Category Archives: Kubrick Award

Kubrick Award – Drive (2011)

The Kubrick Award – for Film Appreciation

Recipient #6

Drive (2011)

Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn

The poster for Drive.

The poster for Drive.

2 years ago, Nicolas Winding Refn brought us an extraordinary film. His vision, talent and potential was (to some) fully realised with 2011’s ‘Drive’. He brought the style and sensibility, patience and film sense to a much larger scale. The way Refn shoots L.A at night is something marvellous, bringing a spectacular life to the gloomy, dimly-lit streets. Maybe it’s the emphasis on rationing action to make it that much more effective, or maybe the stillness of Ryan Gosling’s performance, or maybe it’s, as a featured song says: “…something about you, it’s hard to explain,” but ‘Drive’ is, at least to me, the kind of film I’d watch on a bad day to make me remember what I truly love: the art of cinema.

The thing I perhaps love most about ‘Drive’ is the clashing of genres. The classic crime thriller meets the conventional Hollywood action movie, meets the in-depth character study meets the romance flick. The way the writer, Hossein Aimini, blends these genres so easily into one cohesive plot is fantastic. Some credit is due to Refn; when you split the film up into these 4 genres and then watch the film, you can see his purposeful attention to each category individually, making ‘Drive’ like a scrapbook or portfolio, a collection of each genre which just happens to all be in one film.

I’ll admit the trailer of the film did it no favours. It made it seem like the really stupid Hollywood action movie with thin plot and a possible shirtless Ryan Gosling making girls scream. ‘Drive’ is not that film. ‘Drive’ is so much more than that. I guess most negative reviews of this film can be put down to false expectations. When going into ‘Drive’, expect a sleek, smart, stylish thriller trying nearly everything it can possibly try to take it that one step further.

Nicolas Winding Refn’s directing style, one of long shots, equality through the lens, power from the protagonist, and the maximum involvement in the scene from the viewer, really speaks to me, both as an amateur filmmaker, and as a watcher of film. He, much like Stanley Kubrick, basically uses the space to his advantage. Instead of using Kubrick’s trademark symmetry, Refn’s power is through his focus on the guy we’re supposed to be rooting for. In this case, it’s Ryan Gosling’s character.

Which really poses the question: In ‘Drive’, is Ryan Gosling’s character, The Driver, the antagonist, protagonist, or both? That’s the most interesting question Refn poses with ‘Drive’.

Safety isn't guaranteed.

Safety isn’t guaranteed.

I can’t fully say I have a definite answer to the question, although my unconfirmed opinion is that The Driver is a symbol of the good man doing things that aren’t necessarily right, for a good cause. He’s actually, when you think about it, perfectly similar to Walter White. He does bad things for someone/something he believes worthy of all this trouble. And not only is he similar in his motivations and reasons, but The Driver also has his Heisenberg moments, including stomping a man’s skull in, or nearly beating a man with a hammer. On that note, did I mention how violent ‘Drive’ is?

It’s not excessive and it’s not absolutely horrible, but it’s there and it’s prevalent. ‘Drive’ brings us a very stylised sense of violence, and even though it’s stylised, it’s nonetheless brutal and confronting. There’s blood for sure, especially in one scene involving a motel shootout. It’s interesting how Refn decided to show the violence in some scenes so openly, yet in others, sort of hide it, protect us from it (a drowning in the ocean is shown from a fair distance, with no sound). But maybe Refn is only showing us what he really thinks we should see – just how bad things are getting for The Driver.

The whole 80’s feel of ‘Drive’ is probably my favourite obvious style and theme choice for a film. I love the retro music, the synths, the beautifully clean shooting of night-time L.A., the kickass car which The Driver speeds around in, even the awesome pink font. It all feels a bit like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, in the underworldy, seedy sense, all playing out in a city very much alive.

