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“When you Change the way you look at Things, the Things you look at Change.” Dr. Wayne Dyer
Explain it to Me by. Jack Scharber
It begins with a helicopter camera shot of a yellow Volkswagen bug driving along a windy road through the Rocky Mountains. Inside the tired old vehicle is a relatively normal family man, husband, father heading north to a resort hotel for a job interview. The eerie music of a funeral march accompanies the unfolding scene; is it there possibly alerting the viewer that you will have to own up to pay for what humanity has done? Who or what has died? Suddenly you are no longer following the vehicle but have gone right off the road and over the cliff into your subconscious.
The film is the cult classic Stanley Kubrick version of Stephen King’s name making novel, The Shining. What the brilliant documentary Room 237 attempts to do is pull in a variety of theories about the overall central theme of the film into a narrative of a disruptive mind-bending nature. Unsettling, puzzling, outlandish and interesting, these scenarios make the film that much more confusing, coupled with the fact that Kubrick was a notorious recluse who often times played the Svengali with the audiences’ imagination; his intentions are hard to find. However, these film theories have some credence, that if like the believers, you too have viewed the film over a half a dozen times and are willing to go off the main road in search of answers.
The documentary Room 237 touches upon the belief by Bill Blackmore that the film was Kubrick’s attempt to discuss cinematically and allegorically the genocide of the American Indians by the white European settlers of incursion and the resulting bloodbath and slow goodbyes that followed; this theory is reinforced by the subtle product placement of Calumet Baking Powder cans in the storeroom (Calumet is a traditional Native American smoking pipe, used to signify a treaty or pact), there are also the multitude of Native American motifs that hang throughout the hotel and the fact that the Overlook Hotel was built upon a large Native American burial ground.
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In addition there is the “far-out” theory by Jay Wiedner that the film was nothing more than Kubrick’s attempt to tell the general public that he helped NASA fake the Apollo 11 moon landing; the evidence of course being that Danny wears an Apollo 11 sweater in the film, the fact that the moon is roughly 237,000 miles away from earth (Room 237) and the deal with the devil or witch that Nicholson’s character makes in the film is all an allusion to Kubrick’s own deal with a shadow government and all of which takes place in room 237 (Moon Room); take into account Jack’s speech to Wendy about obligations and contracts??? Head scratching questions abound.
Film theorist Geoffrey Cocks believes that the film is about the holocaust of the Jews by the hands of Nazis in WWII because Jack’s character uses an old Eagle typewriter (which is a German company) with a large 42 on it (1942 being the year of Hitler’s final solution). The documentary also discusses the fact that there are unmanageable scenes within the Overlook Hotel that deal with the “impossible window” of the Overlook manager’s office, where no feat of architectural engineering could result in what is shown on screen. This is coupled with the fact that the young boy Danny’s big-wheel rides throughout the hotel often make no sense at all; he goes from the main level of the hotel on the first ride to one level higher on his second ride and then somewhere in between for his third and final ride (could this be symbolism for his subconscious?) and all of this from a director who was known in the business as a perfectionist. What was Kubrick trying to tell us?
Note the amazing use of colors throughout the film (the Gold Room, the Red, Black and White bathrooms, the walls of blood coming from closed elevator doors) all of which supports the belief that it could be a brilliant director’s alchemical formula for messing with the viewer’s mind and subconscious. It is a little known fact that Kubrick had studied subliminal images at the offices of Madison Avenue advertising executives before filming the movie. Why? Rattle your brains with the realization of asking this strange question: why is Jack reading a Playgirl magazine in the lobby of the hotel before he meets with the hotel manager for his job interview? What the hell does an issue of Playgirl have any business in a lobby anywhere? Is this the dentist episode from Seinfeld? Why does it appear that people are turned into suitcases through the use of a lap-dissolve? Could that be a reference to the extermination of the Jews, the Native Americans or both?
