A Filmmaker's Best: Stanley Kubrick
26-07-1928 to 07-03-1999
Stanley Kubrick was possibly one of the most influential directors ever with a lot of his work being either in the Library of Congress Film Registry or his director styles being imitated by others. When it comes down to it, I can honestly say that many of my own efforts at analysing film have been influenced philosophies and skills initially put to the forefront of cinema by Stanley Kubrick.
Kubrick died on the 7th of March, 1999 when he was 70 years old and in the midst of completing the film "Eyes Wide Shut" (1999) with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. No, it wasn't his best movie but it was very good still and it was his last effort so it deserves some recognition - even if Nicole Kidman was in it. I'm kidding, she's not that bad...
Anyways, on this day, I'd like to go through my top five favourite films directed by Stanley Kubrick. Stanley Kubrick was a visionary and an impulsive man with a grand amount of talent, mostly out of self-teaching and it shows that you can self-teach yourself subjects if you're willing to learn. Let us begin our list then - here's my top five Kubrick films from five to one!
5. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
When I first saw "A Clockwork Orange" (1971) I must have been about 13 or 14 years' old and I was so utterly grossed out I promised myself I wouldn't watch it again until I was at least 18, leaving a note for myself inside my oldest copy of "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by writing it on a piece of paper and using the paper as a bookmark. I then proceeded to put it on to my cloud calendar and remind myself when I could finally watch the film again. Lo and Behold, my then phone reminded me whilst I was doing my A-Levels, I was 18 and it was almost 5 years later. I was still sickened after watching it and so, I did the same thing and left a note and notification for 21 year old me. I was still grossed out but being as I'm currently 24 at the time of this writing, there isn't much I can do about it. It's sickening but then again that's the entire point and if you don't find it sickening that doesn't make you 'edgy' or 'hard' or some sort of 'tough guy', it makes you kind of stupid for not realising the entire point of the film. It isn't even shock value, the entire meaning revolves around how sickening it is to watch. It is supposed to show self-righteous immorality. Immorality to the point that its sickening but the protagonist still believes in himself.
4. Barry Lyndon (1975)
Barry Lyndon (1975) is a great film. I loved the book it was based on and, since I read it at about 15, I was wanting to watch the film but couldn't find it anywhere. Neither did I realise until about four years' ago that it was directed by Kubrick. I ended up watching it at 19 when I was just about to go into my first university lecture and still hadn't made any friends so I would sit in the library and read and watch films between lectures. One of the films I watched was Barry Lyndon (1975). I thoroughly enjoyed it because it had some really good wit and humour without being too slapstick and in your face. (Not that I don't like that thing, just that I think we should leave Chaplin's territory alone. He's one of my favourite people and I don't want him being intruded upon). But Barry Lyndon (1975) has some incredible lines, the dialogue is amazingly clever.
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Who can honestly say that 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was either boring or a bad film? Absolutely nobody, that's who. This film was a space film for people who didn't watch space films. It was a Shakespearean tragedy in space. It was an epic tale, a greek drama, a play of wits and a battle to the death. And it was all in space. The dialogue, the cinematography and the story were all crafted perfectly so that the story would slowly collapse in on itself and create this very authentic feeling of dread, death and destruction. I remember being around 13 when I first saw this film and I just sat there almost entirely in awe throughout the entire thing. It was one of those films that you don't watch once. It's one of those films where you watch it again because no matter how many times you watch it - it'll still give you the same god damn rush of blood to the head. The same dizziness. That's because for those few hours, you're in space and about to be killed by the intelligence on your spaceship - Discovery One. For me, the ending will always be the greatest part of the movie, it's such as mindfuck.
2. The Shining (1980)
The Shining (1980) is one of the greatest films to demonstrate terror in film history. I wouldn't call it a horror film because it is not intentionally horrific, it doesn't use elements such as jump scares and/or constant night atmospheres/gore to scare. Instead, it is tense, building the tension and atmosphere with that music at the beginning which, I'm not going to lie, the first time you watch it, will put the fear of God into you. The film itself is a brilliant demonstration of terror, thriller, tension and a great masterclass in how to make an amazing enclosed space supernatural and psychological thriller. I have watched this film many times over the past 13 to 14 years and every single time I watch it I get something new. I don't care too much for "Doctor Sleep" but Kubrick's "The Shining" (1980) is the best psychological thriller of all time, there is no doubting that. Dare I say it, the film is more popular and possibly better than the book.
1. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
This is my favourite Kubrick film by a mile purely because the satire is so strong that you never miss it even if you're doing something else whilst watching the film, you'll pick up the odd joke here and there. My personal favourite is "you can't fight in here; this is the war room!" How can you be that right and that wrong in that short space of time? It's war satire obviously, but the film itself is a brilliant example of how to do satire properly. You do the jokes in the most obvious way that the film begins to look silly, but you put the serious underlying message underneath it and so, you get just the right balance between classic and silly. Strangelove (1964) is an amazing satire and Peter Sellers is freaking brilliant. Without him, the film wouldn't be anywhere near as good as it is at the moment.