The Shining Jack Nicholson Stanley Kubrick

Stir Crazy

The 10 Strangest Conspiracy Theories About The Shining

Go deep into The Shining this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Warner Bros./Everett Collection

Stanley Kubrick was easily one of the most visually arresting, ambitious filmmakers of all time. Careful study of Kubrick’s work reveals that the obsessive, methodically-researched nature of his filmmaking trickles all the way down to the smallest details, making his filmography ripe for endless debate and analysis by fans and critics alike. And if there’s one thing the Internet loves, it’s endless debate.

None of Kubrick’s films have inspired more fervent hypothesizing than The Shining, a subject that was even the focus of the entertaining 2012 documentary Room 237. We combed the farthest, darkest corners of the Internet to shine a light on the weirdest, most out there conspiracy theories about The Shining, airing this month on IFC. Which theory do you believe? Read on and decide for yourself. Heeeere comes the crazy…

1. It’s about the Apollo 11 moon landing.

The Shining Apollo 11
Warner Bros.

Let’s start with the most popular theory: The Shining is Kubrick’s apology for supposedly working with the government to fake the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing…despite the fact he was busy with 2001: A Space Odyssey at the time. Supporting evidence includes cans of astronaut favorite Tang on the Overlook Hotel’s pantry shelves, Danny’s not-so-subtle Apollo 11 sweater, and the theory that the dead twins symbolize the failed Gemini space missions.

A deeper dive into the theory asserts the word “All” in Jack’s typed mantra looks more like A11, or Apollo 11. As for room 237, moon landing theorist Jay Weidner claims the director changed it from 217 to 237 because the Moon is “237,000 miles from Earth,” but it’s more like 238,855 miles on average, according to NASA’s website. This Shining theory is pretty far out of reality’s orbit.


2. It’s about the treatment of Native Americans.

The Shining Native Americans
Warner Bros.

An ever-so-slightly more plausible theory than the “faked moon landing,” many Shining conspiracy theorists believe the film symbolizes Kubrick’s condemnation of America’s treatment of Native Americans. The film is full of Native American imagery, from the rugs to the Calumet (which means “peace pipe”) baking soda cans in the pantry to paintings on the walls. Even the elevator of blood supposedly symbolizes all the blood shed over the seizing of Native American land.

Of course, it’s also mentioned the hotel is built on old Native American burial grounds; a piece of information Kubrick added that was not in Stephen King’s original novel. And you know what they say about staying anywhere that is built on Native American burial grounds…


3. It’s about the Greek Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.

The Shining maze

Though the Outlook Hotel of King’s novel never had a hedge maze, Kubrick chose to add one as a deliberate visual reference to the Greek myth about the Minotaur slain by hero Theseus. The hotel itself is purposely labyrinthine with hallways, doors, and staircases leading either nowhere or to more hallways, doors, and staircases. And don’t forget the infamous “impossible window” in the hotel manager’s office that logically doesn’t make sense with the rest of the building’s maze-like architecture!

One other piece of supporting evidence is Jack’s bullish behavior, bulging eyes, prominent forehead, and slumped posture, all of which make a strong case for him being the “Minotaur” in question. Though we’d argue that ’70s Jack Nicholson always kind of looks like a bull.


4. It’s about the Holocaust.

The Shining 42
Warner Bros.

This one depends on how much you believe in the significance of numbers, as the number 42 — for the year the Nazis initiated the “Final Solution,” aka 1942 — figures very prominently in the film. The number shows up in various ways: on the sleeve of one of Danny’s shirts, the number of cars in the parking lot, the film The Summer of ’42 that Wendy and Danny watch, and the fact that if you multiply Room 237 (2x3x7) it equals 42.

Fans also point to Jack’s German-made typewriter and the image of a yellow eagle, the other Nazi emblem, emblazoned on one of his t-shirts. Though Kubrick, a Bronx-born non-practicing Jew, had actually written his own Holocaust-centered film called The Aryan Papers, he ultimately abandoned the project when, according to his widow Christiane, he realized putting the whole brutal truth on film would be “un-survivable.”


5. It’s actually supposed to be viewed backward…and forward!

As if the film wasn’t disorienting enough, one theory by a group called MSTRMND alleges it’s meant to be watched backwards and forwards concurrently in order to unlock the “Kubrick Code.” When viewed this way with the images superimposed on top of one another, it brings out eerie subtextual congruencies between the beginning and end events with the two versions meeting right in the middle at the scene where Dick Halloran is lying in bed watching TV. (We can only imagine what happens if you watch it this way while stoned.)

