Boxy Rebellion

At 5 pm (95 minutes from now) Alec Baldwin and James Toback will be leading a post-screening discussion of Barry Lyndon (’75) at Savannah’s Lucas Theatre. The Stanley Kubrick film began showing around 2 pm. I waited in the green room before it began to do a chat with Toback (which I’d been told I was scheduled to do), but he wound up doing a longish TV interview and I was shunted aside. I didn’t care that much. I took a nap in an easy chair instead.

I went upstairs to see how Barry Lyndon looked, and was amazed and very pleased to see it projected at an aspect ratio that almost looked like 1.37 to 1 but was definitely boxier than 1.66 to 1. If any 16 x 9 or 1.85 crop fascists had been there they would have been furious. “Chop those tops and bottoms off!,” their mantra would go. “What’s with all the headroom? This is an outrage! Who’s the projectionist?”

The foot-lambert levels were insufficient, of course — it looked like 8 or 9 foot lamberts, definitely on the dark side — and the focus was hazy. This is what your typical theatrical projection of classic films is mostly like these days, for the most part. What you see is nowhere near as sharp and well-lighted and good-looking as the Bluray. Cheers all the same to the projectionist for staging a mini-rebellion and showing this classic film even a tad boxier than Kubrick himself intended.

26 thoughts on “Boxy Rebellion

  1. “If any 16 x 9 or 1.85 crop fascists had been there they would have been furious. ‘Chop those tops and bottoms off!,’ their mantra would go. ‘What’s with all the headroom? This is an outrage! Who’s the projectionist?’”

    Nobody would say that. Everyone knows that the correct aspect ratio for Barry Lyndon is 1.66 and Warner over-matted the Blu-ray. Just like everyone knows that the correct ratios for Mutiny on the Bounty and Psycho are 1.85 and Rififi is 1.37.

    There is no such thing as a “1.85 crop fascist.” They are a figment of your imagination. Everyone, except you, just wants to see films framed as their makers intended.

  2. C.C. Baxter,

    I think I might qualify as a “1.85 crop fascist”. In so far as the not so recent controversy about the Blu-Ray version which Leon Vitali oversaw and of which he seemingly made a mess. I waded in and called Jeff all sorts of silly things. But having been corrected, I apologized but Jeff doesn’t seem to take notice of humility.

    Ah well. At least it’s nice to know that Barry Lyndon can be seen in its proper ratio… even if the “foot lamberts fascists” get the light levels wrong.

  3. Whenever I read or hear about Barry Lyndon, I am reminded of a story I read shortly before its release that stated Ryan O’Neal was turning down scads of film offers until the Kubrick movie hit theaters, because he was absolutely sure that it would boost his stature — and his asking price — to superstar level.

    Seriously: Did anyone ever get a career uptick from appearing in a Kubrick film? Don’t misunderstand — I am not being critical of Kubrick and his movies. But was he ever really an actor’s director?

  4. “Did anyone ever get a career uptick from appearing in a Kubrick film?”

    Lolita gave Sellers a boost. Malcolm McDowell, certainly (though it probably seems like a bigger uptick now that everybody has forgotten about ‘If’). If not Modine, certainly D’Onofrio and Ermey. Winning an Oscar probably helped Peter Ustinov.

  5. Part 3: In which Jeffrey Wells demands satisfaction from Leon Vitali owing to an aesthetic dispute concerning arcane maths.

  6. “Did anyone ever get a career uptick from appearing in a Kubrick film?”

    Jack NIcholson. Repeated viewings of THE SHINING on cable and VHS in the early 80s reminded people that Nicholson was THE SHIT. Otherwise, he would’ve been doing more movies like THE BORDER.

  7. Bobby: You may be right about McDowell (and, yes, most people have forgotten about If…).And D’Onofrio and Ermey. But the fact that we can name so few people… I mean, whatever happened to Kier Duella?

  8. @Joe, many supporting players from Eyes Wide Shut did well: Alan Cumming, Rade Serbedzija, Todd Field. And it got Sydney Pollack back into character acting, which is what he was best at.

  9. They were doing well before EYES. Jack Nicholson, on the other hand, got huge. No more BORDERS for him. It was strictly PRIZZi’S HONORS and BATMANS from then on.

  10. Part 3: In which Jeffrey Wells demands satisfaction from Leon Vitali owing to an aesthetic dispute concerning arcane maths.

    Wonderfully cheeky and “in character,” too. Your lordship is to be commended.

