Kubrick. Kubrick is a behemoth. By every metric it’s Hitchcock and Kubrick as #1 and #2. Kubrick has the most top 100 all-time film (5) which I think is as good as any metric to use. If you’re talking volume—he’s behind Hitchcock and maybe Ford or Bergman but on a per film basis, and as a stylist, there’s no one superior to Kubrick. The only non-masterpiece he made from 1964 to 1999 was Full Metal Jacket and even that ended up as my #1 film of 1987 (an admittedly weak year at the top). If boiled down I think the art of cinema is, firstly, about visual beauty and formal rigor and I think you could make a strong case Kubrick is the single best at both.

unplugging HAL- one of cinema’s most beautiful scenes

Best film:  2001: A Space Odyssey. I almost moved it to my #1 slot this year. Yes, it’s beautifully photographed and visually designed, but the gobsmackingly genius formal achievement is what may ultimately put it in my #1 slot.

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formal rigor– everything in three’s in 2001, alignment

Total archiveable films: 12

top 100 films: 5 (2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Paths of Glory, Barry Lyndon)

shadow and a mastery of the lens

top 500 films: 8 (2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Paths of Glory,  Barry Lyndon, Eyes Wide Shut, Dr. Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket)

wall art quality photographs in many of his best works- none finer than Barry Lyndon

top 100 films of the decade: 8 (2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Paths of Glory,  Barry Lyndon, Eyes Wide Shut, Dr. Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket)

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mise-en-scene bliss– framing and color

most overrated:  Dr. Strangelove is slightly overrated at #48 of all-time on TSPDT but the easy choice here is Lolita which TSPDT puts at #721 of all-time.  If I expanded my top 500 to 1000 I still wouldn’t get to Lolita. I haven’t seen it in ages so I hope I’m wrong, but I actually thought, visually, it was a clear step back from Paths of Glory (that’s no insult) and Spartacus.

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dedication to an aesthetic- like the Christmas lights in Eyes Wide Shut

most underrated:   Paths of Glory #243 all-time on TSPDT and I’m nearly 200 slots higher on it.  Kubrick is telling a story with the tracking shots (both in the trenches and in the officer’s chateau) and with the detailed mise-en-scene rich in their individual beauty and formal juxtaposition. It’s a stylistic and formal theme through is work.

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tracking shots– formally connected in Paths of Glory as a stand-alone, and with the rest of his oeuvre

gem I want to spotlight:  The Shining uses the technological innovation (the Steadicam) to continue the brilliance he started in the 50’s with Paths of Glory. The house is a set-piece, one of cinema’s greatest, and Kubrick leaves no detail in the mise-en-scene unturned.  He’s even more obsessed with symmetry (those hallways!) here than his previous (already crazy rigorous) works. The use of color is up there with the best work in the decade. The tracking shot of Jack going into the ballroom…sublime…  

architecture and design- this shot could compare and contrast with Danny’s bike doing the same, the 2001 shot below

stylistic innovations/traits:  Like Hitchcock there is just too much to choose from. Experts and cinema lovers could (and have) put together supercuts highlighting his use obsessively composed mise-en-scene, consistent themes in his films, use of music, etc. He may be the greatest technician in the history of cinema and is perhaps cinema’s greatest overall perfectionist. And how about “event cinema”? Every Kubrick movie from 1968 to 1999 was an event. Broken out there’s Steadicam/tracking work (Paths of Glory, 2001, The Shining, opening of Full Metal Jacket). Steadicam/tracking. Barry Lyndon may be the pinnacle of cinematic natural lighting, costume décor. Rigor—both formal and visual along with symmetry in set design.  From a narrative and thematic standpoint there’s a profound emptiness or coldness in Kubrick’s world- whether it be in war, marriage, space, family, or the future.

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obsession and beauty

top 10

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  2. A Clockwork Orange
  3. The Shining
  4. Paths of Glory
  5. Barry Lyndon
  6. Eyes Wide Shut
  7. Dr. Strangelove
  8. Full Metal Jacket
  9. The Killing
  10. Spartacus
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one of cinema’s great singular images

By year and grades

1955- Killer’s Kiss R
1956- The Killing HR
1957- Paths of Glory MP
1960- Spartacus HR
1962- Lolita R
1964- Dr. Strangelove MP
1968- 2001: A Space Odyssey MP
1971- A Clockwork Orange MP
1975- Barry Lyndon MP
1980- The Shining MP
1987- Full Metal Jacket MS
1999- Eyes Wide Shut MP

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives