The Best Films to Watch Without Ever Leaving Your Bed This Week

Every Wednesday morning, I find myself whispering the old Beckett adage “I can’t go on, I’ll go on,” to myself as I settle down into work. No matter how thrilling the day’s prospects may be, it’s that midweek slump that always seems to rear its ugly head in the worst way. But never fear, the hours are sure to breeze on by and soon it will be the weekend—one that happens to be rife with fantastic films both premiering and screening around the city, thanks to NYFF and various other retrospectives.

But in the meantime, what better way to spend an evening than curled up under the sheets enjoying the best of cinema—new modern masterpieces to wonderful classics—from the comfort of your bed? And with myriad options to choose from on Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes, the nightly decision of what to show in your private bedroom screening can prove a challenge. So to make your time easier, I’ve rounded up some of the best films available to stream, so peruse our list, get cozy, and enjoy.

Much Ado About Nothing (iTunes)

Playing out as a love letter to Shakespeare’s comedic tale of a merry war betwixt two lovers, Much Ado is brimming with charisma and sensual thrill. You don’t need to be a scholar of the bard to find yourself captivated by the story, with its silky smooth and velvety jazz-filled atmosphere, you’re eased into the film in a way that’s far from intimidating. Whedon infuses a conversational style to the story that makes it more accessible than any other Shakespearean re-workings in recent memory, adding to a charm that’s heightened by its phenomenal cast of characters.

Filmed in his own home in Los Angeles, for the director best known for hit shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, or Hollywood blockbusters like The Avengers, Much Ado was a welcome surprise. The comedy feels like a breath of fresh air, a respite from major studio pictures that allows Whedon the freedom to let loose with a rapturous mix of refinement and playfulness. Much Ado may seem minimalistic in its production style, but that speaks nothing of the beauty with which it was shot and the wonderfully nuanced performances by its sprawling cast. 

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Simon Killer (Netflix)

Simon Killer goes deeper into Campos’s affinity for the disturbed male psyche with a film that’s rich in texture, tone, and color. It’s a dance between passionate aggression and emotional isolation that’s primal and fiercely enjoyable in its discomfort. Filled with stunning visual interludes like psychological cues that bring you closer into Simon’s sociopathic, music-fueled, and violently sexual world, the film is an optically and emotionally stimulating character study that packs a punch. No stranger to portraying morally unsound characters that walk the line between tantalizing and creepy, Corbet carries out Campos’s vision with a frightening possession.

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Shock Corridor (Hulu)

Haunted by doomsday visions, the mental hospital is a tabloid version of America — a place where war games and race riots are played out on the central corridor, a.k.a. the Street, as in Main Street. Or put another way, America is imagined as bedlam. At once compelling and incoherent, "Shock Corridor" was shot entirely in interior — the outside world only present as hallucination. It’s a movie that regularly, if unpredictably, breaks free from its narrative straitjacket and erupts into mayhem. Social pathology merges with individual delusion. The three witnesses to the murder are a guilt-ridden nuclear physicist regressed to age 5, a brainwashed Korean War traitor imagining himself a heroic Confederate general and the first black student to integrate a Southern university, who believes he founded the Ku Klux Klan and, in true split personality fashion, crafts signs directed at himself: "Black foreigners can’t breathe our white air and go to school with our white children."

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Something in the Air (Netflix)

Opening with the Blaise Pascal quote: "Between us and heaven and hell there is only life which is the frailest thing in the world," Olivier Assayas’ Something in the Air takes us into a world of youth committed to the present. Going back to the year 1971, which he first explored with the poetic Cold Water (1994)—a film about the emotions of being a teenager—Assayas draws direct parallels between the two, yet where the former dealt in the abstract, Something is a more direct autobiographical look at his own memory of coming of age in that time. Paying tribute to those who inspired his own sensibilities as an artist, the film merges the person with the political, exploring the identity of youth in the aftermath of the May ’68 and the choices that inform our maturation into adulthood. It’s a film about the intersection of creative passion and ideological inclination, where self-discovery for the teenagers in the film, comes through their devouring of films, books, music, and art of the time—from the poetry of Gregory Corso to the music of Syd Barrett.

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Room 237 (iTunes)

Ascher’s Room 237 is not a film that asks us to hold any of its ideas as truths, nor does it present them as such. For how could we ever know the turth that lived inside the confounding mind of Stanley Kubrick? The Shining is a film that explores the maze-like complexity of the tortured mind’s unconscious, and takes our idea of the nuclear family and throws it in our face. And with Room 237, we’re left to question where subjectivity and art collide—was any of this really Kubrick’s intention, and where do my personal affinities transfer themselves into his world? Ascher presents us with these ideas in an invigorating way that makes us question not only our own understanding of the work but career of a man whose films have continued to baffle, excite, and penetrate our subconscious inqueries and desires for over half a century.

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À nos amours (Hulu)

Painful, beautiful, and discomfiting, À nos amours remains as startling in its honesty, its unique mix of savagery and delicacy, as it was in 1983. Next to it, most adolescent “rite of passage” films, with their predictable dividing lines and alignments of sympathies, look tame, even reassuring. François Truffaut, who had his own take on the miseries of childhood, and thus was perhaps the closest to Pialat in interests, admired him immensely, but from our vantage point, this late-blooming director was not one of the “new people.” Not just a late starter but a cranky outsider to boot, Pialat was never part of the nouvelle vague, had none of the collegial feelings or movement enthusiasms of a team player. And although he shared a revolutionary aesthetic, and was as adamantly opposed as they were to the tyranny of the “well-made film,” he was more interested in autobiography than genre. In a series of films, made and seen with difficulty, he explored his life and concerns in terms so uncompromising and so deeply felt that, though he was not easy to take in his own time, he has emerged like a prophet of the conflicts that are convulsing today’s families and relationships.

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The Bling Ring (iTunes)

In the past year we’ve seen myriad films about rebellious teenage behavior, youth in revolt against their mundane lives—from dangerously wild films like Spring Breakers to the more heartfelt coming-of-age stories like The Kings of Summer. As the inundation of social media and the  obsession with celebrity culture increases, it’s easy for young people to get sucked into the idea of fame and success as the ultimate goal. But what happens when you get there? What happens when you’re knee-deep in Paris Hilton’s leather Louboutin boots? How do we reconcile the aspiration of affluence with the reality that undercuts it?  But with The Bling Ring, Coppola’s kinetic fashion heist film based on the 2010 Vanity Fair article "The Suspect Wore Louboutins," we follow a group of reckless teens lusting after the sheen of materialistic pleasures.

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Leviathan (iTunes)

More easily comparable to the anxiety provoking and emotionally stimulating sensations of looking at the work of Francis Bacon or Edvard Munch while listening to a dark, metallic piece of music filled with pleasure and fright, Leviathan is almost inarticulate in its possession. As a sensory ethnographic investigation that leads you through the world of commercial fishing, the sum of the film is far more than one might expect. Having first premiered in competition at the 2012 Locarno Film Festival, Castaing-Taylor and Paravel‘s film has been entrancing audiences’ since with its entirely unique wordless wonder and gives the perspective of the fishermen but also echoes their own haunting experience out at sea through the interminable sense of unease. But this anxious perspective is matched by the most striking cinematography that’s shocking in its beauty as it casts a light on every perspective of the boat and blends colors like an impressionist painting being thrown against the waves.

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The East (iTunes)

Now more than ever, in a time where our personal sense of security is constantly in question and our beliefs are always on the line, we need films that not only speak to where we’re headed as a society but how it feels to exist in the world today. As we’re forced to assimilate to ever-changing and frightening state of things, the culture that we’re consuming should not only be a means of escapism to dull our anxiety but a reflection and a call to action, an inspiration for ideas that will fuel us. And with The East, Batmanglij has created a film that’s as intriguing as it is topical, as emotionally stirring as it cinematically thrilling.

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Weekend (Hulu)

With its pop art color scheme and two-dimensional characters, Weekend is less like a novel than a pamphlet, and more like a fairy tale than either. The presiding trope is Alice’s tumble down the rabbit hole. Weekend opens conventionally enough, like a Chabrol movie or a Balzac novel: a married couple, Corinne (Mireille Darc) and Roland (Jean Yanne), are planning each other’s demise with their respective lovers, and plotting together to help Corinne’s ailing father into the afterlife— maybe her mother as well, if she refuses to split the inheritance. But any illusion of melodramatic realism is quickly punctured in a scene where Corinne’s lover assumes the role of psychiatrist, sitting at a desk in a darkened office while Corinne sits on the desk in her bra and panties and describes a recent three-way with a different lover and his girlfriend, an orgy, involving eggs and a bowl of milk, loosely borrowed from Bataille’s Histoire de l’œil. The episode is a parody of Bibi Andersson’s emotionally overwrought “orgy monologue” in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, rendered flat and passionless by Corinne’s bored delivery, the camera’s slow zooming in and out in near darkness on the barely distinguishable figures, and swelling, “ominous” B-movie theme music that occasionally drowns out her voice. Godard establishes here an atmosphere of neurotic apprehension and narrative unreliability sustained throughout the rest of the film. “Is this a dream or did it really happen?” “I don’t know.”

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Tape (iTunes)

‘Tape” made me believe that its events could happen to real people more or less as they appear on the screen, and that is its most difficult accomplishment. To describe the movie makes it sound like an exercise in artifice: three characters, one motel room, all talk, based on a stage play. But the writing, acting and direction are so convincing that at some point I stopped thinking about the constraints and started thinking about the movie’s freedoms: freedom from idiocy, first of all, since the characters are all smart and articulate, and testing each other’s nerve and values. Freedom from big gassy meaningless events. Freedom from the tyranny of an overbearing soundtrack that wants to feel everything for us. Freedom from the expected.

