Wednesday, June 24, 2020

L.A. 3-D Movie Fest Online #3 (21 June 2020)

Time flies, sort of - I saw L.A. 3-D SPACE had events which could become online events scheduled for roughly the third Sunday of every month, but this still caught me by surprise when I navigated to YouTube for something else earlier in the weekend and found this on the schedule.

As with their last one, it's a fairly strong hour of impressive 3D filmmaking pulled from a previous festival's award-winners, with the filmmakers on hand for a live chat. That seems a little too much for me - I don't want to be taking glasses on or off or looking at non-3D screens with them on - but it sounded like they were all there.

Anyway, as of right now, the fest program is still on YouTube, with about 15 minutes of padding on each end: Side-by-side and red/blue (technically red/cyan, although they're basically the same). Next thing on the calendar is 19 July. Maybe theaters in L.A. are open again and they don't stream, but if that's not the case, I'm looking forward to it seeing what they show.

"Deadline"/"The Magician"

* * * (out of four)
Seen 21 June 2020 in Jay's Living Room (L.A. 3-D Movie Fest Online, SBS 3D YouTube via Roku)

Music videos are odd sorts of short films, often telling a story that is close to the song in spirit but doesn't exactly adapt it, and often requires a bit of a leap at the climax. "The Magician" is like that, telling a nifty little story of a magician whose ballerina assistant vanishes without reappearing before an ending that is nifty but doesn't make a lot of sense. The song, "Deadline" by January, is okay, I guess.

It's a nicely-shot video, though, with good make-up work to age the title character and some interesting bits of visual style that don't entirely fit together but never seem way out of line, with the 3D steady and seldom flashy. It's at least partly a calling card to show what filmmaker Andi Wenzel can do, and he certainly seems like a solid filmmaker:

2D version / 3D side-by-side version / 3D anaglyph version

"The City Quakes: 1906/1989"

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 21 June 2020 in Jay's Living Room (L.A. 3-D Movie Fest Online, SBS 3D YouTube via Roku)

"The City Quakes" has apparently been used as a museum installation and that's certainly where it seems like it would be most at home, spending a half hour running down the history of the two major earthquakes that hit San Francisco in the Twentieth Century. Much of the time is spent on the famous quake of 1906, which is, no matter how many times I hear or read about it, more stunning in its devastation and in how the city pulled together to recover from it. Marilyn Freund's narration may occasionally be a bit flat, but the material doesn't need a hard sell

One of the most interesting points made, somewhere around midway through, is how the 1906 quake was the first disaster documented in large part by amateurs, although it is also worth pointing out that a large part of the documentation used in this film comes from stereo card companies, which was big business at the turn of that century. Other entertainingly noteworthy facts were that the post office survived that quake unscathed and was vital for keeping the community together and informed (and informing loved ones elsewhere that people were all right), a reminder that the U.S. Postal Service is just vital and awesome; and that the loss of life in 1989 could have been much worse, but a bridge that was usually packed at rush hour had a relatively light load, with people home watching the World Series. Baseball saves lives!

I'm curious as to which images in the film were 3D conversions, as is listed in the credits; for a film made in 2006 by folks who might be called semi-pro, it looks pretty well done (for reference, the Clash of the Titans conversion generally found to be disappointing was done in 2010). Generally, it's nicely shot by 3D enthusiast Robert Bloomberg, the sort of neat documentary which shows how effective the format can be.

Various ways to watch it and other short films can be found on Bloomberg's site

"Stereo - A Love Song to 3D"

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 21 June 2020 in Jay's Living Room (L.A. 3-D Movie Fest Online, SBS 3D YouTube via Roku)

This short, also from director Robert Bloomberg, is not on his site at the moment, which is a bit surprising; it's a novelty, sure, but one that may be particularly appealing to the people visiting that site. Maybe there are rights issues with all the films that he used as sources for the imagery and lyrics that don't come into play for a festival engagement (or as promotion for the 3D drive-in series that it was created for), but would if it were permanently hosted.

It's cute, with some fair cut-out animation and groan-worthy lyrics but enough basic competence in terms of writing a song that one can get to the end of without cringing too much (as mentioned above, Bloomberg is semi-pro, even if his only IMDB entry is for something he did in 1974). I doubt I'll ever watch it again, but it's an amusing four minutes once.

"Gentle Storm"

* * * (out of four)
Seen 21 June 2020 in Jay's Living Room (L.A. 3-D Movie Fest Online, SBS 3D YouTube via Roku)

Ikuo Nakamura's film starts with a dry screen or two of information about a 25 September 2017 coronal mass ejection that he was able to film the next day, which is either good fortune or incredible planning. I presume he used the same sort of rig as he did with his 2015 "Aurora Borealis 3D" short, placing his cameras miles apart so that when their images are combined, it's like the aurora is a phenomenon happening close up and something you can hold.

It's impressively eerie, nicely complemented by music from regular collaborator Hayes Greenfield. Nakamura is the sort of artist who is talented enough that even what seems to be in large part a technical exercise is worth checking out.

"Antiya" ("Impermanence")

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 21 June 2020 in Jay's Living Room (L.A. 3-D Movie Fest Online, SBS 3D YouTube via Roku)

This short is a less thoroughly pragmatic documentary, more of an art piece with Nakamura taking his camera to various places and shooting, initially staying in one area but eventually branching out and creating a sort of collage of quiet rural scenes. In some ways, the title of "Impermanence" seems ironic, because some of the sacred spaces he visits seem quite well-preserved even when that seems improbable, although the transient nature of the people passing through them is noteworthy.

Many of these images are striking, using time-lapse photography or slowly revealing that a cross-shaped monument is bigger than the last shot made it appear before reversing the angle and letting it show in full. A spire seemingly built into a rock balanced on the edge of a cliff is given scant time to amaze the viewer before Nakamura tightens his focus to how people interact with it.

And maybe it's what I as a viewer bring, combined with Hayes Greenfield's music, but there are bits that seem intriguingly less distant and archaeological, a slight discomfort at aiming his fancy camera at a poor village while passing on the river or a quick dip back into a large city where peopling wink and half-perform for the camera. It's a few seconds out of fourteen minutes, but it makes one a little more connected as an outsider looking in for most of the movie.

Nakamura has a Vimeo and a website, though each was last updated months ago, which makes sense as they appear meant to support bookings rather than substitute.

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