April 2015 Blind Spot – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001_bannerAs far as film blind spot goes, this is perhaps one of the most glaring for me given its iconic status. Well, better late than never right? Forty seven years after its release, I finally get what the fuss is about. Now, I’m not saying I *get* the movie, mind you. In fact, it’s the kind of movie that is fun to read about afterwards. According to IMDb trivia, the film apparently prompted a large number of people to walk out from its premiere, including star Rock Hudson who said “Will someone tell me what the hell this is about?” Ahah, I can totally relate. Per IMDb, the film’s co-screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke once said, “If you understand ‘2001’ completely, we failed. We wanted to raise far more questions than we answered.” So I guess I don’t have to feel bad that the movie left me scratching my head.

SPOILER ALERT! Just in case some of you still hasn’t seen this yet, be mindful that I’ll be talking about some major plots in this post.

I guess I’m lucky that I was able to keep spoilers at bay in regards to this movie, as I had no idea there’s actually apes involved in this movie, and the Dawn of Man sequence was almost a half an hour long! I knew that the movie would be slow and there’d be long sequences with no dialog, so I’d imagine it’d be something like Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, so I was prepared for that. In fact, I quite enjoyed watching the gorgeous imagery set to sweeping classical music (more on that later) and boy, what a visual treat it was.

2001_Apes_monolithI have to admit that I nearly fell asleep a few times as I was already so tired when I started watching it, so I had to stop after about an hour or so, and continued the next night. I don’t usually do this but I figured the film deserved to be seen with fresh eyes.

When the film’s over, my first reaction was ‘well I could see why this film was so beloved even four decades later.’ It’s not the most emotionally-gratifying film as I there’s really no character development, but visually speaking, the film truly set the bar for sci-fi and no wonder it’s been an inspiration for so many filmmakers since. Even other iconic sci-fi works like Blade Runner, Star Wars, Star Trek, all the way to recent ones like Interstellar have been inspired by Kubrick’s magnum opus. I mean, the ‘Star Gate’ sequence alone is so similar to the wormhole scenes in Interstellar. I read afterwards that that extended sequence of that funkadelic sequence was popular among young adults who love watching ’em when they’re high. Ahah, I bet that’s still true today.

2001_Hal9000There’s something so timeless about the production design, especially the HAL 9000 computer with its omnipresent red eye. Kubrick and Clarke made the right decision making it so simple, instead of going with a mobile robot they initially set out to do. I think it’d have looked more dated than the simple but ominous red eye. Despite its simplicity, it manages to be quite terrifying at times, especially during the time when Dave (Keir Dullea) was trying to get back into the main ship. The film isn’t an *acting* film per se, as the actors aren’t exactly given much to do, but I think Dullea did a good job nonetheless, and the scene of him trying to dismantle HAL is quite memorable. It’s a pretty suspenseful scene and Dullea conveyed the dread and terror very well.

It’s a testament that creating a certain atmosphere is crucial to depict genuine suspense and there’s certainly a horror-like vibe during the entire scene. I literally gasped when the LIFE FUNCTIONS CRITICAL lights came on… then followed by LIFE FUNCTIONS TERMINATED in the scene where HAL systematically killed the rest of the ship’s crew in hibernation. It’s just one of the many minimalistic scenes that made such a huge impact in the film.

2001_Dave2001_Dave_disablingHalThe cryptic nature of the film, with its various metaphors and allegories, certainly sparked all kinds of theories. My hubby and I watched a two-part Youtube videos on the meaning of the monolith, which argues that the monolith is basically “an advanced television teaching machine.” It’s quite a fascinating argument and I’m sure there are others, but I really don’t want to go into that rabbit hole.

I have to mention the music here, which is crucial given there’s such few dialog in the film. I’ve heard that opening theme Thus Spoke Zarathustra soooo many times, as it’s so overused in popular culture that it’s become a cliché. But hearing it in the context of the opening sequence made me appreciate just how iconic it is. Johann Strauss II’s The Blue Danube (composed in mid 1800s) is also one of my favorite classical piece, which somehow fits the tone and feel of this film it’s as if it was made especially for this project.

