Room 237

Started by MacGuffin, January 01, 2012, 02:29:03 PM

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


Sundance 2012: Did Stanley Kubrick fake the moon landing?
Source: EW

Sundance's NEW FRONTIER category tends to be made of experimental cinematic art projects, but one documentary in this category stands out as particularly interesting to movie-lovers:

Room 237, directed by Rodney Ascher, which dives into the myriad theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining. "It's a film-nerd love-fest," says Sundance programmer Trevor Groth. "These obsessive people dissect The Shining, and they've watched it thousands of times, all finding their own coded meaning and language in it." Like how the architecture of the Overlook Hotel doesn't make any sense, with hallways leading to places that should technically be outside, and windows that show sunlight streaming in even though they are enclosed in the middle of the building... ?

Sundance director John Cooper straightens in his chair. "So you're one of them," he says, flashing his eyebrows.

Er... maybe. Um, go on Trevor.

"There's one guy who says The Shining is Stanley Kubrick's way of telling the world he shot the footage from the [Apollo 11] moon landing," Groth says. The conspiracy allegedly happened when he was making 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was cover for the ruse. "He knew he and his family would be killed if he told anyone so he's telling us through The Shining," Groth says, describing the view of the movie's theorists.

Well, it's an interesting idea, anyway. Maybe even a good movie, à la Wag the Dog, someday. But proof?

Exhibit A: Check out little Danny Torrance's sweater in the movie. I mean, how do you argue with a sweater! This one, for instance, is hard evidence that Santa Claus exists.

Anyway, the title of the doc, of course, refers to the one room in the hotel that the little boy is warned NOT to enter.

Sundance-goers will face no such restriction during the Jan. 19-29 film gathering.
"Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art." - Andy Warhol

Skeleton FilmWorks


YES! This very much deserves a feature length treatment. I've seen videos on the subject and they're dry as fuck- informative, but not quite entertaining. And of course, if you want to do the reading, well, that could go on forever.


Can't wait to see this. The director made this pretty cool short film that I saw at Sundance two years ago:


what's your take on this, Pubs?



Firstly i think that article is misrepresenting the documentary by focusing too much on the moon landing thing. that's my only peeve with this because that theory is not even worth mentioning after those french dudes made a mockumentary about the subject called Operation Lune which i talked about 8 years ago here:

for the lazy people (everyone) here's the relevant quote:

Quote from: Pubrick on December 03, 2003, 11:56:48 AM
the whole moon landing cover-up is most excellently covered in this frech documentary called Opération lune, which was screened here under the name Dark Side of The Moon.

that's where ur myth first appeared and was debunked. what made it convincing was that the doco has Buzz Aldrin, Christiane Kubrick, Jan Harlan, Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld, and heaps of other important ppl talking frankly about this supposed massive cover-up. the whole time i'm thinking "it's finally happened, P, u've gone insane..". and i hate to spoil it for ppl who havn't seen it (if u havn't u prolly never will) but the whole thing is a joke in the vein of Forgotten Silver! during the credits u see outtakes of Rummy and all fumbling their lines. boy it really had me going for a second. i didn't sleep that nite.

it is a very very well done documentary that u should all check out. the ultimate kubrick myth taken to frenzied levels.. and of course it's all based on fact, except it's all made up.

From other articles i've read about this Room 237 doco it seems that it's actually a general compendium of the more interesting theories around the film, from the stupid to the useful. it should have been called " A Primer for the Gradual Understanding of The Shining". Rob Ager lost no time in mentioning on his site that he was asked to be interviewed but refused because i guess he wants to sell his own theories himself.

Anyway i guess it's a good thing that it might get people to look closer, but the general reaction i see from people whose eyes have not yet been opened is a general disbelief that a film could be so dense with meanings. they are also right to doubt that any one of these meanings presented by these zealots is the right one. that is part of the problem with the people covered int his film who only hammer on a single point of view.

ugh i could go on forever so i'll try to keep it short:

i'll wait to see the movie to see if it presents some context to kubrick theories in general but i can tell you now that the problem with most theorists and especially ones covered here is that for all their commendable lateral thinking they are just alL TOO LITERAL. they stumble upon one great idea and then run with it as if constantly finding connections justifies it as the one and only great holy grail "message". most internet theorists amount to the equivalent of pop psychologists.. they offer easy superficial answers to satisfy superficial viewers.

