2001

It is fifty years and a little bit since 2001: A Space Odyssey was released. 1968.

So many books and articles have been written about this film over the years, you wonder if there is anything left to say.

But I have a few thoughts.

When it came out, man was nowhere near landing on the Moon. There was no cinema cgi. Nowadays, every film has a wash of cgi on it, but not one frame of this film. It was all actual models, hand animation and other rather ingenious special effects. It was craftsmanship and patience and skill. And it shows on the screen, setting a visual standard that films nowadays cannot match.

I know people who hate science fiction and have never seen it. This is actually probably good. It is a film made for the cinema, a true film. I first saw it in my home town on a small screen, but when I moved to London, it was on in 70mm (or Cinerama) at the Casino theatre (now the Prince Edward). On a big screen, with a good print (film, not digital) it is an experience never to be forgotten. Those huge, glorious images, and that wonderful detail. And let’s not forget the choice of classical music.

It is a film unlike any other. Whatever you may think of the story, and it is just a story, 2001 is one of the greatest films ever. The story is told mostly through the images. There are occasional patches of expository speech, once on the Moon about the object they have discovered and again at the end, as HAL is being lobotomised.

Kubrick is dead. Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood are alive, and will talk about the film, though I think Mr Lockwood thinks it’s “just a film” in the end, and that there’s a lot of popmpous nonsense said about it. Douglas Rain, who voiced HAL, is still alive but does not seem to want to talk about it any more.

2001 represents a high point in cinema history. Yes, people can point out mistakes – Pan Am has gone, Howard Johnson’s too, and 2001 the year is long gone and manned space travel is more restricted now than it was in 1968, which is sad.

Christmas is here

Actually, it seems like Xmas has been here since Easter. Certainly, pubs and restaurants were taking last minute Christmas bookings in July, some people I know had decorations up in October, I wrote my (few) cards weeks ago. The food delivery services were saying get your last minute booking in September.

When I was little, Xmas was a big thing for several reasons. The country came to a halt basically from Christmas Eve until after the new year. Shops were rarely open, people didn’t go out. It was dismal. All you could do was stay home, watch tv, eat and argue.

But now there are plenty of places open on Xmas Day even. OK, public transport does not run, except certain services, and taxis charge a fortune, but pubs and restaurants are open and busy, and many shops. By Boxing Day, it’s back to normal (the USA don’t have Boxing Day) in the UK. Some, not many but some, people work. The sales are on, everyone literally does DIY.

The need to buy a 15 tonne turkey to get a family of 4 through 3 weeks seems to have gone. Whatever made Xmas special, and that does not mean good, is no more. Here in the UK, we are becoming even more American.

Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with turkey, then the next day it’s sales. After Xmas day, USA shops are open for people to return gifts for something they actually want. We don’t do that here – you can’t really return stuff unless it is faulty. We’ve mostly forgotten the so-called religious significance, thank goodness, and it’s a time for shops to count their profits. Don’t make expected sales at Xmas and you are doomed for the year.