2001_spaceshipSo what’s the verdict?

Well, I’m glad I finally saw this film. I didn’t fall in love with the film, I think it falls under the category of ‘films I appreciate but doesn’t quite love.’ I was bowled over by what Kubrick achieved in 1968 – he is a true visual artist with an exquisite eye for details. Nearly every frame is like a work of art and it still looks modern even by today’s standards. Yet it’s not an emotionally-engaging film, which to be fair is probably not what Kubrick intended it to be anyway, so it’s not something I’m eager to watch again. That said, I still give it a high rating because I do think it deserves its classic status and it’s a film that every film fan should see. It took me a while to get here, but I’m glad I finally did!

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The Blind Spot series was originally spearheaded by Ryan at The Matinee, and I was also inspired by Dan’s list at Public Transportation Snob.

2015BlindSpotCheck out my list of 2015 Blind Spot Films


What are your thoughts on 2001: A Space Odyssey? 

2015 BLIND SPOT series: My 12 film picks

2015BlindSpotOk so I’ve completed my first Blind Spot series! Well ok I might’ve missed a couple for one reason or another – Time Bandits and How The West Was Won – but I’d still watch them at some point. The Blind Spot series was originally spearheaded by Ryan at The Matinee, and I was also inspired by Dan’s list at Public Transportation Snob.

It’s been great catching up on classic films that’ve somehow eluded me all these years. Most of them have ranged from good to excellent. Now, I try to cover a variety of genres here, and include at least one that I don’t normally go for. In this case, I include a silent film, Wings, which happens to be the first silent film to win Best Picture Oscar back in 1927. I ended up including two Hitchcock films. I had picked Rear Window initially, but upon reading Cindy’s review of Marnie, I just had to include that, too. And thanks to Michael for helping me decide which film noir to include, The Big Sleep.

Anyhoo, here’s my 12 picks in alphabetical order:

  1. 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)
  2. A Place in the Sun (1951)
  3. A Star Is Born (1954)
  4. The Big Sleep (1946)
  5. Breathless (1960)
  6. Giant (1956)
  7. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1967)
  8. Marnie (1964)
  9. The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
  10. Rear Window (1954)
  11. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
  12. Wings (1927)


Boy, it’s a lot tougher than I thought to put this together, but I’m excited to finally getting around to watching them! Like I did this year, I will just pick at random which film I want to see in a given month.


Well, have you seen any of these? Which one(s) are your favorite?

Interstellar on IMAX 70mm VS. Standard 70mm

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Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic Interstellar is now in theaters and it might be the most divisive film that I could remember in a long time. Some loved it (including yours truly), some didn’t care for it and others just thought it’s way too long and/or boring. That’s what great about films, we all have different opinions about them and if we all like the same thing then the world will be quite boring.

Since Nolan is a huge proponent of film, Paramount and Warner Bros. decided to release the film in 6 different technical formats, it maybe the first time in history that Hollywood studios had released a film in so many formats. Here are the different formats the film was released in:

  • IMAX 70mm with aspect ratio switching between 2.39:1 and 1.44:1
  • IMAX Digital with aspect ratio switching between 2.39:1 and 1.90:1
  • Standard 70mm with constant aspect ratio at 2.20:1 (my favorite aspect ratio and I use it for my mini home theater)
  • Standard 35mm with constant aspect ratio at 2.39:1
  • 4k and 2k Digital with constant aspect ratio at 2.39:1

As you can see the studios spare no expense when it comes to pleasing Nolan and of course us the paying customers. Since I saw the film on IMAX 70mm and standard 70mm, my review will only cover the two formats and which I think is the better viewing experience.

