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Roger Ebert chimes in on Wonka controversy

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#1 of 29 OFFLINE   Steve Enemark

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Posted August 26 2001 - 04:32 AM

From this morning's "Movie Answer Man" column:

Q. Re the new "special edition" of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"--Warner Brothers has decided to sell ONLY a pan-and-scan version of this film on DVD! I gave my original "Willy Wonka" DVD away to a relative and now I will be left with no "Willy Wonka" DVD as I won't come near one of these horrid new releases. I guess I'll have to find someone selling a copy of the old one.

Frank Slove, Buffalo Grove

A. "Willy Wonka" was originally released as a widescreen movie. The new Warner Brothers release has been "modified to fit your screen"--a sneaky way of saying, "we have chopped off the sides of the picture so what is left will be the same shape as a TV." Many movie lovers insist on seeing movies in their Original Aspect Ratio (OAR), which in this case would mean letterboxing. Warners is experiencing a firestorm of criticism for their sliced-and-diced version, and a Warner Home Video spokesperson tells me: "It is in a full-frame format as research indicates that families prefer a full-frame presentation. We do recognize that there is an interest in a widescreen DVD edition and we are evaluating offering that version in the near future." What this overlooks is that many "Willy Wonka" fans are not children but adult DVD users who look with horror on the "full frame format." ("Full-frame" is Orwellian doublespeak for "lacking one-third of the original frame.")

Roger is a little late to the party, but it's still nice to see the virtues of OAR being discussed in such a widely-read column.


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#2 of 29 OFFLINE   Jeff Ulmer

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Posted August 26 2001 - 04:36 AM

Of course, in this case he's wrong about missing bits of the frame, as this is an open matte transfer, but hey, at least it says OAR=good notOAR=bad.

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#3 of 29 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted August 26 2001 - 04:41 AM

OOPS! Nevermind guys. Posted Image

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#4 of 29 ONLINE   Rob W

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Posted August 26 2001 - 05:25 AM

Steve , you owe Roger an apology. He's far from late to the party. He practically started it. He was one of the very few film reviewers who ever covered home video back in the 80's and 90's and did several shows highlighting laserdisc and it's virtues, such as OAR. He was one of the greatest boosters the Criterion Collection ever had back when they were the only ones using OAR on a regular basis.

Once again us cranky old farts have to remind you pups that OAR passion is not a recent phenomenon ! : )

#5 of 29 OFFLINE   Brian Perry

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Posted August 26 2001 - 05:33 AM

Anyone else notice who posted the question to Roger? I believe it is a former active member of HTF.

#6 of 29 OFFLINE   Mark Dubbelboer

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Posted August 26 2001 - 05:54 AM

Frank Slove is definitely a familiar name Posted Image

#7 of 29 OFFLINE   Dwayne


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Posted August 26 2001 - 06:42 AM

I remember that name. I thought he was still active.


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#8 of 29 OFFLINE   Dwayne


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Posted August 26 2001 - 06:48 AM

Just out of curiosity, tried doing a search on the username Frank Slove in all forums and came up with nothing. I do remember him though.


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#9 of 29 OFFLINE   Patrick_S



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Posted August 26 2001 - 07:16 AM

I agree Ebert has been a long time advocate of OAR.

I clearly remember years ago that he did a segment on his TV show that compared the letterbox OAR version of Blade Runner to a PnS version and talked at length about how the shot of the city was ruined by PnS.

I figure any positive PR for OAR is always welcome.


#10 of 29 OFFLINE   Vince Maskeeper

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Posted August 26 2001 - 07:18 AM

He is a former HTF member.


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#11 of 29 OFFLINE   GlennH



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Posted August 26 2001 - 07:35 AM

I've seen Frank Slove post at HTSpot forum, username fslove, member #1373. Looks like not since May 14, though.


#12 of 29 OFFLINE   Seth Paxton

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Posted August 26 2001 - 10:25 AM

I do find it a little troublesome that Ebert would not be all over this already, considering his profession, his previous efforts for OAR support, and the major stir in the business that this became.

Seems like he would have an intern or someone that would have filled him in on the fact that Wonka was open matte.

I think misinformation does a disservice because if someone were later to point out that Wonka now has MORE picture, then they would see his response as both wrong and misleading.

Better if he had stood on the OAR vs open-matte platform instead.

But at least it made it's way into his column.

#13 of 29 OFFLINE   Steve Enemark

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Posted August 26 2001 - 10:45 AM

I was referring to Ebert being late to the Wonka controversy, not the whole OAR-letterbox movement. Sheesh!


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#14 of 29 OFFLINE   Adam Tyner

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Posted August 26 2001 - 10:53 AM

Steve: Ebert's "Answer Man" column is only published every other week, and the Wonka controversy didn't arise till, what, 8/6? Although I suppose he could've commented on the Wonka disc in his 8/12 entry, he did have a brief rant about OAR in that previous column.

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[Edited last by Adam Tyner on August 26, 2001 at 05:53 PM]

#15 of 29 OFFLINE   gregstaten


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Posted August 26 2001 - 12:39 PM

Boy - I can't believe all the jumping on Ebert. Keep in mind that he probably submits his Answer Man column early in the week (probably no later than Wednesday). The entertainment section of the Sunday paper is always one of the first ones printed. (I know the Sun Times is a tabloid, but Entertainment pages still close quite early.)

Further, I would bet that Ebert picks the letters to answer at least a week prior to his deadline. This gives him a chance to check out any details required. Using this timeline, the Wonka controversy would have just broken or broken shortly after he picked the letters to answer.

Give the guy a break. BTW - he's already taped next week's show where he DOES lay into Warners for their decision. (They actually shot it nearly two weeks ago.) Unsure whether they'll go back and shoot an update now that Warner has relented.


#16 of 29 OFFLINE   Josh Dial

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Posted August 26 2001 - 01:37 PM

I think Ebert isn't really misinformed, or forgetful whatever the case may be. Rather, he used the term pan and scan to address what the question-asker had also used. I'm sure if Ebert went around correcting everyone that asks a question, he would never get around to answering it Posted Image



[Edited last by Josh Dial on August 26, 2001 at 09:07 PM]

#17 of 29 OFFLINE   Mark Cappelletty

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Posted August 26 2001 - 02:48 PM

Lay off ol' Ebert. I remember one of the posters who sent him info about the Wonka controversy a few weeks back mentioning that Ebert was on vacation at the time.

#18 of 29 OFFLINE   Mike Friedrich

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Posted August 27 2001 - 12:27 AM

~ I'm going to give Roger my old copy of Wonka so he'll have something to watch until the WS version becomes available.

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[Edited last by Mike Friedrich on August 27, 2001 at 07:28 AM]

#19 of 29 OFFLINE   Jeff


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Posted August 27 2001 - 12:31 AM

Ebert knows, I emailed him the thread to the discussion about the upcoming widescreen version.

He replied to my last email about Warner releasing a P&S only version. He said he would be addressing this on his TV show. So don't get alarmed if he doesn't mention the widescreen version that was just announced. I don't know if he can update the show in time or not.


#20 of 29 OFFLINE   JerryW


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Posted August 27 2001 - 01:29 AM

Ummm... if Wonka is being shown open matte, then why all the hub-bub about WB's releasing of this film? None of the actual screen image is lost, in fact some is gained, isn't it? I know it doesn't exactly fit with what was theatrically released, but at least they didn't take a knife to it. I could see if they'd p&sed why everyone would be up in arms, but to be quite frank I don't understand why everyone's quite so hostile on this issue.


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