The Village Voice and OAL...

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Robert Harris, Jul 18, 2003.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    9,257
    Likes Received:
    5,132
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    I have this evening sent an email to New York's Village Voice, which used to be a quality paper as follows:

    "It isn't personal.

    But I don't get it.

    Reading Michael Atkinson's comments about wide screen, and more specifically, 70mm cinema masterpieces, I began to wonder if Mr. Atkinson had a constant need to either continuously talk on the phone, raid the kitchen or visit the bathroom.

    For anyone -- and I mean ANYONE -- writing professionaly on the subject of film, to admit that they would rather view a tiny image, lacking not only a complete running time as created by the fimmaker in question, but then cut by a minimum of fifty to sixty percent of the image, reducing that film to a point at which it has little in common with the original...

    I don't have the words to paint the proper picture.

    In the pan and scan of Lawrence of Arabia, a horrific version of the film lacking twenty mintues and half the image, Peter O'Toole blows out a match.

    Unfortunately, the individual who created that pan and scanned version didn't know the film -- or the story.

    Mr. O'Toole is at the far right of the frame; the match at the left.

    Begin with a HUGE close up of Mr. O'Toole and then paaannn over to the match, which then somehow is extinguished.

    The image continues full screen left.

    The music builds.

    AND NOTHING WHATSOEVER OCCURS.

    The image of the sun rising over a desert dune is dead center, missed by the panning and scanning technician...

    and NOT ON SCREEEN.

    As Mr. Atkinson, obviously has neither a love nor understanding of the art of the cinema, and certainly not the concept of viewing a complete film in its Original Aspect
    Raio (OAR), II would humbly suggest that Mr. Atkinson should find employment more suited to his understanding of the cinema as art.

    Possibly painting lines to separate lanes of traffic on highways.

    He can not only select the specific shade of yellow, but also place those lines straight down the center of traffic lanes.

    And only paint them every other mile or so.

    He can then go home, turn on his 12 inch DuMont, grab a beer and be thrilled by reels three through six of Citizen Kane, a so-so film by American filmmaker on Wel.

    RAH"


    These comments refer the final graph of an article which may be found at:

    http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0329/atkinson.php

    Please feel free to attempt to educate these folks and add your own letters to the editor.

    Long live OAR!

    RAH
     
  2. Dave Mack

    Dave Mack Producer

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2002
    Messages:
    4,670
    Likes Received:
    4
    I too read this article and was appalled. He also dissed "They Live" as more tediousness or something along those lines...

    [​IMG] D
     
  3. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2001
    Messages:
    4,733
    Likes Received:
    1
    That article must have been bait to get readers to write in expressing love for big screen. It has to be - the Lawrence lines particularly give it away.
     
  4. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2002
    Messages:
    5,060
    Likes Received:
    0
    Given that I've never had much appreciation for the rag in question, I won't bother with an email. Why get rid of one writer, when you can stop reading the whole thing? [​IMG]
     
  5. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2002
    Messages:
    4,042
    Likes Received:
    0
    I don't get it either. Is he saying that artificial pans distract you from noticing when a movie is boring?
     
  6. Jon Robertson

    Jon Robertson Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 19, 2001
    Messages:
    1,568
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  7. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    9,257
    Likes Received:
    5,132
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    Is it possible that he may be speaking in the foreign tongue of
    cinematic semiotics.

    See this L.A. Times link:

    http://www.latimes.com/features/prin...l28jul13.story

    I've never been able to make either head or tail of these things as I've never been adept at foreign languages.

    And the concept of semiotics has always seemed like a club organized by people who wish to converse about film when they either don't understand it or are bored by it, and yet still wish to be "heard" talking about film...

    possbily at cocktail parties.

    The strange thing is that I can't recall ever hearing anyone actually working in film using semiotics; only those who actually don't.

    RAH
     
  8. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2001
    Messages:
    786
    Likes Received:
    17
    I think you're being unfair here. The article was not a criticism of OAR per se; as a whole, it was a criticism of the anamorphic widescreen process -- the author was reviewing a festival of 'Scope movies, and he apparently feels (and it's not uncommon) that the wide screen often produces bloated, unpleasant-looking results. He's not seriously arguing that movies should not be presented in their OAR, just saying that he doesn't like widescreen compositions.

    Dislike of the 'scope wide screen is hardly uncommon. Several filmmakers described it as suitable only for snakes and funerals; Alfred Hitchcock refused to shoot in anything wider than VistaVision; Howard Hawks made one movie in 'scope and disliked the process.
     
  9. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    9,257
    Likes Received:
    5,132
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    The article was not against CinemaScope and anamorphic wide screen.

    It was specifically against against any wide image, which the author contends is much better viewed on a small screen missing a minimum of 50% of the infomation.
     
