John C. Kirk (johnckirk) wrote,
John C. Kirk


I've been working fairly long hours lately, between my job and SJA, so tonight I had an evening off. That's partly because I needed to go to Tottenham Court Road in search of a wireless antenna (which none of the shops actually had), but anyway...

When I got back to Croydon, I stopped off at the cinema to watch "The 40 year old virgin", which I enjoyed. It made me laugh, and it also had a decent story, with characters rather than caricatures. It was a pretty solid cast, particularly Paul Rudd, who played Mike in "Friends", and reminds me a lot of John Cusack. Actually, a couple of the actresses also looked really familiar, although now that I've checked the IMDB page it turns out that I didn't recognise them after all. One interesting thing is that there was at least one clip from the trailer that wasn't actually in the film (presumably a deleted scene); I'm surprised, since I thought it was funny, but it does mean that they didn't just give away all the best bits there.

Speaking of trailers, I was also impressed by the one for "Just Like Heaven", which looks like it satisfies the two key rules for a romantic comedy. Mind you, it's annoying that it's still two months away, particularly if that means that I'll get fed up of seeing the trailer by the time the film actually comes out.

One slight downside to going to the cinema tonight is that I felt a bit self-conscious about sitting on my own. I've been doing that since I was 18 (it started when I was in Durham during the holidays but my other student friends disappeared off to their families), and it doesn't normally bother me, so maybe it was just because there weren't a huge number of people seeing the film, and I was obviously the only person who'd gone alone (the other people were mostly couples).

Continuing the general theme of cinema issues, I've seen a couple of trailer/advert things recently that basically say "Don't watch bootleg DVDs - come to the cinema instead!" I sympathise with their position, since I "went straight" in terms of pirate stuff a while back (I'll get round to gathering my scattered messages about that into one place sometime). However, I also think that they're going about this in completely the wrong way, and in fact are potentially shooting themselves in the foot. (Digressing slightly, does it make sense to mix the plural/singular there? Should I say "in the feet"? Or just one company representative gets maimed? Anyhoo...) Looking at their points:

The screen is smaller, and you don't get surround sound.
This is true, and it is an advantage of the cinema. But does that mean that they don't want people to buy/rent DVDs after films have finished at the cinema, or to watch them on TV? For that matter, they're skewing it, since I sat a lot further away from the cinema screen than I do from my TV, so in terms of "how much does this fill my field of vision" I'd say that a TV can be a lot more than the 1/9th of the screen that they portray.

The picture/sound quality is dodgy.
In theory, yes, there's no quality control, but from what I've seen most dodgy copies tend to be pretty decent, rather than being full of static or whatever. In particular, it depends on whether they were filmed with a camcorder or copied from the original media (the latter seems fairly common).

You might get the picture blocked by someone getting up to go to the loo.
Again, this only applies to the camcorder version. But more to the point, it will equally apply if you're sitting in the cinema watching the film! So, if anything, that's a reason to watch a decent copy at home, when you don't have to deal with other people.

All in all, not exactly a triumph for their campaign, so I doubt that they're going to convince anyone. Mind you, the Narnia clip that they were using as a demo did look good, so I'm looking forward to watching that film when it comes out. (And is it just me, or are they going out of their way to avoid showing Edmund in the downloadable trailer?)

I've also been thinking recently about "Fahrenheit 451". I read the novel when I was at school (it was one of our set texts for GCSE English Literature), and I also saw the old film version. One thing that struck me about the film was that the TVs were far too small, presumably for budget reasons. Basically, the book takes the idea of "home cinema" to extremes, by having a room in the house where one whole wall is taken up by a TV screen. Montag (the protagonist) keeps getting nagged by his wife to extend this, by converting additional walls into TV screens; as I recall, they had three, and she wanted to get the fourth. By contrast, the film just had a portable TV sitting against one wall, which didn't really have the same imposing effect.

Anyway, that vision of the future obviously hasn't come to pass, or at least not yet. But leaving aside home cinema, how about "real" cinemas? Would it actually be desirable to have more than one wall taken up by cinema screens? I'm guessing that they'd need to restructure things a bit, by having a "pyramid" of seats, so that you'd be able to look in any direction without getting someone else's head blocking the screen (and you'd still be limited to three walls rather than four except for the person at the very top). If they were to do this, would it be better to have a curved screen or separate walls at right angles? This would of course be very expensive, and maybe not even technically feasible, so I'm just wondering about whether it's desirable - would it make things better, to be immersed in the action, or more distracting if you have to keep turning around? This would presumably also be an issue for any kind of "virtual reality cinema" in the future, a la holodeck. Maybe this reflects a key difference between being told a story ("look at this specific thing") and playing a game ("wander around wherever you like, but be careful not to get shot in the back").

On a similar note, there was one part of the novel where Montag's wife had a script sent to her as part of a breakfast cereal promotion. The idea was that the person watching at home would play one of the parts in the soap opera, and every so often the other characters would turn to face the camera (TV screen) and say "What do you think, Madeleine?" Cue a flashing light, to say "Read your line now". Would that be a good gimmick for a TV show with low ratings? One downside would be that they'd need to optimise it for a given number of people, e.g. the single housewife/pensioner who watches on her own at lunchtime, which would make it less interesting for a different number of people.

So, I'll close with a poll:

Poll #575630 Cinema

Would you like to watch a film on multiple walls?

No, the current system is best
Yes, with a continuous curve
Yes, with right angles

If you could play a part in a TV program while lying on your sofa, would you want to?

Yes, of course. "Don't talk to me like a child ... I played Hamlet at Cambridge!"
No. I'd rather sit on my throne and throw chicken bones at the jesters until they dance for my pleasure...

Edit (Feb 2012): In case the "Hamlet" poll option is too obscure, it refers to this advert.
Tags: books, films, piracy, poll

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