Yes, Virginia — during the first few years of the 21st Century there really was a thing called 1.85 fascism. For a while there it seemed as if non-Scope movies of the ’50s and early ’60s were going to be compressed and trapped inside severe 1.85 to 1 rectangles. But that scenario is finished now, and the fascists, while not fully discredited, will never have the same authority again. Sincere thanks to the Criterion Co. for cutting them off at the knees and particularly to this five-minute essay, produced and edited by Issa Clubb.
“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.'”