X-Men Movie Marathon – List of Movies

I have been fascinated by the X-Men ever since I started watching the cartoon based on the comics when I was a kid. The X-Men movies have varied a bit in quality and I’m not crazy about what they did with some of the characters, but I still enjoyed the ones I have seen, so I added a marathon viewing of the X-Men movies to my bucket list.

Here is a list of the movies I plan to include in my marathon:

  1. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
  2. X-Men: First Class
  3. X-Men
  4. X2
  5. X-Men: The Last Stand
  6. The Wolverine
  7. X-Men: Days of Future Past
  8. X-Men: Apocalypse
  9. Deadpool

I have seen the first 5 on the list previously, the rest I will be watching for the first time.

Dragon Warrior Marathon – List of Games

Here is a list of the Dragon Warrior games I plan to include in my Dragon Warrior marathon.

  1. Dragon Warrior I (NES)
  2. Dragon Warrior II (NES)
  3. Dragon Warrior III (NES)
  4. Dragon Warrior IV (NES)
  5. Dragon Quest V (DS)
  6. Dragon Warrior VII (PS)
  7. Dragon Quest VIII (PS2)
  8. Dragon Quest IX (DS)

Master the Mandolin – Bluegrass Mandolin for the Complete Ignoramus!


I began my quest to master the mandolin with the book Bluegrass Mandolin for the Complete Ignoramus!

In today’s practice session I played the G scale:

Then I used the G scale to play the first line of Joy to the World:

Then I tackled my first full tune, Amazing Grace:

And finally, Amazing Grace again with some added tremolo:


Suikoden Marathon – List of Titles

The first step in completing my marathon play session of all of the Suikoden games is to make a list of all of the titles.

The Suikoden games list is:

  1. Suikoden
  2. Suikoden II
  3. Suikoden III
  4. Suikoden IV
  5. Suikoden V

I think I still have Suikoden V, but the other games I have sold off over the years, so I will need to re-acquire them.

Fallout Marathon – List of Titles

The first step in completing my marathon play session of all of the Fallout video games is to list all of the titles.

The list of Fallout games is:

  1. Fallout
  2. Fallout 2
  3. Fallout 3
  4. Fallout: New Vegas
  5. Fallout 4

I have all of these, except for Fallout 4.

Elder Scrolls Marathon – List of Titles

The first step in completing my goal of a marathon play session of all of the Elder Scrolls video games is to determine what all of the games are.

Here is a list of the games:

  1. The Elder Scrolls Arena
  2. The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
  3. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
  4. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
  5. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I already have Oblivion and Skyrim. I will need to obtain the others.

Gentleman’s Agreement – Best Picture Winners


The next movie I tackled on my list of Best Picture Winners is the 1947 Best Picture winner Gentleman’s Agreement.

Gentleman’s Agreement Plot Summary (Spoilers):

Gentleman’s Agreement begins with an eye in the sky view of New York, followed by a shot of a father and son walking through a park. The son asks the father, played by Gregory Peck, why they’ve always lived in California, instead of New York, since he likes it there. The father explains that he grew up in California and just kept on living there. The pair discuss the boy’s mother, who died when he was 4 and the boy asks his father if he thinks he’ll ever get married again. After dropping his son off with grandma at Sachs’, the man, whose name is Philip Schuyler Green, goes to meet with Mr. Minify, an editor at a national magazine called the Smith Weekly. Mr. Minify invites Mr. Green to dinner and then proceeds to tell him about his idea.

MeetcuteThe scene switches to a cab arriving at Mr. Minify’s diner party. He introduces Mr. Green to his niece, Kathy Lacey, who he points out has been divorced for a couple of years and claims she is a fan of Philip’s work. The pair chat and she asks Philip what he is currently working on and her uncle tells her that he has asked Philip to write a series on antisemitism. It turns out that Kathy was actually the person who originally suggested the piece.

Back at Philip’s apartment, he is having breakfast with his son and his mother. He tells his mother that his editor has asked him to do a series on antisemitism and she says he doesn’t sound very excited about it. He agrees, but says his editor isn’t forcing the subject on him. He also tells his mother about the girl he met at his editor’s diner party and says she was “funny.” His son Tommy asks what antisemitism is and Philip tries to explain it to him. After his son leaves, Philip elaborates to his mother why he is not enthusiastic about the antisemitism story. He fears that he won’t have anything new to say on the subject. His mother muses that while the subject has been spoken about a lot, maybe it’s never been spoken about well enough and that it would sure be nice if people no longer had to explain what antisemitism is to their children.

