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VOD Review: Side by Side – Chris Kenneally (2012) (3 Stars)

September 5, 2012
By

Film. Digital. Once, locked in a bitter war and advertised as “film versus digital”, the scrap is barely a fight anymore. Though film keeps hanging on, keeps holding onto devotes, like For Ellen (VOD on 9/19) director of photography Reed Morano, the digital revolution seems cemented in victory at the moment.

This “film”, in fact, was shot on digital cameras. Beginning it’s journey down the workflow, it was stored digitally, edited and graded, and the sound re-recorded and de-fuzzed on digital workspaces. Finally, it was viewed by me (and probably you) digitally, delivered to my digital television by Amazon over a wireless connection, where I watched it in the comfort of my living room. It’s hard to argue against that, the ease, the comfort, and the quickness. No waiting in lines, no travelling, no annoying texters or chatters in the seat in front of you. The only noise outside of the film while watching it was a snoring dog, and I can hardly yell at him to shut the hell up.

It’s a provocative film, though I struggle to call it a compelling must see film because it’s demographic is likely compromised by the intense interest over the last decade in the story. Side by Side is a good primer if you came late to the game, but if you’ve been following the rise of digital and slow suffocation of film over the years, there probably isn’t a lot you don’t know in the offing, and Keanu Reeves’ unfortunate narration style isn’t going to help you stay tuned should you become bored. Still, I appreciate his interest and passion on the subject, and his interview style is fine — the conversations he finds himself engaged in with the Wachowski’s especially is worth watching it for alone.

I’m also appreciative of how much time the film spent on discussing techy elements, like dynamic range and depth of field, and just how important the color grading step is to a finished film, though somewhat disappointed about how little time it spent on archiving. Archival prints are the whole ball game as it stands. Robert Rodriquez is right when he says digital will keep getting better and cheaper, eventually — probably — surpassing film. But how do we hang on to this stuff? Digital is not a sustainable model for making sure these treasures are available hundreds or even thousands of years from now. George Lucas’s offhand, “someone will figure it out because it’s so important” isn’t comforting at this point, especially thinking about stories such as Toy Story 2′s near miss with complete deletion. The final word on it comes from DP Geoff Boyle who pays out the discomfort offered by Lucas by concluding, “we’re fucked.” Sorry to the unborn generations, who may one day have learn about Michael Corleone and the Man with No Name by reading criticism. Suckers! At least someone wins in this story.

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