Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fantasy,Reality and Their Gradations

It finally came to me. The first time we saw the latest Nutrisystem ad, my wife and I both thought the woman (not Marie Osmond, the other one) looked, well, unusual somehow. The other day I realized….the long torso…..the hard face…..the relatively narrow hips…..she looks like she used to be a man. More evidence that of all the advantages of losing excess weight – and she seems to have derived many benefits – appearance is the most uncertain. Perhaps she looks better in person.

I happened upon G4 TV’s coverage of the Adult Entertainment Expo, at least what they could show; unsurprisingly the image-blurring was extensive. I haven’t contributed to that industry’s profit margin since before most of its current stars were born, but if I were already in Las Vegas at the right time the convention looks like it might be fun to attend just to see what it’s like. I could see that advances in plastic surgery have enabled adult film makers to have the same advantage Playboy has always had with pictures, just with the women themselves touched up instead of the images. I could tell who the veterans of the business were by the extent and obviousness of the alterations. I have often heard that pornography demeans women by presenting a distorted view of them to men. I tend to think that anyone who would confuse those productions with reality is the type who has to learn just about everything the hard way, sad as that may be for all involved.

That train of thought brings to mind an accelerating trend in movie making in general, the mingling of the technologies of representing fantasy and reality. For the first few decades of film making the struggle was for realism, to accurately replicate actual people/places/things and to make imaginary people/places/things seem real. Naturally reality was easier to handle, so fantasy tended to resemble it; aliens and monsters and their worlds were modeled around what was actually available. Even as the special effects got better they were still largely used as improved versions of what had always been done, and dropped into the film as a largely separate entity.

Now the technology developed to make fantasy seem real is being used to make reality seem fantastic. The upcoming Alice in Wonderland movie is a prime example. Actual people are not just voicing characters but providing their image, and they are recognizable, but they are being digitally altered into fantastic shapes and are integrated into the semi-animated form of the film. It makes me wonder what other movies will be remade this way, or what other stories will be done. I can imagine Disney trying this with some of their animated catalog, and someone redoing some of the old sci-fi flicks. It also could bring up conflicts between acting and animation. At what point does a performance like that go from contention for an award for Best Actor to Best Special Effects?