Blu-ray has spoiled some people who only use the format to watch newer movies rather than films from before the 2000s or pre-widescreen era of the early 1950s. Perhaps we should say corrupted ahead of spoiled, especially when those consumers first pop in a 1.33:1 ratio movie from before 1952 and realize their 16 x 9 hi-def screen has black bars on the left and right.
Yes, it's time for all those confused people to write into Amazon.com's customer comments complaining that their Blu-ray copy of "The Artist" is defective. When "The Artist" hits Blu-ray on Tuesday, June 26, you can guarantee at least some complaints about something that should be common knowledge. We should have expected it when Sony Pictures has to explain to those masses why windowboxing on a hi-def screen is being utilized for a new movie. It could be a huge marketing problem for Sony in dealing with film illiterates.
The intention, though, is to give "The Artist" a wider audience based on the minimal box office the film gained in North America. You may be surprised to know the Best Picture-winner only made $44 million here, which shows just how far out of left field the movie was.
For those who managed to see it in a theater, you know the 1920s-era 1.33:1 screen ratio didn't really matter based on theatrical atmosphere (depending on whether that atmosphere was worthwhile) and the larger projection. But when seeing it on a hi-def TV, some still likely won't be able to hack watching a non-widescreen movie. Only Disney has appeased all the complainers with the Blu-ray releases of their pre-1955 animated classics by providing an option to place background art at screen's left and right. Disney designed the art in a similar way to the backgrounds used in the film to give the illusion that you're watching it in widescreen.
Sony likely won't do such a thing based on past history of only providing the basics in DVD extras. In the growing age of 70 to 90-inch HDTVs, however, it might not be as much of a problem as I'm letting on. Yet it still flummoxes how many people recoil when they see a tiny black and white box in the screen's middle. No doubt it's the psychological effect of feeling cheated, especially when paying hard-earned bucks for an HDTV and paying out a little extra for a Blu-ray collection in order to be dazzled.
Only a sense of respect for history would lessen the grip of reactive comments from buyers thinking their "The Artist" copy is panned and scanned. That respect for history also helps one turn off the window-boxing effect on their HDTV and hone in on the quaintness and imagination of creating a new movie with a small aspect ratio from 85 years ago. This also prevents the other, reactive move of stretching the picture to fit a 16 x 9 size so Jean Dujardin's elastic face reaches across one's living room.
If "The Artist" brings more movies with smaller aspect ratios, HDTV makers simply have to create an HDTV that can move the frame in or out at will. It's the only way to prevent those who don't read up on technology from leaving an Amazon comment of returning "The Artist" because black bars on their HDTV ruined their day.
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- Arts & Entertainment