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March 8, 2014

A Space Odyssey

by Brendan

Went to see Gravity a couple weeks ago at the Reitz Union theater.  Really loved it — believed every minute that I was in space, marveled at being there.  And, yes, it was gratifying to see Alfonso Cuaron win Best Director at the Oscars, and especially Emmanuel Lubeszki win Best Cinematography (his sixth nomination).  Lovely pictures — every shot must have presented a challenge.

So it was time to see 2001: A Space Odyssey again; it’s been years, and I was interested to see how the space special effects held up, coming as they do from a time before CGI and all sorts of technology to aid special effects — they were done the old-fashioned way.

The Heuristic Algorithmic Lifeform (HAL)

The Heuristic Algorithmic Lifeform (HAL)

A sort of disclaimer here:  I have a long history with 2001.  First went to see it as a college freshman, and since it was 1968, drugs were probably involved.  Have seen it multiple times since then, and my major professor\dissertation director in grad school at The University of Florida delineated his Optical Theory of movies using it in a series of articles (executive summary: movies are about vision, about the eye, and pretty much against talk as well as other forms of intellectualism. The intellectual divides; the imaginative creates unity).

Happy to report, after watching the first hour, that it still looks marvelous.  The initial scene with the apes way back in prehistory is fascinating, and the “space ballet” with various rocket ships and Strauss waltzes still deserves all the praise it’s accumulated over the years.

Spacement Observing the Monolith on the Moon

Spacement Observing the Monolith on the Moon

I looked at some old reviews of the movie, including what both Roger Ebert and Renata Adler had to say in 1968 when the movie was new and they’d just seen it, and had to try to make sense of it.  Here’s Adler from the New York Times:

The movie is so completely absorbed in its own problems, its use of color and space, its fanatical

devotion to science-fiction detail, that it is somewhere between hypnotic and immensely

boring. (With intermission, it is three hours long.)  All kinds of minor touches are perfectly done:

there are carnivorous apes that look real; when they throw their first bone weapon into the air,

Kubrick cuts to a spacecraft; the amiable HAL begins most of his sentences with “Well,” and his

answer to “How’s everything?” is, naturally, “Everything’s under control.”

Interests me how 2001 fits into the Kubrick oeuvre: it comes right after Dr. Strangelove and precedes A Clockwork Orange.  Then he directs Barry Lyndon.  To come is Full Metal Jacket, The Shining, and Eyes Wide Shut.   Could any 7 movies be less alike?

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