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I first saw the film on IMAX 70mm, Nolan shot over an hour of footage with IMAX cameras and I think this might be the best IMAX presentation I’ve seen yet. Although I have to admit that some early scenes bothered me with the quick switching back and forth of the different aspect ratios, thankfully that problem went away as the film progresses. To me digital presentation cannot match 70mm’s bright and vibrant color, the contrast and black levels were so much better too. I forgot how much I miss seeing film’s texture since so many movies today were shot and presented in digital form. Two sequences in the film that just blew me away were the tidal wave in the water planet and when they tried to dock the space ship to the main one, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who have yet to see the film but for those who saw it, you know which scenes I’m referring to.

[Ruth’s note: I found this photo posted on a tweet that seems appropriate to include on this post]

Seeing those sequences on the tall 7-story screen and bright color of 70mm, I felt like I was in the movie with the actors. With so many scenes ripped right out of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, I now know what it must’ve have been like seeing Kubrick’s masterpiece for the first time on the big screen back in those days.

Another reason why I love seeing this film on IMAX is the loss-less surround sound. Nolan mentioned that he really want the audience to be part of the movie so he and his sound designer created the most immersive surround sound I’ve heard since Gravity, it’s really too bad that he didn’t use Dolby Atmos for this film. I’m planning to see this film again on IMAX 70mm because it’s truly was an experience.

So a couple of days later, I’ve decided to go see the film again, this time on a standard 70mm screen. For anyone who wants to know more about 70mm, you can go here. Alas, their website is horrendous looking, but I got in touch with the site’s owners and told them I’m willing to redesign it for free, so once I have some downtime from my full time job, I’m going to redesign that site and it will look much better! Anyway, back to 70mm, the format was quite popular back in the 50s and 60s, some of the epic films from those eras were filmed in this format including Lawrence of Arabia, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ben-Hur, West Side Story, Patton, Cleopatra and much more. Heck even Quentin Tarantino will shoot his new flick The Hateful Eight in 70mm, so I can’t wait to see that.

The local theater here in MN is one of the only 9 in the whole country that’s currently projecting Nolan’s picture in 70mm so it’s definitely a treat to have experienced it. Also, I haven’t been back to this theater in over 20 years because they stopped showing films in 70mm. Unfortunately though, the viewing experience wasn’t as immersive as it was on IMAX. The smaller 2.20:1 screen didn’t really give the visual grandeur like on an IMAX screen but I still love the rich color and brightness of 70mm. Also, this 70mm theater uses an old DTS surround sound and it just couldn’t hold a candle to IMAX’s lossless surround sound.

InterstellarIMAXSo my recommendation is if you want to see Interstellar like it’s meant to be seen, please see it on a true 70mm IMAX and if there’s a standard 70mm theater near you, you might want to check it out too. Of course I understand not many people are able to see it on these formats since there aren’t a lot of IMAX and 70mm theaters around. Nolan said in an interview that if the audience felt like they were part of an experience in his film then he succeeded, that I totally agree with. Sure the film has its flaws and some of the scientific mumble jumble didn’t really make a lick of sense to me but it’s still one heck of a ride.

Final Scores:
IMAX 70mm 5 stars out of 5
Standard 70mm 4 stars out of 5

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So which format did you see Interstellar in? Are you a fan of seeing films on IMAX?

Captain America Blogathon Part I – Jack Deth’s List

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Andy over at Fandango Groovers’ Blog was inspired by the latest Captain America: The Winter Soldier trailer in which we see Steve Rogers make a note in a pocket note book. It’s a list of things he missed out on in the time he was frozen that people have recommended he should catch up on. So the idea is to list ten movies we’d recommend to a person who had been frozen between 1943 and 2011.

Greetings all and sundry! When one receives an invitation from Ruth to aid in a Blog-A-Thon. Due diligence, patience and thought is required in the assembly of, layout and dissertations of probable, then solid selections.

Being a fan of the late, great Jack Kirby. And his handling of the recently thawed out Captain America/Steve Rogers. And his association with the eye patched, Jack Kirby and Steve Streranko. Robert Culp like Colonel (formerly Sgt.) Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law Enforcement Division) of 1965..

