Oct 31, 2011

Next Iron Chef. Now with Superpowers!

I am a Food Network junkie.  It is often the default station on our cable box.  It's generally safe for the whole family and something worth running in the background.  I find it extremely entertaining.  I got hooked on it when I was in my mid-20s.  I cut my teeth on Alton Brown's Good Eats and Emeril's various shows.  I remember back when Bobby Flay was an atrocious, abrasive, arrogant disaster - instead of the flagship icon of the Food Network empire.  I have been there for the changing of the guard, as Emeril and Mario Batali exited and were replaced by Robert Irvine and Guy Fieri.  I have gone from thinking Alton Brown was the most brilliant man on television to being thankful he ended his show, due to his smug sense of self worth.

The network originally was full of your standard cooking shows.  But somewhere along the line, they decided that they should get into the cooking competition game.  The concept is brilliant and ridiculous all at once.  You get to see these brilliant chefs and bakers race to create increasingly complex dishes, cakes, pumpkin carvings, whatever.  It is fun and exciting to watch this process - knowing we, as viewers, would be as out of our element among them as in the 100 meters race in the Olympics.  But, the judging is so freaking subjective.  That's part of the entertainment value, I think.  You see these people create this hugely intricate ten foot cake or this unbelievably artistic meal using virtually no ingredients, and then the judges have to decide a winner.  How do you possibly quantify that?!?  But these challenge shows have become a massive part of Food Network's lineup.  Then are extremely successful, entertaining, and addictive.  From Cupcake Wars to Cake Challenge to Chopped to Dinner Impossible to the new Sweet Genius.

The whole system is, in fact, genius.  While Food Network is punching out these relatively inexpensive shows with huge followings, they also are generating new on air talent.  They can throw three people up there as judges and it gives them credibility.  We have no clue who these jokers are.  But if they are good enough to judge, they must be someone special.  And, when someone does a superlative job in a competition, suddenly you will see them in more competition shows, or featured on Best Thing I Ever Ate, or they'll get their own show.  Brilliant talent mining.  The two most obvious of these type of talent identification shows are Next Food Network Star and Next Iron Chef.  Both of these shows are wildly popular.  They have huge stakes - a guaranteed hosting gig and the considerable heft of the Food Network marketing machine behind you.  The winners aren't always guaranteed home runs - though some are massive successes (Guy Fieri, Michael Symon, Aarti, Melissa D'Arabian).  And you don't have to win to gain a career.  (Aaron Sanchez lost Next Iron Chef and still became a huge star on the network.)

The Next Iron Chef is like the Super Bowl of competition shows.  Food Network has taken the title of Iron Chef and made it their highest honor.  You can be a James Beard winner, an owner of multiple restaurants, a host of your own show.  But unless you are an Iron Chef, you still haven't reached the pinacle.  And the way these chefs talk about the title, it is like the entire restaurant community are all lusting after this goal.  (I severely doubt this is true.  But it makes for good television.)  We know the Iron Chef is all a big gimmick.  Ever time "The Chairman" pops up, I have to laugh.  On the original Japanese show, the guy who played The Chairman was unknown to Americans.  So he had this mystique of possibly being a crazy guy who created the whole competition.  But on the American version, The Chairman is obviously an actor.  He competed on Dancing with the Stars.  He is the main bad guy on Hawaii Five-O.  Whenever he shows up, I'm like, "Someone go call Scott Caan.  Yo Fat is right there!  They can arrest him!"

