Two films are coming out at the same time this month, and because they seem so opposite, natural human instinct is causing critics to lump them together. One is a movie about the atomic physicist Oppenheimer, which is called Oppenheimer. The other is a movie about the children’s doll Barbie, and the name of it will not surprise anyone.
It seems impossible to resist discussing these two films together. More than one critic has even placed clips of them side by side to point out the contrast.
It is an illuminating comparison. On one side of the screen, the fantastical color palette of a world that never existed outside the imagination. On the other side, Barbie.
Most critics do not seem to notice this curious fact, that the movie about a children’s toy in a fantasy world is the one that is filmed in natural colors, whereas the meticulously researched and painstakingly detailed biographical epic is filmed in the restricted and unreal tones that are fashionable these days. It sometimes seems to Dr. Boli that he has dropped back ninety years into the era of two-strip Technicolor. But perhaps history is repeating itself: perhaps Barbie is a sign that we have rediscovered the lost technology of filmmaking in natural color, and three-strip Technicolor will soon make its triumphant return.(1)
Will Dr. Boli see either movie? Probably not. If he had to choose between them, though, he would choose the one in natural colors, just for the refreshing break from the seas of orange and teal in which current cinema has drowned us. He says that in spite of the assurance of respectable critics that Oppenheimer is a film of quality, because it is directed by the man who directed the Dark Knight trilogy about the tortured life of a comic-book hero in a funny outfit. This reminds Dr. Boli that he promised to continue our conversation about cultural neoteny, so he ought to get to work on that.