#99: 2001: A Space Odyssey
in 2008: 90; in 2006: 62; in 2004: 55
dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1968
scr. Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke; cin. Geoffrey Unsworth
with Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester
IMDb // Leave a Comment

In 100 Words: 2001 ranks relatively low on this list because its grandiosity often feels heavy, its depth outstripped by its length and its dazzle. But those attributes also pertain to why 2001 appears here at all. Try naming a title that so fuses the pomposity of self-fascinated moviemaking with the exhilaration of genuine novelty, much less one that retains such a devoted pop following and an entrancing sense of being "in" on some runic joke with itself, somewhere amidst all the layers of sober psychedelica and cosmic portentousness. An epic marvel of movement, image, stasis, and sound. Ambition as poetry as entertainment.

Food for Thought: My favorite piece of writing about 2001 is actually Pauline Kael's withering takedown of it in her long essay "Trash, Art, and the Movies," in which she singles out Kubrick's movie as profoundly symptomatic of everything going wrong with the cinema in 1968. While I couldn't possibly agree with the upshot of Kael's argument and still include 2001 on this list, it's the magisterial divisiveness of the film that endears it to me—the way it provisions such rich food for thought even to the unconverted, and the way its prodigious technique and scale of ambition make its detractors as cranky as its acolytes are rhapsodic. "Trash, Art, and the Movies" appeared in the February 1969 issue of Harper's Magazine. You can read a reprint in Pauline Kael, Going Steady (New York: Warner Books, 1970) or in Phillip Lopate, ed., American Movie Critics: An Anthology from the Silents Until Now, Expanded Edition (New York: Library of America, 2008).

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