Written by: The CinCitizens
These things suck, and you know it
Newest Update: Stanley Kubrick
There are certain people who grow in their respective fields to a stature whereat no one who claims to love that field can criticize them, for fear of being verbally castigated and pummeled.
Anyone who called Michael Jordan anything other than the greatest basketball specimen on the face of the earth clearly didn’t know shit about the sport.
Bob Dylan is a songwriter of such extraordinary talent and cachet that no one has the nerve ever to find fault with one of this tunes, or with the fact that his own voice often butchers his undisputed masterpieces.
Michael Vick athletic prowess as a scrambling quarterback prompts huge, muscular alpha males to state on national television, “I have a love affair with Michael Vick.” (Actual quote from Sean Salisbury from ESPN).
In the world of film, Stanley Kubrick has reached this pinnacle, at least among people who purport to really know movies. Film lovers all over the world study Kubrick’s work, dissect his choices, and marvel at his craft (a Google search of “Stanley Kubrick” and “genius” found 261,000 entries). I have only one problem with this:
Stanley Kubrick’s films are unwatchable.
I know I’m speaking for the common man here, and not the cinema illuminati, but I have watched several of Kubrick’s films, and in the best cases, I was uncomfortable. Most of the rest of the time, I was bored.
Let’s review, with the movies that I’ve seen:
Spartacus – A huge epic film. Great. But let me ask you this: how many people have seen this movie? If you have, how many of you have seen it recently enough to accurately judge whether it’s good or not? If you have, how many can honestly tell me it’s great? Here’s what I remember: the shiny circle in Kirk Douglas’ chin. That, and all the stories I read about its homoerotic undertones. Boring.
Dr. Strangelove – Comedic and satiric tour-de-force. This movie, honestly, is probably a little better than I remember it, but to me, it suffered from the Monty Python and the Holy Grail disease. Months before I ever saw Holy Grail, Mike Washburn told me every single funny line (as well as raving over and over about how funny those lines were) so that by the time I actually got to see it myself, I found it either overrated, or repetitive. With Strangelove, my film major college roommates (both CC2K staff writers) told me over and over again just how perfect this movie was, and how utterly and stupefyingly brilliant Peter Sellers was in it. So my expectations were perhaps a bit high. Because when I saw it, I found it confusing and over-ambitious. Sellers was brilliant for sure, but that’s not the same thing as my enjoying his performance. Overall, I felt as though it was a movie made by someone who assumed they were smarter than I was, so that I would never understand what they were trying to say anyway, and didn’t bother trying. Boring.
2001: A Space Odyssey – The week that Kubrick died, one of the aforementioned roommates had a weeklong Kubrick festival in our apartment (on Laserdisc!). This was the movie I joined him in viewing. I remember watching that first part, with the freaky cavemen, thinking that it was an intriguing short prologue that made a powerful statement. Then, it went on. And on. And on. Six hours later, it finally ended and transitioned into the “actual” movie. And you know what? If there WAS a powerful statement in that prologue, fuck if I know what it was; I guess the stultifying boredom I felt waiting for it to end sucked the message out of my head. Boring.
A Clockwork Orange – I’ve never seen this movie. I know, I know. In fact, let’s save the flaming over this admission to when I write about it here .
The Shining – The ultimate psychological horror movie. This one gets my highest Kubrick compliment: I was VERY uncomfortable during certain moments of this movie, and some of the imagery is as disturbing as anything ever put on film. Jack Nicholson is brilliant and terrifying, and the isolation his wife and son feel is palpable. In fact, these things are so good, that they tend to gloss over the fact that the central conceit of the movie (Joey’s telepathic abilities) is largely worthless. When Nicholson snaps, Joey reaches out to Scatman Crothers, who fights age and the elements to come to the rescue…and it promptly dispatched with an axe. Whoops. Joey then (it might have been first, but it doesn’t matter) sort of flips out, talks in his best Harvey Feirstein voice, uses his finger as a puppet, and says “Red Rum” over and over again. To what end? What does this mean? How does it get us from point A to point B, plot-wise? What happens as a result of this? How does this affect the plot of the movie? It doesn’t. It happens to freak you out, and then goes away. In anyone other than Kubrick’s hands, that would be called hack writing, and bad moviemaking.
Full Metal Jacket – Kubrick’s take on Vietnam. First half: disturbing. Second half: boring. Prove me wrong.
Eyes Wide Shut – Kubrick spent forever – what was it, 150 weeks or something? – on take after take of this, his final masterpiece. My roommates spent an entire school year in giddy anticipation for it, ecstatic that they were going to be able to see a first-run Kubrick film in the theater (their oft-discussed plan for finally seeing it included them walking to the ticket window and asking for "Kubrick-tix." I am not making that up.) It was going to be the sexiest and edgiest film of the millennium. And if you’ve seen it, I’m willing to bet you’ve only seen it once. Folks, any movie that features dozens of naked hot chicks, and yet is remembered mostly for being inscrutable, weird, and unwatchable, is a bad movie. Boring.
AI – It counts; Kubrick spent years on the screenplay, and Spielberg attempted to make it as an homage to what Kubrick wanted. This movie was awful, and it was also a terrible cock-tease: it ended no less than THREE times. I was almost expecting the film to follow Teddy around for another forty-five minutes, after Haley Joel’s mom finally kicked the bucket. Boring.
So maybe I’m just speaking where most stay silent, or maybe I’m just the first person to risk beheading by announcing that the emperor has new clothes (or in this case, tells stilted stories that seem to go on forever.), but I’ve done it. Don’t be afraid to dislike a film on this list in the future; believe me, you’re not alone (even if no one else will admit it).