Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” and the Subversion of Normalcy


Previous Kubrick Essays

Stanley Kubrick’s films are so distinct and exceptional that he practically legitimizes whichever genre he decides to work in. Before 2001: A Space Odyssey, science fiction films were mostly dispensable pulp featuring monsters in rubber suits. Like earlier horror masterpieces The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and Psycho, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining elevates the horror genre into rarefied air. In this piece, we’ll look at how Kubrick starts with a mundane story of a family spending a winter alone in a hotel and uses all of his skills as a filmmaker to craft one of the scariest films ever.

The Shining sets forth a seemingly basic story in terms of its plot and characters, but Kubrick is able to manipulate the language of film to slowly fill the audience with an overwhelming sense of dread. Camera movements and shots, curious editing, and the pacing of the story all slowly draw out the terror, ultimately leaving the viewer petrified. By the climax of the film, we’re jumping at the supernatural, the too-human, and the utter mystery of what we’re seeing on the screen.  In the end, it’s hard to say what scared us so – we’re simply certain that we’re terrified.  Now let’s figure out why . . .

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Ryan Coogler Triumphs with “Black Panther”

In Black Panther, director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) has crafted a nearly perfect solo film for the eponymous African Superhero.  The film has all of the visual appeal, action, and expert world-building that we have come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). In addition, Coogler instills the film with superlatives that are rarely attached to the MCU:  a noteworthy and complex villain, a rich political subtext, and a truly thematic conflict.  It is likely too early to crown Black Panther as the greatest anything, but it is folly to ignore the power behind such an exemplary film.

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A Plot and Theme Play-by-Play at the 90th Oscars

As promised, here is a quick, play-by-play style recap of last night’s 90th Oscars (AKA: 90 Scars). I’ll comment throughout now that it is the next morning, and I will finish it all up with a neat and tidy summary so that we can all move along with our lives in a timely fashion.

I started a stopwatch so I wouldn’t have to keep looking at the clock, plus I don’t really understand time zones too well. So, these are the things that happened and the way I felt about them . . .

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Oscar Night Beckons – Predictions, Thoughts, and Jokes in Poor Taste

The Oscars turn 90 later today (AKA: 90 Scars), and I’ve finally seen every single film nominated in the Best Picture category.  So, it is time to reveal the Oscar plans over here at Plot and Theme.  Overall, I think this (read: 2017) was a strong year for film, and I am excited to start unraveling everything.  So, let’s start by discussing what you’ll be seeing on Plot and Theme with regards to the Oscars, Best of Lists, and the like.

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War and Heroism in Three Parts – Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk”

In Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan tells three inter-twined stories of differing lengths and at different speeds, showing how the terrors of war and heroic acts associated with it can exist on various time scales. There are instantaneous acts of heroism, the bread and butter of war films, but also more considered, lengthy heroics on day or week-long scales. Nolan ties them all together by interweaving all three timelines into three separate but related stories of the Battle of Dunkirk. This structure is the overwhelming brilliance of Dunkirk, but Nolan also manages to pack each story line with startling action film-making on land, sea, and air. The result is a masterwork of structure, pacing and storytelling, replete with themes of warfare, heroism, and the true meaning of victory.

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“Okja” – a Dark Animal Rights Satire Firing at Anyone in its Sights

Like the past works of writer-director Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host), Okja isn’t so much an allegory as it is an outright morality tale. The Korean filmmaker seem intent on tackling each and every woe of modern society, from the danger of radioactive waste (and by extension, the short-sighted profit-seeking of big business) in The Host to the accelerating divisions between the wealthy and the poor in Snowpiercer. In Okja, Bong once again wraps his morality tale in a bit of science fiction. The titular Okja is one of several genetically-enhanced pigs, bred for slaughter in an attempt to solve the world’s hunger crisis. Where The Host was an obvious Monster Movie, and Snowpiercer more of a dystopian science fiction film, Okja is mostly a dark piece of satire. It’s just not clear who Bong means to target with his barbs.

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