They've had Next Iron Chef three times.  The first time, it made sense.  The original Iron Chefs were slowly being phased out, getting older.  Wolfgang Puck wasn't part of the stable any more.  Mario Batali was on his way out of his perch at Food Network.  They had brought in Cat Cora at some point.  But there basically were just three people doing the job - Bobby Flay, Morimoto, and Cora.  So, adding a fourth made sense.  It was a great show.  And any of about five guys could have won and done well.  It came down to Michael Symon and John Besh.  I was rooting for Besh, but looking back I know that Symon made a better winner.  He's been a superstar for the network.  Big win.  The second year, the show was still good.  But the winner, Jose Garces, was one of those winners that played it safe.  He was good, but not brilliant.  There were others who were better in certain weeks, but they would have a fantastic flame out at some point and get eliminated.  I have been very disappointed in Garces as an Iron Chef.  This is probably why he is rarely used.  Last year, the competition again was brilliant.  But, we saw a little bit of Food Network trickery.  They stuck Ming Tsai into the competition.  I wrote about this at the time.  I think the network was secretly hoping he would win, because it would have made sense for him to be an Iron Chef.  He could have been one in the first place.  He ended up third.  Marc Forgione beat Marco Canora in the final.

Either one was talented enough to be the winner.  But, again, Food Network had an Iron Chef that just wasn't really as good as he should have been.  I think Canora, in retrospect, would have been the better Iron Chef because throughout the show he was the better showman.  Forgione's personality is much calmer.  That doesn't work in Kitchen Stadium.  Part of the reason that the Iron Chefs work is because they are so over the top.  This wasn't true in the original Japanese show, but it is true in the American version.  They aren't obnoxious.  But they know how to play to the camera.  Flay, Cora, Batali, Morimoto, Symon (and Puck, when he did it), were great on camera.  They had their own shows.  They knew what worked and didn't.  So they made the challenges seem harder.  They sold their food better.  They worked the judges better.  Part of what makes it so difficult for a chef to come in and win the Iron Chef battle is that they don't know HOW to work the room.  They may be arrogant or cocky, but they can't handle the clock or they seem overly nervous with the judges.  Garces and Forgione still don't have the camera presence.

So, this year, Food Network made a brilliant decision.  Instead of searching America for the top chefs again, they just went the Celebrity Chef route.  They took a bunch of these judges, hosts, and challenge winners they've been developing for years and put them in as contestants.  Absolutely brilliant.  Now, not only do they know these guys can cook, but they also are people who are used to the clock AND they know how to sell it to the camera.  It was a master stroke.  In addition, instead of just having a challenge each week and cutting someone, they have a challenge to determine the bottom TWO.  Then those two have to have a cut throat battle to see who gets tossed.  I LOVE it.  The only trap for Food Network is who to kick off first.  You don't want to reveal any of your big wigs as paper tigers, or diminish the credibility of your judges.  So what do you do?

Now, anyone who watches a lot of food challenge television knows Food Network is not the only gig in town.  It is the biggest gig.  But there is also Bravo and TLC.  Bravo has Top Chef.  This show actually is bigger than anything that is run by Food Network.  It is seen as a pretty big deal show by entertainment writers and critics.  I can only imagine that there is a big rivalry between the Top Chef and Food Network universes.  TLC usually comes along and poaches people from Food Network after they have become familiar.  Buddy on Cake Boss got famous on Food Network Challenges.  TLC had some cake competition last year that was completely made up of people who used to frequent Food Network cake challenges.  I have no idea if this played a part in Food Network's stocking of competitors for this run, but I have a sneaky feeling that it did.  I even told Heather last night how I thought the eliminations would go - before the episode.  Here is a brief rundown of the ten competitors and my expectations for the show.

