Jett Wells last weekend at Chicago location of Championship Vinyl (North Mliwaukee at Honore), John Cusack’s record store in Stephen Frears’ High Fidelity (’00). Google Maps says a place called Nick’s Beer Garden is behind the black.
Scene from High Fidelity as Cusack approaches store.
I was wrong about the 1.66 aspect ratio of Rosemary’s Baby in yesterday’s rant about same. I spoke this morning with Ron Smith, Paramount’s former prez of preservation and restoration, and he said he agrees with this morning’s comment by High-Def Digest‘s “Josh Z” that the actual RB aspect ratio on the last DVD is 1.78 to 1. A miniscule difference compared to 1.85 to 1, but a difference nonetheless. But I definitely erred in claiming that Rosemary’s Baby was issued on DVD at some point with a 1.66 to 1 aspect ratio. **
And I was therefore wrong to say the Criterion has “cleavered” Rosemary’s Baby by deciding to release their forthcoming Bluray at 1.85. What I should have said is that they’ve Exacto-knived it — i.e., sliced it ever so slightly at the top and bottom of the frame so that watchers of their Bluray will notice a slight sliver of black on the top and bottom, or the same thing they’re now seeing when they pop in the Criterion Bluray of Anatomy of a Murder. And I still say they’re wrong for doing this. Because I believe in height and head space and air that characters in a film can breathe in and out.
So eff Criterion anyway, if you catch my drift. Why didn’t they just leave RB alone and at least go with Smith and Josh Z‘s 1.78 aspect ratio? Why did they have to slice it off ever so slightly? To what end? I’ll tell you to what end. To comply with the Bob Furmanek theology that the only way to figure this stuff out is to read trade reviews written at the opening of a given film’s release, and adhere to the reported aspect ratio — period, final, over and out.
But there’s another way of dealing wth this stuff, and that’s to run an open-matte print of the movie in a screening room and figure out what looks best based on what you want to see and what feels right.
If Mia Farrow and John Cassevettes are eating a steak dinner with Ruth Gordon and Sydney Blackmer in the latter’s apartment, you want to be able to see the steak, and if you can’t see the steak then you need to write a letter to Bob Furmanek and tell him to go eff himself and change the aspect ratio to whatever you need it to be in order to see the meat on the plate. Because Rosemary’s Baby dp William Fraker was, I believe, the kind of guy who liked to show the audience what the characters are eating, and I’m the kind of guy who likes to see that also.
If the Criterion Bluray shows the steak, fine — let’s put this issue to bed. But if it doesn’t show the steak, let’s at least acknowledge that it doesn’t do this and that the steak is lost and gone and that Criterion and Polanski and Furmanek have had a hand in this, and that I, at least, was one person who stood up and said, “Keep the steak! Let’s see the reddish-brown juice on the plate!”
I also still maintain that somewhere back in the leaf-swirl of my memory and down into the swamps of time with a face mask, flippers and snorkel, I saw Rosemary’s Baby at an aspect ratio that was higher and better than 1.85 or 1.78 — perhaps I saw it at a Parisian revival cinema where they still use 1.66 aperture plates? — and for whatever reason I retained that memory.
And when you blend this with so many people having maintained twelve years ago that the Rosemary’s Baby DVD was issued at 1.66 and the knowledge that the film was shot so that a European projectionist could have shown it at 1.66…throw all this together and I know I’m still more or less correct about the 1.66 thing.
I tried like hell to find anyone with a print of Rosemary’s Baby so I could snip out a frame and blow it up and post it on the site, just for the record. Three or four hours ago I called and spoke with Denise Fraker, widow of William Fraker (who passed in 2010), and she was very nice but could only offer a phone number for Bobby Byrne, who was Fraker’s camera operator on Rosemary’s Baby.
I’m going to re-post comment #74 from “Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy“…
Wells grabs the little man by the shoulders and draws him close.
WELLS: I’m gonna ask you one more time, kitty cat, what’s the aspect ratio?
POLANSKI (flatly): 1.85.
Wells strikes the director across the face…hard. He’s got his attention now.
WELLS: Stop lying to me, pally. What’s the aspect ratio?
