Monday, May 18, 2015

Worst to Best: The Stanley Kubrick Filmography

Hello and welcome to a brand new regular series here on the ole blog. In this second episode of this new regular series, I take a look at all thirteen of Stanley Kubrick's feature films. He's my all-time fave director, and five of his films are in my personal top 100 films (more than any other director) and the guy never made a bad film, so the term worst is merely relative. So here we go. Have at 'em!

13. Spartacus (1960) - As I stated in my intro, Stanley Kubrick never made a bad film, but if any of his films comes close, it's Spartacus. Just the filmmaker's fifth film, this big budget studio pic was also the one film Kubrick had little to no control over. Sure, it's a good film, and better than your average studio pic of the era, but when compared to the rest of Kubrick's oeuvre, this is the one that doesn't quite fit. Not a bad film (we've already established the man never made a bad film) but not a great film either. Now, as for the auteur's other dozen works...

12. Killer's Kiss (1955) - This was Kubrick's second feature. I never saw the damn thing until about five years ago though. Shameful, huh? Anyhoo, this was yet another film the young Kubrick did not like. He had already pulled his first film (Fear and Desire - see #10) from circulation due to not liking the final product, and when United Artists demanded he give this film a happy ending, he denounced this one too.

11. Eyes Wide Shut (1999) - Although he had already began pre-production work on A.I. when he passed away (finished by Spielberg, after his death), Eyes Wide Shut would be the auteur's final film. Released four months after Kubrick's passing (the director had shown his final cut to the studio just days before he died), Eyes Wide Shut, with its sexual politics, was the director's most controversial film, or at least his most controversial since 1971's A Clockwork Orange. But anyone who can make a great film around Tom Cruise, is pretty talented indeed.

10. Fear and Desire (1953) - Kubrick had already made a pair of short films, but this film, also rather short-ish at 62 minutes, would be his first actual feature. Kubrick was not all that happy with the final product (then again, the perfectionist in him rarely was ever happy with his final products) and it was not a box office success at all, but it did garner critical praise. Eventually, the film (mostly) disappeared from public view, only to be found and restored just a few years back.

9. Full Metal Jacket (1987) - By the time Full Metal Jacket was released, it had been seven years since Kubrick's last film (and would be another 12 until his next). Basically, this was Kubrick's answer to Apocalypse Now and the slew of war film wannabes that came after. Both visceral and ethereal, this is probably the least analyzed of Kubrick's films (save for the director's first two films), and therefore is not given the credit films like 2001 and Strangelove and Clockwork get.

8. Barry Lyndon (1975) - When people think about Kubrick, they think cerebral visions and dark humour. Barry Lyndon is probably the least like this image of any of the auteur's films, yet beneath the period costumes and so-called proper dialogue, it is still as much a Kubrickian nightmare vision as anything the director has ever put out there.

7. Dr. Strangelove (1964) - Outside of some funny moments in Full Metal Jacket and even A Clockwork Orange, this hilarious film is Kubrick's one true comedy - and one hell of a comedy it is. Politically charged (of course), Strangelove was an out-and-out hit, becoming Kubrick's first Best Picture nominee (Clockwork and Barry Lyndon would also receive BP nods), and is one of the best damn satires the cinema has ever seen. So there.

6. The Shining (1980) - Many of my fellow critics would probably put this film a bit lower down on their respective lists, and that is a shame. Never getting the respect it deserves, this Stephen King adaptation is one of my all-time favourite horror films. The same cannot be said for Stephen King's thoughts on the film, as he and Kubrick fought over most things the director was doing. Eventually, the film became less and less King's and more and more Kubrick's.

5. Lolita (1962) - Due to the time period and the studio system (which, granted, was pretty much defunct by this time, but still had some sway) there was no way Kubrick would have been able to make a true adaptation of Nabokov's classic novel. This, of course, did not stop the auteur from making one of the finest, if not wholly accurate, literary adaptations ever made. The book was adapted again in the 1990's, but nothing can top Kubrick's vision of the book.