  • Anne Burrell - She is a Food Network home grown star.  She started off as sous chef to Mario Batali on Iron Chef America, which is going to give her a HUGE advantage in this show.  She hosts Worst Cooks in America and Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.  She is cocky and has an amazing television presence.  And she can cook like no one's business.  She has the pedigree and the experience.  Plus, every time she competes with Robert Irvine - the other big dog in this show - she beats him.  I think she should be one of the final three.  Projected Finish - 3rd
  • Michael Chiarello - Food Network star and mega-big shot chef in California.  He is the only Emmy winner in the roster for his show Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello.  I find him extremely annoying and can't stand his show.  But, I am in the minority, I fear.  He is extremely resourceful and talented.  The other chefs really admire him.  He has the self-confidence and talent.  But I think he is too calm - and they don't need another guy like that.  I think he is one of the middle ones to go.  Projected Finish - 5th
  • Elizabeth Falkner - She is primarily a pastry chef, but can do anything.  She is one of the Top Chef/Food Network hybrids.  She has competed in Iron Chef America and has appeared on several Food Network shows.  BUT she also was a judge on Top Chef and a competitor on Top Chef Masters.  This means that she is recognizable, but is still expendable to Food Network.  If she surprises and goes far, no harm. But if she gets cut early, no harm either.  Plus, she's too Zen to make good TV.  Projected Finish - 7th
  • Alex Guarnaschelli - Apparently she is a brilliant chef, since she is the executive chef at Butter - a big shot restaurant in NYC.  But her resume is filled with judging roles on Food Network.  She now has her own show, Alex's Day Out.  But she is primarily a judge.  (This allows her to sit behind a desk.  I've noticed how Food Network only shoots her from mid-torso up as much a possible.  I think she's self-conscious about her figure.  I watch too much tv.)  After watching the first episode, where she was paired with Falkner and looked like the weaker link, I am not sure how far she can go in this.  But she is a TERRIFIC tv personality and food describing type person.  Basically, she's a great judge.  I don't think she can make it as an Iron Chef.  But she can't get eliminated too early without hurting her judging status.  Projected Finish - 6th
  • Chuck Hughes - Who?  Yeah, exactly.  He's big up in Canada, tho, ya hoser.  He has a show on The Cooking Channel - which is Food Network's poorer and less important sister channel.  (Like Pippa Middleton, only with less body.  Haha.)  He seems talented.  But I have a term for competitors like this: Cannon Fodder.  You have to have people on the show that can get eliminated first.  Projected Finish - 9th
  • Robert Irvine - The big dog.  He is everywhere on Food Network and is bulletproof.  He padded his resume and didn't fired.  He took a break and got promoted.  Plus, his entire resume on television is competition shows - and ones having to pull ideas out of his rear, at that.  Dinner Impossible alone means he HAS to be a favorite on this show.  Plus, you can easily see him as an Iron Chef.  And he hates to lose.  He is a Top Three finisher for sure.  I think he'll be one of the final two - and should win, except for my Dark Horse.  Projected Finish - 2nd (but I won't be surprised if he wins).
  • Beau MacMillan - I have no idea where this guy came from.  He was the first co-host of Worst Cooks in America.  But he was abrasive and annoying and had a terrible camera presence - seeming to be winded all the time.  He has a Boston accent, but has worked in Scottsdale, Arizone his whole professional life.  He's the prototypical example of a lummox.  In the Celebrity Chopped competition, he was the first one out.  He seems to be overmatched in the competition.  And, in the first episode, he was kind of dragged along by his partner.  I can't imagine him going far in this competition.  Projected Finish - 8th
  • Spike Mendelsohn - He has no experience on Food Network at all, with the exception of competing on Iron Chef America last year.  He is a Top Chef guy.  He won it one year and is one of its celebrated alums.  He's extremely cocky.  And he looks like James Franco with a beard, which makes him even more annoying.  Two words: Cannon Fodder.  I said this before the show started.  I said this when they got down to the bottom two.  And I was proved right when he was the first eliminated contestant, even though there were NO COMPLAINTS ABOUT HIS DISH, even though the other guy had several problems with his.  Projected (Actual) Finish: 10th
  • Marcus Samuelsson - Apparently this guy is a genius in the food world.  The first time I saw him, he popped up as a judge on an episode of Next Food Network Star.  He was at a table with a bunch of other food experts and was labeled as "Marcus Samuelsson, Scandinavian Food Expert."  I had no idea how this dark skinned guy was a Scandinavian food expert, or if there even was such a thing.  He savaged the contestants' meals on that show - and was dead on with his criticism.  Now he's a judge on Chopped.  I didn't realized he won Top Chef Masters, since I don't watch that show.  He was in the bottom two last night, but I think that is an anomaly - at least for a few weeks.  Remember, someone has to lose and all Food Network needs to do with him is keep his judging credibility intact.  Projected Finish: 4th
  • Geoffrey Zakarian - He is like the godfather of Chopped judges.  He also has been on 24 Hour Restaurant Battle.  I never had heard of this guy until I saw him as a judge.  He's the oldest competitor and is extremely well spoken, intelligent, and a brilliant judge.  Then he competed in Celebrity Chopped and all the other chefs were terrified of him.  Apparently his genius is well known in restaurant circles.  He came in second in his Chopped battle, but easily could have won.  Then last night, that same fear was in everyone's eyes with him.  He won the first round - PAIRED WITH BEAU MACMILLAN, which is like winning a sprint while having a corpse tied to your ankle.  I could be totally wrong, but I have this feeling.  He's like Ming Tsai last year, where his insane talent will keep him going.  His off weeks will probably be better than most of the others' good weeks.  He'll easily survive the Cannon Fodder weeks, be consistently better in the middle tough eliminations, and then end up in the Top Three.  He could easily disrupt the expected Irvine/Burrell showdown.  He is my Dark Horse candidate.  I think it is going to come down to Zakarian and Irvine in the final round.  If Irvine can bring his Dinner Impossible sous chefs George and David, it will be tough.  But I think Zakarian can take it - or he'll come in second to Irvine.  Projected Finish: 1st

