Hello, everybody.  Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, considering today the longstanding proposition that classic movies — indeed, any movie — is best seen in a movie theater.

Do you agree?

Do, for example, Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre prove more compelling on the big screen in The Maltese Falcon than they do on a Blue Ray DVD viewed on a large tv screen?  Does Ingrid Bergman look more radiant in a theater viewing of Casablanca than she does in the same movie seen in your living room? (See her above with Bogie.)

The conventional view for years was that, absolutely, there was no better environment to view a classic movie than a theater.  It is a communal experience, after all.  And what can replace the clarity of a well preserved 35mm print? It’s said over and over, that is how movies were intended to be seen.

But with the advances in HDTV and Blue Ray DVD duplication technology, the notion is creeping in that the movie theater may — just may — NOT be the ideal setting for a classic movie after all. Frank points out that a viewing at home of a DVD reissue of Sergio Leone’s classic western, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1968), was eye-opening in its visual clarity, full of details smudged on big screen revivals.

What got us thinking about all this was a recent letter that came across our desks, written to the some 6,000 voting members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization that conducts the Oscars each year.

The missive is from Academy president Tom Sherak, and it is surprising in its directness.

With the 2012 Oscar nominations due about a month from now –and the televised Awards presentation ceremony scheduled for Feb. 26 — the 84th Oscar season is well underway.

Voting members of the Academy are being bombarded by the studios with “movie screeners,” DVD versions of films that are in awards contention. They are also being lured to non-screen social events — complete with stars, open bars and full buffets — on behalf of various studio productions.  

Sherak sounds a bit alarmed at that, and writes: During this Oscar season, you will probably be invited to pre-nomination parties or perhaps Q&A sessions with actors, directors, producers, and others associated with the films.

While events such as these may not be a violation of the current rules, they are occasionally at odds with the intent of those rules. I implore you to remembers what we stand for as an organization and the job we are entrusted to do.

An Academy Award cannot be bought – it must be earned, and we are responsible for protecting not only the legitimacy of the award, but also the manner in which the nominees are chosen.

Then the Academy president tackles full force the theater-versus-home-viewing question we have been grappling with. Sherak writes: The studios have already mailed out some of this year’s movie screeners , and it is certainly tempting to view them in the comfort of our homes.

But I believe that the only way we can insure the integrity of the Oscar is for us to see movies as they were intended to be seen — in their entirety, on the movie theater screen.  (Oscar voters) owe it our fellow Academy members…to see their work as it was meant to be seen.  

OK, there you have it.  The head of the Academy believes that film viewing properly belongs in a theater.  We still are a tad dubious.

What do YOU think?




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