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Fox and His Friends (Hulu)

Make no mistake, this is the real Queer as Folk, but for all of Fassbinder’s gripes with an elite gay culture’s many sexual hang-ups, Fox and His Friends is first and foremost a riveting evocation of social Darwinism in action (Fox is called "stupid and primitive" and the tagline that follows the film’s title on the Wellspring DVD of the film aptly proclaims: "Survival of the Fittest"). A mere child at heart, Fox is unconsciously rude to his elders and pounds his hands at the dinner table. His sweetly innocent behavior nonetheless brings shame to Eugen, who has no problems borrowing 100,000 German marks from Fox to prevent his father’s printing business from going under. And after Eugen and his elite family (they prefer Mozart to loud modernist composers and are easily mortified when Fox drops chunks of bread into his soup) successfully bilk Fox out of his entire fortune (embarrassing him by forcing him to work at their factory and then suggesting that his slave labor is his interest due), Fox returns to the earth, so to speak, after dying of a broken heart.

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I Killed My Mother (Netflix)

I Killed My Mother is determinedly quotidian, albeit suffused with betrayal and disappointment. Chantale, whatever we may think of her gaudy taste (some of the film’s best comedic moments come from her literally wild faux fur ensembles), is not the worst mother in the world, and sometimes, when she’s fiercely defending her son to his haughty boarding-school principal, she’s truly admirable. In the midst of the film’s arguments and disavowals, it’s easy to lose track of its dramatic core, which is less about adolescence than moving past it. “I love you,” Hubert tells his mother late one night. “I’m telling you so you won’t forget.” Though the fighting inevitably resumes, the unexpected tenderness of these words lingers on. Dolan knows that as Hubert passes into adulthood, this moment will seal itself off. Its intensity will fade, leaving behind just a few words and images, tokens to remind us of, but also to shield us from, the searing pain of the too-recent past.

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Side Effects (Netflix)

Because Side Effects is brilliant: a noir psychological thriller – like a 21st-century Marnie, or Rosemary’s Baby – that is also an acid satire on big pharma, the mental healthprofession and its terrifyingly powerful, priestly caste of doctors. There is a compelling lead performance from Rooney Mara who lays down the law with her presence. She demonstrates a potent Hitchcockian combination: an ability to be scared and scary at the same time, and Soderbergh’s film manages to introduce its effects in some insidious, almost intravenous way. Fear and fascination swam through my skull simply watching it. And the later scenes involving sex, lies and videotape will be especially involving for those on the lookout for recurrent authorial motifs.

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Picnic at Hanging Rock (Hulu)

"The film is just too damn impenetrable for its own good,” writes the Web-based critic Kevin Maynard. I’m sure he speaks for a lot of viewers, but of course if you could penetrate it, there would be no film — simply a police case, or an account of an accident. My idea of Australia has been fashioned almost entirely from its films, and I picture it as a necklace of coastal cities, from which depend smaller inland towns, surrounding the vast and ancient Outback — where modern logic does not apply, and inexplicable things can happen…Nicolas Roeg’s "Walkabout" touches on some of the same feelings as "Picnic at Hanging Rock." In it, a white girl and her brother are left abandoned in the wilderness when their father kills himself. They would quickly die, but are saved by an aborigine boy who, in an ironic reversal, kills himself after they all wander back to civilization. The suggestion in both "Walkabout" and "Picnic” is that aboriginal life cannot be sustained in cities, nor European-based life in nature, and it is intriguing that girls on the brink of maturity are the focal point in both films.

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Babette’s Feast (Hulu)

The quality of the film is, in the end, a spiritual one (which is why mention of Dreyer is merited). Since its release, critics have pointed out that the story is open to religious interpretation, which is fair, and fine, as long as one understands what is meant by this. Certainly, story and film are studded with religious references—to the Last Supper, to sacramental grace, to the importance of charity, and so on—but given that the milieu being depicted is religious, this should contain nothing to surprise us. Plainly, as viewers, we need to acknowledge a certain irony and genial good humor being directed against the narrowness of the village sectarians, while also taking the trouble to observe that the critique provided (such as it is) is congruent with broadly Christian sentiment. As in Ordet, there is puritanical Christianity and a more enlightened Christianity “of the body.” The feast given by Babette to the pious townspeople opens their minds to the notion that the pleasures of the senses aren’t necessarily sinful, but the satire involved here is very gentle, and it would be false to interpret the great sequence we are talking about as some simple endorsement of epicureanism. Actually, you could argue that the film itself resists interpretation because, as with the story, everyone already understands its essence.

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Persona (Hulu)

Shakespeare used six words to pose the essential human choice: "To be, or not to be?" Elizabeth, a character in Ingmar Bergman’s "Persona," uses two to answer it: "No, don’t!" She is an actress who one night stopped speaking in the middle of the performance, and has been silent ever since. Now her nurse, Alma, has in a fit of rage started to throw a pot of boiling water at her. "No, don’t!" translates as: I do not want to feel pain, I do not want to be scarred, I do not want to die. She wants . . . to be. She admits . . . she exists. "Persona" (1966) is a film we return to over the years, for the beauty of its images and because we hope to understand its mysteries. It is apparently not a difficult film: Everything that happens is perfectly clear, and even the dream sequences are clear–as dreams. But it suggests buried truths, and we despair of finding them. "Persona" was one of the first movies I reviewed, in 1967. I did not think I understood it. A third of a century later I know most of what I am ever likely to know about films, and I think I understand that the best approach to "Persona" is a literal one.

