Stanley Kubrick marathon

Discussion in 'TV & Media' started by The Grinch Doctor, Sep 25, 2012.

  1. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    With Lolita, Kubrick enters the realm of controversy which doesn't shy from for the remainder of his career. That being said, Kubrick restrained himself in regards to the sexual nature between Humpert and Lolita because the ratings system didn't exist yet and censorship limited Kubrick's directing. Certainly if Lolita was filmed later in his career (and certainly around the time of A Clockwork Orange) the film would have featured a more sexually implicit relationship instead of just hints and double entendres.

    While I thoroughly enjoy the performances of James Mason, Sue Lyon, Shelley Winters, and especially Peter Sellers (foreshadowing his multi-role performance in Kubrick's next film), the film itself doesn't quite grab me. I don't blame the controversial nature of the material or even Kubrick's restrained directing, both times that I've watched this film I find myself waiting for something to happen (an issue that I have in my single viewing of Barry Lyndon and I wonder if my opinion will change when I rewatch it). Tragically, I think the highlight of the film for me is the in media res opening that's brilliant performed by Mason and Sellers.

    Next up: One of my favorite films of all time, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
     
  2. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    While Paths of Glory is Kubrick's first great film and Lolita is Kubrick's first controversial film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb becomes Kubrick's first controversial yet brilliant film. A real masterpiece.

    The film might be a dark satire but it also provides great commentary on both the Cold War and McCarthyis and it's amazing how relevant the film is to this day. Armed with a powerful cast of Peter Sellers in three roles, George C. Scott (even if it wasn't the performance he wanted to give), Sterling Hayden (returning from The Killing), and Slim Pickens, Kubrick masterfully develops how the end of the world can easily come to be: A mad general sees a terrifying conspiracy from the enemy and utilizes a loophole in policy to initiate a devastating attack on said enemy. Anything that could go wrong, does go wrong and yet the day was nearly saved if it were not for the sheer determination, act of duty, and total commitment of the B-52ers to perform their mission. In the end, this is the very thing that Gen. Jack D. Ripper had hoped for even if he said this of the president and the joint chiefs.

    From the very beginning of this film, one can tell that this would be an unique production. The opening credits breaks away from the traditional block letters in favor of a font that looks handwritten (I'm blanking on the font's name but it's fairly popular these days). The film wastes no time by jumping into the action with Gen. Ripper issuing his unauthorized order to utilize Plan R to all aircraft within striking distance of Russia. We're quickly introduced to one aircraft that is piloted by Maj. Kong, who quickly switches his helmet for a stetson, which further sets the tone of the film.

    What really drives this film other than Kubrick's great directing is the amazing performances by Peter Sellers as Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley, and the eponymous Dr. Strangelove. Sellers was also set to perform Maj. Kong despite his own hesitations to properly deliver a Southern accent, but ultimately dropped the performance when he sprained his ankle and couldn't get in the cockpit. Nonetheless, Sellers masterfully performs each of these characters to give each of them distinctive personalities. Each of these characters define and carry the film from beginning to end (in fact, if Sellers had performed Kong, he would have been in nearly every scene of the film).

    An interesting aspect in this film that I don't think is completely explored is the trust to follow orders without question, not just to the total destruction, but also firing upon fellow Americans out of fear and/or misdirection of the enemy. The President sends in troops to storm Gen. Ripper's base in order to get to Gen. Ripper by any means. Ripper's men have standing orders to fire on anyone who comes within a certain distance of the base and barely question who is attacking them, simply assuming it's a big Communist ruse because of the communication blackout.

    Due to the limitations of technology of the time, Kubrick is forced to be creative on several occasions which only gives the film a more dramatic effect. When the B-52 plane is chased by a Russian missile, much of drama comes following the crews reactions and a simple view of the RADAR. Additionally, whenever there's an exterior shot of the plane or a view from the cockpit, the viewer sees the background moving faster than perhaps it should but this gives a farcical dramatic effect to these scenes. Lastly, I'm amused that Kubrick skillfully uses a shaky camera during the combat scenes on the airbase, decades before the effect became common practice, much to many's dismay.

