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Forget Widescreen: THE REPORT, WAVES, and this fall’s aspect ratio status symbols

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

The Report, a new film written and directed by Scott Z. Burns and produced by Steven Soderbergh, has been shot in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. A few years ago, this would have seen more or less standard. Of course, some movies are composed in anamorphic widescreen while others opt for the less expansive 1.85:1, but just as 1.85 became the common wider-than-TV frame in the 1950s, 2.35 or 2.39 have become quite common in the era of flatscreen TVs (which are closer to the 1.85 ratio), a default “cinematic” look now that so much TV has widened out. This fall, I’ve noticed that many of the season’s most interesting and ambitious movies aren’t bothering with super-wide compositions at all. Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is in 1.85 (like some of his older movies); the Shining sequel Doctor Sleep is, too (like the original’s theatrical release), and so are Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, Edward Norton’s Motherless Brooklyn, and Ang Lee’s Gemini Man. Some recent releases go further: Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is in 1.66, the New York Film Festival debut First Cow uses 1.33, and The Lightouse is in the super-old-timey 1.19. Meanwhile, the movies that stay wider for their entire running times are the chintzier likes of Zombieland 2, Last Christmas, and, yes, Jexi. There are plenty of reasons a director might not want to automatically use 2.35, but it’s still a fascinating switch, even if it’s a coincidental one. Is this a reaction to the easy availability of Widescreen Content? Does anamorphic widescreen now somehow signify a movie going through the motions of visual interest while remaining mostly indifferent?
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