Two weeks ago, I had to help Dan re-arrange his apartment. This involved, among other things, moving the cable feed from one side of a room to the other to accommodate the new layout. It was just a matter of taking stock of what was there, yanking some C clips out of the wall and then hopping on a chair to run the cable along its new path and anchor it with the C clips.
This is relatively minor work for me, but I do find it interesting how uncommon the wherewithal to do even that is amongst many of my friends. Dan was actually shocked when I related to him that jailnurse and I often arrange out meetings around some project that needs doing, and that not only did working on such things not bother me, but was something that I even enjoyed doing to an extent.
I have to admit that for somebody who is as lazy as I am, I really don't mind doing busy work that much. There are limits, of course, but I like having accomplished something at the end of the day, and working with tools is something that I am quite comfortable with.
I feel that there is a cultural move within this country away from doing such things, however. As easy as it is to measure a wire and thread it along a wall or disassemble an item for transport and re-assemble it at its arrival, it seems large segments of the population have no background with picking up a tool and using it, and so there is a mystique to simple craft work that it doesn't really deserve. From that perspective, it's pretty easy to understand why we don't produce anything anymore.
NOT WORK SAFE - Brief Language and Situations
I've just heard the Doors 40th anniversary remasters. Yowza, what clarity! It was also nice to hear brand new mastering that doesn't push everything into the red because they can, there was a definite sense of dynamic here. And they're available in advanced resolution 5.1, of which only L.A. Woman had been previously. Of particular interest to me was the restoration of the lyrics to many of the songs, most particularly the profane chanting during "The End" that was, until now, only available in truncated form from a track on the Apocalypse Now dialogue album, as taken from the soundtrack of the film itself (see above).
Apocalypse Now on Blu-ray. Now that's a thought...
Speaking of high def, as I've mentioned in the past, there is an interesting relationship between the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day and the home theater enthusiast. After Raz and I viewed my Blu-ray of the first film, we were itching to watch the second, but it would have been a downer to watch in standard def at this point. Unfortunately, only the theatrical cut has been issued on Blu-ray, and I prefer the extended version. It turns out that there are several HD-DVD issues in other countries that do include the special edition version (erroneously referred to on all as a "Director's Cut"), reportedly with better picture quality than the Blu-ray. HD-DVD was one format worldwide and doesn't have any region coding, and so I had no problems playing this French disc in my player. I had a choice between the French and German versions, the latter of which had more special features, but in the end I decided to go with Studio Canal's edition as it seems to have a crisper picture and a lossless audio track (albeit in 5.1 to the German's 7.1). I'm reasonably familiar with the making of Terminator 2 and have exhausted my interest in special features.
The aforementioned viewing of The Terminator brought forth an interesting detail about high def transfers, and that is one of grain. Some companies really like to smooth out a film's natural grain; Fox did this to a fault with their recent issue of Patton on Blu-ray. The (ostensible) transparency of the medium in high def means that any grain one sees now should, by rights, be an aspect of the film's photography. When this is the case, the grain doesn't necessarily detract from the image, it often ends up being like a layer of white noise on the picture - I'm conscious that it is there but it isn't bothering me.
Grain wasn't much of an issue on VHS except for particularly horrific transfers (Fox and original Republic issues Highlander, anyone?), but was more noticeable on laserdisc because of the improved image quality. DVDs made grain even more apparent, although once video entered the clarity of the digital realm, the source of the grain itself became questionable: was it part of the original photography, an element of the transfer or was it a by-product of compression artifacts (not all of which look like pixelization)?
The Terminator and Predator are both transfers that have a significant amount of the original film grain in them, but I would argue that they look better with their original textures intact than 'sterilized' in an attempt to make the image look as pristine as possible. The transfer of Predator works quite well as an illustration of this; while the image does get rather grainy at times, it never loses the additional depth and color saturation that the high def format provides.
Unfortunately, the release of Patton implies that companies may now be attempting to smooth over as much as possible to make the films look cleaner in high def than they should have been. While I agree that there is no reason for the HD-DVD of Spartacus to be as grainy as it is (that film was shot in Super Panavision 70 millimeter, and should have been much crisper and more solid), I think that it is too easy to go in the other direction. The picture on the Patton DVD looks good at a first glance, but details are way too soft which makes the people look a little strange, like wax mannequins. It is by no means unwatchable, but it is disappointing that what is supposed to have been the definitive presentation of that film is so far from, although from an sonics perspective the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio track does a great job with Jerry Goldsmith's masterful score, which Francis Ford Coppola spends quite a bit of time in his commentary track praising.