Back to IndieWire

Criticwire Survey: Film Fetishism

Criticwire Survey: Film Fetishism

Every week, the Criticwire Survey asks film and TV critics two questions. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?” can be found at the end of this post.) Send suggestions for future questions to sam at indiewire dot com.

Q: In a post at RogerEbert.com, Aaron Aradillas decried the fetishization of 35mm
film exhibition, which he argued “creates divisions where
there really shouldn’t be.” How important is it to you to
that movie shot on film be seen the same way, and given
that that 35mm screenings are increasingly rare in most
parts of the country, is it possible the stance that you
haven’t “really” seen a movie until you’ve seen it on
celluloid does more harm than good?

Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo!

As one who used to drive from San Diego, where I was in college, to LA to see classic 35 mm and 70 mm films, I am a fetishist. The remastered-for-DVD iterations both of “The Wizard of Oz” and “Casablanca” looked markedly different in their in-theaters digitized versions, shiny in places they shouldn’t be shiny, herringbone in places meant to be monochrome. Projected celluloid, and met especially projected silver-nitrate celluloid have a vibrancy that digital cannot reproduce. It’s the difference between vinyl and CD — the latter has a more even, but less nuanced sound. But my husbands and kids can’t tell the difference so I know I’m hollering alone in a soundproof chamber. 

Peter Labuza, “Approaching The End,” The Cinephiliacs

Okay let’s get this down. Nobody film “fascist” is saying that if you are not watching a film on 35mm you are a bad person. Heck, the mere accessibility of thousands of films is limited to VHS or digital rips, if even that (Look at David Bordwell’s recent archive run around Europe for example of films that only exist on a print in a single archive). If you live in an area where you can’t get film and have to only watch things digitally, please watch things digitally.

But let’s get this straight: cinema is not just about “storytelling,” otherwise we would just read screenplays and be done with it. It’s about how they look and move. Film grain is an essential part of that. This is a question of phenomenology, and the experience of viewing a film print is very different from the viewing of a digital projection—the movie is the same, but the experience is varied. If you can’t notice that or don’t want to notice that, good for you, but it’s the lack of anyone caring about how movies look is the reason many (but not all) digital restorations are coming out shoddy. Movies from 80 years ago should not be restored in a way that it “makes it look like it was made yesterday.” And movies today should respect the intention of how their artists want their films to look like. If you don’t care at all, then please just read the screenplay.

Michael Pattison, Sight & Sound, Fandor

Fetish shmetish. Put it this way: could I ever really trust someone not willing to stand up against the tyrannies of the profit machine? Could you?

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

I haven’t ever really fetishized the film experience, but certainly a film designed to be seen in one format should be seen in that format. I watched “Inherent Vice” twice at the New York Film Festival — in DCP and on 35mm — and while I enjoyed both experiences, the print showed more intense colors and extreme contrasts in a number of scenes. More than that, the grain enhanced the ’70s vibe. Those creative elements obviously deserve recognition along with the film’s narrative, which they serve. That being said, these are subtle differences that don’t hinder the movie’s strongest ingredients in any radical fashion. If you’ve seen the DCP, you know what it means to watch “Inherent Vice.” The obsessive need to see movies on prints should have more to do with the format it was designed for. But that’s an issue with greater philosophical ramifications than literal ones, so yes, maybe the purists ought to tone it down. The filmmakers choosing to work on film, on the other hand — especially those who can’t make prints of their movies because it’s now cost-prohibitive to do so — should speak as loudly as they see fit. 

Scott Nye, CriterionCast, Battleship Pretension

The importance of seeing a celluloid film on film is directly proportionate to its convenience: If I have the chance to do so, I will seize it, but I won’t get terribly bent out of shape if I can’t. Given that the vast majority of (one could even say “all” without risking inaccuracy too much) modern movies are finished digitally, the digital print offers a closer replication of the work the director finished than celluloid could muster.

With older movies, it gets trickier. I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say someone who has only experienced something on DVD (let alone Blu-ray) hasn’t “really” seen it (and I’m kind of appalled by the class- and elitism inherent in that stance). Beyond my desire to offer the slightest consideration of another person and allow that their experience may be plenty valid, there is the selfish perspective – I’ve yet to see a great many towering works of cinema, films that are as important to me as films can be, outside of my home. Hell, I’ll be lucky to ever see any Mikio Naruse film on film. Digital, there, is my salvation. I would, however, add that opportunities to see 35mm (and certainly 70mm) should be seized with the same fervor as though that were the only available form of exhibition. As much as I adore the Blu-ray format, the experience simply cannot be replicated digitally (though the home viewer should make the effort to seek out the best transfer available). I had seen “Wild Strawberries” a half-dozen times by the time I saw it on film, but doing so made it more urgent and striking than it had ever been. This does not devalue the truly spiritual experiences I had watching it on DVD, and, certainly, not every film is “Wild Strawberries,” but it is a phenomenon I try to keep in mind when I start to think if it’s really worthwhile to make the trek for whatever’s on my rep calendar.