Ryan Gosling is unforgettable as The Driver, and even though it’s a simple performance, it’s so beautifully executed. Refn directs him like a ticking time-bomb, which is essentially what he is. He’s careful not to set Gosling off too early, but then once the going gets hot, he lets Gosling let rip. It’s terrifyingly enjoyable to watch, and he’s so charismatic. He doesn’t need to do any more than give a simple look on his face to make us intimidated – of course, that’s paired with the way Refn shoots him (and the amazing Albert Brooks, too), with powerful angles and cool glances.

Not only is ‘Drive’ one of the best of the last decade, it’s one of my all time favourites because it’s such an enthralling experience for even the amateur film afficionado. I took way too long to get around to this film, and I urge you to get around to it right away, or I will be at your home tonight with a hammer. It’s not gonna be nice.

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Kubrick Award – The Dark Knight

The Kubrick Award – for Film Appreciation

Recipient #5

The Dark Knight (2008)

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

The poster for The Dark Knight.

The poster for The Dark Knight.

The Dark Knight is a wonderful piece of cinema. It does everything it wants to do perfectly, while even doing more than it supposedly wanted to without knowing. It’s a fantastic action film, first and foremost, but it’s also a riveting social commentary narrated by an unforgettable villain. And with such ease does it achieve this feat, we never even catch it until after the film; until we’ve soaked in the film, until we’ve had a chance to think about it, until we’ve realised just how special it really is.

As I said, yes, it’s essentially a social commentary on the madness of society. Ironic that a madman himself is the one performing it for us, but it’s riveting nonetheless. And it does get you thinking. For example:

“They need you right now, but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be.”

– The Joker, Interview Room w/ Batman

This is the perfect example of a piece of genius. The writers, Christopher Nolan and his brother, Jonathan, do such a superb job of crafting even the most ridiculous ideas of social injustice, and articulating them so perfectly into the mouth of a character who, like the words he says, is perfect. In fact, that entire Interview scene is a masterclass in conversation that actually means something, and conversation that actually works.

Here’s another example:

“You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan”. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!”

– The Joker, Hospital Room w/ Harvey Dent

Here's my card.

Here’s my card.

The Joker is a character who we find so repulsive to look at, whose morals we find so far-fetched, whose motus operandi is so ruthless, but we still find his opinion riveting, and we still find what he says about society to be somewhat true. In doing this, the Nolans are convincing us that maybe madness isn’t so beyond the normal human after all.

But the one thing that has always bugged me about the talk of The Dark Knight is people saying the film is entirely Heath Ledger, meaning the whole film rests on his incredible performance. I completely disagree.

The screenplay, so intriguing, allows us to connect with every single character on their own level; Alfred with his “jungle story”; Gordon with his family being put in danger; Batman with Rachel; Rachel with Batman; Dent with Rachel. Much like Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, the screentime for each character is perfectly balanced.

Christopher Nolan’s direction is a winner on all fronts. It’s personal, and yet it feels like the Batman universe is incredibly big, seeming to enlargen with every aerial shot. In fact, The Dark Knight creates one of the most investing worlds I’ve ever been in. Nolan uses the camera so perfectly in every sense, showing us exactly what we want to see, whilst not making us feel like he’s saturating us with boring, negative, self-indulgent crap. And the way he directs his actors is great.

And The Dark Knight features some of the most exciting, well-shot action sequences we’ve ever seen. It’s not like Transformers where we’re bombarded with CGI and lame fight scenes; in The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan gives us fun action without it being too campy. The tunnel chase featuring Dent in a SWAT car stands out in my mind as one of the funnest action scenes I’ve ever seen, combining top-notch graphics with great direction and awesome explosions. Who doesn’t love to see a good car or two being blown to bits.

Clap, clap, clap.

Clap, clap, clap.

Hans Zimmer’s score is simply unforgettable. His Batman theme stands out to me as one of the great action film themes of all time. He scores each character perfectly. Let’s face facts: the man is a genius. But he can’t take all the credit. James Newton Howard wrote a lot of it too. It’s okay Jimmy, I love you as well.

Christian Bale is also a kickass Batman.

But it’s more than a single aspect of the film that makes it so special. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It’s everything about it, collectively, down to the finest detail, that makes The Dark Knight truly heroic. I doubt we’ll see such a prolific, breakthrough piece of cinema again – at least not for a long while.