After taking a short walk to think about it, Philip tells his editor that he has decided to do the antisemitism story and that he’ll need some facts and figures from the research department. His editor objects, saying he didn’t bring Philip in to recite facts and figures. He wants him to humanize the story, so that people will read it. As Philip is leaving his office, Mr. Minify asks if he wants his niece’s phone number and Philip tells him he already has it, seeing as how they are having dinner that night.

AnglePhilip talks to Kathy and his mother about his struggles to find the right angle for his antisemitism article. He thinks of his childhood friend Dave Goldman and wishes he could talk to him about the subject and then excitedly tells his mother that maybe the answer is for him to try to get into Dave’s head and figure out how he, as a Jew, would feel about the subject of antisemitism. He sets out to write a letter to Dave to ask him about the Jewish experience, but then decides it isn’t a good idea. His mother tries to encourage him, telling him the subject may be difficult, but that it’s worth it. Philip falls asleep at his desk and wakes to discover his mother suffering chest pains. He calls a doctor for her.

The next morning, Tommy questions Philip about whether his grandmother is going to die. Philip tells him that everyone dies eventually, but that the doctor said his grandmother could be fine for a good long while, as long as she’s careful. The doctor tells Philip that his mother’s pain could be false angina and suggests he keep her in bed for a couple of days and then bring her into the office for tests.

Philip tells his mother that he has decided not to write the antisemitism series, because he feels like it’s a subject he just can’t tackle. He then recounts how he wrote his other stories by putting himself into the shoes of his subjects and it occurs to him that he could do the same thing with this story. He tells his mother that no one knows him in New York, so he could just tell people that he’s Jewish and write his series based on his own experiences, rather than interviewing other people or doing research. His mother agrees that it sounds like a good idea.

SmoochPhillip calls Kathy over to tell her about his plan for the article, but before he gets around to it, he makes out with her instead. Kathy stops him and he starts talking about the benefits of marriage. Kathy agrees, but says that once you’ve made a mistake, you’re afraid to make another. However, she seems to come around to the idea and the two kiss again.

Philip tells Mr. Minify about his plan to pretend to be Jewish and Mr. Minify is excited about it. He introduces Philip to some colleagues and tells them Phillip is working on a series about antisemitism. One of them tells Mr. Minify that he thinks the series is a bad idea. Mr Minify disagrees and so does Phillip and adds that he doesn’t think it has anything to do with the fact that he is Jewish himself.

Philip makes plans with his new secretary to begin his research by having her write two letters of application for various jobs, clubs, schools, etc. One letter he will sign Philip Greenberg and the other Schuyler Green. His secretary tells him that she changed her name from Wilovski to Wales after she did what he is proposing in real life. After Smith Weekly turned her down under her real name, she wrote another application, signed with the name Wales and got the job. She also tells him that word has already gotten around the office that Philip is Jewish.

Philip meets with his mother’s doctor again and tells him that his employer has recommended an internist, who happens to be a Jew, for his mother. The doctor suggests he should see someone else, even though Dr. Abrams is a good kid and not given to over-charging and dragging out appointments like some. When Phillip questions the doctor if he means like some doctors or like some Jewish doctors, he admits that any doctor might over-charge, but makes it clear he meant Jewish doctors.

Philip tells Kathy about his plan to pretend to be Jewish. She appears to be concerned that he might actually be Jewish, but tries to cover for herself by saying that it will mix people up and they won’t know what he is.  He tells her that she has to be sure not to give him away and that the only person who is in on it at Smith’s is Mr. Minify. She seems less than enthusiastic about the idea. Her reaction creates some tension between them and they have an awkward dinner together. However, they make up afterwards.

Mr. Minify confronts his hiring manager about the fact that they don’t have any employees with Jewish sounding names. He demands Mr. Jordan run an ad for a secretary that specifically states the job is open to any religion. He also warns him that if he should ever want to fire Ms. Wales for any reason, that he wants to review the case first. When Ms. Wales finds out about the ad, she expresses concern to Mr. Green that she will take the fall should any of the “kikey ones” apply for the job. Philip admonishes Ms. Wales for her antisemitic behaviour and tells her that he hates words like “kikey,” no matter who says them.

Kathy wants Philip to meet her family and that her sister is having a party. Kathy’s sister lives in a neighborhood that does not welcome Jews. Philip initially agrees to put aside the ruse that he is a Jew for her sister’s party, but later changes his mind, saying that the whole point was not to allow himself loopholes whenever being thought of us a Jew is inconvenient, but Kathy thinks he is being too serious about the whole thing and it will ruin her sister’s party if conflict is created over it. Kathy doesn’t think it’s worthwhile to upset people over thinking she is engaged to a Jewish man, when he isn’t really Jewish and says she wouldn’t have any fun because she’d be so tense about the whole thing. Philip doesn’t agree and the two part in anger.

