Dunkirk and Film Format Snobbery

I’ve been accused of being a film snob numerous times. Any time you disagree with someone about the merits of a film, particularly a blockbuster action film or comedy, you open yourself up to accusations of snobbery. In general I say, each to their own. We all like what we like, and hate with equal individuality and vigour. I reserve my right to prattle on about Footloose but turn my nose up at Step Brothers; there’s no accounting for taste.

The advance of digital filmmaking and projection has brought with it a new flavour of film snobbery; one that focusses on what format the film is projected in. This snobbery tends to favour 35mm film projection over digital and when Christopher Nolan gets involved it goes even further.

A few weeks back after the first press screenings of Nolan’s Dunkirk my Twitter feed was littered with critics and more successful bloggers tweeting about how everyone has to go see Dunkirk and more importantly how they must see it:

A. On the big screen

B. Projected on film

C. In 70mm

D. In IMAX

Seeing it in any other format simply will not suffice apparently.

I have lots of issues with this fetishisation of projection format. But first, some concessions. Yes, I have seen Nolan’s Interstellar projected in 70mm. Yes, Christopher Nolan does specifically use IMAX cameras because he ideally wants people to see the film that way. But… The fact is that not everybody can, nor should they.

If I want to see Dunkirk tonight I have the choice of heading to Waterloo for a 70mm IMAX screening and pay £18.50 or go down to the excellent Peckhamplex and pay £4.99. I will get different experiences at both and the IMAX isn’t necessarily the better. I would say roughly 70% of seat in an IMAX screen are in suboptimal positions that will result in a cricked neck or awkward viewing angle (this is not a scientific measure). Add to this the increase in cost and IMAX is simply too pricey for everyone to consider seeing the film in this format.

I suppose my real problem with the snobbery around film projection format is that it is inherently elitist. Suggesting that there is a proper, and more expensive, way to watch a film creates a strange hierarchy of viewers that only benefits the larger wallets. Let’s not forget that the critics, and sometimes little old me, have seen this film in their “best” format for free with the occasional glass of wine thrown in. They have also only seen the film in the one format so have no comparison to make.

I remain of the opinion that if a film is any good then it doesn’t matter how it is projected. A film that is beautiful and immersive should draw you in whether projected from celluloid of any size or whatever science happens inside a digital projector. So long as the format isn’t obstructing you then stop worrying about pixels or film grain, sit back, and enjoy the film.

Heck, Nolan himself doesn’t mind you streaming his films so long as they’ve had a chance in the cinema first.

Films are, and should remain, an accessible part of British culture. The obsession with 70mm over 35mm over digital may be grounded in truth but the most important consideration should be what film to watch, not what box it comes in.

Harry Potter – A Premature Retrospective… With Charts

Harry Potter 1 to 7

What follows is the result of sleep deprivation, a Thermos of coffee and a pile of scrawled notes.

EDIT: Updated versions of the charts below can be found in our new retrospective posts on the seven films and the young actors.

On Saturday night Mild Concern returned to the BFI IMAX to finish the Harry Potter All-Nighter marathon. To keep ourselves stimulated and, at a more basic level, awake, we discussed each film in between, scoring various aspects, making notes and even counting one specific phrase. In this post we’ll have a look at some of what we noted down, what this says about the franchise’s progression and what it can tell us about the final film. Once that final film is out we will review it alone and then all eight as a whole, as our final word on the franchise we grew up with.

But first, let’s talk about the IMAX. Our two recent trips have been great, the image is crisp and clear and so wide my peripheral vision was fully taken up with the world of Potter. Films were made to be seen on the big screen and this is the biggest screen in the UK, what more can we say?

Still, there were two drawbacks. The minor one was some distracting disco lights at the bottom of the screen during Order of the Phoenix. The second, more important, factor was a sequence in 3D in two of the films. The 3D worked in a few shots but for the majority of the time it gave us both double vision, caused one of us headaches and made the action scenes extremely hard to follow. Thankfully most of the films are made entirely in 2D, but the upcoming Deathly Hallows Part 2 is another matter.

Presentation quibbles out of the way, onto the charts! Continue reading

The Blog Who Lived

We did it! For the most part we managed to stay awake through all the first four Harry Potter films at the BFI IMAX Harry Potter All-Nighter.

The night was a whirlwind of emotions thanks to varying film quality and intense sleep deprivation. It’s great to see the films back to back and really appreciate how much so many aspects of the films improve over time. The IMAX screen made the films that bit more epic and immense and the free coffee in the intervals became a vital lifeline.

We took plenty of increasingly confused notes and will be fully quantifying the seven films next Monday along with a full review of the experience. What we can say in the meantime is that it was a great night and we’re looking forward to finishing off the franchise so far on Saturday night.

Tickets are still available for the first four films on Friday and slightly less available for the remaining three on Saturday. If nothing else, it’s the cheapest hotel you’ll find in London.

Wish Us Luck

As this post goes live we’re about to embark on a four film journey that will take us from 10pm tonight to 9:30 tomorrow morning. We’ll be going from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in the comfort of the BFI IMAX.

This all seemed like a good idea considering our love for Mr Potter and for trying out different cinemas (I’ve never even been to an IMAX) but will we be able to stay awake throughout?

See you on the other side for our refreshed opinions of the four films and some sleep deprived drivel.

Prepare Yourself for Harry Potter

With just over a month to go until my childhood officially ends I think it is appropriate to begin to get excited about the eighth and final film in the Harry Potter series. Just look at the trailer, it’s enough to make you feel like you’ve been hit with a flipendo spell. (NERD ALERT!)

Clearly in the same mindset the BFI IMAX in London has a very exciting event planned. Harry Potter All-Nighters! Split over two nights, and repeated on a second weekend, the BFI IMAX will be showing all seven current Potter films in the wee hours to get you ready for 15th July. The first four are shown in one block on either 17th or 24th June and the remaining three on 18th or 25th June.

I’d suggest doing the 17th and then the 25th, it takes a brave Potter fan to do two consecutive nights. I also suggest that you take me with you, I make great company. Tickets can be bought here and I’ll keep myself free.

As we’ve got you here we’ve uploaded the eight character banners we couldn’t figure out what to do with last week. Finally! A ridiculously high res poster of Neville Longbottom! Check out all eight below. Continue reading