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The 50th Anniversary of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" 206

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the original release of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," a seminal film in motion picture history and one that has awed millions over the years. Kubrick's title has often been credited with paving the way for science-fiction films that took a realistic approach to depicting the future. Even as "2001" has grown to become one of the most iconic movies of all time, the reception it received when it originally premiered wasn't good. An excerpt: The film's previews were an unmitigated disaster. Its story line encompassed an exceptional temporal sweep, starting with the initial contact between pre-human ape-men and an omnipotent alien civilization and then vaulting forward to later encounters between Homo sapiens and the elusive aliens, represented throughout by the film's iconic metallic-black monolith. Although featuring visual effects of unprecedented realism and power, Kubrick's panoramic journey into space and time made few concessions to viewer understanding. The film was essentially a nonverbal experience. Its first words came only a good half-hour in.

Audience walkouts numbered well over 200 at the New York premiere on April 3, 1968, and the next day's reviews were almost uniformly negative. Writing in the Village Voice, Andrew Sarris called the movie "a thoroughly uninteresting failure and the most damning demonstration yet of Stanley Kubrick's inability to tell a story coherently and with a consistent point of view." And yet that afternoon, a long line -- comprised predominantly of younger people -- extended down Broadway, awaiting the first matinee.
The Cannes Film Festival will celebrate the 50th anniversary of "2001: A Space Odyssey" with the world premiere of an unrestored 70mm print, introduced by Christopher Nolan. The event is set for May 12 as part of the Cannes Classics program. The screening will also be attended by members of Kubrick's family, including his daughter Katharina Kubrick and his longtime producing partner and brother-in-law Jan Harlan.

Further reading: Why 2001: A Space Odyssey's mystery endures, 50 years on (CNET); 50 years of 2001: A Space Odyssey -- how Kubrick's sci-fi 'changed the very form of cinema' (The Guardian); The story of a voice: HAL in '2001' wasn't always so eerily calm (The New York Times); and The most intriguing theories about "2001: A Space Odyssey" (io9); and Behind the scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the strangest blockbuster in Hollywood history (Vanity Fair).
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The 50th Anniversary of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey"

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  • Paywalled (Score:4, Informative)

    by Charlotte ( 16886 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @10:45AM (#56372649)
    Any non-paywalled links?
    • Why is this marked as Troll? How about link aggregators stop pushing traffic to sites hostile towards their readers.

  • I can't do that. Would you like to play a game of Chess?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's one of the most beautiful, elegant movies ever made. The visuals are just astounding, especially if you see it in glorious 70mm. I can somewhat see the original reactions though. If you're somehow able to ignore the amazing job Kubrick did presenting the majesty and elegance of Space, you're left with just an OK story.

    Combine that with the older straight-laced audiences of the 60s who want everything to fit within some narrow confines, they're going to be disappointing by the ending. Not that the

    • The story is really amazing when you see it from HALs perspective. What you have there is a computer trying to solve a classic double bind situation.

      And finding a solution for it.

    • I can't imagine, save perhaps for the very first generation of film goers, any cinema audience who would have, on its first screening, really understood what the hell they were seeing. Certainly film audiences these days, used to be bashed over the head with CGI, noise, and average shot lengths measured in seconds, with endless streams of dialogue whose only function is to push the plot line forward for audiences who might as well just shut down their cerebral cortexes for 90-120 minutes.

      • I was one of that very first generation of film goers. I didn't understand it.

        The extreme slowness in much of the movie shut down my cerebral cortex fairly effectively. Remember the discussions on staying alert in self-driving cars? I couldn't stay alert when things took so long. The space flight visuals were great for the time, and Kubrick lingered on them too long.

    • The visuals are just astounding, especially if you see it in glorious 70mm. I can somewhat see the original reactions though. If you're somehow able to ignore the amazing job Kubrick did presenting the majesty and elegance of Space, you're left with just an OK story.

      I agree with this but the critics all seemed to expect to compare it to "That Darned Cat" or something. Seriously was it the first movie anyone ever saw that was supported by a book?

      As a pre-teen in the late '60s I saw the original at the Cooper Theater (now torn down sadly) in Denver. There were not that many theaters that could show 70mm and that was one of them. In those days it was not unusual for people to put on better clothes to go to a place like that.

      The impact of the visuals and the quality

      • The one thing it didn't foresee was the mobile phone, but then again, nothing did.
        • Star Trek did only a year or two after 2001. The "flip phone" style that was dominant before smartphones was often compared to the communicator device.

          I also recall in the novel "Space Cadet" by Heinlein almost 20 years earlier had a fairly accurate description of a cell phone. Not only in the concept of using local cell relay stations but also the social situation of one kid telling another "hey is that your phone (in your bag) going off? Oh, yeah."

          • And smartphones are really tricorders. It is odd that in the 23rd Century Apple abandoned almost three centuries of its C-suite directed industrial design focusing on thinness and decided to go with a bulky approach for the ST:TOS.

      • I'd put it in the top 5. It really is one of the great achievements of the cinema.

  • I took a date to it in the 80's (campus showing). She fell asleep and had no energy later either.

    • by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @11:08AM (#56372793)

      it wasn't the movie, it was you.

    • Didn't you ever go to Psych 101 in which they TOLD you that if you wanted your date to find you exciting, take her to a horror movie?

