The Fearful Symmetry of Kubrick’s The Shining in Room 237

Room 237

There are two things I watched as a child – that I probably shouldn’t have been allowed to watch as child – a special shout out to my mad cool parents, yo! – that I believe will stick with me forever…and ever…and ever. One is Twin Peaks. The other is The Shining. Oh yeah, and Fright Night. And that episode of Scooby Doo with the pumpkin-headed phantom. But seriously…about The Shining.

Like Twin Peaks it’s been an object of obsession for me. In Room 237, Rodney Ascher’s obsessive new documentary where half a dozen film nuts/Kubrick scholars obsess over every bit of minutiae in The Shining (check out all the stuff in the walk-in cooler at the Overlook…every brand name has a double meaning so sayeth them!), every cross dissolve (Kubrick dissolves scenes like Kapooya!), every continuity error (de-lib-er-ate they say!), there’s not a single theory presented that I haven’t heard before.

The Shining was actually about the Holocaust (the number 42 is quite telling…as is one cross dissolve of people into stacked luggage…and, you know, all that blood in the elevator)…no, wait…make that the American genocide of the Indians (think of the setting, and the set designs, and the back story of the hotel…and, you know, all that blood in the elevator)…no way…it was about how Kubrick faked the Apollo moon landing (duh, Danny’s wearing that Apollo 11 sweater, like, what did you think that meant?)…or…AHA! – it was about all of those things!

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The Study of Film through Seinfeld

We thought we were watching TV, but the TV was watching Film.

“I hope you’re watching the clothes, Elaine – because I can’t take my eyes off the passion.” – J. Peterman on The English Patient

And no show in the history of the television medium has been more passionate about film than Seinfeld – yet another reason the sitcom has weathered the test of time and is still funny to this day.  Tied to its central conceit of being a show based on observational humor surrounding the minutia of ordinary lives, Seinfeld‘s keen observations on how film defines a culture, has the ability to rescue us from our own suffocating mediocrity, and how one’s taste in film can shape their character is one of the big reasons I still watch in endless re-loop episode after episode after episode.  And I dare you to name another defunct show that is still quoted and discussed on a near daily basis in offices across the country.  It’s because like the greatest of films (or the worst deserving of ridicule), through Seinfeld, we learn about ourselves – and more importantly – how to laugh at ourselves.

Seinfeld‘s greatest running gag was its references to fake movies – the most famous of which was probably Rochelle, Rochelle – an art-film about “a young woman’s strange erotic journey from Milan to Minsk.”  It was first featured in one of my favorite episodes of all-time, the charming almost now period-piece-like, “The Movie” where the gang haplessly tries to meet up at the cinema for a showing of CheckMate (a high-class thriller of political intrigue we are to assume).  Continue reading