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Kubrick Award – The Toy Story Trilogy

The Kubrick Award – for Film Appreciation

Recipient #4

The Toy Story Trilogy (1995, 1999, 2010)

Directed by: John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, and Ash Brannon.

The posters for Toy Story 1, 2 & 3.

The posters for Toy Story 1, 2 & 3.

Something magical came out of Disney-Pixar Studios in 1995. Something magical, inventive, charming, smart, funny, and touching. That something was Toy Story.

It was the first of it’s kind; Toy Story was the first computer-animated feature-length film. It was also Pixar’s first feature. And what a hell of a job these guys did. There’s so much to like about Toy Story; the writing, direction, characters, story, beautiful animation, and cultural impact. Considered by critics across the globe as being among the best animated films ever made, Toy Story was the push in the right direction for animation that led to countless great films such as: Monsters Inc., Up, The Lion King, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, and Shrek.

Oh, and then there were the next two Toy Story films, which like the first one, are AMAZING.

What’s so lovable about these films, among other things, is the characters. My god, the characters! All of them have such personality, humanistic characteristics, and relateability. Even the lesser-featured characters like Sarge, and Bo Peep, are just so included in the story. They even chime in when the time is right, and really add something to the environment around them. But then there’s Woody, Buzz, Slinky, Hamm, Rex, Mr. Potato Head, Jessie, and Lots-O-Huggin’ Bear. And to introduce Lots-O and Jessie in later films without making it feel forced, and adding them to the universe to effortlessly, is so dam impressive. They’re just all such likeable characters, or in Lots-O’s case, likeable villain. The characters are so interesting, the emotions are so real, and the dialogue is so perfect. With that, let’s get to the writing.

Just toys?

Just toys?

How perfect is the writing for all 3 films. So sophisticated and so layered, without being so overly complicated a child cannot understand what’s going on. The stories are so interesting and captivating, you feel like you could just step into the screen and be right with the characters, in the moment. The dialogue never lets down, keeping characters in line and keeping viewers completely understanding of what they’re saying without making it held-back gibberish. Scene setting is sublime. Character development is immense. Story is brilliant. Everything is impeccable.

The universe that all the events are held in is just so captivating, never-ending, and inclusive. It’s such a similar universe to our own, that we almost feel we have to be apart of the action in some way, shape, or form. And think about it – for example, in the first film, the director John Lasseter somehow sucks us in to a world all too similar to our own, from what, maybe a bedroom and a gas station? Amazing. And the colours are incredible; they really set the tone of each scene perfectly. You could just look at the surroundings of the last scene from Toy Story 3 and know it was going to make you cry…you’ll be happy when you’re crying, of course.

The gang.

The gang.

The happenings in all the Toy Story films are so unbelievable relevant to every single person in the world. We’ve all had a toy before. Perhaps maybe even more than one. And we’ve had a favourite toy. Or maybe 2 favourites, or 3. And we’ve all had so many good times with our toys, highlighted by the first 2 films. But what we all have to do one day, or have already done, is to let go of our toys. The final film captures the essence of this feeling perfectly.

Oh, and Randy Newman’s music is going to make you cry.

In total, the 3 Toy Story films grossed over $1.8 Billion. There are far too many reason why to fit into one post.

Deep down in our hearts, we all love our toys. But letting go of them is one of the great challenges we face. Watching the Toy Story Trilogy reminds us that it’s okay to feel sad about our toys, and it tells us it’s okay to feel something for these seemingly fake creations, because in their time they gave us so many good memories, that all we can do is remember them for what they were: things that, out of nothing, made something magical.

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1 year later…

1 post.

0 likes.

No traffic.

That was 1 year ago TODAY.

Since then, this page has exploded; over 3000 views, 37 subscribers, 41 posts and a hell of a good time has come of it.

I just wanna thank you all, my loving readers, for bothering to flick through the page and take a peek at my opinions. Isn’t that one of the great things about film – it can be interpreted in so many different ways, and it’s open to opinions from all sides of the scope.

