Sam Bauman: ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ better than ‘Interstellar’



Seniors who took in the current sci-fi film “Interstellar” saw a riveting movie about a dystopian Earth searching for a new home in the universe. Director Christopher Nolan has a fine cast headed by Matthew McConaughey, aided by Anne Hathaway, John Lithgow and Michael Caine.

It’s a nearly three-hour long film and it uses much of modern physics theory for its story. Truly an epical show.

But those same seniors might look back to a film of 1968 that was a truly pioneering work, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” directed by the late Stanley Kurbrick. Back when we were younger, “2001” awed and thrilled us, from the opening moments when Richard Strauss’ “Thus Spake Zarathustra” thundered forth, setting a rich mystery mood for the film. And in contrast, Richard Strauss’ waltz “Blue Danube” for the docking sequence — slow, graceful and matching the spaceship mooring scene neatly. Kubrick had an original score for the movie but junked it when he use classical music as background while editing the film.

The film opens in prehistory where apes inhabit the earth and the music swells as one ape discovers that he can use big bones as a weapon. The apes also discover a large black monolith, obviously made by intelligent beings.

The movie flashes forward to a conference on the Moon where scientists find another monolith; they decide it came from out beyond the giant planet Jupiter, and nations join to launch the spaceship Discovery (after sequences showing early space travel by Pan Am and special effects of stewardess walking upside down in the shuttle).

A crew is selected and put in survival tanks for the long flight. Two, Keir Dullea as David Bowman and Gary Lockwood as Frank Poole, do not hibernate but stay awake to run the ship, along with the supercomputer Hal 9000 (anticipating the future).

But Hal kills the sleeping crew and does other irrational things, prompting Bowman and Poole to discuss their plight in an emergency rescue capsule. Hal reads their lips and sends Poole out into space. Bowman knows he must disable Hal and slowly does so as Hal sings a childhood nursery song.

Bowman goes through a possible “worm hole” (just as in “Interstellar”) and winds up in a strange bedroom suite with a man having lunch. The man dies and the closing image is that of a baby just before birth … the Star Child.

No explanations of those who built the monoliths or why. No explanation of the Star Child or anything other than a simple statement of humans are part of the Universe.

“2001” was made without the help of computer generated images, so common today and widely used in “Interstellar.” But the many models serve well.

Which film is superior? Kubrick’s vision is slow and contemplative, even in the apes scene rarely hurried. Nolan smashes through space and modern physics. Both visions are impressive, but as a senior contemplating a lot of things, I’ll go with Kubrick (who went on to make another mystery film, “Eyes Wide Shut” equally baffling.

Seniors Christmas joy

We old timers look back on Christmases past, just as Scrooge did in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” without the help of various ghosts. Some movies survive over the years — “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart, and “Miracle on 34th Street” with Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn. Gwenn is convinced he is the real Santa and takes us along with him. Both offer a message of hope and life. And both are sentimental favorites among all but the most cynical of us.

One trick I find always helpful during the holidays as a senior is to seek out something where there be children. Just watching the kids play on the Boys and Girls Club field from my balcony always gives me a lift. The girls do cartwheels and the boys chase a ball or each other. It’s the best kind on play, not supervised too carefully, letting kids be kids. Wonder where the kids will play when the Big Mac goes up.

Lots of Christmas events, from lighting trees to making angels in the snow. Look up events and join in. You’ll shed years from just watching.

Catch my blog

I finally got a blog up and running. Not connected to the Nevada Appeal and offering my submerse views of movies, books, politics (when I’m up to the latter). My address is I welcome both positive and negative reactions.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.


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