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Posts from the ‘First Encounters’ Category

First Encounters: Patton (1970)

In the 1990s, Bravo was a cable network that didn’t have a reputation. When my cable provider first began offering the network, it was not known as a haven for reality programming (such programming had hardly constituted a recognizable genre by that point—something like MTV’s The Real World still retained an aura of authenticity). Rather, it appealed to me because it seemed to buck popular orthodoxy. It showed old movies. As a teenager, my definition for “old” was clearly wanting: “old” meant anything made before I was born, meaning anything produced during the gray and obscure years of the early 1980s (or before).

By this point, I was well on the path to cinephilia, despite not knowing the meaning of the word. What’s more, had I been accused of cinephilia, I would have probably giggled at the word’s seeming relation to necrophilia (though the cinephile and necrophile, I now understand, aren’t so far off: both have an irrational love for a dead object). The years 1998-2000 were key for my formation of an intellectual sensibility. I was ending middle school and starting high school. Some of my tastes remained resolutely and unapologetically populist: I believe I got a copy of Doom II that year, and remember wasting (was it wasting?) a large chunk of the car ride of our summer vacation from that year reading about episodes of The Simpsons. Read more

First Encounters: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Who knew that HAL doesn’t win?

I should warn you here that there’s no way I can talk about my response to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) without spoiling most of the film. (In other words, SPOILER ALERT.) Or, if I tried, I wouldn’t be able to communicate my surprise at the many differences between the 2001 that circled through my mind before I had seen it (let’s call it pre-2001) and the actual movie.

Pre-2001 was about ninety minutes long and consisted primarily of two things: 1) good-looking but artificial space footage and 2) drama surrounding both the ambition of some grand space voyage and the conflict between astronauts and a big computer named HAL. In pre-2001, everything would be going smoothly until HAL suddenly stopped listening to commands and successfully killed off everyone on board. The film ended with HAL left to explore space on his own, possibly looking for ways to propagate his species and fill outer space with HAL progeny. Read more