You may have read in the New York Times that Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon and I gave a "sparsely attended" talk about the origins and legacy of 2001: A Space Odyssey at the National Air and Space Museum on Saturday night. An official talk. Inside the museum. We weren't just accosting passersby on Independence Ave. and bloviating at them or anything like that. Heaven forfend!
The event was a Yuri's Night party hosted by the website/nightlife concern Brightest Young Things. There were bars, DJs, silent discos, and lots of people in costume.
Ready Player One was showing in the Lockheed-Martin IMAX theater right after Glen and I finished, so I thought it would be thematically sympatico with that film for me to challenge our audience, sparse or otherwise, with some low-stakes nerd trivia, pertinent to 2001.
Those who answered one of these questions correctly after raising their hands and being called upon—this is not 'Nam, there are rules—won a free copy of the September 2016 issue of Air & Space / Smithsonian (where I was then and still remain employed as an editor) featuring my cover story on the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. The cover should have said Warp Corps, and I apologize again for the fact that it does not. I lost that fight. It's been two goddamn years and I'm still not over it.
Anyway, here are my trivia questions.
1) In Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 science fiction landmark 2001: A Space Odyssey, astronauts uncover an ancient and mysterious object deliberately buried beneath the lunar surface. Is that monolithic object: A) a Horcrux, B) a dilithium crystal, C) an Infinity Stone, a D) a World Engine, or E) Other.
Choose your response and then scroll down to see if you're correct.
CORRECT ANSWER: E. That monolithic object is referred to as a "Monolith." Although I can't now recall that anyone ever uses that word in the film. Do they? Anyway, that was a devilishly clever caprice of mine, there. Let's continue.
2) What is the name of the spacecraft carrying astronauts Dave Bowman and Frank Poole to Jupiter? Is it A) Discovery One, B) Icarus Two, C) Atlantis, D) Roger Young, or E) Alexey Leonov?
Choose your response and scroll to see if you're correct.
CORRECT ANSWER: A. Good job, you. Those other spacecraft I mentioned are—respectively—from Danny Boyle's great 2007 space movie Sunshine, a real Space Shuttle name (as is Discovery), from Paul Verhoeven's brilliant 1997 satire Starship Troopers, and from Peter Hyams's not-half-bad 2001 sequel 2010: The Year We Make Contact.
3) How did the artificially intelligent computer HAL 9000 acquire its name? A) Did Kubrick and cowriter Arthur C. Clarke simply take the name of the computer maker International Business Machines, or IBM, and replace each of its initials with the prior letter in the alphabet? B) Is HAL itself an acronym for Heuristic Algorithmic computer? C) Is the name a tribute to beloved character actor Hal Holbrook, famed for his one-man stage show Mark Twain Tonight! And for playing Deep Throat in All The President’s Men?
Choose your response and scroll with it. Unless you're a complete fool you have the same odds you do in a coin toss, here.
CORRECT ANSWER: B. Even though it violates the rules of acronym-ing, at least as I understand them! Having both the "A" and the "L" in "HAL" come from the same word—algorithmic—is just as dumb as having the "S" and the "P" in SPECTRE from the same word. The name of the computer really ought to be HAC 9000. HArrumph.
4) In 2001’s unlikely sequel 2010: The Year We Make Contact, the character of Heywood Floyd, is played by a different actor than the one who played him in 2001 16 years earlier. (I’m referring of course to when the films were made, not when they’re set.) This replacement actor starred in the film frequently cited as the first summer blockbuster. Who is the actor? A) Richard Dreyfuss, B) Rob Schneider, C) Alec Guinness, D) Roy Scheider, or E) Burt Reynolds?
Use the Force. You know this one.
CORRECT ANSWER: B. Rob Scheider. From Jaws, obviously (and Jaws 2, regrettably), but also from The French Connection, Marathon Man, All That Jazz, Sorcerer and so many others. This cat ruled the 1970s, and then he still got to star in 2010 after that.
5) When Kubrick and Clarke imagined their habitually moon-commuting society of the early 21st century from the middle of the 20th, they thought about what professions women might hold some 35 years in the future. Are the women seen in 2001 A) flight attendants, B) stewardesses, C) waitresses, D) scientists, E) models? Choose all that apply.
Gather your righteous feminist rage and scroll.
CORRECT ANSWER: A, B, D. This one was kind of a cheap shot, I admit, because although Kubrick's record of making space in his movies for women was not great overall, we do in fact meet two female scientists with lines in 2001. People just remember the flight attendants, because they're the only women we see in the film's famous sequence tracking Heywood Floyd's Strauss-scored journey from Earth to the space station to the moon. And because Kubrick turned Shelley Duvall's character in The Shining into an idiot, to the dismay of The Shining author Stephen King, among many others. But Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut, features Nicole Kidman in one of the best performances of her career. Better late than... anyway. I hope enjoyed the quiz!