A film critic, long with The New Yorker, Pauline Kael brought her witty, often catty, idiosyncratic yet extremely well-written and compulsively readable style and strong, insightful, and usually debat...
Unlike Alfred Hitchcock, whose media presence and routine cameos made him a recognizable face on top of his legendary Hollywood status, title sequence designer and graphic artist Saul Bass is relatively unknown to most moviegoers. But he's the foundation for many of Hitchcock's work. His use of jagged edges, psychedelic imagery, and percussive editing set the tone for a Hitchcock thriller — and over his 40+ year career, a handful of other classics.
Today, Google pays tribute to Bass on what would have been his 93rd birthday (he was born on May 8, 1920 and passed away on April 25, 1996). In the fashion of some of his greatest graphic achievements, including Vertigo, North by Northwest, Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus, Robert Wise's West Side Story, John Frankenheimer's Seconds, and Michael Anderson's Around the World in 80 Days, Google has whipped up its own stylish title sequence:
In 1962, Bass explained his approach to designing a title sequence to film critic Pauline Kael. “I try to reach for a simple, visual phrase that tells you what the picture is all about and evokes the essence of the story.”
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What more can be said about 2001: A Space Odyssey? This month celebrating its 45th anniversary, it’s one of the most influential science fiction films ever made — with its DNA spliced and replicated in a host of other films from Blade Runner to Inception — despite being so very singular. It transformed sci-fi from the sex-and-monsters exploitation schlock that glutted the genre in much of the ‘60s and showed that sci-fi could be transcendent and spiritual. It baffled many upon its first release — Pauline Kael and Stanley Kauffman were among its high-profile detractors, while Steven Spielberg called it the “big bang” for his generation of filmmakers. Its meanings have been so endlessly scrutinized and dissected that any further analysis seems redundant. And yet, there are so many details about its origins, production, and initial release that you probably don’t know. Here are 20 things about 2001: A Space Odyssey that we’re guessing you’ve never heard of before. You’re welcome.
1. Though 2001: A Space Odyssey and the novel of the same title were conceived at the same time, Kubrick didn’t think at first that sci-fi novelist Arthur C. Clarke would be willing to take on the job. The science fiction writer was living in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and was thought to be a recluse. When his agent telegraphed him about the offer to work on Kubrick’s project, Clarke’s response was, “Frightfully interested in working with enfant terrible… what makes Kubrick think I’m a recluse?”
2. Alternate titles considered for the project early on were Journey Beyond the Stars, Universe, Tunnel to the Stars, Planetfall, and How the Solar System Was Won. The last was a reference to MGM’s 1962 epic Western How the West Was Won, which 2001: A Space Odyssey was originally going to copy by using that film’s three-camera super-widescreen Cinerama format.
3. Though the 2001: A Space Odyssey novel, released shortly after the film in 1968, only listed Clarke as its author, originally, the film’s screenplay was going to be credited to “Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke,” while the novel would list “Arthur C. Clarke & Stanley Kubrick” as its authors.
4. In his book The Cosmic Connection, celebrity astronomer Carl Sagan wrote that Kubrick and Clarke asked him how they should portray extraterrestrial life. They had been thinking about showing the aliens that transform astronaut Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) into the Star Child as humanoid themselves. But Sagan said that the chances of alien life looking like humans would be so remote that to include human-looking aliens in the film would immediately render it false. So Kubrick and Clarke decided not to show the aliens at all.
5. HAL 9000 was originally to have had a female persona and to have been named Athena. A female HAL (named SAL, of course) does appear in the completely un-Kubrickian sequel 2010: The Year We Make Contact.
6. There was originally going to be a lot of voiceover in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which would have made certain plot points much more obvious. For instance, the satellites orbiting Earth were originally to have been specifically identified as carrying nuclear weapons. That means that the famous million-years-spanning match cut of the bone the ape tossed in the air to the shot of the satellite wouldn’t have indicated how far humankind had come as how little it has changed, at least when it comes to our love of weapons.
7. 2001 was originally going to have ended like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, with the Star Child detonating the nuclear bombs that humanity has in orbit. However, a fireworks show of nuclear blasts was thought to be too similar to the ending of Kubrick’s previous film, Dr. Strangelove.
8. The Discovery’s final destination was originally going to be Saturn, but special effects guru Douglass Trumbull and his team weren’t able to make convincing-looking rings, so Jupiter became the last stop instead.
