Half-assed Widescreen

Recently I saw an HD widescreen version of the movie To Gillian on her 37th Birthday. I noticed that something seemed off in a particular scene that I remember seeing more of previously. Particularly the bottom half of one of the girls in a thong bikini. Out of curiosity, I went back to the 4:3 version of the film and sure enough, full-bottom was on display. Resulting in me now referring to the HD widescreen version as the half-assed version of the movie.

While this may be minor, it is nonetheless disappointing to me. The goal of a widescreen high definition release is to have the best copy possible. But it seems to me that if we are missing frame information we previously had in a prior (lower resolution) release, then we are not getting the best copy possible. We are simply having to chose between either greater resolution or more frame information. A tough choice depending on the film.

I’m sure the director always intended the film to be widescreen and simply shot a more square frame (open gate) for breathing room in post or whatever. Having studied film and film cameras I know how this works. But the fact that there was a home video release that showed more of the film frame, that they were at one point willing to put that out there rather than just a pan and scan of the widescreen version, puts us in a predicament. Now I want an HD 4:3 release that gives me the best of both. And that isn’t happening. Sigh.

This isn’t the only film either. Here is the film Idle Hands

Palmetto (widescreen left) (fullscreen right)

I’m sure the next question is, do you even care if it isn’t a woman’s behind that is being cut off? As in, would you care if it was just the top and bottom of a building being cut off or something? The answer is yes I would care. Make no mistake that I value certain content (like a woman’s behind) more than other content (like a building). Yes, I’m biased in that way. That said, the fact that there is any missing frame information we previously had, does irk me. Will I notice it’s missing if it’s just the top and bottom of a building the way I did when it’s a woman’s behind? Maybe or maybe not. It’s more the principle of the matter that we aren’t being given all the frame information we were given before. Especially when I know there is more to be seen, since they previously released it and had no issue with releasing it fullscreen on VHS or DVD. But now in the era of HD and UHD, we get better quality, just not all the image.
This is the same kind of argument people had with pan and scan. We weren’t getting the full natively shot widescreen image with pan and scan. Eventually that got corrected with widescreen releases. But for some reason I don’t see anyone else complaining today when it’s a widescreen release but we aren’t getting the full 4:3 image.

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