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The Village Voice and OAL...


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#1 of 32 Robert Harris

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Posted July 18 2003 - 01:39 PM

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.villagevo...29/atkinson.php

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

Long live OAR!

RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#2 of 32 Dave Mack

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Posted July 18 2003 - 03:06 PM

I too read this article and was appalled. He also dissed "They Live" as more tediousness or something along those lines...

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#3 of 32 Will_B

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Posted July 18 2003 - 03:51 PM

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.
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#4 of 32 Ricardo C

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Posted July 18 2003 - 04:15 PM

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? Posted Image
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#5 of 32 Dan Rudolph

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Posted July 18 2003 - 06:40 PM

I don't get it either. Is he saying that artificial pans distract you from noticing when a movie is boring?
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#6 of 32 Jon Robertson

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Posted July 18 2003 - 10:07 PM

Quote:
He also dissed "They Live" as more tediousness or something along those lines...
Well, that's his right as a critic (even if he will dismiss the gloriously depraved Lisztomania as "crummy"), but the final paragraph is inexcusable and, furthermore, rather bizarre.

"Without the sometimes irrational reshaping and often epileptic cutting from one end of the super-image to the other, both films acquired tonnage, gracelessness, and torpor along with scale, like massively overweight hogs."

The hell? Admittedly, I've taken this sentence out of its original context, but it still doesn't make a lick of sense wherever you put it.

#7 of 32 Robert Harris

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Posted July 19 2003 - 01:32 AM

Is it possible that he may be speaking in the foreign tongue of
cinematic semiotics.

See this L.A. Times link:

http://www.latimes.c....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

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#8 of 32 Jaime_Weinman

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Posted July 19 2003 - 03:38 AM

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 of 32 Robert Harris

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Posted July 19 2003 - 01:33 PM

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.

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#10 of 32 Glenn Overholt

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Posted July 19 2003 - 03:14 PM

Is this the same Village Voice that was once run by beatniks and hippies?

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#11 of 32 Patrick McCart

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Posted July 19 2003 - 04:35 PM

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." Posted Image

#12 of 32 Ricardo C

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Posted July 19 2003 - 04:43 PM

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...

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#13 of 32 Robert Harris

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Posted July 20 2003 - 02:11 AM

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

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#14 of 32 Richard Kim

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Posted July 20 2003 - 02:24 AM

Quote:
I tried to watch the P&S version of Moulin Rouge on cable the other day... I almost developed motion sickness.

I got the same sensation watching Moulin Rouge in OAR. Posted Image

#15 of 32 Ricardo C

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Posted July 20 2003 - 09:43 AM

Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
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#16 of 32 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted July 22 2003 - 02:39 AM

Quote:
For those who may have trouble comprehending this, we're speaking of projecting these films on a screen the size of a house.
Now that's what I call a home theater! Posted Image

I was just watching Chaplin's "A King in New York", and this reminder of what large format presentation is supposed to be made me think of the scene where Chaplin is sitting in the front row in a large theater watching a trailer for a "scope" western. As the shoot-out between two characters on opposite sides of the screen plays out, we see the reverse angle of the audience turning their heads back and forth like they are watching a tennis match.

We used to have a single enormous screen in my home town, but they haven't shown a film there in over 10 years. They finally tore the building down last year. Posted Image

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#17 of 32 Jeff_HR

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Posted July 22 2003 - 04:43 AM

Quote:
He's not seriously arguing that movies should not be presented in their OAR, just saying that he doesn't like widescreen compositions
If this person does not like movies being made in the WS process, perhaps he should become a Director & make movies in the Academy Ratio for his personal viewing pleasure.
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#18 of 32 Kenneth English

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Posted July 22 2003 - 05:15 AM

Quote:
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...

My entire college film studies experience in a nutshell. It seemed as though my professors were actively engaged in an effort to make me hate movies. I was a film major for two years before the bullsh*t got too high to wade through. Changed my major to psychology and never looked back. Pretty sad when the most difficult theories of psychology are easier to understand than most film theory! Posted Image

Roger Ebert had it dead-on right:
"[Film theory is] a cruel hoax for students, essentially the academic equivalent of a New Age cult, in which a new language has been invented that only the adept can communicate in."

#19 of 32 Peter Kline

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Posted July 22 2003 - 05:23 AM

Well they could have digitally recomposited the image from this:

Posted Image


to this:

Posted Image

But that misses the point I suppose.

(photos courtesy Wide Screen Museum)

#20 of 32 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted July 22 2003 - 07:48 AM

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,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA


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