But, most of all, it doesn’t need to be an either/or proposition. The 35mm viewer can offer perspectives that the digital adherent cannot, and the latter has the opportunity to study a film with greater intensity than public exhibition could ever offer. It’s all motion pictures anyway.

Sean Burns, Movie Mezzanine, Spliced Personality

Speaking as someone who worked as a projectionist for fifteen years I obviously have a lot of bitterness about this issue. But I do look forward to hearing the tales of woe next month, when all these multiplexes try dusting off their old warehoused 35mm machines to show “Interstellar” after long ago shitcanning everybody in the building who knew how to operate them.

DCP is just a fact of life now, and given the hurry with which we all got used to our music sounding crappy and compressed for expediency’s sake we shouldn’t be surprised it’s taken even less time for our photographed images. The sad punchline is that after being presented as a magic cure for sloppy presentation standards, digital suffers from the same indifference that caused all those 35mm exhibition cock-ups people groused about in the first place. When your business model favors poor maintenance, overextended bulbs and cheap, inexperienced labor it doesn’t matter what format you’re showing movies on, you’re still showing them poorly. The only difference now is that everything looks crummier and the prints don’t get scratched.

After much trial and error I’ve found quite a few nearby theaters where I can go see DCPs decently exhibited in the correct aspect ratio with that pesky polarizing filter removed for 2D features. The trick, in Boston at least, is heading out of the city limits proper and studiously avoiding the initials “AMC.” But then that was also the case back when everybody was still showing 35mm, so where exactly has all of this “progress” brought us?

As much as I cherish the communal experience of watching a movie in a dark room full of strangers, I’ll confess that I find it hard to leave the house for repertory screenings in cases when they’re projected digitally. I go see a lot of old pictures, and over the years have grown to look upon my trips to the Brattle Theatre, Coolidge Corner and the Harvard Film Archive as quasi-religious pilgrimages. If I may be a pompous ass, these visits make me feel more connected with cinema history – watching old movies on a big screen the way their original audiences saw them. A big part of that for me is the tangible, physical object that’s unspooling through the projector — one that’s travelled thousands of miles and entertained millions of others before arriving here on this particular night, and will be shipped off to the next crowd in the morning. I like thinking about that, silly and overly-romanticized as it may sound.

I’ve never actually heard this claim that you haven’t really “seen” a movie unless you’ve seen it on 35mm, but being of the generation that grew up watching all the classics of the canon either edited for television with commercial interruptions or on pan-and-scan VHS tapes, I could hardly say such a thing myself.

Richard Brody, New Yorker

The problem isn’t with 35mm. film exhibition but with fetishism. There are lots of ways to watch a movie — and even 35mm. doesn’t imply a screening. Some really good movie-viewing takes place at a Steenbeck, which is the only place where you can do with a film print what you do with a VHS tape (can’t even do it quite the same way with a DVD) — watch forwards and backwards, frame by frame, at any rate of speed. Of course, the original experience of most classic movies is in a theatre with an audience; but I have no idea what it was like to sit in a 1936 theatre and watch “Big Brown Eyes” with an audience that wanders in and out with no attention to showtimes, maybe with a stage prologue as well as newsreels, travelogues, and other short subjects between screenings, in a theatre that seats thousands and where ushers with flashlights bring viewers in. The primal experience isn’t just of 35mm., it’s of a world that’s gone. In any case, if talking pictures are as valid a cinematic experience as silents, then video is as valid as film — it’s a new technique, neither better nor worse, that makes certain things easier to achieve and others more difficult. I’ve watched movies on TV, movies on home video, movies streaming, movies on 35mm. in theaters — and what about other sorts of copies, such as the 16mm prints I used to project in college? Never seeing a movie in 35 is like never seeing a painting in a museum, and just as I like to travel, when I can, to distant museums, I also go to screenings of prints whenever possible; but study from reproductions has its own value, both in access and in analytical techniques. The wonder of art is the variety of modes of knowledge and experience that it opens up; I very much enjoy period-instrument performances of Beethoven and Haydn but I wouldn’t want to deny myself Rudolf Serkin’s playing on a big modern Steinway — and I had the privilege of seeing him in concert but I wouldn’t throw away his recordings just because CDs didn’t exist in Beethoven’s time. On the other hand, DCP often seems like the worst of both worlds — the disembodied feel of home video with the inconveniences of watching without a remote control in hand. I’ve often wished that restorations stay close to the scratched-print originals — and that DVDs would be made the same way. The problem isn’t with home video; it’s with the notion of some pristine original that high-tech methods are deployed to recreate. Weirdly, that obsession is the interventionist obverse of the 35mm coin — the assumption that there’s a primordial state or mode that should take priority.

