Modern movies filmed in narrow aspect ratios: just stop it already

Any kind of stylistic choice probably has this problem, like basically any area of creative work, I think. Somebody comes up with something new, that has some sort of a relevance based on the over-arching idea of the work, or such. Then when it becomes popular, the “trick” gets copied ad nauseam for purely superficial reasons. It’s easy to copy some stylistic choice, if you don’t think about what its actual function is supposed to be. “Hey that looks cool! I wanna do it too!”

This applies to all crappy copies of course – trying to ride on the coat-tails of somebody’s success either knowingly or just missing the point of what actually made the original special.

I’m not sure if you realize just how common 2.35:1 movies are. Probably some of your favorites somewhere on this list:

There are even lots of TV series now filmed that wide.

I thought the format worked really well for both “The Lighthouse” and “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” “Macbeth” in particular looked gorgeous and the 4:3 ratio really enhanced the artificial/stylized/expressionistic look the film is going for. It’s not like it’s some big trend that everyone is doing, it’s only being used sporadically for a handful of artsy independent films that are going for a very stylized look.

This video will drive some of you crazy!

I have young children and admit to telling them stuff like this every now and again. They won’t stop asking questions so there comes a point sometimes where you have to amuse yourself. For years my kids believed in the Zosh, a creature that would come out at night and take things in the house and move or hide them. I like to imagine preschool teachers thinking my children were insane.

Watching Battle of the Bulge on an ultra-widescreen monitor is one of the better film watching experiences of my life, despite the overall mediocrity of the movie

What really gets my goat and the whole farm is people watching a video on a tiny 5" phone screen. Yeah, you’ve seen the movie, but you haven’t SEEN the movie!

As for narrow aspect ratios, it depends on the scene and film content. A dinner table scene with two people talking doesn’t need an IMAX aspect ratio. And a narrower screen can help focus and emphasize what’s taking place in that space.

There are people who swear that the battle scenes in Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai were widescreen and in color because Kurosawa so carefully crafted every cinematic moment. As I’m thinking about it now, I don’t imagine the scene as a nearly square rectangle in B/W, but as gorgeous full screen colorful action unmatched by any of his other work.

I never claimed to be an expert on the various cinematic aspect ratios, I was just complaining about movies filmed in narrow aspect ratios for artsy reasons.

Yeah, I’m beginning to think maybe I was just having a cranky old man moment. As you say, it’s not like it’s some widespread trend in moviemaking, and I suppose I should actually watch TTOM and see for myself whether the technique works for the subject matter before complaining about it. Which I will, eventually-- I do enjoy a good Shakespeare movie adaptation.

There’s a trick moviemakers have been using in historical epics, especially war films, that’s really getting old. The film starts with something akin to a newsreel or educational film in a narrow aspect to do a necessary expository dump and then try to surprise/impress the audience with a fade to a grandiose, panoramic shot. It’s just so predicable now that it actually takes away from that first spectacular shot.

There’s an interesting chance to do a direct assessment of whether B/W versus color changes the impact of a film. It turns out the Guillermo del Toro, in his words: “Although we shot “Nightmare Alley” in color, we lit it as though it were black & white…You can see exactly the same level of design, and we wanted to give viewers this special vantage as a take of the classic noir genre that the film is part of.”

So they are releasing the black and white version this week (I’m guessing just for a week). If you are in Los Angeles, del Toro will be at two of the screenings for Q&A.

Total codswallop.


Logan and Mad Max: Fury Road also had black and white releases.

ALSO: Steven Soderbergh was really excited about the direction and staging in the first Indiana Jones movie, so he converted it to black and white and replaced the entire sound track with electronic music so you’d focus on the visuals. It’s really compelling to watch.
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I have a couple of Aaton super-16 cameras. Were I to shoot a film, I’d shoot it in super-16 (1.65:1, which is wider than Academy 1.37:1 in 35 mm). I also have an Arriflex 16.S regular 16 mm (1.33:1). Suppose I decided to shoot in regular 16 mm instead of 16 mm. Would that be a problem?

Not by me. If you shot in regular 16, you’d have a perfect 1.33 picture, so matches the classic standard. Yours if you want it. Pay no attention to cranks who want to “box you out” (that’s an aspect ratio joke that only we artsy types would appreciate).

Whereas some modern innovations are seemingly aimed at constantly reminding the audience that the movie or TV program is fake, including shaky cam.

Not sure how this tendency improves the experience.

On the opening of Saving Private Ryan, the high shutter speed gave an interesting feel to the battle. Perhaps an increased intimacy. At any rate, you noticed the difference, even if you didn’t know why, and combine it with the parts where blood got on the camera, it made it feel like you were there. That’s good use of the effect.

Note that the rest of the film was shot normally.

Shaky cam, especially on TV, doesn’t make you feel like you are there. It makes you notice the fakiness.

Jeez guys, pile on whydontcha. I already admitted a few posts ago as to how I may have been having a cranky old man moment when I made this OP. @Eyebrows_0f_Doom and others have made some good points. I’m big enough to admit when I’m wrong (fortunately I don’t have to, too often :wink:).

Here is a full mea culpa:

  • I am not a student of various cinematic styles and aspect ratios, by any means. I now understand that movies have traditionally been made in a variety of aspect ratios, from “Academy” style to Cinemascope, and, other than personal preference, one is not inherently ‘better’ than another.
  • My post was in response to only two recent movies I’m aware of, ‘The Lighthouse’ and ‘The Tragedy of MacBeth’, the former I’ve seen, but for the latter I’ve only seen a very short trailer. I should probably actually watch the movie before I decide whether or not using a narrower aspect ratio is an effective technique for the telling of the story.
  • If anybody can make good use of a narrow aspect ratio, I imagine Joel Cohen can.

‘Shaky cam’ done right is very effective and adds a sense of reality. To do it right, the cinematographer hand-holds the camera and tries as hard as he or she can to not shake the camera. But I almost never see that. I see deliberate camera movements that tells me, ‘I’m trying to make the shot seem “real” by faking trying to not fake the shake.’

It worked for The Lighthouse because it captured the claustrophobic feeling of having to be stuck in a lighthouse for too long.