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The All-Time Favourites #3: 2001: A Space Odyssey

25 Things I Love About Dr. Strangelove

Kubrick’s Underrated Masterpiece: Barry Lyndon

One of the most underrated films of cinematic legend Stanley Kubrick is the film that followed A Clockwork Orange and preceded The Shining: 1975’s brilliant Barry Lyndon. Full of a delightful mixture of humour, thrills, and striking imagery, it is one of Kubrick’s more personal films, and a manifestation of sorts of his burning desire to create a Napoleon biopic.

The epic is also his longest film, at a full 184 minutes. It tells of Irish rogue Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal), who flees toward Dublin and gets caught up in a battle of war and aristocracy. He takes the path from a nobody to a king as he usurps the position of the royal Lady Lyndon’s husband, thus becoming Barry Lyndon. The second half of the film settles down into a stony tale of married life and unhappiness. Tension rises between Barry and his stepson, Lord Bullington, resulting in a full-out assault in front of many people in a memorable scene. It all leads up to a brilliant anti-climax: an extremely slow-paced, strangely funny duel between father and stepson.

The film looks beautiful and is framed in a lovely manner, as we would expect from Kubrick. Every shot is a delight, and it seems the cinematography and ingenious lighting is the star of the film. This is a movie Kubrick was born to make, with all the trademarks and styles that made the man a genius.

Every image is immaculate, in a manner that both borrowed from Ingmar Bergman (how much you wanna bet Kubrick saw Cries and Whispers while he was making Barry Lyndon) and possibly influenced Bergman (some shots in Fanny and Alexander are reminiscent of this film). We see into a rich world of 18th century royalty, whether it be the thrilling shots of war battle, the sweeping camera, the rotating camera, the zooming camera, Kubrick captures each scene absolutely 100% perfect, in a painstaking manner that put him at the top of his game.

And O’Neal, himself, as an actor manages to carry the movie away with a brilliant performance that more than makes up for the sappy, lifeless garbage that was Love Story. The performance is at times chilling, but always mesmerising.

I can’t understand why so few people remember this when they remember Kubrick. It’s one of his greatest, it’s one of his more emotional and it’s a truly beautiful, stunningly attractive painting, that the magic man that is SK breathed life into.

My Rating:

5/5 Kubricks

Is It Worth Adding To Your Netflix Queue?

Seen Barry Lyndon? What did you think of it? Leave a comment below.

5 Memorable Uses of Music in Stanley Kubrick Movies

Stanley Kubrick was a master of many things when making movies — direction, cinematography, set direction — but one of the top choices he consistently made was musical. From Dr. Strangelove right down to Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick made musical choices that were insanely memorable. Here are perhaps the five most memorable:

1: We’ll Meet Again, Dr. Strangelove (1964)

The image of countless bombs exploding as this calming music plays is a simply magic use of contrast. If the world were to end as abruptly and annoyingly as it does in Strangelove, this music playing would make it a damn sight more comfortable – and funnier!

2: The Blue Danube Waltz, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1967)

The beautiful outer space has never looked so stunning as when Kubrick portrayed it alongside the amazing music of Strauss. Classical music made a memorable debut for SK as he mixed memorable imagery with insanely calming tunes.

3: The Thieving Magpie, A Clockwork Orange (1971)

That fantastic scene as Alex and his droogs walk down the riveria, frozen in thought, as this classical piece plays and violence breaks out will be forever ingrained in my mind. A scene which uses violence in a manner which makes Tarantino look like butter.

4: Sarabande, Barry Lyndon (1975)

Kubrick’s three hour biopic based on the novel is one of his best, most ingenious films, a sadly underrated film that glows with excellence every time you watch it. And this haunting theme… I never get tired of it.

5: Waltz No. 2 from Jazz Suite No. 2, Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

It’s a little bit inventive, a little bit haunting and a little bit cheeky. One of my favourite classical waltzes (beaten only by #2 on this list), and one which always brings to mind the shocking opening shot of Kubrick’s final film.

Any music from Kubrick I missed? What music (from any director or movie) do you think was particularly memorable or well-chosen? Leave a comment below.