    Of course, who can forget the final minutes of the film? The B-52 plane rushes towards its target with a mile countdown from the navigator, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" is playing in the background, the crew calmly and dryly recites tactical information, sparks are flying as Maj. Kong tries to fix bomb release mechanism...and then the "Hi There!" bomb is falling from the plane and Maj. Kong embraces the moment by straddling the bomb as if he was at a rodeo. BOOM! Dr. Strangelove and his diagnostic apraxia provides a few more moments of comedy before closing out to multiple nuclear detonations while being serenaded by Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again."

    Next up: 2001: A Space Odyssey.
     
  3. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    Agreed. Maybe my favorite movie ever, saw it on the big screen again this past summer.

    I don't know aout the font's name, but it was hand-lettered by graphic artist Pablo Ferro. When I was getting into this movie in my teens I was also into the new Talking Heads movie Stop Making Sense and, what do you know, same Ferro title design. Pretty cool, I thought.

    It would have been fun to see Sellers doing another character, but I suspect the movie was better with Pickens. He was kind of over the top, but that was really part of his personality that came out in a lot of his roles. Sellers wouldn't have had his authenticity, I don't think.

    As fun as Sellers and Scott are to watch, my favorite performance is still Sterling Hayden. The straighter-than-straight way he delivers some of his bizarre lines and his intense sincerity in his strange heart-to-heart with Mandrake still crack me up.

    And how do you question orders when communicating doesn't work? The movie is one communication breakdown after another: the base blackout, the CRM-114, the Soviet premier unavailable and then drunk, the long-distance operator and Col. Guano.

    Though some parts of the movie are farcical (character names, some dialogue), the background and settings tend to look realistic and serious. The B-52 bomber was still top secret at the time, and the sets art director Ken Adam designed for the interior of the plane turned out to be so close to reality it was said that he got a visit from the FBI.

    I agree that the determined and matter-of-fact way the crew makes their bomb run turns out great for building tension. The intercom sound distorting and breaking up as they are hit by the missile blast is a great touch.

    The model-and-rear-projection effects for the bomber exterior are somewhat lacking by today's standards, but some great looking aerial arctic second-unit footage makes up for it a little. And even though it is not very realistic looking, it is miles ahead of the mis-matched stock footage used in "Strangelove's" contemporary, Fail Safe (which is also a really good movie).

    And a couple of years before The Battle of Algiers, which got so much notice for using the newsreel/documentary look in a fictional movie. The air base combat scenes are very reminiscent of parts of Full Metal Jacket later on.

    Kubrick really got all his strengths together in a full package for Dr Strangelove. Brilliant.

    Justin
     
  4. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Barry Sonnenfeld also used the font for the opening of Men in Black, in homage to Kubrick.

    Ferro also designed the classic trailer to the film, which Kubrick allegedly said was "better than the movie." It's on all of the DVD releases of the film, but for some reason they left it out of the Blu-Ray.

    Dr. Strangelove is a great movie. I've never been able to see it on the big screen, but I've watched it countless times on video.
     
  5. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    I agree that the movie is better with Pickens as Kong because of the authentic accent and because Pickens was probably better suited for the role. I simply found myself wondering what an incredible achievement it would be if Sellers had played the role, too.

    I admit I didn't give Hayden enough praise for his performance. It's always good to have a straight man in a crowd of jokers and Hayden delivered in spades, especially with his ridiculous lines about fluoridation and bodily fluids.

    That's precisely my point. The lack of communication makes it very difficult, but we do see Ripper's men commenting on the incredibly similarity in vehicles', weapons', and personnel appearances, and I find it interesting that they don't go beyond "Huh, that's weird" and immediately fire upon fellow Americans without realizing it.
    I've been meaning to watch The Battle of Algiers for some time now and this is another reason for me to check it out. I hadn't thought about the similarity with Full Metal Jacket but I certainly see it now.

    And it wouldn't be the last time either. That's what makes Kubrick so amazing.

    I love that trailer. Watching it again reminds me of the The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo trailer from last year. Possibly a homage to Kubrick?
     
  6. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    Right, I wasn't disagreeing, just adding another theme.

