This is the Zodiac speaking...
To those of you who know me this will come as no surprise. For those of you that don't, this also should be no surprise. We have covered all the greatest directors so far and if you know anything about film it should be painfully obvious that there has been an omission. So without any further ado, my love letter to the most distinguished man who ever set foot behind the camera. Spoiler alert: it's not Sylvester Stallone.
#1 STANLEY KUBRICK
Is there any need for me to actually write anything about a legend? No there is not, but I will anyway. I had seen one of his movies as a child, the Shining, and had, like a child, no idea who made this AWESOME film. I was quite the shithead as a child. It wasn't until I was sixteen that I became self aware, like HAL, see, relevant to the topic. I was at a friends house and he showed me a cinematic masterpiece, A Clockwork Orange. That started a love affair that continues to this day, and well after my death from being stung by killer, possibly Africanized, bees that for some unknown reason formed a hive in my beard.
Killers Kiss (1955)
His first real movie, according to Mr. Kubrick anyway, stars Jamie Smith as prize fighter Davey Gordon who falls in love with private dancer, Gloria, after saving her from her abusive employer and lover, Vincent Rapallo, played by Frank Silvera. A classic piece of film noir with a memorable scene that has Davey fighting for his life against a hit squad of mobsters sent to kill him in a mannequin factory. Learning some of the shooting style that he would become famous for, this is a must see for any fan of Mr. Kubrick as it shows how far he later comes to developing his unique style that makes it so obvious that the movie you are watching has been touched by the hand of the divine.
The Killing (1956)
Sterling Hayden stars as a recently released ex con who comes up with a complex plan to rob a racetrack of two million dollars. Involving planning, cunning, betrayal, revenge, luck, and a kick ass mask we follow the prep and execution of this daring crime. One of the films that Tarantino went to for inspiration when writing Reservoir Dogs, classic hardly does it justice. Watching Hayden try to escape by plane to Boston with the two million in a suitcase, we feel his anxiety as the stewardess forces him to check his bag and as the yippy little mutt, I fucking hate dogs, causes the luggage cart to swerve spilling open the case. As the millions blow away into the night and Fay tells our antihero Johnny that he's got to run, the true hopelessness of the situation sets in, "Eh, what's the difference."
Paths of Glory (1957)
In his first collaboration with Kirk Douglas we follow a battle during the first world war between the French Army, still sounds like an oxymoron to me but this was the movie, and the German Army. Three waves of French soldiers fail to take the Anthill position from the much better prepared Germans, not to anyone's surprise, and the French General wants all soldiers executed for cowardice, just like the Russians, except the Russians won. Kirk Douglas' Col. Dax represents three soldiers, one from each wave of the attack, who stand trial for cowardice instead of the entire division. A wave of emotion follows suit as we watch the trial and subsequent execution of the soldiers, alas the true emotion is shown at the end as the rough and battle weary soldiers enjoy a brew and bawdy laugh when the lovely German girl, played by Christiane Kubrick, is brought on stage to entertain the troops. As she softly, and timidly starts to sing, the raucous laughter and cat calls fade out until the overwrought with emotion soldiers, crying, start to sing along with her. The true emotions, and humanity of, these battle hardened men comes across in one of the most moving scenes in the history of film and shows us for the first time, without a doubt, that this man is a master of his chosen profession and will go down in history as such.
In his second, and last, collaboration with Kirk Douglas, Kubrick was brought in to finish this film after it's producer, Douglas, fired the first director. The movie, while a magnum opus, wasn't Kubrick's in the sense that all his films afterward were to be. This was Douglas' project from day one and having worked with Kubrick on Paths of Glory, brought him in after the first director wouldn't follow his orders. It was this tyranical constraint of the most creative mind to ever grace us with his vision that made Mr. Kubrick what he eventual came to be. No longer would he bow to the studio executives or anyone else who tried to fuck up his vision. He made quality not quantity, his vision not theirs, and great films not blockbuster bullshit, all thanks to one egotistical asshole. So thank you Kirk Douglas for being the douche that allowed us to share in the vision of a master.
What to do with all this new found creative freedom? Why not take a highly controversial book by Russian author Vladimir Nabokov and make it for audiences in the highly censored 1960's. He did it. The movie follows Professor Humbert Humbert, played by James Mason, as he falls in love with twelve year old Dolores, Lolita, Haze. We follow Humbert in his journey against Lolita's mother, that equally despicable Quilty, played by Peter Sellers, and society itself in his abominate quest for this little girls love. Revenge, betrayal, and eventually murder bring our narrator full circle in his twisted journey for love. As controversial at the time as it is now, it reminds us that not all of our cinematic heroes are indeed heroes, and that life is not all rose colors and rainbows.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
I have already sung the praises of this satirical comedy set during the Cold War. So in lieu of going into it again, I think I will just mention a few of my favorite quotes.
Major T.J. "King" Kong: Well, I've been to one World Fair, a picnic, and a rodeo, and that's the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of earphones.
President Merkin Muffley: Gentelmen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!
Dr. Strangelove: Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!
General "Buck" Turgidson: Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines.
General Jack D. Ripper: Flouridation is one of the most monstrously concieved and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face.
Group Captain Lionel Mandrake: Colonel, I must know what you think has been going on here!
Colonel Bat Guano: You wanna know what I think?
Group Captain Lionel Mandrake: Yes!
Colonel Bat Guano: I think you're some kind of deviated prevert. I think General Ripper found out about your preversion, and that you were organizing some sort of mutiny of preverts. Now MOVE!