  10. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 1999
    Messages:
    4,207
    Likes Received:
    0
    Is this the same Village Voice that was once run by beatniks and hippies?

    Glenn
     
  11. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

    Joined:
    May 16, 2001
    Messages:
    7,524
    Likes Received:
    126
    Location:
    Alpharetta, GA, USA
    Real Name:
    Patrick McCart
    I had the opportunity (or misopportunity) to see the last 10 minutes of Lawrence of Arabia on Cinemax...during their showcase of epics.

    Having the wonderful advantage of only seeing the film in widescreen before (My first screening of LoA was via the original VHS version of the restored version...in widescreen!) this version horrified me. It's sort of like having your bedroom normally white, then you walk in without warning...and it's bright green. That's what the shock was like.

    Oh, but...they DID make sure they letterboxed your restoration credits, Robert!

    They also showcased two other grand widescreen epics, Ben-Hur and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Too bad that those who viewed Cinemax's condensed versions didn't get to see why those two films are regarded as masterpieces.

    So what if a movie is boring? You know, I thought Ben-Hur was a boring movie. When I saw the widescreen version on DVD (even if it's magically turned into 2.76:1 from a 2.55:1 source...) I became a fan of it again.

    Sure, some films can be "watchable" at the least in pan & scan. But it depends on what you mean by watchable. Many films recently would be impossible to watch without OAR. Kung Pow: Enter The Fist is a movie that has been panned by most critics (although, kudos to the one reviewer who gave it an A because they GOT it), but it uses the 2.35:1 frame perfectly. It's a silly movie, but the Panavision framing is dead-serious. In one scene where The Chosen One plucks the eyeballs out of his enemies, he holds them up. In the P&S version, you see him screaming, but no hands. Many sight gags are put on the edges of the screen and are lost.

    I just purchased Criterion's DVD of The Royal Tennenbaums and I was blown away by the cinematography. Every frame is so carefully framed...but a P&S version would obviously kill the film. A slightly older film, Moulin Rouge, is another masterwork of Panavision. I watched 10 minutes of the P&S version on HBO (again, thank you for letterboxing the title for us!) and I turned it off after getting physically ill. My only experience before was via Fox's perfect DVD.

    John Carpenter said it best and without being politically correct... "Give the idiots their version" If you don't enjoy or understand the benifits of watching a film in the correct form, you're cinematically brain-dead.

    And Martin Hart points it out on his website (www.widescreenmuseum.com) that "The ladies are correct, even if they don't admit it in front of you, bigger is better." [​IMG]
     
  12. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2002
    Messages:
    5,060
    Likes Received:
    0
    I tried to watch the P&S version of Moulin Rouge on cable the other day... I almost developed motion sickness. Coupling the film's quirky camerawork and editing with the removal of 50% of the picture was... Disorienting, to say the least. Narrower films fare better than their 2.35:1 siblings in P&S, but they still feel claustrophobic.

    When I first got into home theater, I only felt bothered by P&S when watching a film I'd originally watched in widescreen. Nowadays, I can hardly stand watching movies on cable, because it's like my mind's eye keeps trying to reconstruct the picture. And I cringe when I see one of those artificial pans... Good grief...
     
  13. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    9,257
    Likes Received:
    5,132
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    I'll be the first to admit that Ben-Hur (1958) when viewed on any size television, can be a less than stellar event.

    The same holds true for 2001, Those Magnificent Men or virtually any large format film which was specifically designed via its cinematographic intent to be an EVENT film enjoyed with a thousand or so others on a screen (flat or curved) of at least sixty feet in width or larger.

    For those who may have trouble comprehending this, we're speaking of projecting these films on a screen the size of a house.

    And at that size, every part of the frame is sharp, detailed and colorful.

    RAH
     
  14. Richard Kim

    Richard Kim Producer

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2001
    Messages:
    4,389
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  15. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2002
    Messages:
    5,060
    Likes Received:
    0
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
  16. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2001
    Messages:
    6,171
    Likes Received:
    66
    Location:
    Livonia, MI USA
    Real Name:
    Kenneth McAlinden
     
  17. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2001
    Messages:
    3,596
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  18. Kenneth English

    Kenneth English Second Unit

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 1999
    Messages:
    422
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  19. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 1999
    Messages:
    2,409
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well they could have digitally recomposited the image from this:

    [​IMG]


    to this:

    [​IMG]

    But that misses the point I suppose.

    (photos courtesy Wide Screen Museum)
     
  20. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2001
    Messages:
    6,171
    Likes Received:
    66
    Location:
    Livonia, MI USA
    Real Name:
    Kenneth McAlinden
    Not liking widescreen aspect ratios is one thing which I can understandand and with which I can disagree. To suggest that a film shot that way can be improved by cropping or reformatting, though, is like suggesting that the Mona Lisa would look better if only she were made blonde.

    Regards,
     

Share This Page