9. Pavel Klushantsev, a Russian documentary filmmaker of the 1950s, strongly influenced Kubrick’s vision of weightlessness in space — and the idea of a spinning space station — with his film Road to the Stars. 2001: A Space Odyssey, in turn, would influence Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky to make Solaris, which the director intended as a humanistic response to Kubrick’s film, which he thought was antiseptic.
10. For the famous shot of the astronaut running around the circumference of the cylindrical Discovery fuselage, Kubrick commissioned a 30-ton rotating “Ferris wheel” to be built, at the cost of $750,000, that would make it look like the astronaut was at times running upside down.
11. The movie was originally to have opened with a 10-minute black-and-white prologue featuring interviews with real-life scientists like Freeman Dyson discussing alien life. (Star Trek: The Next Generation fans will know Freeman Dyson for his work in hypothesizing a Dyson Sphere, a massive structure that theoretically could be built around and enclose a star.) After MGM execs balked, that beginning was deleted.
12. All the deleted footage other than the 17 minutes of scenes that Kubrick subsequently cut after 2001’s April 1968 premiere in Washington D.C., including that 10-minute documentary prologue, he had burned shortly before the director's death, in order to prevent posthumous reedits or “deleted scenes” to be included on future DVD releases.
13. Kubrick had all of 2001’s sets, props, and miniatures destroyed so they would never be able to be recycled for future movies, the way Forbidden Planet’s props surfaced in later films.
14. Unused Stargate footage from the end of 2001 made its way into the instrumental “Flying” sequence in The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour movie.
15. Ray Bradbury shared Andrei Tarkovsky’s view that 2001 is anti-humanistic, suggesting that audiences don’t care, or aren’t supposed to care, when astronaut Frank Poole dies.
16. George Lucas stated upfront in 1977 that he thought 2001 was better than Star Wars. He said, “Stanley Kubrick made the ultimate science fiction movie, and it is going to be very hard for someone to come along and make a better movie, as far as I'm concerned. On a technical level, [Star Wars] can be compared, but personally I think that 2001 is far superior.”
17. As part of their legal defense that Samsung had not stolen Apple’s design for the iPad, Samsung’s lawyers pointed to the tablet computers used in 2001 as “prior art.” Specifically, their legal brief said the following: “Attached hereto as Exhibit D is a true and correct copy of a still image taken from Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In a clip from that film lasting about one minute, two astronauts are eating and at the same time using personal tablet computers. As with the design claimed by the [Apple iPad] Patent, the tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table's surface), and a thin form factor.”
18. Rock Hudson was among those mystified at 2001’s L.A. premiere at the Pantages Theater. Roger Ebert, in attendance, bears witness that Hudson said, upon storming out before it had ended, “Will someone tell me what the hell this is about?”
19. Malcolm McDowell’s Alex De Large sees a soundtrack album for 2001 when he enters a record shop in A Clockwork Orange.
20. Conspiracy theorists — like one featured in Room 237, the new documentary about the multitude of diverse readings that fans hold regarding Kubrick’s later film The Shining — suggest that NASA commissioned Kubrick to stage the moon landing footage after seeing 2001. However, they ignore the most important bit of evidence that debunks that idea: the moon footage would have looked a hell of a lot better if Kubrick really had directed it.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
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Curse the cretin who gave Ashton Kutcher the idea that he could play anything other than a beautiful doofus. And curse director Robert Luketic whose action comedy Killers asks us to believe that Kutcher whose film career should by all rights be confined to searching with Seann William Scott for various hard-to-lose items in straight-to-video continuations of the Dude Where’s My...? franchise could play a CIA agent.
And a massively competent CIA agent at that. Kutcher’s character Spencer Aimes is so good at what he does that his employers are none too pleased when he abandons his life of international espionage and settles in suburbia with his new wife Jen (Katherine Heigl) a perky sprite who is blissfully unaware of her husband’s former occupation. (Nor is she suspicious -- and why would she be? He’s Ashton freaking Kutcher.) But three years into their marriage (which Luketic somehow makes feel like 10) the couple’s happy union is imperiled when a $20 million bounty is placed on Spencer’s head and neighbors once thought harmless reveal themselves to be covert assassins. How could an expert CIA operative be surrounded by trained killers for three years and not realize it? Who cares -- look at Ashton's abs!!!