Because of Kubrick’s visual acumen, it actually makes for an interesting meta experiment if nothing else, as it shows his perfectionism at work in both narrative and visual symmetry. After all, “redrum” backwards IS “murder”!


6. It’s about Hell and Jack Torrance is the Devil/Baphomet.

The Shining Forever

Jack Nicholson played the Devil in 1987’s The Witches of Eastwick, but some conspiracy theorists would have you believe he played a slightly different version of Old Scratch seven years prior in The Shining.

The concept is simple: the Overlook Hotel is hell and a manifestation of Jack’s deepest fears. But theorists are split on whether Jack merely made a pact with the Devil in order to get a drink at the bar or if the demented writer is actually the Devil himself. Evidence for the latter: the old black-and-white photo of Jack from the end of the film where he is seemingly trapped in 1921 shows him in the exact same pose as the Baphomet (aka Devil) Tarot card.


7. It’s all a dream/nightmare.

The Shining Jack
Warner Bros.

A hotel layout that makes no sense. Ghosts that pop up where they shouldn’t but look corporeal. Supernatural abilities. Elevators of blood. The only thing that makes sense is that none of it makes any sense except in a dream or nightmare where logic doesn’t matter, leading some conspiracy theorists to suggest all of the events of The Shining are just an alcohol-fueled dream/nightmare in the mind of Jack Torrance. Wake us up from THIS one.


8. It’s about CIA mind control.

The Shining CIA
Warner Bros.

The CIA ran a classified, controversial behavioral program called MKUltra from the early 1950s through 1973 which subjected its human test subjects to a number of illegal techniques –- LSD, sensory deprivation, etc. –- without their consent in order to ascertain the best methods of interrogation and mind control. Some fans claim Jack Torrance is one such human test subject for MKUltra with the Overlook representing the CIA slowly but surely eating away at his mind.

Fans point to a Monarch ski poster in the lounge behind the twin girls as proof, claiming “Monarch” was the code name used by the CIA for MKUltra. Or, you know, it could just be the name of a ski mountain or something.


9. It’s about the Illuminati.

The Shining Hallway

It wouldn’t be a proper conspiracy theory list without at least ONE reference to the supposedly power-hungry secret society hell-bent on establishing a New World Order. Fans of this theory claim Kubrick deliberately used symbols associated with the Illuminati throughout The Shining like triangles, ladders, the all-seeing Eye, etc. as a way of admitting his involvement with the group.

Furthering the crazy presented here is the claim Kubrick was killed by the group shortly before releasing Eyes Wide Shut not only because of the symbols depicted in The Shining, but also because he revealed some of their rituals in the 1999 Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman erotic thriller. Kubrick DID die in 1999 just a few months before Eyes Wide Shut premiered but it was due to a massive heart attack as he slept. Or WAS it?????


10. It inspired Frozen.

The Shining Frozen
Disney/Warner Bros./MKhammer.squarespace.com

The latest and possibly craziest theory (and that is saying something) claims that Disney’s endlessly popular animated film Frozen is actually the same movie as The Shining. Blogger Mary Katharine Ham hypothesizes ice queen Elsa and Jack are “a danger to family members, whose volatility increases after a long isolation inside a giant, ornate, high-ceilinged building in a cold desolate landscape.”

Ham goes on to compare screenshots from both films that do, in fact, look visually similar, including the ending shots of both characters frozen in the winter wilderness. It’s actually a really fun theory, but since Kubrick is no longer around to explain his motivations, Ham and all the other Shining conspiracy theorists might need to –- as Elsa sings — let it gooooooo…

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Swimming To Cambodia Spalding Gray

Gray's Anatomy

Everything You Need to Know About the Movie That Inspired “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”

Brand new Documentary Now! airs Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom Pictures

This week Documentary Now! spotlights a master monologist with “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything.” Before you tune in at 10P this Wednesday on IFC, check out our guide to Swimming to Cambodia, the 1987 film that captured writer/performer Spalding Gray’s acclaimed one-person show.

Spalding Gray 101

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures

Actor and renowned monologist Spalding Gray spent two years on stage perfecting his Obie Award-winning “Swimming to Cambodia” monologue. In it, Gray tells the story of his eight weeks in Southeast Asia while shooting the 1984 Academy Award-winning movie The Killing Fields. He had a small role, but the experience gave him several anecdotes about hanging out with the film crew and experiencing the local culture, all while searching for “the perfect moment.”