I opened up vast volumes and tomes of cinematic history. For both entertainment and acclimatization’s sake. Since I’m sticking with the cinematic premise of finding Cap frozen outside the Arctic Circle by a new and improved, contemporary S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) of the Samuel L. Jackson.

To that end. Allow me to align my selections in chronological order and introduce:

Ten Films for Captain America: (1943-2011)

#10: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

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Very possibly the best film focusing around returning veterans of World War II. And their adjusting to a world they had left only years before.The film focuses on a decorated bombardier (Dana Andrews), an Army Infantry Squad Leader (Frederic March) and an enlisted sailor (Harold Russell) who lost both of his hands when his ship was shot out from under him.

The tale is not just restricted to the men returning to their Ohio home towns. The director (William Wyler) goes out of his way to see the points of view of their wives (Who give and get as good as their men!) and families are examined as well.

A near perfect film for either Rogers or Cap to enjoy. While understanding that he is not so unique or alone after all.

#9: The Graduate (1967)

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Few films describe the given everything, lazy and spoiled “Baby Boom” generation and the changing mores, culture and morals of the 1960s than this touch stone, Buck Henry comedy.

A well fleshed out and executed thumbnail of the next generation Cap fought for. And what many believe is the decade that changed the world.

#8: The Night of The Living Dead (1968)

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The crème de la crème of low budgeted, back yard horror films! That introduced the mystique of slow moving, cannibalistic, brain eating zombies just under a half century ago While creating a fairly decent analogy for Cap’s arch nemesis, Hydra in regards to ever increasing opposing numbers in a never ending war of attrition.

No frills? You bet! Claustrophobic? Absolutely! In a film that slowly builds, fear, suspense, tension and “Bang for the Buck!” into a finale no one sees coming!

#7: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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The richly opulent and wondrously detailed look at what might have been. Had not “The Great Society” and its first steps of income redistribution been given precedence.

More science fact of the day, than science fiction. Director Stanley Kubrick and author/scientists, Arthur C. Clark go to great lengths in authenticity in this cinematic landmark. A distinctly possible double bill with director, Ron Howards’ Apollo 13, from 1995.

#6: The French Connection (1971)

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This gritty little gem provides one of the most unflattering look at the five boroughs in film. Becoming an uncredited player in a Cat and Mouse game of veteran narcotics cops trying to get ahead of and nail down a then record breaking amount of high grade, near pure heroin as it comes into New York City. In one of the first and best “partner films”to grace the big screen.

Both Steve Rogers and Cap should appreciate and empathize with detectives Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Russo (Roy Scheider) working against the bureaucracy, feds and a god awful winter in their pursuit of the elusive, elegant Frenchman, Charnier (Fernando Rey).

#5: Vanishing Point (1972)

JackList_VanishingPoint

This would be a pleasantly intriguing pallet cleansing road trip with a mission film. Wrapped around a fully blown 440 big blocked 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T piloted by the stoic, near silent Kowalski (Barry Newman in his first film role). Former Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, uniformed cop and recent Benzedrine aficionado delivering a black Chrysler Imperial to a garage in Denver, Colorado. Then wagering that he can deliver the Challenger to San Francisco in 18 hours.

While offering some superb on location racing between the Charger, Jaguar and other road trekking competitors. The film also reveals an interesting loo at the American Midwest, post Woodstock. As Kowalski and his Dodge elude motorcycle cops and speed traps with the aid of blind African American disc jockey, “Super Soul” (Cleavon Little).

In an impeccable tale of the classic anti-hero going against the system as more and more people hear of Kowalski and his trek through “Super Soul”. And the local police set up a large and unique roadblock outside Cisco, California.

#4: Pat Garrett And Billy the Kid (1973)

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A Western is called for. Though not your John Wayne, John Ford or Howard Hawks kind of Western. One has its roots in history and lore. And told in a slower, more sedate than most.

With the master of the “South of The Border” tales, Sam Peckinpah spinning his sweeping book balancing, payback and redemption yarn in a near Antonioni pace. Amongst a “Who’s Who” of veteran supporting actors sharing action with lush and splendid backdrops. As James Coburn delivers his best underplayed role. Opposite a younger, equally talented Kris Kristofferson.