    In the '50s when Curtis LeMay (a likely influence for the Turgidson character) was running SAC he was very concerned (some might say paranoid) about air base infiltration by Soviets or fifth-columnists in the US. He was constantly running exercises with forces that would try to penetrate base security. This was touched on a little in the movie Strategic Air Command with Jimmy Stewart: A small airliner calls Mayday and asks for an emergency landing at the base's runway. When it lands "infiltrators" rush out to "sabotage" bombers. The commanding general emerges from the airliner to critique the base's performance and IIRC demotes the security officer on the spot.

    I think things like the seizure of personal radios and the security forces' skepticism of the friendly-looking troops were probably references to that mindset.

    It's really good.

    Justin
     
  7. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    2001: A Space Odyssey is either loved or hated by most people, and yet, after my recent viewing of this film, I find myself oddly somewhere in the middle. I certainly don't hate it by any means (and I admit I have much more patience with the slower moments of the film than the average viewer these days), but I neither outright love the film. However, I do love certain aspects of the film.

    Everything involving HAL is especially very good. HAL has the right amount of creepiness, from his cold voice to his simple, calculating decisions. Although I knew it was about to happen, I still nearly jumped out of my skin when the space pod suddenly begin to turn in preparation to attack Frank Poole. For an added level of creepiness, I found myself deliberately looking for HAL in every interior shot of Discovery 1 as an odd twist to Where's Waldo? Even when HAL is begging for his life as Dave slowly removes his memory cards has a subtle, yet wonderful edge of creepiness, right down to his "performance" of "Daisy Bell." While Kubrick deserves credit for his brilliant presentation of the cold computing machine, Douglas Rain also deserves a lot of credit for his perfect performance as HAL.

    Throughout the film, I had a particular Kubrick quote running through my head: "The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent." Kubrick presents this notion in the film in spades. Not just with HAL, but also by the sheer vastness of space, both the empty landscape of Earth at the Dawn of Mankind and in the space between worlds. The slow travel speeds, the deep heavy breathing of Dave and Frank, and the pure and unforgiving silence of objects moving in a vacuum all gave me a great sense of reality. A sense of realism in outer space and real space travel that I rarely feel in films or television. Honestly, only Apollo 13 and Moon (and Firefly to a lesser degree)really repeat this feeling and not Star Wars, Star Trek, or even my beloved Doctor Who.

    With this film, Kubrick makes the leap away from a traditional film score (famously tossing out Alex North's music) and instead uses a number of classically composed pieces, most notably Johann Strauss' "The Blue Danube" and Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra." Kubrick makes great use of these pieces and even uses Gyorgy Ligeti's "Requiem" as a leitmotif for the monoliths, which gives them a sublime level of creepiness.

    Dave Bowman's space walk is perhaps one of the most surrealist cinematic sequences presented over the years, ranging from its sheer intense light show (with Bowman's black & white photographic response), dramatically colored landscapes, and images depicting the beginning of the universe and life itself (complete with giant floating sperm) to the bizarre and controversial conclusion of Bowman arriving in the neoclassic bedroom leading to his rebirth as the Star Child. It's an incredible viewing experience, heightened by Kubrick's imagination and music selection, and it's one that I don't intend to look beyond what I felt.

    Usually I'm one to jump deep into interpreting ambiguous and abstract films (most notably in Blade Runner and Inception), I strangely find myself not interested in looking too far with 2001 beyond "the monoliths are present at certain jumping points in mankind's life" and "Dave Bowman witnessed the birth of the universe and life and then experienced a rebirth." I can't explain why I feel this way, just that I was thrilled by what I saw and don't feel the need to look behind the curtain.

    Next up: My favorite Kubrick film, A Clockwork Orange.
     
  8. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    2001: A Space Odyssey demands to be seen on the big screen, and the bigger the better. On video, my reaction isn't far from yours. On the big screen, its a revelation.
     
