Some movies tower so high that simply to mention them is to take the breath away. So it its with 2001: A Space Odyssey. 50 years on — with countless screenings, analyses, critical evaluations, and drug-induced hallucinations in the interim — we’re still pondering the imponderables of Stanley Kubrick’s monumental achievement. An unanswerable mystery and an all-encompassing revelation; a warning against our soullessness and a celebration of our humanity; an unparalleled visual spectacle and an intellectual exercise that will make your head spin for weeks; and a fearsome candidate for not only the best science fiction film of all time, but perhaps the best movie ever… It landed in theaters on this day in 1968, and the medium has never quite recovered.
Oh, that’s not enough for you? How about Planet of the Apes: the original, staggering, take-no-prisoners, 1968 classic that held a mirror up to humanity and dared us to take a long look. It may not quite beat 2001, but it’s certainly in the ranks of the very greatest movies of all time. And it shares the exact same release date with Kubrick. Mind-blowing.
I hesitate even to mention another film in the same column as these two, but hey: it’s Elvis! It Happened at The World’s Fair is an agreeable bit of balderdash that sees the King as an amiable crop-duster who needs to come up with money fast to save his plane after his partner gets them deep in debt. The songs are agreeable, but don’t merit much attention, though there are a few Easter eggs in the cast. Vicky Tiu, the secondary female lead, became the first lady of Hawaii in the 90s (her husband actually divorced his first wife while in office to marry her). And the little kid kicking the King’s shins is Kurt Russell, making his feature film debut. With Russell appearing in both The Fate of the Furious and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 later this year, that makes 54 years in the business for him. It Happened at the World’s Fair opened 55 years ago today in 1963.