Friday, July 15, 2011

Film Friday: The Shining (1980)

You would think I wouldn’t like The Shining. Why? Because I don’t like Stephen King. His work is formulaic and stolen. Also, I respect Stanley Kubrick much more than I like his films. So I should hate The Shining, right? Well, no. At one point, King was a talented writer and The Shining was his high-water mark. And while I find Kubrick’s work lifeless, his casting of Jack Nicholson made this film great. Plus, there’s a lot more to this film than at first appears.

** spoiler alert **

You all know the story. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) gets a job as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, where he and his family will be snowbound during the winter. He plans to use the time to finish his book. But things don’t go as planned as he and his son Danny start seeing ghosts. One thing leads to another and Jack goes insane and tries to kill his family. That sounds pretty straight forward. . . but is it?
Jack!
Before we get into the story itself, let me point out that the single most important element in this film is Jack Nicholson. Without him, this film would be a dud, and I mean that. As I’ve said before, Kubrick’s style is sterile and his characters are lifeless. They are not people you can care about. . . they are merely cardboard images that work the plot. But Nicholson is anything but cardboard. Nicholson is like a live grenade packed with the most excitable of human emotions. He is the kind of man who puts you on edge constantly. Even when he’s being nice, you watch him out of the corner of your eye for fear he may explode. He is the definition of “volatile.”

And that is exactly what the role of Jack Torrance needed. Torrance is an ex-alcoholic who seems to be falling into a “dry high.” As he falls, he gets increasingly paranoid and volatile. His paranoia is fed by the idea his wife and child are conspiring against him to blame him for being a failure as a father. This is the result of prior incidents where Jack lost his job for injuring a student and then injured Danny while he was drunk. Jack thinks his wife Wendy has never forgiven him for this and is poisoning their son’s mind. However, as written and filmed the role simply doesn’t have enough dialog to provide this information and its impact to the audience. That’s where the inner turmoil of Jack Nicholson comes in. He manages to convey all the instability, the paranoia, the repressed rage and the panicky instant-regret to tell you what you need to know about Torrance, even if the script doesn’t. Without Nicholson, Jack Torrance would be a boring man who inexplicably turns murderous.

Let me also add that Shelley Duvall is brilliant as the “abused wife” (Wendy). She is truly believable as she walks on eggshells around the explosive Jack and then shows genuine terror as he worsens.
Who Is Jack Torrance?
So, aside from Torrance’s inner nature, what isn’t so straight forward in this film? Well, let’s start with the ghosts. Are they real? If you read the novel, you might be surprised to discover that it’s very likely the ghosts aren’t real. Torrance is suffering the hallucinatory effects of a dry high and there is no evidence the ghosts exist. Even the injuries Danny sustains are likely caused by Torrance himself (interestingly, Wendy never does see the ghosts, only Jack, who is high, and Danny, who is abused). In the film, it’s more clear that the ghosts are real. In fact, in one instance, they actually help him in the physical world by unlocking a food locker and letting him out. So that kind of kills the mystery, right?

Yes and no. In its place you are given something much larger to consider. Who are these ghosts and what is their connection to Torrance? Obviously, they are haunting the Overlook and with Torrance being the caretaker, they have set their sights on him, right? Well, not so fast. In the scene in the bathroom between Jack and Grady, Jack identifies Grady the butler as the caretaker who killed his kids. But Grady denies this and responds, “You’re the caretaker, sir. You’ve always been the caretaker.” What does this mean? It could just be the ghost trying to trick Torrance, but there is one more piece of evidence to consider. At the end of the film, after Torrance dies, the camera pans in on a photo of a July 4th party at the Overlook in 1921. There, right in front, is Jack Torrance (see below). So how do we interpret this?

It’s possible the Overlook simply sucked him into its history and this is where it deposited him. But that’s unsatisfying as nothing else in the plot hints at people turning into photos. Where, for example, is the "new" picture of Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers)?

Could Jack be THE caretaker as Grady claims? It’s possible that Jack has reincarnated repeatedly and each time comes back as someone whose destiny is to become the caretaker and murder his family. This would be consistent with Grady’s statement that Jack has “always been the caretaker.” Interestingly, it would also be consistent with another piece of evidence. We are inclined to dismiss this idea because Jack points out that the butler is Charles Grady, the prior caretaker who killed his family. But the butler denies any knowledge of this and actually identifies himself as Delbert Grady. So it’s possible this man is not the Grady who was the caretaker. Does that make it Jack?

Maybe, except there’s a problem with the reincarnation theory. Charles Grady was the caretaker the year prior. That means Charles Grady and Jack Torrance were both alive at the same time. Thus, Jack could not be the reincarnation of Charles. It could be that both Jack and Grady are trapped in some sort of reincarnation circle, one after the other, but that would be kind of a new theory on reincarnation and there’s no evidence for it in the film. Thus, it’s unlikely this is what was meant. It could also be that Grady is simply lying, trying to manipulate Jack into following his lead. But then, how do we explain the 1921 picture?

We can’t discount the possibility that Kubrick simply threw in clues that make no sense, this wouldn’t be the first time (see the second black obelisk in 2001). But what about this: what if Jack isn’t really ever alive? What if Jack is a ghost. What if Jack did something in 1921 that trapped his soul at the Overlook, just like all the other ghosts, and now he’s destined to live out this nightmare of going insane and killing his family over and over and over again. One of the many views of hell or purgatory involves the person being forced to live their crimes/sins over and over forever. Maybe that’s what’s going on here? That would explain why he supposedly goes insane slowly over time, yet he started writing "all work and no play" instead of his book the moment he arrived at the hotel.

Sadly, there isn’t enough evidence to piece this together. But maybe that was intentional? Maybe the inexplicable aspect of this film adds to its terror? We honestly don’t know what is going on with Jack or why the ghosts have targeted him or why he’s so open to them. We don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. Who is Delbert Grady? Who is Jack? We see a wall of blood coming down the elevator, dead girls in the hallway and a woman turn into a rotting corpse, but is any of it real? We just don’t know. But maybe not knowing is more terrifying than knowing for sure -- it’s the fear of the danger yet to come as compared to knowing the extent of your trouble.

Also, maybe this is part of Kubrick’s plan to disorient us. He does this masterfully throughout the film. For example, he constantly switches back and forth between huge cavernous rooms that make us feel insecure, unprotected and exposed, and the cramped family quarters and narrow curvy hallways that make us feel claustrophobic. He gives us the promise of help, only to take it away the moment it arrives. He makes the ghosts unreal, only to let them do something in the real world (yet Wendy still never sees them, so are they really real?). He tells us Jack is slowly going insane, yet he started writing “all work and no play” in his book from the moment he arrived at the Overlook. Doesn't that mean he was insane before he got here? None of this adds up and as a consequence, we can never get a single point of reality onto which we can grasp. We are thus disoriented from the start, and we can never get our bearings. So maybe the fact that we can’t explain exactly what Jack is just adds to the terror because maybe he’s a real guy being haunted, or maybe he's just going insane, or maybe he’s something much worse that we can’t quite understand.

Interesting isn’t it?

91 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

Great review, Andrew. It is extremely interesting to me that I did read the novel first, and like you, enjoyed this novel while not really being a Stephen King fan.

I also enjoyed the film, particularly, Nicholson. You are absolutely correct when you state those who read the novel will tend towards the ghosts being hallucinations. Now it has been 40 years since I read this and watched the film, so my memory probably fails. At the time, I recall my reaction was primarily disappointment because they made a major change and made them real.

As I read your review, it brought back my recollection that there was all this other stuff going on. But, back in those days, we didn't really have the luxury of breakind down a film through multiple viewings the way one can today. For whatever reason, I never went back and did that. So, you should feel good that you have, at very least, challenged me to go back and re-look at it from the different perspective 40 years can make :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Thanks! I'm glad to hear it.

Interestingly, there was a very negative reaction to the film by fans of the book who thought that Nicholson went too crazy too fast and who thought the film lost the subtlety about the "realness" of the ghosts.

I actually thought the book was brilliant on that point, because you just never knew. The film definitely lost that, but I think it more than made up for it with the performance of Nicholson, who is so brilliant he has come to define insanity.

I find it very ironic that King hated this film so much that he actively worked to get it remade and then turned out the total turkey with Stephen Webber. Sometimes you just can't mess with a classic, even if you thought it should have been something different.

You make a great point too about how we weren't able to review films in the past like we can today. Today you can watch, rewatch, freeze frame, back up, turn on subtitles -- all things you couldn't do when the only place you saw films was the theater. That gives us almost an unfair ability to take a film apart. Or said differently, it means filmmakers need to step up their games!

Tennessee Jed said...

30 years, not forty, of course! While I'm rolling, I must go back and point out that, during that time frame of the late 60's and early 70's, I thought Kubrick was the greatest director. I admired him for the fact he seemed to avoid being typed to any particular genre. Of course 2001 is probably his best known effort, but I personally felt "Barry Lyndon" was his best.

I was also a huge fan of Malcolm McDowell in films such as "O Lucky Man" and "If" which drew me to Clockwork Orange.

I'm wondering if you can think of other great or at least good films where the director decided to deviate in a significant way, and had it work out. You are, of course, right about the importance of Nicholson, but it is fun to imagine just how a Tony Perkins might have played that role.

Tennessee Jed said...

Speaking of insanity, is it possible this and Cuckoo's Nest are his best?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, You mean to deviate from the source material (like the book)?

I can think of a HUGE example: The Wizard of Oz, which has little to do with the book.

And my personal favorite (and one that impresses me to no end), The Ninth Gate, where Polanski took a minor subplot of the book and completely reworked the book into something 99% different than what the book was. In that case, both the book (The Club Dumas and the film are excellent.


On Perkins, it is always interesting to do a "what if." I honestly don't think he has the fire to have played this part nearly as well. It would have been interesting to see him try though. Let me think about some other interesting candidates and get back to you on that. Strangely, I wonder if a young Harrison Ford could have pulled it off?

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. On Kubrick, don't get me wrong. I recognize his brilliance and I think he choice of films is amazingly varied -- and they are all "good films." I just don't LIKE any of them. They leave me recognizing the brilliance, but feeling unhappy about the experience -- this being the one exception that comes to mind.

I did like McDowell's performance in Clockwork Orange, again, I think he made that film because he was the spark of life -- though that is my least favorite Kubrick.

I would actually agree on Nicholson that this and Cuckoo's Nest are his best. I think he's done some good work since, but those are the two that stand out to me (along with Batman). Interestingly, one of the reason King was upset with the choice of Nicholson was his role in Cuckoo's Nest, which King felt would "give away" to the audience that Jack was going to go insane.

Tennessee Jed said...

yeah, that was what I was thinking about, although in the examples you chose, I honestly don't know if the books from which the movies were "based" were big popular bestsellers or not. I guess what I might have been getting at is Kubrick took a huge risk, and for sure, got pounded for it.

What I like about your review is the fact that I think most people may remember this as a great Nicholson acting job, but only a "so-so" film, and you have staked out a pretty good position that the film was a whole lot more. Perhaps, there is some truth to that, because, as you say, were it not for Nicholson, it could have easily been, not just not great, but potentially have taken an express train to "sucksville" so to speak.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I think you hit the nail on the head. This is why "The Shining" is at the top of my list of scary movies--I don't understand it. The fact that I don't get what, exactly, is going on is what sends the shivers up my spine; also why I think that last shot in the film is a perfect way to end it. The photo--and the accompanying big band music helps here--just leaves you wondering, "Then how...?"

By the way, I'm pretty sure Wendy did see the ghosts near the end (the tidal wave of blood, the guy in a tux getting--ahem--"serviced" by someone in a dog suit--another really creepy moment). Since she's the undoubtedly sane one, I think that's proof that in the film, at least, the ghosts are in fact real.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: The TV version was truer to the book by far, and it was bloody awful. I don't know if that's an indictment of the book or the lousy TV miniseries.

I loved the original movie, with all its warts and flaws, and I think that it's almost entirely attributable to Nicholson's over-the-top performance and re-positioning the original story.

One thought: I wonder how many people under the age of thirty have any idea what Nicholson's frighteningly hilarious "Heeeeeere's Johnny" referred to.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Thanks! I think there is a lot more to this film than meets the eye. BUT, without Nicholson to pull it off, all the rest I think would have been wasted. He pulled together what amounts to a very weak script and gave it depth, meaning and believability. I'm just not sure who else could have done that?

"train to sucksville" -- I like that! LOL!

On the book, ok, so you want a popular book that was made very differently than the film. Hmm. Let me think about that one.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew, it is interesting to me you mentioned Ninth Gate. While I am not nearly as big in that genre as you and some of the folks, I have to tell you that was one I remember and really enjoyed. Johhny Depp, as I recall, and usually most of his work is something I normally end up enjoying.

CrispyRice said...

I don't really do horror, but this is my "go to" horror movie when I feel like one, LOL. I find it very intriguing about what is real and what is in his head. Does it all only happen because Danny has the "shining" and can bring the ghosts out?

I attempted to read the book once. I made it to the point where they were left alone at the hotel, and I'd worked myself up so much already by that point that I had to stop. Yes, I'm a wimp.

TJ said...

I never saw The Shining as I don't really get into horror and/or really scary movies all that much, but interesting review as always, Andrew.

Slightly off topic - you may already know this, but just in case you don't, over at BH Nolte gave a shout out to this site on his "Morning Call Sheet" yesterday.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I think it's a fine line be just enough left to the imagination to be scary and not enough to understand the film. I think what Kubrick does well is that he seems to give you enough to understand, even though you can't quite tie all the pieces together. That gives you that creepy feeling of knowing that you don't really have an answer, even if you think you do -- which keeps you dwelling on it.

A lesser director might have lost control and ended up with a film that had people scratching their heads saying "that just doesn't make any sense" and then feeling cheated.

I'll have to go back and see if Wendy does see anything, I missed that on my re-watch if she did. In any event, it's a minor point, because it's just one of many things Kubrick does to disorient us.

AndrewPrice said...

By the way, there are a lot of people who have read a lot into this film. Some of the stupider ideas are that this is Kubrick's statement about the Holocaust and that this is Kubrick's statement about whitey slaughtering the American Indian. Their "proof" gets as stupid as "there is an American Indian image on a baking soda container in the pantry." Wow! Of course, there is in my house too.

You could use that style of "analysis" to argue that this film is about the evil of the Quaker Oats guy.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Are you saying that he would have yelled, "Heeeere's Leno" today? ;-)

I agree. The tv miniseries was a crime against television. It was just horrible, even though it was truer to the book. I have always believed that you really run a huge risk if you're going to remake a classic and you better have something interesting to say -- that didn't.

