I hear all the time about how something from someone's childhood isn't around anymore. Be it a musical genre, a channel that played music videos, a venue, a restaurant, etc., it's just not the proverbial same. Well, I think there are some things I'm glad aren't around anymore. High up on that list is watching movies in pan-and-scan.
Before I was in college, I never noticed the difference between seeing a movie in widescreen in a theater and seeing it in pan-and-scan on a TV. I thought Tim Burton's Batman looked the same on TV as it did on the big screen. Well, with the advent of DVD (and seeing The Matrix on DVD), I've never wanted to see a movie in pan-and-scan again. I can't go back . . . and that's fine with me.
Depending on how you view it, rewatching movies in widescreen can be a royal pain in the ass. However, seeing movies from The Muppet Movie to Kentucky Fried Movie on DVD and in widescreen, there's no contest. The more that's onscreen, the better. It's almost like watching a whole other movie. And I've never minded seeing black bars on the top and bottom of my screen.
A recent case in point for me is Lost Highway. For some strange reason (probably, like with Twin Peaks, there's a rights issue), the Region 1 version of Lynch's 1997 film is only available in pan-and-scan. The video quality is so poor that it looks like a VHS dub burned onto DVD. Yes, it's that bad. Obtaining the Region 2 version for my region-free DVD player, the movie looks amazing.
Lost Highway is a great example of how butchered a movie can look in pan-and scan. Its 2:35 width is tarnished in the 4:3 format and I wonder why such savagery is allowed. It's about as bad as watching Pulp Fiction on VHS. It's terrible-looking and rather confusing when there's stuff cut out of the frame.
Now with widescreen TVs becoming pretty much the only TVs you can buy in a retail store, the "don't care"/lowest common denominator audience will have to see everything in widescreen. Gone are the days when a certain megastore that bends over backwards for that audience sells only pan-and-scan DVDs. Maybe this has been long overdue for everyone else to deal with this. It's about time.