2016: A Movie Odyssey

‘2001: A Space Odyssey' sent the author into an existential crisis  AP PHOTO

‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ sent the author into an existential crisis

I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time the other day, and that movie messed me up.

I don’t really know what I thought it was going to be. A cool space movie, I guess, since it is known as a classic, essential film. Somehow things went from a bunch of monkeys killing each other to a computer trying to kill a bunch of men to this surrealist sequence of a man watching himself get old and die before it all fades to black.

Then I couldn’t sleep that night because I was too busy having an existential crisis and worrying about whether we all get lost in that black brick abyss when we die. I felt genuinely nervous and scared.

It had been a long time since I had felt so profoundly shaken after watching a film. No surprise why Stanley Kubrick is so revered today. I felt the same way after watching Full Metal Jacket years ago — the boot camp sequence and its bloody ending was just … unnerving.

The day after that, I decided to watch another movie about big, opaque bricks: The LEGO Movie. I needed something aggressively happy to wash away all the angst. It was indeed very cheery, though I wasn’t quite sure what its message was supposed to be (sometimes boring people are important, too? Or corporations are probably evil and also quash creativity and individuality, a message being offered ironically through an extremely corporate and commercialized product?), but gosh, do I love Batman parodies and exaggerated mispronunciations of common words.

And I did feel better afterward. I did feel like “everything was awesome,” at least for a while. It was not unlike the happy rush I get from my beloved superhero films — when you hear that little clink of Iron Man’s helmet snapping on, it just makes you feel exhilarated and hopeful.

These are the little moments that remind us how damn powerful film can be. In two or so hours, you can change how you feel, how you think, how you view the world. It’s a gift that TV and books and gaming don’t share with the same immediacy (it just takes longer to process those kinds of works).

It also strikes me just how rare a really profound, moving film is. Hundreds of thousands of films get released every year all over the world, and yet only a fraction break through our own consciousness.

Nowadays when I watch films for pleasure, I try to mix it up. A superhero film, a classic, a drama, a thriller — something different each time. You never know which will be the one that changes you.