Sunday, October 30, 2016

Room 237 (2012)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

There’s a scene in “Weird Al” Yankovic’s UHF where his character, George, is making a replica of Devils Tower out of mashed potatoes.  When he finishes, he says, “This means something.”  If you’ve never seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the joke will make no sense to you.  Likewise, it would make sense to watch The Shining before watching Room 237.  Having seen The Shining, the description of Room 237 looked interesting.  Several people offered their takes on Stanley Kubric’s interpretation of Stephen King’s book.  I thought it would be interesting.

The scene from UHF also illustrates another point:  Given enough material, you can make it look like just about anything.  That’s what I ended up watching here.  I don’t recall seeing any credentials for any of the five people.  From the sound of it, they were just five people that happened to see the movie when it came out and had differing takes on it.  (I’m not going to use names because we never get to see any of them, making it hard to keep track of anyone.  All we have are voices set to clips of various movies.)

One person says that he believes the mistreatment of Native Americans by Europeans is a prominent theme.  As ‘proof’, he points out several cans of Calumet Baking Powder.  Calumet can also refer to a ceremonial Native American pipe.  In one scene, the cans are facing.  In another, they’re not.  Several cans of Tang serve as evidence that the movie is Kubric confessing that he helped fake the moon-landing footage.  Most people would pass this off as product placement.  I hadn’t even heard of Kubric being involved until I saw this movie.  (Before you leave a comment, I don’t follow conspiracy theories that much.)

Part of the reason that the theories are so easy to believe is that Kubric is very detail oriented.  According to the movie, he spent several months doing research for the film.  A chair that disappears between shots can’t be a continuity error.  The people looks at it and says, “This means something.”  Sometimes it does, but it doesn’t always.  Sometimes a chair is just a chair.

This is one of maybe three movies I couldn’t watch to the end.  The problem for me is that I came in thinking that there might be some mind-blowing revelation.  At least I could be entertained watching people show something interesting.  I am so happy that I got this movie streaming.  If I had the limited two-per-month Netflix plan, I would have been pissed that I wasted half of this month’s movies.

I can see a lot of people coming into this the same way.  You may have watched The Shining and even enjoyed it as a movie.  I think most people will watch the Shining and be entertained by it, just like any other movie.  Are there hidden messages?  Maybe.  Was Kubric very detail oriented?  I’d like to think so.  Does this mean that Kubric is admitting to having faked the moon landing?  I’m leaning towards no.

Like the mashed potatoes from UHF, the people are taking seemingly random bits and pieces from the movie and fashioning them into a narrative that fits their viewpoints.  For this reason, reviews of this movie seem to fall into two camps.  One camp says that this is a steaming pile of crap with the narrators (probably literally) phoning it in.  (One guy steps away for a few seconds to deal with his unruly kid.)  The other camp says that if you call this a steaming pile of crap, then you just don’t get it.  I’ll admit.  I just don’t get it.

I’d advise against renting this.  There’s very little entertainment value. There a few scenes from The Shining that are repeated a lot and shown in slow motion.  This can be very distracting.  If anything, Room 237 a study in confirmation bias.  One person said that he saw Kubric’s face in the clouds during the opening sequence.  I didn’t see it.  The film’s producers couldn’t highlight it.  I can’t even find an image that highlights it on Google Images.  Granted, I didn’t look that hard, but you’d think it would be easy.  I can just see the postproduction team being asked to highlight it, only to wonder what anyone’s talking about.  This is a must-miss movie. 

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