2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Synopsis: Humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial object buried beneath the Lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest.

For more info and to watch the trailer, click here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062622/

Who chose it: Brent

Why I chose it:  I picked this despite knowing Leah probably wouldn’t like it; it was time that Leah had seen what is considered a masterpiece of modern cinema. 

Brent’s Review:

“My God, it’s full of stars!” – Dave Bowman, from the novel “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction masterpiece “2001: A Space Odyssey” is less a film than an experience. The narrative — loose as it is — is split into four distinct “mini-films” connected by a loose thread (or, perhaps, a familiar image). The first section involves the “Dawn of Man” [sic] in which we see humanoid apes develop the capacity to use tools, possibly aided by the inexplicable appearance of a foreboding black monolith (the aforementioned image). In the second, we shift forward to the “present” day of our story (near 2001) and see the same monolith uncovered again on the Moon, this time sending a transmission toward Jupiter. The third section (and the longest), depicts the voyage of a mission to investigate the transmission. The final section shows one of the crew members passing through a Star Gate and going “Beyond the Infinite.”

Small stories are for amateurs.

Thematically, the film is both heavy and ambiguous. It certainly deals with existential questions of evolution, purpose, being, artificial intelligence, and emotion, but these discussions are buried deep within the imagery of the film. The film is sparse on dialogue, which works here only because it is so full of breathing images. By “breathing images”, I mean images that are so beautifully photographed that they seem to be speaking as if they were a character in the film. Nearly fifty years have passed and “2001” still has me awestruck at its beautiful images.

The film is shot with auteur Stanley Kubrick’s trademark cold, robotic quality. The images may breathe, but few other things in the film do. The actors move slowly and mechanically; the dialogue is short and quiet; the camera rarely moves, save a few tracking shots and handheld sequences. At times, Kubrick’s cold style infuriates me (as in “A Clockwork Orange”). In the case of “2001,” it fits the film perfectly.

This is not to say the film is without flaw. I think it’s too slow in some parts — two hours probably could have got the job done. And I am certain the narrative is impossible to follow without having first read the novelization. I debated giving Leah a bit of interpretive guidance before we sat down to watch it, but decided to let her experience it without my influence (or interference?). I can’t say whether I chose correectly, but I think her response will speak to the relative inaccessibility of this movie for most audiences.

And this brings me to the most infuriating characteristic of Kubrick’s work: he dwells equally on the mundane and significant details of the story. What infuriates me the most isn’t that he chooses to do this but that I know it isn’t an accident. Kubrick is a notorious perfectionist. What drives me the crazy about him isn’t that he includes these long, seemingly innocuous passages, but it’s that I know he’s saying *something* and I have no idea what it is.

Leah’s Review:

Is there a movie that takes place in space that is more iconic than Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”? Probably not. Is it an easily accessible film for any audience? Probably not.

I was very hesitant when I choose “2001: A Space Odyssey” off of Brent’s list. From what I knew about the film (and from what Brent had told me), I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it. I don’t particularly care for the Sci-fi genre (with a few exceptions of course) and movies with very abstract themes are not always my cup of tea. But since this movie is basically the “Citizen Kane” of Sci-fi, I decided I probably needed to see it.

“2001: A Space Odyssey” is definitely a movie you experience. It is not meant to be easily understood or to be watched for entertainment purposes. Watching this film is like going to a really weird art exhibit. You might not (and probably won’t) understand the meaning of the art because it is something to be observed and appreciated for what it is.

That being said, I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed “2001: A Space Odyssey”. I think you either hate the movie because you don’t “get it” or you like it because you do. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that it was a groundbreaking film for its time, and that it’s probably one of the best and most realistic depictions of space in a movie to date. The score is amazing and the cinematography is spellbinding. But the slow pacing of the movie combined with little-to-no dialogue and themes that were way over my head made this film inaccessible for me. I know the cinema snobs of the world will look down on me for this, but it is what it is.

On a side note, the trippy tunnel scene from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” has nothing on Kubrick’s “Beyond The Infinite” sequence. If I ever decide to get into hard drugs, this will be the first movie I watch.

Up next: We’ll be watching the 2017 Best Picture nominee “Hell or High Water” this week. Stay tuned for our response to that one soon!

Peace out, kids.

 

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