This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Monday, January 10, 2011

From The Big Screen To The Palm Of My Hand

The magazine rack is where I noticed him first. He was in his sixties, bearded, a bit scraggly, thumbing through a Hollywood Reporter.

"This the Awards edition?" he asked me.

"Not exactly," I told him. It's the new format of The Hollywood Reporter." [Slick and glossy. Nestled next to People Magazine's announcement of the newest baby bump and a bunch of US Weekly knock-offs.]
He seemed displeased.

"You know how hard this was to find? There' s no newstands anymore. There isn't even a bookstore in this mall. Remember Rolling Stone? The large format? A buddy of mine was a journalist at Rolling Stone. There aren't journalists anymore. Remember LIFE? You're too young to remember, but..."

"I remember Life!" I protested. "I'm not too old for that," I assured him. Then, I backed away slowly to extract myself from a conversation I knew would go on for far too long.

I do remember life. Life when 3-D was just a matter of walking outside and experiencing the world. Life was when the feature presentation of a movie presented itself in 35mm on the big screen and you were happy to share this experience with other people. Laugh when they laughed. Cry when they cried. The floor might've been sticky and the popcorn might've been stale, but you were having this shared experience with strangers.

A couple weeks ago, when I went to see True Grit in Hollywood, the theatre manager apologized as he told us they were having problems with the digital format of the film. Instead, they'd thread up the 35mm print.

35mm. In the Cinerama Dome. For a modern take on the old-fashioned western by none other than the Coen Brothers. I couldn't think of anything better. Indeed, the 35mm print was richer and more layered than even the crispest digital print could've been.

I enjoy seeing films on the big screen. I also enjoy seeing them at home. Like most people, I've embraced most of the newest entertainment viewing options. DVDs, Netflix, even streaming on my Wii. To each advance, there is a loss that is never completely re-gained.
For instance, how do I deal with subtitles on a streaming movie? Sometimes there's no option to turn them on and other times, they're rendered useless when they are cut off at the bottom of the frame. If the film's been re-formatted to fit my screen, I can't help wondering what's going on along the edges I can't see. Streaming films don't offer the director's commentary and other extras that DVDs typically offer either.

Recently, I read [in the print version of The Los Angeles Times] that during this awards season, Fox was experimenting with allowing SAG members to download award screeners from Itunes. In many ways this makes sense, saves money, and levels the playing field for films to be viewed to the wider audiences of award-voting guilds.

I think voting members would feel somewhat obligated to view the contenders in their respective categories. But who has the time? Downloading the movie to your ipod/pad/laptop/fingertips allows you to do your "homework" on a transcontinental flight, bring it with you while you're hiking, or heck, bring it into the bathroom with you while you're also brushing your teeth. It's called multi-tasking. Why not?

I just worry about what's lost when a film meant for the big screen gets shrunk down to something the size of my palm. Could I, in good faith, judge its art direction or sound editing? Would the wide-screen cinematography be as breathtaking? Would I get swept away with the story? Would I be as immersed in the time and place or as invested in the characters? I don't think I would be. How can something as special as a film seem bigger than life if I can hold it in the palm of my hand?

I agree wholeheartedly that the various entertainment guilds need to look at different ways to get their members to screen award contenders. I also think that those members have to consciously think about how they are viewing and judging films... and if their viewing habits are doing justice to the filmmakers and entertainment professionals that put it all together.

©2011 by KLiedle
Photo credits:
Library Of Congress/Commons

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