Oct 29, 2011

Hurts Like Heaven

So much of our time, we are worried about such mundane stuff.  I think we like it that way.  We're able to distract our brains by getting caught up in minor and trivial concerns.  Which superhero is the best. (Batman, of course)  Chronic misuse of the words "literally" and "ironic."  Whether or not Steve Jobs actually died the day after the iPhone 4S was introduced or if the news was held until that day.  We love to get all wrapped up in those kind of debates.

If we aren't debating if Two and a Half Men is better or worse without Charlie Sheen, we are usually wrapped up in our serious and personal issues.  Financial woes.  Job concerns.  Car wrecks and repairs.  (At LEAST two weeks to fix our van?  Whaaaa?)  What church we should attend.  When to get involved in problems at our kids' schools.  These are definitely important issues and deserving of our attention.  But, for the most part, they affect just us.  People living in Duluth probably could care less about if we work out issues between our daughter and Katie.  (They are too busy avoiding frostbite in September.)  But we definitely care about these things and spend a ton of time worrying about them.

From time to time, we are forced to think about bigger picture items - things that actually have meaning and depth.  This seems to bug us.  We want to get back to the useless and trivial matters.  It is uncomfortable dwelling in this more important level of issues.  There is controversy there.  After 9/11, The Onion ran a classic headline that (edited by me) said, "A Shattered Nation Longs to Care About Stupid B.S. Again."  We try to get away from the more serious stuff as soon as possible.  Or, we manage to fixate on the minors of the major issues.  The whole "Occupy" movement brings with it debate and passionate opinions on both sides.  But when we joke about the fact that over 75% of the mass of the solar system is taken up by just one planet, so we should Occupy Jupiter, then we can ignore the bigger picture.  Once we decide to go Occupy Okahumpka, we then spend twenty minutes deciding on whether to wear our slouchy knit cap or our fisherman cap.  Marginalization complete!  (I kid, I kid.  Of course, wear the knit cap.)

Of course, beyond those two issues are those global ones that force us to all take a stand.  Things like horrific natural disasters (Japan's tsunami, Haiti's earthquake), political upheaval (Libya, Egypt), and royal weddings (William and Kate) are so large in scope that we can't ignore them forever.  We must pay them some level of attention.  They demand it.  The sheer scope of human suffering (or joy) associated with these draws our minds like a magnet.

So, on the average day, we all have this stuff swirling around in our heads.  Most of our attention is focused on the first two areas, with much smaller parts contemplating the last two.  Day in and day out, that is how our brains work.  But, there are events that can just pierce through that entire process like one of Rambo's exploding arrows.

