A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.


April 18, 2010


I’d like to start on a tangent today. Working, as I do, in the video retail business I have frequently had cause to complain to my customers about the evils of “fullscreen” or “pan & scan.” I have many times in the past had customers complain to me that the movie they were watching had bits cut off the top and bottom of the screen. I even once had a long argument with a customer who had rented a pan & scan copy of Seven Years in Tibet and was upset that the opening credits were letterboxed. I tried in vain to explain that otherwise the movie would have opened with the title “even years in Tibe” and even put the movie into the store’s VCR so we could see that after the opening credits were over it switched to “fullscreen.” In short – I have been fighting to promote widescreen for more than a decade now. And today’s movie is a prime example of why. The opening of the movie – laying out the background for Cosmo and Marty – takes place in a 4:3 aspect ratio (with some of the opening credits overlapping and reaching out into the black space to either side) and then when the bit in the past is over it widens out to 16:9. It’s a very cool trick. And it wouldn’t work at all in a non-letterboxed version of the movie.

I’d also like to say something about the tech involved in this movie. Most of it seems pretty realistic. Sure they have the magic zoom software that lets them resolve digital images into very clean close-ups (standard issue in the CSI shows.) And it seems silly that not only is Air Traffic Control online but using a simple ASCII substitution for its radar displays. But there’s no whiz-bang ridiculous GUI like we saw in Hackers or Jurassic Park or any other movie with computers. There’s mostly just cool detective work that makes sense and looks like it would probably work in the real world.

Watching this movie now I’m astounded as I always am by the casting. This movie has absolutely the most astonishing dream cast of all time. Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd. River Phoenix before his tragic and all-too-early demise. Mary McDonell, who will always now for me be President Rosalind. I remember being astonished when I watched David Strathairn in other movies because he did such a convincing job in this movie as Whistler and I was sure he was actually a blind actor. Amazing.

And the direction in this movie is so impressive as well. Things like shooting up through the glass table during the scene with the scrabble table. Or the great moment when Gregor steps into shadow, obscuring his face before telling Marty to trust him. The great way the tension builds during the scrabble scene, during the traced phone call and then with Whistler walking Marty through what the car ride sounded like. God, so many fantastic moments.

What’s curious about this movie is that it shouldn’t be as good as it is. It’s sort of a comedy/mystery/thriller which is odd. It shouldn’t work at all. But through the great direction and the astonishing cast it rises up to be one of those fantastic movies that I’d gladly watch any time. If I tuned through it on TV I’d probably pull out my DVD of it so I could watch it uninterrupted and in the proper aspect ratio. So, yeah, definitely a movie I like and enjoy.


April 18, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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