And, as you saw in the review, I totally agree that Nicholson made this film. Without him, this film would have been "on a train to sucksville" as Jed put it! LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I am a big Johnny Depp fan. I think he's a great actor who tends to pick good parts and does a great job with the things he does. The Ninth Gate is my favorite film of his. It's just so richly textured with such neat twists and turns. If you haven't already, take a look at my review. I think it's an amazingly well put together film with a truly interesting message.

Here's the link: LINK

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, LOL! Nice try though! I'm glad you like this film though. I think it's an excellent horror film and I highly recommend it to everyone.

The are they real or not question is much stronger in the book. The film largely seems to assume that they are real -- though it's not 100% obvious either. In the book though, you are given a lot more reason to doubt their existence.

What I find a really fascinating question in the film is who is Delbert Grady and why does he claim Jack has always been the caretaker. I'd love to have a solid answer on that one!

AndrewPrice said...

TJ, Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the review even if you haven't seen the film. If you ever decide you want to watch a really good horror movie, this is probably the one I would recommend. It's not only scary, but it's got real and interesting characters and a truly interesting atmosphere. There's nothing else like this out there.

On Big Hollywood, I did see that! (Though thanks for letting me know!) Also, by way of news, they're going to let me start contributing articles over there now and then! I'm very excited! :-)

T-Rav said...

Andrew, you may laugh, but don't tell me you haven't seen something sinister in the eyes of that Quaker Oats guy. Something that makes you feel like you belong in that pantry. Something that needs you to destroy anyone that comes between it and you...iudhkijbnksd

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, LOL! Yep, 100% sinister. Actually, for being a group that we think of as wholesome and nice, the Quakers built the first prison in the US and it was a pretty horrific place. They had a strict code of silence and conditions were all around brutal. Even today, they are considered enemies by many animal protection groups.

I'm more worried about Captain Crunch spreading crunch berries (which sounds like a tropical disease) to all my other cereal! ;-)

So what do you think Jack is?

Tennessee Jed said...

crunch berries as a tropical disease? I had something less wholesome in mind ;-) As for BH, as mentioned, you will be a great addition!!!!

Tennessee Jed said...

As for the society of friends. As one who grew up in the hotbed of that religion, all I can think of at the moment is that you are calling out Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly as "sinister." l.o.l. T-Rav: have you ever noticed how if you look at the cylindrical box from just the right angle, the eyes follow you? Heeeeeeere's Billy Penn!!

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew: the question is begged then; "what did you think of 'Secret Window' the Depp vehicle adapted from a King novel?"

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Yeah, me too. But I try to keep things somewhat wholesome around here! :-)

Thanks on the BH thing! I hope so. I'm really excited about this and I think it will be great fun. I've already gotten a peek at the machine and it's interesting. They are much more professional than we are around here -- with good reason, mind you. I almost feel like I should wear a tie when I write my article! ;-)

T-Rav said...

...

Okay, I'm back, things got really red and murky for a minute there and I heard weird voices telling me...ah, it's nothing.

More seriously, one of the theories I've heard about the Overlook is that it's stuck in a time loop of some sort, where the past is present and vice versa. This would kinda go along with your "doomed to relive their sins over and over again" theory.

So who is Jack? I really don't know. Before I got silly, I was going to say about the Indian blah-blah-blah thing that there does seem to be a subtle critique of the '20s and the posh, superficial culture of the time. There are way too many examples in the film of this surface sophistication among the ghosts, but you frequently get glimpses of a core cruelty and decadence underneath it all. And we get the hint from the cook at the beginning that something really terrible happened at the hotel at some point in the past. So I think there is a lot to the argument that Jack is a "ghost" or a reincarnation of some kind from that period, and that he's replaying or reliving his past in the hotel.

T-Rav said...

Jed, funny you should mention that, because not too far from where I live we have a preserved antebellum mansion, and the portraits inside were created in such a way that the eyes actually did follow you no matter where you went. It is very creepy. My mom visited it a few times in her youth, and based on one or two things that happened to her ther, she is convinced the place is haunted.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Before I incur the wrath of the Quaker Oats guy, I will retract everything I said! LOL!


On Secret Window... yeah. I was frankly disappointed. I felt it was highly predictable and it just never felt like more than a "workmanlike film." In other words, there was nothing in it that caught my attention or separated it from so many other films. I wanted to like it, but it just never struck me as anything special. I can't say it was bad, but it wasn't interesting enough to make me want to watch it again.

I have wondered about that film from time to time and I wonder if it isn't just a victim of there being too many movies now that use characters who don't really exist? This has become kind of a gimmick, and there wasn't enough in the film to distinguish it from so many other similar films.

What are your thoughts?

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, In the book, Jack is actually thinking about writing about the history of the Overlook. In the basement he finds a stack of newspapers which detail a series of scandals, murders and suicides at the Overlook mainly in the 1920s, but also later. It's also suggested that the site itself is evil, having been some sort of ground the Indians considered cursed. (And I believe some settlers got lost there in the 1880s and ate each other.)

So you get a feeling that there is something evil there that pushes people to evil and manipulates events. In other words, the ghosts may be nothing more than spirits who were trapped by this evil force -- assuming they are real at all.

The film tosses this out by and large (though an Indian burial ground is mentioned), but does hint at it as you've noticed with the idea that the 1920s were both surface glitzy, but also very cruel underneath. These ghosts are not a mix of lost souls desperate to find their way on to the afterlife or clinging to our reality -- they are a collection of hateful, evil beings who seem to concern themselves with doing evil in our world.

So it's very possible that they are just reaching out to anyone who is susceptible to their reach and trying to pull them down. Jack would fit that perfectly because he's this torn/conflicted person who is capable of great rage and barely has the ability to control it.

On the other hand, that doesn't explain the 1921 picture. So I lean toward the idea that Jack is more than just a person who showed up. Could he be a reincarnation of someone evil? It's very possible. But I suspect that if we can solve this (and I don't know that we can) that what is really going on is that this is Jack's punishment for killing his family in 1921 (he is alone in the photo), and he's been repeating it over and over.

What would be interesting would be to remake this film along the lines of Sixth Sense and try to see if you could keep Wendy from interacting with Jack, while Danny is being terrorized by him. That would be a worthwhile remake!

ScottDS said...

First off...

-the excellent theatrical trailer

-Vivian Kubrick's making-of documentary shot during the production

-an interesting FAQ (the site hasn't been updated in years)

I love this film. I remember the first time I saw it in its entirety. I was probably 16 or 17 and had taped it off HBO. I made the poor decision to watch it alone at night and, yeah, it was creepy!

I suppose I can accept what happens in the film without scratching my head. Obviously, there is some kind of paranormal entity at work and I buy the idea of reincarnation. Interestingly, in both scenes when Jack is chatting with ghosts (Grady and Lloyd), he's looking toward a mirror. (oooh!)

This film is also a great example of the power of the Steadicam (this is the film that really popularized it) and the effect music can have. By the end of the film, it sounds as if Kubrick has taken three or four different classical pieces and decided to play them simultaneously.

And while I get the "Heeeeeere's Johnny" line, I don't know if anyone younger than me would. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I know many people who believe in ghosts. I find the concept interesting, though I've seen no proof of it. On the one hand, I think if there are ghosts then we have proof of the soul, which is kind of a comforting thought. On the other hand, it also shows that souls can go wrong, which is a disquieting thought.

As for the mansion, that sounds kind of interesting! Though it also has a bit of a Scooby Doo vibe to it! :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Let me counter your trailer with this one: The Shining, A Comedy, which is awesome!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, This was apparently the third major film to use the steady cam and is indeed the one to popularize it. I like the steady cam. Too bad, someone then got the idea for the vomit cam.

