How Johnny Knoxville and Co. delivered the best use of 3D in 2010…

November 17, 2010

Earlier this month UK cinema audiences were treated to the release of Jackass 3D, the third theatrical instalment of the exploits of a bunch of crazy Americans who do stupid stunts and disgusting things all in the name of entertainment and the pursuit of making one another laugh.

Even though it is a film right up Casta La Vista’s alley, we chose not to review it in-show or on-site as we really didn’t know what we could say about it that you wouldn’t already know. Jackass 3D isn’t a film as much as it is a 90 minute montage. If you’ve seen their work before then you know what to expect; gross out, childish and dangerous humour that will have you rolling in the aisles if you’re a fan (no matter how many times you’ve seen them do stuff like this before) or screaming that this is the death of art and media if you’re a cynic- in which case you just wasted your time and money so who’s the Jackass now?

The only change from previous outings (other than the 3D which I’ll get on to) is that the gang has so much more money and scale afforded to them this time around that the stunts are wilder and larger. Resourcefulness is no longer a necessary attribute for a Jackass to have; all that is required is an idea for a stunt that the money men can then be left to put together.

The Jackass boys (a team including Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Ryan Dunn, Chris Pontius, Steve-O, Wee Man and several other fools) had been doing this sort of stuff for years before their first film was released in 2002, with their own TV show on MTV and a series of viral videos that made the most of youtube style websites and low-fi filmmaking techniques (the show itself was really borne out of the antics the guys would get up to after they had shot skateboarding videos) in the late nineties and early naughties.

Probably none of what I have just told you is new information (if it is then where have you been for the last 10 years?) but I mention it now because I think it helps to contextualise the point I am about to make. The origin of the gang that we now know of as Jackass is one dependant on luck, opportunism, confidence and risk-taking. People were doing things similar to the stunts being shown in Jackass episodes many years before this lot made it famous; it’s just that these guys found a way to market it- and also handily knew someone in MTV!

The point I am meandering towards concerns the extra dimension that is applied to the viewing experience of this latest Jackass film and a host of other movies that we have discussed in our time at Casta La Vista. Chris and I are well documented by our so-so feelings on 3D; it certainly alters a viewing experience, but as of yet (albeit with a few notable exceptions) it has failed to really make an impact on our movie going habits.

The main problem seems to be what to do with the medium; does a filmmaker barely acknowledge their adoption of 3D and have faith that the universe of the film will seem more immersive to the viewer, as in Alice in Wonderland? Or do they make the most of the gimmick-ery of the whole thing and jam in as many ‘into the auditorium’ moments as they possibly can?

Alice in Wonderland; one of the more subtle uses of 3D this year?

In the first situation audiences seem to be coming away thinking;

“What was the point? Did I just wear glasses that whole time simply to be able to sense half an inch of depth between elements of the mise-en-scene? Pah!”

On the other hand, after seeing a 3D movie that has more in common with the latter scenario a viewers thoughts may quickly turn to;

“All those punchy-pokey moments felt shoe-horned into that film and they had nothing to do with the story; not that there was one because the filmmakers clearly spent more time looking for excuses to throw things at the camera than they did in developing believable characters or a plot. Double-Pah!”

If we focus primarily on this latter scenario then we begin to get towards the root of what makes Jackass 3D such a unique voyage into a world the encourages wearing sunglasses in a darkened room.

Jackass 3D has no plot. It has no story. It has no character development. It has no message. It has no sense of cinematography or continuity. It is a series of disconnected events put on screen to sustain the viewer until the point at which that scene ends so that another one can have a go at entertaining us.

As such, there is nothing substantial to the film that a blatant attempt to utilise a new technology can detract audiences from.

I will happily agree with the most steadfast of 3D haters that the work on show in Jackass 3D continues to prove that there is still work to be done on the technology in order for it to seem worth the extra cost. However I would caveat this by saying that director Jeff Tremaine and the cast of Jackass 3D should be commended for using their film as an opportunity to see how effective the technology can actually be.

And so super slow motion shots of people being punched and kicked in the face; giant hands slapping at the camera; shit flying through the air like a volcano; paintballs being fired at the screen; a dildo coming into focus as it hurtles at our faces; and a finale sequence of the cast being fired in all directions and having everything around them explode (to name a few) are all sequences that can be appreciated in terms of their use of 3D because there is nothing else for us to be concentrating on as we view this carnage.

It might sound crazy to say it, but in my opinion it is the most appropriate and effective use of 3D this year, if not since the technology’s mass-marketing. And much like with how they found their fame in the first place, the Jackass boys have taken something that was feeling old and familiar and given it a fresh perspective.

Albeit a perspective covered in poo.

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Episode 14 – Tango & Cast

March 20, 2010

Tango & Cast (right click as “save as” for download)

It’s all about brotherly love this episode – the last before Chrazza Mazza’s month long absence. Keep tuned for reviews of Green Zone, Alice in Wonderland,  Exit through the Gift Shop, Crazy Heart and a special not so secret review of Scorsese’s new mental ’em up Shutter Island – also Ceedub finally puts hit foot down and makes Cee-em censor himself. Good times!