Calendar Challenge: My family and Kubrick’s Jupiter mission

Dakota Kai Guimarães, 3 years old, future astrophysicist, enjoyed his favorite movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" at the Martha's Vineyard Film Center. – Photo courtesy of Keya Guimarães

“Open the pod-bay doors, Hal.” My 3-year-old son has been repeating the iconic line of dialogue from Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece incessantly. After I showed him this hauntingly epic film when he was just 2, mesmerized and lulled to sleep by the slow, sweeping, camera movement, the vast starry cosmos, and Johann Strauss’ Waltz on the Blue Danube, the film quickly became a family favorite for Sunday afternoons. When the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and MV Film Center announced they were going to screen the film last week, I knew it would be the perfect first cinematic theater experience for my son, and we would have to make it a family affair.

Released in 1968, the epic drama captures the tensions between man and machine, the technology of the future, and the possibility of intelligent, metaphysical, consciousness whirling around the galaxy. Visually, like all of Kubrick’s oeuvre, the film is arresting, stimulating, and meditative. For toddler and adult alike, even a home viewing is a wonderful journey, but watching it on the Film Center’s digital screen with precision acoustics, the experience was nothing short of extraordinary.

The MV Museum co-sponsored the screening as an extension of their exhibit “Sea Change: MV in the 1960s” –– a groovy retrospective on how the decade of revolution was experienced on the Vineyard. 2001: A Space Odyssey is the first film in a series of four to be screened at the Film Center in the coming month, to link the museum’s exhibit with perhaps the best films of the decade: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Jan. 28), Dr. Strangelove (Feb. 11), and Easy Rider (Feb. 25). The thoughtful lineup reflects the major themes of the era, socially and artistically.

When we entered the cozy auditorium on a very chilly Wednesday evening, film aficionado, educator, and museum library assistant Bow Van Riper was introducing the film to a rapt and diverse audience. “You look at 2001, and the ’60s are woven throughout the entire film.” Van Riper expounded on the technical success of the film and on the accuracy of Kubrick’s vision, which holds up beautifully after nearly 40 years of space exploration. Van Riper masterfully matched each act with 1960s sociopolitical themes, drawing laughter from the audience and cueing the curtain to rise. My son finished his chocolate treat and whispered, “This is what I’ve been waiting for!”

All told, we only made it until the middle of Act II, at which point, as my son explains, “Hal, the spaceship’s computer, starts to be mean to the astronauts.” He fell asleep on the car ride home, after asking if we could go back to the Film Center in the morning to watch the remainder of the film because “computers are not so scary in the daytime, and Hal might be nicer then.”

Instead, the next morning, we headed over to the MV Museum and walked through the “Sea Change” exhibit, having the most fun in the children’s room, where a real, working record player is set up to play vintage LPs. I spent the rest of the day answering my son’s questions about Kubrick’s intense narrative: trying to explain why Hal, 2001’s rogue 9000 series computer, won’t “open the pod-bay doors,” and where (as my son calls it) that “singing monolith” came from. The screening of the film and the subsequent museum visit were certainly memorable experiences for my son, and garnered a proud mommy moment for me.

Each week there is a plethora of cultural events to take advantage of around the Island, and we’d love to hear what you chose from the local Calendar listings. Maybe it’s something as nostalgic as seeing a favorite movie for the first time on the big screen, or as adventurous as trying a new sport or craft you’ve always thought about. Whatever it is, we challenge you to do it and share it with us at