FightPhilip’s friend Dave comes to stay with him after getting out of the service. They meet one of Philip’s colleagues for lunch and a man insults Dave and calls him a “Yid,” almost causing a fight. Philip gets a call from Kathy, who tells him that she is at her sister’s and she had it out with her about not wanting to tell people that Phillip is Jewish and she didn’t want to call him until she had fixed everything. She tells him the party is still on and asks him to take the train out to meet her. Philip is surprised that everyone is so nice to him at the party, but Kathy learns that her sister has basically screened out anyone who might have caused a problem, saying they cancelled at the last-minute.

Two days before their wedding, Kathy and Philip are hanging out with Dave and Philip’s colleague Anne. They discuss their honeymoon plans and Anne tells them that the hotel they plan to honeymoon at is restricted. Philip wants to fight back in some way, but Dave tells him that they’d just find some way to worm out of it. Tommy calls and tells Philip that his grandmother has had what Philip thinks sounds like a stroke.

Philip’s mother is out of immediate danger, but he and Kathy postpone their wedding. Dave breaks the news that he will not be there for the wedding, because he hasn’t been able to find a place to live and needs to return to his family. Philip decides that he is going to confront the hotel where they had planned to honeymoon about not allowing Jews to stay there. He explains that he feels like he has to take a stand somewhere.

HotelPhilip goes to check in at the hotel and asks the desk clerk if the hotel is restricted. The clerk goes to get his manager, who wants to know if Philip is Jewish, or if he just wants to “make sure.” Philip does not respond and demands an answer. The manager explains that they have very “high-class” clients and then tells Philip that in any case, there must have been some sort of mistake, because they don’t have a free room in the entire hotel. Philip loudly proclaims that he is Jewish and the hotel doesn’t accept Jews and he wants the manager to say so straight out, but the manager refuses to do so, telling Philip to either get in a cab and leave or accept his offer to book him a room elsewhere. When Philip does not take either option, the manager walks away and closes the door behind him.

Philip returns home, dejected about his experience at the hotel. He discusses renting Kathy’s empty cottage to Dave and she says that it wouldn’t work out, because it would be too uncomfortable for Dave to move into an antisemitic neighborhood. She mentions that even in her own neighborhood there’s a “gentlemen’s agreement” not to rent or sell your home to a Jew. The two of them argue about whether Kathy actually believes in his crusade to combat antisemitism, but they are interrupted by Tommy. Tommy tells his father that some kids called him a “dirty Jew” and a “stinkin Kike” and then bursts into tears. Kathy tries to comfort him, by telling him that he’s no more Jewish than she is and it’s just a horrible mistake. This makes Phillip angry.

Phillip takes his son aside and asks him if he wants to tell the kids who bullied him that he’s not really Jewish and Tommy says no. Phillip is pleased, saying that if Tommy did deny being a Jew, it might make it seem like there was something wrong with being Jewish.

Phillip returns to Kathy and she tells him that she’s tired of being wrong about everything Jewish and accuses him of secretly thinking she is an antisemite all along. Phillip denies it, but tells her that he’s come to realize there are lots of nice people who detest antisemitism and proclaim their own innocence who help it along and then wonder why it grows. Kathy goes on a rant about how “they” always create problems, even for their friends and Phillip points out that “they” had nothing to do with his taking on this series. Kathy tells Phillip it’s best they break off their engagement now, because she is tired of being judged and she thinks Philip will never understand that the fact that she is glad she is a Christian and not a Jew doesn’t make her a bad person and that she hates antisemitism as much as he does, even though she doesn’t want to do anything that might cause trouble for herself to fight it.

Dave and Anne return from their night on the town and wake Philip up. Philip tells Dave about Tommy’s run in with the kids down the street and Dave tells him now he can quit being a Jew, because having his kid insulted is the final part of the Jewish experience he needed to experience to understand it.

Philip hands over his article to his secretary to be typed and when she reads the title, “I was Jewish for 8 weeks,” she is shocked to discover that he is actually a Christian. Philip lectures her, saying her shock that anyone would give up the glory of being Christian for even 8 weeks is a form of antisemitism, because she views being Christian as superior to being Jewish. Philip tells his boss that he plans to move back to California after his article is complete. His boss expresses regret that Philip and Kathy broke up.

AnneAfter Anne confirms that Philip and Kathy split up, she invites Philip over for dinner. She criticizes Kathy for being a hypocrite, who makes noises about disapproving of antisemitism, but wants people like Philip to do all the fighting, while she and others like her stay on the sidelines doing nothing. She also makes it clear to Philip that she’s interested in replacing Kathy as his fiancée.

Kathy meets with Dave and asks him if he thinks she is antisemitic. He says that he doesn’t. Kathy wants to know why she can make it clear to everyone else that she hates antisemitism as much as Philip does, but not to Philip. Kathy tells Dave about a time when a man told an antisemitic joke and she wanted to call him out on it, but didn’t, though it made her feel sick. Dave points out that maybe she wouldn’t have felt so bad if she’d done something, instead of just letting it pass and that nice people who don’t laugh at antisemitic jokes, but just sit there and let them pass allow things like restricted hotels and the bullying of children to happen. He says that’s a lesson that Philip has learned. Kathy finally seems to get it and says that her unwillingness to fight is what made her a bad match for Philip. Dave tells Kathy that she can change if she wants to.

Philip returns home and his mother praises him for his article and says his father would have liked it. She tells him that she suddenly wishes she could live to be very old, because she wants to see what happens and she thinks that maybe this is finally the century when the world will change.

Dave returns and tells Philip that Kathy has agreed to rent her cottage to him and she plans to move in with her sister, so that she can deal with anyone who gives Dave’s family a hard time. Philip rushes out to Kathy’s apartment. She answers the door and the two gaze at each other and then embrace. The film ends.

Gentleman’s Agreement Commentary (Spoilers):

In some ways Gentleman’s Agreement feels like the Hollywood equivalent of a very special episode of your favorite 80’s sitcom. However, I think it does a generally good job of getting its message across, while also remaining an entertaining film.

In many ways, the antisemitism that was so rampant in the post WWII era, reminds me of the anti-Muslim sentiment that has become widespread in much of the United States since 9/11. It is no longer socially acceptable to voice antisemitic views in most circles of American culture, but it is becoming more and more acceptable to criticize Islam and Christians continue to assert their dominance by throwing fits about things like “the war on Christmas” and claiming they are being persecuted when people don’t specifically cater to them as much as they have in the past.

Unfortunately, even though it is much less socially acceptable in 2016, antisemitism has not disappeared and is even an issue in the current presidential election. In addition, other forms of prejudice have been in the news frequently in recent years. In 2016 alone there have been significant issues surrounding racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and other issues. While some progress has been made since 1947, it seems like there are a significant number of people who would like nothing better than to rollback much of that progress and we still have a long way to go.

One of the main focuses of the film is how people who claim to be against prejudice often harbor their own prejudices and allow prejudice to flourish, because of fear or unwillingness to give up the privileges being a member of the majority group provides. This is something I often struggle with myself.

As a woman, a lesbian, an atheist and a white person, I have been on both sides of the equation. I detest prejudice and try to recognize and fight any I see in my own way of thinking, but I am surrounded by people, many of them family members, who are very anti-anything that isn’t straight, white and Christian. I often find myself merely refusing to participate, rather than standing up and fighting when they get off on their rants, because I feel outnumbered and I don’t want to be constantly fighting. However, I recognize that I am able to do that, while others can not, because I have the privilege of being white and while my family doesn’t approve of my being a lesbian or an atheist, they mostly ignore it. Non-White people can’t stop being the color that they are and there are many homosexual people whose families won’t allow them to just ignore their disdain, so they can’t so easily reject prejudice, but abstain from the fighting as I can.

I think this is an area where they film falls down a bit. I’m sure pretending to be Jewish was an eye opener for Philip, but I don’t think you can truly understand the experience of something you are not, when you are free to walk away from it at any point. I think this is a factor that many people, even members of the LGBT community, overlook when they criticize those who are closeted for not coming out, now that “no one cares.” People do care, but more than that, once you’re out, you lose that illusion of being able to step away from the identity whenever you want.

While I think Philip was being a little high-horsey in scolding an actual Jew for not living up to his standards, when he had the luxury of going back to being a Christian any time he wanted to, I have also experienced prejudice against my community within my own community. There are members of the LGBT community who have great disdain for those they consider to be too “in your face” with their homosexuality/gender identity. They accuse them of making things harder for the rest of the community, in much the same way that Ms. Wales talks about the “Kikey” Jews messing things up for the rest of them.

In the end Kathy seems to come around to Philip’s point of view and that’s a good thing, but I was kind of rooting for Anne. I thought she was more interesting and seemed to have much better chemistry with Philip than Kathy.

I enjoyed the film and I hope it and other films of its like can make some progress towards convincing people to examine their own prejudices and take a stand against the prejudices of others, even when they don’t have any skin the game.

Annie Hall – 100 Best Movies


The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Movies is Annie Hall. Annie Hall was also the Best Picture winner at the 1977 Academy Awards, so this movie is the second I’ve ticked off my Best Picture Winners list.

Annie Hall Plot Summary (Spoilers):

Annie Hall begins with Woody Allen’s character, Alvy Singer, telling some jokes and relating those jokes to his life and his relationships with women. He tells the camera that he broke up with Annie about a year ago and he still can’t figure out where things went wrong.

Alvy's HomeHe then talks about his childhood and we seem some key moments from his childhood years via flashback, demonstrating why he thinks he has become something of a neurotic person. He also reveals that he became a famous comic.

The flashbacks shift to his relationship with Annie, played by Diane Keaton. Annie and Alvy have a discussion about how infrequently they have been having sex of late, while waiting in line to see The Sorrow and the Pity and then that night, Alvy wants to have sex, but Annie isn’t in to it.

AllisonAnnie tells Alvy that he knows how it is some times, seeing as how he’s been married before and he flashes back to his relationship with his first wife, Allison, played by Carol Kane. Allison wants to have sex, but Alvy is too pre-occupied with conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination. When Allison accuses Alvy of using the JFK conspiracy theories as an excuse to avoid having sex with her, Alvy admits to the camera that she was right and wonders why that is.

With his second wife, friction results from his skipping out of one of her social events to watch the Knicks on TV. His wife questions what could possibly be so interesting about basketball and Alvy says that it’s physical, which is far superior to the intellectual exploits of his wife’s friends. He tries to talk her into having sex with him and she accuses him of using sex to express hostility.

Back with Annie, Alvy is still having problems in the boudoir. This time Annie is complaining about noisy sirens stressing her out and saying she needs to get out of the city, however Alvy protests that the countryside makes him nervous.

FlirtationHe flashes back to earlier in their relationship and their awkward first meeting at a tennis match. Annie gives Alvy a ride home and the two neurotically flirt and then later Alvy goes to see Annie sing at a club. Later that evening they have sex and it seems to go much better than their more recent attempts.

He continues to flashback through the couple’s happy times, enjoying the city and chatting and having great sex. Eventually, they profess their love to each other and then Annie moves in with Alvy, though he doesn’t think she should give up her own apartment, which makes her think Alvy doesn’t want her to move in. They fight about it and Annie says that she thinks Alvy doesn’t think she’s smart enough for him, though he denies it.

The couple’s troubles continue to increase, as they argue over Annie’s pot smoking and Annie seems to begin to lose her enthusiasm for their sex life.

JewAlvy meets Annie’s family. Her grandmother doesn’t seem to like him at all and her parents seem fairly lukewarm. Her brother, played by Christopher Walken, tells Alvy that sometimes when he’s driving at night and he sees an oncoming car, he thinks about turning the wheel into oncoming traffic. Her brother later drives them to the airport, while Alvy looks on nervously.

The scene shifts to Alvy and Annie arguing about his paranoia. He has been spying on her, because he thinks she is seeing another man. She denies the affair, and points out that Alvy is the one who never wanted to make a commitment. She again accuses him of thinking she isn’t smart enough. Annie tells Alvy that she is seeing an analyst now and that she suggested the dream Annie had about being suffocated was about Alvy.

The couple continues to argue about Alvy following Annie around, because he thinks she is having an affair with her professor. Annie threatens to call it quits.

Alvy's DateAlvy’s friend talks him into seeing another woman. Alvy doesn’t seem to enjoy his date that much, but he sleeps with her anyway. He gets a call in the middle of the night from Annie, saying she has an emergency. He rushes over, only to find the emergency is a spider in the bathroom.

Alvy kills the spider and emerges from the bathroom to find Annie crying. She asks him not to go and asks if he was with another woman when she called. He stays and they have sex. They seem happy and make plans to spend the weekend together.

They enjoy their weekend trip to Alvy’s old neighborhood and continue to have happy times for a while. It doesn’t last. Both of them complain to their analysts about their relationship and Annie says the weekend in Brooklyn was the last happy time they had together. Alvy complains that he’s paying for Annie’s analysis and she’s making progress and he’s not. Annie says she feels obligated to have sex with Alvy even when she doesn’t want to, because he is paying for her analysis. Annie muses that maybe she should just live with a woman instead.

Breakup PlaneAnnie and Alvy visit California. On the plane ride back, Annie thinks to herself that while she adores Alvy, their relationship doesn’t seem to be working. Alvy thinks he’ll probably have the usual trouble in bed with her that night and he wants to ask her to move out, but is afraid she’ll be crushed. They agree on the plane that it is time for the relationship to end. It doesn’t take Alvy long to regret breaking up with Annie, but she has moved to California to be with another man.

Alvy tries dating someone else, but it doesn’t work out. He calls Annie and tells her he wants her to come back and then flies out to California to get her. They meet at a restaurant and Alvy tells Annie he thinks they should get married, but Annie is happy with her life in L.A. Annie tells Alvy that he is incapable of enjoying life. Annie tells Alvy that she just wants to be friends and she has no plans to return to N.Y. and the two part. Alvy, who isn’t used to driving, crashes into several cars trying to back out of the parking lot. Alvy refuses to cooperate with the cop who is called out to the accident he causes and ends up in jail. His friend who lives in L.A. bails him out.

AlvyAlvy writes a play about his relationship with Annie, but changes the ending, having her move back to N.Y. with him. He tells the camera that Annie later moved back to Manhattan and they had lunch together and talked about old times. He seems to have come to terms with their breakup and says that Annie is a great person. The film concludes with Alvy calling relationships irrational and absurd, but something we all keep going through because we need them.

Annie Hall Commentary (Spoilers):

This was my first Woody Allen film. I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy it, but I did. While I find Allen to be a creep in real life, I have to admit that he does have a sort of neurotic charm on-screen. While the movie wasn’t one that was laugh out loud funny, it did have its amsuing points and there was something about it that was just plain enjoyable to watch.

Diane Keaton’s performance was also very engaging. The film is an interesting commentary on the nature of relationships and the differences in the way different people view the same events.

Imagine – 100 Best Songs


Next up on my list of the 100 Best Songs of all time, is Imagine by John Lennon.

Imagine is a beautiful song in every way. The melody, the piano accompaniment and the message of peace and harmony all combine into a lovely experience for the mind, the ear and the heart.

The song’s message is a simple one, but a somewhat counter-culture one, particularly for a song that ended up being so popular. The song suggests that the world would be a better place without religion, nationality and personal possessions, which are all pillars of modern society.

It’s an interesting scenario to consider. It is hard to picture such a world ever actually existing and if it did, I suspect we’d just find other things to disagree about, but the idea of a peaceful world where everyone gets along is a nice one.

Aside from the message, Imagine is a pleasant song to listen to and sing along with and one that I never tired of hearing.

2001: A Space Odyssey – 100 Best Sci Fi & Fantasy Movies

Star child

The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Movies is 2001: A Space Odyssey. This movie also appears on my list of  100 Best Movies.

2001: A Space Odyssey Plot Summary (Spoilers):

Monolith2001: A Space Odyssey begins with a space shot and a dramatic score that shifts to a terrestrial scene overlayed with the words “The Dawn of Man.” A group of apes discover a black monolith. The apes excitedly gather around the monolith and eventually begin to cautiously touch it as dramatic music plays. After touching the monolith, one of the apes begins to utilize a bone from a dead animal as a club. The ape discovers that he can bring down prey by bashing it with the club and he and the other apes who discovered the monolith feast on the meat of the animals they kill.

A rival group of apes confront the club using apes. The club wielders use their clubs to beat one of the rival apes to death, which subdues the other members of the rival group. One of the victorious club wielders tosses his club high into the sky and the scene shifts back to outer space.

Dr. FloydA scientist named Heywood Floyd arrives at a space station on a shuttle. He meets with some other scientists and they discuss some odd happenings at Clavius base, which is Dr. Floyd’s eventual destination. One of the scientists tells Dr. Floyd that they  have heard rumor that some sort of epidemic has broken out at Clavius and he questions Dr. Floyd if that’s the truth. Dr. Floyd tells him that he isn’t at liberty to discuss that, even after the scientist expresses concern that the epidemic could spread to his own base. Dr. Floyd then parts company with the other scientists and the scene shifts to a small vessel approaching the moon, where the Clavius base is.

Dr. Floyd arrives at Clavius base and addresses a group of colleagues. He congratulates them on their discovery and tells them it may prove to be one of the most significant in the history of science. He then addresses the concern some of his colleagues have about the “cover story,” they concocted about the epidemic, in order to keep the discovery a secret and keep outsiders away from their base. Dr. Floyd warns his colleagues that if word of their discovery were to get out, before they can properly study the situation and decide how to announce it to the public, it could result in a great deal of culture shock for the public.

Moon MonolithDr. Floyd travels to the site of the discovery, which is revealed to be a black monolith, like the one the apes discovered in the “dawn of man” scene, which Dr. Floyd is told they  have determined was deliberately buried under ground millions of years in the past. Dr. Floyd gingerly touches the monolith with the glove of his space suit and then he and several other scientists pose for a picture in front of it. The monolith begins to emit a piercing sound that causes the men to cover their ears. The scene then shifts back to a outerspace shot, overlayed with the words “Jupiter Mission 18 Months Later.”

Dr. Dave Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole are eating their space mush, while they watch an interview they did with the BBC about their mission to Jupiter, which is the first manned attempt to reach that planet. Three other men are also on board the ship, but they are in hibernation sleep. A computer called the HAL 9000 is also a part of the mission. The man interviews the ship’s computer, who he addresses as HAL, about “his” responsibilities as the brain of the Discovery ship, which include keeping the men in hibernation sleep alive. HAL responds that the HAL 9000 computer is the most reliable ever built and none has ever made a mistake of any kind. HAL also claims to enjoy working with his human companions and not to be frustrated at all by his reliance on them. The men call HAL the 6th member of the crew. The interviewer asks Dr. Bowman if he thinks HAL has genuine emotions and he responds that HAL seems to, because he’s been programmed that way to make him easier to talk to, but whether those emotions are real is not something any human can answer.

DaveDuring the mission, HAL tells Dave that he has some concerns about some oddities with their mission. HAL talks to Dave about the rumors of something being dug up on the moon and how odd it was that there was so much security surrounding the preparations for their mission, including putting the other three crew members on board, already in hypersleep. HAL then tells Dave that he has just discovered a problem with the ship.

Dave retrieves the equipment HAL identified as faulty, but he can’t find anything wrong with it. HAL recommends they replace the equipment and allow it to fail, so they can trace the problem. Mission control agrees with the plan to replace the equipment, but advises the crew that they believe HAL is in error in predicting that the equipment will fail, based on the information they have gathered from their twin HAL 9000 system. When Dave asks HAL for his opinion on the discrepancy between the two HAL system’s data, HAL replies that it must be due to human error, because it always has been in the past. When Frank asks HAL if there has ever been an instance of a computer error with the 9000 series, HAL assures him that there never has been.

Frank & DaveDave and Frank go into one of the pods and turn off the mics so that HAL can’t hear them. Frank expresses concern about HAL’s reliability and says he has had an odd feeling about HAL the whole mission. Dave reiterates that the HAL series has had a perfect operational record and there’s no harm in replacing the unit and waiting to see if it does fail as HAL predicted. Frank agrees, but wants to discuss what they will do if the unit does not fail. Dave agrees with Frank that if HAL proves to be mistaken, then their mission would be in big trouble and Frank suggests they’d have no option other than to disconnect HAL, since he has complete control over the ship and Dave agrees. Though HAL can not hear what is being said, he is able to read their lips by watching them through the window of the pod.

Frank goes out to replace the equipment and while Frank is out of the pod, HAL uses the pod to disconnect Frank’s oxygen hose and send Frank tumbling off into space. The pod also goes tumbling off in a different direction, leaving Frank stranded in space. HAL tells Dave he doesn’t know what happened.

Sorry DaveDave uses one of the other pods to retrieve Frank’s body. While Dave is out in the pod, HAL shuts down the life support for the three crew members in hyper sleep, killing them all. When Dave returns to the ship and commands HAL to open the pod bay doors, HAL initially doesn’t respond and then says, “I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” HAL tells Dave that he knows that he and Frank were planning to disconnect him and that he can’t allow that to happen, because their mission is too important. Dave tells HAL that he will enter the ship through the emergency airlock, but HAL points out that Dave doesn’t have his space helmet. Dave commands HAL to open the doors again, but HAL tells him the conversation no longer serves a purpose and ceases communication.

Dave dumps Frank’s body into space and then uses the pod to open the emergency hatch. Dave backs the pod’s door up to the hatch and then uses the explosive bolts to blow the door off the pod and propel himself into the hatch, where he quickly closes the door. HAL asks Dave what he is doing, but Dave does not respond. HAL acknowledges that something has been wrong with him, but assures Dave everything is alright now and HAL feels much better. Sensing that Dave plans to disconnect him, HAL attempts to talk Dave out of it by assuring him that HAL is back to normal and only wants to help Dave complete the mission.