Thanks for the links. I like that trailer a lot.

On accepting what happens, I think that's where Kubrick's genius comes through -- it probably doesn't make sense, but it seems to make sense and we can buy it. We get the idea of what is going on even if we don't get the nuts and bolts. I think a lesser director (say Michael Bay) would have made a mess of this same script and we would have ended up with a film that just makes no sense.

Also, as I say in the review, I suspect Kubrick didn't mind throwing us for a loop because slight confusion can add to the feeling of disorientation.

What's interesting about your comment about watching it at night, this is one of the few films that can get to me (even now) if I watch it late at night, alone in the dark. It just hits all the right creepy moments to make you uneasy. I suspect that has to do with the size of the rooms. Using the oversized rooms makes you feel like you are very exposed, with no where to hide and feels like you can't protect your back. I think Kubrick's visuals are so well done in that regard, that you feel that even as the viewer sitting at home on your couch.

What's also interesting is that he uses shock, like finding the two girls in the hallway, they never actually jump/lunge at you.... yet they are super creepy. Modern films need to actually have the things lunge at the cameras to get the same creepy feel. Kubrick should get a lot of credit for being able to pull that off. He does with imagery what others can only do with actual shock tactics.

Plus, where else is a kid riding a big wheel ever going to be this creepy. Your heart races even when nothing more is happening that him riding around.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I'm wondering how this fits in with Danny and his "gift"--if you can call it that. I've always been a little intrigued why it was this power of his that was referenced in the title, rather than making it something like "The Overlook." Why that, specifically? I can't really articulate what I think the significance of this is, but...yeah.

Also, where did it come from? The movie says it first appeared after Jack injured Danny, and then it showed him flashes of what was to come at the hotel--before they ever arrived there. So is this some spirit from the Overlook as well, maybe some victim of the others who was trying to warn and protect Danny? And why did it briefly possess him as events climaxed, and then seemingly disappear? That's another somewhat inexplicable aspect of the story.

Tennessee Jed said...

Secret Window - fair, overdone, predictable plot with some very nice performances by Depp and Turturo. In the hands of lesser talents, a true bomb. They actually made me like it. There is a saying in golf when you get a G.I.R. (green in regulation) you are "on the dance floor." If you hit the green, but are not near the pin, "you are on the floor, but a long way from the pretty girls." That is how I would rate Secret Window. Normally a bogie that Depp and Turturo make into par, but never a chance for a birdie.

ScottDS said...

Yeah, I've seen that trailer!

The "shakey-cam" is another subject entirely and while I can kinda buy the explanation for something like the first Bourne film (the character is disoriented, etc.), I can't buy that for every other frickin' film that uses it. I've said this before: one of the reasons why Die Hard is considered a classic action film is because the director did a great job with the geography and spatial relationships.

(By the way, the camera dollies toward the photo at the end - a pan is left/right.) :-)

Yeah, there's something scary about big spaces. I think the director of Poltergeist III mentioned something once about how scary a big city can be (where nobody notices or cares, as opposed to a suburban neighborhood.)

Re: Danny and the big wheel - this is also a great example of sound design: the alternating noise when he rides from wood to carpet to wood, etc.

Tennessee Jed said...

Scott - did I ever mention that the inventor of the steadicam lived down the block from me when I was a little kid. He was a few years older. His name is Garrett Brown. When he was in college, he actually made a half way decent folk album during that whole Kingston Trio era. The album is titled Brown and Dana and you can listen on-line. He was always a cool kid, but steady-cam?? I mean, really . . . .

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Excellent point and yet another interesting thing to ponder in this movie. (Better movies always give you things to think about.)

Why they named the film after his "gift" (which does seem like a curse), that is a good question. Either, they just thought it was catchy.... or they mean for you to focus on it. So maybe that is where the true meaning lies?

I think Crispy is suggesting above that Danny's ability may be what makes the Overlook active. Support for this can be found in another Stephen King film/miniseries -- Rose Red, where a group of psychics is brought to an evil house by a researcher who thinks that their abilities will wake up the house (this idea actually originates with The Haunting of Hill House (1959)). Thus, the idea is one King has toyed with and maybe that's what was going on here -- that Danny "wakes up" the evil?

Maybe that's why this is "The Shining" rather than "The Overlook."

In the book, I would guess that you're supposed to focus on it because it's not clear if Danny really has this gift or if this is a defense mechanism for him to live with being abused? He's clearly terrified of being injured by his father, but like many abused kids, he won't admit that his father is a bad person. So it's very possible that he is only seeing ghosts (and has the invisible friend in his mouth) as an excuse so he doesn't have to blame his father for hurting him? Maybe that's the reason the book was named the Shining, so that we would focus on Danny's character?

Interestingly, Roger Ebert rather correctly notes that there is no "narrator" in this film we can trust because they are all biased or deceptive or hiding the truth, so we can't believe anything we see.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I would agree with that. Depp and Turturo do an excellent job of lifting a film that otherwise would have been a very bland bomb, i.e. they make it a lot better than it deserved to be.

(P.S. I'm still drawing a blank of other films that took best sellers and really twisted them and made very different films out of them. I can think of a lot of films that just didn't do a good adaptation, but few that really only used the novel as a base material.)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, True. In fact, it's rather jarring when he changes from the wood to the carpet and vice versa. It shouldn't be, but you're already so tense when it happens it's like your mind needs to process what just happened through it's threat center and that makes it seem ominous. It's an interesting sensation.

Sorry if I got my technical terms wrong! LOL!

Technically, fear of big spaces is a form of agoraphobia (usually considered fear of crowds). It's really a fear of experiencing a panic attack based on the environment. And I've seen many times that people get disoriented and upset/fearful when they are in too large of an area because they feel they've lost control of their surroundings. In other words, when a room becomes larger than your ability to pay attention to everything going on in it, it gets creepy because you become unable to spot threats. That's why I've always thought the coolest way to watch a horror film would be alone in a darkened gymnasium. I'll bet most people couldn't get through The Shining in such a set up.

And the way Kubrick alternates our discomfort with these "too large rooms" with hitting us with these really tight rooms with blind turns, does a great job of just triggering all the spacial fear centers of the brain. The only thing missing is some sort of massive drop off.

Don't get me started on the shakey-cam. Redrum indeed!

Ed said...

Andrew, Excellent review as always. You've raises something I haven't thought about. I never realized that I didn't understand the deal with Jack, but you're right. Now I'm perplexed. Lol!

Also, congratulations on the BH honor!

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed! If you get any thoughts on Jack, please feel free to share them!

ScottDS said...

Jed -

I know about Mr. Brown but was quite unaware of his musical talent. :-)

He contributes an interesting audio commentary to the Blu-Ray/2-disc DVD edition of The Shining. I believe he also did the Steadicam work on Rocky.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, that's an interesting take on Danny and his "power." My only issue with it is that Grady seems to have had a similar psychotic break when he was at the hotel, so it would seem the spirits were already present. Or maybe his daughters had the same ability as Danny, I don't know. They were twins, after all.

As for the thing on the environment, I can guarantee you that if I were watching The Shining alone in a dark gymnasium, I absolutely would not make it through. The first time I watched it, I was in our college dorm's lounge--dark, but a relatively small space with other people--and it still freaked me out. I wouldn't call it a phobia, but I definitely had an issue with long hallways after that.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, It's just a thought on Danny. It could well be that the twins had a similar power (or as the Simpsons teach us: whenever you have twins, one of them is evil). But we'd also have to explain Halloran and why he didn't trigger it. Maybe it has to do with the strength of the power each person possesses? Don't know. It's certainly not an idea that get fleshed out in the film, so we're only guessing.