"Hey, it's mom.  The doctor said that I have Grade 3 Endometrial Cancer."

Just that quickly, all of that other stuff just disappears.  We had suspicions something wasn't right.  There were unexplained medical issues, bleeding that definitely shouldn't happen.  The doctor had tried to push  up the results appointment by two days, so they could "get started on doing what needs done."  I've been around doctors enough to know that they never push appointments up by two days to give happy news.  But now it was final.  The big question was answered, with an avalanche of new ones now developing.  We don't know the severity, the progression, the treatment, the long term outlook.  Now it is just grappling with that earth-shattering revelation.

I think that the scariest thing in the world is cancer.  Seriously, every year Hollywood churns out movies trying to scare the snotballs out of people.  They could just nail it with having a doctor come up to the various people seated in the auditorium and saying, "Excuse me, could you come out to the lobby with me?  There was something abnormal in your test results."  No pea soup spitting infant will every rival the terror that grips a person when the physician starts dropping the C Word.  It used to be that cancer was seen as a death sentence.  But treatments have gotten so much better in recent years that we hear about people surviving all the time.  We all know people that have had cancer.  And the crazy thing is that we all know people who have beaten it.  But it still is scary because we know that there is still a worst case scenario.  And we know that often the treatment seems worse than the disease.  It isn't an easy thing to fight cancer.  It takes everything you have.  I think that's why you "get over" most other illnesses and "beat" cancer.  It is a fight.  Fighters don't "get over" their opponents.  They "beat" them.  And they never really get over them.

I think it is natural to imagine the worst case scenario when you get news like that.  You really can't help it.  In that first moment when the news clears out all the riff raff in your mind, your entire mental processing power is focused on that one piece of news.  And that means that your mind runs in a hundred different directions all at once.  You think of the people who have beaten cancer.  You think of the people who haven't.  You think of what it will take to actually win the fight.  And you think of what happens if you lose.  That last one is the part that makes you think of the worst.  What happens if she dies?  Ugh.  What a horrible thought.  I know that there are people who say, "Don't let your mind go there.  She is still alive and can still beat this."  I know that very well.  My mom is a fighter - she's already faced cancer, among numerous other terrifying things.  She has MS.  She has an arachnoid cyst in her spine.  She has suffered through abuse and life experiences that would have shattered most people.  And she did it with grace and dignity.  So I know she can win.  But that haunting question of "what if..." is still so potent.

I love my mom.  She is an incredible person.  I've written about her before on this blog.  I know that at some point that she will move on from this life.  I just don't think I'll ever be ready for it.  I've lost people I care about before.  One grandfather died when I was 11, one grandmother when I was 13.  The other grandfather died when I was 16.  My dad passed away when I was 25 and my other grandmother when I was 30.  Heather's maternal grandparents passed away this summer and in 2009.  I've experienced this before.  But my mom is a different story.  I remember when my dad died, the thing that just floored me was when I got to the house and he wasn't in his chair.  I was just used to seeing him in that chair.  With my mom, I think about the day when I won't be able to call her and know she's home and willing to talk.  Even if it is just twenty minutes of me venting - she's always there.  It is weird when she's out when I call.  I can't imagine how hard it will be when she isn't there at all.  That day, obviously, isn't today.  But it is awfully hard to keep my mind from veering in that direction from time to time.

The hardest thing was breaking the news to my kids.  I knew it would be hard for me.  But I couldn't imagine that pain could actually be worse.  When I looked at Josiah and Natalie and told them what was going on, my heart broken in a different place.  I told them that she can beat this.  I told them how many people we know have beaten cancer.  But their little minds did the same dance mine did.  I saw the fear in their eyes - the anger, the hurt, the questions.  It was horrible.  Again, my kids were close to Heather's grandparents and so they've seen death.  But this was a whole different level of pain.  It was awful.  There's only so much you can say.  Even when you're a kid, you know that word is terrifying.  My own heart hurt like I couldn't believe.  Having to hold Natalie hours later as she thought about not being able to go to Grammy's house to bake cookies was just too much to take.

