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I scream (Overlooked)

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Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) and Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) discuss "shining" and the Overlook Hotel in 1980's "The Shining," directed by Stanley Kubrick.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Back in July, director Martin Scorsese was in Osage County, Oklahoma scouting locations in preparation for a film adaptation of David Grann’s hugely-successful book Killers of the Flower Moon, a true-crime story about how in the 1920’s, the Osage Indians became “the wealthiest people in the world because of oil discovered under their Oklahoma lands,” as noted today in The Oklahoman by writer Brandy McDonnell. She added: “Several members of the tribe were subsequently murdered, a case that became one of the FBI’s first major homicide investigations.”

What made the story so notorious, McDonnell notes of the book, is that while the FBI team of undercover agents eventually caught one of the murderes, the FBI “never exposed a deeper conspiracy behind the killings.”

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio will star in the film that will begin production next spring in Osage County, as promised by Scorsese to the Osage Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear.

Meanwhile, a casting call has gone out this week in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa, with Scorsese’s team seeking “Osage and other Native American men and women interested in potentially appearing in that film as speaking actors of background extras.” (Read more here).

And with another major film – Stillwater – also planning to film in Oklahoma (primarily near Coyle in Logan County), folks around here are excited about Hollywood’s return to the Sooner State.

But for me, it goes back to my recent dream involving singer/songwriter and co-founder of The Band, Robbie Robertson, and his appearance in my dream, relating to his death and a “red book.”

I wrote about this in my October 31, 2019 Dust Devil Dreams post “Workin’ on a mystery.” What was weird is that when I awoke, I had to doublecheck and make sure Robertson was still alive – he most certainly was – and I learned he is still quite active, with press reports highlighting his work on Scorsese’s soundtrack for the film The Irishman and Robertson’s separate solo album, Sinematic.  And noting Robertson’s ancestry – both Jewish and Native Canadian (Mohawk and Cayuga tribes) – the talented Ontario native said he is ready to get to work on providing the music for Scorsese’s film Killers of the Flower Moon, particularly due to the fact that the victims are indigenous North Americans, just as he is.

As all this began coming together, and I immersed myself in Robertson’s solo music and highlights from his years with The Band, I began to wonder what this was all about. I had not been consciously thinking about Robbie Robertson prior to the dream. And now he seems to be everywhere after my dream.

Robbie Robertson's 2011 album How To Become Clairvoyant. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

What made it all stranger is that prior to writing this particular piece, I was re-watching Rodney Ascher’s excellent documentary about The Shining titled Room 237.

The portion of the film that was really clicking with me were Bill Blakemore’s cogent observations about the genocide of Native Americans by white settlers, which began in earnest in the 18th century and through the Manifest Destiny decades. When Stanley Kubrick’s film Full Metal Jacket was released in 1987, Blakemore took the opportunity to remind readers about Kubrick’s film from seven years earlier, The Shining, and wrote about it in a July 12, 1987 piece for The Washington Post titled “Kubrick’s ‘Shining’ Secret.

Blakemore wrote, in part: “The Shining" is also explicitly about America's general inability to admit to the gravity of the genocide of the Indians -- or, more exactly, its ability to "overlook" that genocide. Not only is the site called the Overlook Hotel with its Overlook Maze, but one of the key scenes takes place at the July 4th Ball. That date, too, has particular relevance to American Indians.

That's why Kubrick made a movie in which the American audience sees signs of Indians in almost every frame yet never really sees what the movie's about. The film's very relationship to its audience is thus part of the mirror that this movie full of mirrors holds up to the nature of its audience.

The film is also about how the all-male British military establishment, itself forged in bloody empire-building, passed on to its offspring continental empire, the United States, certain timeworn army-building methods, including separating weak males from the balancing influence of their more sensitive womenfolk and children.

"The Shining" is also about America's current racism, particularly against blacks.”

Blakemore is joined by others who have analyzed Kubrick's 1980 masterpiece, from Juli Kearns to Jay Weidner. Compelling Room 237 interpretations include themes relating to the Holocaust, the Apollo "moon trip" and the nature of reality as viewed on a screen. Much of the themes linked to Kubrick's childhood and hearing about the horrors of World War II and the treatment of Native Americans by the US government over the decades. 