  11. Nicholson is The Shit and always will be… but ever since THE SHINING, he’s pretty much been in Special Guest Star mode.

    In BATMAN and TERMS OF ENDEARMENT he was the brilliant second banana and he’s carried very few films by himself since then… IRONWEED, HOFFA and ABOUT SCHMIDT are among the few that depend on both his talent and star power to bring home the bacon.

  12. There’s not much point in a career uptick from a Kubrick movie, that’s the pinnacle of your career right there. Where else is there to go?

  13. Yeah, I’m not sure I understand the whole “career uptick” thing. Kier Dullea and Ryan O’Neal were attractive holes in the air and that’s precisely why Kubrick cast them in the roles of Dave Bowman and Barry Lyndon. They fit those roles perfectly. That their careers didn’t go anywhere afterwards is more a function of their inherent blandness than any Kubrick effect.

  14. Moorish: Actually, I think it was Noel Coward who said that — while they were making Bunny Lake is Missing. No kidding.

    Marty Melville: I would add The Crossing Guard and The Pledge to the list of movies in which Jack Nicholson more than rose to the occasion. (Indeed, I thought he deserved a Best Actor nomination for Pledge.) Maybe he should work with Sean Penn more often?

    JLC: Please don’t misunderstand — I’m not saying being in a Kubrick movie ever hurt anyone’s career. I’m just questioning — with all due respect to Ryan O’Neal and his optimistic expectations — whether being in a Kubrick movie ever helped anyone’s career.

    Prager: George C. Scott? I don’t think so. But if you want to argue Slim Pickens…

    And from where comes all this hate for The Border? Even Pauline Kael had very nice things to say about the movie and Nicholson’s performance in it.

  15. There’s not much point in a career uptick from a Kubrick movie, that’s the pinnacle of your career right there. Where else is there to go?

  16. I second the D’Onofrio and Ermey upticks — also, Matthew Modine was doing VisionQuest before Full Metal Jacket, so working with Kubrick certainly helped him (and his photo/written memoir on the film was phenomenal) — plus, the way Kubrick’s camera adored Kidman’s unclothed essence in EWS had to help her….

  17. @Joe, while it is true he was a double Oscar nominee before Dr. Strangelove, does anyone doubt that Scott is best remembered for his two Generals? Considering that much bigger stars were up for Patton, his performance as Buck Turgidson couldn’t have hurt his chances of being cast. Scott himself said it was his favorite role.

  18. Also, Keir Duella isn’t really the star of 2001. Kubrick and Clarke were were the stars, and Clarke certainly got a boost from it.

  19. “Whenever I read or hear about Barry Lyndon, I am reminded of a story I read shortly before its release that stated Ryan O’Neal was turning down scads of film offers until the Kubrick movie hit theaters, because he was absolutely sure that it would boost his stature — and his asking price — to superstar level.”

    Joe, its all well and good to critique O’Neal (and/or Kubrick, obviously,) for his job, which was his *performance*, and many have done so.

    But it betrays a real rube mentality about Hollywood to personalize an attack on an actor for a decision that was clearly made by the actor’s coterie of manager and agency. I mean, you don’t have to point out the “man behind the curtain”, but I would hope that you would know he is there.

  20. Before STRANGELOVE, Scott was more likely to be cast in an eat-your-vegetables kind of movie. HIs comic performance opened the floodgates.

    After THE SHINING, NIcholson became an icon.

  21. Baron: How was what I wrote an “attack” on O’Neal? He merely miscalculated, that’s all. Back in the day, James Woods told me that Once Upon a Time in America was going to give him a colossal career boost. Sometimes the magic works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

    Prager: Jack Nicholson was an icon long, long before The Shining. Hell, he was on the cover of Newsweek as far back as 1970 (for Five Easy Pieces). And did you ever hear of a little movie called Chinatown by any chance? No? Then how about One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?

  22. Sorry you missed the point, Joe. In short:

    Ryan *acts*.

    Ryan’s *management* winnows down the roles he considers, tells him which roles he goes out for, constructs the deals for him, select and calendar the jobs, and decide when he is “hot” and has the most leverage. His “perspective” – as was James Woods’ perspective, it would be good to explain here – was formed for him by his management.

    So, one can critique O’Neal plenty for his performance (though Kubrick shares the blame, if ‘blame’ is your opinion). But when you pass on from “somewhere you read” that ‘Ryan was passing on all kinds of offers, ‘cos he thought he was gonna be a STAR!”, you sound like a gum-snapping US Weekly reader. Or Rashad.

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