Killers has often been cited as the movie that prompted the notorious “corporate raider” Carl Icahn to mount his hostile takeover attempt of Lionsgate the studio that produced the film. To be fair Killers doesn’t really become awful until around the one-hour mark. Before that it’s merely boring splitting time between ogling Kutcher’s shirtless body and chronicling Heigl’s unfunny rapport with Tom Selleck and Catherine O’Hara (both looking vaguely cadaverous) who play her overbearing parents. Only when the bullets start flying and Kutcher and Heigl descend into a tortured screwball give-and-take do Killers’ true hideous colors begin to show.
Let’s hope Icahn moves quickly with his takeover before Lionsgate execs have a chance to give Killers 2 the green light.
When Alien was released almost a quarter of a century ago moviegoers lapped it up to the tune of $78.9 million--enough to make it the second highest grossing film of that year. Renowned film critic Pauline Kael who wrote about the Alien phenomenon in The New Yorker noted: "It was more gripping than entertaining but a lot of people didn't mind. They thought it was terrific because at least they'd felt something; they'd been brutalized." Now in an era utterly saturated with the genre the film still assaults audiences on a level that has yet to be matched. The story in Alien: The Director's Cut remains the same: seven crewmembers of the commercial ship Nostromo are awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate an S.O.S. distress call from an alien vessel. Unbeknownst to crew the distress call is actually a warning. When three crewmembers leave to investigate the abandoned ship they unsuspectingly allow an alien life to board the Nostromo a galactic horror that begins to kill the crew one by one--leaving only one exceptionally tough woman.
Ellen Ripley (a very young Sigourney Weaver) who leads the fight for survival against the alien has to date returned for three sequels: James Cameron's 1986 Aliens which earned Weaver an Oscar nomination for Best Actress David Fincher's 1992 Alien3 and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's 1997 Alien Resurrection. For fans who have followed Ripley's evolution from a by-the-book crewmember to a hybrid half-alien half-human clone it's exciting to revisit the roots of her character and understand what fuels her revenge. The rest of the ensemble including Tom Skerritt as Captain Dallas Veronica Cartwright as Lambert Harry Dean Stanton as Brett John Hurt as Kane Ian Holm as Ash and Yaphet Kotto as Parker seems just as appropriately cast today as it probably did then and even 25 years later the crew of the Nostromo doesn't look like a '70s interpretation of futuristic space workers.
To revisit the set of Alien's Nostromo director Ridley Scott (Matchstick Men) and his team of archivists sifted through hundreds of boxes of film footage discovered in a London vault. From this material unseen in almost 25 years Scott selected new footage which then underwent digital restoration matching it to Alien's newly polished negative. The result is six minutes of additional footage which goes to show how little improving the original film needed. The most palpable addition is a scene in which Ripley stumbles upon "the nest " where she discovers that her crewmates have been cocooned by the alien. But the rest of Scott's additional footage is so subtle that even diehard Alien fans will have a difficult time pinpointing the new material which consists mainly of new shots of the slimy and metallic alien. The Director's Cut also features a brand-new six-track digital stereo mix which strengthens the film's slow but intense cadence with its pulsating beats. But remastered or not the film remains as gripping today as it was when it was first released in 1979.
Baltimore Sun film critic Michael Sragow said Tuesday that he is was "still in shock" after hearing word that famed critic Pauline Kael had died at her Massachusetts home on Monday at the age of 82. Sragow, who worked with Kael at the New Yorker, wrote: "I spoke to her over the phone at noon; she died an hour or so later. She seemed to go in and out of the conversation, but at the close of it I mentioned that a veteran director we both admired, [79-year-old] Lamont Johnson (The Last American Hero), had called me recently and sounded as vigorous as ever. With a burst of enthusiasm, she said, 'Isn't he amazing?' It may have been her last critical judgment. To the end, she drew energy from the art she loved, just as her own work replenished it."
As Moulin Rouge premiered in London on Monday, attention seemed to be on the film's star, Nicole Kidman. According to Reuters, Kidman told reporters that she is considering a return to the British stage and has talked to director Sam Mendes about the possibility. She said the play would probably be at the Donmar Warehouse, the same theater where she made her London debut in The Blue Room.
Prince Charles, who attended the premiere, took time to chat with Kidman and said he was interested to see what the sequined cancan dancers had to do. The dancers were there as part of the glitzy British premiere.
Kidman also turned heads last week when she appeared at the Venice Film Festival with Italian film producer Fabrizio Mosca. This is the first time Kidman has dated publicly since her divorce from Tom Cruise was finalized Aug. 8. The two were also spotted holding hands at the Cannes festival in May.
