MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Seasons’ Fails to Take Advantage of IMAX Format


Exposition Park’s California Museum of Science and Industry IMAX Theater’s latest offering, Ben Shedd’s 33-minute “Seasons” (premiering today at 11 a.m.), is most kindly viewed as ideal for children, thrilling them with outsize images while making them aware of the solar system and the weather’s eternal cycles. It will also most likely delight all those who accept all IMAX offerings uncritically--those who are automatically captivated by the novelty of the awesome proportions of the IMAX screen and its camera’s unique capacity for depth and capturing towering close-ups.

A mishmash, “Seasons,” however, is all technique and no style. It’s best when it sticks to nature, showing us rapturously beautiful images of raccoons preparing to hibernate and birds gathering to migrate for the winter. Abrupt cuts to human activity are jolting, and Shedd’s choices are banal: an amusement park for summer--this allows for some Cinerama-like rides on a Ferris wheel--a raucous Oktoberfest celebration for fall, a sleigh ride for winter. Shedd and writer George Casey are on to something when they suggest that the eternal cycle of the seasons is what prompted mankind to try to make sense of the universe, but they don’t stick with this point of view very long.

Shedd balances the building of an immense sand castle, a veritable Mont St. Michel re-created on a San Diego beach, with the similar construction of an ice castle. They’re innocent, pleasure-giving examples of kitsch, having nothing to do with natural beauty, yet he and Casey get carried away, declaring via William Shatner’s soundtrack narration that the completed, lighted ice castle represents nothing less than “a celebration of the triumph of life.”


Yet they’re capable of following such a silly remark with a worthy consideration of the importance of comprehending that the sun, rather than the Earth, is at the center of our universe, which represents “the need to see ourselves as a part of a larger universe.”

When a film is as uneven, at odds with itself, as “Seasons,” which is accompanied by Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” it calls into question its choice of medium. If an IMAX film is to seem more than a museum exhibit then there has to be some point as to why it’s been made in that format in the first place--some sense that its unique resources have been explored for some purpose. (Ironically, the program’s curtain-raiser, Ron Fricke’s dazzling eight-minute “Sacred Site,” a glorious tracking of Halley’s Comet from Australia’s Ayer’s Mound, a huge breadloaf-like mountain in a desert landscape, shows just what can only be accomplished in IMAX.)

The lack of imagination in “Seasons” makes you appreciate the rigor of the best experimental filmmakers; Stan Brakhage, for example, has celebrated nature and its cycles for decades in rich, flowing images created with much the same equipment others use to take home movies. There’s lots more point to them than a close-up of a pansy that’s 40 feet tall.

Continuing at the IMAX, along with “Seasons,” through April 28 are a reprise of “Beavers,” plus “The Discoverers,” “Grand Canyon” and “Chronos.”

Schedule and information: (213) 744-2014.


A Minnesota Office of Tourism/Science Museum of Minnesota presentation in cooperation with the Museum Film Network. Producer-director Ben Shedd. Executive producers Mike Day, George Casey, Paul Novros. Writer George Casey. Cinematographer David Douglas. Music Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” performed by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; Pinchas Zukerman, music director and violinist. Computer animation created and animated by Vibeke Sorenson, Cal-Tech. Digital film recording by Richard A. Weinberg, Richard Y. Ostiguy, Richard A. Harrington, USC. Running time: 33 minutes.

Times guidelines: suitable for all ages.