Is the film Stanley Kubrick’s solution how to escape the nightmare of the past by retracing your steps and erasing the past footprints as we navigate the labyrinth that is this mortal coil? There is also the fact that a labyrinth never existed in the King novel. Why did Kubrick incorporate one into his film? Then there is the enigmatic character of Bill Watson in the film; a minor character that speaks only 2 lines, but why was he there at all to begin with? Was he a metaphor for the real shadow government that is in charge? Is he the silent manager of a job interview who never speaks but only takes notes? Are we supposed to view the film as one theorist suggests, forwards and backwards, through the process of superimposed film projections; are you kidding me? All of these theories take host in the excellent documentary Room 237; because like the film, its’ fans and theorists, insanity is The Shining on film. However, you must always realize that you can get out of the maze. You simply have to trust your own instincts and you might go a little mad in the process, but it is well worth it; consider it a contract you've made with the director.
Malaise into Middle Aged Family Man by. The Rolling Bone
Lightning Bolt, Pearl Jam’s 10th studio release, certainly has a thunderous opening. The first three songs on the album, “Getaway,” “Mind Your Manners,” and “My Father’s Son” belong firmly in the “hard rock” end of the spectrum of Pearl Jam’s 22 years of music. The album however makes a departure as the remaining nine songs find the band taking the foot off the gas pedal and exploring a more diverse musical landscape. “Pendulum” showcases an atmospheric sound more reminiscent of a Pink Floyd album, while “Sleeping By Myself” has a country feel and features Eddie Vedder on the ukulele. It’s an odd mix of songs sonically, but while the musical vehicle changes throughout the album, Vedder stays on point thematically with love and mortality as his favorite subjects. Like Lennon once imagined a world without Heaven or Hell, Vedder opines on our stubborn insistence in Faith, and Love as our ultimate salvation.
“Getaway,” the album’s opening track begins with a riff eerily similar to Weezer’s “Hash Pipe,” and puts the listener on notice; this is going to be a rock album. The lyrics to the song find Vedder visiting a topic he will touch on throughout the album. “But I found my place and it’s all right/we’re all searching for a better way/get this off my plate it’s all right/I’ve got my own way to believe.” He is stating a case for personal Spirituality over formal Religion: “And if you want to have to pray it’s all right/ we all be thinking with our different brain.” It’s not the message that Vedder disapproves of, it’s the messenger that gets under his skin. Like a man who’s dinner has been interrupted by the Jehovah’s Witnesses at his door for the last time he intones, “For God’s sake, mine is mine and yours won’t take its place/ Now, make your getaway.” Vedder continues down this path on the album’s second track, “Mind Your Manners.” The song opens with a riff that would make you think you shuffled to a Rage Against The Machine track by mistake. Gritty opening aside, the song ultimately reminds of “Spin the Black Circle” or “Blood” from the band’s own back catalog by its conclusion. It’s as angry as we find Vedder and company on the album, from the staccato opening riff to its punk rock sing-along ending: “Go to Heaven/That’s swell/How do you like it/Living in Hell?” The song questions our willingness to wage war for a God that ultimately might not exist: “May not live another life/May not solve a mystery.” Vedder completes his theological treatise in the song “Infallible” by concluding that society is missing the entire point of religion: “Keep on locking your doors/keep on just as before/Pay disasters no mind/didn’t get you this time.” It’s not that God chooses to spare some, he is saying, but rather we are choosing not to help one another: “Of everything that’s possible/in the hearts and minds of man/somehow it’s the biggest thing/that keeps slipping through our hands.”
On an album as diverse as Lightning Bolt, the song “Pendulum” stands apart from the other 11 songs as the band’s boldest experiment. It begins with an echoed organ effect that swims out of the speakers like a Cold war submarine on the ocean floor before picking up a guitar line reminiscent of Urge Overkill’s “Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon” amidst some interesting percussion. It’s a sparse arrangement, hearkening back to earlier work on Ten, most notably “Oceans” and the intro/outro of “Release” and “Once.” The lyrics are pretty depressing, as Vedder’s trademark baritone paints a portrait of true melancholia that shows the band has come full circle from his days as surfer turned rock star. The difference being that these more accomplished musicians have achieved an organic sound on “Pendulum” they only previously scratched the surface of. The ocean muse he frequently sings to is fully realized with this track. It’s the albums low point philosophically as Vedder tells us “We are here then we go.” The song only speaks to only one half of the pendulum swing however; the rest of the album finds Vedder rising above his usual “dust in the wind” sentimentality. Mortality be damned, he is saying elsewhere, it’s who we spend our precious time with that really matters.
