Instant Gratification: “Room 237” and four other good movies available now on Netflix Instant


Pick of the week: “Room 237“: My full review is here.  Rodney Ascher’s playful and engrossing documentary is a love letter and a warning to film obsessives, as we watch “The Shining” through the eyes of five cinephiles with increasingly bizarre theories on the film’s “true” meaning. (Unfortunately, “The Shining” is not on Netflix.)

Crime film of the week: “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels“: Ah, I miss the days when Guy “Sherlock Holmes” Ritchie used to make movies like this, profane, twisty, fun crime films, in this case following several roughneck parties who collide over a pair of antique shotguns.

Action film of the week: “The Italian Job”: Not the Michael Caine original, but the American remake starring Mark Wahlberg, which is a pretty good heist film in its own right that makes good use of those Mini Coopers.

Comedy of the week: “The Last Days of Disco”: Whit Stillman’s 1998 film is a sly comedy of manners in the age of the Bee Gees, starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny.

Foreign film of the week: “Starbuck”: My full review is here. This French-Canadian film (which will be remade as “The Delivery Man” with Vince Vaughn in November) follows a middle-aged screw-up who finds that his sperm donations have resulted in him fathering over 500 children.


“Room 237”: Film obsessives check in, but they don’t check out


Room 237″ opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. Not rated, 1:38, 3.5 stars out of 4

You know when “Room 237” starts getting really scary? When the people in the film start making sense.

Rodney Ascher’s playful and engrossing documentary looks at another film, Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” through the perspectives of five absolutely obsessed fans. And I don’t mean obsessed as in “watches it every Thanksgiving” or “has the poster framed in their rec room.” I mean obsessed as in doing frame-by-frame analyses of the film, looking for hidden objects, continuity errors and other Easter Eggs they believe Kubrick left there to support their theories.

One critic insists that “The Shining” is really Kubrick’s veiled confession that he was involved in faking the footage of the Apollo moon landing. Why else would the sign “Room N. 237” be so prominent in one shot, if it wasn’t an anagram of “moon”? (Plus an ‘R”, I grant you.) Another sees cans of food in the hotel kitchen bearing the likeness of a Native American chief, a clue that Kubrick has really made a movie about the betrayal of Native Americans.

A repeated phrase throughout the film is a variation on “Most people wouldn’t catch this, but . . .” and goes on to make some connection that absolutely nobody would see (such as, supposedly, Kubrick’s face superimposed in the clouds during the opening credits). The obsessives always assume that they have some secret connection to the film that allows them to see what’s really going on. An interest in Holocaust history, for example, makes one uniquely qualified to see the Holocaust references in the film, such as a German typewriter. The thought never occurs to them that they are imposing their own interpretations onto the film. If these are conspiracy theories, it’s a conspiracy of two people — Kubrick and the “enlightened” obsessive.

We never see these theorizers; instead, we hear their voices throughout the film, which visually is made entirely of clips from “The Shining” and occasionally other movies. Fitting, of course, because these obsessives can’t see beyond the frame of the film. As one puts it late in the movie, they’re as trapped in the Overlook Hotel as much as Jack Torrance, doomed to roam around and around its halls, looking for patterns, looking for answers. When another fan talks about playing “The Shining” simultaneously backwards and forwards, one image imposed upon the other, it’s a perfect visual metaphor, turning the film into an endless Moebius strip to get lost in, with no entrances and no exits.

But then somebody actually makes a good point, and it jars you. For example, one woman points out that, in the scene where Jack is talking to the hotel manager in his office, bright sunlight is pouring through the window. However, if you examine the layout of the hotel, that office should be right in the center of the building, with no access to an outside window. So we may scoff at these outlandish theories, but a healthy dose of respect should go along with that; they may be seeing a lot that isn’t there, but they’re seeing some things that are, too.

So where is the light coming from? Was it a just a continuity goof-up, or was Kubrick making some sort of secret metaphor? Or, more likely, did he just think it looked right for the shot, and never a million years expected that diehard fans would be studying his film so closely?

Either way, “Room 237” is both kind of an affectionately cracked ode to filmophilia as well as a warning sign as to its perils. And it’s also the greatest recommendation ever to go watch “The Shining” again.

UPDATED: 31 sellouts at this year’s Wisconsin Film Festival


“Who just bought the last two tickets for the WI Film Fest’s screening of ROOM 237?” one festival fan tweeted last week. “This dude right here is who. #Nanny #Nanny #Boo #Boo.”

Man, those Wisconsin Film Festival fans are a cutthroat bunch.

As of Monday morning, 31 films in this year’s festival (running April 11 through 18) have sold out all or some of their screenings. Here’s a list of all the sellouts, including alternate times for those films that do still have advance tickets available.

Tickets are on sale through and at the festival box office on the first floor of Union South.

56 Up” — all three screenings are sold out. One of the subjects of the doc, Nick Hitchon, will be speaking at the Saturday screening only.

7 Boxes” — The 5:15 p.m. Friday show and 9 p.m. Tuesday shows are both sold out.

All the Light in the Sky” — 4:45 p.m. Sunday sold out.

Augustine” — 7 p.m. Thursday (April 18) sold out, tickets remain for 9:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Beyond the Hills” — 5:45 p.m. Sunday sold out.

“Breakfast with Curtis” — 11:30 a.m. Saturday is sold out, but tickets remain the 12:15 p.m. Friday show.

Consuming Spirits” — 2:15 p.m. Saturday sold out.

“Dear Mr. Watterson” — 9 p.m. Monday sold out, but tickets remain for 4 p.m. Sunday.

Dragon Inn” — 11:45 a.m. Saturday sold out.

Either Way” — both screenings sold out.

The End of Time” — 11:15 a.m. Saturday is sold out, but tickets remain for 12:30 p.m. Friday.

Flicker” — 7:45 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Monday are sold out, but tickets for 12:15 p.m. Friday remain.

I Am Divine” — 9:30 p.m. Friday sold out, but tickets remain for 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

“Key of Life” —  7 p.m. Wednesday is sold out, but tickets for 1:30 p.m. Thursday remain.

Kon-Tiki” — 6:30 p.m. Sunday sold out

Lore” — both screenings sold out

M” — 7:30 p.m. Saturday sold out

Much Ado About Nothing” — 9 p.m. Thursday sold out

Only the Young” — 7:45 p.m. Friday sold out, but tickets remain for 4 p.m. Sunday

Phase IV” — 11:30 a.m. Saturday sold out

Pretty Funny Stories” — 5 p.m. Saturday sold out

Radio Unnameable” — 6:45 p.m. Saturday sold out, but tickets remain for 5 p.m. Friday.

Renoir” — 1 p.m. Saturday sold out, but tickets remain for 2 p.m. Thursday

Room 237” — 6:30 p.m. Wednesday sold out

Short Films From Wisconsin’s Own” — 2 p.m. Sunday sold out

Stories We Tell” — 6:45 p.m. Thursday sold out

Tiger Tail in Blue” — 7:15 p.m. Sunday sold out.

The World Before Her” — 7:30 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday both sold out

This is Martin Bonner” — 6:30 p.m. Saturday sold out, but tickets remain for 2 p.m. Sunday

Unfinished Song” — 5 p.m. Saturday sold out

Winter Nomads” — 4:30 p.m. Thursday sold out, but tickets remain for 12:30 p.m. Friday