For a couple of days, I had trouble really concentrating on thing like work and baseball.  I think I was just worn out by the end of the day.  I kept falling asleep in my chair before 10pm.  So, apparently I missed the greatest baseball game ever played, among other things.  And my heart hurt.  I would say it "hurt like heck," but that wasn't it.  The hurt was tempered, like it was with my dad and Heather's grandparents.  When Coldplay's new album, Mylo Xyloto, came out, their second song gave me what it felt like.  The title of the song is "Hurts Like Heaven."  The song has nothing to do with what is going on here, but the phrase stuck with me.  It perfectly described what I was feeling.  It hurt like Heaven.  There was a level of pain that came from the thought of my potential loss.  There was the fear and apprehension.  There was all of the normal human emotions and feelings.  But, there was also another element that brought a strange peace.  It was good to know what exactly we were facing.  It could answer many health problems that had surfaced lately with my mother.

But the biggest part is that I don't fear for my mother.  I know she is in God's hands.  I know what will happen to her when she does die - whenever that is.  She will be home in Heaven with the God she loves and has diligently and passionately served for 35 years.  She won't hurt any more.  She will be free of the crooked skeleton.  Her eyes will see clearly again.  It won't hurt her to walk around.  She will be whole and healthy and free.  How can that be a bad thing?  Yes, we will miss her horribly here. But she will finally have what she has lived for.  She'll get to be with Jesus.  And that means our pain is temporary.  It may be intense and crippling and awful.  But it will end.

It is impossible for me to think of this upcoming challenge without this mindset.  We will go through the treatments and surgeries and appointments.  We will try to tackle this illness and do whatever possible to win.  We will pray for healing and for wisdom.  But, even if the worst case scenario happens, my mother gets to experience wholeness and healing and happiness like it is impossible to know on Earth.  But that is a thought for another day.  We appreciate your prayers.  This isn't going to be easy.  It has a way of shaking up a normal routine - both physical and mental.  But God is still in control.  We still have time and hope.  And my mom is still answering her phone.

Oct 17, 2011

Now in 3D!!!

A couple weeks ago, we all went to see Lion King 3D during its "Not As Limited As We First Thought Engagement."  My wife and I were huge fans of the original.  I remember seeing it in the theater when it first came out.  I was home from college during the summer of after my sophomore year.  It was maybe the only movie I ever saw with both of my parents in the theater.  I loved it.  My mom wasn't that big of a fan of it.  I don't remember what my dad thought.  I bought the soundtrack and had the movie on VHS when it came out.  I had hoped my kids would like it too.  We have the DVD and they've watched it before.  But the chance to see it on the BIG SCREEN - and in 3D!!!  Plus we had some Disney movie vouchers and ten bucks on my AMC Stubs card.

My wife and I were taken in all over again.  The movie is so majestic and incredible.  The score and soundtrack and phenomenal.  And the story is very powerful - with elements of Star Wars and Macbeth woven throughout.  It was beautiful in 3D.  But it reminded me of those old Viewmaster discs that made a "three dimensional" picture that looked suspiciously like a pop up book.  It worked better than some newer 3D movies, though.  It didn't resort to cheap tricks like things flying at the screen.  But it didn't take me in like I was hoping.  It probably was because the film was a 2D classical animation, and you just can't make that completely 3D.  The other reason is because Lion King was about the closest thing to a 3D movie as you could get without it really being one in the first place.  The attention to detail and the depth of the original film was already engrossing.  Scenes like the animals coming to see the newborn Simba, with Zazu flying overhead was already powerful.  In 3D it was even cooler.  But I didn't walk away saying that it improved the movie that much.  I would have enjoyed seeing the original on the big screen anyway, so the 3D was kind of icing.

