Required Viewing: Stanley Kubrick

It is rare to find a filmmaker whose works have a distinct ‘feel’, that quality in which merely watching a few minutes is all it takes to know who was at the controls.  Psycho is pure Hitchcock.  Pulp Fiction is the ultimate Tarantino.

The icon of this pack for the past few decades was Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). 

With a cinematic style so unique he was almost his own genre, Kubrick was able to take works from various corners and make them his own.  He made them surreal. He made them better. 

The choices are as long as his filmography, but here are four essential Stanley Kubrick flicks:

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Built on the foundation of Arthur C. Clark’s The Sentinel (who collaborated on the screenplay), Kubrick presents a film which spans from the dawn of humanity to the possible future of our race.  Layers of ethical and moral questions and stunning visual effects – way ahead of their time – all set to a classical music soundtrack blend to make 2001 the cornerstone of a Stanley Kubrick collection.  And a psychopathic computer steals the last segment of the show. More drama than sci-fi, this film has been the basis of debate for decades. 

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

A collaboration between Kubrick and Peter Sellers was either going to result in complete catastrophe, or create a work of motion picture art.  Thankfully it was the latter.  This truly is a stage for Sellers, who plays three separate characters, all to perfection.  Led by George C. Scott (Patton) alongside a cast which includes Slim Pickens and James Earl Jones, Dr. Strangelove launched Kubrick into the mainstream consciousness.  Quirky and extremely thought-provoking, this stands as one of the best black comedies of all time.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Based on Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick’s translation of this into film was perhaps his most controversial – so much so, Kubrick himself pulled it from UK distribution for 27 years.  Touching on areas of morality and psychology intertwined in an accurately vicious commentary on government, the story presents the main character in a way that causes internal conflict: you develop a sense of caring for him in spite of how completely unlovable he is.  The film presents violence (ultraviolence?) in as raw and frightening a way as ever presented on screen.  A statement on a distasteful possible society in the near future, Kubrick creates a film that manages to pull you into an extremely unsettling dystopian world.

The Shining (1980)

Word is Stephen King hated this.  Based on King’s 1977 novel, Kubrick transforms a not bad story (sorry Stephen) into THE landmark psycho-horror movie.  Various moments along the way of Jack Torrance’s (Jack Nicholson) descent into madness have become familiar pop-culture sayings and online memes.  Much credit goes to Nicholson (who else could have played Torrance so perfectly?) for resisting the temptation to add a cartoonish element to his character.  Even his ‘funny’ lines are goosebump-inducing.  Kubrick’s film-making eye is so cold you actually feel what the characters feel: panic inside the ‘empty’ hotel.

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