#3: Young Frankenstein (1974)

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What “kid from Brooklyn” wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to see a cleverly comedic take of a the film that starred Colin Clive as the doctor with a “God Complex” and Boris Karloff as his creation. No doubt seen in countless matinees.

Mel Brooks sticks with the original B&W and used several laboratory sets from the 1935 classic. While pulling out the stops for Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Terri Garr and Cloris Leachman as “Frau Blucher”. And Peter Boyle as the intelligent, opinionated monster. Where no classic scene is beyond lampooning and the patter between Wilder and the cast is inspired.

#2: The Usual Suspects (1995)

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Cap may need a refresher in the ancient saw: “Nothing is as it seems!”. In a subtly executed crime film. Told mostly in flashback during an impromptu, recorded interrogation between sole survivor, Verbal Kint (Calmly confident Kevin Spacey) and U.S. Customs Agent David Kujan (Chazz Palmenteri in peak form!). As the “Who?”, “What?” and “Where?” of criminal mastermind, Kayser Soze.

In a film that demands attention as proven and just starting out actord and their characters are introduced and do what they do best. At possibly the behest of the enigmatic, invisible Mr. Soze.

Leaving the Number One spot open for a different and somewhat more historic take on a possible contender to add to Cap’s list of Rocky and Rocky II.

#1: Cinderella Man (2005)

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With Russell Crowe as New Jersey lightweight champion turning heavyweight, James J. Braddock during the Depression of 1929. Suffering from a broken hand and finding work in unions and heavy machinery. Doing what his can to make ends meet for his wife, Mae (Renee Zellweger) and his sons and daughter.

Salvation takes place when Braddock’s old manager, Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) sets up a bout that Braddock wins in a third round knockout. Which blazes a trail to fight heavyweight contender, Max Baer (Craig Bierko).

In a deftly executed period piece that will have the audience cheering in the final reels!


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews


What do you think of Jack’s recommendations?

Guest Review: Prometheus – from a die-hard ALIENS fan

In August last year, I posted this Random Question: What movie you’ve seen most often on the big screen as I was inspired by my colleague who saw Aliens twelve times on the big screen. Well, now he’s here to tell us whether Prometheus lives up to his lofty expectations.


Review by Phil Thompson

Full disclosure: I am a big fan of the first 2 Alien movies, Aliens is my all-time favorite movie, and I actually saw it twelve times in theaters. So yeah, I’m a fan.

“A king has his reign, and then he dies. It is inevitable.”

These words open the narration of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, a return to the Alien universe he created back in 1979 with Alien. A character will speak these words again later in the movie, and their significance will be apparent at that time.

Prometheus is a gorgeous movie, with excellent cinematography, sets, and special effects, and is generally well-cast and well-acted. The soundtrack was a bit of a let-down for me; it never really conveyed a sense of fear or dread. The movie combines the genres of science-fiction, action, and horror, with a touch of religion added in. It has a lot in common with the original Alien, but also interestingly evokes memories of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And although this is clearly a prequel to the movie Alien, it is not a direct prequel in the sense that the events of this movie will lead to the beginning of Alien. Rather, the events in Prometheus will answer some questions about Alien, and will help you better understand the Alien movies.

The general storyline of Prometheus is that in the late 21st century, a handful of scientists/archaeologists convince the massive Weyland mega-Corporation to bankroll an expedition to the moon (“LV-223”) of a distant planet, where they hope to find some answers about the beginning of mankind on Earth.

The 2 scientists/archaeologists behind Prometheus’ mission are Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame) and Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green). Michael Fassbender plays the eerie robot David who must look after Prometheus’ sleeping human passengers on the 2+-year journey from Earth to LV-223. Charlize Theron is the grumpy corporate Meredith Vickers, who is in charge of the expedition for the Weyland Corporation, and Idris Elba is Janek, the ship’s gruff, Christmas-loving pilot. Guy Pearce also appears in heavy makeup as Peter Weyland, the CEO of the massive Weyland Corporation.