New Yorker magazine film critic Pauline Kael died on Monday at her home in Massachusetts after a long battle with Parkinson's disease, Reuters reports. Kael, 82, grew up in San Francisco and began writing about film in 1955, supplying detailed notes on the movies she programmed while running the Berkley Cinema Guild and Studio. She began writing for the New Yorker in the mid-1960s. She retired in 1991 after her Parkinson's disease worsened. She told Modern Maturity magazine that she felt she had nothing new to say. "Old critics tend to be tiresome," she said. "I didn't want to be one of those old farts."
Christina Aguilera and Jimmy Smits will co-host the 2nd Annual Latin Grammy Awards to be broadcast on Sept. 11 from the Forum in Los Angeles on CBS. Michael Greene, President/CEO of the Recording Academy and the Latin Recording Academy also announced that Marc Anthony will performing as well as and Destiny's Child.
A free concert in Hollywood featuring alt-rock band System of A Down went awry Monday night after fans went on a rampage. The trouble began after many more concertgoers than were expected turned up for the show to be held outside the club Vinyl. When it appeared that the band was not going to perform after all, the fans rioted. According to Reuters, the audience trashed the stage set up in the venue's parking lot and threw rocks and bottles at police who used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Six people were arrested and charged with various offenses, including assault with a deadly weapon, felony vandalism and receiving stolen property. The group was promoting their new album Toxicity, which is due in stores on Tuesday.
Courtney Love and Don Henley will attend a hearing in Los Angeles on Wednesday to denounce California's 1987 amendment that allows music labels to sue artists for undelivered albums after seven years. Opponents of the amendment claim artists are often strong-armed into accepting impossible terms when signing record contracts.
Jerry Lewis' 36th annual Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon raised a record $56.8 million this Labor Day weekend, the Associated Press reports. The show featured a variety of celebrity co-hosts including Ed McMahon, Norm Crosby and Casey Kasem.
The American Film Institute will announce on Tuesday plans to hold its own awards show in January on CBS, according to AP. Scheduled for Jan. 5, the event will occur two weeks before the Golden Globes and two months before the Academy Awards. The AFI will also honor TV's best drama and comedy series, as well as name the top 10 movies of the year.
Billboard announced last week the winners of its first R&B/Hip-Hop Awards, AP reports. Misiq Soulchild led the winners with four awards, while R. Kelly took home three. Other winners include Shaggy, Jill Scott and OutKast.
Steven Spielberg will not be attending the Venice Film Festival this year because of religious commitments, Reuters reports. Spielberg has instead sent a seven-minute video to festival organizers to be shown before the screening of his film A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. Spielberg said his son's Bar Mitzvah, as well putting finishing touches on his latest film Minority Report, have kept him from attending the festival. A.I. will screen in Venice on Sept. 6.
Grand Royal, the Beastie Boys' record label, is closing its doors after eight years. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the label blamed mounting debts, decreasing assets and exceedingly harsh industry conditions for the closure. The Beastie Boys founded Grand Royal in 1993 and were the first top-selling artists to form an independent record label.
ABC is planning a follow-up to the 1978 hit movie Grease, which starred John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, BBC News reports. The film would drop in on the characters 20 years after the first Grease, which was set at mythical Rydell High School in the 1950s. Didi Conn, who played high school dropout Frenchy, will be producing the film. Conn said that viewers would learn about the original characters through their children.
Hired by editor William Shawn to contribute to The New Yorker
Began career as film critic; first piece published in City Lights, a magazine based in San Francisco, California
Contributed film criticism to the Massachusetts Review, Kulcher and Sight and Sound
Worked at Life, The New Republic and McCall's; reportedly was fired from the latter in 1965 after panning "The Sound of Music"
Published first collection, "I Lost It at the Movies"
Ran the Berkeley Cinema Guild and Studio
Staff writer at Partisan Review, Film Quarterly and others
Resigned from The New Yorker; last review appeared February 11
A film critic, long with The New Yorker, Pauline Kael brought her witty, often catty, idiosyncratic yet extremely well-written and compulsively readable style and strong, insightful, and usually debatable positions to her reviews from the 1960s until the early 90s. Numerous collections of her reviews have been published, including "5001 Nights at the Movies".
father of Kael's daughter Gina
born in 1948; father, James Broughton
born in November 1913
University of California at Berkeley
University of California at San Diego
"Over the last two decades, Kael became a role model for a whole new generation of film critics. Virtually unconstrained by space considerations by The New Yorker Kael's lengthy reviews often gave a sociological perspective to the films she wrote about." --From The Hollywood Reporter, March 7, 1991.