Directed by the Silence of the Lambs Guy

Hannibal Lecter
Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

Acclaimed filmmaker Jonathan Demme took Gray’s two-night, four hour performance and crafted it down to 85 minutes. His use of dramatic lighting, stylish camerawork and a score by performance artist Laurie Anderson was praised by critics and earned the film a cult following. No stranger to groundbreaking docs, Demme also directed the 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, which Documentary Now! pays tribute to in this season’s episode “Final Transmission.”

All about the Voices

While it may have been a one-man show, Gray created a repertoire of characters all with distinctive accents. (He portrayed conversations between himself and others just by turning his head.) Our favorite impressions are of his demanding girlfriend Renee and Ivan Strasberg, the South African director of photography on The Killing Fields who, as depicted by Gray, sounds a bit like a Jamaican surfer.

The Original Cranky New Yorker

In one memorable scene, Gray rants about how his noisy upstairs artist neighbors are driving him and Renee crazy. Even in the mid-’80s, there were New Yorkers complaining that the city wasn’t what it used to be.

Show and Tell

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures/YouTube

A big fan of visual aids, Gray used pull-down maps to illustrate his travels. This helped to bring Swimming to Cambodia to life, since he’s basically sitting at a desk the entire time.

Inspired One-Person Shows

Gray’s groundbreaking performances in Swimming and other documentaries like Monster in a Box and the Steven Soderbergh-directed Gray’s Anatomy (about Gray’s struggle with a rare eye condition) paved the way for future one-person shows. (We wouldn’t have everything from Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” to Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk With Me” without him.) Even Doc Now! star Fred Armisen got into the one-person show act for his recent SNL monologue.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Spalding Gray when “Parker Gail: Location Is Everything” premieres Wednesday, September 28th at 10P on IFC. 

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Rocky IV Stallone Lundgren

Burning Heart

10 Reasons Why Rocky IV Is the Ultimate Rocky Movie

Catch an all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC.

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Photo Credit: United Artists/Everett Collection

Sure, most people love the first Rocky for its heart, gripping boxing scenes and the classic training montage. Or, you might love Creed for being both a return-to-form and a new exploration of the Rocky mythology. Maybe the thrill of seeing Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in the same movie makes Rocky III your top pick. Well, sorry, you’re wrong: Rocky IV is the greatest of all the “Italian Stallion”‘s movies.

Before you watch the all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC (with Rocky IV airing at 8P as part of Rotten Fridays), check out a few reasons to appreciate the fourth installment as the king of the series.

1. The Greatest Opening Ever

How many openings are able to sum up the entire conflict of the film in less than a minute and without a single line of dialogue? And how many of those movies have exploding boxing gloves? Just try to watch the opening sequence above and not be completely psyched for the pumped-up flick to come.


2. Montages!

We all know that the best part of any sports movie is the montage, and Rocky IV doesn’t give you one measly montage. There’s a recap of the previous films montage, a getting to Russia Montage, two training montages and an ending fight montage. That’s five montages! There’s probably a montage of montages snuck in there, too.


3. There’s a Full James Brown Musical Number

This movie is so packed with memorable moments, it’s easy to forget one of the first things that happens in the film: Apollo comes out to fight Drago dressed as a shirtless Uncle Sam, while James Brown and a full band play “Living in America.” To drive home the number’s patriotism, there are dancers in tuxedos and top hats, weird unitards and bowler caps, and bedazzled showgirls with headpieces for miles. Oh, and don’t forget the giant tentacled dragon statue on the stage. This is how every boxing match should start. Heck, this is how we always want to enter a room.


4. The Soundtrack

The Rocky IV soundtrack doesn’t just feature James Brown — it has rock anthems galore, all of which make you immediately want to hit the gym. From “Heart’s on Fire” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to “Sweetest Victory” by Touch to multiple Survivor jams, you’ll get pumped and stay pumped. Even the instrumental score rocks! Sure, sometimes it sounds like it was made on a kids Casio, but this soundtrack never quits and — to quote Robert Tepper — never takes the easy way out.


5. Abs!

Rocky IV weights

Every Rocky movie shows off Stallone’s incredible physique, but Rocky IV really ups the game. Not only do we get Dolph Lundgren mostly shirtless looking like a man machine, but we get a wide variety of scenes of Stallone doing impossible tasks. Stallone’s crazy dragon fly crunches, aka a thing no human should be able to do, automatically take this movie to the top.


6. Two words: Ivan Drago

Ivan Drago
United Artists

Not only does Rocky IV explore the global conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, but it encapsulates all of our fears of the Cold War in one perfect villain. Ivan Drago only trains with machines and science and looks like he stepped out of an Aryan Nations recruitment poster. He also only responds in short, cold phrases like “If he dies, he dies,” or “I must break you.” There’s never been a villain who we so clearly want to get the crap beat out of than Ivan Drago.