the weidner guy is obsessed with moon landings or whatever, the other guy only sees the native american holocaust, the other guy only sees the jewish holocaust, etc.. even Rob Ager would only have hammered on his favourite topic of ritual child abuse.. he's OBSESSED with that. if all this movie does is present these ideas and then move on then it has pretty much failed to offer any real insight.

there's nothing strange about a movie being so densely packed with meaning, it doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to analyse Ulysses so why do we need one to unpack 2001? presenting this as strange makes it trivial and a gimmick.

this movie and its impending popularity are a mixed blessing.. i hope all it takes is these 9 or 10 crazies to tell everyone that it's ok to dive deep, the water's fine, and suddenly everyone will realise that kubrick was offering us a new way to SEE.. a completely immersive experience with every film post Lolz that would cleanse you of the muddled untruths presented to you daily, including what you think CINEMA has to be.

but i fear we still have a long way to go before we can stop being afraid to recognize truth in ART, let alone in ourselves, and to one day unashamedly and confidently live up to the incredible (highly credible) potential Kubrick was always giving us credit for.
under the paving stones.


man, you gotta make a Kubrickmentary of your own.

or pen the definitive book. all your material is locker-ed up in this forum!


yeah. at the very least put everything on a tumblr or something. more out in the open/fewer clicks.


Screw that. Write a book. Cash in.
He held on. The dolphin and all the rest of its pod turned and swam out to sea, and still he held on. This is it, he thought. Then he remembered that they were air-breathers too. It was going to be all right.


Fair Use or Theft?: Rodney Ascher's 'Room 237' vs. Warner Bros.' 'The Shining'
"Room 237" first screens at the Toronto film festival Thursday, September 13, at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.
Source: IndieWire

In 2010, Rodney Ascher went to the Sundance Film Festival with his documentary short "The S From Hell," which examines a bizarre childhood terror: the 1964 Screen Gems logo and its otherworldly sonic chime. Much of the film is comprised of voiceovers of people recounting their fears with clips from Screen Gems shows like "Bewitched" and "The Flintstones."

Despite not seeking approval from the studio, Ascher didn't run into any trouble with the footage. Not only did he believe it was well under the definition of fair use, which permits the use of copyrighted material without permission, it also wasn't much of an issue: like most short films, it never saw distribution outside the festival circuit and thus wasn't making money off the material.

That's not the case for "Room 237," Ascher's feature debut. The 102-minute documentary deconstructs hidden meanings in Stanley Kubrick's 1980 adaptation of Stephen King's horror novel "The Shining" — mostly by showing sequences from the actual film, a copyrighted work owned by Warner Bros. Since its Sundance debut in January, Ascher's film has been acquired for distribution by IFC Midnight and snagged slots in the Cannes Film Festival's Directors' Fortnight and Toronto film festival's Vanguard sidebars. It will have an awards-qualifying run at the end of the year followed by a March release.

For this one, Ascher has no choice but to go down the rabbit hole of proving that the footage he's used falls under fair use, which would prevent him from having to pay hefty licensing fees to WB or being sued for showing the film in theaters.

"Room 237" explores every nuance of Kubrick's film by unspooling lengthy clips while voiceovers from conspiracy theorists break down outlandish subtexts that range from the Holocaust and the genocide of the American Indian to Kubrick using the film as an admission that he "directed" the Apollo 11 moon landing. It's a fascinating paean to cinematic obsession, but Ascher did not seek licensing permission through Warner Bros. before the screening at Sundance, declaring the clips fair use. (Neither Warner Bros. nor IFC would comment for this story).

Fair use is defined as copyrighted material that filmmakers, news gatherers, critics or educators can use for free if they add context to the material — most commonly, a voiceover. But they can only use enough content needed to illustrate sufficiently the point being made.

To better help define fair use for filmmakers, a coalition of professors and filmmaking groups created the Best Practices in Fair Use Doctrine in 2005. Entertainment lawyer Michael C. Donaldson, who helped create the document, points out that films with fair-use content often get distribution without drawing lawsuits — but no one talks about it.

"It has been portrayed as a 'dirty little secret,' " says Donaldson, who represents "Room 237." (He would not comment on the film for this story.)

For years, filmmakers using unlicensed clips in their films avoided the wrath of cease-and-desist letters by showing their works in museums or playing one-offs at small arthouses and repertories. One film that inspired Ascher was Thom Andersen's "Los Angeles Plays Itself," which highlights how the city has been depicted in clips from some 200 films.

"I saw it once a few years ago at the Egyptian and was pretty blown away," says Ascher, who would not comment on the rights issues concerning his film for this story.

