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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

~My Father And I Go To See Avatar

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My Father And I Go To See Avatar

I had no intention of seeing the movie Avatar until I found out that it was going to be shown in 3D here, which is a rarity. Typically only Hebrew-dubbed movies are shown in 3D, since it's seen as a gimmick for little kids. And I don't know, maybe I am a little kid - 3D sounds awesome to me.

I decided that I'd go to see it on a Monday. I'd take a bus to Jerusalem, take another bus to the theater I like (Rav Chen), watch the movie, take the buses back. Estimated total time: 7 hours. My family were out at a bar mitzvah for my American second cousin, and I didn't know when they'd be getting back, so I called and asked whether they had a key to the house. I was told that my father wanted to see Avatar too, and he'd had the impression that we were going to go together. Of course this was a better plan- it's not just that I'd appreciate to be driven, but I'd also prefer to see the movie with my father.

My father and I are very different, but one thing we have in common is that we like science-fiction. I only saw any Star Trek because while we were living in America my father taped every episode. (I only started watching them when we were here, and I watched them entirely out of order.) Likewise, I only ever saw Babylon 5 because my father had taped the first two seasons of that. (The first random episode I watched was The Coming of Shadows, which just so happened to be one of the best of the series.) And if I hadn't seen B5 it's a safe bet this blog here wouldn't exist, since that's what clued me in to the potential of long-form storytelling. So, credit where it's due: I'm a sci-fi guy because of my father, and for that I owe him.

Back in the 70s he watched the original Battlestar Galactica as appointment television. But upon moving to Israel in 1995, he was suddenly so busy with all the work he needed to do to make ends meet that he didn't have time for TV shows anymore. (Plus, none of the shows he watched were on TV here and we wouldn't be downloading shows off the internet for a few years.) So he watched little bits of Babylon 5 that I was watching, and I showed him a few key episodes of the Battlestar Galactica remake, while spoiling all the other developments for him since I knew he'd never have the time to actually watch through it. Other science-fiction he hasn't really been exposed to in the past 15 years.

It made sense that he'd want to see Avatar. So I waited for him to come home, instead of heading out myself.

That night we went to a Globus theater (Grrrr..) which is closer to us than Jerusalem and had also advertised that they were showing the film in 3D. I was concerned whether the experience would suffer due to Globus's inferior equipment, but my father was the driver so I went with it.

Along the way we talked about TV shows and how they wrap up when they're canceled. Naturally there was more of me talking than him, though he did say that Earth 2 was given an ending when it was canceled (I have yet to see that show.), and that Lost in Space probably wasn't. I said that the whole way they make shows is different now, since with DVD collections they expect you to be able to watch the whole thing through.

When we got there we asked for two tickets to Avatar, and were told: "There's no Avatar. There's a malfunction." Whatever that means. Just another reason to hate the theater. We regretted that we hadn't checked beforehand if it was working, but who thinks of something like that? We'd just have to try again some other time, in a different place.

As we drove back, we talked about time travel. My father once again said (He's said this to me a few times in the past.) that the trouble with time travel is that we ought to have heard of time-travelers by now if there are ever going to be time-travelers. I said the problem with time travel is that due to the movement of planets and space and the whole universe, if you stay in the same place but switch the time you end up in the middle of space. If you step into a time machine on the planet Earth, at whatever point you end up in Earth isn't there anymore. We talked about the ways to get around this, about whether there needed to be receivers, and for that matter whether transporters would need receivers too.

On Saturday night we tried again. Another family had gone on Thursday to the same place and found that it still wasn't working, so we went to Rav Chen in Jerusalem like I'd wanted to to begin with.

Along the way we talked about virtual reality and the implausibility of holodecks and I talked about all the current technologies that seem to be headed in that direction. My father was wondering what a really 3D movie would be like, where you're actually walking through it. This got me thinking about whether some sort of futuristic holograms could be used in stage shows, so that the live performers are playing on a changing 3D set. That really had nothing to do with what my father was talking about, though.

We got there and couldn't find a parking spot. It was packed. Finally my father gave me the money and told me to go get the tickets while he parked. So I went inside, where I found an absolute mob of people, all of whom had apparently come to see Avatar. There was only one ticket booth, with a mildly long line behind it. I went to get tickets and was told that the tickets had been sold out, but there were still some seats for a showing an hour and a half later. I couldn't commit to that on the spot, because then the movie would end considerably after midnight. In the first place I was concerned that my father would fall asleep in the middle if it went that late, and in the second place I knew he'd be concerned about driving while so tired. I hadn't taken my cell phone with me from home, so I got out of the line and waited for my father to show up. He came two minutes later and agreed that we'd go to the late showing. No sooner had we gotten in line, than a theater employee taped a sign up to the wall saying that both screenings of Avatar for the night had been sold out. My father seemed emotionally unwilling to admit defeat, but there was really nothing we could do. We left.

On the way back, I told my father about the TV show Lost, in appropriately vague terms. He seemed interested, so I told him I'd download the pilot for him. (I later tried downloading the pilot, and was frustrated to only find it in two separate video files. By splitting it up and putting a recap in the middle, they telegraphed a cool moment in the second part and ruined the pacing of the episode. I edited the two parts together myself so that if he watches it, he'll see it the way it was on TV as opposed to the way it was in reruns. No need for him to know I did that.)

On Tuesday we went again. I skipped Games Night for it, though due to Lorien giving birth it was in Ramat Beit Shemesh this week, so I'm not sure if I would have gone anyway. This time we were smarter. The day before, we ordered the tickets over the internet. It's more expensive that way, but you've got a guaranteed seat. You also get to choose which seat that is, from a diagram of all the seats that are still available. By Monday night all the good seats had already been claimed, and my father wondered if maybe we should pick a different night but not seriously because we both just wanted to see the movie already. We picked two seats which weren't in the middle but were the closest to the middle that we could get.

As we drove in, we listened to a CD my father bought a few years ago from "The Teaching Company" of lectures on argumentation. He'd listened to it before, but he was listening to it again. It was fascinating, to be sure. I didn't understand exactly what the lecturer was talking about at first, since we were starting from the middle, so we paused and my father explained the basics and then rewound to a part he wanted me to hear and then we listened from there until we got to the theater.

The movie was awesome. I needn't have worried that my father might fall asleep; there was no chance of that during this movie. The story was perfectly predictable and clichéd, but it was all done really well. And that world, in 3D... it was amazing. On the other hand, I did see what James Cameron (the director of Avatar) was saying when he said 24 frames per second (the standard for film) isn't enough for 3D movies. It definitely looked jerky. Still, it was quite a memorable experience. You see things from far away and it looks pretty standard for a movie, but then you move in and everything looks so real you feel like you could touch it. I wished they'd include smells and feelings, too. It's not a real alien jungle until they increase the humidity in the room for the scene, and pipe in some exotic but subtle smell. We'll get there someday. This movie was definitely a step in the right direction.

As we drove home we discussed the symbolism of the movie. Both of us agreed that it was a very good movie indeed.



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