9:30 pm Update: The 70mm print of 2001: A Space Odyssey that screened tonight at the Academy was a huge disappointment. Academy president Hawk Koch told the crowd that they were about to see a “new print,” and it may have been that…but it was printed way too dark. (That or the projection lamp was turned down for some nonsensical reason.) The apes in the “Dawn of Man” sequence looked underlit and a bit murky. And there was hardly any 70mm detail that popped out. Everything looked like smudgy crap.

I knew something was wrong when the opening titles looked soft and hazy, and then the film stayed that way from then on. If this wasn’t an Academy screening I would ask “did the projectionist decide not to focus for some reason?” But the Academy is a world-class operation that takes projection very seriously so it had to be the print, I’m guessing. All I know is that the image on the screen looked like a mistake — as if the lab had mistakenly smeared the internegative with brown fingerpaint. I left around the one-hour mark, and I went right home and popped in my 2001 Bluray, and the image looked two or three times better than what I’d just seen at the Academy. I could see all the hairs and fibres on the ape coats. I could see all the values that were photographed. It was beautiful.

And — this is almost funny — the 2.21 to 1 image wasn’t quite wide enough. It was just a bit trimmed on both sides so it almost looked like Vittorio Storaro‘s 2 to 1 aspect ratio.

The Movie Godz heard what happened, and I’m told they found Kubrick as he was taking a walk and gave him the sordid details. He scowled and waved them off. “Leave me alone,” he allegedly said. “I don’t know want to hear about it.”

Verdict: Major fail for the Academy, major fail for those responsible for creating the 70mm print and a huge waste of time for anyone who went expecting to see something exceptional or phenomenal.

Earlier: This might sound lame but I’m going to an AMPAS 70mm screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey at 7:30 pm this evening. Before I decided to go I asked myself “when if ever am I going to have a chance to see this at a really, really, really good theatre in 70mm again?” With DCPs moving in, I’m also a tiny bit sentimental about seeing it projected with actual 70mm film that clatters through the gate.

I know they show this sucker in 70mm at the American Cinematheque and the Aero all the time, but the Academy’s projection standards and projected light levels are the best in the world. I haven’t seen 2001 in absolute tip-top, ring-a-ding form since the mid ’80s.