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Hunger (Hulu)

McQueen is renowned as an artist and winner of the Turner prize, and this is his first feature film. I came to it sceptically, having been alienated by his video-art work Deadpan (1997), which seemed to me an uninteresting and frankly supercilious appropriation of Buster Keaton. But Hunger shows that McQueen is a real film-maker and his background in art has meant a fierce concentration on image, an unflinching attention to what things looked like, moment by moment. There is an avoidance of affect and a repudiation of the traditional liberal-lenient gestures of dialogue, dramatic consensus and narrative resolution. This is a powerful, provocative piece of work, which leaves a zero-degree burn on the retina.

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From Douglas Sirk to Orson Welles, Here’s What You Should Be Seeing This Weekend in New York

Well, it’s Thursday and although the week has flown by faster than expected, it’s been a tough one. The weather’s been pleasant and hopefully helping to keep our collective spirit from plummeting into a dark abyss, and come tomorrow night you have two full days to focus on what’s truly important—movies. No, but movies do provide a nice escape from life and with a plethora of great films, both new and old, to choose from, I would suggest grabbing yourself some discount candy in bulk and heading to the cinema. I’ve rounded up for you the best in what’s playing this weekend in New York so peruse and the list and enjoy.

 

IFC Center

Errors of the Human Body
Portrait of Jason
 
 

Film Forum

Deceptive Practice: Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
Un Flic
Andre Gregory: Before and After Dinner
 
 

 

Landmark Sunshine

In the House
The Angel’s Share
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Fifth Element
 
 

Nitehawk Cinema

F for Fake
Trance 
Showgirls
Fear and Loathing
Room 237
 
 

MoMA

Kalifornia
Forget Me Not
The Mortal Storm
Oh Boy
 
 

Film Society Lincoln Center

Upstream Color
No Place on Earth
To the Wonder
Dancing Across Borders
The Land of Wandering Souls
 
 

Museum of the Moving Image

Tomboy
An Evening with Chris Milk
Rose (Roza)
Corpo Celeste
 
 

BAM

Written on the Wind
MagnifIcent Obsession
All That Heaven Allows
Trashed

From Dennis Hopper to Terrence Malick, Here Are the Films You Should Be Seeing This Weekend in NYC

I don’t know about you, but I fully intend on spending my weekend curled up with a box of Junior Mints in a darkened theatre. It’s been a long week thus far and with the myriad premieres and screenings going on over the new few days, you really have no excuse to not get yourself into a cinema. From Antonio Campos and Shane Carruth’s stunning sophomore efforts to Terrence Malick’s latest poem of emotions, to the wonder of Dennis Hopper and the debut of Darren Aronofsky, there’s a certainly a diverse mix of films to see. So to get you ready, I’ve compiled the best of what’s playing around the city this weekend—take a look and go buy yourself some candy and/or popcorn. Enjoy.

 

 

IFC Center

Simon Killer
Beyond the Hills
Gimme the Loot
Leviathan
Room 237
The We and the I
Upstream Color
2001: A Space Odyssey
House (Hausu)
The Shining

 

 

Landmark Sunshine

Spice World (in 35mm!)
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Sapphires
Stoker
My Brother the Devil

 

Nitehawk Cinema

Easy Rider
Room 237
Spring Breakers
Inside
Pat Garrett and Billy
Bad News Bears

 

 

Film Society Lincoln Center

Room 237
From Up on Poppy Hill
No Place on Earth
Stones in the Sun
Death for Sale
Toussaint
My Fair Lady

 

 

 

Museum of the Moving Image

To the Wonder
The Face You Deserve
The Headless Woman
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait

 

 

BAM

Somebody Up There Likes Me
Castle in the Sky
My Neighbor Totoro
Princess Mononoke
Renoir

 

 

Angelika Film center

Trance
No
Blancanieves
No Place on Earth

 

 

Village West Cinema

On the Road
6 Souls
Lotus Eaters
Starbuck
Ginger & Rosa

 

 

MoMA

Pi
Amateur
Me You and Everyone We Know
Laws of Gravity
Viktor und Viktoria
Winter’s Bone

Satisfy Your Apollo 11 Theories With ‘’The Shining Code 2.0′

Rodney Ascher’s Room 237 begins its theatrical run this weekend and whether you fancy yourself a Kubrickian scholar or a casual viewer, it’s definitely a treat. The documentary that looks at the various obsessions and theories begin Stanley Kubrick’s psychological horror masterpiece, features a lot of absurd theories—ranging from Holocaust to Native American allusions—but there was one that particularly stuck. It’s a well-received theory the The Shining was no more than Kubrick’s way to express his guilt over the secret that he had, indeed, helped fake the moon landing. In speaking with Ascher over the particular sway of this one way of looking at the film he said:

And there’s so much more to that one too! The way he describes it is great because I wasn’t pre-meditated to try and shape his interview but you know, he didn’t say, a equals 2 and b equals 3, he kind of took us along on his mission of discovery like, "And then I saw this! And that’s how i know this!" He’s just as excited in the interview now as he was when he first made the connection. And he’s got two of his own DVDs on the subject. 

So in addition to Room 237, Michael Wysmierski has made his own doc called The Shining Code 2.0 exploring sai the Apollo 11 theory.  And now, if you’re so inclined, you can indulge his 80-minute film and see just where your beliefs fall on the specturm. Take a look.