  9. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    A Clockwork Orange is by far Kubrick's most controversial film and is coincidentally my favorite. The film wastes no time introducing Alex DeLarge and his Droogs and how they spend their time. While they are initially given the appearance of helping a woman from being raped to fulfill their hunger for "ultra-violence," they later turn beat and rape a different woman in her own home in front of her helpless, now-crippled husband. This is just the beginning of the incredible three-act story of Alex's raise, fall, redemption, and subsequent return to "normalcy."

    Stepping away from the veiled and subtle sexual innuendos of Lolita and Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Kubrick shows no restraint and covers the film with sexual explicit imagery. Ranging from the blatant nude female sculpture coffee tables, the penis-ass statue, and nude Jesuses dancing the can-can to slightly subtler imagery such as the Basil the boa leading into giant painting of a nude woman spreading her legs and the two young girls sucking down on large phallic popsicles, one of which goes limp and Alex promptly licks. This is on top of the overt sexual violence that's present throughout the film. Kubrick strikes a fine balance to make the viewer to feel both comfortable with their sexuality and to feel utterly repulsed with sexual violence.

    An important theme Kubrick deftly explores is the principle of "an eye for an eye," which the prison governor directly refers to and approves of. The governor doesn't like the Ludovico technique, believing that it takes away the necessity of punishment, nor does he believe in the need to make bad people good. However, the technique not only proves to be a terrible form of torture and brainwashing, it creates side-effects that afflicts Alex for the remainder of the film: He becomes unintentionally conditioned against his beloved Ludwig Van and is driven to attempt suicide. Additionally, after Alex is "cured" and released from prison, Alex is forced through a series of acts that further drive this principle: He is rejected by his parents and from his home, is humiliatingly attacked by an old man he once beat, saved by his own Droogs who in turn torture him to the brink of death, and then unknowingly wanders into the home of his greatest victim, Frank Alexander. Frank initially intends to use Alex as a political weapon against the currently ruling government, only to turn to personal vengeance when he realizes Alex was his tormentor.

    Alex never sought redemption rather he only wanted freedom. When reading the Bible and claiming to learn from its teachings, Alex imagines himself whipping Jesus, committing brutal violent acts of war, and lavishing himself with the fruits of women. He only volunteers for the Ludovico technique as an early out, not realizing he would be robbed of his free will, the very essence of his being. Politicians and scientists wanted to cure Alex and stop violence in general no matter the cost, but they didn't care about redeeming him. However, their attempts proved fruitless, because after all of Alex's trials and tribulations, he finally regained both his freedom and his free will by the end ("I'm cured, all right!").

    Like several of his previous films, Kubrick takes a popular song, "Singin' in the Rain," and gives it a completely different meaning, far from originally intended. While it's a Gene Kelly classic, I will forever correlate the song to Alex's raping and later bathtub serenade. Likewise, I always think of the rapid threesome whenever I hear the "William Tell Overture." Following on the heels of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick extensively utilizes classical music including the aforementioned "Overture," "Pomp and Cirucumstance," "The Thieving Magpie," and of course, our friend, Ludwig Van's "Ninth Symphony." Kubrick goes a step further and interweaves Beethoven's work as a key part of the plot. Additionally, Kubrick also uses an original score that's quite unlike anything his early frequent collaborator, Gerald Fried, composed. Wendy Carlos' organic score stands on its own, while at time same time, works brilliantly with Kubrick's classical music selections.

    Next up: Barry Lyndon, the one Kubrick film I didn't like before I started this marathon. I'm hoping my opinion of the film will change.
     
  10. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Another great movie, although I slightly prefer Kubrick's previous two films.

    McDowell, not Kubrick, deserves recognition for choosing "Singin' in the Rain," though. He was asked to improvise something on set; he chose that song because he knew the lyrics. Kubrick made the call and ensured they had the rights cleared.
     
  11. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    I love both 2001 and A Clockwork Orange and don't really have much to add. The ambition of 2001 continues to impresses me; the attempt to convey something utterly alien, timeless and outside human experience was, I think, very well realized.

    For A Clockwork Orange, the themes are carried strongly from the novel, it's probably Kubrick's adaptation closest to the original. The ending is changed, though, and I have to cop out and say that the movie ending works great for the movie and the book ending likewise. Both wonderful achievements.

