“Dr. Strangelove” and the Paradox of Absurd Logic

A Year of Masterpieces: The Filmography of Stanley Kubrick

Introduction

Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a satirical masterpiece.  In this piece, we will discuss the germination of the great film and then detail how the director combines a serious camera (Part I), genuine but exaggerated characters (Part II), and a farcical tone (Part III) into one of the greatest condemnations of the military state of all time.  Kubrick’s aim is simple:  to subvert the grim seriousness of the Cold War by showcasing the absurdities that arise from taking concepts like “mutually assured destruction” and “nuclear deterrence” to their logical conclusions.

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The Time Has Come to Make a Choice, Mr. Anderson: “The Matrix” and Romantic Realism

The Matrix is replete with allusions to classic philosophical ideas.  The plot references Plato’s Cave and the world of forms, Descartes’ First Meditation and the evil demon, and Hilary Putnam’s “brain in a vat” scenario – all ruminations on the nature of reality and the possibility that we only perceive an illusion.  The film also considers the tension between free will and determinism, mostly conveying its stance on this fundamental philosophical issue not through long-winded discussion, but through an essential tenet of Romanticism:  the plot hinges on the genuine choices made by its characters.

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Clarice Starling, Meet Dr. Hannibal Lecter – a Scene Analysis

One of the most enthralling sequences in The Silence of the Lambs is the first meeting between Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and it is a masterclass in visual storytelling.  This piece will analyze this entire sequence shot-by-shot,  explaining the cinematic techniques that director Jonathan Demme and cinematographer Tak Fujimoto use to tell this crucial portion of their story.  We’ll be looking at different aspects of each shot including:  composition, point of view, camera movement, pacing, and more.  We’ll see how in a mere six minutes and three seconds, these 60 shots convey characterization, plot, and even crucial thematic ideas that would develop through the course of the film.

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Was 1997 the Greatest Year for Science Fiction in Film?

Most years have a few high-quality genre pieces to offer, some years see the release of a genre-defining film and a solid collection of supporting movies, and every now and then there are collisions where two absolute classics are released side-by-side (see:  1968, 1977, and 1982).  But, there’s nothing quite like what happened 20 years ago.  Eleven science fiction films of note were released in 1997, spanning all subgenres.  This piece will discuss each of these films, heralding 1997 as a seminal year for cinematic science fiction.

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Stanley Kubrick’s “Lolita” – A Most Ambitious Fantasy

The fourth entry in Plot and Theme’s year-long look at the filmography of Stanley Kubrick.  Check out all entries here.


Introduction

In 1962, Stanley Kubrick adapted the Vladimir Nabokov novel Lolita for his sixth feature film.  Though published only 7 years earlier, Nabokov’s novel was already reaching the status of a classic work due to its controversial subject matter, witty wordplay, and themes of erotic fantasy, hebephilia, and sexual predation.  Working with Nabokov on the screenplay, Kubrick’s adaptation faithfully recreates the key aspects of the novel, capturing the sexuality, irony, and tragedy of a man who lusts after a prepubescent girl.

Still shackled by the Hayes Code, Lolita was thought to be unfilmable, and the director himself later expressed that had he known how severe the censors were going to be, he probably wouldn’t have bothered to adapt Lolita.  Fortunately, he did.

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The Power of Information in “United 93”

Paul Greengrass’s United 93 is more than a harrowing dramatization of the events of September 11th, 2001.  It’s also a profound treatise on the significance of information, and how ignorance leads to irrationality, uncertainty, and fear.  This piece will look at three aspects of the film and how each is intimately tied to the availability of information: the plot, the characters, and the themes.  The plot is revealed slowly, as a sense of dramatic irony permeates the spectator’s interpretation of the events.  Characterization is established by reactions to the inexplicable, and then corresponding responses as more information becomes known.  Even the ultimate thematic statements hinge in the treatment information in United 93.  Greengrass concludes that information is power – especially in the hands of individuals.

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