Watch: Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ Hal Ashby’s ‘Being There,’ and the Link between Them

Watch: Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ Hal Ashby’s ‘Being There,’ and What Connects Them

Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ was a landmark in science fiction films precisely because its line of questioning extended beyond the stuff of other science fiction films, into philosophical inquiry, social criticism, and elsewhere. Hal Ashby’s ‘Being There‘ was a landmark in comedy for similar reasons–it took a remarkable comic actor, Peter Sellers, and placed him in the middle of a philosophical question, in the form of a film: what if having a blank slate for a mind, and seemingly little intentionality. makes you the perfect leader of others? In an new video essay, Rob Ager explores the links between the two films, in great depth and with simultaneous care and ambition.

Watch: Stanley Kubrick Meets Alfred Hitchcock Meets Stanley Kubrick Meets…

Watch: Stanley Kubrick Meets Alfred Hitchcock Meets Stanley Kubrick Meets…

This is one of the more quietly bizarre, mind-altering films you’ll watch for a very long while. Building on the idea that all films talk to each other and that images and scenarios flow freely between them, the editors at Gump have taken several classic Alfred Hitchcock films and planted figures from classic Stanley Kubrick films within them. And vice versa. We have Jack Torrance from ‘The Shining’ staring across a courtyard at Jimmy Stewart’s wheelchair-bound voyeur from ‘Rear Window.’ We have Jimmy Stewart wandering into the orgy from ‘Eyes Wide Shut.’ And so on, increasingly intensely, until we really do begin to wonder if these two directors weren’t closer, even, than we might have thought previously. 

Watch: How Stanley Kubrick Forces Us to Look At Ourselves

Watch: How Stanley Kubrick Forces Us to Look At Ourselves

Regardless of what one might say, and there is plenty to say, about Stanley Kubrick’s technical mastery, about his sense of tragedy, about his portrayals of different modes of alienation, one thing that remains true of all of his films, to greater or lesser degrees, is their ability to spur self-reflection. Buried in all of his stories is the question: do you see yourself here? Granted, this is true of all stories, but think of it: who has not felt as lost as Tom Cruise’s William Harford in ‘Eyes Wide Shut’? Who has not felt the terror Shelley Duvall’s Wendy feels in ‘The Shining‘–or even the madness Jack feels after being cooped up for too long (even if at a much, much smaller caliber, of course)? Who hasn’t felt the misery the suicidal Private Lawrence (Vincent D’Onofrio) feels in ‘Full Metal Jacket‘? Who, after watching ‘Dr. Strangelove,’ might not question the human tendency to condone wars in certain cases? It’s too simple to call Kubrick a strictly satirical filmmaker. He is, rather, the sort of artist who causes us to look inwards even as we are lost in seemingly outward-looking narratives. This fast-paced, beautifully edited piece by Stefano Westerling takes us through Kubrick’s filmography, highlighting the works’ self-reflexive brilliance with great facility.

Watch: ‘The Shining,’ The Twins, and You

Watch: ‘The Shining,’ The Twins, and You

There seem to be two general schools of thought on Stanley Kubrick’s timeless ‘The Shining.’ Either everything means something, or none of it means anything (and those who think otherwise are deluded). The two camps agree only on the fact that the film is terrifying. Rob Ager does a good job of straddling the two attitudes in his Collative Learning video essay on one of the oddest features of the film: the twins. Ager takes us through some details we may have missed (or may not have, if "we" are obsessive): the recurrence of the colors red and blue, the symmetrical relationship of the twins’ butchered bodies in one of Danny’s nightmares, a (possibly staged) making-of clip featuring two women who look quite a bit like the twins–as well as George Mason, of all people. (Not that surprising, given that Mason’s performance as Humber Humbert in Kubrick’s ‘Lolita’ was one of his greatest roles.) In any event, another thing all critical camps may agree on concerning ‘The Shining,’ and which this piece proves, is that you can never watch the film too much.  

Watch: Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ Meets Alain Resnais’ ‘Last Year at Marienbad’

Watch: Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ Meets Alain Resnais’ ‘Last Year at Marienbad’

In many ways, Alain Resnais’ ‘Last Year at Marienbad (1961) and Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining (1980) are quite similar.  Both films take place in sprawling resorts that are sparsely populated.  Both films pose narrative mysteries that have deliberately ambiguous solutions.  In the former, did the woman (Delphine Seyrig) meet the man (Giorgio Albertazzi) last year at Marienbad or not?  Or perhaps they did meet, but not at Marienbad.  If they did meet, did the woman forget because she was traumatized after being raped by the man?  Are the characters even "real" or ghosts or fragments of someone’s imagination?  Resnais’s French New Wave classic has fascinated, baffled, and frustrated viewers for half a century quite simply because it is a puzzle without a key to guide the viewer.  You have may an interpretation after watching it, but it is tentative (I change my mind almost every time I watch the film) and far from being definitive.  Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ offers up ambiguity in a slightly lower dose.  Quite simply, is Jack (Jack Nicholson) motivated by cabin fever or ghosts?  If we accept the former, how does Jack escape the freezer after he’s locked up by Wendy (Shelley Duvall)?  If we accept the latter and the ghosts can take physical action (who rolls the ball towards Danny?), why do they stop short of killing the Danny (Danny Lloyd) and Wendy?  Moreover, how can Jack exist both in the early 1980s and in a 1921 photograph?  These are ambiguities that have encouraged numerous interpretations, ranging from the ridiculous theories of ‘Room 237’ (2012) to my own video essay "Free Will in Kubrick’s The Shining".  