Crack! Wells slaps the man across the other cheek. Polanski stumbles backward, eyes wide with terror. The man is capable of anything.
Another blow to the face. The words start to tumble out of Polanski’s mouth in an effort to placate the deranged blogger.
POLANSKI: 1.66! (smack) 1.85!! (smack) One…(smack, smack, smack)
Wells shakes Polanski furiously, consumed with rage. Polanski’s babbles uncontrollably, but manages to blurt out the truth.
POLANSKI: It was composed for 1.85 and protected for 1.66!!
A stunned Wells releases the director, sickened by his very touch. Polanski crumples to the ground in a heap and sobs uncontrollably.
** Having been shot in an open matte in-camera 1.37 aspect ratio, Rosemary’s Baby was presented in a 4 x 3 a.r. for TV airings in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, of course, as well as on VHS tape.
The commercial and cultural blitzkreig that precedes the opening of a major pop-fantasy film is always intimidating on a certain level, so hats off to those critics who’ve said “no” or “not quite” or “meh” to The Dark Knight Rises. The responses have been otherwise positive if not ecstatic across the board so far (86% on Rotten Tomatoes. 81% on Metacritic) but it’s healthy, I think, to show the corporates they can’t just rumble into town on tanks and just roll over everyone and everything. It’s a Republican fantasy, this film — keep that in mind.
In any event a Hollywood Elsewhere salute is hereby offered to Marshall Fine, AP critic Christy Lemire (“an epic letdown”), Badass Digest‘s Devin Faraci, Daily Mail critic Chris Tookey, Movies.com’s James Rocchi, Urban Cinefile’s Andrew Urban and Louise Keller, Time Out‘s David Fear and to a certain extent TheWrap‘s Alonso Duralde.
I learned many years ago that if you speak critically or disparagingly of any major fanboy movie, you will receive a fair amount of hate mail. This happened to me when I trashed The Phantom Menace 13 years ago. I realized then and there that fanboy haters are not only intemperate but on the subliterate side, and so I immediately dismissed any notion of replying or debating. So let’s just ignore the idiots who reportedly threatened (so to speak) Fine and Lemire for their negative reviews.
I love this portion of Devin Faraci’s review:
“Is The Dark Knight Rises any good? The movie entertains. It has a James Bond sensibility where hugely improbable things occur but you shrug them off. The movie is also clunky and structured strangely and — with the exception of Michael Caine‘s Alfred — emotionally empty. The stakes have weirdly never felt lower than they do in The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan keeps the movie going from scene to scene, but the momentum is all cinematic, not narrative.
“As the movie wrapped up with five final minutes that play out exactly like Superhero Hype forum fanfic, I wasn’t hating it. I hadn’t been squirming in my seat. I thought a lot of it was dumb, I laughed at things that probably weren’t meant to be laughed at, and I experienced a few moments of deflation when I realized the movie had nothing to actually say. But I had also been caught up in it, even when it didn’t quite work or make much sense. I liked that Nolan went a little broader, even if that broadness occasionally clashed with his efforts to be ‘realistic.’
“I just don’t care either way. After being profoundly disappointed by the way Batman Begins turned out, and after really enjoying most of The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises evokes no strong feelings in me. It’s large and busy and convinced of its own profundity, but in the end it’s a big shrug.”
This Bain/Bane pic, posted a few hours ago on buzzfeed.com and tweeted by Michael Hayes, arrives at a perfect moment, which is to say a perfectly negative (dare I say calamitous?) one for Mitt Romney. The clamor about his Bain Capital history plus his refusal to release tax returns is burning up the cable news channels only days before Tom Hardy‘s performance as the evil, one-note-ish Bane is about to sink into the consciousness of tens of millions coast to coast.
On one level the Bain/Bane meme is idiotic and dismissable (it would be another thing, of course, if Hardy’s character was spelled Bain) but on another broader, vaguer, sloppier level The Dark Knight Rises will rub it in all the same. Bain/Bane = predatory bad news sociopaths. This is Romney’s worst week so far — right here, right now. Chris Nolan didn’t mean to assault or undermine his presidential campaign, but he has. Or will within days.