I want to share this article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution Movie section...(I can't post links yet ) [ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 4/23/04 ] ASK ALAN SMITHEE Got a Movie Question? Dear Mr. Smithee, Would you please help a rapidly aging baby boomer? I went in search of a couple of my favorite films on DVD. I would prefer them in the "letterbox" format. However, the only "special editions" were marked as "widescreen." I'm confused (no surprise to those who know me). Is "widescreen" the same as, similar to, or completely different from "letterbox"? Susan Kosturik, Alpharetta P.S. I adore your column! I think under your tough, curmudgeon exterior beats the heart of an old softy, but your secret is safe with me! Dear Adorable, One need only glance in the wake of my moving presence and witness the wailing and suffering and "Oh, the humanity" from what is left of the shattered breed known as movie publicists to realize that Alan Smithee is, without question, no old softy. But, yes, I have been known to spare a few kind words in my life. It is part of my mission to be a beacon of light to the less cinematic (such as yourself, perhaps?). To answer your question -- is "widescreen" the same as "letterbox"? -- I simply must respond, "Well, yes. Duh!" They both mean that you get the entire screen's worth of movie on your television. And it's smart of you to choose that format, because "formatted to fit your screen" or the disgustingly ugly misnomer "full screen" is a travesty foisted upon the moviegoing lemmings who somehow are content with inferiority in their cinema. To say it as simply as possible: a movie screen is a long, wide rectangle, and many, if not most, TVs are still square. If you fit an entire movie screen's worth of image on a square TV, it will end up with a black band of space at the top and bottom of the screen. When they say "full screen" or "formatted to fit your screen," it means the two far ends of the movie screen have been chopped off so that the movie image fills your entire square TV screen. That might sound just fine, but it means you will miss part of what's happening. You are not seeing the movie as the director intended it to be seen. You might also, for example, have a frame of Luke Skywalker and not even realize that Han Solo is supposed to be there, too -- on the far edge of the screen. There is a wonderful Web site -- widescreen.org -- that illustrates how it all works. My son, D.W., refuses to watch any film on television or computer unless it is widescreen. It is amazing to me how much the public still misunderstands the process. I was at Circuit City not too long ago and this nice, lovely lady was determined to purchase "Scarface" in "full screen" format. The clerk (a good fellow, I must say) asked her if she was sure she didn't want widescreen. "Oh, I want full frame so that I can see the whole movie," she said with all the incredibly ignorant innocence she could muster. "That other way cuts off the top and bottom." You know me. I stepped in with the full force of my wingtips and set her straight. In other words: "Say hello to my little friend!" You can bet she exited Circuit City that day with a widescreen copy of "Scarface" in hand. Alan P.S. For your question, you get a "Thelma & Louise" hair dryer. Who is Alan Smithee? It's a name used for crediting purposes when directors want to disassociate themselves from a movie they've worked on. However, we're not too ashamed to ask him to answer readers' questions. Have a question for Mr. Smithee? E-mail your queries and comments to [email protected]. You must include your name, city and daytime phone number for verification. Smithee can't reply to every request, but inquiries chosen for publication will receive movie prizes (like a special screening pass, T-shirt or other movie promotional trinket).