Nell Minow, Beliefnet

I remember hearing a Lionsgate executive explaining ruefully that they put so much effort and imagination into every inch of the screen for the “Lord of the Rings” movies only to find that people wanted to be able to watch them on their phones. “We’ll sell it to them, if that’s what they want,” he said, “but we are not happy about it.” If possible, it’s best to see films the way they were shot. But, just as we don’t view paintings in the studios where they were created, we have to recognize that some art will be viewed in a manner other than the way the filmmakers envisioned. And I have wonderful memories of digitally restored films. The first movie I watched on Blu-Ray was “Pinocchio,” which I thought I knew very well. But there were highlights in the Blue Fairy’s hair I had not seen before. I ran to my book of Disney animation art, and it was there. So, unlike watching LoTR on a Smartwatch, I felt I was seeing it the way the artists did.

Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter, Tribune

On the whole, I’d rather be in 1760. Benjamin Franklin (54) Voltaire (66), Rousseau (48) and Thomas Paine (23), were kicking around. William Blake and Mozart were toddling. The Earth’s population was still under a billion: a manageable number, in terms of our impact upon the planet. True, the Industrial Revolution properly got under way in 1760 with the invention of the weavers’ “drop box” in Lancashire. But down in Leicestershire, a certain Edward Ludnam came into a world that would eventually know and revere/revile him under another name. And if I’d been around to give him a helping hand/hammer, who knows what ultimate legacy “King” Ned Ludd and his followers might have left us: would humans have ever invented cars, computers, cinema? If not, what might our ingenuity, and the ingenuity of all those millions happily unsucked into industry’s ravenous maw, have come up with instead?

1760 was also the year that French anthropologist Charles de Brosses published The Cult of Divine Fetishes, fans of which included Hegel and Marx. de Brosses popularised the term fétiche, or fetish in English, derived from the Portuguese feitiço, referring to the carved amulets worn by native traders on the west African coast. Etymologists differ on the root of feitiço, but I prefer the interpretation that points to the Latin verb “to make” — a “fetish” being thus “that which is (man-)made”. To “fetishize” film is, in this very specific context, in no way erotic, nor it is to ascribe certain magical or supernatural to the celluloid.

Rather it is to emphasize the fact that film is a concrete object, made by humans. A thing. A DCP, no matter how cunning its simulation of celluloid’s look, is essentially no more or less than an electronic communication – a string of ones and noughts; an extremely long number. Handy, convenient, cheap — but a simulacrum, and thus by definition inferior. And it should surely go without saying that any work of cinema made to be seen on celluloid should, wherever practical, be seen on celluloid rather than on digital. It’s a matter of respecting the intention of the artist, and of seeing cinema as an art-form, worthy of the same respect accorded, as a matter of course, to painting and sculpture. Check out Thomas Gainsborough’s Sunset: Carthorses Drinking at a Stream (1760) here, just a click away.

Gary Kramer, Gay City News, Philadelphia Gay News

I just saw the DCP restoration of “The Conformist,” and it was indeed beautiful. Call me a purist, though. When I attend a revival screening of a film made before digital cinema I still enjoy hearing the sound of the projector and the crackle of the sprockets or scratches on the film from it being shown so much. Those little elements charm me. I don’t care if the images are a little murky on an older film, because the color can sometimes be so rich. Likewise, when I see a film on my hi-def TV that wasn’t made for high definition, it can sometimes look artificial to me. That takes me out of the film. I’d rather see things in the way they were made at the time they were made whenever possible because the filmmaker opted to create the work based on what materials were available at the time. I like some digital video films very much, but a true work of art shouldn’t be defined by technology.

