Director Stanley Kubrick would have been 78 today. I saluted The Master this weekend with a viewing of 2001: A Space Odyssey, arguably his most groundbreaking film.
It's amazing some of the things that the 1968 film anticipated, including personal in-flight entertainment via seatback screens, video-phones, voice recognition technology and commercial spaceflight. Of course, Kubrick didn't do this alone. He had a team of science and technology experts to help him craft his vision.
Whatever advisors Kubrick had, he can't be blamed for failing to foresee that Pan Am Airlines (the film's featured commercial spaceliner) would collapse or that the panty line would practically, um, disappear by the 21st century due to innovative underwear design.
As far-seeing as any work of art can be, the notion that everything is a product of its own time is absolutely true.
Take for instance, the clothes in 2001. The men wore tapered-leg business suits that were pure Beatles circa 1965 - which just happens to be when the film was beginning production. Some women wore bright pink dresses and caps that were so Jackie O.
One could argue, of course, that fashion styles are cyclical, and therefore Kubrick may have been suggesting that by the time 2001 came around, mid-60s fashions would once again be in style. Hip-hugging jeans, for example, were popular with young women in the 70s and are popular with them once again. But I honestly think this was simply a (rare) oversight on Kubrick's part.
The gender roles also stood out. Aboard the commercial spacecraft the flight attendants were all women - women who served meals to all-male crews and business passengers. This film was made in the day when "stewardess" was a glamor profession, and apparently Kubrick didn't envision female pilots or business professionals.
Still, the film was amazing, and not just for its very accurate view of then-future times, but for its filmmaking innovations. New types of flashy special effects were developed specifically for the film, and kept the hippies coming back to the theatre over and over again. And Kubrick supervised many scenes on the film's set via a television monitor, a practice that is now industry standard.
In narrative terms, 2001 is unique. If you showed up after the opening titles you might think you'd walked into the wrong film; the first 20 minutes or so show early ape-like men learning to subsist by killing and by seizing territory from their own kind. The paradox, and the film illustrates this extremely well, is that these things represented progress for mankind. Hardly typical sci-fi fare, this.
In the film's final episodic sections (2001 is a deliberately paced 2.5 hours, with very little dialogue - clearly not a product of today "fast cuts" culture), man ultimately has to use his primitive instincts to reign in technology of his own creation before he can progress (evolve) any further. That's deep, man.
As the adage goes, they don't make 'em like they used to.
I'm going to have to pour a 16 out on the curb (that is, drink a pint down at the local) in honor of the birthday boy. Stan was the man!