A new LA Times piece looks into how 3D comes into play during Oscar season. And it's not only a matter of how it can be included in the mixture of awards, but how and if voters will make the effort to see the three-dimensional films as they're meant to be seen.
As it stands, voters get piles of screeners they can watch at their own leisure, enjoying the opportunity to see films without rushing to the local theater and being at the whim of the screening schedule. But when it comes to 3D, it's all about the immersive theatrical experience, and the Times questions whether "Oscar voters will make that effort" to get to the theater and see the full three-dimensional experience.
The year's 3D releases includes the likes of 'Toy Story 3,' 'How to Train Your Dragon' and 'Tron: Legacy,' and while you may or may not agree that any of these films are Oscar worthy, their special effects are certainly prime for consideration. Dreamworks began showing Academy screenings of 'Dragon' in August to make sure their film -- which has been highly praised by some for its use of the technology -- was seen in the proper way. Director Dean DeBlois says: "There was a lot of effort put into the 3D experience and making it a part of the storytelling and not just gimmickry."
But beyond the constraints of home technology -- which Jim Chabin, president of the International 3D Society, expects to be gone soon with the advent of 3D television screens and screeners -- there's the on-going controversy surrounding the process, and the opinions that it's a gimmick, as DeBlois says, "just used as a diversion." Some of it stems from the long-past days of films like 'Jaws 3D,' while some comes from the rush to convert regular films into mediocre-at-best big-screen experiences like 'Clash of the Titans.'
But the question remains: How big a role should 3D play in awards consideration? The Times piece discusses 'The Wizard of Oz' not being the same if it couldn't be seen in color, and how it marked a separation of color and black and white categories for cinematography for some thirty years. However, is color the same thing as 3D?
Black and white cinema had a beautiful artistry to it, but one can't deny that color moviemaking allowed for a vastly different experience that filled in the blanks once answered by our imaginations. It seems a bit off to think that a little added depth is the same thing as cinema finding a way to see the colors we see in everyday life. One increases the information present in every cell, while another is a technique that alters the moviegoing experience. There's also the difference between what can be seen casually and what can be seen with stereoscopic technology. While a colorblind person might be able to enjoy color films as a grey-toned experience, the same cannot be said for those struggling with stereoscopic 3D.
Between the nature of the films that are getting the 3D treatment and the extra effort voters must put into seeing the format as intended, how can the new 3D revolution fit into the Oscars experience? How big of a role should the format play in both the categories and voting strategies? Should we take a cue from the '30s and have a special category like the Academy once offered for color features? Are the current uses of 3D enough to make a film notably more enjoyable (and awards-worthy) when seen with the third dimension, or is it just an added, in-theater perk like seats full of boisterous, film-loving fans or the smell of buttery popcorn?