4. Paths of Glory (1957) - This may be one of the strangest war films ever made, and that is part of why it is so great. Yeah, the crisper than crisp black and white cinematography is more than stunning, and Kirk Douglas' performance is one of the best of his career, but is Kubrick's strangeness that makes this war film work as well as it does. A true creature of beauty is this strange little film.

3. The Killing (1956) - This is another one of those Kubrick films that never gets its proper due. A film noir masterpiece, starring Sterling Hayden, The Killing is a brilliant film, full of twists and turns. Its fractured storyline and Rashomon-esque dis-jointed perspectives, have been a major influence on many modern filmmakers, most notably Quentin Tarantino, who called this film a significant influence on his first feature, Reservoir Dogs.

2. A Clockwork Orange (1971) - One of only two X-rated films to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, this infamous adaptation of the equally infamous Anthony Burgess novel, is the kind of film that one either hates or loves. many cannot even watch the damn thing without becoming sickened and/or disturbed. That's kind of what I like about the film. It may not be an easy watch for some (overly sensitive dandies that they are) but goddammit, it's a fucking fantastic work of art!

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - And here we are at the best. This was the first film I ever bought on DVD, as well as the first I ever bought on Blu-ray. As with most of Kubrick's films, I have been lucky enough to see this on the big screen (Barry Lyndon and Paths of Glory are the only two I have not...yet) and damn if it ain't one of the most gorgeous things you will ever see up there. This is actually my second favourite film of all-time (second only to The Red Shoes) and a film every person should be made to watch. Yeah, I know, they say that 2001 isn't for everyone, but screw that. Watch it!

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web. Please enjoy this shot from the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

11 comments:

  1. I can't disagree with your rankings. Oh maybe quibbles here and there (I think The Shinning is better than Lolita) but in general I agree.

    http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2015/05/blood-boobs-and-carnage-blogfest-films.html

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    1. Glad to see someone praising The Shining. I don't think it gets enough respect.

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  2. I'd forgotten how many Stanley Kubrick films I've seen over the years. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

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    1. My pleasure! Always happy to give someone some Kubrick memories.

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  3. I've only seen about half of these, but I'd like to see them all. 2001: Space Odyssey is a film I try to watch every few years or so. I saw it in the theater when it first came out in 1968 and it blew me away. It's especially great on the big screen.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Road trippin' with A to Z
    Tossing It Out

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    1. During the time I ran an arthouse cinema, I took it upon myself to try and watch as many of the films of my fave auteurs (Kubrick, Welles, Hawks, Godard, Powell/Pressburger, Nick Ray, Leone, Fritz Lang, Chaplin, Ford, Kurosawa, Fellini, etc) projected on the big screen, either in 35mm or digitally. I ended up running out of time before I could get to Barry Lyndon or Paths of Glory though. Someday, though. Someday.

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  4. I have not seen all of the films but I agree about 2001 being #1. The Shining would be higher on my list as it is great. I saw the mini-series remake where King liked it better...he's wrong. A Clockwork Orange is disturbing on many levels and that is what makes it brilliant. Paths of Glory is very sad since it is a true story. I was so hyped to see Spartacus and then, I watched it. There is some good things in it but I was disappointed except for the fun scene between Larry and Tony

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    1. Once, I saw Clockwork on 35mm at a little cinema in Carlisle, Pa. There were skinheads in the back row, cheering the rape scenes. Quite bizarre. I've actually seen Clockwork three times on the big screen, but the other two times did not have any rape-cheering skinheads.

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    2. Oh...that is just not right and those idiots didn't get the meaning

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  5. Just a few comments about your list, and none of them snide.

    Full Metal Jacket: definitely one of his worst. Great film until they graduated boot camp, then it went downhill from there.

    A Clockwork Orange: saw the movie. Wasn't disgusted or horrified, I just really didn't get it. Tried reading the book and the book was bad. So bad that I gave up after three pages.

    Father Nature's Corner

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    1. Three pages? Well, at least ya gave it a fair shake.

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