Another Winning Essay 2001: A Space Odyssey.(1968)

The essay contest runner-up:

By Will Stape

Movies are time capsules. Not only do they vividly capture a time of their dramatic setting, but also act as reflection of our rhythm, or emotional tone. Look to the wacky comedies of 1930's America. The Great Depression plaguing the USA was dealt with by drowning America in zany laughter. The 1950's – a Cold War looming large – gave us dozens of now quaint 'atomic monsters'. Creature classics like Them! or Godzilla told future generations the atomic bomb offered neat nightmares about radiation, turning even the most lowly of creatures into deadly demons of destruction.

Mutant bug flicks are science fiction. It's a genre which more than any other influences me. Horror is a close second, and though much of sci-fi doubles as 'scare-fi', science fiction gives me an insatiable curiosity about life. It made me write professionally in the genre.

Movies like Star Wars.and Planet of the Apes are my picks for most influential. The Day the Earth Stood Still -the original, the remake annoys me – also speaks to me. But this one is all about that one. That one flick which gives you more. It gives more new things, while still comforting with the familiar. It's life affirming, without being saccharine, and more than anything else, it's one you watch over and over. Mine is 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It's a film, like Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life  which on initial release didn't immediately grab hold of the public. Many were – still are – mystified by its "narrative" or even "purpose." They prefer fancy epics, the easy message movies of Avatar or Close Encounters of the Third Kind Mind you, I love Spielberg's sci-fi classic. It speaks more to an obsession of wanting to know we're not alone far more effectively than his E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

However, it's a straight forward story, with an uplifting, even predictable ending. Richard Dreyfuss comes close to hijacking a UFO. If they didn't allow him to fly off, all his life's upheaval would be naught. Spielberg is far too much a populist film maker to endorse such a downer finale, where a 'hero' doesn't get his brass ring – or in this case his ring of lights. 2001, on the other hand, is a movie requiring a flexible, cinematic mindset. Kubrick's film challenges - "I won't tell you a story. I want you to tell yourself a story." 

This above all is why 2001 dazzles, intrigues, fascinates and yes, influences. It's influenced directors, visual artists, cinematographers, screenwriters, scientists, politicians, etc. It's influenced me to be more visionary when writing, less rigid in my creative process when working in film's visual medium. When I watch 2001, there are moments I can't take my eyes off the screen. During its most triumphant moments, when I finally liberate my eyes, they're filled with tears.

2001: A Space Odyssey is a movie time capsule, but may be the ultimate of that ilk. It speaks to our past, present and most poetically our future. It's the best kind of film, and the best kind of science fiction, in that it celebrates us as a species, never talking down to us, nor taking us for granted. It's my personal time capsule. And most of all - it's utterly timeless...