Watch: For Stanley Kubrick, Color Was an Instrument

Watch: For Stanley Kubrick, Color Was an Instrument

If you accept that all art is manipulation, which you should, then it should be no stretch to conclude that artists in different disciplines have tools with which they effect that manipulation. One of Stanley Kubrick’s numerous tools, one of the implements with which he managed to transport viewers, was color. The colors have an effect. We may not be able to put into word what the effect is, for instance, of seeing the hallway of the Overlook Hotel in a river of blood in ‘The Shining,’ just as we cannot say what the effect of watching a blue-lit and perturbed Tom Cruise in ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ looking down at his sleeping wife might be. Can we say that red is the color of violence? And blue the color of foreboding? Perhaps. But we could just as easily say many other things. Marc Anthony Figueras has put together a rapidfire compilation of Kubrick’s strummings on the instrument of color, and you should take a look, at the very least to explore the effect of these dazzling onslaughts on your mind. 

Watch: Pixar’s Best Nods to Movie History

Watch: Pixar’s Best Nods to Movie History

Even if you’re an avowed Pixar skeptic, as I am, this new video compilation by Jorge Luengo on Pixar’s movie allusions will turn your head. The reality is that what will save Pixar, in the end, is its smarts and cleverness; its visual sheen really couldn’t, unless you’ve got android DNA. Pixar films are frisky, and self-aware; their virtues show when they quote "The Shining," or "Vertigo," or "Mission: Impossible," and demonstrate that their reach expands beyond the bounds of what technological virtuosity alone can offer. Watch this, and you’ll be reminded of what it means to have fun at the movies. 

Watch: Reaction Shots In Movies: The Self, Exposed

Watch: Reaction Shots In Movies: The Self, Exposed

The human face is a funny thing. We like to think we are in complete control of our facial expressions most of the time, but in fact we are not. You might grimace at receiving news of a colleague’s success. You might smile inappropriately at hearing bad news about someone you know. Only the person you’re talking to, e.g., the "viewer," knows for sure what you seem to be thinking, if that makes sense. And yet, we place a great deal of emphasis on the importance of facial expressions in communications: if the lips say yes, are the eyes saying no? What does that furrowing of the eyebrows mean? And so on. Is it possible that the way humans communicate with each other in this age has been shaped by the movies? This video essay by Must See Films about reaction shots takes us past some of the most memorable movies ever made; we see Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp rejoicing at a declaration of love, Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance receiving the full brunt of the horror of his imagination in ‘The Shining,’ Mickey Rourke’s wrestler taking in the decay of his body in opposition to the world around him in ‘The Wrestler,’ and many others. The characters’ expressions don’t seem staged or unnatural in relation to the events taking place on screen–in fact they seem imitable, the kinds of expressions we might put on in certain circumstances. Or are they? How can we know? 

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.