Monica Castillo, Movie Mezzanine, Paste Magazine

I have a fondness for 35mm, and I think that’s increased with the disappearance of print availability. I certainly like to catch older movies on film, since that’s the way audiences would have seen them in their time. I’m not so extreme as to say “35mm or it doesn’t count,” but I’ll wait to see a movie important to me on the big screen projected on film if that option is available. I think it’s about the viewer’s preference, like if you enjoy your steak medium, well-done, or don’t have a preference. The problem now is that our dish is served with no option. 

For instance, I love going to midnight movies and watching beat-up prints. God knows what their wear and tear tell from across the country or abroad in theaters large and small. Well, I wanted to watch Alejandro Jodorowsky’s major midnight movies on 35mm, and I waited until they came back on the schedule at local repertory houses. After catching “Santa Sangre” and “El Topo” on beautifully lurid prints at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Boston, I saw that the IFC Center in New York was planning to show “The Holy Mountain” on 35mm. They gave no notice before I bought my ticket that night or before the screening, but the movie ended up coming from a DCP. I felt cheated of the experience of watching a movie I was looking forward to in the format I wanted and paid for. 

I don’t know how this happened, but Boston has become a better city to see 35mm prints than New York. I’ve run into the aforementioned incident more than once in my seven months in New York City. I understand prints aren’t available for every film and yes, shipping and print issues happen, but in rep houses across the city, DCPs are scheduled so often that I’ve started to drop off in my rep attendance. I can watch it on TCM and call it a night. Unfortunately, I don’t see the situation improving and finding the chance to see a movie projected on film is going to become an even more rare event. There’s still so many movies I want to see on 35mm or 70mm film; I hope it’s not too late. 

Jason Gorber, Twitch

There is an important divide that Aradillas touches on, splitting the shooting-on-film question from the projecting-from-film discussion, two vastly different conversations to be had when discussing these matters. While digital and analogue image capture clearly have different aesthetic advantages, it’s pretty much settled save for a vocal few that digital projection is superior even for films that originated on celluloid (many forget that even Nolan’s films undergo a scanning process to incorporate CGI and color timing, making the film to digital-to-film process even more redundant). As I reported during “The Master’s” run, celluloid stalwart Paul Thomas Anderson purposely degraded his 4K DCP with negative density elements, adding detritus to the presentation to give it a “film-like” look. Save for pristine 70mm prints, a properly setup and configured digital presentation of a carefully processed DCP will not only be superior on the day of the premiere, it’ll be that way several weeks into the screening, a factor that many critics who hold onto a love of film often fail to address. The fact is that some hold a similar fetish for VHS, preferring grunge over quality for the sake of either nostalgia or belligerence. Plus, there’s the issue of often poor quality of the soundtrack reproduction that gets overlooked during these conversations as well.

One need only look at the gorgeous (digital) masters of “Jaws,” “Lawrence of Arabia” or “North by Northwest” to see how a cherished celluloid-originated classic can be gloriously effective when digitally projected. With the advent of laser projection that promises even brighter, clearer and more stable imagery for both 2D and 3D presentations, the archaic need to project on film is diminishing save for archival prints. Efforts should instead be directed towards improvements in the scanning of these films, to finding foolproof ways of archiving the files and continuing to improve digital projection and screen quality rather than concentrating on the nostalgia felt when seeing scratches, cigarette burns, and faded, yellowing prints.

Robert Levin, amNewYork

I’m pretty much on board with Aaron Aradillas’ sentiments here, as I think we should get away from this divisive idea that one or other mode of exhibition is inherently better. Of course there is something familiar and pleasurable about seeing a film projected in 35mm but there are so many different ways to “see” a movie (especially in the smartphone age) that there’s really no reason to aggressively value one ideal over another. A movie being seen, however it happens, is better than one being ignored. At the same time, the whole film vs. digital divide/debate is pretty much exclusively the terrain of critics/film buffs at this point; it’s hard to imagine a regular moviegoer carrying about any of this. 

Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit, First Showing

I think that in an ideal world there would still be 35mm as a viable option, but the sad fact of the matter is that it’s decidedly the exception, as opposed to the norm. As such, I’ve accepted that in most cases I won’t be seeing something on film even if it was shot on film. It is what it is. On a professional level, I can survive. It bums me out more on a personal level, as I grew up around actual film, having a grandfather who was a movie theater projectionist. The loss of that industry actually is the worst side effect, but again, it just is what it is. 

Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat, Film Racket

I pretty much agree with every word of that article. I find the whole “film vs. digital” debate perplexing and pointlessly divisive. Personally, I love both, but I really don’t care how I see a movie projected. What I do care about is what’s on the screen, i.e. the movie itself. I’m not in the business of reviewing projection formats. Tarantino, Nolan, and others can crow about the “superiority” of celluloid, but it reeks of elitism. If these guys really, truly believe so wholeheartedly in the superiority of 35mm or 70mm, why don’t they just release their movies in those formats only, and forget digital altogether? The answer is simple: they’d be sacrificing huge piles of money. That comment probably seems more cynical than I intend it to. My point is just that time marches forward, technology changes everything, and we’d all be better off figuring out how to make the best movies possible using the new tech rather than sitting around grousing about the death of the old. 

Adam Batty, Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second

While my preference is always to see the film as intended the realities of living in the provinces (i.e. anywhere outside of London) of the UK means that 35mm is a rare treat to be savored on special occasions nowadays as opposed to a regular occurrence. As such I’ve calmed on the whole militancy of 35mm advocation. I see an increasing amount of my new favorite movies on home video for the first (and often only) time too. That being said, in my own programming work I do strive for 35mm, which is increasingly becoming a more and more helpful marketing hook in the rep circuit. As I say though, while I have my own preferences but I’m pretty relaxed about the whole thing these days. 

Having said all of this, I write this entry having just completed a near-400 mile-long round trip to see Jean-Luc Godard’s “Goodbye to Language” as intended, knowing that the opportunity to see it in 3D will become increasingly rare once the film graduates from the festival circuit.

Jeff Berg, Las Cruces Bulletin, ABQ Free Press

As much as I love 35, 70, et al, even a diehard like me realizes that it is time to let it go. We all know that the studios will never bring it back and I think it is even hard to find someplace that even makes film anymore, no? The digital aspect of movie going is here to stay and there will always be those, myself included, who will rejoice at the opportunity to see something on film and to hear the projector crank up, but those days, like the days of union projectionists are harder than ever to find now.

I regret seeing it, since I still try to use my own 35 mm film camera for photos as I can, don’t have a cellphone, and think Twitter is as emotionally inclusive as a stick in the eye (the latter often being more so), and still have and occasionally use my VCR, but cliche, cliche, cliche, times have changed.

Even the venue I worked at for many years is going digital this week, when it came down to the fact that they weren’t getting 35’s from SPC or anyone else anymore and were reduced to showing only smaller titles available on Blu-ray. 

I do like what QT and Mr. Nolan are doing (although it did allow the venue I worked at in vain for a year to get it’s first big title… it helps that the owner is a friend of Nolan as well, since it is 125 seat venue) and admire their tenacity in that regard.

John DeCarli, Film Capsule

While I don’t think it’s tenable to argue that you haven’t really seen a movie until you’ve seen it on celluloid, I do cherish those opportunities and take advantage of them any chance I can. We’re losing a connection with the materiality of film and the particularities of the cinematic apparatus in the digital age, but I gain so much by being able to watch films digitally. Having access to so much great cinema can only be a good thing, but I do think we should make efforts to save the experience of celluloid.

John Keefer, 51 Deep

This weekend I will be attending a screening of “The Revenge of Frankenstein” at the historic Colonial Theater (shooting location from the original “The Blob”!) and it will indeed be shown on 35mm. I am excited since this is a Hammer film from when they were in their ascendancy and what a treat to see the great Peter Cushing on the big screen. If the screening was digital?…I would still go but I will admit to being a bit happier about how it will be screened. The goalposts here seem to be shifting a bit, earlier forms of this debate centered on just seeing a film on the big screen and now we get to increase the intensity of our gaze to whether or not it’s projected on film. Hopefully next we’ll be shaming people for watching Lumière realities on YouTube instead of a cinematograph as was originally intended! I would argue that this argument needs to stop. This isn’t about the proper way to see a film, it’s the outcry of doomsday prophets weeping for the death of their beloved art form. The echo chamber is not helping the situation whatsoever as per usual for all echo chambers. We cannot force the entirety of the World’s population to put Film back at the focus of the pop-cultural conversation. We cannot be constantly eulogizing and expect any young burgeoning cinephiles and future cineastes to be excited about it enough to engage with it so there will be great films in the future. And there will be great films in the future. And there will be dreadful low-points, like the early 80’s in Room 666 or the battles with that new-fangled TeeVee thing in the 50’s or the collapse of the studio system in the late 60’s which was fun for awhile until, ya know, Corporations ruined everything. But personally I can’t care about this anymore because I shoot short films with a digital camera and since I’m broke most of the time and couldn’t afford to shoot film I’m grateful to it (51deep.com, yes it’s shameless self-promotion but they’re free so what do you care?!) I also grew up watching most of the Great Movies on VHS then DVD then Blu-ray then DVD…my Netflix still sends DVDs. I’m not suggesting we shove our heads in the sand and pretend everything’s great but can’t we be a bit more excited for the future of this plastic art form? Because there will be a future and it will be different and scary and horrible and glorious. And if the modern landscape depresses you then watch “Make Way for Tomorrow” and cry out the rest of your lazy tears so you can look forward.

