1980s · Film · Jack Nicholson · Journalism · Music · Socie Dinner Party · Stanley Kubric · Stephen King

Socie Dinner Party: The Shining (1980). Or, mental illness in the American west. Or, there ain’t nothing a little fresh air can’t cure.

Wednesday, March 14-15, 2017
Ann Arbor, Michigan

  • Days since Pine Rest: 12-13
  • Marital status: Questioning
  • Spiritual status: Judaism
  • Individual status: Questioning
  • Dietary status: Vegetarian, Kosher
  • Drug status: Lithium, coffee and cigarettes
  • Mood: Stable-ish
  • Personality: Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cookoo’s nest
  • Sexuality: No thanks.
  • American status: From womb to tomb
    • Regional status: Texan
  • Film studies status: Intermediate-advanced
  • Sociologist status: Advanced
    1. Sociology of Family and Social Demography
      • Specializations: The Family (1800-2017); Parenthood; Step-parenthood; Coresident union formation and dissolution
    2. Sociology of Gender/Sexuality
    3. Sociology of Race/ethnicity and immigration
    4. Sociology Culture
    5. Sociology of Health and Health Care
    6. Sociology of Education
  • Regions of Interest: American South and Midwest; France; Francophone Afrique; UK; Latin America

The Shining (1980)


Wagner begins the movie with an aerial shot of some woodsy American West painting. We find out the movie is set in Boulder, Colorado later. The titles roll:  A Stanley Kubric Film, Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duval, The Shining, then everyone else. The movie begins with green grass and lush plant life, but quickly elevates to a higher altitude with snowy, isolated mountain tops and murderous stepfathers.

Act I

The Interview

The hotel

Walking through a beautiful lobby. Nice shot–following him the whole way there. I think Goodfellas invented that type of camera work. Mr. Ullman and Susie. Small talk. Mr. Allman tells Jack to make himself at home, asks a few things of Susie the secretary.

The apartment

Talk of living in a hotel for the winter. Mom (Shelley Duval) reminds her son that it will be fun, since he has problems making friends. Mom asks about the little boy who lives in his mouth. Obviously some undiagnosed mental illness; particularly Mom who married a psycho.

The hotel

Jack is being oriented–he’s formerly a schoolteacher and currently a writer. Uh-oh. He’s looking for a change. Season runs from May 15-October 30; the hotel closes between October 31 (Halloween) and May 16 (probably the first day of Spring that year). It’s just too expensive to keep the 25-mile stretch road clear of snow to facilitate a ski season.

The hotel was built in 1907 and functional in 1909 (as we find out later). Ah, Jack is up from Denver, Co. Mr. Ullman says the winters are cruel; caretakers must cope with damage and depreciation of the building. The question begging to be answered is: one can repair a building, but what about the devastation to Jack due to isolation and seasonal affect disorder (SAD)?

Jack is looking for five months of peace. Jeez, that won’t really happen. Mr. Ullman says that for some people, solitude and isolation can become a problem. Yeah, no shit. This conversation makes me think of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Next warning:  Tragedy during Winter 1970. Charles Grady came to the hotel, completely normal, then suffered a mental breakdown and killed his family. His family included two young girls. Stacked them neatly in one room of the West Wing, then blew his brains out. Cabin fever. Um, what. The. Fuck. “You can rest assured, Mr. Ullman, that’s not going to happen with me.” Oh, God. Something about his wife loving horror movies.

The apartment

The little boy who lives in Danny’s mouth, Tony, knows Jack got the job. Jack says it’s a wonderful place; the family will love it. Tony tells Danny about the horror after he is persistent. He passes out. A female doctor comes to check him out; his mother is terrified. The doctor is asking for context: any bright lights or strange smells?

Danny might be lying to her to protect Tony. Well, he just mentioned Tony, so many he doesn’t know to lie about Tony yet. Tony leaves the mouth and enters the stomach when adults try to see him. The doctor pushes about Tony and Danny shuts her down. Doctor’s orders: bed rest for the rest of the day. Must be torture for a kid of Danny’s age. Mom and the doctor go to the living room for a debrief. Clean bill of health (physically, that is) from the doctor; Mom is relieved. First mention of “scare you to death” but this is followed up with an assertion of normality. Doc talks about auto-psychosis. They’re in Boulder. From Vermont where husband taught school.

Asks about school. Mom says he doesn’t like school; kept out of school due to injury. Doctor presses. She suspects child abuse. So do I. What the fuck. Husband was drinking and dislocated Danny’s shoulder. Grabbed his arm to pull him up . . . the kind of thing you do a hundred times to a child. Too much strength and injured Danny. The doctor is horrified. Silver lining: Jack has been sober for five months.


Danny’s hungry; Jack don’t care. Mom asks about the Donner Party. Danny asks about them and Jack explains with a creepy look in his eyes. Mom cautions, “Jack.” Danny already knows about cannibalism because of television. Creepy subtext.

They make it to the hotel and Jack is weird as fuck. Talking with his mouth full; all manners he had at the interview are out the window. Mom loves the hotel. She calls Jack “hon.” Huh. Four presidents and movie stars have stayed in the hotel. It’s fancy as fuck.

Danny is playing in the game room. Darts, then he senses something. Two little girls. This is why people hate twins. Ski posters on the wall, but no ski season. That’s weird.

Mom and “Dad” are on a tour. Jack checks out some young girls and shows the family to their quarters. Why not just live in one of the hotel rooms? Confinement within vastness. Just like the hotel within the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Shows them next to the maze, cautions that completing the maze takes about an hour. The hotel is located on an Indian burial ground. LOL. Gotta drive a special machine to get in or out of the mountains.

Gold Ballroom next. Accommodates up to 300 guests. Removed all the booze. Lame. Jack says he doesn’t drink. Mr. Halloraan meets the Torrances. Dick, as he’s called by Mr. Ullman, gives Wendy a tour of the kitchen. Dick treats Wendy and Danny with respect, despite a lack of formal titles. Wendy is awful at cooking. Me too, Wendy. Me too.

Jeezus. Fifty sirloin steaks, two dozen legs of lamb, et cetera. Wendy calls Dick, “Mr. Halloraan.” Dick brings Wendy and Doc (Danny) into the store room and a high pitched noise begins–it’s The Shining. Doc freaks a little below the surface. He never met someone who could “shine” before. Mr. Ullman and Jack come to get Mrs. Torrance.

Dick and Doc have some ice cream while the non-shiners go off alone. Ugh. I want ice cream. Dick mentions The Shining and remembers the isolation he had as a young boy due to the gift. Danny isn’t supposed to talk about The Shining, because Tony told him not to. I knew that little shit was dishonest. Just kidding.

Dick is a better psychiatrist than the doctor they had in Boulder . . . the same doctor that didn’t report the incidence of child abuse that the mother described. Isn’t there some kind of obligation to report that stuff? Oh, yeah. Impossible to enforce like everything else in the U.S. that doesn’t directly apply to dark skin and dark skin alone. Ugh.

I like that Stanley Kubric cast a black man in the part of Dick . . . is that how Stephen King wrote the book? I never read any Stephen King, because my mom likes him and I have mommy issues. Dick is trying to explain the negative context of the hotel. People (and animals of all kinds) often associate structures with their negative experiences. Obviously, this movie/book is dealing with some pretty violent PTSD.


One month later

Danny is riding his boy’s Power Puff. What did they call the boy version? I had a pink one in 1984.  Wendy looks creepy as always. She’s got her hair piled up on her head and she’s bringing Jack (or “Hun”) breakfast at 11:30 a.m. Jack has been staying up late to work. She invites him for a walk–fresh air and sunshine (read: Vitamin D)–and he declines.  Oh, god. I hate her acting. Jack’s describing a feeling of deja-vu. As if he knew what would be around every corner.

He’s playing handball in his typing room while Wendy and Danny have family time in the haunted maze. They get lost and creepy music plays. He has a little writer’s block and he’s getting frustrated. Jack walks by Danny’s Power Puff (boy version). He looks at a model of the maze and the movie shows us Wendy and Danny arriving in the center. Good thing they spent some time walking around the maze that day, they’ll need that information soon. Ugh. The music is so manipulative.


She’s opening gigantic cans in the kitchen, which is basically the kitchen at Taos Co-op in Austin, Texas. Danny’s back on his Powder Puff. He’s a fast-moving, little weirdo. Room 237 gives him a spooky vibe. Don’t do it, Danny. Ew, twins. He can just tell they’re in there. So creepy. I bet this movie inspired birth control for life in millions of American women.

Jack’s typing . . . but he don’t look right. Here comes awful Wendy. Doesn’t she know he’s working? She wants a marriage or something. omg she asked about his progress. Never ask a writer about progress. She gives him the weather forecast. Lame.

She wants him to be nicer to her; he wants to finish his work without her fucked up grill flapping next to his table. I have this conversation with Ben all the time about waking me up in the middle of the night. I think she gets the picture. Sheesh. haha “Why don’t you start right now and get the fuck out of her.” Boom. Oh, Jack. You must have a big dick. Back to typing his creepy book with his angry face.


Jack doesn’t look so good. lol He’s watching Wendy and Dany play in the snow with a cannibalistic look in his eyes. And all over his creepy face. The snowstorm Wendy warned about is in full effect. Jack is typing the great American novel, no doubt. Wendy’s wearing some Native American jacket and trying to get the radio to work. Um, Wendy–hide the ax while you’re at it.

