THE BLOG
11/17/2014 06:44 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Screen Image Deteriorates

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As I sat in an early screening of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 last week, I realized that I was experiencing a first in my career -- which, at my age, is a rare thing.

It was the first time I had watched a major film at a screening for critics in a multiplex in which the film itself had a watermark (as anti-piracy protection) in one corner of the image for the entire film.

And it occurred to me just how far we've come (perhaps fallen is the better word) in terms of how we are willing to experience films, as critics.

Perhaps I'm old-fashioned -- oh hell, I know I'm old-fashioned. But, once upon a time, reviewing films meant experiencing them under optimum conditions. I spent an adolescence of movie-love - in those dark decades before the advent of the VCR -- settling for chopped-up TV versions of movies, which were censored for broadcast, as well as interrupted by commercials in afternoon and late-night hours. Revival houses inevitably offered 35mm prints bespeckled with dust and worse, often with missing frames or scenes.

Reviewing films should mean -- once meant - -watching them in what amounted to a near-to-pristine state. The prints were new, the screens large, the projector's lens clean. Even if it was a small screening room, it was still a larger-than-life image being broadcast on a flat surface, ideally in exactly the manner the director imagined when he filmed it.

But, as has been noted at length in the past, there are simply too many movies these days - and certainly too many to be able to give each one that kind of treatment. One result has been a decrease in the number that are actually shown in screening rooms.

Indeed, at this point in time, I'd venture that half of the screening notices I get end with the words, "I'd love to send you a link or screener of the film."

This commentary continues on my website.