Ha, ha, ha, good times man, good times.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
A collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke brought forth this space opera that redefined the science fiction film. Always the changing the rules of any genre he approached would become a staple of Stanley Kubrick. A film that merits repeat watching to understand the multiple layers of plot would also become a foundation of his style. A mind fuck set to the tune of classical music features one of the most terrifying villains in movie history, HAL 9000. Douglas Rain gives a sociopathic monotone to the self aware computer who decides that it is only logical to kill the entire crew of the spaceship. The eerily non reflective obelisk that gives the monkeys the knowledge to use tools and the strange white room where an old Dave sits, the visual effects are stunning and as for the story, I've seen this movie at least thirty times and still don't know what the hell it all means. Maybe another thirty views will enlighten me, but more than likely not.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The movie that started my love affair with the legend that is Kubrick started out as just a trashy novel written solely for money by a man named Anthony Burgess. Burgess fancied himself a respected author and only wrote this smut, for the money, like all those real directors who are making porn just to pay the bills on their indie films. After the collaboration with Nabokov and Clarke this started the hate relationship with his subjects authors that continued through Stephen King. Our tale is set in a not to distant future London where the streets are over run with teenage gangs, including our humble narrator's, Alexander DeLarge, future inmate #655321. Told in three acts, the first shows his criminal background full of drugs, rape, robbery, and ultraviolence fueled by drug filled milk such as synthamesc, vellocet, and drenchrom, which is what they were drinking. Betrayed by his fellow droogs, young Alex finds himself arrested for murder, and in the not so caring hands of the penal system. A new treatment has just been developed at the Ludoviko Center which will change the violent behavior of criminals, and Alex is chosen as the first human subject. Using Pavlov's techniques of classic conditioning witnessing or wanting to perform a violent act brings about a death like sickness upon our antihero. Upon his release from prison, a cured(?) man, he starts to run into all the people that he has wronged in his former criminal past and the revenge is well deserved and extreme. Finding out that he is not only adverse to violence, but also his lovely, lovely, Ludwig Van Beethoven, a man he wronged sets about to make him kill himself, by jumping from a third story window. But he did not snuff it, oh my brothers. While his body was was broken and mind in a coma, the doctors tinkered about in his gulliver, righting all the wrongs setting him back right, to hear the lovely, lovely, music, and viddy the beautiful pictures.
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Always the innovator, this 18th century period piece was shot using nothing but natural light. Choosing to, after last time, use the work of a dead author, he tells the tale of young Irish Redmond Barry as he becomes Barry Lyndon. A study of class structure at the time, everyone's want to join the cultural elite and the clawing, cheating, stealing that they will commit to reach those cultural heights. Ryan O'Neal in his only memorable role, by me at least, was a divine casting call, as he seems to me to really be the type of amorral dick that would climb over his mother's casket to get a dollar. Watching the end of the film we see the frivolity of all this: "It was in the the reign of George III that the aforesaid personages lived and quarreled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now."
The Shining (1980)
Not learning his lesson from Burgess, Kubrick once again tried the realm of a living author, this time Stephen King. Another iconic film, filled with iconic performances, filmed by an iconic visionary, iconic author, hates it. Everyone has seen the Shining, Jack Nicholson chopping down the bathroom door screaming, "Here's Johnny!" The elevator filled with blood, those creepy ass twins that want to play with Danny, forever and ever and ever. I ask that you watch the special features, specifically the documentary made by Stanley's daughter. In it we see what happens when you place a perfectionist filmmaker up against a pampered conceited bitch of an actress. I laugh every time.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
"What is your major malfunction, numb nuts!" R. Lee Ermey was originally a consultant brought in to teach the actor what it was like to be a marine corps drill instructor. Why teach when you can do. Sargent Hartman is the most memorable Drill Sargent ever to grace celluloid. So much so that people tend to forget that there is a second half of this film, yes, they actually do make it to Vietnam. We all know that they do because we all say "Me so horny, me love you long time." and I know that there are not that many of you out there who are Two Live Crew fans. The juxtaposition in Private Joker, with his Peace sign on his helmet, reporting, and fighting to the death, in a war he doesn't believe in, and wants to act like he's not in. He tells his jokes, makes light of every situation, to escape the horrors that he has to face everyday, no more so than in the final scenes when he faces the sniper, who is a mere child, a female child. The face of war is not always what we expect it to be, and a piece of Joker's humanity died in that room with the woman.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Kubrick's final entry into history was finished a mere seven days before his death. Then married, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman play a married couple who think they have a great life, until Nicole reveals that she would have given up her marriage and there entire life together, to have spent one night with some random stranger that she met in a motel. This, of course, draws up feelings of jealousy, and want for revenge, even though no actual indiscretion took place, an emotional betrayal was committed and Dr. Bill, Cruise, decided it needed to be acted upon. We follow the doctor through the dark streets as he tries to pick up a hooker, and ends up at some sort of rich persons masked orgy. Returning home, his sexual desire unfulfilled, he tries to put together the events of the night before and starts to realize the utter insanity that took place, full of intrigue and paranoia, culminating in his wife finding his orgy mask and the tearful confession. The next morning as the story is finished being told, and both of their eyes are bloodshot from tears and lack of sleep, they take their daughter Christmas shopping. We see that, despite the wealth and social standing, their lives, now ripped asunder, continue on, shaken.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Before you start with the "That wasn't Kubrick, that was Spielberg" let me stop you, there is a very good reason that this film is dedicated to him, it was his project for years. He was just waiting for CGI effects to catch up. He read, and acquired the rights to the short story, Super Toys Last all Summer. He had all the conceptual art work done for the film and decided it would be a good idea to let Spielberg direct, talented director, but not on the level of Kubrick. The best thing that ever happened to Spielberg was Kubrick's untimely death, and the worst thing that could have happened to everyone who dreams what it would be like to see one more film by a genius.
Thus ends my passion.