[i]I think Brett sums up what anamorphic gives you as a cinematographer.
It supercharges the attractiveness of the rule of thirds and gives you more room to play on the emotions of characters, isolation and dead-space. In other words, it is simply more dramatic.[/i]
Unfortunately, this is way too simple to accept as a summing up, as you can achieve the above without being anamorphic.
When we deem what is cinematic, the reality is never recognised in what is cinematic to begin with. Our own field of view is taken for granted, slap a crop in front of your eyes and suddenly the field of view is narrowed to a point where we now concentrate much more on what we can see, this for many is what is called cinematic today. However it goes way above and beyond this, If you presented Eastenders with a 2.35 crop, is it now cinematic? Well for a lot, maybe so, for me clearly not, this is what fails a lot of British films made today, they don't feel like cinema, look like cinema, and are not worthy of being put in front of an audience and being called cinema, and more so today, films are not conceived with a knowledgeable history of the psychological, cultural or technical aspects of cinema behind them.
The attractiveness of Anamorphic shooting is recognising that it is a first and foremost a distorting lens, this is what makes it stand out creatively, this is what makes it feel cinematic in the way we want to describe and understand cinema, it is the combination of both fantasy and reality that delivers a surreal image that we can't quite make sure of, but know it's alive and larger than life and we like it, it's a sexy and enticing visual quality. You only have to view some of the mediocre examples online of anamorphic shooting and they instantly feel more cinematic, than anything otherwise. This is why? Now have this in the hands of trained and visual masters and it becomes a dream we don't want to wake up from.
Everything is just bland after you see something in anamorphic, look at the early work of Luc Besson, and then watch The 5th Element and there is something a bit off, and that is whilst Besson is pro-anamorphic, for 5th he had to shoot Super 35, they printed in Anamorphic, and he did his best in a composition way to try and achieve it with 5th, but had to shoot non-anamprohic to allow the special effects to work properly and it clearly shows, the flatness of it all.
I also am disturbed by the desire by Cameron and Jackson to shoot at higher frame rates, with the absurd just for this given that it is more true to our own vision. You only have to look at video games played in this high frame rate to see it is horrible and the once lush cinematic dreams are now turning into un-cinematic nightmares.
All of this is just how I feel what needs to be understood first about what is what and how, and not be summed up with simple expressions. Todays market demographic have not had the pleasure of watching films the way a lot of us have done and been illuminated by, quality control is at its lowest ebb, there are very few maestros left who process themselves with the steely mastery of a Kubrick, or Hitchcock, the success of Blair Witch proves that. However, the more we take things apart, the more we get to the core of how it works, and why, then it is in that, that we truly learn how to be masterfully better and how to apply what we have discovered, to advance in our own expressions.
Anyone who knows Terry Gilliam's work, knows how much he loves anamorphic, (in fact he uses the extremeness of the distorting end of things as a creative tool and successfully too, unlike the same way that JJ Abrams uses lens flares to hide his bad direction) and in the documentary about him failing to make Don Quixote called Lost In La mancha, (highly recommended along with The Hamster Factor for anyone with a 1% interest in filmmaking) there is a trailer at the end using the footage he did manage to get, and there is more cinema in those few shots, than most films made today.