While Andersen's film has built up cult status since having its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2003, most of its showings have been in nontheatrical venues; it was recently presented at the Whitney Biennial with other Andersen works.

"I think the fact that there is some legal ambiguity about the question of fair use was a problem in getting the film shown," says Andersen. "It hasn't been shown on television anywhere. I would like to see it have some kind of DVD release. Maybe if it was bigger or more famous it would be a bigger issue."

Insurance companies have become one of the game-changers for fair-use advocates. The 2005 doctrine helped them become more comfortable with providing those kinds of films with errors and omissions insurance, which protects them from lawsuits. Without that policy in place, no distributor will touch a film.

One of the modern trailblazers is Kirby Dick, who invoked the fair-use doctrine for clips in his documentary about the MPAA ratings system, "This Film Is Not Yet Rated." He's since used it in two other films, including his recent Sundance audience-award-winning "The Invisible War," but he says that claiming fair use is an extremely frustrating process.

"Filmmakers agonize through it," he says, "but going through this approach can save you a lot of money."

According to Donaldson, clearing the rights for a mere 30-second clip from a studio film can cost between $6,000 and $8,000, an astronomical figure for an independently produced film. He often gets the studio to lower its fee after sending a package complete with a DVD on fair use and examples of litigation over the years. In one instance with a studio last year, he got the fee dropped from $45,000 to $15,000.

This negotiating of fees has been a contentious subject for copyright holders who feel they are being exploited. "This is where I take [Donaldson] to task," says Cathy Carapella, who handles rights and clearances for Global ImageWorks and speaks on fair-use issues for the nonprofit Association of Commercial Stock Image Licensors. "If it's fair use, why offer to pay for anything?"

Donaldson deflects that criticism by claiming that he tells fair-use clients that they can either release the film and fight the cease-and-desist letter later if it comes or preserve a relationship with the copyright holder by agreeing upon a fee. "Those decisions are always up to the filmmaker," he says.

Dick hasn't yet seen "Room 237," but after hearing how the footage is used he's confident Ascher is in the clear. When asked what advice he'd give Ascher as he navigates the waters of fair use, Dick simply says, "Have him call me."
"Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art." - Andy Warhol

Skeleton FilmWorks


"Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art." - Andy Warhol

Skeleton FilmWorks


At first I was thinking "Pubrick would love this movie" but as it went along I started thinking "Pubrick would hate this movie." Basically it can't decide if it wants to present any of these theories as legitimate (which would've been interesting) or just let these crackpots ramble on about things that are obviously ridiculous (which would've been entertaining) so it ends up somewhere inbetween. It doesn't offer much real insight into the film nor is it consistently funny/ridiculous. It's pretty well assembled though.

My review:

Have you ever gone to a party and gotten trapped in a conversation with someone who just would not shut up about something? Even if the subject was something that interested you initially, the longer this person goes on and the less sense they seem to be making, the more you just keep nodding your head going, 'uh huh, uh huh' waiting for the pause that you can finally excuse yourself from the conversation. It may sound a bit harsh but this is basically what it feels like watching "Room 237," a documentary which gives 6 crackpots a soapbox from which to espouse their oddball interpretations of the Stanley Kubrick classic "The Shining." The conspiracy theories about the film range from Kubrick embedding messages that he staged the Apollo moon landing to reading the story as a parable for the Holocaust or the genocide of Native Americans. Filmmaker Rodney Ascher's doc is told entirely through clips from a host of films (including "The Shining") with the interviewees narrating their sections.

The project apparently started out as a YouTube video essay before growing into a more legitimate enterprise which would play everywhere from Sundance to the New York Film Festival. The production shows its low-fi beginnings as each of the interview participants is seemingly calling in from Skype — complete with interruptions from children and background static — but the way those interviews have been assembled with footage from throughout Kubrick's filmography and cinema history is quite inventive. From such humble origins you can see what an accomplishment the film is technically but as a narrative it's pretty hollow. If the only goal was simply to poke fun at these obsessives who would rewatch a film endlessly looking for clues and symbols wherever they can find them it might have been more consistently funny had they included more on those subjects. Amusing at first but tiresome at length, the doc feels like a missed opportunity for cinephiles who won't find much in the way of illumination here.
Christopher Nolan's directive was clear to everyone in the cast and crew: Use CGI only as a last resort.


A few years back a bunch of (basically) kids released a film called "Loose Change", an alternate understanding of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. In the film they assert that the U.S. government conspired to kill Americans, blaming al-Qaeda as a rationale to later invade Iraq. I watched the entire thing not because their notions made sense but because they were so adamant about them. It fascinated me to watch something which most of America would just stop 5-10 minutes in and write off.

