22 July 2007

Bonding with HAL, Dave, and that Black Obelisk

Sorry for the delay in writing, folks. Been a little overwhelmed with some 'immediate' projects from work this week...and am still recovering from last week's adventure. Damn near broke a finger yesterday...which looks simply glorious today...and that's not helping typing and/or writing anything, either.

I am recovering...having returned safe and relatively sound...from the great western part of the state from last weekend's trip with Wise Ricky. And as time allows tomorrow, I will post a full review of The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and also some of the pics I was able to snap. I'm still a little sunburned from the daytime rays, but otherwise amazingly well relaxed. It was sorta like going away to a pine tree-covered tropical island, but also where everyone looks good in plaid.

I am still mentally recapping my Wednesday night adventure of seeing "2001: A Space Odyssey" over at The Colony Theatre in Raleigh. The turnout was actually far larger than I expected, and the concession stand exceptionally well-run. Correction, however, from Wednesday's post: refills for both soda and popcorn (all sizes) are now a (wait for it) whopping 50 cents each instead of free as I errantly stated. Unfortunately, the wine and beer selection was a little sparse for my pleasure, but then again I've been known to have a 'wish list' on file with at least two of the local Total Wine & More stores in town, too. All in all, the overall pleasure of the film and its presentation was top notch. Kudos also go to the staff member who made an excellent pre-movie dinner recommendation to me for The Peking Garden, right around the corner from them in the same shopping center. (Highly recommended, probably the best Chinese food I've had since Sydney or Melbourne.)

And this comes from a former manager and projectionist who sat there Wednesday night and could see every bad splice, cut, repair, and roller damaged blip on the print itself...which is now almost 30 years old, I realized. Despite all of this, Dolby Digital® (and better) was made for these kinds of productions. Moral to the story: never take a film buff and former movie perfectionist to a showing of a classic film if you just want to 'enjoy the movie' in an un-technical peace. Thank heavens I had good friends also there who know of my 'ways' and talked me out of making production and audio commentaries throughout. The fact that I even noticed the poor splicing and repairs themselves was enough for one friend to order the universal 'hush' order...only about 35 minutes into the film.

I have to admit, though, that even after repeated viewings some parts of the film always reveal themselves anew to me, causing a giggle at how Kubrick was both so off and so on about his interpretation of the future. This time, it was all of the commercial product placements (such as Pan American, Howard Johnson®, Hilton®, etc.) in the 'airport', as well as the electronic customs checkpoint with 'voice print identification' only. It's also interesting to see how many more people are sympathetic with HAL, the murderous but fault-denying master computer, now than when I first saw this film many moons ago. HAL's always had a conscience (albeit somewhat misplaced), but now he's got a burgeoning fan club. Lord, Kubrick truly did have some high hopes for us to achieve...but then again, it was a completely different world in 1968.

No, I have no new insights of my own into the film's ending from this latest viewing, but I did hear two very interesting theories from others:

  • (1) That the whole movie is about survival of the species at any cost (such as Dave 'tracking down and then disposing' of Frank for his own self-survival versus HAL), and concludes with Dave creating a family (that the space ship's intergalactic speed travel actually is a 'sperm' in search of a 'womb', if you will, that will eventually take hold, incubate and then rebirth Dave at the conclusion). So, this theory follows, Dave is and will be all of us...no matter if we be father, mother, daughter or son. "2001" is the simple journey of life as we know it, just set up in space and minus the daily water cooler chit-chat.


  • (2) A theory I have heard before several times in various film groups and/or classes: that the whole movie is Kubrick's statement on religion and a 'higher power', that the hypnotic black obelisk is nothing more and nothing less than whatever we project it to be. For some, that means everything and anything all-powerful; for others, that means only nothingness and impersonal matter. This theory, as I've heard it most asserted, is that the black obelisk is God. And God has been there since the beginning, and will be there in the end. What God can and cannot do depends entirely on how much power we place with Him/Her/It.

    I still don't necessarily 'get it', but three decades on, I have to give proper praise to any film that still generates this much loyalty and discussion. Hollywood simply does not make movies like this anymore...I would guess 40% of this masterpiece would end up on a cutting room floor somewhere if the suits in charge now controlled final edit. It's a horrible quagmire of muck we walk through in most new releases now, but it's 'what the people want', I guess. Why think, why question, why have an unknown resolution? 'We' apparently now want a certain standard fare, 'we' apparently will endure a higher level of mediocrity and a diminishing level of intelligence. Love him or hate him, but nothing was standard nor mediocre nor stupid about Kubrick and his works. And we movie fans, such as myself and all those attended Wednesday night, still acutely feel his loss.

    We viewers are taken to a 'higher plane' of thinking in this film, where it is understood we can, should and will ask questions afterwards. Where nudity and sophomoric humour doesn't need to be written in to make a script 'work'. Where inspiration for such later wonders as the "Star Wars©" saga and "Alien©" started from. Where music is not only allowed to run its full course for artistic addition, but also for its own artistic appreciation (for example, the closing credits finish a good two minutes before the closing music does). Where human error may or may not be our downfall, but for better or for worse, also where human emotion can still overwhelm the most disciplined of men...and machine.
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