Note about the Beta Release
Movie Hurl is currently a beta release...meaning, there might be (probably are) bugs. Please report any bugs you experience either through the comments system (private comments are fine for bug reports) or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Statement of Purpose
Welcome to Movie Hurl. This website provides you with the ability to determine if a movie will make you motion-sick before you see it. With such information in hand, you can then decide whether or not you want to throw your money away on it.
Movie-induced motion-sickness (I will refer to it as movie-sickness) is a recent phenomenon in my experience. I recall enjoying movies across a wide variety of genres for most of my life without ever once having a nauseous reaction. However, in recent years, a number of directors have adopted a new cinematographic technique colloquially known as shaky camera or hand-held camera. These directors think they can be really cool by eschewing classic mounted and steadicam cameras in favor of deliberately shaky, seemingly cheap, hand-held cameras, much like an amateur shoulder-mounted or hand-held camcorder. Why would directors, with millions of dollars at their disposal, make such a choice? There are two likely explanations. First, they believe they can provide a more embedded experience for the viewer. That is, by having the camera bounce around as the cameraman moves, the director hopes to make the viewer feel less like an external viewer, and more like a passive participant in the scene. Second, sometimes the director wants the film to feel like it was cheaply made specifically to convince the viewer that the scene was made by an amateur with a cheap camera.
I have no argument with the motivations of directors who choose to go this route; it's their artistic creation and they are welcome to ruin it to their heart's delight, but they are nevertheless skipping over some pretty serious physiological problems, namely inner-ear induced nausea. In so doing, they are missing their goal entirely. Not only have they not improved your experience, they have utterly ravaged it, and you are now staring at the floor, wretchedly ill, completely missing the movie, and hoping you don't upchuck in your date's lap. For this delight you proably shelled out ten bucks!
This website is nothing short of an outright attack on the movie industry. If this website can drive enough viewers away from the theater, it is my hope that directors will stop making films this way. Alternatively, since such aspirations are bold to say the least, this website should at least permit people to save themselves horrific experiences and gobs of money.
What causes movie-sickness?
In case some people might be curious why "shaky cam" movies can make them so sick, here's a high-level explanation.
Your body (and your brain by extension) perceive your movement through the world in a number of ways. These are crucial biological mechanisms which serve to orient, balance, and otherwise propel us as we go about our animated lives. Two of the most important ways our body perceives motion are through vision and the inner-ear vestibules. Vision is easy to understand. As we see things moving around us, we interpret our changing visual experience as an indication of our motion through the world. The inner-ear vestibules have nothing to do with hearing. They are a trio of fluid-filled tubes in your ear. When the fluid sloshes through the tubes, neural signals are sent to your brain telling you how your body is swinging around, i.e., they are what is classically described as your sense of balance.
So we have two primary ways to know when and how we are moving. One is to see the world moving relative to ourselves and the other is to feel the inner-ear tubes sloshing back and forth.
Most of the time, these two neural sensations are in agreement. As you walk, for example, you see your world move past you and you also see it bounce up and down in time with your footsteps. Simultaneoulsy, your inner-ear feels corresponding motions. Your brain correlates the two inputs and helps you minimize hazards such as tripping.
Nausea is simply the experience of having these two neural inputs disagree about what is going on. There are two ways in which the eyes and inner-ears can disagree: you can see motion that you can't feel, and you can feel motion that you can't see. Both situations royally confuse your brain — the neural messages literally pass near or through the part of the brain responsible for triggering vomiting when you injest something poisonous — and are thusly interpreted the same way, as a wholly unindesired revisitation with your previous meal.
Motion-sickness, sea-sickness, and car-sickness all refer to situations in which your inner-ear feels motion, but your eyes can't see any motion. For example, if you are reading a book in a car, you don't see the book moving in a way that matches what you feel. It might bounce around, but it doesn't correlate clearly with the car's actual motion. On a boat, especially below decks, you don't see the motion because the boat is bobbing exactly the same way you are. You can feel the motion however. The car is vibrating, accelerating, turning. The boat is pitching and rolling. Your inner-ear is on high-alert, but your eyes say you are virtually still. Your brain just gives up completely and you get sick.
The common remedy for car-sickness is to look out the window for a while. Seems confusing. If you're so sick, why would watching the world rush by at sixty miles an hour make you feel better? Shouldn't all that fast moving clutter make you feel worse? This method works because your eyes can now tightly correlate your perceived motion with what your ears are feeling. Likewise for the sea-sickness, the solution is to watch the horizon for a while. The horizon gives you a steady landmark by which to visually perceive your relative motion as the boat tumbles around. You can then correlate your vision with your inner ear.
The exact opposite of motion-sickness is often call simulation-sickness, in which you can see motion but you can't feel any because you are actually sitting perfectly still. Note that this is movie-sickness. Simulation-sickness occurs not only with shaky cam movies, but also with many first-person-perspective video games and virtual reality setups. It is, in fact, one of the most serious impediments to the advancement of virtual reality technology. At least, those of us so prone to simulation sickness think so.
So that's motion and simulation sickness. Blows, doesn't it?