Sadly, the most likely explanation, based on what is told in the film, is that they called it "The Shining" because that was the most descriptive word they could use to describe the book.


On the gymnasium thing, I'd love to test that. I'm not sure how I would react. Even though I know there couldn't be anything in the shadows, that's still an awfully large room! Mwooo ha ha ha!

In terms of a phobia, I don't mean that precisely, but it's the same instinct -- the fear instinct. We are instinctively afraid of places where we can't protect ourselves. For some people it becomes a phobia or sheer terror, but for others, it's just a good dose of irrational fear.

ScottDS said...

In high school, I was nominated for a literature award (self-nominated, actually!) and I recall my meeting with the judges. Since I wasn't quite literary-minded, I had no choice but to talk about movies. The subject of movies based on books came up and we talked about this film.

I'd never read the novel (still haven't) but I did bring up an anecdote I read about how Kubrick wanted to make something more commercial after the underwhelming box-office results of Barry Lyndon. Apparently, he would take a book off the shelf, start reading, and end up throwing the book on the floor after five minutes. Repeat for several hours, if not days, until his secretary notices that no books have been dropped for a long time. He was reading The Shining.

I didn't win the award but it was a pleasure just to be nominated. ;-)

P.S. Watching this in an empty gym would probably freak me out, too!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That's an interesting story, though I'm scratching my head about nominating yourself. . . especially when you aren't into literature?!

I read somewhere too that Kubrick decided that he would make this his commercial film so that he wouldn't be written off. I didn't know how he had chosen the topic though, except that it was a best seller. Interestingly, the film started very slowly and was poorly received. It took a long time for it to catch on.

I think the gymnasium thing would freak most people out and I'd love to run a test of some sort. I should go pretend to take psychology courses so they let me set it up. :-)

ScottDS said...

I guess I just wanted a mention in the yearbook! Incidentally, the kid who everyone thought would get the nomination was an avid reader and had won awards for his writing. Me... bupkes. :-) But the judges liked me. (I simply assumed, given his literary hobbies, that he was more introverted during the interview.)

I'm currently listening to clips from The Shining soundtrack on YouTube. Probably a mistake! If you ever turn your place into a haunted house on Halloween, just play some Krzysztof Penderecki. :-)

By the way, one of my favorite Simpsons Treehouse House of Horror episodes spoofs this film.

"No beer and no TV make Homer something something."

"Go crazy?

The film also plays at the drive-in theater in Twister. A tornado shreds the screen during Jack's "Heeeeeere's Johnny" close-up.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That was one of my favorite Simpson's Treehouse of Horror's too:

"You got 'the shinnin'."
"Don't you mean 'the shining'?"
"Shhhh. Do ya wanta get sued?!"

Kubrick is excellent with his use of classical music. His use of a the Blue Danube in 2001 was brilliant. Here he uses some of the heaviest classical music ever at the right times. Eyes Wide Shut had excellent classical music too, though the film was pretty poor. His musical tastes have always fit his films quite well.

Great, so you deprived some poor bookworm of the award that would have changed his life. I just don't know about you Scott.... :-(

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, By the way, I thought I would mention that I actually do know who the Kingston Trio is and that my dad used to sing one of their songs when he got together with friends... Something about "...the Spanish hate the Dutch and I don't like anyone very much."

ScottDS said...

Well, now that you put it like that...! :-)

Truth be told, he got into Northwestern which I believe was his first choice anyway. It might've looked good on the application but it's NOT NOT NOT a life-changer. Hell, it's a regional award given out by just two counties in one state! And the fact that someone unqualified could nominate himself just devalues the whole enterprise! (IMHO)

Considering our respective stations in life, I think he got the last laugh.

Back on topic:

One of The Simpsons producers once said that you could probably piece together every Kubrick film (along with Citizen Kane) from Simpsons clips.

I'm also a huge fan of the Shostakovich waltz that he uses to open and close Eyes Wide Shut. 2001 actually had an original score by Alex North which Kubrick threw out. There's a re-recording of that lost score which is available and the original tracks were briefly made available several years ago but that album is out of print. (Rejected scores are much more common than you think.)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Actually, I'm not surprised about the rejected scores. In fact, if I were making a film, I might even consider hiring 2-3 different composers to score it (without each other's knowledge) just so I had choices to consider. I like the idea of getting multiple writers too, but then I'm crazy like that.

That's the one the Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 (I've "borrowed" it to my harddrive). I love that one for some reason.

It wouldn't surprise me if the Simpsons had done at least all the highlights by now. They seem to have gone after everything he's done!

On the award, yeah, your description kind of devalues it. LOL! By the way, I'm waiting for Paul Harvey-like .... and that little boy.... was.... Barack Obama.

AndrewPrice said...

Wait... wrong Shostakovic: Waltz 2 From Jazz Suite. That's the one.

ScottDS said...

^Yep. :-)

As for rejected scores, a few others come to mind, including:

-Elmer Bernstein's Gangs of New York

-Jerry Goldsmith's Timeline

-Randy Newman's Air Force One (believe it or not!)

-Michael Small's The China Syndrome (the final film has no score)

-Jerry Goldsmith's first pass at Star Trek: The Motion Picture (he rescored 20+ minutes including all the drydock stuff)

Your idea sounds interesting but I doubt any studio would pay for it! (Hell, they barely pay for one composer now.) The director/composer relationship is often fraught with difficulty - even Burton and Elfman briefly split up at one point in the 90s.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, When you're making a $200 million film, surely they can find another $35.99 to hire a second composer! ;-)

Seriously, I'm a fan of using money where it counts. Tell the CGI guys -- "the orc budget just got halved jerks." And then toss the money at writers and music people. Why rely on just one when you can harness a lot of brainpower relatively cheaply?

But then, I'm talking about making films... not producing a blockbuster for generic consumption.

Hmm. I never noticed China Syndrome didn't have a score.

Randy Newman? "Short people got no reason... no reason to fly...." LOL! (I know he regrets writing that song, BTW.)

I can see where it would be a difficult relationship, except that "me director... me boss... you not." Defining roles clearly usually is the key to any good working relationship.

T-Rav said...

Scott, that's a cool story about Kubrick and his obsessing over the book. Andrew's right, there's a very "Rest of the Story" quality to it.

Incidentally, a few years ago a rock/pop group, "30 Seconds to Mars," had a music video for one of their songs, "The Kill," that was basically a condensed version of The Shining. Link below--they're kind of a screamy emo group, and I'm not sure they even exist anymore, but the way they re-create the most famous scenes is, well, kind of interesting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yvGCAvOAfM

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Interesting video, despite the ultra-high EMO factor. Here's the link: MUCHO EMO LINK

And if you're referring to the beat suit, I wouldn't call that the most famous scene. LOL!

Koshcat said...

I really loved this movie and I love Jack. I think he was also great in Five Easy Pieces and he saves A Few Good Men.

I think many get caught up in the film thinking the central character is Jack. It isn't. It's Danny. He is the shining. It is he who kills his father and saves his mother (very Oedipal). I always felt The Overlook was hell and Jack was trying to drag his family down to hell with him. Danny is the "Christ" figure. The people Jack sees are already trapped there and the reason Jack is in the picture is he has completed his decent never to escape. What I don't know is what happened to the cooks soul? Maybe because he shined he could escape unlike the other innocents.

