Every time I write one of these unpopular opinion reviews it makes me feel like a philistine that doesn’t quite understand the movies that I’m talking about. Ironically, the main reason that I agreed/wanted to write for the site is so that people would say “Oh wow, that guy knows movies and I respect his opinion”. Because appreciation from strangers on the internet is the only thing that keeps the wolf from the door. In this analogy the door is my mind, and the wolf is the realisation that my father didn’t hug me enough, and my mother hugged me too much for my liking.
It’s going to be hard to keep defending myself and earn your admiration when I say things like this…
I’m not particularly bothered about Stanley Kubrick’s films.
And so now I have to qualify myself. He was clearly a brilliant director. He turned his hand to so many different genres, and created what most people say are masterpieces. Some might even say he was the Kevin Smith of his time. But much like that flesh-light promoter, his catalogue is littered with excruciating entries.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is best summed up by Dr Cox from Scrubs (2001-2010) when he says he’s going to see the extended version of it just to see how it’s physically possible to make that film longer. It is a simple premise of artificial intelligence taking over (going wrong) in space. I guess at the time it was ground-breaking. But I have the benefit of being from the future so can look back at it and see it for what it really is, the inspiration for that tantric masturbator Ridley Scott.
However, much like how I only saw Casablanca (1942) for the first time in 2005 and had my mind blown about all the other films and TV shows I’d already seen that were inspired by it, or referenced it (mainly an episode of Animaniacs (1992-1998)), I’m thankful that we have “2001” because apart from Ridley, we’ve got some great art off the back of it.
While studying media studies and college (Swindon College, GNVQ. Not to brag or anything) we watched A Clockwork Orange (1971) and were told about its significance. Before then it was this hallowed piece of mythology. Growing up I had heard that it was banned for being too gruesome. Or because some woman was raped in it and that was a real rape. Or because it was powerful enough to overthrow the government. Turns out Kubrick pulled its release because he received death threats. If only he’d lived in a world where Christopher Nolan had already existed, so he could have seen The Dark Knight (2008) and heard Aaron Eckhart proclaiming “If you’re not getting death threats, you’re not doing your job right” (this is paraphrased, because I can’t be taking time out to watch a whole film for just one quote, and The Dark Knight is so good I couldn’t just watch it to that part, I’d need to watch the whole film).
I get it, it’s a shockingly stark vision of how the future might be. Unfortunately basically no-one saw in until that future time had come and gone and it wasn’t like that. Nice try, but you done fucked up, so go back and try again, oh, you can’t because you’re dead now, and your bitch wife has released it, against everything you stood for over the past 30 years so she can get that sweet pay cheque.
I personally bought this film on DVD because there was this cute guy called Jay that worked in the HMV in Canary Wharf, we used to chat every day on my lunch break and I thought he’d like me more if he knew I owned good films. I bumped in to him several years later and he was still totally into me. I’m not sure if it was because of the film collection he knew I had, but I had gone fully straight by that time. Which is a shame, because he was black and that would have doubly pissed off my parents if I’d gone racially gay.
Full Metal Jacket (1987) is perfect. Like many other Vietnam films it has the underlying theme that it’s an unnecessary and therefore unwinnable war. But it is two distinct films in one. Half spent on training, half on deployment, which gives you a full journey through the campaign. It’s a style that hasn’t been implemented again as successfully until last year’s Hacksaw Ridge (2016).
And Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) is a seminal piece of work. Not only because it’s his only piece of farcical comedy, but because of how it was made. Most of the crew and cast didn’t realise they were making a comedy. He would make them do a “fun take” before the real one to get everyone loose, but filmed it, which constituted the majority of the footage we now see in the film.
He is a great director. I just don’t care for the majority of his films. But this isn’t a review of him. I learned my lesson with Paul Thomas Anderson. There’s so much to say it can’t be compacted into one article. I know you lose interest after 2000 words.
Now, I’m not trying to convince you that this is a bad film, if you like it, I’m unlikely to change your mind. So instead I’m going to lazily summarise the majority of the film.
“So, are you sure that you want this job? Cos this one guy ten years ago blew his brains out. Now, it’s hard to say if he just really hated the job, or if some supernatural shenanigans went on, but yeah, blasted his head all over the place”
“Um, yeah, that’s fine”
“You don’t have any pre-existing psychological issues do you?”
“Well, my wife is just about to explain that I’m an abusive alcoholic. Is that going to be a problem?”
“I shouldn’t have thought so. Oh, and it’s really important that you know my name is Stuart Ullman”
The entire first half hour is exposition. They even throw in the Donner party which happened just down the road. It’s almost certainly what “South Park” was parodying in the Ass-pen episode.
“Hey, Scatman how did you know Danny’s nickname?”
“Umm, you must have said it earlier”
“I don’t think we did”
“Well I certainly haven’t been spying on him or anything”
“I never said you had”
“I’M NOT A CHILD MOLESTER! JUST CHILL THE FUCK OUT LADY! But is it cool if I just sit down with your boy for five minutes unsupervised? I’m just gonna give him some ice cream and tell him that we have a special connection. That cool?”
“Fill your boots”
ONE MONTH LATER
“You know, of all the rooms in this vast hotel, did we really have to pick the one furthest away from the kitchen? It’s a bit of a ball-ache pushing this trolley all that way just to give you breakfast in bed. You realise I’ve got to take it all the way back again”
“How’s the book coming along?”
“DON’T LOOK AT IT! I’M NOT WRITING SEXY LETTERS TO A PEN PAL ALRIGHT?!”
