Ryan Irelan

is building Mijingo and doing limited consulting.

It's a big black monolith.

This past Monday, I went to see Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey on 70mm at the downtown location of the Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin. I had never seen 2001 on the big screen before, so I was looking forward to that. Seeing a 70mm print of the film made it extra special.

The theater was nearly full (minus the cheap seats up front) and it was an enjoyable experience despite a damaged audio track on the film that caused a faint, but noticeable, clicking sounds off to the left side. The clicking sound must’ve caused problems in previous showings because a Drafthouse employee took to the stage before the film began to offer full refunds to anyone who was bothered by the noise. I’m curious if anyone took him up on the offer.

2001: A Space Odyssey has many uncomfortable moments–both visually and audibly–and it has always creeped me out a bit. I enjoy watching it but it leaves me feeling unsettled (as it should, I suppose). Watching the film on a big screen with loud audio made only intensified my experience.

I recently watched Life Itself, the documentary about Roger Ebert. With his work on my mind, I dug up his review of 2001 from 1968, the same year the film was released. This review is classic Ebert; it was full of spunk, sarcasm, and wit. I can’t resist sharing some quotes.

Because the film confused so many people (even Rock Hudson during the premiere, according to Ebert) and caused conversation during the movie to understand what it was about (this would get you booted from an Alamo Drafthouse today), Ebert quipped out of frustration right at the top of his review:

If people do not have the courtesy to shut up during a film, they should at least be segregated into special Saturday kiddie matinees, no matter how advanced their years.

(I take issue with this. My 4 year-old is exceptionally quiet and attentive in the movie theater.)

And then the questions about the monolith:

Q. What’s that big black monolith? A. It’s a big black monolith.

Q. Where did it come from? A. From somewhere else. Q. Who put it there? A. Intelligent beings since it has right angles and nature doesn’t make right angles on its own.”

And, finally:

Man is a curious animal. He is uneasy in the face of great experiences, and if he is forced to experience something profound, he starts immediately to cheapen it, to bring it down to his own level. Thus after a great man is assassinated, lesser men immediately manufacture, buy and sell plastic statues and souvenir billfolds and lucky coins with the great man’s image on them.

It’s a great review and pure Ebert. Read the whole thing.

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