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2001 @ 2-years-old

Published: Sunday 17 Jan 2021 | Edited: Sunday 17 Jan 2021

My favorite movie of all time is 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like, my second favorite is not even close. I love the story. I love the music. I love the silences. I love the spare script. I love HAL. I love Dave. I love the ape family. And I love the bizarre ending that doesn't throw you a bone, by way of explanation.

It seems that professional critics agree that it's one of the best (if not the best) of films ever made. Not that that matters to me; I don't even know what constitutes the authority of film critics. I could probably write a couple thousand words on how little I care for professional critical opinion in the arts.

But this movie is so many things to me. Like, there are movies that just get you in a vulnerable period, or at a critical age, and they have a place with you because of how they came into your life. For some people my age, maybe that movie is The Notebook or Dumb and Dumber or The Land Before Time or some shit. For me, it has been 2001.

I don't remember exactly how old I was when I first saw it; I'd guess like 16 or 17. What I do remember was the experience. From start to finish, I was sucked further and further into what was going on.

2001 is pretty plot-light throughout. There's like 45 minutes of monkeys screeching and fighting at the beginning.

A family group of apes in the desert surrounding a 9 foot tall, smooth, black monolith appearing outside the opening of their cave

Then there are spacecraft motion sequences set to music for 20 minutes.

An airplane-like spacecraft docking with a rotating space station

Then there's a weird PR drama on a space station.

A meeting of two men and three women around plastic furniture aboard of brightly-lit, white curved deck inside a rotating space station. All are dressed professionally

A meeting of business professionals in a wall-lit conference room. One man is standing at the head of the group at a bare podium. All others are seated around him at rectangular tables arranged in a horseshoe shape around the podium

Then there's a crew of astronauts who have to battle for their lives against an intelligent computer who's managing their mission.

The reflection of a man moving through a narrow hallway depicted in the lens of a robot's camera lens. The lens has a small core of light that glows red

The robot fight chapter is the closest thing to a typical attention-holding movie sequence, and even that part moves like molasses.

What was so disorienting to me (and probably to everyone who has ever really watched this movie) is the last chapter. It's a sequence of striking visual elements stitched and smash cut together, that changes setting and style as it pushes forward. It's kind of hard to describe. Like, it's a light tunnel, then it's liquid suspensions, then it's colored terrain and colored oceans.

Two planes of color emerging from a distance line of convergence, that display random patterns of colored shapes that create the illusion of suction through a vertically-oriented tall tunnel at incredible speed

A backlit image of a viscous red susbstance suspended in trasnparent liquid. The shape of the red mass resembles a human fetus at one month gestation

A helicopter POV shot of mountainous land, with the color altered to show high-contrast blue and orange tones in the contours of the terrain

And then it's even weirder. Like, it's the weirdest fucking thing ever. The protagonist finds himself in a furnished apartment with light tiles on the floor, and his perspective as a subject and our perspective as the audience sort of blend in this strange way while he progresses in jumps through the stages of middle- to old-age.

A well-furnished apartment with Renaissance-style wall framings and furnishings, with turqoise accents, and floor made from large tiles that emit white light

Finally, as he appears to be on his death bed, he is transformed into a glowing fetal being in a transparent membrane. And then he's all the sudden back at Earth, smiling at it and at us from an orbital distance.

The image of a strange fetal humanoid being wrapped in a glowing, transparent membrane looking down on Earth from space

The end.

Maybe more than anything, I love 2001 as an extreme expression of freedom: Kubrick's freedom in making it, the themes of Nietzschean freedom through the movie, and the freedom it seems to have from conventional style and storytelling.

I turned 30 late last year, and for my birthday, my wife took advantage of the pandemic shutdown to pale every past and future birthday gift by comparison, and get me a private movie theater showing of this film.

A man and woman wearing masks behind an unmasked two-year-old girl who is smiling with her eyes opened widely. The man is holding an infant's detachable carseat, covered with a blanket. Behind them, a movie theater marquee shines with the words Centre Twin

Going in, my only worry was that our two-year-old would be immediately bored and cause problems and melt down in the theater. As it turned out, she loved was fascinated by this movie. She basically watched the whole thing, besides the Heywood Floyd part in the space station.

On the ride home from the theater, she kept saying:

Baby in the moon. Scary baby in the moon.

That night, she was really freaked out. I went and laid next to her as she fell asleep, and she was trying to reassure herself, saying stuff like:

It's okay, Maggie. Baby's nice in the moon. Monkeys play. Monkeys are nice.

I worried we'd be dealing with nightmares, and I'd never get to watch this movie with her again. The next day, she brought up the "baby in the moon" movie, so I pulled it up on my laptop.

We've watched it like five times in the last couple months. She really likes the iconic Strauss bit Also sprach Zarathustra that's used in the title sequence and throughout the film.

She sings it all the time and asks to listen to it in the car, since she knows we can pull up songs by request while we're driving.

I think my wife thought it was cute how obsessed I was with this movie. I've watched it with her probably a dozen or so times. Now that the toddler is requesting it (or its soundtrack) on a daily basis, the charm seems to be wearing a bit off.

I'm delighted having discovered that my love for 2001: A Space Odyssey is so deep, it's heritable.