“I didn’t even say nothing. Jeez, why is everyone so defensive with me?!… Oh, and it’s going to snow”
Jack looks at the snow. He’s supposed to look creepy, but honestly, that’s just what Jack Nicholson looks like.
Danny’s riding his pimp-mobile. And meets every young boy’s fantasy… Twins!
“What’s up bitches?”
“Oh heeey sweet daddy. You wanna play with us… forever?”
But Danny can’t handle the jangle. So he’s just going to play with his hand some more.
That’s right, Tony the finger is just a metaphor to explain that Danny is a chronic masturbator.
“Mum, is it cool if I go to my room, to um, lie down?”
“No, you’ve got to be quiet Daddy’s working”
“Oh, daddy’s gonna be working alright. I’m just going to be quietly pushing my penis inside out”
“Hey dad. I just came up to jack it”
“Wouldn’t you rather have an awkward conversation?”
“You’re not going to go mad and try to kill us are you?”
“Can’t see why I would”
“I have literally no idea what any of these machines do”
Jack has night-terrors in the distance. In day time.
“You alright baby?”
“I had a horrible nightmare that my acting ability consists of zero range”
“Did you hit Danny?”
“Fuck off. I’m going for a drink with an imaginary barman”
“Lloyd, you’re the best damn bartender from Timbuctoo to Portland”
“I literally only poured some Jack Daniels over some ice cubes. And I’m giving booze to a self-confessed alcoholic, and I’m not charging you any money. So actually I’m pretty awful at my job”
“Hey, Scatman, look at this dream I’m having about my dad getting squishy with an octogenarian”
“Hey, clumsy waiter guy, are you that same guy that killed his family and then blew your own brains out?”
“Obviously not. I’m your racist inner-psyche. Oh, and have you considered beating your wife and kid recently?”
“Not really. But that’s a stellar idea”
“God, this book he’s writing is getting pretty monotonous. And why did he write this one page and feed it back in to the typewriter? That doesn’t make sense. He’s clearly going mental. He’s even formatted some of these pages like a screenplay. Bonkers”
But that takes us up to the climactic final half hour.
Scatman Crothers (I refuse to learn his character’s name, because his real name is so cool) comes to be the hero then dies immediately.
It’s funny. Really fucking funny. Because the entire film is built on suspense, which is why so little happens for so long. But Scatman’s journey is so fruitless that it makes it a farce. All those scenes of his flight being delayed, and then having to switch seats with the married couple, and then the rental company lost his booking so he has to use his other credit card, and then there’s a fallen tree in the road that he has to chop up with his penknife… It’s a heroes journey. And then BOOM! Axe in the chest!
But when you know what’s coming, it makes all those incidental scenes absolutely pointless. It’s not a good repeated joke.
Why is Danny saying “Redrum”? Ooh, that’s creepy and confusing. Except it’s not. I’m not sure if anagrams just weren’t popular back in the day, but Redrum is murder spelled backwards. Obviously. Why is that obvious? Because even if Red Rum was a thing (it’s not) it wouldn’t be a single word with the r’s spelt in an idiot’s idea of Cyrillic.
So why is Danny saying “Murder”? Now that is actually a good question, because this film is not about murder. The only person who does get murdered is Scatman. Unless you’re counting that aforementioned janitor that shot himself. But if we’re counting him, then we might as well consider everyone who has ever been murdered in history up until that point.
He might as well have been saying “ytrap eirruf” or “ynnarg yggos”, because both of those things happen as much as murder does.
Danny’s “power” isn’t useful. It’s just a weirdness-imaginer and useless-hero-communicator. Stephen King is usually proficient at putting in the special ability that saves the day. Maybe this was him trying to get away from that. Or maybe he was on too much coke at the time and simply forgot.
And the climax is so anti-climactic, when I first saw this film when I was about 10, I assumed for years that my parents had taped over the ending. Jack gets defeated because “it’s cold out”.
Do you think Jason Voorhees is gonna stand for that shit? He got blasted out in space and still came back. That might not even be true, but like you, I didn’t watch that Jason in Space film either.
It’s worth mentioning that when I did first watch this I really wanted to jump on that women in the bath and flop around on her. Like I say, I was ten. I didn’t know what else was the right thing to want. I just knew I wanted to do something. But then she turned to algae. And now I can’t have sex in the bath. Sorry ladies.
So has he been there forever? Because we quite clearly saw him being somewhere else and going there. And if he has been there forever, then can he really die. So when the season changes and he thaws out will he just go back to being a hotel-keeper and shit author?
The unanswered question, while a captivating movie trope that gets people talking, is nothing more than bad story-telling. And if you have read my other reviews, you’ll be familiar that that is my main bugbear. Tell the complete story or fuck off.
Creating a question and then not answering it for a while is the key motivation by TV shows to get you watching. Lost (2004-2010) was not a good show. They just didn’t tell you what was going on so you have to keep watching in the hope that they will. They fucked up because it took nine seasons and the final answer was the same as Quantum Leap (1989-1993)… It’s purgatory. That’s it.
Is there a god? You don’t know. I might believe. And you can argue on either side. And in my 35 years, although it’s only really been in the last 18 years, I’ve heard excellent arguments for both sides. But there is no definitive proof either way. So the argument continues, as it has done so for far longer than I have been alive. It’s that uncertainty that makes it alluring.
In the case of a movie, which is finite, if you haven’t answered the question by the end then you are an unreliable narrator.
It’s fun to wonder, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. When there are so many unanswered questions in the world, do we really want film-makers giving us half a story? This isn’t the answer to “is there existence after death?” this is a story that you made up, so fucking finish it. And if you can’t come up with a satisfying answer to the questions you raised, leave me out of it altogether.