Wendy walks back through the lobby and into Mr. Ullman’s office. She calls out on that CB. The cops answer and Wendy becomes an idiot. She’s smoking inside. Those were the days. This guy tote wants to do her. Small talk about the weather. Snooze. He’s done. Over. Leave the radio on all the time. Over. She agrees. Over and out.

Danny’s on that damned Powder Puff again. He’s about to see some fucked up shit. TWINS. Ugh. “Hello, Danny. Come and play with us. Forever. And ever. And ever.” They sound British; maybe the accent is supposed to be Transatlantic. Fun fact: there are lots of twins in my family. Heyoo, Justin, Cody, Aleksys and Chey!

Danny’s watching TV because his parents are horrible. A wholesome Folger’s commercial re: the lady making coffee for the man. Gender roles. omg He wants his fire engine and Wendy won’t allow it. She’s afraid of Jack’s temper. Danny promises to be quiet. Jack is going to beat the shit out of that kid.

Awww, Danny’s so little. And he’s being so quiet. Get the fire engine, Danny. Oh, fuck! Jack’s awake and looking to eat people. Danny asks permission to be a human and claim his toy. Jack wants to cuddle. Oh, god. Um, Danny hates this. This is probably the creepiest Daddy-Son scene I’ve ever seen. “I want you to have a good time.” Danny ends every sentence and begins every question with “Dad.” Probably some kind of placating tool.

Jack’s tired; Danny prescribes rest. Jack is a busy guy. He only has 5 unfettered months to write . . . Danny asks about the hotel. Jack loves it. Uh . . . Danny says he does too–I mean, if you force him to feel that way. Jack wants to stay there forever and ever and ever. Like the twins. Oh, shit. Bold, Danny. Bold. “You’d never hurt mommy and me, would ya?” Stomach churning. “I love you, Danny. More than anything else in the whole world. I’d never do anything to hurt you. You know that don’t you?” Poor Danny.


Hey! What about their awesomely creepy family weekend? Eh, they’re all back to work now. Danny is playing by himself and his parents are losing their ever-loving minds all over the hotel. Danny’s looking for his mother. No shit. Room 237 is open. Um, Danny. Haven’t you seen this movie before. Don’t go inside.

Wendy is working a bunch of equipment that says “Danger High Voltage.” I’m sure that piece of paper is guiding her to all the right levers. She’s wearing some kind of overall dress with awesome sherpa boots. Jack is haven’t another night terror during the day. PTSD. She runs in to be his mommy. “Jack!” He hates her. Helloooo, Jack. You OK, buddy?

Oh, fuck. I dreamed that I killed you and Danny. But, I didn’t just kill you, I chopped you into little pieces. Wendy is a little . . . concerned and a lot in denial. She helps him up. Danny comes in. Danny is a little . . . concerned. Jack’s got a headache and this requires your playing in your room, Danny. Jeez, lady. Lay off. He’s the best kid in the world and he was just strangled by a naked lady.

Jack doesn’t look too good either. Wendy carries Danny out of the room, backing away and yelling accusations. Jack looks confused–almost willing to believe that he did strangle Danny. Eh, he decides he didn’t after all. OK.

Favorite scene of all time. Jack in the hallway on his way to the bar. Bar looks good, just need a bar tender and booze and party guests and to be in your right fucking mind. Bless his heart. He just wants a drink. A beer at the least. Me too, Jack. Me too. He rubs his eyes and Lloyd the Bartender appears. He makes a terrifying joke.

Lloyd calls him Mr. Torrance. Jack has $60 and wants a bottle of bourbon with a glass and ice. “You set ’em up and I’ll knock ’em back . . . white man’s burden.” What a loser. He’s broke. Lloyd doesn’t care. Jack takes a whiskey drink (read: orgasmic gulp). Poor Lloyd is trying to make a little small talk. You can’t do that with crazy.

Problem with the “old sperm bank.” Ew. Lloyd gives some stock platitudes about women. Jack defends his abuse hunger and defends his love for the “little son-of-a-bitch.” Wendy won’t forget the abuse that landed Danny in the hospital. OMG I love Jack Nicholson so much. Three years ago. Now, we’re getting Jack’s side. He has a scientific explanation for why Danny’s shoulder was dislocated.

Oh, god. Here’s Wendy talking about crazy women in the hotel. haha Jack asks if she’s out of her “fucking mind.” He asks, “which room was it.” Oh, shit. Look out room 237.

Dick’s room (outside of the hotel)

That damned storm is really cooking. Whoa. Governor of Colorado to declare a State of Emergency. Oh, Dick is in Florida. But, he still has The Shining.


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