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December 2004

It's so hard to believe that Christmas is tomorrow, or “today” depending on wher you are in the world. (Yes, I said “Christmas”. I didn't say “the holidays” or “the season” or whatever politically correct euphemism is being pushed this year.) The speed at which time seems to pass is staggering. And for the first time in three years we didn't have a new “Lord of the Rings” movie. That feels really bizarre.

Speaking of Christmas (there's that word again!) and widescreen, I once again get an opportunity to rail against my favorite target the Walt Disney Company. Don't misunderstand. They're not my favorite target because I have anything against a high-pitched mouse or a “goofy” looking dog. (I am highly curious, however, and somewhat repulsed as to what female would possibly want to create a son with Goofy! That brings up some very disturbing images and possibilities!)

I know, it's Christmas. I should therefore be joyous and cheerful to all. And I most certainly am. But that doesn't mean that certain things can't get my blood boiling. I'm sure that a lot of you have felt the same way just from doing your Christmas shopping and the rudeness that often accompanies it.

No, indeed, my dislike for Disney comes from their anti-widescreen stance. I know that recently they have released some movies that are widescreen-only. “Pirates of the Caribbean” comes to mind as one of these, but I firmly believe that it's the exception and definitely not the rule. I've explained on many occasions and in many commentaries why I firmly believe that the home video branch of the Disney tree has an informal, anti-widescreen policy. I'm not going to rehash all of that here.

(If you or anyone you know is a higher-up in the home video branch of Disney, feel free to have them contact me. I would love to hear their views as to why they treat widescreen with such disdain for certain releases then release other movies in widescreen only. The paradoxical nature of their releases really needs some explanation from their people, and I'd be glad to let them use my site as a venue to explain their see-saw positions on widescreen.)

Anyway, I was out doing my Christmas shopping (“He said it again!”) when I went to a local mall that has a Disney Store in it. (It was the the Disney Store in the Capital City Mall in Camp Hill, PA, but don't tell anyone. That's just our little secret.) As I walked past, I noticed the cardboard DVD display case that we all have seen countless times before for new releases.

I don't recall exactly which movie they were displaying, but need you guess which version was fully populating the display? Hint: it wasn't the correct aspect ratio! Not a single, widescreen DVD was anywhere in the stand. I didn't do anything except roll my eyes and let my dislike for Disney's home “entertainment” division rise up a few notches.

In fairness I don't know who should be blamed for this continuing abomination. Is selling widescreen movies truly against corporate policy as I've always suspected? Is it against regional policy? Or could it be that the manager of the local store is just a moron? I guess I shouldn't say that, being the Christmas (“Stop saying the word!”) season and all. I'll instead refer to him as a movie hater. No, that won't really work either. How about a filmmaker disrespecter? I know, I know -- “disrespecter” isn't even a word. But it has a certain ring to it.

Fortunately, the other places that I frequent, such as Best Buy and Media Play, usually have more widescreen on display than pan-and-scan ... sorry ... full screen. Unfortunately, every now and then I run into some interesting position switching with those two as well, particularly Best Buy. I still remember clearly when both the Best Buy advertisement and the in-store, cardboard display for the theatrical release of the “Return of the King” DVD showed the pan-and-scan ... sorry ... full screen version. I was nearly apoplectic that a long-time supporter of widescreen would suddenly be throwing into everyone's faces that abominable version.

Speaking of position switching keep your minds out of the gutter, people I recently received e-mail from a guest who said that HBO, Showtime, and one of the other movie channels was advertising certain movies as being in widescreen. I do not support nor subscribe to any of these movies channels. The reasons are more that they're expensive and that I'd rather rent or buy the DVD, but their historical aversion to widescreen is certainly one of my main reasons as well.

Many have complained to me that stations like HBO-HD rarely show 2.35:1 movies in their correct aspect ratio. Instead, movies are cropped down to 1.78:1 in order to fit 16:9 televisions. Since I neither have nor want HBO or HBO-HD, I would appreciate any feedback from those of you who have them whether or not HBO is still performing crop-downs from 2.35:1 to 1.78:1 when they advertise “widescreen” movies.

And now for something completely different.

As per several requests I'm preparing to add a section for high-definition. It's not exactly widescreen, obviously, but neither are my DVD or VHS sections. It all comes back to the way that movies are displayed, so it still can fit in with what this site is all about.

I don't yet have HD although my TV is HD-ready. Unfortunately, my local monopoly (Comcast) does not offer enough channels that I would be interested in to justify the extra cost of an HD decoder. They also treat their potential HD-customers as being completely stupid (“No, we have to install the HD receiver. You can't do it.”), but that's another topic all together. I have seen some HD video captures, though. The clarity difference is one of those things that you just have to see to believe! I drool the equivalent of the Johnstown Flood when I think of seeing “The Lord of the Rings” or “Star Wars” (yes, even with the Greedo-fires-firstsimultaneously sequence) in high-definition!

So, I hope that you look forward to that section, when I get the chance to work on it.

That's about it for this month or this year in fact. 2005 certainly is going to be off to an interesting start in many ways with all of the rubbish that's happening in the world, courtesy of narrow-minded Shamus McKnuckleheads all over the place.

Of course, in the entertainment sector we have the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray war starting with studios lining up behind individual formats. Is this the whole VHS/Beta mess starting up again? I hope not, but it looks that way. Unfortunately, in the Hollywood battle between egomaniacal corporate heads who are more concerned about profits than movies or consumers, we're always the ones who end up being punished. Looks like the whole HD-DVD/Blu-Ray situation is going to be no exception to that. All that we can do is wait to see when the studios tell us to bend over and grab our ankles. That's going to be the ultimate, end result (no pun intended) of the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray fight.

Regardless of your political or religious affiliation, I wish you only the best for this Christmas season. (“...is a word that the Knights of Ni cannot hear!”) Let us all take this time to reflect on our lives and the ways in which we can make it better, even if only for ourselves and our families. Let us also not forget those who cannot be with their families for whatever the reason might be.

See you in 2005.

Until next time...!