Jason Shawhan, Nashville Scene, Interface 2037

You do what you can to see a film. If you have no access to 35mm screenings, then you have to view it in some other fashion. It’s unfortunate, but that’s how studios and corporate exhibitors have set things up. For new releases, you are absolutely limited by whoever is currently running things at whichever conglomerate happens to be distributing any specific film. 

But truthfully, with older titles, it’s often more frustrating, because there is still access (on some level) or memory of how a film looks on film. But if you were to take a look at, say, movies like “Predator” or “Aliens” (I use those as examples because I’ve seen them), which in their current DCP form have been scrubbed of all grain and look unnaturally sharp. Not only is it a pain to try and find an actual 35mm exhibition, but the “digital masters” meant to serve as the default look for these films are lies. It’s just staggering. 

As for fetishizing 35mm exhibition, I think that’s a poor choice of phrase, mainly because “fetishizing” implies access. And access is more and more just not part of the equation. I do love the way the Christopher Nolan “Film First” approach to “Interstellar’s” release has corporate exhibitors whining that they’re cheapening the format of digital exhibition. 

For me, I wouldn’t be so frustrated with DCP exhibition if they were actually mastered in a way that stayed true to the film’s initial grain structure.

Josh Spiegel, Movie Mezzanine

I think it’s a logical response for a cinephile to want to see something shot on film, just as I’d want to see a movie shot with IMAX cameras in a proper IMAX theater or a movie shot with 3D technology in 3D instead of 2D. If the filmmaker created his or her story in a certain way, I’d try my best to honor their intentions by seeing it in the “right” format. (Which even means suffering through 48 frames per second. Thanks for that, Peter Jackson.) Having said that, I’m lucky that there’s one theater in all of Arizona that will allow me to see, say, “Interstellar” in the “right” format. There’s only one true IMAX theater in the state, and no 35mm options (even though I live in one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the country). I’d love to see more movies on film, but a) far too few filmmakers use film anymore and b) even fewer theaters outside of markets like NYC, LA, and Chicago offer film projection. 

That dearth of options outside of digital is likely what allows people to fetishize film; its rarity makes it even more appealing to those of us without repertory options. But I don’t see how putting film on a pedestal is a bad thing. I miss hearing the whir of the film projector in the back of the theater from my youth, and I’ve run into far more projection issues with DCPs than with a film print. What we need for the future of cinema projection in America is diversity: digital and film projection as being closer to equal. But it’ll almost certainly never happen, because theater chains chose to buy into the all-or-nothing idea pushed by the film industry a few years ago, and would rather not retrain its employees. The problem isn’t people fetishizing 35mm film; the problem is the industry boxing theater chains into such a corner that audiences can’t help but fetishize 35mm film.

Luke Y. Thompson, Topless Robot

A thousand yeses to Aaron’s piece, though I don’t see it as “fascism” except, arguably, at the theater where Tarantino was landlord only, and he suddenly took over the business to rip out a digital projector the business’ actual owner had invested a huge chunk of change in. Filmmaking is storytelling, and that’s how it will survive. I know several people who tell me that celluloid can pick up colors that the eye can’t in such a way that the eye is enabled to see them, and I know many more who’d rather stay home with DirecTV because they feel it’s sharper and clearer. Few pine for Super 8 or 16mm (though there are some); only a desperate retrophile pines for VHS, but that’s a thing too now. Just because we grew up USED to a certain format doesn’t mean it’s the best one. I remember when I started noticing “cigarette burns,” and it annoyed me as it always indicated a cut was coming – no longer a problem. There’s a period of psychological adjustment, but movies shot on high-grade Red cameras often look better to me than many shot on film.

I like to ask people who get attached to older formats specifically this question: “Who’s your favorite cave-painter?” Because that’s how we first told stories. If you can name any of those first auteurs, you get to make movies on any old medium you want. If not, let technological progress reign.

Q: What is the best movie in theaters?

A: “Gone Girl”

Other movies receiving multiple votes: “Boyhood”

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox