2001: A SPACE ODYSEEY. Stanley Kubrick, 1968. 139min.
Even now, years after its initial release, the film enthralls, remaining fresh if very English. The use of sound, music, and editing is masterful in its evocation of space and its infinite bounds, even if the end sequence using a series of solarized shots of flying landscapes is a bit overlong and indulgent. Even the familiar story enrapts the viewer in its mystery, as a voyage is sent to Jupiter manned by five men and a computer, the HAL-9000. Without resorting to aliens leaping out from dark corners, Kubrick manages to build suspense and horror from the simplest elements: the vastness of space, the confined space of the ship and its immense distance from Earth. It's impossible to imagine any space film could have been the same without it. 05.27.01
25TH HOUR. Spike Lee, 2002. 134min.
New York City has always played a role in Spike Lee's films, and nowhere is that more apparent than in this. A film about the comprehension of loss and of the loss of freedom, the film trascends its story to encompass that of a post 9/11 world. It's surprising then, that the source material was originally written before that event. 25th Hour follows Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) on his final day of freedom. In the morning he will be incarcerated for seven years for dealing drugs. In that time he visits with friends and family and associates, saying his goodbyes and attempting to come to terms with the outcome of his life's decisions. An outstanding cast inhabits this film, each lending depth and breadth to the canvas, playing New York archtypes. The actors sketch out the relationships economically and with a directness that lends an almost terrifying emotional force. Over the proceedings the shadow of past events loom, a washed out palette bathing the present in the cold greys of a promised storm or its aftermath. Lee has made a film not just about the characters embodied in it, but at some level about all of us, a film that resonates with our own recent experiences. Remarkably, Lee uses the film to help come to terms with the aftermath of recent history without manipulating us. He lets the events be and lets the characters observe their new surroundings, their future actions and the results of their actions past. And, in the process, he offers us one of the best films of 2002. 01.16.02