There’s a five-minute visual essay on Criterion’s new On The Waterfront Bluray called “On The Aspect Ratio.” It explains why Criterion went with three aspect ratios — 1.66 (the preferred default version), 1.33 and 1.85. Here’s the narration. I’m warning the 1.85 fascists right now that they won’t like it. This is the end of the influence of this rogue cabal. Henceforth the 1.66-ers and the “boxy is beautiful” gang will have the upper hand.
Update: Some of the commenters are shrugging and saying, “Uhh, so these Columbia films were framed for 1.85 but protected for 1.33…so what?” The “so what” is that the Criterion guys, the ultimate, high-end purist dweebs of the digital home-video realm, explain in this essay why they chose 1.66 as their default a.r., and how severely and pointlessly cropped 1.85 is and how open and accepting and all-encompassing 1.33 is. The essay basically says “if you have any taste at all or have any regard for aesthetic elegance and balance, it’s obvious that 1.66 or 1.33 is the way to go. You’d have to be a troglodyte to prefer 1.85.”