The Weekly Movie Challenge: You Have Until 9 July to Watch This

Welcome to The Weekly Movie Challenge. Last week, I asked you to watch Lars von Trier’s controversial and widely disputed Dogville, and rate it out of ten. I got four responses, and three ratings, much more positive than I expected. Two people gave it 9/10, and the other gave it a perfect 10! I myself give it a 9, and I thank everyone who watched and rated. If you didn’t rate, then here’s your chance. This week’s movie is:

Ah. The controversy continues. Once again I’ve picked a film that a lot of people like, and a lot of others loathe. So what’s your opinion? If you’ve seen it, be completely honest with what you thought of it and leave a comment down below. If you haven’t seen it, give it a go. If you can find the time, Netflix it or whatever. You might hate it, you might enjoy it. Either way, I ask you to see it and RATE IT OUT OF TEN. This time, I’m giving you two weeks to watch the movie, so don’t feel pressured.

Thanks for reading, watching and rating.

Very Long Movies I Can Watch Over and Over Again…

Believe me, I LOVE a good historical epic. Love ’em a lot. But most of them are films you can enthusiastically watch once, and never return to again. This is the case with a lot of ’em, and a lot of other assorted ‘long’ movies, but there are a special selection of movies that are AT LEAST 3 hours long that I can watch over and over and over, and possibly never get tired of them. And here they are, in order of how many times I’ve seen them.

The Best of Youth (2003)

This high-spirited, epic Italian drama is a literal lifetime spread out through six hours of pure bliss. Please do not be turned off by the runtime; this is a brilliant, insanely watchable and gripping family drama; to quote Roger Ebert: “The film is six hours long but it is also six hours deep.” An unforgettable film I will never regret watching. View Count: 1, but I plan to buy it soon and then watch it over and over.

Dekalog (1988)

I know it’s going too far to call this “the best movie of all time.” That’s an impossible statement to make, so I’m not going to venture to make it, but Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 10-hour Dekalog (conveniently sliced into ten equal pieces) is pretty damn close. It deals with pretty much all the themes, emotions and basic crises of the human condition, and it does so beautifully. A masterful, must-see epic, if ever there was one. Read my review. View Count: 1 (Be fair! I only saw it for the first time a month ago!)

Shoah (1985)

Though there is dispute whether this is a documentary or a film, Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah is the most powerful, full, emotionally visceral film about the Holocaust ever made. At a whopping nine hours, some will undoubtedly be bored, but Lanzmann’s movie is, for me, anything but boring. He provides interviews with those both directly and indirectly involved in the mass murder of the Jews, and provides haunting looks at some of the places these atrocities occured. Chilling; epic; a masterpiece. View Count: 2.

Fanny and Alexander (1983)

Ingmar Bergman’s magnificent 3-hour (or 5-hour, depending on which version you’re watching) masterwork is a brilliant, beautiful, astounding work of art. Sven Nykvist’s cinematography makes every image look like a fantastic, colourful painting, beautifully directed by an amazing Bergman at the height (and end) of his theatrical career. Jeez, I’m running out of adjectives. View Count: 2

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Of all the brilliant epics David Lean directed, the only one that really hooked me and made me fall in love with it was Lawrence of Arabia. Crossing the 3 and a half hour mark, it may be long, but it sure is beautiful. The stunning images of the Sahara Desert combined with the sheer will of Peter O’Toole’s T.E. Lawrence combine to make a fantastic, riveting movie. View Count: 2.

Dogville (2003)

Lars von Trier has made many films that have very divided opinion, and the one with the most divided is probably Dogville. It seems half the audience hate this fantastic 3-hour drama about social mistreatment, cruelty, and the ultimate price of letting everything go. If you’ve seen it, then make sure you visit this page and leave a comment rating it out of 10 by June 24, 2011. Anyway, it’s a fantastic (but debatable) movie that I absolutely love. View Count: 3.

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Stanley Kubrick’s longest film is actually 3 hours long, and often forgotten about when Kubrick’s name and filmography is mentioned. However, it is one of his best films, a fantastic epic about the lifetime of a young man (Ryan O’Neal) who ascends to royalty in the 19th century by fighting and cheating his way to the top. Beautifully lit, this scenically marvellous and emotionally riveting (particularly within the gripping last hour) film is sadly underrated. View Count: 4.

The Godfather, Parts I and II (1972, 1974)

Both of these films, which together total over six hours, are absolutely enthralling, brilliant masterpieces from Francis Ford Coppola that revolutionized and revitalized a mafia/crime drama genre, undoubtedly inspiring such classic directors as Martin Scorsese and Brian DePalma. Not to mention I can watch them over and over and over without ever getting tired. View Count: 6.

Inland Empire (2006)

I seem to be the only person who loves this movie enough to say it is perfect. David Lynch’s 3-hour masterpiece is a very inaccessible but still hugely enthralling delve into the unusual, darker side of humanity. A seemingly senseless, plotless series of scenes, Inland Empire actually has a bustling, multi-layered plot which is extremely difficult to decode, probably the reason I’ve watched it so many times. It’s really a film that needs to be seen to be believed, and I don’t like to throw that phrase around. View Count: 8.