 

From Carruth to Kubrick, Here’s What You Should Be Seeing This Weekend in New York

Well, it’s finally Friday and before you retreat to your bed or bar, it’s probably in your best interest to hit up a few of the wonderful films showing this weekend first. If you missed last night’s screening of Upstream Color at Lincoln Center, don’t panic, there’s still another showing before it’s theatrical release next Friday. And if you’re still deep into the IFC-induced Kubrick craze, what a better time to see Room 237, which is screening at multiple theaters this weekend alongside The Shining. Today also marks the premiere of Derek Cianfrance’s tragic epic The Place Beyond the Pines, which is certainly not to be missed. In addition, some of your other favorites from Leviathan to Stoker are still playing, as well as a sprinkling of classics from Hitchcock to Godard. I’ve rounded up the best films showing around the city for you to peruse and enjoy.

 

 

IFC CENTER

Room 237
The Shining
Robocop
The We and the I
The Holy Mountain
Leviathan
Welcome to the Punch
Gimme the Loot

 

Landmark Sunshine

The Place Beyond the Pines
Stoker
The Sapphires
The Manson Family

 

Musuem of the Moving Image

2 or 3 Things I Know About Her
Le Boneheur
Fata Morgana

 

Nitehawk Cinema

Spring Breakers
Raising Cain
Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Requiem for a Vampire

 

Film Society Lincoln Center

Upstream Color
Our Nixon
Roon 237
Stories We Tell
The Shining

 

Film Forum

Dial M for Murder
The Gatekeepers
Eden
Easter Parade

 

Lincoln Plaza Cinema

Beyond the Hills
Ginger and Rosa
Hava Nagila

Checking Into the Mysterious World of ‘Room 237’ With Director Rodney Ascher

Whenever my mind wanders to The Shining, I see it as Stanley Kubrick’s own game of chess. The psychological and supernatural horror film is a playground for the mind and subconscious, toying with our notions of sanity and allowing viewers to vear off and spark up their own theories and find meaning in all the madness. And speaking to the horror genre, Kubrick once said, "One of the things horror stories can do is show us the archetypes of the unconscious; we can see the dark side without having to confront it directly. Also, ghost stories appeal to our craving for  immortality. If you can be afraid of a ghost, you have to believe that a ghost may exist. And if a ghost exists, then oblivion might not be the end."

Although having touched on such themes in his previous work as the uncanny, dopplegangers, and doubling, as well as man’s inescapable and inherent impusle towards violence, it wasn’t until the iconic director’s 1980 masterpiece that he was able to fully articulate his auteurist sensibilities into melding a common genre beyond its original intent. With The Shining, he elevated the story of three people trapped in a hotel into something utterly terrifying, chilling, complex, and so psychologically unnerving that it has transcended well past its time and only gets better with each repeated viewing.

"The first time I watched it, I only made it about 20 minutes in," says Rodney Ascher, director of Room 237, a documentary that explores five specific theories about The Shining that goes into the realm of the obsessive. Named after the enigmatic room in the film that because the "locus of psychosexual" horrors for Danny and Jack, Ascher’s film shows the theories of Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan, and Jay Weidner, whom we hear speak sans traditional talking head structure. Their ideas interject and disappear over a combination of moving and still images from The Shining, clips from other Kubrick and non-Kubrick works, and very meticulously looks into moments that help to open your eyes to the film’s five theories. 

Ascher’s Room 237 is not a film that asks us to hold any of its ideas as truths, nor does it present them as such. For how could we ever know the turth that lived inside the confounding mind of Stanley Kubrick? The Shining is a film that explores the maze-like complexity of the tortured mind’s unconscious, and takes our idea of the nuclear family and throws it in our face. And with Room 237, we’re left to question where subjectivity and art collide—was any of this really Kubrick’s intention, and where do my personal affinities transfer themselves into his world? Ascher presents us with these ideas in an invigorating way that makes us question not only our own understanding of the work but career of a man whose films have continued to baffle, excite, and penetrate our subconscious inqueries and desires for over half a century.

Back in September during the New York Film Festival, I sat down with Ascher to discuss his personal experience with The Shining, how he discovered these absurd theories, and why he was compelled to make this film.

What was your experience watching The Shining for the first time?
Well the first time I watched it, I only made it about 20 minutes in. I was a little kid and I snuck into a screening. I had been in the habit of sneaking into horror movies as a kid but to things like Halloween or Alien, or these skeevy cation movies and I thought had some excitement and were kind of dangerous and sexy—but I never got especially scared. But The Shining was a different beast altogether. That music the plays over the opening titles, that Wendy Carlos riff, that just makes it seem like the story that’s unfolding in front of us is not just a story about a family but something with these grand metaphysical implications.

And it gives us the disconcerting feeling right away that there is something present there with us.
When Bill Blakemore is talking about it, he’s coming really close to channeling things that I didn’t have the language to speak about when I was ten. But in a way it was a similar experience, imaging the helicopter that we’re watching the movie from is actually the point of view of some evil spriits that are racing past the car on the way to the hotel. And even in the first couple minutes of the interview, the way the steadicam is gliding frictionlessly into the hotel, it was like pulling me against my will into this place I did not want to go to. So even though that scene is almost commonly mundane—the scene of the first interview at the hotel— I was already sort of beyond horrified.