    Justin
     
  12. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    The ending of A Clockwork Orange isn't changed, exactly. Kubrick was working from an edition of the book that had the final chapter censored for some reason. I haven't read the book, but I have read summaries of that final chapter, and it strikes me as a cop out.
     
  13. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    Very well, it differs from Burgess's unabridged version.

    Not really fair to judge without the context of the entire work, is it? One could as easily say that the film is a cop out, giving meaningless violence an aesthetic appeal that is absent from the book.

    Justin
     
  14. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    I read about that after I posted my review. Kubrick told Malcolm McDowell to improvise because he thought the rape scene was "too stiff."

    I definitely agree that Kubrick managed to create something truly alien, which we rarely see, for that alone he deserves praise. Like I tried to say, the experience of the film is its greatest highlight.

    It was censored because the U.S. publishers wanted a happy ending and Burgess relented. While Burgess had some issues with Kubrick's film, he doesn't fault Kubrick for the ending because he understood why Kubrick did it. That being said, Kubrick discovered the omission near the completion of his screenplay and decided he didn't like it.

    At some point, I want to read the book (along with a plethora of other books) to see how well it relates to film and whether the final chapter works for me or not (but I have a feeling it won't).
     
  15. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Indeed -- thus, the admission that I haven't read it.
     
  16. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    After a long delay due to work, personal matters, and wanting the right time to properly watch Barry Lyndon, I've finally resumed my Stanley Kubrick marathon.

    It’s been many years since my first and only viewing of Barry Lyndon, and since that time, it had remained the only Kubrick film I didn’t like. I didn't like it perhaps out of impatience for the film’s storytelling or perhaps because of how radically different the film’s setting varies from Kubrick’s normal fare. Or perhaps I wasn’t mature enough as a film viewer to fully appreciate what Kubrick presented in the film. Whatever the reason, my opinion has now changed, for the better.

    A sweeping epic of an Irish adventurer and duelist (guns, swords, fists, take your pick) who is forced to flee his home because of youthful love and a short temper, Redmond Barry quickly finds himself first in the British army and later in the Prussian army. He soon becomes involved in gambling around Europe before finally achieving his goal of becoming a gentleman by marrying a recently widowed young lady with a great fortune, thus gaining the style and title of Barry Lyndon. The story has a tragic turn to it, but I find it hard to be sympathetic because Redmond is an asshole and much that happens to him is his own fault.

    While the film is a British period piece that feels like a great literary novel playing out on a screen (like Glengarry Glen Ross felt like a play on screen), it is also a quiet farce. Ranging from Lord Bullingdon vomiting during the climatic duel and Part 2’s description “Containing an Account of the Misfortunes and Disasters Which Befell Barry Lyndon” when a great deal of misfortunes and disasters had already occurred in Part 1 to Capt. Quinn’s caricature performance and the endless narration, most notably after two very long and drawn out dialogue-less scenes leading up to Redmond’s successful courtship of Lady Lyndon, the narrator states “To make a long story short…”

    In addition to Ryan O’Neal’s superb performance as Barry Lyndon (although at times, he reminded me of a strange mix of Matthew Modine and Paul Rudd being sad and dreary), the film boasts an excellent cast that includes famous German actor Hardy Krüger, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee and frequent Kubrick collaborator Leon Vitali.

    However, what makes this film truly breathtaking is Kubrick’s use of vibrant and sharp primary colors throughout the film. One of the main reasons why I love this film now is because, as a matured photographer, I see Kubrick’s photographic expertise throughout the film. Most notably is Kubrick’s use of super-fast lenses with a huge aperture (.7!) used to capture low-light scenes involving only candle light.

    Many other Kubrick motifs are found throughout the film, including Kubrick’s classic panning away from a subject and a subject slowly moving closer to a far away camera, Kubrick’s use of classical music (although here it the music is right at home), and moments that feel similar to other Kubrick films such as Capt. Feeney asking Redmond if he wants food and drink being reminiscent to Mr. Alexander insisting Alex to try the wine in A Clockwork Orange.

    Next up: The Shining. In addition to this film, I will be also watching the recently released documentary Room 237.
     
