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FILM: tectac's Stanley Kubrick, Ranked

One of the greatest and most influential directors of all time. Even if I don't particularly love every *single* one of his films, they all have valuable merit and worthy contributions to the world of cinema in some way or another.
13Death Grips
The Powers That B - Part II: Jenny Death


Not his worst film from an objective standpoint (as objective as you can possibly be with art, anyway), but easily my least favorite. One of those films that, somewhat inexplicably, just doesn't and has never "worked" for me. The set pieces are spellbinding, the art direction inspired, the framing meticulous and ingrained. But the narrative proper is so painfully inane to my mind that my aversion can't be quelled by visual splendor. I realize that's an inherent flaw of Burgess's source novel, but the devices here are too silly and convenient and obnoxious to take seriously, but not quite outlandish or heightened enough to value from a purely abstract angle, either. (E.g. that Alex happens upon his old gang of droogs who, surely enough, are now police officers, achieves very little resonance, similar to the likelihood that he'd stumble into the same house of the woman he previously raped, and start singing the same goddamn song he raped her to.) Meh, imo.
12Godspeed You! Black Emperor
'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!


For completionists only. Not offensively bad, but not good, either, just incredibly lackluster in about every facet imaginable, *excepting* photography. (I'm convinced you could show someone still frames from this film and easily trick them into believing its a masterpiece.) Acting is the biggest flaw: Way too bawdy and theatrical, simply not palatable under any circumstance. Editing is anti-rhythmic and choppy, the writing lacks subtlety, the few story lines pander, the music is needlessly melodramatic, etc. Just a mess, really, and not indicative of the master Kubrick would eventually become.

>> KILLER'S KISS (1955)

Very clearly a warm-up picture for Kubrick: Short, sweet, and to the point. Not bad, per se, but the amateurish edges are noticeable, both from the director himself to the actors on the screen. There are still occasional blips of greatness that would indicate lots of promise (e.g. the rooftop chase, or the roomful of creepy mannequins), but this is more of a relic of interest to those interesting in studying a master's baby steps. The shooting and editing of the boxing scene is also surprisingly great; maybe the greatest such instance until the release of RAGING BULL in 1980.
10The Shins
Chutes Too Narrow

>> THE SHINING (1980)

I've got a laundry list of issues with this film - in my opinion, Kubrick's most overrated picture, and maybe the one of the most overrated movies of all time - that I won't bother getting deep into here. Jack's descent into madness happens way too quickly and inorganically, the acting is sub-par across the board (yes, even Nicholson at least half of the time), and the supernatural elements are sufficiently lame. But as an achievement of purely spacial awareness, it's exquisite. So exquisite, in fact, that it's frustrating I find so many of the film's other elements actively grating. Possibly the greatest integration of a single set piece ever (The Overlook Hotel, with all of its impossible geometry and disorienting color coordination), alongside various bouts of legitimately frightening imagery (the twins, the bloody elevator, etc.) make this worth watching for visual bravura alone. Truthfully, though, I wish I liked this (overall) more than I do.
9Minus the Bear
Highly Refined Pirates

>> SPARTACUS (1960)

Not my "least favorite" Kubrick feature, but probably his least thoroughly engaging, and maybe the single instance where it actively feels like he himself had very little interest in the material. Still can't deny the spectacle as a period evocation or a utilization of gorgeous set pieces, and it's always a pleasure to see Kirk Douglas at the top of his game. And even while there was a lot of ancillary (studio) interference with Kubrick's adaptive picture, he nevertheless finds a way to make this very much *his* film with various flourishes (symmetric framing, facial close-ups, a few great tracking shots). Pales in comparison to other historical epics of the time (e.g. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA or ANDREI RUBLEV, etc.) but still worthy of a viewing.
8The Beach Boys
Pet Sounds

>> LOLITA (1962)

A bit too long for its own good - wasting time on a few sideplots and digressions which it has no real intention of paying off - and occasionally littered with eye-rolling trappings (like a man leaving his journal out in the open for his wife to find...you know, the journal where he vividly describes the physical lust he has for her daughter), but still a marvelous exercise in uncomfortable, (purposely) cringe-worthy posturing. Lacks the fluid rhythm and flow of Kubrick's best features (this is maybe his "least impressive" work from a technical/editing perspective, debut notwithstanding) but there's something I love about a teenage girl having the wherewithal to bring a sappy old pervert to tears. Sue Lyon is fantastic here.
7Yellow Eyes
Rare Field Ceiling