After I finished watching my immediate reaction wasn't "what a bunch of loons." Instead it was "I could see how our government may have some culpability. Perhaps they knew our airlines were at risk and did nothing." It was HOW they connected the dots which overreached. They claim that some or all of the flights were mostly empty planes. How do you account for the families of the passengers who died then? They claim that the plane crashes didn't cause the buildings to fall. Detonations from inside did. Etc etc..

I suspect I'd have a similar reaction watching Room 237. These guys are making assertions about Kubrick's motivations for a shot, a sweater some kid is wearing or a tiny little piece of dialogue. And while we might uncover something new by watching it, Kubrick is dead so we'll never know. It's all just conjecture. But that doesn't render is completely useless any more than watching the Wizard of Oz while listening to Dark Side of the Moon is. Like "Loose Change", at the very least it asks viewers to question what they think they saw. And that's not something most Americans are willing to do nowadays.


I agree, and think your response hits the nail on the head. I feel this way about a lot of Rob Ager's stuff too. I appreciate analysis, as I often strive at finding and speaking about any insights I have in a film, however in an effort to make a point or have a an enlightening connection between two things it seems Ager reaches out really far with some examples. We have to look at the man/woman/people making the claims as much as the claims themselves.

Going through all his videos on youtube you can see there is an agenda that he has himself, he's big into conspiracies ranging from a multitude of topics like FIAT money, totalitarian states, and general discourse towards big brother. He also loves Kubrick, in a do-no-wrong kind of way. So any good skeptic should notice that the love of these two topics might cloud his judgement, leading to finding these connections when they simply might not be there. I do think they are there with some of what he says, though not to the level Ager suggests.

There is something in his tone, that is assured; which makes him very attractive and convincing. It's human nature to follow someone that doesn't doubt themselves, which might be one of our species tragic flaws. The louder the voice, the bigger the audience. We're even taught to have this type of rhetoric in school; to never question your thesis and have a definite point. We in turn look for this in documentaries. I'm much more interested in someone exploring ideas, rather than having to take a concrete stance. I think this is why I love movies that embrace ambiguity and show strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the coin. SPOILS? The master is very much a film like this, and I applaud PTA for doing not what could have so easily been a slam piece, which is what i was looking for and felt quite happily humbled by.

EDIT - This all reminds me of when i was in high school and we were analyzing lord of the flies over the course of a month. One day in class we started talking about the character piggy and the fact that they started a campfire with his glasses. and how based on his condition (near sighted or far sighted I can't remember) they couldn't have used his glasses to start it. It was scientifically impossible, as the lens would have been convex on both sides of the glass so narrowing light to the point of fire wouldn't have yielded any positive result. The class, led by the teacher, was discussing what that meant in terms of the narrative and message; which I am opened to. I put up my hand and said, "is it possible William Golding just messed up? that he didn't do his research." I'm open to have the conversation about what it could mean, but we also have to be open to the fact Golding was a man who is capable of mistakes. It was a buzz kill to say the least, though it doesn't mean it's not sound.

yo homie, I just gave you your first respect!

one love.
the one last hit that spent you...


(Slight spoils)

I echo many thoughts posted right above and really did not enjoy this film. I struggled mostly with the production of it, the use of other Kubrick films to add edits into some of these folks narrating really came off as super poor to me.

I responded very negative to the theories pushed out even though I was familiar with some of them, putting them all into the same movie it just felt like they were all negated and just didn't reach any level that Kubrick's films mean to me. One guy said Barry Lyndon was boring, I basically was ready to toss the TV onto the street after that comment. 

I just thought the film deserved much more sophisticated production and 45 mins in I was like I'd easily rather read the Xixax Kubrick forum any day than watch this.

Safe As Milk


I saw this at IFC a few months back and had this dreadful feeling about half way through that I was at a Trekkie convention and instead of people coming together to enjoy and cherish one of film's greatest directors, instead they were all trying to obsess over the must uninteresting details and aspects of The Shining.  The production of the film seemed intentionally shoddy, in a 80's VCR to VCR editing style with cheesy electronic soundscape, to help comfort all these weird conspiracy theorist into thinking this was something that they could potentially create themselves in the privacy of their bedrooms.  And what's worse is that practically all the theories discussed can be found on youtube. 
"look hard at what pleases you and even harder at what doesn't" ~ carolyn forche