I used to be the first kid on my block to get the newest in home theater technology. But times have changed. As a home theater geek, movie lover, and filmmaker, I’ve had to balance my life in such a manner as to keep my priorities straight. And since making a conscious decision to walk away from most things Hollywood in my career as a filmmaker, that’s required me to tighten my already tight budget. Going indy is great for your art, works wonders on your soul, but it’s damn tough on your checkbook. So, with my next film in development and a recent birthday, I decided it was time I asked for that Blu-ray player as my way of welcoming in my 45th year (ouch!). Most of my other home theater geek friends (you know who you are) have long since gone Blu. And they haven’t wasted any opportunities to make me salivate with envy. But now I’ve allowed myself to step into the pool and I’m here to tell you the water’s fine… Now I have to confess that I’m still behind the times. My TV, though a 65″ widescreen rear-projection Toshiba, is not HDMI ready and belongs to that throwback of days gone by, the analog TV. But damn if it’s still not one of the most film-like images I’ve seen to date. Yes, I already have my eyes on the newest Panasonic front projector LCD (and have for some time now), but that’s gonna have to wait as my next film needs my undivided attention, not to mention my next birthday’s a year away. But Christmas and Chanukah are getting close. Hmmm…
Regardless, today I can watch Blu-rays in 1080i resolution. Yes, it’s a notch below 1080p and it eats away at me, but the picture is such a magnificent improvement, such a sheer delight, that my excitement is still beyond containment. And my audio system allows me to partake of 7.1 channels of uncompressed sound. It warms the cockles of my heart.
My first outing with my new Blu (the Panny BD55) was THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Here’s a film I truly enjoyed but never purchased as all previous SD DVD releases were not anamorphically enhanced. But now the film is stunning in its presentation with textures rich and colors vibrant. No film has looked this good on my TV before. My friend Andy and I sat quietly and drooled as we took the visual and aural journey that stemmed from Tim Burton’s warped imagination (directed by Henry Selick). The 7.1 sound field was completely immersive and clean. I could not have asked for a more exhilarating first experience. Even the trailers before the movie knocked us out. Who knew BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA could look so good!?
This was followed by Darren Aranofsky’s THE FOUNTAIN. I first saw THE FOUNTAIN on Standard DVD and immediately wished I’d seen it in the theaters. It’s a profoundly underrated film. Beautiful, touching, emotional and powerful, the film was a bit too “out there” to be a commercial or even critical success. However I am a fan and will remain so. The Blu-ray disc looks great, though I will warn viewers that it’s not the hi-def eye-popping experience that NIGHTMARE was. THE FOUNTAIN is a visually dark film, though it does get lighter as the story progresses, the color palette is minimal and the shadows deep. This, from what I’ve read and witnessed myself, often makes it harder to immediately notice just how improved the picture actually is. But compared to the SD DVD, this Blu-ray does the film justice in a way the other simply could not. And don’t misunderstand me, there are stunning visual moments that do truly POP, while others simply look great. And there are no moments that looked off to my eye. I’m guessing the film looks as it was meant to. Dark, moody, gorgeous. I’m looking forward to watching it again as soon as possible. But first I have to watch my Blu-rays of THE SHINING and A PASSAGE TO INDIA, two films I peeked at and got VERY excited when I saw just how stunning they looked. And to think, I’m not even watching them in 1080p yet. There’s a Panasonic projector out there somewhere with my name on it. But first I have my own film to make. And you can rest assured it’ll find its way to Blu-ray. Right after a nice, long theatrical run.