Kicking off our list is the controversial film about an old man lusting for a teenage girl. Stanley Kubrick at this point was coming off the heals of films like Spartacus and Paths of Glory, both of the starring Kirk Douglas. This is the movie that synonymous with being an arthouse risk taker. The plot, like I said earlier, is about a professor named Humbert (played by James Mason) moving over from Europe to America. While looking at a house he comes across a adolescent girl named Lolita (played by Sue Lyon). Humbert’s lust for Lolita drives him mad as he causes Lolita’s mother (played by Shelley Winters) to kill herself, drags Lolita all across the country, and constantly keeps a close eye on her. The film is competently made with great acting, a good score by Nelson Riddle, and a unique plot. It has that stamp of classic cinema on it, from the black and white, the music, and the performances. It’s weird seeing this seemingly innocent style clash with a dark plot. The film is basically an analysis of human behavior, and how far sexual urges can drive a person, or at least that’s what I got from it. It was even nominated and won some awards, including one for actress Sue Lyon. The best performance definitely goes to Peter Sellers as Clare Quilty, a genius playwright who Lolita has a crush on. Sellers was such a great actor and some believe his involvement in the movie was the main reason it sold tickets. I genuinely felt bad for the mother character, she puts up with Lolita’s crap, lost her past husband, then gets remarried to Humbert who has the hots for her daughter, and then dies. My only problem with the film being that it feels like there’s a little restraint in some scenes. I know you have to be careful with a subject like this, but I feel like there was some stuff that wasn’t expanded upon, as if it was missing. It turns out that a lot of scenes had to be cut or shortened due to complaints from Catholic foundations. Overall the film is probably my least favorite one on the blu ray collection, though that doesn’t mean it’s bad.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
At the height of the Cold War, an angry brigadier general by the name of Jack D. Ripper (played by Sterling Hayden) sends his B-52s out to bomb Soviet Russia. The government officials at the Pentagon try to stop him, but he refuses to recall his planes. So it’s up to them, and the Russian ambassador, in the War Room to decide what happens next, take down the planes, or let the world be plunged into nuclear armageddon. This film is heavily known for it’s “grade A” satire of the U.S. in the Cold War. A very ballsy move for its time, though there were those who supported America and hated seeing it being portrayed like this on the silver screen. But there were those who absolutely loved it and laughed alongside. Peter Sellers, just like in Lolita, is the highlight of the movie. It’s amazing seeing him do so many different roles perfectly. Obviously he’s the title character, Dr. Strangelove, but he’s also British, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake; and U.S. President Merkin Muffley. He also would have played the hillbilly pilot but couldn’t do a Southern accent to well, so that role was given to natural redneck, Slim Pickens. Sellers is so good in the movie that not only is every character funny, but I didn’t even know he was the president on my first watch. That’s how great he was! Interesting fact, the character of Dr. Strangelove, though being in the title, isn’t in the film for that long. He sort of plays an important part, but only has like little over 5 min. of screen time. Dr. Strangelove isn’t even in the novel the film is adapted from, Red Alert. George C. Scott is also in the film as a gruff general named Buck Turgidson. Scott was another great actor and plays his part splendidly. I especially love his banter with the Russian ambassador, completely summing up America’s relationship with Russia during the Cold War. Though not having a dark and serious tone, the ending is actually a bit mean. The film literally ends in the world being destroyed by nuclear weapons. I like it, because I thought it was a very good point to end on and is better than the original ending. That ending would basically be a huge, glorified pie fight between everyone in the War Room, which I think would have been way too silly for the movie. Overall the film is very enjoyable to watch with its memorable and funny characters, great satire, and it’s guts to make a comedy out of a subject that everyone was crapping their pants about back in those times. And who can forget the classic line, “Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!”? Oh, and the film’s a metaphor for sex.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