This idea is expressed most vividly on the song “Sirens,” which also happens to be the first single from the album. Musically, the track sounds similar to the songs on Pearl Jam’s last album Backspacer. It’s a mid-tempo number without a truly memorable chorus, but the words seem to be among Vedder’s most confessional and it has a great guitar solo that sounds like Prince and the Revolution are sitting in for thirty seconds. The song finds Vedder once again pondering his own mortality: “Hear the sirens/hear the circus so profound/I hear the sirens more and more in this here town.” A Rock musician approaching middle-age, Vedder has become acutely aware that the end can come at any time, but having outlived some of his contemporaries, he’s learned that Death is the easy part. It’s the lives we leave behind, the grief that is sure to come and how we ultimately are remembered by those we’ve loved that’s the struggle. “Want you to know that should I go/ I always loved you, held you high too.” The line borders on the edge of Hallmark territory, but Vedder sings it so earnestly it comes across as genuine; the dysfunctional love he so brilliantly captured early in his career. Who would believe the Voice of Grunge has become a family man? “Just to know we’re safe, I am a grateful man,” he sings, adding “I didn’t care before you were here” and “All things change, let this remain.” It’s a powerful song and an obvious song to lead with as a single but not very indicative of the album as a whole.
Lightning Bolt is said to have been recorded at two different intervals by the band, and that may in part explain the album’s lack of cohesiveness. “Sirens,” “Let the Records Play,” “Swallowed Whole” and “Future Days” all sound similar to the material on Backspacer. “Let The Records Play” has the band celebrating Vinyl once again, this time in the guise of a man who does his spiritual healing by drinking and listening to records. The lyrics are largely forgettable, but the song does catch Mike McReady and Stone Gossard in prime form and what may best be described as a Stevie Ray Vaughn tribute. “Future Days” reminds somewhat of “Just Breathe” from the last album, and has the singer once again optimistic about love, “I believe, cuz I can see/our future days, days of you and me.” The song lacks the power of “Sirens” or “Just Breathe” however, and as an acoustic ballad; it leaves the album on a much lighter note than it began; perhaps that’s the point. Pearl Jam have a catalog full of greatest hits and those looking to find one here are sure to be disappointed, but that’s not to say the album is disappointing. It offers a world-wearied look, and perhaps a realization that while rock music has changed lives it hasn’t changed the world.
Something in the Mist by. Jack Scharber
Frank Darabont’s 2007 bleak, disturbing and entertaining horror film adaptation of Stephen King’s novella The Mist confounds all Hollywood and mainstream expectations. The film gives viewers’ hints at what was to come in his smash television series The Walking Dead. It had come after The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, both of which were Stephen King adaptations as well; the film was saddled with the embodiment of post 9/11 fear that featured an ensemble cast that would become a trademark of Darabont’s style. The film defied all of the happy-ever-after endings that had become the Hollywood trademark; it was a breath of fresh air and it was released on Thanksgiving weekend. Remember, we too have much to be thankful for.
The film took on both the religious right and the dovish left. There were race relations between a strong black man and the characteristically strong white leading man. Spooky whispered government research was being conducted on a mountain nearby the small New England town, when after a natural storm, a strange supernatural mist began coming down the slope. Army trucks raced to the shore, but to combat what? The power lines were dead, the phones were down and the town’s only grocery store had become the town hall. Chaos abounded. One thing was clear; there was something in the mist.
Marcia Gay Harden believed, “It’s death.”
We the viewers, first got our sneak peek into the mist through the backdoor of the grocery store, the backdoor being a metaphor for one’s subconscious. However, there were still some things you had to take on faith. We began to ask like Thomas Jane’s lead character, “What they hell were those tentacles even attached to?”
Ladies and gentlemen, the weird had been let loose; get prepared.
“Now do you see? Now do you believe?”
“You scare people badly enough, you can get’em to do anything.”
Politics and religion, but what about big business?
At the end of the film, after a group of five made a bold run for it in an old 4x4 escaping both radiation acid spewing spiders and dinosaur large Mantises, the truck ran out of gas. They’d gone as far as they could go. With one gun left and only four bullets, decisions had to be made. What if the mist was worldwide? What if there was nothing left to run to? What would you do then? So, Thomas Jane’s character made the only sane choice he had left, but he like all of us had to live with it; live with all of his or her, yours or mine past actions and choices, despite the awful consequences. Because believe me, often times, the monsters of our own creation. Happy Halloween.
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