So, as I was looking for an article in the Red Dirt Report archive this afternoon, the article in question didn’t come up, but former RDR writer Heide Brandes’ 2017 piece about Killers of the Flower Moon author David Grann did come up because key words in my original search brought it up also. What was eerie was that a Tweeted photo of Jack Nicholson’s Shining character, writer Jack Torrance, bent over his typewriter, appears in the column next to Brandes’ article headlined: “Osage Reign of Terror Comes Alive in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon.’”

"Killers of the Flower Moon" author David Grann in Oklahoma City in 2017. (Heide Brandes / Red Dirt Report)

I was really struck by this, because I had just paused Room 237 after a significant section involving Blakemore’s thoughts on The Shining and his belief that Kubrick was trying to highlight the plight of the American Indians, something that novelist Stephen King was not apparently highlighting in his book The Shining.

I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM ... 

What is interesting, also, is in a USA Today article where the reporter interviews Al Pacino about his role in Scorsese’s The Irishman, he says, that while he had never worked with Scorsese before - but had tried several times - The Irishman was the first film where he did just that. And in the film, where Pacino plays Teamsters Union leader Jimmy Hoffa, Pacino's character "voraciously consumes throughout the 3½-hour gangster epic: during business meetings, prison meals, and family outings with hitman-slash-close friend Frank Sheeran" played by Robert DeNiro.

Noted Pacino in the USA Today article: "When I took the role, I was like, 'You mean I get to eat ice cream in this part? I'm in,' " Pacino says with a laugh. "I wish I could eat ice cream every day, all day. But we just can't, can we?

In The Shining, when Danny gets to know Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) and learn that he can "shine," just as he does, they bond over ice cream and Hallorann explains this psychic ability. Chocolate ice cream, which also happens to be my favorite. Not too long after enjoying "ice cream," Danny is actually seen screaming, as he witnesses the horrors of what his father is doing in the haunted/evil hotel, high in the rugged Rocky Mountains of Colorado. A place where settlers fought off "Indian attacks" while literally building the hotel on an "Indian burial ground." The cavalier attitude about this, offered by hotel general manager Stuart Ullman (Barry Nelson) in the original film gives credence to Bill Blakemore's notion that the genocide of the American Indians was a key theme in Kubrick's cinematic version. (Oh, and did I mention Robbie Robertson's new album is Sinematic?) 

And now we will have Robertson creating music for a Scorsese film addressing the murders of Native Americans in Oklahoma between 1921 and 1925? Of course 1921 is the year noted at the very end of The Shining - July 4th of that year to be precise - when the big ball is held at the Overlook and Jack's sinister, smiling face is in the center of the photograph.

In Room 237, Jay Weidner suggests that Kubrick made The Shining (which annoyed Stephen King because it was so different from his novel) to highlight his role in faking the Apollo Moon missions, beginning in 1969. It's a compelling thought, one that I embraced for a time, but now, I'm not so sure. Actor Danny Lloyd, who plays Danny Torrance, was interviewed for The UK Guardian in 2017 about his time making the film and his life afterward (he is a teacher in Kentucky these days). Asked about the "faked moon landing" conspiracy, Lloyd replies, "Honestly, no. I don’t think there’s any basis to any of it really. I think it’s just people being such fans of Kubrick and trying to explain some of the things that are almost unexplainable. Why did he do this? Why he did do that? But no, I don’t buy into any of the conspiracies.”

As I was writing this piece, an article popped up on USAToday.com, headlined: "Is Jack back? 5 burning questions about Stephen King's 'The Shining' sequel 'Doctor Sleep'." Yes, in 2013, King wrote a sequel, Doctor Sleep, to his classic The Shining. The writer/director of the new film, Doctor Sleep, out this month in theaters, stars Ewan McGregor as Danny "Dan" Torrance, trying to get through adulthood while coping with his psychic abilities and the trauma of his experience all those years ago at the Overlook Hotel. I sense a synchromystic wave rushing toward the beach at the present moment. Do you?

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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