2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Stanley Kubrick’s strategic development of “2001: A Space Odyssey” is a thing of beauty; it’s an enigmatic and absolutely mesmerizing experience that has to be appreciated on a certain level, and there simply aren’t any short cuts or crib notes that can afford an audience a different insight with easy answers. Director Kubrick is a man who assigned Arthur C. Clarke to adapt the movie while it was being made and only handed him certain information which gave audiences two sets of information. Kubrick encourages exploration. Through and through “2001: A Space Odyssey” is an amazing cinematic masterwork that operates as a think piece and a ride through different arena of science fiction that isn’t often explored. Kubrick’s film is a work of symmetry, and balance, and mystery.

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The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XXV

TreehouseofHorrorXXVIt’s no secret that the writers of “The Simpsons” hold a great love for Stanley Kubrick. Bart Dressed as a Droog for “Treehouse of Horror III,” and “Treehouse of Horror V” delivered the brilliant “The Shinning.” For the 25th “Treehouse of Horror” yearly special, the gang behind the series pays a full unabashed tribute to Kubrick in what is easily the best “Treehouse” special in years. Though supplying only three segments this year, the writers opts for quality over quantity and the show really hits its stride for the Halloween Season well.

“School is Hell” is a fun opener in which Bart and Lisa accidentally find an Aramaic inscription while dusting during detention. Using her Apple App, Lisa translates the inscription and Bart reads it aloud without regard to caution. This causes them to be scooped up by hell fires and thrown in to an Elementary school in the underworld. Oddly enough, this is a dimension opposite to Springfield Elementary in every way. Bart becomes an A student when he impresses his class with his various ideas for torture, while Lisa becomes popular with a clique of female demons. The segment is a wonderful opener featuring a lot great puns and unusual jokes regarding religion (“Haw-haw! Your heresies were venialized by the Council of Palermo!”), plus, there’s a great call back to “Treehouse of Horror IV” with someone in the background being tortured with the donut conveyor belt Homer suffered.

“A Clockwork Yellow” is another excellent Kubrick love letter, with the story of Moe who was once the leader of the Droogs, a gang that held Carl, Lenny, and Homer. After many years of crime and havoc, Homer meets a “blue haired bird” named Marge in a record shop and the two get married leaving their life of crime behind. This segment contains so many great references to “A Clockwork Orange” including a pretty funny twist on the threesome montage set to a high speed. Not to mention there’s the great finale where Kubrick’s various world come smashing together as the old time Droogs crash a mansion that happens to be holding a sex party. I loved how when the partiers charged the Droogs, Burns reminded the background sex blockers to snap in to action.

The Kubrick references don’t stop there, as there are more overt winks, and background gags like Homer in the record shop walking by records “Dr. Strangelaugh,” “Paths Of Gravy,” “D’oh-lita,” and “Full Milhouse Jacket.” “The Others” is purely meta-fan service that has given the special the biggest press as the Simpsons begin getting haunted by mysterious presences in their house. Much to their horror, they discover they’re being haunted by the Tracey Ullman incarnations of their characters. When they refuse to leave, a war ensues between both versions of the family, especially with Marge angrily competing with classic Marge for the affection of modern Homer. The segment is dark and pretty disturbing when it wants to be, but it’s also mainly about paying tribute to the fans. There’s a wonderful final gag about different variations of the Simpsons, and Dr. Marvin Monroe, deemed dead many years ago, returns as a ghost to try and sort out the battle between both clans.

For the centerpiece it’s perfectly fine but there seems like so much more could have been done, like perhaps grabbing Tracey Ullman for a cameo, but in its small window it acknowledges that the show has changed drastically, and that their corporate entity ensure more variations down the line. The real Easter egg is the family picture with both clans which is quite excellent for fans that remember the original short. Homer even says “Watch your mouth, you little smart ass.” I love it, and I wish “The Simpsons” could gain this kind of momentum all season. The glory days of the “Simpsons” dynasty might be over, but at least “Treehouse of Horror” is still a fun tradition that delivers.

Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

dr-strangelove

There’s nothing funny about nuclear war. Unless you’re Stanley Kubrick, Peter Sellers, and George C. Scott and then, okay, it’s hysterical. Director Stanley Kubrick opts this time for a darkly satirical and often menacing film about American politics and what happens when the wrong orders are put out that will eventually bring the world to its knees. When America’s officials retreat to “The War Room” to sort out this nagging problem, Buck Turgidson and President Merkin Muffley attempt to find a course of action that will please all parties.

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Anticipating the Bang: Hitchcock – A Slice of Appreciation

One angry father wrote to the brilliant director, saying his daughter had not bathed since viewing a bathtub drowning in the 1954 French film “Les Diaboliques,” and now she was refusing to shower after seeing Janet Leigh’s character slashed to death in “Psycho.” Hitchcock responded, “Send her to the dry cleaners.” – The Secrets of “Psycho’s” Shower Scene, Salon.com

“Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.” – Alfred Hitchcock

My obsession with Hitchcock was not one that blossomed in a split second. As someone exposed to the art of filmmaking and movies as a whole from a very early age, it took much time and patience to come around to appreciating folks like Stanley Kubrick, David Lean, William Wyler and Alfred Hitchcock. As a person who grew up in front of the television watching slasher films and zombie movie, it required some effort to sit down in front of a television screen to soak in the nuances and undertones of “Psycho” that would soon become one of my favorite horror films of all time. As a horror movie it’s without a doubt a keen exploration in the unending madness and reign of terror of a man forever damaged by his mother during and after her death. But as a film it’s so intricately made and so diversely entertaining that it’s almost impossible not to enjoy it. As a piece of horror filmmaking, Hitchcock made a movie that’s the epitome of the convention breaking genre masterpiece.

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A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Spielberg comes back in directing this tribute to late director Stanley Kubrick. Originally, an idea of Kubrick’s, he died before he was able to make the film, so Spielberg got the idea to finish it and make it as more of an ode to the late director.  It’s funny, the vision of both Kubrick and Spielberg’s can be seen throughout the entire film. From the flicker of a mere light to a vast landscape of a robot city, I found this to be an engaging movie with incredible lights and characters. The movie resembles the classic fairy tale “Pinocchio” almost identically, as throughout the entire two and a half hours of the movie, we experience David’s search for the “Blue Fairy”, a being that can turn him into a real boy.

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