Side by Side Reviews
Kenneally bizarrely employs The One Ted Theodore Logan (Keanu Reeves) to interview a veritable who's-who of movie legends from directors to cinematographers to editors to VFX luminaries; some with their feet planted firmly in the new digital arena, including the predictable faces of technology prodders like 3D-philiac and psychotic Titanic enthusiast James Cameron, and Star Wars chipmunk George Lucas; others slightly more sceptical, such as cerebral blockbuster machine Christopher Nolan and his regular cinematographic chum Walter Pfister alongside legendary 'The Deer Hunter' lenser Vilmos Zsigmond. Sitting back with amused detachment, seeing both sides of the argument, is the almost Yoda-like presence of Martin Scorcese, whilst Steven Spielberg is conspicuous by his absence.
Filmed over an extensive period of time judging from the interchangeable facial and cranial hairstyles our interviewer and guide seems to exhibit, Keanu Reeves proves to be an erudite and insightful interviewer, managing to extract cogent and level headed arguments on the pros and cons of both the digital and celluloid formats from the likes of Danny Boyle, David Lynch, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Walter Murch, Lars Von Trier, The Wachowski Siblings, Robert Rodriguez, Vittorio Storaro and many others involved in the art and industry of film making. Along the way we get some interesting tidbits on how movies like '28 Days Later' and 'Slumdog Millionaire' probably wouldn't have been possible without the digital format, and how directors utilising finite celluloid can only shoot for ten minutes at a time. Some lament the loss of an art form that, despite its technical and practical drawbacks, focused film makers on bringing their A-game to produce stunning works of art. Yet others are excited by the unprecedented freedom and experiences that the new digital age could provide both audiences and film makers alike.
But what comes across most is that, regardless of the technology used, it is the sheer dedication, passion and enthusiasm of the human element that goes into the art of movie-making that is the key to its continuing success and evolution. 'Side By Side' is an accessible, sober and non-judgemental attempt to tackle one of the most prescient debates currently preoccupying our beloved medium today. One of its most successful and charming aspects is how Christopher Kenneally manages to get the viewer to ruminate and interact on the subject, frequently prodding his digital finger at you with an encouraging, "So, what do you think?". Highly recommended to anyone with the slightest interest in the history of cinema, its evolution and how your favourite slice of two hours' worth of entertainment manages to lug its way from an idea in some cinematic story-teller's crowded brain-box to the illustrious echelons of the silver screen.
There are two main types of movie fans. The first kind go to the movies, or rent a DVD as a way to pass the time. They may know a few of the actors and possibly even the director, if he's one of the more famous ones. They consume the film in a very basic manner.
Then there are the people who know most of the actors, or they pay attention to the way a shot is composed, or they can appreciate certain lighting effects, or the pacing of the editing. These people are enjoying the film on a different level. Some would argue a level that was not intended by the filmmaker.
I belong to the latter, as I believe many of the people who frequent this website do. This is why I would like to recommend Side by Side to anybody whose love for cinema extends beyond the credits.
As a professional cameraman and editor, I find the subject matter that Side by Side deals with inherently interesting. I love learning about film, cameras, editing, lighting and all the components that come together to make a movie.
On the surface, Side by Side attempts to debate which movie making format is better, film or digital. The movie goes way deeper than just trying to answer this question. In fact, it goes through the whole workflow of how a movie is made. From how a camera works, to the cinematography, to the editing, to the color correcting, to the making of prints and the distribution of the film.
Even somebody who doesn't have an interest in the nuts and bolts of how a film is made will come away with a bigger appreciation for movies and all the work that goes into creating them. Even though I learned a lot of what was being discussed in college, or from other documentaries and by watching the extras on DVD's, I still learned a ton of new things from this film.
Side by Side does a nice job of laying out the pros and cons of both formats, but the film really focuses on the fact that the end of film being used to shoot movies is not a possibility, it's an inevitability. Technology has reached a point where it can no longer be ignored. Digital format was once looked at as inferior, but now it's on par if not surpassing what celluloid can accomplish. There's a certain sadness in hearing filmmakers talk about the death celluloid. Many of them are very nostalgic about the whole process of shooting a movie on film.
The ironic twist is that, as we move away from film and start putting more and more movies on a digital format, the process of storing and backing up the material is not reliable. It turns out that the best way to preserve a movie is to then transfer the digital format to celluloid. A true Hollywood story of redemption if I've ever seen one.
In the end, it doesn't matter if a film is shot on digital or celluloid. The only thing that matters is if a film tells a good story and includes memorable characters. Because of this simple goal, movies will always serve their purpose to entertain and inspire regardless of the format that is used to capture them.
A great watch for the people interested in what happens behind the curtains of your favourite movies.
While they do mention how digital images have increased significantly in the past few years with pixels, they still failed to mention how it currently compares to film. Another issue I had is they neglected to mention IMAX film. True IMAX (not digital IMAX, or fake IMAX cinemas) is still the best picture quality available, but with drawbacks related to used of film cameras.
Each format has their benefits and their drawbacks, and both have times when one would be the better option. The future of cinema is going to be a balance of image quality, story telling, art, and cost.