>> THE KILLING (1956)

The first "recognized" Kubrick feature (if you consider the two that preceded it legitimately disowned) is a gritty and grimy noir with a group of undesirables, a dope clown mask, and an ending that's so caustic (and ironic) it physically hurts. Not much in the way of performances, and sometimes I feel the knottiness of the timeline it more cumbersome than beneficial in any capacity, but at a breezy 82 minutes, it doesn't give you enough time to sulk in the less-pleasurable details.
6Barry Manilow
Barry Manilow II

>> BARRY LYNDON (1975)

Beautiful period piece, both in terms of languid, non-rushed storytelling and visual surface texture. I constantly lose count of the number of frames that could be printed and sold as paintings (I'm sure that's intentional, too). A bit long at three hours, and I wish some of the "bigger" details in Barry's life weren't as glossed over in lieu of minutiae as they were, but that could very well be the point (i.e., highlighting his own focus on unimportant details which ultimately leads to his downfall).


One of the greatest satires in existence. And what's so great about it is how absolutely jet-black the comedy it. Hell, most people who see this with no foreknowledge could easily be tricked into thinking it's supposed to be *serious* (until Dr. Strangelove himself shows up, that is). Digresses into some outright silliness toward the end, but never loses its scathing edge. Scott is simply fantastic here, and Sellers carries an impressive amount of weight with his three roles. Between this, FULL METAL JACKET, and PATHS OF GLORY, Kubrick was a great director of war and/or political focused films.
4Bruce Springsteen
Born to Run

>> PATHS OF GLORY (1957)

Absolutely beautiful commentary of the miscarriage of justice, systematic incompetence, and political-driven thoughtlessness: Contemptible virtues that plague our primal, human nature. Assuredly a "war" film by definition, but there's only one, short scene that takes place among any sort of battle; rather, we spend most of the time behind the scenes, and given the situation at hand, it ends up being easily as tense and anxious as any action-packed film could ever be. Props to Kubrick for not taking the "Hollywood" ending with this and choosing to keep things dour and solemn: It's depressing, for sure, but infinitely more powerful because of it.
The Sound of Perseverance


The clear delineation of the film is what seems to upset most people, but it's intentional, and serves a very distinct purpose. That is, to dramatically call attention to the differences between "Preparation" for War versus "Actual" War which is to say: There is no possible preparation for war other than war itself. All the yelling, berating, practicing, and conditioning does is give false pretenses about what to expect (while also sending already-faulty machines completely over the edge in Pvt. Pyle's case). It's not until he guns down a sniper that Pvt. Joker finally snaps and becomes truly acclimated to the hell surrounding him. I used to think the first half of this film was hilarious. Now I find it almost as terrifying as the second half.
2Johann Strauss II
An Der Schönen Blauen Donau

>> 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)

To this day, there's not a film that expresses such a gigantic scope with such flawless success (please don't say Malick's TREE OF LIFE). This film is technically impressive *now*, I can only imagine how utterly mind-blowing this would've been back in 1968. Plenty of material to chomp on and ruminate over without the cumbersome, drawn out exposition that infiltrates most of today's science fiction films. (Kubrick understood that the audience didn't want to have their hands held the entire way through.) Nearly every sequence is a stunner, either visually, aurally, or conceptually (or some combination). Seeing this in theaters was a transcendental experience.
1Bright Eyes
Fevers & Mirrors

>> EYES WIDE SHUT (1999)

What a swan song, and what a misunderstood masterpiece. I think most people going into this expecting an "erotic thriller" are going to be disappointed after spending nearly three hours neither aroused nor thrilled. But the way Kubrick desensitizes sexuality - and even contextualizes it as a beacon for potential danger - over the course of just a few hours is the work of a genius; every incantation of nudity in the film is excessively sterile and sanitizes to the point of banality *except* for, brilliantly, the visions occurring in Bill's head of his wife being ravaged by the sailor. Comments on fidelity, desire, and imposed social boundaries, as well as masculinity, emotional revenge, and social stature. Such a rich, deep, and complex film that was unjustly written off during its initial release, but has finally been getting its due credit in recent times.
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