I’ve never seen a film as breathtaking as this film, the sets, effects, and camerawork are all magnificent. There wasn’t a single moment where I felt bored or disinterested. The visuals are so astounding that I’m immediately entranced whenever I look at the screen. I would usually tell the plot by this point, but it’s a little hard to follow in this case. One moment where at the dawn of man where our species first learns how to use tools, then we’re in the fictional future of 2001 where men are investigating a strange asteroid on the moon, then we see a mission to Jupiter where the super computer named Hal 9000 goes rogue and starts killing the crew, next we jump to the last surviving crew member who makes it to Jupiter and goes beyond through a colorful vortex and sees his future selves, and yeah, it’s complicated. But I don’t care because the film is so gorgeous to look at. The vortex scene just hits you with vibrant colors and beautiful visuals. Even when it’s just a space ship trying to land in a station, it’s so pretty. The use of Richard Strauss’ music also helps to give it that feel. The thing that ties the events of the stories together is a tall, iPhone looking machine called a monolith. The machine is sent from an unseen extra-terrestrial species to influence humanity’s use in technology. Whenever it shows up, we hear a creepy choir accompanying it that gives it this foreboding presence. The characters aren’t that memorable, apart from the super computer Hal 9000. He’s so creepy, even when he’s supposed to be friendly, that flat toned voice just gives him a nerve wracking presence. Spoilers, the ending where the survivor, named David, becomes the Star Child has always been up to interpretation. There’s a lot of theories about God, the aliens, and what the ending actually means. I kind of took it as the monolith made him the next step in our evolution. We see how it helps early man use tools and influences our interest in technology. Then again, that’s just what I got from it. There was a sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, but Kubrick didn’t do it, so I’m not gonna go over it. Overall despite it’s lack of a consistent plot, the film has great visuals, good acting, fantastic set design, and good use of music. A film that still holds up after 50 years.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Out of all the movies on I’m reviewing, this is my absolute favorite. The music, cinematography, sets, visuals, thought provoking plot, and a magnificent performance by Malcolm McDowell. In a sexualized future England, we follow Alex (played by Malcolm McDowell), a troublemaking teen who goes out at night with his droogs and breaks into houses, assaults old men, and get into fights with rival gangs. One night he accidentally kills a cat lady and is arrested. While in prison, he jumps at the chance to be a guinea pig in an experiment to cure criminals of their madness. Once he is out however, things seem to get worse for the newly reformed Alex, as he comes across bad event after bad event. McDowell’s performance is the highlight of the movie, he can be scary and sympathetic. In the beginning, he’s a wicked little punk who is disturbing to watch, but at the end he seems helpless and is tormented by the people he wronged, which makes you feel kinda sad for him. Few actors can pull that off well! A lot of people are disgusted by the nudity and violence, but that’s what makes the film so memorable. It doesn’t hold itself back and uses shock value to it’s advantage. After all, the film was some sort of warning about teenage delinquency and what the future may hold. It also betrays the future, British government as a corrupt one full of buffoons. Maybe reflective on the British or American government at the time. The theme is about how machine cannot alter human nature. The importance of evil in man is reflected upon the character of Alex. The film is very well paced and manages to keep your attention. Besides the disturbing parts of the movie, there’s also dark comedic aspects to the film. For example, you get a scene where Alex and his droogs break into a couples’ house and beat them. The cinematography is well shot and eye-catching. The sets and costumes look great and give the film such a 70’s look. It’s memorable and still looks unique to this day. I love the music most of all, it’s given me new found respect for classical music. Wendy Carlos, who also did the score to another Kubrick film we’ll get to in part 2, did the music for this movie, which is a bunch of techno renditions of Beethoven music. The main theme, The Funeral of Queen Mary, sets the film’s tone and is one of the greatest motion picture scores ever made. What is disappointing about the score is how rare it is to find an album of it. I’ve searched iTunes, Spotify, Youtube, and came up with barely anything besides covers. However, there are CDs, Vinyl records, and cassette tapes of it available on online stores such as Amazon. I could dive more into the controversy and the behind the scenes stuff, but I have to go over more Kubrick films. Overall this is a masterpiece and Kubrick’s best film, so I highly recommend you see this movie if you want to get into his work.
So that’s part 1 of my Kubrick-athon! Sorry if this one is too long, I want to really talk about these movies without having to do separate reviews of each of them. I promise that part 2 will come soon, I know that I haven’t been to honest in the past, but just trust me here. Hope you enjoyed it and follow me on Twitter @BenSuey. This is the Adolescent Critic signing out.