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Xan Cassavetes's Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

  • Nov 17, 2013 · 5:00 PM
  • This location is shown only to members

Film within film:

During the month of November we will be celebrating the six month anniversary of The Cinema Paradiso: Portland Discussion Group. To mark the occasion this month’s theme will pull the curtain back a little on what goes on behind the camera.  You could be a true independent like John Sayles or battling studio executives like Terry Gilliam; either way a lot of time and effort goes into making a film.

It’s strange to think that some of us might not have met if it wasn’t for men such as Louis Lumiere and Thomas Edison (who also invented the eclectic chair out of spite to discredit Nikola Tesla) While we won’t be exploring the history of the art form this month (I will save that for a later date). I think it is important to remember how it all started.

Release Date: May 16th, 2004

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 - 2.35:1

Running Time: 120 Minutes

Country: USA

In 1932 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences declared the Academy ratio (1.33:1 or 4:3) to be the standard aspect ratio for film. Television came along and adopted the same 4:3 ratio for the shape of their screens. When TVs caught on with the general public, people started staying home which hurt theater sales so Hollywood decided to give consumers an experience that they couldn’t get from their TVs. It stated with Cinerama, an experience that used three projectors simultaneously to produce an image of 2.77:1-3.00:1 (How the West Was Won was probably the most popular film shot at this ratio). Cinerama was deemed too expensive to continue using but Hollywood didn’t give up on the widescreen format. Today two of the most popular ratios are Panavision (1.85:1) and Cinemascope (2.35:1).

The problem with the widescreen formats were figuring out a way to show these films on TVs. We ended up with two techniques to maneuver this obstacle. The first was Letterboxing which would place mattes (black bars) on the top and bottom of the image which preserved the film’s original aspect ratio. The second was Pan and Scan (Fullscreen) which would crop the image so it would fill the TV screen but it would also butcher the film. Z Channel would not only popularize the use of Letterboxing on Television, they would also introduce what we today refer to as the director’s cut. The channel would go on to inspire and influence countless people. James Woods credits his Oscar nomination for Salvador to Z Channel.

Before HBO, IFC, Showtime, TCM, Sundance, & Cinemax there was Z Channel. Debuting in 1974, Z Channel was one of the first premium cable stations. Since VCRs were not readily available or affordable at the time, you would have to turn to TV if you wanted to watch an older film. Z Channel was a haven for cinephiles, showing films that you wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else at the time. This film documents the rise and fall of the channel along with its programming director Jerry Harvey.

(The Seattle Cinerama Theatre is one of the few remaining Cinerama theaters.)

This Showing will be a shown at the Headquarters which is smoke free, intimate environment with limited space.

Since space is limited I would appreciate some notice (when possible) if you have rsvp'd but are not able to attend the showing. It would allow others to rsvp who might be able to attend.

The Headquarters is in a decent area in the NE so there are many food options. I can take orders or give recommendations if any one would like something delivered. (Let me know in advance if you are thinking of ordering food.)

A warning for anyone with bad allergies, we do have a cat and dog residing here but the cat spends most of his time outdoors so hopefully his presence won’t be too much of a deterrent.

Learn how you can help keep this group going.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Organizer,

Join or login to comment.

  • A former member
    A former member

    Thank you so much for inviting us in to your home. The movie was fantastic. Thank you for the lovely discussion afterwards.

    November 17, 2013

    • Damon S.

      It was very nice to meet you Jennifer. Thank you again for the tea and honey; it was very sweet of you. I want to apologize because after you left I realized that the booklet inside the dvd case actually lists all of the films shown in the Z Channel doc. Next time you are over I will let you look over it.

      November 17, 2013

  • Damon S.

    Thank you all for coming and sharing your thoughts. I hope everyone has a good holiday if they celebrate.

    November 17, 2013

  • Halstead Y.

    Should have paid more attention to the new time... I won't be free until 6 tonight. Sorry to change my status so late.

    November 17, 2013

    • Damon S.

      Sorry about that. I'm not sure why the meetup said 6 or when it did. I originally scheduled it at 5 but maybe the automated message that meetup sent out initially said 6.

      November 17, 2013

  • Gina G.

    Considering this is very relevant to what I study, I'll try to get done with homework, etc. and make it a tentative RSVP.

    November 16, 2013

  • Bob P.

    Well, I have to say, this looks really interesting. I'll try to make it!

    November 5, 2013

    • Damon S.

      Sadly if you go into it expecting more aspect ratio talk you will probably be disappointed.

      November 5, 2013

    • Bob P.

      Worry not, I've already had plenty of those discussions!

      November 5, 2013

7 went

  • Damon S.
    Your Friendly Neighborhood Organizer, Organizer,
    Event Host
  • Gib
  • Jacinda S.
    Assistant Organizer
  • A former member
  • A former member
  • A former member
  • A former member

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