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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Legends: Stanley Kubrick

I'm sure at one point in your life you have seen a Stanley Kubrick film. If not, please stop reading this and go do it! You are missing out on a lot and you need to catch up. Stanley Kubrick changed film forever. He was films abstract artist but at the same time his work made perfect sense. He thought outside the box but struck a cord inside a generation. 

It's written that some successful and well known painters gave up painting for good after they seen works from a young Leonardo Da Vinci. Claiming they lost their creativity because they would never be able to do what Da Vinci did.  When Jimi Hendrix started gaining fame, many famous guitarist including Eric Clapton and Pete Townsend said that Hendrix was so good that they considered giving up playing guitar altogether. Stanley Kubrick has done the same thing in film. Like Da Vinci and Hendrix, he took his art to another level. Raised the bar as far as what we can do in cinema. 

Stanley Kubrick was one of the most professional and well prepared directors to ever breath, but he also ignored the rules of conventional cinema and did it with such grace and beauty, that it became the new standard that directors then and now are to live up to.

I though I would go over some of the films of Stanley Kubrick. Unfortunately, I haven't seen all his films but I have seen most of them. (Only missing a few) We'll start from earliest on....

The Killing (1956)

The Killing is a crime classic about a race track robbery gone wrong. Groundbreaking in it's time for having a nonlinear storyline and a unhappy ending. It's very much a film noir. It was Kubrick's first full length feature. it didn't gain much commercial success but it did get good reviews from critics. The masks are very cool! They were used again in "A Clockwork Orange"

Spartacus (1960)

This was Stanley Kubrick's big epic. Spartacus was a huge commercial success and put Kubrick's name on the map. Though the film was a hit, the production was very difficult. Kubrick and the films star, Kirk Douglas, had constant creative differences and led to a rocky relationship between the two. After production, Kubrick largely disowned the film because of a lack of creative control. Years later, Douglas called Kubrick "a talented shit" in interviews.

Lolita (1962)

This is one of my favorite movies from Kubrick. A very controversial film in it's time, about a relationship between a middle aged man and his twelve year old stepdaughter. After many problems with the censors, the film was released to mixed reviews from critics but was nominated for many awards. Kubrick takes this taboo and uncomfortable story and delivers it brilliantly! 

Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Once a cult classic, this film is now a CLASSIC. Peter Sellers plays four roles in this nuclear war macabre comedy. Based on the novel "Red Alert" by Peter Bryant, Kubrick puts a comical spin on Bryant's serious novel. Kubrick said he found the conditions leading to nuclear war absurd and decided to change the format. All throughout Kubrick's career, many novelist whom he has adapted works from, have been angry about Kubrick's version of their work. Who's right or wrong? I don't know. That's to be debated. I just know a good movie when I see one.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

To me, this is the greatest science fiction movie ever made! Period! Made one year before the U.S. moon landing, 2001 took us cinematicaly to a place we've never been before. Space! This film took science fiction to a new serious and evolved level! In the 50's and 60's, the science fiction genre was considered by some to be campy, cheaply made, and lightly written. 2001: A Space Odyssey raised the bar by being cleverly written, beautifully stunning visually, and by groundbreaking special effects for the time. Without 2001, would there have ever been Star Wars and countless other films today?

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

A great film that didn't get the respect it deserved until after Kubrick's death in 1999. Rated x upon release, this film caused a lot of controversy around Stanley Kubrick. He was forced to have the film removed in Britain completely after receiving death threats to him and his family. It was completely banned in all of the UK until 2000. This movie is wonderfully stylish and brilliant. Some would say it is Kubrick's most violent film, full of fighting and rape. It's based on the Anthony Burgess novel by the same name. While this movie is very violent, it is also about violence. It's almost a science fiction film but not quite. I really love this movie!

Barry Lyndon (1975)

This is probably my least favorite Kubrick movie, but it is still very good. Barry Lyndon was not a huge financial or commercial success for Kubrick. Many critics and moviegoers found the film to be lifeless and somewhat dull. With a running time of over three hours, many also found it to be too long. However, it was nominated for seven Oscars and won four. Not too shabby! Barry Lyndon is widely appreciated for it's spot on accuracy as far as sets and wardrobe. Kubrick pulled every little detail from paintings and writings of the era in which the film takes place. Every detail down to the napkins, buttons, floors, etc. Every single thing in this movie had to be accurate. I'm not a huge fan of period movies (I don't hate them, I like them, it's just not my big niche.) but i thought Barry Lyndon was very good and definitely is worth at least one viewing. 

The shining (1980)

I think this is a very underrated movie! It's beautifully directed and a great thriller. The shining gave rise to the legend of Stanley Kubrick as a megalomaniac perfectionist. He demanded hundreds of takes on certain pivotal scenes. Author of the book it was adapted from, Stephen King publicly disliked the film. He said that Stanley Kubrick was "a man who thought too much and felt too little". The film gained cult status in the eighties and nineties and is now considered a horror classic.

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

I've always found this film interesting because it is not anti-war and it not pro-war. Full Metal jacket shows war for what it is. The politics of it are for you the viewer to decide. I will admit, the first half of this movie is the best. Not that the second half is bad, it's just that the whole story in the marine training camp is so well done and gripping that it is what you remember from it. This is definatley in my top ten war movies list! (I may do a blog on my top ten war movies). 

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

This was Stanley Kubrick's final film. This film like many of his others, had problems with censors and the ratings board. Eyes Wide Shut is a tale of love, jealousy, sex, cults, and human nature. Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole kidman when they were a real life couple, they are both very good in this. There's a old legend that Kubrick use to joke about making a high budget, well written, well acted porno movie. Some argue that he did just that with Eyes Wide Shut. I don't know if I would go that far. It does have enough sex and nudity to compete with a softcore porn like you can see on Cinemax any late night. But unlike most of them, it's done very very well!

Stanley Kubrick died at 70 from a heart attack he suffered in his sleep. He passed away only 4 days after screening a final cut of Eyes Wide Shut. 

Stanley Kubrick will always be remembered as one of the greatest Directors and visionaries of the 20th century. He leaves behind a series of works that are still being discussed and still push the envelope of what film makers are capable of if they let their imagination lead the way and except no boundaries as to what is possible in cinema. 

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