Stop DaveWhen Dave is not persuaded, HAL switches to pleading for Dave to stop and telling him that he is afraid. Dave proceeds to shut HAL down. As HAL nears his end, a pre-recorded message from Dr. Floyd begins to play. The message advises that due to security precautions, only the HAL 9000 was privy to this information, until the ship reached Jupiter space. Dr. Floyd explains that 18 months prior to the mission, the first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth was discovered, buried on the moon. He explains that the monolith remains a mystery, except for a very powerful radio transmission aimed at jupiter. The scene shifts back to an outer-space scene with the words, “Jupiter And Beyond The Infinite.”

As the Discovery approaches Jupiter, there appears to be another black monolith floating in nearby space. Dave approaches the monolith in the pod and appears to be pulled through some sort of tunnel of colorful lights. After seeing a number of fantastical visions, Dave’s pod exits the colorful lights and flies over a planet. Dave’s pod eventually comes to a stop in an ornately appointed bedroom.

Old DaveDave sees a man in a space suit through the pod window and then a now middle-aged Dave is the man in the space suit walking through the bedroom and into the bathroom. Dave looks in the mirror and then turns to see an older version of himself sitting at a table and then he is that older version of himself, now walking through the bedroom again. He sits down at the table and eats, but knocks over a glass, breaking it. When he turns to examine the broken glass, he sees an even older version of himself lying in bed and then becomes that version of himself.

Star childThe black monolith appears in front of Dave’s bed and he reaches towards it. Dave disappears and in his place is a fetus inside of a transparent orb. The orb exits out into space and approaches Earth. The film ends with one last shot of the child floating near Earth and gazing at it.

2001: A Space Odyssey Commentary (Spoilers):

Probably the most impressive and memorable things about 2001: A Space Odyssey are the visuals and the score. Both are gorgeous and the visuals are particularly impressive, considering the film was released in 1968. Many of the effects wouldn’t look terribly out-of-place in a modern film, with the one glaring exception being the apes, which could never be mistaken for anything other than men in monkey suits.

The plot of the movie is a bit sparse and at times confusing. There are pretty large stretches of movie where nothing much really happens. The action picks up in the middle with the iconic confrontation between HAL and Dave, but then tapers off again for the final act.

The movie feels largely like some kind of think piece or message film, rather than a film with an entertaining story. Many of the plot elements are left intentionally vague. The monolith seems to spark a leap forward in the evolution of the apes, but it is unclear whether that was the intent of whoever sent the monolith. It is also left unclear what the monolith actually is, and whether men were ever meant to find the one buried on the moon and follow it to the Jupiter monolith.

The advancement in technology the apes gain brings both life to the starving apes, by making it so they can more easily kill other animals for food and death to both the animals who become their prey and the un-evolved apes. In the modern era, the men who discover the monolith on the moon go to great lengths to keep their discovery a secret and maintain their advantage over their rivals. The timing of HAL’s discovery of the “flaw” in the ship, combined with the video message that plays as HAL is dying, suggest that it may have been mission control that triggered HAL’s false information in order to prevent him from revealing the information they were trying to keep hidden from Dave and the rest of the crew.

It is unclear whether Mission Control fully anticipated the consequences of their actions. Dave and Frank seem under the impression that no one had ever tried to disconnect a HAL system in the middle of a mission, however I find that hard to believe. It would be incredibly negligent not to test out how the system that has complete control of an important and expensive mission would react if it needed to be shut down or malfunctioned, however it’s also hard to fathom why Mission Control would want to risk HAL killing off the crew, considering they seemed to be needed to complete the mission. Perhaps Mission Control had some idea of how HAL would behave, but didn’t anticipate him flipping out and trying to kill the crew. The only other option would be that the plan was to have HAL complete the mission without the crew all along, but if that were the case, why bother to even send the men in the first place?

There is pretty much no explanation about what is going on in the final act. Is Dave seeing a vision of himself or did he actually live out his remaining days in whatever place the monolith brought him to? Does the monolith transform Dave into the “star child” or is the child something they created after Dave died? Does the child actually exist or is this just part of Dave’s vision? If the child is real, what is the purpose of it? If the aliens were intending to help us with the first monolith are they still trying to help us now? Have they been watching what man has done with the technology they gained with the monolith’s help? Do they regret helping mankind and now want to take it all back or do they plan to trigger another leap forward?

2001 is not an exciting, action-packed thriller, but it is a gorgeous film with some interesting things to think about. It is also interesting to note the hits and misses with how technology has advanced between 1968 and the real 2001 and observe the ways 2001 has influenced the science fiction genre over the years.