[Side Note: Josiah loved the movie.  Natalie didn't like it because it was too dark and violent.  Gabe didn't care for it at all and spent most of the movie crawling all over us and playing on Heather's phone.  I had forgotten just how dark the movie was.  That's probably the reason I liked it so much.  Of course, I was 20 the first time I saw it.  Soooooo....]

It made me think about 3D movies in general.  Lion King 3D was a runaway success.  It took in 90 million dollars during its brief run.  New movies would kill for that kind of box office.  This was a movie that had been out for sixteen years and was coming on Blu-ray three weeks later.  Disney spent about $10 million on the 3D transfer and maybe another $10 million on promotion.  So a $70 million profit isn't a back month for the Mouse.  That doesn't count the increased sales of the Blu-Ray packs that came from the new generation of fans from the re-re-release.  (It had previously been re-released on IMAX in 2002 and took in $15 million there.)

We have been inundated with 3D movies.  The reason why is obvious.  It's all about the green.  The average movie can be transferred to 3D for between $2 million and $5 million.  Movie theaters charge an extra $4 per 3D ticket.  So that means that a movie can generate an extra $20-$50 million from that small investment.  The problem is that most of these 3D titles aren't delivering on the added cost.  So we are seeing the box office of 3D movies dropping.  Movies that were expecting boffo 3D money are underperforming pretty consistently.  Many in the industry have wondered if it is the death knell for 3D movies.  I don't think it is.  Have you ever known Hollywood to leave money on the table?  Even an underperforming 3D movie (think Harry Potter 7.2, Pirates 4, Green Lantern, Green Hornet) can pull in an extra $20 million from that small transfer.  Would YOU give up $20 million?  Yeah, neither would the movie studio.  [Another Side Note:  I'm not saying Harry Potter 7.2 underperformed.  $1 billion worldwide box office is NOT underperforming.  Its 3D numbers were disappointing to Warner Brothers.]

From what I've seen, there are three types of 3D movies coming out right now:  the 3D Film as Investment, the 3D Film as Experience, and the 3D Film as Event.  To me, the breakdown is probably about 70/20/10 for those three categories.  And that is probably why we are seeing such a backlash against 3D movies in general.

The 3D Film as Investment is the movie where the studio executive is saying, "You know, we could do a 3D transfer on this movie and make an extra $30 million.  We're already going to make a lot.  Let's make more and improve the movie's bottom line.  Maybe I can buy another BMW."  These are movies like Captain America, Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans, Harry Potter, Despicable Me, Gnomeo and Juliet.  The movie doesn't really get any better through being in 3D.  It may have a few extra moments that feel cool.  There are some 3D gimmicks thrown in.  But your feeling for the movie isn't going to improve much wearing those glasses.  In fact, it may actually HURT the movie.  Take Captain America.  I saw this movie twice this summer - once in traditional format and once in 3D.  And I saw them in that order.  I loved the movie.  It really exceeded my expectations.  I liked the performances, the characters, even the look.  The 1940s scenes had an old time hue to them.  It almost had a washed, sepia tint that you didn't even notice until the 2011 scenes.  The whole movie looked different.  It was a nice visual element.  In 3D, though, I kept noticing the annoying stuff.  When Cap was racing on top of a train, it looked like an action figure on a toy train.  It made all the FX look faker.  It actually made the film LESS believable.  I probably would have not had such a high opinion of the film if I had seen it in reverse order - 3D first and 2D second.  Actually, I may not have seen it twice at all.  If that had been the case, the theater really messed up their accounting.  Getting two tickets is better than getting an extra $4 on one ticket.

