2001: A Space Odyssey- Classic Reaction

I don’t remember how old I was, maybe 11 or 12, but I do remember watching the Preview Channel (I’m 34 so yes I did grow up with that scrolling station) and I saw that 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was on PBS. It was about 10pm on a Saturday night. I grew up watching older science fiction films with my father and was a fan of Star Trek (Original series and Next Generation in particular). This was one my father had told me about, but never really knew about it. The description was simple, two astronauts battle a killer computer. Sounded simple enough. Definitely sounded entertaining. The film was already on so I had missed about an hour of it, however I wanted to see whatever I could see of it. Once I changed the channel, I saw the image of Keir Dullea’s Dave Bowman pleading with HAL 9000 (Douglas Rain) to “open the pod bay doors.”

I watched until Dave made it back to ship and began to disconnect HAL. I fell asleep not long after, missing the rest of the film. After that, I was determined that this movie was one I was going to watch from start to finish. Eventually I found the DVD and on one Saturday afternoon, I finally sat down to watch it.

2 hours and 22 minutes later, I was lost. Really lost.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY begins with The Dawn of Man, witnessing a group of hominids as they deal with the dangers of the land. Eventually they come into contact with a mysterious black monolith. Due to this contact, they learn how to use a bone as a weapon and history begins.

Fast forward millions of years later and we are introduced to Dave Bowman and Frank Poole, assigned to the spacecraft Discovery One for a voyage to Jupiter. Along for the ride is their supercomputer HAL 9000. The two men become suspicious of HAL and his capabilities to continue when he makes an incorrect analysis on a part that’s said to have needed repair.

The aftermath of the situation on the Discovery takes us in a otherworldly direction as the future of mankind is revealed.

Yea. I was still lost.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was a watershed moment for me as a person who loves movies. It was the first time I came across a film that didn’t explain itself to me right away. Honestly it never explains itself at all, but has the viewer piece together what they feel it is about. It is truly the first time I got to have my own read on a film. It was also the first time I was exposed to the work of Stanley Kubrick who I thought was very weird based on this film (then I learned everyone thought he was odd). Over the years, I would seek the rest of his filmography and the man would end up becoming one of my favorite directors.

An aspect in particular of 2001 I want to speak on is the film’s pacing. It’s a slow burning two plus hour science fiction film. Yet when I watch it, it speeds by like lightning. The only exception to this is on the big screen. I had the privilege to see it in IMAX in 2018 for its 50th anniversary and while I never want to act as a film purist and say “this is how movies should always be seen,” it definitely was a new experience. I felt the pace move slower, but I had time to experience the awe that Kubrick created.

It took me years to come to a conclusion on what I thought 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was about. I was excited to read that Kubrick intentionally left the film ambiguous to spur discussion. To some this may seem pretentious, but when I look at the events that occur in the film, it’s great to hear and read the thoughts of others. This is the type of film you can see a totally valid point of view that’s nowhere near your conclusion, but you see how they reached it. It is an odyssey in the truest sense, and this is why I love it and it is one of my absolute favorite films ever.

Gaming Gallery Vol 9 – Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Time for another Gaming Gallery. Today’s photos are courtesy of Super Smash Bros Ultimate for Nintendo Switch. The epic crossover game has so many characters that even I haven’t unlocked them all yet and a nifty photo mode to capture the chaos. Here are a few from my matches.

Joker – DeaconsDen Reaction

JOKER as a film manages to capture the essence of The Joker as a character. Anchored by an amazing performance by Joaquin Phoenix, JOKER is a look into a man’s descent to darkness.

Phoenix is Arthur Fleck, a man with issues who lives with and takes care of his sick mother Penny. Arthur works as a clown for hire while suffering from mental health concerns where he takes many different medications. He also has aspirations to become a stand-up comic. From the outset, we are made to sympathize with Arthur’s situation and you do for a time. He’s picked on, he’s ignored, he’s in dire straights. However all of that changes and Arthur begins a transformation that will have lasting consequences for the city of Gotham.

There have been many questions and thoughts about JOKER. One being about its director Todd Phillips. Could the director of THE HANGOVER trilogy handle something so volatile? I would say depending on your read of the film, that could be yes or no. For me it was a yes. The reason going back to my opening line, the way this film is constructed, is similar to that of the Clown Prince of Crime. It’s hard-hitting, it’s chaotic, it’s indecisive. After leaving the theater, I can see this one being discussed for years. The polarization of the film is why I found it a great watch. This isn’t a BATMAN v SUPERMAN type of split, this is something different. And honestly, I love seeing something like this for the comic book movie genre. Even if it was widely disliked, I like that this managed to get released.

The construction of the film is outstanding. Phillips and his team really recreated a decaying urban American city in the 1980s. This isn’t the stylized Gotham of the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher films. This is more like the origin of the decline of Gotham seen in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Despite the grimy look, there is a beautiful sheen to the look thanks to gorgeous cinematography by Lawrence Sher (who should get awards consideration).

Then there is the haunting score by Hildur Guonadottir. She brings an underlying note of tragedy to the film. The score is strong, but never intrusive. It doesn’t have a distinct theme for the character like Hans Zimmer or Danny Elfman have in the past. I found that a positive because it really highlights the fact that one of Gotham’s biggest threats came from an ordinary citizen.

Much has been made of the film’s lack of a stance. I felt this was by design since the character of The Joker has no stance. I would not disagree with those whose criticisms see it as shallow and empty, this is true, I however saw it as true to the character. The Joker never commits to anything. Never an ideal, never a purpose except mayhem. Even the use of certain song once Arthur’s transformation is complete feels in line with the character as I can see him doing something like that, just to get the rise out of people. Honestly, the character is empty, which is why his battles with Batman are always intense due to Bruce Wayne’s mission. The Joker’s perspective on the world is always made known by him. To accomplish this. JOKER the film is built entirely on Arthur’s perspective. We descend as he does. You question what you see because you know something isn’t right with Arthur. We don’t get the answers, and I loved that. I love a film intentionally setting itself up for different views. The film is intentionally ambiguous in its leanings which lend credence to the whole “multiple choice” path the character takes when describing his origins. While JOKER definitely feels like a one and done origin, I must say I would love to see a short film, set 10-20 years down the line, that includes a conversation between Phoenix’s Joker and his future nemesis.

JOKER is a fascinating piece of entertainment that I am happy to have taken a moment to experience for myself. Its open ended structure and viewpoints are perfectly aligned with the character it covers. It’s a sad, uncomfortable and when it needs to be, visceral film showing the decline of a man. We may say the movie feels empty, but no matter which side of the fence you fall on the film, you will feel something. Arthur becomes the Joker, and the audience knows definitively that they are not.