Magnolia (1999)

If you read my blog you probably know this is my favourite movie of all time, and that is fair enough reason to watch it 19 times. That’s right, NINETEEN! I’ve watched this 187 minute labyrinth of emotions almost twenty times in its entirety, and I never, never, NEVER get tired of it. I’ve written a very long essay on it (which I plan to post to the site soon enough, pending further editing), and forced friends to watch it more times than they care for. Even if you don’t love this movie, as I’m certainly not expecting you to, you have to admit it has serious emotional power, and it is a testament to the brutal, strong ability of Paul Thomas Anderson, a man who was BORN to be behind the camera. Affects me in the same manner each and every time, and was arguably the film that fuelled my love for cinema. View Count: 19.

What are some awfully long movies you love to watch? What about ones you think are too long? Not long enough? Seen any of the movies above and have something you’d like to say? Leave a comment below. Thanks for reading.

Letters to Directors from Children

First off, full credit for the idea behind this post goes to John at The Droid You’re Looking For. He writes some of the most creative, original stuff I’ve ever read from a movie blog. His posts always make me think, “Oh, wow, how come I never thought of that!” and Letters to Directors from Children is one of the best ones. Before you read mine, I highly recommend you read his.

Anyway, here’s my take on the idea, hope you guys enjoy:

5 Memorable Overtures In Cinema

It’s a shame films don’t have them any more. Some say they’re out of date, but I believe they’re part of what made the cinematic experience in the 50s and 60s (particularly in David Lean films) the best, even though I wasn’t alive in that era. I’m talking about overtures, a fragment of film scores which seem to have escaped us. Some of you might remember when you went to the cinemas a while back and they had that really, blaring triumphant music, before the film had even started. That’s what I’m talking about. Here are five memorable overtures — not necessarily the best, but ones that spring to mind — when I think of those great themes.

1: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

In David Lean’s best movie, we are greeted with the fantastic, epic tale of war and peace that spans an amazing timeline. From breathtaking cinematography to amazing acting and everything in between, it’s impossible not to rejoice when we hear or see the first few frames of this magnificent movie.

2: Ben-Hur (1959)

I have a lot of admiration for the incomprehensible effort that went into the making of this movie, and although it’s not one of my favourites, it sure is beautiful to look at, and a success in my book. And the opening… sublime.

3: The Ten Commandments (1956)

When it comes to historical epics, even if you have an admittedly sub-par movie, as I feel this is, at least you’re likely to have a great soundtrack, and this is certainly no exception.

4: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1967)

Though when many people think of the music at the start of this Kubrick classic, they think of it’s fantastic, epic opening to the tune of Also Sprach Zarathustra, that, technically, is not the film’s overture. The real overture comes before it, but in the interest of sound and satisfaction, I’ll include a clip from that memorable opening scene instead.

5: Dancer in the Dark (2001)

Ah… You’ve got to admire Lars von Trier for putting in an awesome overture for his film long after they had died out. Perhaps the most epic of them all, the amazing emotion I feel when listening to this track will always stay with me.

So those are my choices, now… what’s yours?

What overtures do you cherish every time you hear their notes? What do you think of my choices? Leave a comment and lemme know what you think.

Thanks for reading.

5 Memorable Opening Shots in Movies

When I watch movies, I often look for great opening shots. These are the first things we see when the camera fades in from black and the film begins. A good director will often make a good opening shot to hook the viewer into the film, and here are five of my favourites, in no particular order:

Caché (2005)

The film opens with a deceptively simple stationary shot of the house of a wealthy French couple and their son. We soon release, in a perfectly Michael Haneke manner, that this is a videotape of their house recorded by an unknown person/s, who have then mailed the recording to the couple. A fantastic film which opens in an excellent manner.