      • On okcupid.com they actually tell you that "horror movies", more precisely if you like them and your mate likes them are very good indication if a relationship will work. E.g. if one likes horror movies and the other one not, it is unlikely that the relationship will work out.
        But meanwhile okcupid.com got sold several times, the web site now is an utter mess.

        • If you took Psych 101, you'd know that the horror movie would get the adrenalin flowing in your date and that would be associated with you - you're perceived as an exciting guy and all it took was $13.50, a coke and popcorn.

          • A) I did not take psych 101
            B) I don't watch horror movies (I barely can stand a vampire (old scchool) or zombie movie)
            C) in my country we don't have a 'dating culture'

            Adrenalin my ass ... people who get an adrenalin flash in a _movie_ imho have a serious problem, but well, most people have serious problems.

      • by Hasaf ( 3744357 )

        It is interesting that this was not discussed when I was in College Psyc. The first I can recall coming across this was in the book "before you know it" by John Bragh, PhD. It was published in 2017. However, when I checked just now I say that the mention (on page 99) references papers published in the mid 1970's. So it was known; however, it was probably waiting for the next generation of text books.

  • 2001 is not a film/story that you can just watch once and walk away.

    I see an AC claiming that it doesn't have a beginning, middle and end (it most definitely does).

    Arthur C. Clarke wrote quite a bit about the concepts behind the story, the film, the process of writing and filming it as well as people's reactions.

    Watch it, read about it, talk to other people about it. You'll be amazed at what you discover.

    • by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @11:43AM (#56373029)

      Right. And that's the problem.

      A highly intelligent person who had read, say, Childhood's End (also by Clarke) could go into the movie and not understand what was going on. If a movie needs a large amount of written material to get a clue about, it's something of a failure.

      • Some people consider Joyce the greatest Irish author...are you calling his work a failure?

        • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

          Some people consider Joyce the greatest Irish author...are you calling his work a failure?

          3 of his 4 books are (mostly) intelligible.

        • I don't know. What movies did he make? Books are things that can need a large amount of written matter to get a clue about.

      • If a movie needs a large amount of written material to get a clue about, it's something of a failure.

        Good that you used "if". I saw the movie in the theater when I was 11 years old. I had not yet read the Clarke novel. I had no difficulty with appreciating and understanding the film.

  • by Camembert ( 2891457 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @11:27AM (#56372929)
    I once read that the original screening was 15-20 minutes longer, and Kubrick trimmed it after the negative reception. Would love to see it.
  • I had the pleasure of seeing an un-restored 70mm print of 2001: A Space Odyssey, possibly this one, as it had never been through a projector when I saw it in the 90's. That it was unused was one of the selling point. I think there was about 5 people in the cinema - which was better for me. I'd read the book several times and was a big fan of the story.

    There is something special about the 70mm format that is very pleasing to the eye, like watching a moving painting the way it draws you in, there is so mu

  • I'm sure there are a couple reasons people left the theater for reasons other than it was a "unmitigated disaster". When it was released in 1968, the opening scenes with apes, and them essentially turning into humans through evolution, would be sacrilege to many religious people. I'm sure that was the reason the majority of people walked out.

    A second reason is the impatient individuals expecting a sci-fi space flick and they just couldn't be bothered to wait until the movie got to that point. They probabl

    • When it was released in 1968, the opening scenes with apes, and them essentially turning into humans through evolution, would be sacrilege to many religious people.

      That aspect has not changed much. If anything, skepticism of the findings of science have spread to climate and pollution research. The USA is "devolving" in that aspect.

  • Mostly because it was so slow I barely got through the monkey scene. After that I figured I'd be better off reading the book. Hey on the bright side it was great when I got to explain to someone who watched the movie but hadn't read the book what the plot actually was supposed to be about and what was happening in the movie.
    • Mostly because it was so slow I barely got through the monkey scene.

      I saw it when it came out. At college, they showed it at a "Films on the Quad" thing, outdoors, and one of my friends was there who had never seen it. He was complaining about the "monkeys" part. I think I recall he enjoyed most of the rest of it, up until the light show part where he was going "WTF?"

      Then, when Bowman walked into the room and there's someone sitting at a table with his back to him, all you can see is the top of that guy's head, he said "If that's another monkey, I'm out of here." (That

  • Yep, I'm old enough to remember watching it when it premiered. Saw it at the Century theaters next to Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. These had the big panoramic screen, stereophonic sound, snazzafrazzic seats (yes, they were good), and poppaphonic popcorn (not really, borrowed the terms from Mad Magazine). It all made sense as we were going to the Moon, technology was racing ahead, etc. The Pan Am spaceplane, Hilton Hotel and Bell System on the space station was perfectly logical. I figured once I be

  • I saw 2001 a couple times on TV. Never did anything for me. But a bunch of friends were going to a showing of a 70mm print in a theater and I tagged along.

    WOW! It's a completely different experience in the dark, on the big screen, with a good sound system. On TV I was only paying partial attention. In the theater the movie demands your full attention. It has one of the most disquieting scenes in movies -- Frank is outside fixing the antenna. We only hear him breathing in his suit. The pod approaches...

All seems condemned in the long run to approximate a state akin to Gaussian noise. -- James Martin

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