Just my two cents. I could be full of it too.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, Actually, that makes a lot of sense. It's hard to focus on Danny because Jack is so much larger than life and he dominates the screen, but if you focus on Danny, then it does become the story of a boy trying to save his mother from the fate of his father -- who seems well beyond reach already. In fact, Danny's redrum moment (which happens before they even get to the Overlook) tells us that Danny knows what Jack is planning... which also fits with Jack's book being "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" as Jack has no intention of writing a book, he's just here to kill his family and complete his journey.

And since Danny has this gift, he can see into Jack's "true" world, i.e. the hell to which he is descending, whereas Wendy can't because she doesn't have the gift.

That's an interesting thought!

In terms of the cook, I would think he escapes Jack's fate for three reasons. First, he dies nobly, trying to help Danny. Secondly, he doesn't appear in any old photos, so there's no evidence he's been pulled into the hotel. And third, the ghosts seem to reject him. Indeed, they are furious that he's coming to help Danny. What's more, since he too has the gift and he claims to have seen them, he's already proven that he has the ability to resist them or they would have done to him what they did to Jack.

Koshcat said...

I like your explanation of the cook. I forgot the ghosts rejected him. It was the reason they released Jack from the freezer if I remember right. Danny had called for help and the cook responded. Maybe the hotel was really after Danny the whole time but needed jack's help. Also interesting the Jack has to leave the hotel for Danny to kill him but he is still accepted back in, even though he failed. Of course, his torment maybe much worse. Is his destiny to spend eternity in an animal suit servicing other men? Or worse?

AndrewPrice said...

Koshkat, Thanks. I get a strong vibe from the film that they want no part of the cook in their menagerie of ghosts -- they really hate him.

On Danny v. Jack... said slightly differently, it's interesting that Jack dies when he leaves the hotel. Danny doesn't really kill him so much as just survives long enough for Jack to die. In my opinion, Jack really shouldn't have died there. I understand that he probably got lost in the hedges so its possible he just collapsed and froze to death, but it would seem that he could make his way back out to warmth before he froze to death. If nothing else, he could have just push his way through the hedges until he came to the edge. So his death has always struck me as unnatural. It's more like he simply ran out of time than that he froze to death.

That is an excellent point about the hotel possibly being after Danny. The two little girls would seem to indicate that -- I doubt they did anything to end up in the hotel except be killed, but they are clearly there now, so Grady must have pulled them in with him. The novel would support that view too as the ghosts (to the extent they are real) are constantly attacking Danny. Maybe that's the hotel's purpose?

In terms of Jack's punishment, that's a good question. I doubt the hotel was planning to let him go if he killed Danny, so I wonder if it has different types of punishments depending on how well they succeed? It's interesting that Grady (assuming he is the same Grady) went from being the caretaker to the butler. Maybe he earned his release from being the caretaker by killing his girls? Or maybe their punishments is to re-enact what they were doing when they died in the 1920s? Maybe Grady was acting as a butler when he was killed and Jack was doing the bear suit thing. Then they were both reincarnated and came back with families. Once they either killed them or not, they were sent to relive their 1920s lives as punishment?

Also, as an aside, maybe Jack was gay? Maybe that's why Jack has no family in the 1921 photo?

ScottDS said...

Want to know something cool about that photo? It's a genuine 1920s photo with Jack simply airbrushed in. Kubrick didn't think they'd be able to recreate the period look with extras circa 1979-80.

Tell the CGI guys -- "the orc budget just got halved jerks."

I know you're being sarcastic but the CGI guys can only do what was designed and planned for by the filmmakers. It's not their fault. If you have a university with a film school nearby, I suggest you visit their library, see if they have Cinefex, then look up issue 101 with a story titled "State of the Business: A Cinefex 25th Anniversary Forum" by Jody Duncan.

She interviews filmmakers and top FX supervisors about the business end of things. You know what surprised me? Most of these people would agree with your sentiments. Much of the blame goes to: a.) inexperienced hack filmmakers who just want things to "look kewl," and b.) the studio brass who're convinced their big films "need more CGI" since the films released by the other studios are doing it. Visual effects is a very volatile industry.

Incidentally, it was Jurassic Park and the developments in CGI that led Kubrick to start work on A.I. in the 90s before he became convinced that Spielberg should do it instead.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, no, I wasn't thinking of that specifically (sicko), I was thinking of the latter half overall where everyone has a twin from the past. Just makes me wonder more about that reincarnation bit.

On the dying thing, I like the idea that Jack simply ran out of time to kill Danny rather than he froze to death. For one thing, he wasn't out in the hedge maze that long, and for another, when he's chasing Danny and calling to him, he gets increasingly incoherent and by the end his voice is barely more than a howl. I don't know what that means but it's kind of like he's degenerating as he completes his descent into evil.

As for his fate, I have no doubt what it would be but I suspect it's something worse than servicing men in tuxedos.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I'm not being sarcastic. CGI was supposed to make movies really cheap. It was supposed to wipe out the need for big sets, lots of extra and lots of costumes. That was supposed to translate into budgets that were half or less of what they used to be.

But then it got carried away. Now CGI budgets are often the biggest part of the film (plus they make the film look cartoony). So I'm very serious when I say that I would slash any CGI budget to its bare bones and spend the money on things that actually make the film better -- like extras, writers and music.

As for who is at fault, I think the fault always begins with the director. I'm sure the studios play a role as they often do, but a director who "does it right" should be able to overcome the childish minds that run studios. I really get the feeling from dozens of interviews that most directors simply see CGI as an easy way to make films without trying to find the right place to film, the right costumes, and the right way to frame things. Just put your main actors against a green screen and let the computers do the rest.

I thought Spielberg took over A.I. after Kubrick's death?

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I actually prefer the idea that he runs out of time too. It just always struck me that there's no way he froze to death. I suppose it's possible, but he just seems to expire more than anything. So I've always taken that to mean he's simply run out of time or Danny has crossed some barrier and Jack has lost.

Oh, yeah, the twin thing. LOL!

On his ultimate fate, I actually have no "good" (i.e. acceptable) vision of hell, so I always find different takes to be fascinating. One of the things that troubles me with the "you will relive your sins" idea is... what if you enjoyed your sins? Seriously, supposed Jack's destiny is to replay the events of this film over and over and to try to kill his wife every time? Frankly, he doesn't see himself doing anything wrong and he won't have any sort of emotional regret or pain over this. He might be frustrated that he never manages to get her, but he's not going to be suffering regret from trying. So I see that as a flawed punishment.

Essentially, the problem with that view of hell is that it depends on you hating yourself for sinning, but I don't think most sinners feel that way.

ScottDS said...

From what I understand, Kubrick had been developing A.I. for years - including screenplay drafts, artwork, and a chat with ILM's top guys some time in 1993. He had brought Spielberg aboard the film as a producer in the 80s but at one point in the mid-90s, Kubrick said something like, "You would be the best guy to direct this film. I'll be the producer."

After Kubrick's death, Spielberg's team got access to everything Kubrick's team had developed, including thousands of drawings.

It's all quite fascinating.

There's also a book on the subject.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I didn't know that. I just heard that he took over after Kubrick's death. But truthfully, I never followed it very closely as I see it as a dreadful film. It combines the worst elements of Kubrick's style with the worst elements of Spielberg's style.

Thanks for the link!

ScottDS said...

