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Bigger, shinier and in more dimensions.

Bigger, shinier and in more dimensions. (photo)

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The movies are an appropriate obsession for a nation as in love with technology as we are here in the US. In their short lifetime, film has raced from silent, hand-cranked black and white shorts to sound, color, widescreen, CGI, home viewing, digital and so on: the relentless march of progress is something most people witness without even trying. Nothing is more generationally fragmented than the dominant characteristics of each decade’s movies (and the changing ways we watch them).

But there’s another side to this. The Playlist‘s Kevin Jagernauth notes with some cynicism the announcement that all future WB tentpole movies will be in 3D, probably converted from 2D footage to boot, beginning with “Clash of the Titans.” For Jagernauth, the dividing lines are drawn between “savvy film fans” — who can pick up on a “cheap attempt at the format” like “Alice In Wonderland” — and the general audiences that “either can’t tell the difference, or simply don’t care.”

In general, mass audiences are generally hoodwinked at one point or another by the technology that can get people excited. In 1953, “Shane” had been shot in the standard Academy ratio of 1.37:1 but was ad hoc cropped for a wider screen, beginning a long tradition of movies being projected in the wrong ratio. The 1.37:1 ratio (basically a TV-like square) needs a lens most theaters don’t have anymore, which led to a lot of misprojected old movies.

The most egregious wrongs were done to “Gone With The Wind,” which was first cropped a bit in 1954 and then, in 1967, blown up to 70mm at a very wide ratio that essentially lost half of the vertical visuals. Not until 1998 could the film be seen properly again. And if you’re Gus van Sant and shoot a movie in 1.37 today (“Elephant,” “Last Days,” “Paranoid Park”), you’ll still have to provide an alternate version for theaters that just aren’t able to show your work as intended.

03192010_gone.jpgThe emergence of video meant cutting all those movies back down to size, eliminating 2/3 of the picture. Most people, again, simply didn’t care: they had a TV and by god, they wanted every inch of the screen to be used. Those who did care could howl about letterboxing all they wanted, but it never caught on with the public.

That is, until all of a sudden DVDs came out and HDTVs were wide and suddenly people were all about letterboxing and widescreen, since — again! — you can show off your TV better that way. The letterboxing party was unexpectedly victorious, but not because anyone still understood what an aspect ratio actually was (now you can occasionally hear of people grumbling about the way old movies are boxed in — “pillarboxing” — and they’re not sure what’s going on).

It’s safe to say most viewers don’t understand much about the technology they love, so there’s no point in getting either worked up or surprised by shoddy 3D being pawned off and gratefully consumed. It’s in the tradition of the technologies preceding it.

[Photos: “Clash of the Titans,” WB, 2010; “Gone With The Wind,” Warner Home Video, 1939]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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