Prometheus is Noomi Rapace’s movie, and she is a strong female character in the vein of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in the first 2 Alien movies. The harrowing scene where Shaw undergoes a self-inflicted medical procedure is the movie’s best, in my opinion. The other standout star of this movie is Fassbender’s David. He evokes memories of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and you will spend much of the movie trying to understand why he acts the way he does.

Spoiler Alert: [highlight the text below if you want to read the spoiler]

Shaw and David will be part of any “Prometheus” sequels.

Theron’s Meredith Vickers doesn’t have a lot to do in this movie, but she does deliver one of my favorite lines in the movie: “If you’re going down there, you’re going to die.” Interestingly enough, the person(s) she says this to are not the persons she appears to say it to in the movie’s many trailers.

The movie starts out relatively quickly, with a couple quick setup scenes, and in less than 15 minutes, the Prometheus, an opulent trillion-dollar spacecraft with a crew of just 17 people, is in orbit around LV-223.  At this point, Drs. Shaw and Holloway announce to the ship’s crew that they believe some beings they call “Engineers” left some breadcrumbs on Earth “inviting” us to follow them to this exact location, and that they hope to find some evidence of these “Engineers” on this moon, and maybe even meet one of them.

The Prometheus finds some clearly non-natural structures on LV-223, and sets down to investigate them. What they find is not what they expected to find, and some characters’ hidden agendas eventually appear, making things even more interesting. The rest of the movie is a roller-coaster ride, with very few wasted scenes. The ending clearly calls out for at least one sequel, and the final scene of the movie is not to be missed by fans of the “Alien” movies.

So did it live up to my own lofty expectations?

Short answer is: YES. I enjoyed this movie, and I would recommend that you go see it.  But the movie does have several flaws. Its alien creatures (all but one) are surprisingly uninspired (in my opinion), compared to H.R. Giger’s creations for the earlier movies. It has a few serious plot holes – in a trillion dollar expedition to a remote moon, would there really be nobody monitoring 2 scientists stuck off-ship during a storm? And the movie brings up an awful lot of questions that will leave you shaking your head days later. And some of those questions can only be answered by a sequel.  But these are relatively minor flaws, and will not prevent you from enjoying the movie.

As a big fan of both the Alien and Aliens movies, I was a little disappointed that this movie kind of sets off in a different direction. It explains how the aliens in the Aliens movies came to be, but then moves off in another direction with the Engineers and the questions associated with them, and any “Prometheus” sequels would appear to marginalize the “Alien” storylines. I think I might’ve enjoyed the Jon Spaights version of the script more, which supposedly was more of a true Alien prequel, with the same aliens/eggs/chest-bursters that we’ve come to know (and love?).

Thoughts on the Box Office take and the 3D quality:

From what I’m reading right now, Prometheus has opened to a $50 million box-office take in its opening weekend. I think that amount would’ve been a lot higher if the movie didn’t have an R rating. Madagascar 3D bumped Prometheus off the large UltraScreen in the Marcus Oakdale Theater near me, and also out of the main large 3D theater in my local theater. I was stunned that a movie of Prometheus caliber would have to play second fiddle to an animated film about a bunch of animals.

I would recommend getting to the theater on time, as the very first scene of the movie is somewhat important, especially if you want to understand some of the deeper concepts in the movie. Also, I saw the movie both in 3D and on a regular screen, and I didn’t feel that the 3D added much. But I did not see it on an IMAX screen, and I do wear glasses, so any 3D movie for me means 2 sets of glasses. Add in the fact that a lot of the movie’s scenes are in dark scary places, and it doesn’t make for the best 3D viewing.

If you’re like me, you’ll have at least one or two very large questions after the movie ends, and if you go online to get some answers, you’ll find all sorts of them. And you may be surprised to find that the movie may have been hinting at far bigger things than you may have first thought.

4 out of 5 reels

Have you seen Prometheus? Feel free to add your thoughts below on whether this film lives up to the hype.