2001 A Space Odyssey

The universe is a weird place. Just yesterday, we found ourselves debating the merits of Kubrick vs. Schwarzenegger here at Nordstrom HQ. That very night, listlessly cruising our Tumblr dashboard, we serendipitously stumbled upon two pieces of evidence that just might sway the debate.

The first is a collection of photos depicting director Stanley Kubrick on the set of his abstract, enigmatic 1968 sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film itself is dense, difficult (if not impossible) to decipher, and moves at a snail’s pace. It’s also breathtakingly beautiful to look at, and unflinchingly original to the point that it could be considered on par with the works of Beethoven or Picasso. (Read an eloquent essay on LIFE.com, from whence these photos originate, in which the Editor of that site convincingly draws those very comparisons.)

Whether or not 2001 is your cup of tea (Tang?), we think you’ll agree it’s inspiring to see a man so intent on realizing a vision, no matter how grandiose or perplexing, that only he could.



  

 



(The intricate sets, the eye-catching costumes, the intense atmosphere…Even amidst all that, we’re drawn to Kubrick’s elegantly disheveled, overturned tie. It’s exactly how a well-dressed man, utterly immersed in a hands-on job, should look.)

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The second piece of evidence in our abstract cinema vs. action movie dialogue is the video montage below, illustrating a favorite camera trick that Kubrick returned to again and again—in Space Odyssey, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and more. You’d think, given the sheer number of examples, that this could become redundant; but it’s the otherworldly visuals and impassioned performances that Kubrick places within that lens, that make his camerawork come to life. Touché, sir—consider yourself back at the top of our Netflix queue.

 
 

[Photos by Dmitri Kessel via Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images and LIFE.com. Video by Vimeo user, and apparent extreme film buff, Kogonada. We found these via two of our favorite sources of inspiration: Nickel Cobalt and The Only Magic Left is Art. Individuals pictured do not endorse Nordstrom.]

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When Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner—a bona fide visionary with an armload of Emmys under his belt—has an odd-sounding request, his team at cable-saviors AMC have learned to listen. Such was the case with the extremely specific idea he had for hyping the show’s upcoming sixth season. To quote The New York Times:

“…Inspired by a childhood memory of lush, painterly illustrations on TWA flight menus, [Weiner] decided to turn back the promotional clock. He pored over commercial illustration books from the 1960s and ’70s and sent images to the show’s marketing team, which couldn’t quite recreate the look he was after. ‘Finally,’ [Weiner] said, ‘they just looked up the person who had done all these drawings that I really loved, and they said: Hey, we’ve got the guy who did them. And he’s still working. His name is Brian Sanders.'”

We decided to look up Sanders for ourselves. Amidst a long and illustrious career in England, the work that most caught our eye on the illustrator’s curriculum vitae comes from the 1960s, when Sanders convinced Stanley Kubrick to allow him to document the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sanders observed and sketched on-set twice a week for over a year, later working on larger paintings in his studio. An excerpt of this amazing record appears below. See more of Sanders’s artwork here.

 

Here’s a look at how that little project turned out:

…And in case you need a reminder of why to watch Mad Men (besides the impeccable style inspiration), here’s one of our favorite quotes—Don Draper explaining why he seldom says ‘Thank you’ to his valued employees:

 
 

[Artwork © Brian Sanders. Mad Men poster and clip courtesy of AMC.]

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