Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Skuriels Countdown: #1

Stanley Kubrick, 1968
[35 votes]

“It’s hard to know what to say about 2001: A Space Odyssey that hasn’t been said, and argued, and debated since its release 44 years ago. Especially for me since, unlike most other great films, this is one that I’ve lived with for as long as I can remember. I’ve grown up with this film and it’s part of my mental architecture in a way that the works of Bresson or Ozu just aren’t.

“So all I can say about 2001 is how I react to it personally: as the greatest film yet made by an atheist about the wonder and majesty of the universe, a ‘religious’ film for a technological age, finding God in the spark of intelligence and scientific advancement rather than in an invisible cloud-father. It’s a film that is utterly clinical and dispassionate in its view of the human race, running around the Discovery as if it was a giant hamster wheel, blathering on about alien artifacts in an interminable committee meeting – and yet by the end, totally in awe of these furless monkey-people reaching out into the stars. It’s a film of grand conception, told with surprising simplicity: consider that there are essentially only about five ‘characters’, and fewer than ten ‘locations’ in this film spanning all of human history and the expanse of the solar system. It’s a film in which the characters without fail are so enmeshed in their daily routines that the majesty that surrounds them is all but ignored, to the point where Kubrick has to indulge in an audiovisual spectacular in the last act in order to drive home the beauty of the heavens – A beauty that can be created by a few guys in a paint factory.

“Ultimately, I think that’s what gets me most about 2001 today: it’s a film that combines the utterly banal (toilet jokes, screaming apes) with the incredibly profound to display the full range of Kubrick’s vision. It’s a film that showed me, as a kid, what a ‘movie’ could be and could say – if its makers wanted to.” ~ Jeff McMahon

“2001: A Space Odyssey” is The Greatest Picture of All Time
(in rhyme)

How do I justify my pick for greatest of all time pic -
“2001: A Space Odyssey” by Stanley Kubrick?
On the greatness of “2001”
Much has already been sung
But has any of it been in the form of a limerick?

But to sum up my feelings for this epic
In limerick would be too ascetic.
The AABBA rhyme scheme
Seems so constricting and extreme.
The limerick idea had to end
For this man has neither patience nor talent.
It’s beyond the skill of this fan
So, instead, I'll rhyme it out as best as I can.

(Aside: sadly, not many words rhyme with monolith.
I include unused words describing “2001” herewith:
Original, groundbreaking, extraordinary,
Profound and promethean (pre-Ridley),
Majestic, mythic, miracle,
Enigmatic, rapturous, sweeping. Pinnacle.)

I'll seem a critical arriviste
When I list
The reasons
So I thought I’d season
My praise with humor.
Maybe this’ll succor
Ears deaf to oft-repeated praise
That “2001” does amaze.
Read on why “2001” is the ne plus ultra.
How about musical accompaniment? “Thus Spake Zarathustra?”

But you protest, “How can you declare ‘2001’ the best?
It barely passes the smell test!
It bores with its barely-there story and barely-there gab.
The most interesting character is a big black slab!”

Kubrick may be accused of being a narrative curmudgeon
But he’s undeniably unsparing in his vision.
With eye candy in spades,
His visuals definitely make the grade.
Kubrick’s always knocking the viewer askew
With exacting details and breakthroughs up the wazoo.
(Is that prior art for the iPad and other things techno?
I think there’s even legal precedent for Velcro!)
Every scene in “2001” reveals a surprise.
It’s cinematic Stendhal syndrome for ears and eyes.

With the jarring juxtaposition of new and old
And stylistic choices that today remain bold,
Not only is Kubrick’s direction, as usual, deft,
Ever present is his usual intellectual heft.
Witness the most famous of match cuts: bone thrown
Morphs to spacecraft above our earthly home.
Spacecraft dancing to “Blue Danube?” Inspired!
Psychedelic Stargate? Was he wired?
Such choices weren’t just visual preening;
They’re choices teeming with meaning.
Far from story-deficient,
Every shot is simply efficient:
Wordlessly, primate eyes shimmer with terror at the dying of the light;
Affectingly, HAL sings "Daisy" as he goes gently into the good night.
Narrative lapse?
Kubrick says look and listen and fill in the gaps.
The movement may look lento;
But it all moves certainly towards the final crescendo.
Oh, and everything before – the scope!
The ending – such hope!
It’s been said “2001” renders science fiction films obsolete.
I don’t know if it’s true but it’d be sure hard to beat!

I saw “2001” at the Toronto Cinematheque.
I went in tabula rasa not knowing what to expect.
While watching I was probably muttering, “What a vision!”
For me, it was akin to finding religion.
Kubrick’s appeal to the subconscious
Kept me off my haunches.
It pulled the pin and hurled
Me beyond myself. It rocked my world.
I was immersed
And then I emerged
From over two hours of total beauty
Feeling, among others, hopeful, inspired and giddy.
Pardon the caps but isn't that what Great Art should do?
Many owe “2001” their due
Like homages such as Duncan Jones’ “Moon.”
For many a cartoon
It has fathered pomo quotes aplenty;
“The Simpsons” alone owes a hefty royalty.
Great Art inspires new spaces for the inspired to fill 
With their own creations or whatever they feel,
Be it a monolith as interpreted by a mime
Or even praise delivered in rhyme.

So, I’ll say it again: the best since film began
Is “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Stan’s the man.

~ Froilan Vispo

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