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The Essentials - November 2003
Remind Me

The Critics' Corner on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

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"2001 is one of the grimmest films I have ever seen in my life...I think that Kubrick is someone who is too intelligent, too cynical, too pessimistic about man, or about men rather, and I think that as it turns out, 2001 is a disaster because it is much too abstract to make its abstract points." - Andrew Sarris, WBAI Radio.

"...the scope of its imaginative vision of man...immerses the eye, the ear, and the intuitive responses of the viewer in a uniquely stimulating human experience." - National Catholic Office of Motion Pictures.

"A regrettable failure, though not a total one. This long film is fascinating when it concentrates on apes or machines (though there is too much of this, too), and dreadful when dealing with the in-betweens: human beings...the slab is never explained, leaving 2001, for all its lively visual and mechanical spectacle, a kind of space-Spartacus and, more pretentious still, a shaggy God story." - John Simon, The New Leader

" extraordinary masterpiece...a major challenge to some of the assumptions that dominated serious writing for at least a hundred years." - Hollis Alpert, Saturday Review.

"...the uncompromising slowness of the movie makes it hard to sit through without talking -- and people on all sides when I saw it were talking almost throughout the film. Very annoying. With all its attention to detail, a kind of reveling in its own I.Q., the movie acknowledged no obligation to validate its conclusion for those, me for example, who are not science-fiction buffs. By the end, three unreconciled plot lines -- the slab, Dullea's aging, the period bedroom -- are simply left there like a Rorschach, with murky implications of theology." - Renata Adler, The New York Times.

"I have seen Stanley Kubrick's mind-bending, maddening, awesome, debilitating, demoniacal, dehumanizing, and miraculous extraterrestrial fantasy-drama twice. At first I thought Kubrick had flipped his lid. Now I believe he is a genius." - Sam Lesner, Chicago Daily News.

Despite some of the worst reviews ever given a major motion picture, 2001: A Space Odyssey attracted a devoted audience of young fans. In fact, many college-age viewers attended the film in an altered state, enjoying the film's celebrated "trip sequence," a ritual which was noted with interest by studio executives who began marketing it as a "head movie." In some ways, the film's success with the younger generation gave rise to the midnight movie phenomenon which provided filmmakers like David Lynch and Alexandro Jodorowsky the opportunity to make experimental, non-traditional narrative films like Eraserhead (1977) and El Topo (1970). 2001: A Space Odyssey made $15 million on its initial U.S. release, and currently shows a worldwide gross of over $190 million.


2001: A Space Odyssey was nominated for four Oscars® including Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay and Best Directing. It won for Best Special Effects, which is the only Oscar® Kubrick ever received. He didn't want to submit his name in the category, but an Academy® rule limiting the number of names eligible for nomination in that category would have required him to submit only a few members of the film's special effects team. Rather than make such an impossible choice, he just submitted his own name, with the crew's blessing.

When Planet of the Apes won a special Oscar® for best makeup at the 1968 Academy Awards® Kubrick was furious, feeling that his film's ape makeup was better. He publicly stated that the Academy®'s board must have thought the apes in his film were real.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) honored the film for art direction, cinematography and sound, while also nominating it for Best Picture.

The film also won the David di Donatello Award (Italy's version of the Oscar®) for Best Foreign Production and a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation from the World Science Fiction Society.

2001: A Space Odyssey was voted a place on the National Film Registry in 1991.

By Frank Miller



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