey let's cheat a bit more and say we can go a bazillion times the speed of light; why not?

And there is no sound in space. Sound on board the craft, sure, but not outside. So the unrealism blows it for me. Star Wars Speeders zooming by, complete with doppler effects? What a crock.
Chienworks wrote on 5/6/2012, 2:28 PM
Deusx, sorry, you're still way off base.

Sci-fi, according to the grand master Asimov, is changing a parameter of the world to something that probably couldn't happen, and then writing an engaging story in line with that change.

There's no need for aliens or space or futuristic. It's exploring an altered universe, that's all. It could take place in current day Fort Worth, or back in a colonial setting, or 6 years from now when congress is debating the consequences of some new (fictional) invention. Your desire for aliens and such is merely a matter of YOUR taste. Yet, again, you're trying to force your personal taste upon the rest of the masses whether it's their preference or not.

Perhaps you're just not understanding what "personal taste" means?

And how sad that you seem to have missed the romance, action, struggle, and heroism of Star Wars. Such a pity.
deusx wrote on 5/6/2012, 8:46 PM
And I have to repeat once again: Star Wars does none of that. There is no alternate universe or anything. Those are just regular people speaking English following the same story you could have read 1000 times since biblical times.

The only thing Lucas did was apply some makeup to some of them, added some effects and told us it was all happening in a galaxy far, far away.

Dressing up Jersey shore guys in funny outfits and adding some effects wouldn't make it sci-fi, would it?
That is basically what Lucas did. Same old recycled story dumbed down for 9 year olds, sprinkle on some effects and call it sci-fi. Come on, let's be serious here.

The only reason I mention aliens is because we are discussing Star Wars and they are supposed to be Aliens from a galaxy far, far away.

Andromeda Strain is sci-fi and it has no aliens ( unless the bug itself is an alien ).

Star Wars not being sci-fi is a fact. It's your usual good guys vs. bad guys + save the princess nonsense with makeup and effects added.