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Checking into the Overlook Hotel: Josh Looks Back at The Shining

The recent release of the film adaptation of Doctor Sleep (which I thought was great!!  My full review is coming soon!!). the sequel to The Shining, made me feel like it was time to look back at The Shining.  And so I started with Stephen King’s novel, which I’d never before read!  I’m a huge Stephen King fan, but somehow I’d never read this, one of his most well-known novels.  And so last month I decided to remedy that, reading the novel before then rewatching Stanley Kubrick’s famous film adaptation from 1980.

I was not at all surprised to find that I loved Mr. King’s novel.  It’s interesting: while I have read many of Mr. King’s Books, The Shining feels to me like the most “Stephen King” novel of all the Stephen King novels I have ever read.  By that I mean that The Shining seems to be a perfect combination of all of the characteristics I’d most expect from a Stephen King novel: a gripping character story that involves horror both from a human source and with a supernatural bent.

I’ve seen Stanley Kubrick’s film several times, so I was decently familiar with the broad strokes of the story.  (Equally as memorable: The Simpsons’ brilliant parody in Treehouse of Horror V, from 1994.  But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post…)  And yet, when reading the book, I was as gripped by the story as if I was completely unfamiliar with it.  Mr. King’s writing is so propulsive.  It grips the reader right in the guts and pulls you right along.  The Shining is a very internal novel, with a great deal of time spent inside the heads of the main characters Danny, Jack, and Wendy.  And yet it’s never slow or boring.  One of my favorite aspects of Stephen King’s writing is how folksy it is, how conversational, how easily it engages with the reader.  Reading a Stephen King novel, I always feel as if Mr. King is right in front of me, telling me the story, spinning me the yarn.  His writing doesn’t have the formality or distance that prose from a lesser hand might sometimes have.

After finishing the novel, I rewatched the film.  It was great fun to see where the film followed the novel faithfully, and where it diverged.

There’s no question that Stanley Kubrick’s film is a masterpiece.  Right from the opening, in which we follow those magnificent, long tracking shots as the camera glides over the water, eventually finding the Torrence’s lone car as it travels along a windy road, while the camera follows from overhead, the film announces itself as something special, something important, something different and unexpected.  Those long tracking shots … [continued]

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From the DVD Shelf: Josh Reviews 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

I well remember my reaction upon watching Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time, many years ago.  The star-child appeared, and the end credits rolled, and I turned to my brother and started laughing.  “What the heck was THAT???”  I had no idea what to make of any of the ponderous weirdness that I had just seen, and I wondered what exactly I had missed.

But even during that first viewing it was clear that there was something special about 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it’s a film that stayed with me.  I found myself driven to revisit the film (several times, in fact, over the years), and to read the novel by Arthur C. Clarke (which, interestingly, was written concurrently with the production of the film).  I can think of few other films about which my opinion has so dramatically changed based on subsequent viewings.  Each time I watched 2001 I found myself enjoying it more and more.  As I peeled back the layers of the onion of the film, to use a familiar but handy analogy, what was once perplexing obtained profound meaning.

It is a challenge to provide a summary of 2001.  If you’ve seen the film, no summary is necessary, and if you haven’t, I’d hate to spoil anything.  I can tell you that the film is divided into several distinct sections.  The movie opens in primordial times (“the dawn of man”) and then jumps forward to the year 2001, when a strange object is discovered on the surface of the moon.  That discovery leads (for reasons I’ll not detail here) to an expedition towards Jupiter.  The experimental space-ship Discovery is crewed by Frank Poole and Dave Bowman, and the computer HAL 9000.  Things go awry.  The final segment of the film is the most perplexing, and the reason for the film’s tag-line “the ultimate trip.”

Right from its opening scenes, it is clear that 2001: A Space Odyssey is a science-fiction film unlike most other science-fiction films.  This is a cerebral undertaking, one that is concerned with posing some BIG QUESTIONS for the audience.  The film spans the entire history of human-kind — that should give you a good idea of Mr. Kubrick & Mr. Clarke’s ambitions!!

In terms of “plot,” there’s not too much that actually happens in 2001.  This, I think (along with the ending, which we’ll get to in a few moments) is one of the chief reasons that this film might not work for many casual viewers.  To say that the movie is leasurely paced would be an enormous understatement.  Events unfold very slowly, and the movie is filled with stately, long shots in which … [continued]