Generally, I avoid this type of 3D film.  It's not worth it.  It takes your brain and eyes a while to buy into the 3D format in the first place.  Some elements don't work and seem clunky.  And the gimmicks are just insulting.  I usually will just see the 2D version of this movie.  I saw movies like Thor, Harry Potter, Toy Story 3, and Cars 2 in traditional format.  It just wasn't worth the extra money - especially when you are talking about that surcharge on every ticket (between two and five, depending on who in our family went).  I usually can tell what stuff they stuck into a movie to make it "worth the 3D upcharge."  In Harry Potter 7.1, I sat there and pointed out seven different scenes to Heather that were filmed for the 3D transfer that they ended up not doing.  I did the same thing with Thor.  I don't find that endearing.  I find that insulting.  Make a good movie.  That will suck me in.  I don't need gimmicks.

The 3D Film as Experience is a movie where your experience is actually improved by the 3D format.  You know, the kind of movie that this was developed for - the kind that they should limit 3D movies to.  Usually, this kind of movie is not transferred to 3D; it is actually filmed in 3D.  (Although that is not always the case.  For example, there was no way to salvage Pirates 4, even though it was shot in 3D.)  Movies in this class are films like Avatar.  The movie was made in 3D and was designed to be experienced in 3D.  I would argue Tron: Legacy would fall into this category.  I actually really liked that movie.  The scenes in the "real world" were shot in traditional 2D.  When they went into the computer world, it became 3D.  And it BECAME 3D.  It sucked you in and you were IN that world.  The movie was better that way.  These movies are hard to come by.  Truthfully, documentaries seem to do this better.  I will be more willing to see this type of film than the first type.  The new Amazing Spiderman 3D looks like it will fit into this category.  It is being filmed and created in 3D.  One of the goals of the filmmaker is to actually let the viewer feel like Spiderman as he swoops through town.  The first preview showed some of that.  That's a movie worth seeing in 3D - if they can pull it off.

The 3D Film as Event is the rarest of the 3D crop.  This is a movie that becomes a "must see."  You could argue that Avatar moved into this category after its release.  Everyone was seeing it.  It was the highest grossing movie of all time.  So, even though it was an experience, it became more than that.  People felt left out if they didn't see it.  (And the backlash hipster crowd refused to see it BECAUSE everyone saw it.)  Lion King would definitely be in this category.  Beauty and the Beast also fell into this group when it came out in 3D a few years back.  You often will see a re-release of a big movie fit into the Event category.  Coming up next year, you will see more films fall into this group.  Titanic is coming to 3D on April 6, 2012.  That movie was such a mammoth event when it came out that I fully expect it to do big business.  Plus, James Cameron is THE king of the world . . . of 3D.  So, expect it to deliver the goods.  Star Wars begins its trek to 3D, and its eventual release on 3D Blu-Ray, next year.  Episode 1 hits theaters on February 10.  The plan is to release the entire series, one per year.  But, recent buzz has been that George Lucas may not follow through if Episode 1 bombs.  (Brilliant strategy, leave the fate of the series in 3D to arguably the worst film of the series.  Don't start with Episode IV or anything.)  Personally, I don't know if I will see Titanic when it comes out.  I liked the movie, but I'm not in love with it.  My son and I are already making plans to see Star Wars, though.

I don't think 3D movies are going anywhere.  There is too much money in the format.  In addition, with the growing market of 3D Blu-Ray players, 3D televisions, and 3D tv stations, it just seems like it will hang on for a while - even if it doesn't deserve to.  I think we have seen a movement where moviegoers are expressing their distaste for stupid 3D releases, just like they revolted against unnecessary IMAX movie offerings.  Those special formats are best left to movies that deserve the added attention - movies that are Experiences or Events.  Those are the kinds that I go to.  I already have trimmed back my moviegoing in general.  I don't go to everything that comes out.  Lots of movies look just fine on my tv and I can handle the $1 redbox rental much easier than the $10 ticket price.  I'm not going to waste even more money on 3D gimmicks.  It's the same message we've been telling studios for years.  But some effort into your films.  Make something we want to see, that is worth seeing, and we'll watch it.  Instead of putting an extra $2 million into a transfer, put it into screenwriting or directing.  If the studios want to see their ticket sales go up, their 3D sales improve, make movies that are worth paying for.