Sometimes stillness can be more terrifying than action.
Exactly, so that kind of stuff just killed me and I barely made it further than that. I revisited the movie not long after on VHS and I was a real horror movie obsessed little kid, so I very much enjoyed it. I think I thought it was funny for a while. But as you age and the film stays the same, your perspective changes. So if as a kid I would always identify as Danny and be worried that the world around me was unstable and catastrophe is looming around the corner. And now I watch it and clearly my surrogate is Jack and I’m just hoping he’s going to get his act together at some point because his failure is my failure and he’s some kind of worst possible scenario version of myself in a cautionary tale that I need to learn from.

Why did you choose to make Room 237? What was the impetus for this idea?
It started with the internet. A friend of mine, Tim Kirk, who became my partner on the film, posted this long online analysis of The Shining on my Facebook wall one day a couple years ago. I don’t think it took more than a second for me to realize that I wanted to make some sort of film inspired by it. I’d already done a film or two inspired by interesting, unusual things I found on the internet and this seemed like a bigger and better one and a subject that regular human beings have heard of. I don’t quite remember how the genesis of, well, let’s round up as many of these interpretations of The Shining as we can find and sort of braid them together and see what that means—it was very quick Me and Tim spent probably eight months plunging into the world of super deep microscopic Shining analysis. It was interesting because although we started with The Shining and The Shining is a film I love enough that I could happily spend two years dissecting it and living with it and its odd corners, it was a very lucky choice because I haven’t found as much of this kind of material about other films, or even films that seem more plainly allegoric—2001: A Space Odyssey or Holy Mountain or Mulholland Drive

Oh yes, I would love to see a film like this on Mulholland Drive. But still, there wouldn’t be as much to microscopically pull apart. 
I haven’t found as much stuff about those movies. And then all sorts of amazing parallels came into focus and those were always besides the point, like that if The Shining is a story about these three people trapped in grand, beautiful hotel, 237 is film about five people trapped in a grand, beautiful movie and it’s kind of a maze we get trapped in. So one thing after another seemed to make sense about doing it for The Shining but The Shining is where it began and those were all just lucky coincidences.

How did you go about finding the theorists you wanted in the film? I imagine there are many more than we’re hearing from. 
There are a lot more. Some of them were important because their ideas have been discussed pretty broadly and if those ideas weren’t discussed in the movie, their absence would be kind of conspicuous. So Bill Blakemore who writes about the Native Americans, his article was syndicated in 1987 and has lived online evermore, it was import an tho get him in it. Jay Weidner who wrote about the NASA connection, his stuff was getting a lot of play and it was important for me to get that in and it was so different than Bill’s stuff. And from there it was just people who had ideas that were significantly different than some of these and reported. And actually, from the first interview or two I started to realize that what was interesting about the people we were talking to, their experiences were also very personal and use their own lives to inform what they see in the film or find a connection to Kubrick.

Yes, and that took it outside of the world of film criticism because it was so personal and people were completely imprinting their own obsessions and knowledge of certain subjects into Kubrick’s work, no matter how absurd.
They’re finding a connection to Kubrick, that they had similar interests and obsessions. So then it was important when I talked to other people it got kind of personal and actually their experience grappling with The Shining changed their life in some small way. There were people I couldn’t find who had written under an alias that I couldn’t track down or people who didn’t want to participate because they were working on their own project. One guy swiped my digital recorder and stopped answering calls. 

Why did choose to never show them? It did give the film a different dimension, making it more of an exploratory essay than a traditional documentary.
I sort of gravitate towards the essay film style, I think that going that route makes it a battle of ideas more than personalities. I didn’t necessarily intend that you would confuse who is talking but there are folks that are like: idea A is crazy, idea B is really compelling, and they might not necessarily have realized they were both coming from the same person. And the essay film style lends itself to keeping this movie in some weird landscape of the mind, then the nuts and bolts of a hotel room, an office, a living room, in outer space, or in a sound stage where they’re creating a hoax, we’re always in these magical places in the imagination. I might see a really interesting documentary that has a montage that really transports me and then when we cut back to the talking head shot, we’ve come up for air and I didn’t want to come up for air. 

Did you try to distance yourself from these varying theories or did you find yourself compelled and believing in each as you went along?
I totally believed every one of them while I was working on them. Whatever the topic sentence is—if this were like a high school essay—by the time you have a half dozen supporting points it does become very compelling. So of course for the most part I was working on one section at a time, so I’m totally involved in it and what you see in the film is only a small part of what they have to say on the subject. So I was totally absorbed.

The more absurd and elaborate the theory, by the end I couldn’t help but be pretty swayed by it. The one that I gravitated towards the most was the NASA moon landing theory, which was very exciting and compelling and almost had me totally sold by the end.
And there’s so much more to that one too! The way he describes it is great because I wasn’t pre-meditated to try and shape his interview but you know, he didn’t say, a equals 2 and b equals 3, he kind of took us along on his mission of discovery like, "And then I saw this! And that’s how i know this!" He’s just as excited in the interview now as he was when he first made the connection. And he’s got two of his own DVDs on the subject. 