Man, I think I've commented more in this thread than in any of the Star Trek threads!

One day you'll have to write a review of A.I. It's the only Spielberg film (with the possible exception of Empire of the Sun which I've only seen once) that leaves me conflicted and emotionally unsettled. Maybe it's because I saw the film just before I left for college (the separation anxiety thing), or maybe it's because of a different reason altogether. I'm sure I'll see it again one day but I have no wish to revisit it anytime soon. It's one of those "When will the other shoe drop?" films. You just know the mother will have to get rid of David... you just know David will do everything he can to be a real boy so he can be loved by her... and you just know it will never work.

(By the way, the ending would've been in Kubrick's version. A lot of people including myself thought those were aliens but they were simply a more advanced form of robot, or "mecha.")

To quote Spielberg: "And all the parts of A.I. that people accuse me of sweetening and softening and sentimentalizing were all Stanley's. The teddy bear was Stanley's. The whole last 20 minutes of the movie was completely Stanley's. The whole first 35, 40 minutes of the film – all the stuff in the house – was word for word, from Stanley's screenplay. This was Stanley's vision."

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Commenting is good for the soul! LOL!

In terms of being unsettled, it's an unsettling movie because it just feels like a train wreck waiting to happen. Everything the people do in that film is clearly doomed the moment they do it and you know that it's all going to blow up on them. So there's no moment in that film that you can ever consider hopeful.

My biggest complaint though was the relationship with the mother, which was simply not credible to me. It wasn't credible she would keep the child/mecha or that she would fall in love with it just because it hung around the house long enough.

That's interesting that Spielberg at least heard the criticism. I'm not sure which parts which guy did, but it really does feel like this film got the worst of both directors rather than the best.

I have to say I don't like the idea of watching the film again, but I will put it on my list and I'll review it.

ScottDS said...

I have to say I don't like the idea of watching the film again, but I will put it on my list and I'll review it.

You really don't have to if you don't want but, when I wrote my post, I was thinking, "Come on, the guy made it though Avatar!"

AndrewPrice said...

Avatar almost killed me. I had nightmares for weeks. . . the Smurf horror.... the Smurf horror.

Seriously, I'll do it. I'm willing to take the occasional bullet for my audience. In fact, I'm actually thinking about watching Twilight just to review it. Needless to say, I am apprehensive.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, if you're going to review Twilight, I recommend large quantities of morphine. Or horse tranquilizers, whatever's easier to get. I have seen it twice--don't ask why--and was nearly homicidal by the end. There is just so much about that movie that I hate.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Yeah, this one is going to be tough. I already hate the actors and I haven't even turned the movie on. Ug.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Congratulations on getting a gig at the Big H, Andrew (kind of sounds like a ranch when I put it that way)!

I hope you link to every post you write so we know when to bring the Commentarama Commenting Goodness (assuming us dial-up types can get through...hopefully the commenting over there has gotten more accessable).

Also, it would be nice to see some intelligent comments when the trolls swarm (okay, I admit mine ain't so intelijent per say, but most everyone else here writes intelligently...or, in the case of T-Rav at least virtually intelligentlylike or VI if you will, which is what happens when AI meets the Three Stooges vs The Dark Overlords Of The Universe). :^)

Hey, does this mean you'll be having lunch with Andrew Breitbart and Nick Nolte? If so, can you get Adam Baldwin's autograph for me?
Preferrably on a signed Firefly and Chuck DVD collection if it's not too much trouble.

Also, please tell the other Andrew I'm available for any consulting work he may need done when he starts up the Big Navy site (what's he waitin' for, an invitation already?)!

I look forward to seeing your unique brand of insightful writing and humor at the Big H!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

P.S. Nice review!

This is one of the few King novels made into movies I like, the others being Silver Bullet and Monkey Shines (not much is scarier than being paralyzed and trapped with a psychotic monkey! For those who don't think that's so scary just try it sometime).

No, I didn't try it but I don't have to since I know for a fact that all those filthy monkeys are psychotic.
Oh sure, they may look cute but trust me, that's just a ruse to fool you until they get close enough to bite your nose off and poop on your head!

Anyhow, although some og King's early work ain't half bad I gotta say I find him to be despicable, particularly since he said (paraphrasing) the reason folks join our military is because they ain't smart enough to realize they shouldn't.

Implying that he is, I suppose.
I get the feeling that King has never considered the idea that perhaps most people join our military because they actually wanna protect our lives and our liberty, not to mention our country.

Which is a shame, really. But I don't know what's more shameful, that he has never considered that or that he thinks our troops are a bunch of stupid hicks.
Or that he considers his sorry ass to be so smart in comparison.

Be that as it may, I do think Jack did a superb job and it is interesting to think of actors who could pull it off.

Mel Gibson (pre-meltdown) comes to mind because he can (obviously) do psychotic and crazy even before his present idiotic, alcoholic fueled outbursts.

Joe Pesci might be able to pull it off too.

It's difficult to say for sure because would they just be copying Jack's performance or could they bring their own brand of crazy that's just as good?

Can't add anything else that hasn't been covered except I like Scatman Crothers in everything I have seen him in!
He can bring a smile to my face even in a horror film like the Shining! :^)

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Thanks! I'll definitely put up a link so everyone knows the article is up. I'm hoping I get some notice of when the article will be posted, but I'm still not 100% sure of the process.

The first one is a little light on humor (except the captions to the photos I chose). But I will strive to be funny in my later articles.

As for lunch... no, no lunch. It's all on the internet now! But I'll pass along your desire that they open a Big Navy site! LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I totally agree about King. I keep meaning to write about him because (1) I think he's a vile human being (the military thing, other nasty political statements, and his really angry, uncalled-for attack on the Twilight author, and (2) I've found that everything he's done since the early 1980s has been stolen from films. I find it shameless.

Good question whether these actors could do it or if they would just be copying Jack at this point?

Gibson definitely does crazy. My concern with him though is that he does "crazy funny."

I wonder how Harvey Keitel would have done?

Totally agree about monkeys -- nasty creatures.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I concur, Andrew.

Plus, King's stuff the last few decades is entirely predictable.
Obviously he has a deepseated anger towards Christians because he always depicts them as crazy cultists.

I don't have a problem with that for one book or movie because there are some crazy cultists who call themselves Christians although they are anything but Christ-like, but when it becomes a feature of every story it becomes clear King is projecting his anger at God on fictional cultists that are everywhere (his view of Christians in general).

Not only is it unoriginal but it gets ridiculous and tedious.
King has become a hack and a joke so it's no wonder he attacks authors who are successful.

BTW, my wife and oldest daughter are Twilight fans (the books and the movies) so I have seen the movies at least a few times.

IMO they aren't horrible but they are intended for teenage girls for the most part.
Lots of teen angst and yes, not the best acting around but compared to most of Stephen King's movies they are a much better alternative.

Would I watch any Twilight flicks by myself? No. But they aren't among the worst movies I have seen. At least there's a fairly coherent plot to them and the occasional appearance of Tom Skerrit, lol.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, King had a serious anti-Christian blast in The Mist that really struck me as just over the top. He had this supposedly Christian woman, written as your stereotypical intolerant superstitious fundamentalist crazy, and she decided that the mist must be God's wrath, so we should start sacrificing sinners to it. Huh?! Give me a break.

His anger is really showing through in all his recent stuff.

But what bothers me even more is that everything he does is stolen. I can literally go through his stories and point out where every single plot moment came from... oh, he stole this from movie X and this from movie Y...