  17. Nagisa Furukawa

    Nagisa Furukawa Commander Red Shirt

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    Barry Lyndon fucking rocks; this has inspired me to rewatch it today. Love that duel scene, especially Bullington vomiting. Amazing battle scenes and it's just so much fun to LOOK at. My favorite Kubrick film.

    (Although honestly, I do think his filmography would've been even better if he had the production values and look of this applied to Napoleon.)
     
  18. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy......

    The Shining is quite simply one of the greatest horror films of all time, one that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud and one that is rarely made anymore. Kubrick fills the film from beginning to end with incredible imagery paired with overpowering music and sound effects, balanced with riveting performances from Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall and Danny Lloyd.

    Kubrick immediately sets the tone of the film with its sweeping vista of Colorado landscape overlaid with haunting music, later followed by such creepy scenes as Tony’s introduction and vision to Danny, and Danny’s proclamation, “Don’t worry, mom, I know all about cannibalism. I saw it on TV” (“See, it’s okay. He saw it on the television,” Jack intones).

    Once again, Kubrick uses music to his fullest strength particularly in moments where the high-pitch music highlights a simple scene and a lower pitch for introducing high intense moments. And yet, he’s most effective when doesn’t use music at all and instead uses the never-ending heart beating to emphasis the terror of the scene.

    However, the creepiest aspect of this film is Danny Lloyd’s performance, both as Danny and as the “imaginary” friend, Tony. The high-pitch, throated muttering “Redrum” is especially eerie which highlights the scene where Danny picks up Wendy’s knife and lipstick and writes “Redrum” on the bathroom door.

    Kubrick’s photographic past continues to shine through with wonderful camera angles such as the low angle up to Duvall as she reads the typewriter, the low angle of Nicholson’s head against the store locker door as he screams at Duvall, the ultra-high angle of Duvall and Lloyd walking through the hedge maze, and just about every shot of Lloyd throughout the film, especially when riding his big wheel around the hotel.

    Philip Stone makes his third and final appearance in a Kubrick film, here as the ghost of Delbert Grady, the previous caretaker, after appearing as Alex’s father in A Clockwork Orange and Graham, the Lyndon family lawyer, in Barry Lyndon. This also features Joe Turkel’s third and final appearance in a Kubrick film, here as the ghostly bartender, Lloyd, after appearing as Tiny in The Killing and Pvt. Arnaud in The Paths of Glory. Both actors bring great gravitas to their roles, especially Stone who quickly and without warning goes from goofy to deadly serious.

    Unfortunately, the documentary Room 237 leaves a lot to be desired for. It’s a mishmash of interviews between 5 film critics who ramble aimlessly on their different theories about what The Shining means (and stating it all as if it were Fact). They suggest that the film is either about the massacre of Native Americans (which is the only one that doesn’t feel like its grasping at straws), the Holocaust, ghosts being sexually attracted to the living, history of everything, or, the most absurd of them all, Kubrick’s confession that he was directly involved in faking the moon landing (a theory which I’ve read on Cracked.com and actually comes off as even more absurd in this film).

    The only interesting aspects of the documentary are some of the visual elements that these critics point out, particularly the spatial anomalies that exist within the hotel itself, continuity errors throughout the film, duality, and how certain imagery lines up when the film is played forwards and backwards at the same time.

    However, all of these theories and insights are lost in what felt like an unedited mess (one interviewee is interrupted by his daughter in an obvious phone conversation which adds nothing to discussion) and aren’t given any room to breathe and flourish. In the end, I felt like I wasted two hours of my time watching this documentary when I had hoped for more interesting in-depth analysis of the film.

    Next up: Full Metal Jacket.
     
  19. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    “In other words, it's a huge shit sandwich, and we're all gonna have to take a bite.”
    “Sir...does this mean that Ann-Margret's not coming?”


    When watching Full Metal Jacket, it’s hard not to compare and contrast it to other major Vietnam War films. Is it surreal and manic like Apocalypse Now? Does it show a good before and after image of people who go through the war like The Deer Hunter and Born on the Fourth of July? Does it give it a “real” sense of how the war might have felt like Platoon? The short answer is yes and no. The longer answer is Full Metal Jacket isn’t a Vietnam War film or even “Stanley Kubrick does a Vietnam War film,” it’s a film about the way things are.

