A little while ago Glenn Kenny tweeted that “while I wanna do what’s actually right (support a 1.37 aspect ratio for Shane) I’m concerned about being mistaken for a Lyndon Larouche supporter.” I swore and knocked over a chair and punched the refrigerator. That’s ugly slander, dammit. I wrote right back and said “I’m getting really sick of this, Glenn!” and for the 637th time explained my aspect-ratio theology.
“Being a proponent of headroom and ‘boxy is beautiful‘ and saying to hell with 1950s and ’60s theatrical aspect-ratio mandates is hardly a case of Larouche-ian extremism. It’s an aesthetic preference based on the bedrock principle that cleavering visual information captured for a ’50s or ’60s film is fundamentally vile as it destroys information rather than allows it into the film. And for no sensible reason at all except to pay homage to the fearful impulses of theatrical distributors of the ’50s and ’60s who were afraid of television.
“The principle, therefore, is that if you must cleaver a film from that era so it looks better on a 16 x 9 screen it should be done at 1.66 (as those Larouche-ian nutters at Criterion did with On The Waterfront) and not the reprehensible & oppressive 1.85. Where the double-triple-fuck do you get Lyndon Larouche out of that?”
Kenny replied that I was making up my aspect ratio theology as I went along and I said “nope — it’s a clear, consistent standard. More height is better, cleavering is bad, multi-a.r. Blurays are best, 1.66 > 1.85.”
He then said okay, maybe not Larouche but certainly not Andre Bazin. And I said if he needs an appropriate analogy to a venerated old-time film critic he should try Otis Ferguson.