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I Can See Clearly … Now What?

I woke up this morning and put on my old man pants, cappy, and decided to grampa it up.  I am full of “back in my day” and “you don’t know how good you have it!”  And, who doesn’t like a bitter old man ranting?!  Well, you’re in luck, the bitter old man store is stocked up and open for business.

High quality.  High definition.  4.8 magillion pixels refreshing at speeds so insane you’d need a degree in quantum physics just to even utter the words.  If you can’t see every detail on the screen, then what is the point of watching the movie?  Well, I think there are plenty of points left, actually.  In fact, if you want to me to be brutally honest, quality, or lack of quality, can actually be overcome.  Furthermore I would argue that, at times, it can be very useful.  I know this might come as a shock to people, but not everything needs to be super high definition for it to be considered worthy of viewing.

$300 million and we can see veins in their arms. So that's cool I guess.

And this is where I come to some big questions.  It seems to me we are at another crossroad with technology and how we are going to move forward with it.  How are we going to present it, market it, use it?  As far as I can tell, we are going to present this as the only way to watch movies.  To me this is bologna-shoes-on-an-icy-hill kind of slippery.  This is where we begin to tear at the seams of what really makes a movie great (hint: it isn’t just how pretty and bright and fluid we can make a film).  Now I am all for clarity (though I don’t require it)  but to market it as the sole reason to view or not view a movie is going to cut out a lot of worth while films.  Films that, for one reason or another, do not have the quality that a big blockbuster will have are being ushered to the side and ignored like they are herpes pie or something.  Is it not worth it to see these films?  It seems ridiculous to say it is not worth it, doesn’t it?  Ah, but we have been here before.  Look at the great older films, and even some contemporary films, that are filmed in black & white.  There is a good portion of people out there now that will not watch these because we have color, why would we watch a black & white film? They will never experience the love in Casablanca, or the comedy of Philadelphia Story, or the thrill of Double Indemnity.  Do we really want to raise a new generation of movie watchers to cut out even more films because they are “not high def enough?”

Killer of Sheep
Look closely enough and you'll see more than just see a kid in a dog mask.

I recently watched Killer of Sheep (I review it this week).  The sound was probably done by a garden hose, and at points the images on the screen were amazingly blurry.  Should this movie not have been watched?   No.  This was a beautiful film.  Part of the charm of it might have be precisely because of this lack of quality.  There was a real grittiness to it that made everything on screen seem that much more real.  I entered that world and was allowed to play.  Sure I bumped into a few things because I couldn’t see where the hell I was going, but that just made it more interesting.  It asked a lot from me as a viewer, and in return I got more out of it.

It's a Wonderful Life
You tell Jimmy Stewart he's too blurry to watch. I can't.

I have heard countless times the words, “once I saw a movie in HD I couldn’t watch one any other way,” and it saddened me.  There are plenty of beautiful movies that will never have this quality to it.  This should not be held against them.  These films can be some of the most beautiful stories ever told, even if they are slightly less clear.  Now, I am not saying that I don’t think an HD film looks good, but I hope that is never the sole reason I want to watch a film.  There are far too many films that would fall by the wayside if quality of image were the only measuring stick used.  Avatar may have been a visually stunning movie, but, as is predicted, if it is ushering in a new style of film and film quality, let us not forget the blurry shoulders upon which this visual marvel stood to view the new film landscape.  I would hate to live in a world where It’s A Wonderful Life gets lost because it doesn’t live up to the HD standard.

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