7. Rocky Makes Chores Look Badass

Rocky saw
United Artists

Rocky doesn’t need to be hooked up to machines to become the perfect fighter. All he needs are huge tires and some outdoor chores to do. No one’s ever looked cooler chopping wood and using tractor parts. Half of his training is lifting an old wagon, probably to fix a broken axle. If anything, this film inspires us to take care of that gardening work we’ve been neglecting.


8. Rocky’s Beard

Rocky IV Beard

Stallone’s beard game is truly on point in Rocky IV. And this isn’t some “I forgot to shave, here’s a little stubble” look. No, we get full out, lumberjack-style beard action. Does any other Rocky movie have our hero looking like an old Russian aristocrat? Another point for Rocky IV.


9. There’s a robot!

Again, there’s so much to Rocky IV, you probably forgot about the robot. Well, Rocky has some money now and he’s not going to spend it on frivolous things for himself. He’s going to buy Paulie a robot! The best part of this scene is how truly disturbed Paulie is by this new technology until he gives it a sexy lady voice.


10. Rocky Ends the Cold War

If you’re still not convinced that Rocky IV is the greatest, answer this question: Does any other Rocky movie bring peace between the US and Russia?

By the end of the film, Rocky rises up to beat the seemingly undefeatable Drago. He fights so well, that even the Russians begin to appreciate his skills. Then, instead of using his victory to prove America’s superiority, he gives a rousing speech of “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change!” The whole crowd goes wild, including all of the Russian government, who we assume give up Communism immediately based solely on Rocky’s words. Stallone’s call for international reconciliation through brutal fighting and a variety of montages makes this if not one of the greatest films of all time, certainly the greatest Rocky of them all.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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Optimus Prime in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION, from Paramount Pictures.

Rotten Apples

10 Rotten Movie Franchises That Need to Stop

Catch the "Too Rotten to Miss" movie Scary Movie 2 tonight at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

We live in the age of the blockbuster movie franchise. If you want a green-light, you better have tights, a light saber and decades worth of backstory and fan love to build on. And while we love some of these franchises, some just keep getting new entries despite horrible reviews, audience indifference and an utter lack of care from even the people making them.

With IFC and Rotten Tomatoes celebrating “too rotten to miss” movies like Scary Movie 2 this month, we thought it high time to point out just a few franchises than should be retired to the bottom of your Netflix queue. Here are 10 “rotten” movies franchise that need to just go away, please.

10. Transformers

Transformers
Dreamworks Pictures

Hollywood execs, we get it. You grew up in the ’80s, and now you want to produce everything you loved as a child, only make it a lot worse. Here’s the thing: while a show like Stranger Things took all the tropes and style of ’80s movies, and created something new, lingerie commercial director Michael Bay went the opposite way, taking a title and basic concept, and creating a pile of garbage made out of robot parts.

If poop jokes mixed with racism, misogyny and incoherent fight scenes are your thing, this is the franchise for you. If you have even the slightest respect for character or basic story logic, you have to admit this franchise has been awful from frame one. Yes, we were alive in the ’80s, but some things are best left in the past. Unfortunately, with a sixth movie, a Bumblebee spin-off and a proposed G.I. Joe/Transformers crossover movie in the works, this franchise will probably outlive us all.


9. Scary Movie

Scary Movie
Dimension Films

True, its been a couple of years since we’ve been subjected to one of these, but you know that Jamie Kennedy or the Epic Movie guys are sitting in a writers room somewhere, pitching jokes on how to merge The Purge with a fart joke. This franchise started out in a mediocre place, a Wayans family knockoff of better movies like Airplane, and things went downhill from there. You shouldn’t be able to spin five movies out of a few Scream jokes and a Carmen Electra cameo.


8. Alvin and the Chipmunks

Alvin and the Chipmunks
20th Century Fox

Designed to appeal to kids who love ’50s novelty albums and pun-y titles, the Chipmunk franchise feels like it was made by a prop comic from the Uncanny Valley. Full of rapping CGI rodents, and a paycheck cashing Jason Lee, 20th Century Fox has somehow made over a billion dollars off a series of diminishing “Squeakquels.” We do secretly sort of hope these movies keep getting made, just so David Cross keeps getting forced to star in them.


7. X-Men

X-Men Oscar Isaac
20th Century Fox

If we can all be honest with ourselves, these movies have been a mixed bag for the past decade. (Even the foul-mouthed spin-off Deadpool made fun of how self-serious the franchise has become.) In an ever expanding quest to turn the series into a dumbed-down version of the moody mutants’ ’90s cartoon, the stories have gotten paper-thin, the performances phoned in and the monster makeup just this side of Grimace cosplay. (We’re looking at you, X-Men: Apocalypse.)

