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2001, 50 years later

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the movie "2001, a Space Odyssey" which still arguably stands as the most impactful and significant sci-fi movie of all time. Quite the distinction, eh?

Yeah, I know what you're thinking: Star Wars, Alien, ET, Avatar...

Real quotes.

George Lucas: "It's the ultimate sci-fi movie. On a technical level, Star Wars can be compared, but personally, I think 2001 is far superior."

Steven Spielberg: "The Big Bang that inspired my whole generation of directors."

James Cameron: "It had a profound impact on my imagination. It just blew the doors off the whole thing for me and started me thinking about film in a whole different way."

I vividly remember toking up, getting to the theater early enough for us to snag dead-center seats and letting the thing just fry me in its overwhelm. Staggering out of the theater, I wondered what the hell I'd just seen and concluded that whatever it was, it was most definitely a new art form. And interestingly enough, it wasn't UNTIL Avatar that I thought the same thing again.

I've just finished reading the geek-tastic book "Space Odyssey -- Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke and the Making of a Masterpiece" and of course, to re-watch the move, turning the volume all the way up and sitting as close to a big screen as feasible without getting sunburned and I must report it was a surprising experience.

The BOOK is hugely entertaining, and is a deep immersion into the torturous creation of an artwork that took four manic years of 16-hr days to finish. Going millions over budget and years past the due date, it was an extraordinary test of artistry vs business, ego vs practicality, stamina vs exhaustion.

And both fascinating to re-watch and frustrating in its legendary Kubrick-ian snail's pace and lingering scenes. This could be a 5000-word piece but let me rather report that the combination of book and movie highlights a few immutable facts.

First, it takes an enormous level of belief, strength and follow-though to achieve success in a complex endeavor. Second, when you absolutely believe in your vision and are in charge of its success, you have to devine a level of autonomy vs compromise that heavily favors autonomy, no matter the cost. You're betting your soul on being right and insisting you are. And third, you need allies if you are gonna make it to the finish line.

There's such a rich story in both the film itself and the tremendous effort it took to deliver, I'll be writing and speaking about this for a long time to come. Meanwhile, the lesson -- if there is one here -- is that creativity and imagination are some of the most beguiling elements of living a human life (and damn, if these here opposable thumbs don't make all the difference).

I'm wondering how many movie themes you can recognize in the first two notes, alone. And just realized that both Strauss's Also Spract Zarathustra, that booming piece that's since been used to death on everything from from 2001 to Lays potato chip commercials, shares the same two recognizable notes as those of John Williams' original Star Wars theme.


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