I'm going to give Twilight a test to see if there's something worth talking about there. I'm not hopeful, but we'll see. If I can stomach a Michael Moore film, then I can take this! LOL!

Kevin said...

I believe your statement...

"But what about this: what if Jack isn’t really ever alive? What if Jack is a ghost. What if Jack did something in 1921 that trapped his soul at the Overlook, just like all the other ghosts, and now he’s destined to live out this nightmare of going insane and killing his family over and over and over again."

...because it seems the ghost of the 1921 caretaker (who looks like Jack Nicholson) is inhabiting the body of someone else: the writer Jack Torrence. Mirrors are a big key to this. Besides mirrors being linked to ghosts as an earlier poster said, look how Jack reacts walking down the hallway with mirrors on the walls: he freaks out, tries to push some sort of vision away, like he's repulsed by what he sees. It almost appears like he can't accept what he looks like because the face he sees in the mirror isn't his own, it looks like Jack Nicholson from 1921 when the actual Jack Torrance (the writer) looks completely different, he knows it but he's seeing a ghost of the 1921 caretaker that's taken over his body. HE would still appear as normal Jack Torrance (whatever he may look like) to Wendy & Danny. That's my theory, I'd probably have to watch the film again, which would punch major holes in my theory but, there you go...

AndrewPrice said...

Kevin, That's a great point! I hadn't thought about how he reacts to mirrors, but he really does not like seeing his own image. So maybe that is the key to this film -- that Torrance has been possessed by a ghost (possibly Grady) and is reliving what he's doing in the body of Torrance.

I'll have to watch the film again an pay special attention to how he reacts with mirrors or to see if he recognizing anything he shouldn't be able to without prior knowledge -- like old photos or something.

tryanmax said...

Followed the link from the latest BH article. Great review and really probing questions. As if I didn't have enough on my watch list, I'm going to put this in the rotation for another look.

I will say this about Kubrick's directing style: He is more about striking visuals than coherent storytelling. I've always considered his work to be like a major news story if you lined up the breaking articles back to back instead of getting them as they are parsed across days and weeks. (And, of course, with no 20/20 to tidy it up, afterward.) The striking visuals--the blood coming out of the elevator--are the headlines that grab you, but the story never mentions them again.

Personally, I get tired of and insulted by movies that spell out every little detail. I find satisfaction in films that engage me, that make me do some--even a lot--of the work. Sometimes, like in a mystery, it's nice to have the bow tied neatly on the end so you know whether you were right. But Kubrick's films aren't about necessarily knowable things. It's like hearing about an unusual crime on the radio with only a few scant details. You're forced to spend the rest of the day wondering, "Why?"

* * *
This thread being dormant for two months, I'm going to take this opportunity to publicly declare that I find Shelly Duvall strangely becoming. Maybe not so much in this film as in, say, Annie Hall, but I realize that does not make my attraction any less strange.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I don't know what to tell you about Shelly Duvall... have you sought treatment? Just kidding.

I agree with you about movies that explain everything. In something like a comedy, that's to be expected. But in things like horror or science fiction, there should be something left to the imagination. That's something I love about Blade Runner (in the version without the narration), they leave a lot up to you -- including why Roy saves Harrison Ford.

I agree about Kubrick too, he's big on strong visuals, but soft on story.

As for rewatching this film, I watch this every once in a while and I still struggle with some of the answers to the questions above. It's a fascinating film.

tryanmax said...

I don't plan on seeking treatment. If other guys don't like the big-eyed, gangly type, that just frees them up for me.

AndrewPrice said...

Good point!

R. Dittmar said...

I'm going to strike a contrary note here, but I think I've earned that right given how hard I tried to be fair to this story. I didn't get the point of Kubrick's movie, so I was willing to watch the mini-series after being told it was closer to the book. I didn't get the mini-series so I actually went that extra mile and read the book. It was then that I realized I had been had. There is nothing to be "gotten" from this story. It's nothing but an amped-up version of a story they would have tossed off for an episode of Karloff's old "Thriller" series. "But the ghosts weren't real ... or were they??!!! Buh-buh-buuuhm."

If King's publishers hadn't been willing to pay him by the ream, this "novel" wouldn't have seen the light of day - much less warranted making a feature length film out of. There's no need to find some kind of deeper meaning in events because the only point of most of them is to pad out the book to 400+ pages. Even the titular "Shining" doesn't really have anything to do with anything other than giving King a deus ex machina to end the book. It's always fun to speculate about things, but I no longer have any interest in this movie or the book it was based on. As the saying goes, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and I no longer have interest in trying to figure out what King or Kubrick meant when in fact they were just padding things out (King) or filming things because they looked "cool" (Kubrick).

T-Rav said...

Okay, so I watched part of The Shining again on IFC last night, and some of the scenes got me thinking again. Specifically, I'm having issues with this "destined to repeat one's sins" theory we were batting about.

If Jack were destined to relive his past crimes, that would imply he doesn't have a choice in the matter. Except he does seem to have a choice. There are moments--his nightmare about killing his wife and son, his moment at the bar where he says to the bartender "I'm the kind of man who likes to know who's buying their drinks," and then in his conversation with Grady--where he has flashes of sanity and knows that there's something bad going on, and that he should really grab his family and get the heck out of there. He doesn't do that, of course, but theoretically, it seems he could have. So maybe he's not caught in a time loop or reincarnated. I don't know.

Also, what's the significance of Room 237? That was the one room the cook warned Danny not to go into. And although he was seeing ghosts before then, it was only after he (and then Jack) went in that things really went south. Was that like some kind of lid on the hotel's evil or something?

AndrewPrice said...

R. Dittmar, Welcome! We always welcome contrary opinions. :)

I am not a big fan of King, especially his later work, because I think most of it is just derivative of what is already out there on film. There are times I feel like King just spends a weekend watching all the movies in a particular genre and then takes the best parts, adds one of his stock characters and then sends the book to his publishers.

But I did enjoy The Shining a lot. I thought it was a good story with some interesting twists and turns and it was enough to keep you guessing. I don't think it was horribly scary or anything and it doesn't rank up there with Hemmingway or Dickens, but I truly enjoyed it.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, You raise an interesting issue. Maybe his punishment is to repeat these events until he sees the error of his ways and he's just unable or unwilling to stop? Think back on Groundhog Day how he was destined to repeat the day until he finally saw the light and became a better person. Maybe Jack's in that kind of scenario and he just can't force himself to do the right thing?

He does seem to recognize the problem, but doesn't seem willing to consider changing his behavior at any point.

Or maybe the possibility of escape is just a tease to make his punishment worse?

Room 237 (217 in the book) is never really explained because they never actually explain what is causing the hotel to be evil. It's implied that several bad things have happened in that room and Hallorann implies that the room is kind of the epicenter of events (or just the most violent perhaps), but you never do find out why.

R. Dittmar said...

King, I think, is a very good short story writer. He can take a simple idea and follow it to a logical conclusion. His problem though is that all he CAN come up with is simple ideas. So when he tries to write a novel, he's forced to endlessly pad and introduce illogical twists and turns just to reach his required page count.

That's my problem with "The Shining" in a nutshell. Dad-going-crazy might have made for a good short thriller-type story, but there's simply nothing about it complicated or interesting enough to carry an entire massive book.

AndrewPrice said...

Dittmar, I see your point and I can't disagree with it. King often does seem to do a lot of padding in his stories. I actually gave up on the long version of The Stand because it could have been told in less than half the page count without missing a beat.

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