Do we really need to see Hugh Jackman’s take on Wolverine for the ninth time? There is only so much steamed chicken and protein powder this man can eat before this franchise legitimately becomes a form of torture. Fox Studios, there are enough superheroes on the big screen right now. Maybe let this one go, and a decade from now Marvel can reclaim it and make some good movies again.


6. Tarzan

Tarzan
Warner Bros.

There have been over 200 projects starring Tarzan since pictures started motioning at the turn of the last century. 200! This vaguely racist story of a white man taming the, ahem, Dark Continent, has been told ad nauseam. We know Hollywood loves to keep beating iconic characters into the ground, and Tarzan probably has near universal name recognition, but that doesn’t mean that anyone wants to, you know, go and watch a movie about the guy, no matter how ripped Alexander Skarsgard’s abs are.


5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Tarzan
Paramount Pictures

These “heroes in a half shell” were a stretch for movie stardom back at the peak of their popularity, but thanks to some ingenious work by The Jim Henson Company, and Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap,” they were able to have a moment during the early ’90s.

Now, decades later, Michael Bay’s desperate desire to ruin all of our childhoods has found its way to these pizza loving turtles with ‘tude. The CGI monstrosities that have resulted can barely be called movies. Like the Transformers franchise, but with more creepy scenes of an anthropomorphic turtle hitting on Megan Fox, these movies are a nail in the coffin of ’80s nostalgia, and need to be put to bed before Bay starts sniffing around the Thundercats.


4. Now You See Me

Now You See Me
Summit Entertainment

Magic tricks are impressive when you see them performed live. The fun is in wondering how they could possibly do that. When you watch a bunch of Christopher Nolan castoffs performing CGI tricks created in post production, the only thing you’re left wondering is what the point even was.

This is perhaps the strangest movie franchise to come along in awhile, a collection of genres tropes quilted together by a cavalcade of filmdom’s best supporting actors. Take a bit of Ocean’s Eleven, and a touch of The Prestige. Add a pinch of Morgan Freeman and James Franco’s brother, and cross your fingers that audiences will be dumb enough to line up for a sequel to that movie they didn’t totally hate when they saw it on an airplane that time.


3. God’s Not Dead

Pure Flix Entertainment
Pure Flix Entertainment

The Christian movie genre has blown-up over the last decade. God’s Not Dead, and its sequel, were beneficiaries of this expanding audience, raking in tens of millions of dollars at the box office. But, despite connecting with an audience, all is not well in God’s Not Dead-land.

These insipid movies, that never met a straw man they didn’t hate, tell laughable stories about the evils of college campuses and the ACLU, full of cartoonish villains whose sole purpose in life is to crush good Christian souls. With a “who’s who” of “Remember Them??” in the cast, including TV’s Superman Dean Cain and TV’s Hercules Kevin Sorbo, these movies are as poorly produced as the message they’re espousing. God may not be dead, but the careers of the filmmakers behind these movies should be.


2. Bridget Jones

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

It’s been more than a decade since the last Bridget Jones movie was foisted on us, and in that time young Bridget has remained the same self-involved, unrealistically clumsy mess. With pacing that makes each movie feel 10 hours long, sub-par slapstick and an unlikeable lead, the Bridget Jones trilogy too often feels like Sex and the City without the sex or the city.

Just because the book series your franchise is based on churns out another entry doesn’t necessarily mean you need to get the gang back together. Well, some of the gang, considering Hugh Grant wisely let Dr. McDreamy himself Patrick Dempsey fill in for him this go around. Remember when Renee Zellweger was an acclaimed, Oscar-winning actress? Yeah, that was a long time ago…


1. Avatar

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Seriously, is anyone really excited for the four sequels that James Cameron has promised us to this box office breaking blockbuster from 2009? Yes, at the time the 3D wonderland of CGI planets and tail sex was a revelation, making us overlook the fact that we were watching a hokey Dances With Wolves knockoff starring an actor with the approximate charisma of a broken toaster. But over the last few years, Avatar has slipped from the public consciousness. When’s the last time you popped in your Blu-ray of it, or saw someone cosplaying a Na’vi, or even mentioned it in casual conversation? If Cameron were making one sequel, okay, but four? FOUR? Maybe it’s best to just remember Avatar for what it was — a blue-hued fluke, and move on.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” flick Scary Movie 2 this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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