BROOKLYN, NY—Self-described film buff Tyler Rosenstein was disappointed to receive a non-letterboxed "full screen" version of the movie The Matrix Reloaded as a Hanukkah gift, the 19-year-old reported Monday.
"Great," said Rosenstein, concealing his displeasure from his beaming aunt and uncle, Hannah and Bernie Greenberg, as he gazed at the freshly unwrapped DVD in his hand. "Just what I wanted. The Matrix Reloaded."
"With approximately a third of the movie's visual content missing, thanks to 'pan-and-scan,'" he added under his breath.
Rosenstein, a freshman studying philosophy at NYU, said he was momentarily excited to receive the special collector's edition DVD of The Matrix Reloaded, which features more than an hour of supplemental material, including behind-the-scenes footage and a preview of the Enter The Matrix video game. But Rosenstein's joy faded when his eye caught the words "full-screen edition" emblazoned across the top of the box.
Minutes later, Rosenstein's cousin Cory made an exchange of the gift impossible when he insisted that Rosenstein open the DVD to show him the "easter egg."
While Rosenstein thanked his aunt and uncle for the gift, he took leave of the family get-together shortly after dinner and locked himself in his room to sulk.
"It's frustrating, because they came so close to getting me exactly what I wanted," said Rosenstein, lying on his bed and sneering at the DVD. "This is a $30 item. But what am I supposed to do with it? Why would they even release a full-screen Matrix Reloaded, when every single frame of that movie is so artfully composed? Even leaving framing aside, the movie cries out for each of its visual elements to be seen."
"It's an unwatchable piece of crap," said Rosenstein, tossing the DVD onto a pile of gifts that included a sweatshirt and a digital memo recorder.
In spite of his annoyance with the non-letterboxed DVD, Rosenstein said he knew better than to complain to his relatives.
"There's just no way to tell them without coming off like a complete asshole," Rosenstein said. "I'm just going to have to eat it."
The Greenbergs remain unaware of their mistake.
"We're so happy that we were able to get Tyler a gift he really wanted this year," Hannah Greenberg said. "You wouldn't believe how hard he is to shop for. He's so picky about his movies. For his birthday, we gave him The Wedding Singer. I thought all the kids liked that Adam Sandler—Cory said he sings a song about Hanukkah. Well, boy, was getting Tyler that movie a mistake!"
This year, instead of guessing, the Greenbergs took a suggestion from Rosenstein's father, who was aware that his son owned the first Matrix movie.
"Tyler's got very specific tastes," Bernie said. "He told us he likes those foreign films. What did he call it? The Criterion Collection. Well, Hannah and I tried to find those, but they didn't have them at Target. We sure didn't want what happened with the wizard movie to happen again."
Bernie spoke in reference to last year, when the Greenbergs came close to finding a gift Rosenstein would like. The misguided couple gave their nephew the theatrical-release version of Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, instead of the extended version which contains 40 extra minutes of footage—a distinction Rosenstein gently explained to the confused gift-givers.
"If we'd known, we'd have been happy to get him the other version," Hannah said. "Well, this time we were very careful. There were two versions at the store, and we made sure to get the special one. See, Tyler hates it when they cut out part of the movie."
Confusion over the misleading term "full-screen" caused his well-meaning relatives to purchase the inferior version of the DVD.
"Why do they call it 'full-screen' anyway, when it's only two-thirds of the stupid movie?" Rosenstein asked. "Fucking bullshit aspect ratio!"
As of press time, Rosenstein had not decided what to do with the DVD.
"I can't trade it to any of my friends," Rosenstein said. "They'd just roll their eyes when they saw it wasn't letterboxed. Basically, I'm screwed. I'm stuck with a product that has no reason to exist."
"I suppose I could just throw it away," Rosenstein continued. "But what if Aunt Hannah or Uncle Bernie asked about it? I'll probably have to just keep this horrible thing on my shelf. I'm trapped, like Neo and the other warriors of Zion, in a fictitious world I never chose to be a part of: an imaginary alternate universe where non-widescreen DVDs are remotely tolerable."