I'm not too familiar with the technical on this matter but if you do a web
search for the Key words "DVD anamorphic distorted" you should get some
clues. It may simply have to do with the settings on the DVD player. Some
DVDs give the option of full-screen and widescreen. Check out this web page
about different formats:
As for the value of widescreen, generally I agree with Jessica. The kind of
titles Kino, Milestone and New Yorker carry are ones that are usually
designed for a specific aspect ratio, and should only be seen that way.
However, I have no use for a 2.35 anamorphic of Austin Powers: The Spy Who
Shagged Me when I still can't find a decent widescreen version of most of
Michael Cimino's films (Note: Look carefully at the bottom page of the above
link. Examine the difference between soft-matted widescreen -- which most
films today are -- and full-screen, illustrating why you often get LESS
image with widescreen, not the other way around). Most movies today are no
longer "pan-and-scan." The process literally involves panning and scanning a
widescreen image, often only providing about half of the original widescreen
image. This was necessary for films such as Lawrence of Arabia which use
every inch of its widescreen frame. But "full-screen," which most movies are
today, are shot so that ALL of the action is kept in one area of the frame.
Look at a widescreen dialogue scene in a modern Hollywood movie. If their
head is on the right, they're talking to the left -- and at least half of
the frame is dead space. Ditto left-to-right. If straight-on, the head is in
the centre with dead space on either side.