Stanley Kubrick described his heist film The Killing as his, “first mature work”, and the film boasts many of the director’s eventual hallmarks. Techniques that appear in Kubrick’s later masterpieces can be seen in a nascent form throughout the film, as if Kubrick is exploring the possibilities of his own voice and style. Specifically, The Killing purposely confuses the viewer through keen story structure choices and twists on the heist genre. The result is a disorientation that forwards a theme that trickery, thievery, and crime – even those which are meticulously planned, are doomed to failure.
As I mentioned in my State of the Blog post this month, I am planning a series of in-depth essays on the films of Stanley Kubrick. Near the end of each month, I will publish an essay on one of Kubrick’s films, and I intend these pieces to be worthy of the films that they are analyzing, not mere “reviews”. This will not be a trivial pursuit. And, I acknowledge that I may not be up to the Herculean task. Regardless, these are some of my favorite films, and I hope to enhance my enjoyment of them (and yours!) through analysis and discussion.
You know the feeling when someone claims to have a super-cool list of the best-of-the-best-of-the-best, sir! (with honors!), and all you can think about is what your list would look like? When it is me, I immediately start composing my very own list before even reading the original. It’s partly for comparison, and partly just to get a feel for exactly how challenging putting together these kinds of lists can be. Imagine my delight when I heard that the BBC had crafted a list of the Greatest 100 Movies of the 21st Century! By compiling the rankings of 117 critics from around the world, the BBC came to a “consensus” of what kinds of films would be seen as “modern classics” in a few decades from now. It was with that spirit that I set down with a few sheets of paper and my own personal Google machine and attempted my own version of the list, truncated to a mere 21 films (because that’s the century it is currently).
There are moments in Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland that overflow with joy and awe as the film whisks us away to another world of boundless imagination, possibility, and promise. In fact, the more we are forced to decipher from the fleeting glimpses of Tomorrowland and the more we are encouraged to wonder at what it truly is, the more successful the film is. It is an unfortunate shock then that as soon as the film pulls back all obfuscation of the eponymous world, it descends into awkward preaching and pandering.
Who wants to have exactly zero fun watching Michael Fassbender starve himself to death? If there are any takers, I’d love to point you to Steve McQueen’s Hunger, a dramatization of the 1981 Irish hunger strike. McQueen burst onto the scene with this sobering tale of a five-year-long protest by incarcerated members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. In Hunger, McQueen offers up the raw filth of the history, but also reveals the depravity justified by a ruling government when dealing with “enemies”, a timely theme considering the ascension of the surveillance state and hard questions about the incarceration of enemies of the state.
Those who were excited to see Cary Fukunaga’s rendition of the Stephen King classic It are going to have to find something better to do with their lives now, as the director and New Line Cinema have parted ways over budget concerns and disagreements about how best to structure the marathon story. Fukunaga, best known as the director of eight episodes of True Detective, was keen on casting Will Poulter of Maze Runner fame as the iconic Pennywise, and wanted to structure the film similar to the ABC two-part miniseries from the early 1990s by crafting the story as two separate installments. New Line Cinema was less keen on the idea of shooting two complete films, and would prefer a more recognizable actor play the eponymous creature in clown form. Unfortunately, these differences appear irreconcilable, and the director and production company have thus parted ways.