Some of these theories are really supported by the simple fact that Kubrick was so notoriously meticulous but it feels so confouding because we’ll never know if any of these slight ideas were even his intention.
Yes, questions of intentionality. It’s one of the big questions of the movie and I don’t think 237 set out to answer that but how much of this is intentional—of course a fascinating question but unanswerable. I think he was trying to do something much more ambitious than the story of three people trapped in a haunted hotel but he would also never want to explain that kind of stuff in an interview. But some of the research he did and the places he went, like Freudian ideas of the uncanny and the research he had already done about WWII and themes, moments in The Shining that seem evocative of his earlier films—the ghosts seem to have a kinship with some of the characters in Barry Lyndon or Paths of Glory and that sort of corrupt ruling class. But since he would never explain it in an interview and if he said something it might not always be thoroughly reliable. People can often work subconsciously, make a thousand little decisions without ever exactly thinking why—I get kind of lost in exploring the area around it. 

I also enjoyed looking at the film from what someone said about Kubrick being absolutely bored after making Barry Lyndon so The Shining was just the product of this insane genius creatively weary genius looking to make something challenging for himself.
It’s a very compelling idea and it allows for ideas that other people are talking about—this bored genius trying to work in a new way dovetails very nicely into the ideas about the importance of the juxtapositions and dissolves or Juli’s idea of the impossible geography of the hotel or even the jump-cutting chair. The other place I was going to go with intentionality is you know, there is an importance to what they’re doing but I think Geoffrey Cocks, at the end of the film, suggests that it’s not always even the final word. I watch Starship Troopers and I see it as some sort of satire on 9/11 and the war on terror, but the only problem is, it was made in 1998. And if you’re the type of person to watch Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 with the director’s commentary on, you’ll find out that the director of that film had no idea what he was really making was an allegory about a teenager afraid to come out of the closet. And if you watch the film, it plays very much like that but the director had no idea at the time. 

Did you want to make a film that illustrates how immensely subjective film and art can be?
I guess the short answer is yes. The more nuanced one might be that we started off wanting to make movie about The Shining and we might have envisioned something that was as cut and dry as, "People have three ideas about The Shining: Native Americans, NASA, and WWII, and here’s how they each go. Goodnight." But in the making of it, we realized we were getting into much more complicated territory and we sort of embraced that ambiguity and are happy to raise these sort of questions. But how do people make sense of movies or music or art or the world around them? I’m sure we had lots of conversations about related issues that we never directly put into the film but hoped might come out in some way. Of course there’s an experiment when we’re presenting these multiple points of view—well what’s going to happen then? Is there going to be a survival of the fittest thing where one idea rises to the surface and everything else seems lesser? Will there be some mutually assured destruction where now we don’t believe any of them? We had no idea what was going to be the ramification of putting them together and that was part of the fun, part of the experiment. 

And Room 237 isn’t just a film for Kubrick-obsessed fans; it does make itself universal and entertaining.
I hoped so, although in some ways it’s very, very much about The Shining. I’m mostly interested in these kinds of conversations where we start to talk about other things besides The Shining. And we’ve traveled around a little bit with about the film and the people that I’ve had the most engaging conversations with haven’t been Shining super fans. So I hope so.

I saw the film when I was probably fourteen or fifteen and enjoyed it but wasn’t particularly moved by it. And now, I have a completely different experience with it, so you’re right the way it changes as you age is pretty incredible.
There’s so much ambiguity in The Shining. Even just for going into levels of metaphor, just on a strict plot basis. What happened in Room 237 with Danny? It’s not known. What is the implication of the black and white photograph at the end? It’s not clear. What do the ghosts want from Jack? What do they want in return for murdering his family? Nothing as concrete as, murder your family and you’ll become a famous novelist!—which a lesser movie might have spelled out in exactly detail.

How did the theorists feel about their theories being weighed against one anothers?
They’ve been really supportive and a lot of them are kind of opening up a little bit to the possibilities of some of the the other ideas. Bill Blakemore lives in New York and I’ve been walking a lot with him over the last couple days and I think at the first screening he was very resistant. He saw a lot of value in some but was a little more resistant to others; but now he’s kind of opening up to the idea that people with very different backgrounds are able to approach the film in ways that he couldn’t and there might be something there for him to learn from.

And had you seen the film projected backwards and forwards simultaenously  before making this?
Only recently. When I was making 237, I scanned through it and mostly found the things he was talking about and a couple of striking juxtapositions but I regret not having watched it all the way through because my selection might have been different. At Fantastic Fest maybe two weeks ago they screened it in the theater and maybe 100 plus people sat and watched the whole thing and it was kind of mind-blowing how it really worked.

Regardless of the projection, there’s this idea and manifestation of doubling that permeates the film so I’m sure the projection only enhanced that.
And it’s a story about people who can see the future but are burdened by the past and because the cuts are slow and frames are simple and graphic you can read both sides very nicely and have these amazing juxtapositions. There’s one where Llyod the bartender says "Women you can’t live with them, can’t live with out them," and at that moment the nude woman from room 237 is floating in one side of the frame. That kind of thing happens again and again and again it’s kind of uncanny.