Somewhere (2010)

Sofia Coppola’s newest film, and undoubtedly her best, is the excellent indie drama Somewhere. It opens with one of my favourite shots of all time, a shot quite similar to the opening of The Brown Bunny, except this shot is stationary and unmoving, a wise decision. If you find this boring and meaningless, then I suggest you watch the whole movie. If, after that, you still find it boring and meaningless… I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Oh, wow. Who could forget that awesome movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey? Obviously, a lot of people, as I was the only one in my family who didn’t doze off while the movie played on when I watched it when I was twelve after Stanley Kubrick died. From this magnificently epic opening shot and onwards, it catapulted my life into a realm of film and cinema. It’s so simplistic, yet so beautiful:

Boogie Nights (1997)

Steadicam, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… Boogie Nights is easily number one. The opening shot actually really made me feel like I was cruising around the disco, checking out all the funky characters. Everything about it is perfect; the timing, the way it moves so rhythmically, and how awesome the seventies looked through the eyes of Paul Thomas Anderson.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a video for this, which is sad, because the music is absolutely perfect in this scene, but let me cut it down to the bare basics. This is Stanley Kubrick being cheeky, which is something we very rarely get from the director, and is what makes the opening so unique. No one knew how to get an audience’s attention like Kubrick:

Now it’s time for…

Leave a comment with what you thought of my five choices, and name some of your own.

Thanks for reading.

Ten Movies That Define Me

The following list is ten movies that ‘define me.’ These are movies that changed the way I looked at cinema, and helped to craft my perspective on film in general. These are not necessarily my Top Ten favourite films, but one or two from that ten will be present.

In no particular order:

There Will Be Blood

From the moment I first saw Daniel Day-Lewis in In The Name of the Father, I knew I was looking at one talented man. Then I saw this movie, and I was blown away. This is one of the few movies that actually caused my jaw to drop at its aching perfectness. A masterpiece.

Citizen Kane

Proclaimed repetitively the best movie of all time, Citizen Kane may not be that, but it is breathtaking in its painfully honest portrayal of greed and heartlessness, the carelessness and ignorance of the human soul. It was the first film ever to touch upon issues such as this in the manner which it did, and coming from a twenty-something man, that was something rare indeed.

A Serious Man

Admittedly not my favourite Coen brothers movie, A Serious Man is nevertheless a vitally important reason why they are so great. Though I’m not a Jew, this movie spoke to my inner emotions and frustrations. I think of myself as a very different man to Larry Gopnik, though his distraught plight and repressed dislike of his own selfish situation is brutally honest and without mercy.

Dancer in the Dark

From its unique opening of various collaborations of beautiful art pieces as a fantastic score plays in the opening, to the depressing ending which I’m not ashamed to say is the ONLY film ending that has ever made me cry, Lars von Trier’s dogme-influenced musical masterpiece is a unique event that manages to capture something more than a camera could convey.

Magnolia

You probably know that this is my favourite film of all time. It’s an achingly hard decision to make, but all things considered, I’ve NEVER felt the way I felt while watching this movie. Every single tiny aspect of the way it was made was life-changing for me, and helped to confirm the suspicion that I was destined to watch and love movies.

Persona

A lot of movies have changed the way I look at films, but Persona changed the way I looked at “cinema.” There is a difference. Bergman reminds us we’re watching a film, and the film itself features some stunning acting and breathtaking cinematography, all thanks to Bergman, Sven Nykvist, Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson, as well as everyone else involved. No one had the brains of Bergman, and it’s due to his creative vision that films are made like they are today.

Eyes Wide Shut

An often ignored and hated Kubrick film, Eyes Wide Shut is actually a feast for the senses, and contains important messages about society, living, marriage, jealousy, hatred and discovery. Whether its Nicole Kidman’s brilliant (no, fantastic) adulterous monologue or Gyorgy Ligeti’s creepy piano theme whose notes play with a striking tune like a slap in the face, this slow-paced masterpiece which seems to go nowhere is actually a film to be re-examined and thought about.

Mulholland Dr.

Lynch’s most famous and probably his best film, this strangely scary and atmospherically surreal 150-minute masterwork is a strange, puzzling riddle with disturbing thematic echoes of the heartless mouth of Hollywood, rejection, sexuality and emotion. It’s a real ride.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Often mistakenly filed away as ‘long’ and ‘boring,’ Stanley Kubrick’s classic sci-fi is in reality a beautiful analysis of human evolution, the creation and existence of life, and possibilities for the daunting spectre of the future, as well as alien existence and extraterrestrial intelligence. Embrace your inner Star Child.

Paths of Glory

If I had to pick a war movie that ‘defined me,’ I would scan through all the possibilites, but they all lead to Paths of Glory. It is a moving, determined and no holds barred awesomely truthful analysis of war and the tumultuous toll it has on its survivors, as well as the people who watch and run it all. Very powerful.

There you go. Ten Movies that Define Me. Some interesting picks there, I’m sure you’re thinking. Please, leave a comment with your thoughts and tell me what your ‘defining’ movies are.

Thanks for reading.