Yet, the connections between these two films go even deeper in how they attempt to use spatiotemporal ambiguity to further disorient the spectator.  The hallways and spaces of Kubrick’s Overlook do not make any spatial sense.  There are windows that look outdoors in rooms that face inwards.  The flow of time, as aforementioned, is also mysterious.  The film’s title cards marking off days and hours represent a linear march of time, yet Jack’s encounter in room 237 and the photograph at the end would suggest that time is a circular or that alternate timelines exist simultaneously.  Similarly, the times and spaces of Resnais’s film blend together.  Costumes provide only a temporary reference point, because jump cuts, voice over, and the similar interiors of separate resorts make the differences between past, present, and future indistinguishable.  Yet, viewers of both films can probably agree on one aspect.  Violence haunts these corridors.  

Dr. Drew Morton is an Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at Texas A&M University-Texarkana.  He the co-editor and co-founder of [in]Transition:  Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies, the first peer-reviewed academic journal focused on the visual essay and all of its forms (co-presented by MediaCommons and Cinema Journal).  [in]Transition recently won an award of distinction in the annual SCMS Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship competition.  His publications have appeared in animation: an interdisciplinary journal, The Black Maria, Flow, In Media Res, Mediascape, Press Play,, Senses of Cinema, Studies in Comics, and a range of academic anthologies.  He is currently completing a manuscript on the overlap between American blockbuster cinema and comic book style.

Watch: What If David Lynch Had Directed Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’?

Watch: What If David Lynch Had Directed Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’?

If David Lynch had directed Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining"–let’s just stop there. In a sense, he did, just as much as Kubrick directed many of Lynch’s films. (In a sense.) It’s been said many times that there are only 4 or 5 good ideas, and they keep being passed around over and over, re-shaped, re-imagined. And the creative animus, the deranged, meticulous force of imagination that fueled Kubrick’s mind when he took a good thriller by Stephen King and made it into a horrific masterpiece could well have been flowing through Lynch’s mind when he made… anything. Except, perhaps, ‘The Straight Story.’ Or ‘Dune.’ This mash-up (though it’s a lot more) by Richard Vezina has a lot of beautiful little touches: a log truck rolling by outside the window as Jack Torrance is conducting his entrance interview at The Overlook; Dick Hallorann ending up in the tractor from ‘The Straight Story’ when he’s driving to the hotel to save the lives of Torrance’s family; Torrance watching ants gnawing and gnashing their teeth as he looks at a model of the hotel grounds… Far from just a random supposition, the question at the heart of the piece prods us to pay more close attention to the similarities between these two cinematic emissaries from the dark side of the mind.

Watch: Stanley Kubrick vs. Alfred Hitchcock: Who Would Win?

Watch: Stanley Kubrick vs. Alfred Hitchcock: Who Would Win?

Made you look! Neither would win, of course. Pitting these two directors against each other with the goal of deciding who is "better" might be an interesting critical exercise, but not necessarily something to be proud of. They are both unfathomably complex directors; they created universes with their films that exist separately from each other. Nevertheless, you can find points of similarity in their approaches, as Freddy Smith does in this well-paced piece, apparently done "for school" but readable by those inside and outside the classroom–most notable here is the two directors’ unflinching fascination with taboo subject matter (cf. voyeurism in ‘Psycho,’ orgies in ‘Eyes Wide Shut‘). They diverge, though, when it comes to their approaches: Kubrick favors intellectual remove, whereas Hitchcock delivers a product with elegance and drive. The former made films in a variety of forms, from what Smith calls "stuffy period pieces" (‘Barry Lyndon‘) to more classic horror (‘The Shining‘), while the latter made primarily suspense films (‘North by Northwest‘, ‘Rear Window‘). If you WANT to pick a winner, you can–but why spoil the movies for yourself?

Watch: How Are Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’ and Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ Linked? Let Us Count the Ways…

Watch: How Are Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’ and Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ Linked?

If you’re an imaginative filmmaker in the present day, Stanley Kubrick is your father and Maya Deren is your mother, to paraphrase something a writing teacher once told me. Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar‘ was one fairly huge example of that; the film wore its ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ influences on its sleeve in grand fashion. Nevertheless, seeing the similarities spelled out cleverly and with brevity, as Jorge Luengo has done with this video essay, is unsettling and entertaining, in equal parts.

Watch: How Can Music Shape a War Film?

Watch: How Can Music Shape a War Film?

Just as war is inexplicable, music is inexplicable. We can describe both: one is violent, savage, sometimes needless, uneven; the other operates by relationships between sounds that simply work, remaining in our memory for reasons we can’t pinpoint. It makes sense, then, that music would be important to war films. It’s hard to forget, for instance, the sound of Wagner’s "Ride of the Valkryies" blasting from the helicopters in Apocalypse Now. The tension in the "I don’t know but I been told" marching song in Full Metal Jacket is palpable, especially given what lies ahead of the singing trainees. And the whistling melody from The Bridge Over the River Kwai is a classic–which I once whistled with a small group during summer camp as a child, not realizing the full significance of the tune. This video essay by Ian Magor uses these and other scenes to show us how music can affect the way we
perceive war in movies–and can "allow us to rediscover our humanity."

Watch: A Video Essay About Stanley Kubrick’s Influence on Wes Anderson and Others (NSFW, Maybe)

Watch: A Video Essay About Stanley Kubrick’s Influence on Wes Anderson and Others (NSFW, Maybe)

Press Play veteran Nelson Carvajal offers, with this video essay, a look at the ways Stanley Kubrick has visually influenced many directors, including Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alfonso Cuaron, and others. As Carvajal superimposes one scene on top of another, you may spot connections you hadn’t made before–or perhaps some you had made without quite realizing it yet. To add to the fun, Carvajal has presented some of the clips in mirror fashion, like a kaleidoscope–all too appropriate, because, after all, the modern work reflects and builds upon its predecessors as much as it creates a world of its own. Right?