For the Love of Stanley: Get Excited for Kubrick’s IFC Center Retrospective

"Anyone who has ever been privileged to direct a film also knows that, although it can be like trying to write War and Peace in a bumper car in an amusement park, when you finally get it right, there are not many joys in life that can equal the feeling," said Stanley Kubrick, who must have felt that particular brand of pleasure many, many times throughout his life. With a career that spanned from the 1950s to the late 90s, the meticulous and austere director was an auteur of the highest order, penetrating our screens with his vision and aesthetic sensibilities in a way that many have tried to replicate but none can touch. And with the release of Rodney Ascher’s upcoming documentary Room 237 about to have its theatrical release, New York’s IFC Center—starting today—will be a hosting a Kubrick retrospective, showing all 13 of his feature films from Spartacus to Eyes Wide Shut—and even the Spielberg-helmed A.I.

So to get you excited about their screenings and what you really need to make you see on the big screen, watch some of your favorite Kubrickian moments and listen to a selection of interviews with the iconic and brilliant director.

 

A Clockwork Orange

Wednesday, March 20 – Saturday, March 23
DCP Projection
 
 

2001: A Space Odyssey 

Friday, March 22 – Saturday, March 23
DCP projection
 
 
 

A. I. Artificial Intelligence 

 
Wednesday, March 27
35mm print
 

Barry Lyndon

Tuesday, March 26
DCP projection

Kubrick at the 2001 Opening in New York

Dr. Strangelove 

Thursday, March 21 – Thursday, March 28
DCP projection

Eyes Wide Shut

Thursday, March 21 – Sunday, March 24
35mm print

Fear and Desire

Wednesday, March 20 – Monday, March 25
DCP projection

Full Metal Jacket

Wednesday, March 27
DCP propjection

Killer’s Kiss

Friday, March 22 – Tuesday, March 26
35mm print

The Killing

Thursday, March 21 – Thursday, March 28
DCP projection

Kubrick, November 27th, 1966

Lolita

Thursday, March 21st – Thursday March 28
DCP projection

Kubrick’s Speech

Paths of Glory

Thursday, March 21
35mm projection

The Shining

Wednesday, March 20 – Thursday March 28
DCP projection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy an 11-Minute Interview with Stanley Kubrick and Some of His Best Scenes

Perhaps it’s the spirit of Room 237‘s imminent release, but our cinemaic collective unconscious seems to be quite fixated on Stanley Kubrick as of late—you know, more so than usual. But it’s interesting that a director that left us over a decade ago still continues to make news and excite with his legacy on a daily basis. And because the genius auteur is no longer around to grace us with his brilliance, discovering new insights into his complex mind and creative process is always more than welcome. And in a recently surfaced 11-minute interview with French film critic Michel Ciment, we get the chance to hear Kubrick discuss Barry Lyndon, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket—so you’ll definitely need to pause what you’re doing and enjoy this. Plus, have a look back on some of the meticulous and director’s finest moments from The Killing to Eyes Wide Shut.

Michel Ciment Interviews Stanley Kubrick

A Clockwork Orange, Beethoven’s 9th

Barry Lyndon, Seduction 

Dr. Strangelove, War Room Scene

Lolita, Ping Pong

The Shining, Bar Scene

Killer’s Kiss, Fight

Full Metal Jacket, Mickey Mouse Song

 

The Killing, Chess Club Scene

2001: A Space Odyssey, I’m Sorry Dave

Eyes Wide Shut, West Village

Check Out the New Theatrical Poster for Rodney Ascher’s ‘Room 237’

For self-confirmed Stanley Kubrick scholars and devout fans alike, Rodney Ascher’s Room 237 is truly a cinematic delight. And after debuting at Sundance over a year ago, IFC Films is finally releasing the illuminating doc about The Shining that proves you don’t have to be crazy to love Kubrick, but it helps.  

Back in September I got to speak with Ascher at the New York Film Festival and dive into this idea further, going in-depth about his own Kubrickian obsession and desire to unearth these myths and theories surrounding the meticulous director’s beloved work (interview coming next week). Room 237 not only pays homage to The Shining but Kubrick’s work as a whole, inspiring us to open our eyes to everything living lying just out of frame inside the meticulous director’s cinematic worlds.  The proper synopsis for the film reads:

After the box office failure of Barry Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick decided to embark on a project that might have more commercial appeal. The Shining, Stephen King’s biggest critical and commercial success yet, seemed like a perfect vehicle. After an arduous production, Kubrick’s film received a wide release in the summer of 1980; the reviews were mixed, but the box office, after a slow start, eventually picked up. End of story? Hardly. In the 30 years since the film’s release, a considerable cult of Shining devotees has emerged, fans who claim to have decoded the film’s secret messages addressing everything from the genocide of Native Americans to a range of government conspiracies. Rodney Ascher’s wry and provocative Room 237 fuses fact and fiction through interviews with cultists and scholars, creating a kaleidoscopic deconstruction of Kubrick’s still-controversial classic.

And with the new theatrical poster for the film, we not only get  Saul Bass-like design but a disclaimer warning us that yes, these opinions are rightfully insane and not associated with the views of Kubrick. Take a look.

rooom