Read Good Shit On Musings
I didn’t expect to spend Thanksgiving Weekend 2018 watching ten 3D movies: marathon viewing is not my favorite experience in general, and I haven’t spent years longing to see, say, Friday the 13th Part III, in 35mm. But a friend was visiting, from Toronto, to take advantage of this opportunity, an impressive level of dedication that seemed like something to emulate, and it’s not like I had anything better to do, so I tagged along. Said friend, Blake Williams, is an experimental filmmaker and 3D expert, a subject to which he’s devoted years of graduate research and the bulk of his movies (see Prototype if it comes to a city near you!); if I was going to choose the arbitrary age of 32 to finally take 3D seriously, I couldn’t have a better Virgil to explain what I was seeing on a technical level. My thanks to him (for getting me out there) and to the Quad Cinema for being my holiday weekend host; it was probably the best possible use of my time.
[Note: This essay is the first in a two-part series on 3D. Part 2, coming soon, will discuss the unexpected peak of 3D as an artistic form. —ed.]
It’s not fair to say that James Cameron ruined projection standards by pushing for a digital changeover—the industry impetus was already under way—but Avatar left less of an impression as a movie than as technological advocacy, resulting in unintended, still-lingering side effects. Cameron dreamed of 3D cinema arriving, finally, at what he viewed as its overdue narrative fruition; he couldn’t have imagined compromising projection standards or undermining film archiving in the process. This is a two-part essay: The first is a grim recap of the Third Wave of 3D, which has unfolded over the last decade. The second will advocate for a secret classic of 3D cinema at its inadvertently experimental peak.
You don’t find it; it finds you, most likely in the dead of night.
You can’t sleep, you may or may not be on drugs (you don’t have to be, though it’d be a lot cooler, as they say, if you were), and you’re clicking around the weirder back channels of YouTube again. You pinball from ‘80s-era NASA test footage to “36 NEW SHOWS FROM THE HELLISH MID-SEASON TV OF 1979” to the deep catalog of VHS oddities discovered and uploaded by a dedicated corps of obsolescence fetishists. It’s here, among the creepy camcorder detritus and lost video-dating profiles, that “Electric Light Voyage” has been waiting for you.