    I’ve probably seen Full Metal Jacket more than any other Kubrick film, not because it’s my favorite Kubrick (far from it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love it), but because I serve in the Navy as a journalist and I’ve visited Da Nang, Vietnam twice. As a result, I can’t help but keep being drawn back to it and reflect on my own experiences. I saw the film a few times before joining the Navy and I even erroneously thought my boot camp would be like the Marines’ boot camp, but of course it wasn’t. However, ever since then, I always think back to my own boot camp days. The living quarters, the cadences (both metering and lyrical structure), the basic sounds of the boot camp world are all very similar. Hell, my rack mate reminded me a lot of Leonard “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence both by the way he looked and acted.

    Even more so than The Shining, Kubrick deeply focuses on duality in Full Metal Jacket. Unlike his norm, Kubrick bluntly states this in the “Duality of Man” scene involving Joker and his peace symbol pin and “Born to Kill” helmet. But there are many more layers to it than that particular scene.

    A common complaint lodged against the film is the change of pace and direction in the two parts of the film, many claiming the first part is the only good part of the film (a friend of mine stopped watching with me this time around after Gomer Pyle kills himself for precisely that reason). However, I can’t help but notice the many similarities between the two parts.

    Both parts show the creation of a killer and how that affects a particular individual. In the first part, the viewer watches the rise and fall of Gomer Pyle, ending with his dead cold stare and murder-suicide. In the second part, the viewer watches Joker, who (one can only assume) more or less reverted back to his pre-Parris Island self, slowly being forced into committing cold blooded murder and gaining “The Stare.” The difference is Joker can live with himself. As he says at the end, in contrast to Pyle’s final words, “I’m in a world of shit, but I’m alive.”

    While Kubrick brings greater meaning to “The Stare” in this film, I realized during my marathon that Kubrick has been using the same expression as a motif in many of his films. Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper, Dr. Dave Bowman, Alex DeLarge, and Jack Torrance all had the same expression at specific moments in their respective films. The difference in Full Metal Jacket is that two different characters have it and the viewer sees it multiple times on Pyle’s face (the opening haircutting, job assignments, and the bathroom scenes).

    One classic Kubrick motif is strangely sparse in this film unlike all of his others: music. While there are a few scenes with music, it’s not as frequent as his previous films. However, when it is present, it’s incredibly effective especially in the blanket party, mass grave, and the killing of the sniper scenes. One musical motif that had been absent from his previous two films returns: Taking a popular song and twisting it with a completely different meaning from its original intent. In this case, the soldiers sing “The Mickey Mouse Club March,” which, in itself, is an amusing callback to Gunnery Sgt. Hartman’s “What is this Mickey Mouse shit?” comment in his final scene.

    Another interesting aspect of this film is control. In the first part, Gunnery Sgt. Hartman is a man of complete control. He controls each of the recruits through his brusque and ironic manner, first claiming that he’s fair and free of bigotry, but then immediately spews racial and homophobic insults. However, when he’s unable to reach Gomer Pyle, he makes Pyle Joker’s responsibility and then later the whole platoon’s. This backfires on him because the platoon’s solution is a blanket party, and while that causes Pyle to be more discipline, he loses control of his own mental state, which in turn leads to the fatal end of Hartman’s control.

    Likewise, in the second part, Cowboy slowly loses control of his squadron after a sniper takes out one of his men because of decision he was forced to make under circumstances he couldn’t control in the first place. This leads to another marine’s death before Animal Mother supersedes Cowboy’s authority, which in turn leads to Cowboy’s own death. Additionally, Joker loses control of his composure when he has the sniper in his sights when his gun jams in the uncontrolled moment, yet he is able to pull the trigger on the sniper minutes later in the controlled moment when the sniper is lying helpless, begging to be killed.

    Next up: Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut.
     
  20. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    Great analysis, Emh. I need to revisit (or, in a few cases, visit) many of the films in this thread.