Movie Review – Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Written by Stanley Kubrick & Frederic Raphael
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

The final film from Stanley Kubrick came twelve years after his previous picture, Full Metal Jacket. The expectations are high, and close friends and family of the director have said he really felt the pressure of making a great film because of the standards he’d set for himself. I never had the privilege of going to a new Kubrick film in the theater, I was eighteen when Eyes Wide Shut was released and hadn’t yet fully developed in my understanding of cinema. From what I read from older film fans & critics, a Kubrick movie was met with humming anticipation. These heightened expectations will inevitably lead to disappointment because they put so much of the viewer’s demands on what the piece of art should be. However, contemporary reevaluations of Eyes Wide Shut have redeemed a beautiful send-off for one of our great masters in the craft.

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Movie Review – Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Written by Stanley Kubrick, Michael Herr, & Gustav Hasford
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Full Metal Jacket was seemingly accepted at face value by critics and audiences alike, and this is one of the most baffling moments in Stanley Kubrick’s directorial career. It shouldn’t surprise us though, as A Clockwork Orange was assumed by so many to be the filmmaker’s endorsement of rape and youth violence. Never underestimate people’s ability to not want to put in the work to think about a piece of art beyond its basic presentation. I have known “Chad” types who have quoted Full Metal Jacket with glee, and I can remember the first time I saw it not understanding why they thought this was a movie glorifying the Marine mindset. In the context of Kubrick’s full body of work, this rewatch has helped clarify for me that this is not the “funny” movie those sociopaths seem to think it is.

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Movie Review – The Shining

The Shining (1980)
Written by Stanley Kubrick & Diane Johnson
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

The Shining is usually the first Kubrick film a person sees as it is the most popular and one of the most accessible. It connects with people who like Stephen King (and don’t realize how much Kubrick made this his movie) and fans of horror in general. At some point, the picture became part of a quasi-fandom with Steven Spielberg recreating the Overlook Hotel in Ready Player One, inspiring a fake documentary called Room 237, and having a sequel in the form of the King novel and subsequent Mike Flanagan picture Doctor Sleep. It remains a powerfully affecting horror film that leans into its ambiguity to create an authentic atmosphere of resonant horror.

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Movie Review – Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon (1975)
Written & Directed by Stanley Kubrick

I think Stanley Kubrick was one of those rare directors who could dramatically shift tone & aesthetics between films without losing his core themes. On a material level, the differences between A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon is a vast gulf. Sex & violence is still present, but it’s meted out in a much more measured fashion. The goal of Barry Lyndon is to communicate with subtlety, to control the camera to an almost ascetic degree in how it delivers information about the characters & conflict. Kubrick also plays with structure creating two very distinct halves that tell us different things about the same character.

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Movie Review – A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Written & Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick has no shortage of controversy in his filmmaking career, and probably the most incendiary of his films is this adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ 1962 satirical novel about a violently out of control youth culture. In reflecting on my rewatch of this movie in the context of Kubrick’s body of work, I think it is shortsighted by people who are offended by the picture to push it aside so brusquely. The director has composed a movie that sits as a discomforting companion piece to Paths of Glory, asking some tough questions and making sure that our contemplation of these inquiries is not an easy task. The most important aspects of our society should be very hard to address and tackle.

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Movie Review – 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Written by Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Film does not work without images. In the same manner, music does not work without sound, and comics do not work without illustration. With 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick dove deep into the very heart of what gives cinema form. The result is a movie that is actually an incredibly traditional narrative, shaking off all the unnecessary exposition and focusing its lens on movement, space, both the presence & absence of sound, color, lighting, every essential component of the craft. I get entirely if someone doesn’t like 2001, and the first time I saw it, I felt very dissonant with the picture. It took some additional viewings, reading & hearings others’ thoughts, and forming a picture of what the movie represented for myself.

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Movie Review – Dr. Strangelove

Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Written by Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

There is comedy in the horror of humanity destroying itself. That is what Stanley Kubrick realized while penning the script for Dr. Strangelove alongside Peter George. Initially, they planned to make a serious film about a nuclear accident based on the simmering Cold War fears of the day. The more Kubrick delved into the policies surrounding mutually assured destruction, the more he found it all to comically absurd. Once Kubrick realized he was making a comedy about nuclear annihilation, he brought in writer Terry Southern who had written the comic novel The Magic Christian, which the director and Peter Sellers both loved. Southern punched up the story using real scenarios and protocols for comedy, and thus we have the dark humor of Dr. Strangelove.

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Movie Review – Spartacus

Spartacus (1960)
Written by Dalton Trumbo
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Spartacus helped to end the Hollywood blacklist. As a result of The House Un-American Activities Committee beginning in 1947, radical right-wing legislators sought to root out Communism in the nation, and this led to artists working in the film industry to be placed on a blacklist. Being placed on this list meant you were considered unhirable because your presence would lead to suspicions of Communist sympathies. 151 American entertainment professionals were put on this list and suffered greatly as a result. Dalton Trumbo was one of those people, and the combination of Kirk Douglas getting Trumbo hired to write Spartacus and director Otto Preminger doing the same for Exodus was a signal that over a decade long blacklisting was over. President John F. Kennedy crossing the picket lines of anti-Communists to view the film further spread the message that this horrible period should end.

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Movie Review – Paths of Glory

Paths of Glory (1957)
Written by Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, & Jim Thompson
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
– “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” Thomas Gray

When Paths of Glory was released in 1957, it was banned in France until 1975. Germany refused to allow it in the Berlin Film Festival lest the picture strain relations with France. Francisco Franco’s right-wing fascist government in Spain would not allow the movie to be shown, and it wasn’t until 1986, 11 years after Franco died. And lest we let the United States off the hook, Paths of Glory was banned from being shown in any military establishment. All this does is speak to the power of the themes of the picture, Kubrick’s first great anti-war film. 

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Movie Review – The Killing

The Killing (1956)
Written by Stanley Kubrick & Jim Thompson
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Just a year after Killer’s Kiss, Stanley Kubrick directed this heist film that dripped with noir. It should be noted that starting with this film, every movie Kubrick ever made was based on a novel. For the most part, his films would come to overshadow the books he adapted because Kubrick didn’t believe he was chained to the source material. I think that is an excellent thing because film adaptation is like language translation, you do not go for the exact 1:1 meaning, you shape the content to communicate the ideas and themes best. Kubrick made this picture under the banner of the Harris-Kubrick Pictures Corporation, a producing partnership he would continue for two more films (Paths of Glory & Lolita).

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