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Blind Support For Widescreen? Not Here!

February 2004


I know, I know. It's been way too long for one of my commentaries. And where are new screen shots? Things have been going crazy lately. I'd use a recent George Carlin "[I've been] busy as a..." joke, but I'm sure that I'd get in trouble for it.

A LONG TIME AGO

As I'm sure we've all heard by now, Star Wars is finally coming to DVD. I should have known that this was going to happen because I just converted my THX original and special edition Star Wars trilogies to DVD-R.

It will be wonderful to finally see these movies on DVD, although I'm disappointed that they'll be the special editions. Since George Lucas feels that the special edition best represents his vision for the trilogy, I have to accept the changes that he made and support his decision ... but I'll just never be able to accept Greedo firing first. Sorry, but that change was completely unnecessary. I'll support the change, but I sure as shootin' won't like it. (Yes, I'm one of those Star Wars fanatics.)

I'm sure that those who own the non-special edition, THX laserdiscs and DVD writers are about to make a ton of money on eBay.

Unfortunately, I'm sure that the Star Wars DVDs will be released in both widescreen and pan-and-scan. I wish that Mr. Lucas would stick to his guns and say "Widescreen only!" Sadly, the corporate Wal-Mart and Target Nazis will demand pan-and-scan, I'm sure. "You vill make pan-und-shcan for us or ve vill not zell ANY uf your DVDs! Now excuze us vile ve vigure out how to run more mom-und-pop stores out uf buziness through our unethical global dominazhun .. er .. store expanzhun plans."

(I'm of German descent, so those of you who are about to get on your politically-correct, high horses can get down.)

MORE DISNEY RANTING

As you know, I am not a fan of Disney at least when it comes to their corporate policies. Their general anti-widescreen policy that pan-and-scan equates to being "family friendly" is downright insulting. The idea that children will somehow reject black bars on the top and bottom of the TV screen is ridiculous at best and unbearably arrogant at worst.

I guess that Pirates of the Caribbean isn't meant to be family friendly since it's only available on DVD in widescreen. Keep your kids away from it, I tell you! It's obviously not meant for families since it's not available in pan-and-scan!

To further my dislike for Disney, they have recently implemented a new policy on how they're releasing dual-format DVDs. UltimateDisney.com has reported that for dual-format, live action DVD releases Disney will discontinue sales of whichever version has not sold the most after a few months of its initial release. I suppose that from a marketing and manufacturing standpoint it makes fiscal sense to cease the manufacturing of products that don't sell well; but Disney has made no indication of how this is determined. What sales ratio will be used? 25% against 75%? 10% against 90%? 49% against 51%? Which is it?

Based on Disney's general anti-widescreen policy, I would not doubt if this is just a way to get widescreen off the shelves faster in an attempt to put more pan-and-scan into people's home, again forcing their own, unsubstantiated opinion that widescreen is anti-family.

So, if you've been waiting to get a widescreen version of any Disney DVDs, I suggest that you get out there and purchase it really quickly. This also means that you should buy your widescreen DVDs in droves when they are first released.

I'd really like to see a widescreen version blatantly out-sell its pan-and-scan counterpart. I am very curious to see how Disney will spin their policy to keep pan-and-scan on the shelves even if as per their new policy pan-and-scan should be removed. Based on their anti-widescreen track record, I know they're going to find some excuse to keep selling pan-and-scan versions of a particular title even if widescreen sells more. "Well, it was just a test policy. We didn't really mean it. Therefore, we're going to keep selling the pan-and-scan .. er .. full frame version."

But I can guarantee that if pan-and-scan outsells the widescreen version ... "Our customers have proven they they prefer pan-and-scan .. er .. full frame, and thus as per our new, rock-solid policy we are ceasing the manufacturing of the immoral, anti-family widescreen abominations of this particular movie."

Whoever is running the Disney Home Video segment of the company really needs to go on a long, preferably permanent, vacation.

(And, no, Dennis, I will not stop picking on the mouse as long as they continue to deserve to be picked on.)

WIDESCREEN FOR THE SAKE OF WIDESCREEN

As most of you should know by now, I am not an advocate of widescreen just for the sake of widescreen. I am a fervent supporter of the "original aspect ratio" or OAR. This is the version that the people who matter the directors, producers, cinematographers, and so forth decide is best for their movies.

If film makers want a movie to be shown in 2.35:1, then that is how the movie should be shown. No exceptions. Pan-and-scan supporters be damned. If film makers want a movie to be shown in 1.33:1, then that is how the movie should be shown. No exceptions.

I hear every now and then from those who particularly enjoy Stanley Kubrick's movies. With very few exceptions, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, he framed most of his movies (including The Shining and Full Metal Jacket) for a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Unfortunately, this caused a problem with many because they were shown theatrically at 1.85:1. This is not because he wanted a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Instead, this happened because most modern theaters are incapable of showing a movie in anything less than 1.85:1. As a result, most people thought that the 1.85:1 version is what Kubrick wanted. This is not true.

This means that you should never find a widescreen version of movies like The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and others. I will actually come to the defense of those who say that there should be no widescreen version.

Get ready for me to advocate this position again.

A few months ago, I found out that Kung Fu (David Carradine) will be coming to DVD. I have always liked this show and actually considered buying the sets when they come out (after I finish my Deep Space 9 sets, of course). But according to TVShowsOnDVD.com these DVDs will be coming out in anamorphic widescreen!

As much as I support widescreen, I cannot support this. This TV show was created long before widescreen TV was ever a genuine concept. This show was created even before stereo first appeared in theaters. There is no excuse for showing in widescreen a piece that was not even properly composed for widescreen! I sincerely doubt that the original creators sat around before shooting each episode and tried to figure out the best way for the episodes to be shown in a 16:9 aspect ratio for TVs that would not become popular until 30 years afterwards.

The whole concept of aspect ratios can be a controversial one; but as far as I am concerned, there is no controversy here. The 16:9 aspect ratio of Kung Fu is wrong. This is another type of pan-and-scan in action except that the top and bottom are being cut off instead of the sides.

I hope that this is a trend that does not continue.

UPDATES COMING

I also wanted to let you know that I'm going to be doing some updating to the site a task that is long overdue. Some parts of it just feel old. Some could use language and examples are clearer than what are currently there. And others are simply in need of updated information, particularly the widescreen TV section.

I've also found another prime example on why matted widescreen is preferable to its open-matte counterpart even if the black bars really do cover information. Wait until you see this one! This is no simple boom microphone example!

I also apologize for those who have sent me e-mail but never got a response. I mean to respond. I just haven't gotten a chance to do so, particularly yours, my German-living-in-Ireland friend! (You know who you are!)

I've been as busy as a ... whoops. Can't go there.

Until next time!