Thanks for reading, my friendly friends. I’ll have some more stuff up soon.

All the best,

Elroy Rosenberg.

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Kubrick Award – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

The Kubrick Award – for Film Appreciation

Recipient #3

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

The poster for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The poster for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

One of the weirdest films of all time, 2001: A Space Odyssey will leave you wondering what the hell you just watched…and why you enjoyed it so much.

It’s arguably Kubrick’s masterpiece. Personally, I can’t decide which was more fantastical; The Shining or 2001. Both had elements to them that amazed me, and both had differences. But Kubrick’s wonderfully suspenseful style rings true throughout both films.

One thing I admire so much about Kubrick’s direction is his symmetrical “fetish”, for lack of a better term. Every set is perfectly symmetrical, bringing a sense of evenness and stability to each shot, even though one may not be focusing on the set instead of the action.

Another thing so great about Kubrick’s direction is his attention to detail. His sets are incredibly well made, and when someone says “directors do everything for a reason”, take that literally when it comes to Kubrick, because he does EVERYTHING for a reason. His choice of music, cuts, cues and every single look on the actor’s face is very much deliberately picked for maximum effect on the viewer.

Oh, lord, the symmetry. What a shot.

Oh, lord, the symmetry. What a shot.

Kubrick was perhaps history’s greatest perfectionist.

Everything picked deliberately leads to a very confusing ending, not only in 2001, but in The Shining as well. Actually, less confusing, more open to interpretation. I think that’s a great thing about Kubrick’s movies; he wanted people to create explanations for the goings on. He wanted people to discover what had happened, and he wanted people to think about what they just saw.

2001 is Kubrick in every sense.

The ending is confusing, and thoughtful. One doesn’t forget the ending easily, perhaps because it requires so much thought and consideration to assure one’s brain that they understand it. It’s a fantastic finish, too. Because it’s so unique, and because it’s so deliberate.

"What do you think it is?" "I don't know, do YOU know what a monolith is?"

“What do you think it is?” “I don’t know, do YOU know what a monolith is?”

2001’s art direction and set design, as I’ve said before, is phenomenal. I’m so glad I got to see this on the big screen at the Astor Theatre, St. Kilda, Melbourne. It’s fantastic that there are theatres like this still around, but that’s an entirely different story and I won’t get into that.

The set design is precise, and beautiful to look at. Also, one can only look on in admiration at the lighting in each scene. Everything is purposely dark or light and it helps the film portray certain emotions – whether good or bad. Which brings me to my next point.

2001 establishes a fine line between light and darkness, and constantly at that. Every single lighting effect, whether it’s conveyed in a shot of the sun passing over a planet, or whether conveyed in a shot of light rays masking someone’s face, I believe the lighting was one of the more influential parts of 2001.

Real fear.

Real fear.

In the middle of the yellow dot surrounded by red, I swear I can see a cheeky smirk of accomplishment in HAL. And HAL is fascinating, too. He brings up questions about where computer technology will be at in 50 years. Who knows? Let’s just hope, when that time comes, that computers aren’t as evil as HAL.

This film ends on a very much Kubrick note; it leaves one guessing. It leaves one thinking about the theme of 2001. I believe it was a movie of evolution, and a film referring to the evolution of man. It’s hard to think of a way to explain how I believe Kubrick created this theme, and I don’t have time to write it all down – after all, it would be weeks before I recover from the trauma caused by thinking this film over.

It is a brilliant film, though. That is an undeniable truth. After finishing the film, will you want to find answers? Of course. Will it give you answers?

Never.

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Kubrick Award – Jaws (1975)

The Kubrick Award – for Film Appreciation

Recipient #2

Jaws (1975)

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

The poster for Jaws.

The poster for Jaws.

Jaws, the film that put Steven Spielberg on the map, is a fantastic film spanning across any genre one desires.

Jaws is one of the few films that, to some never ages, but to me not only never ages but also gets better with age. The film feels so cohesive and adaptable to just about any city with a beach in the world, that it’s easy to forget this film was made with only $9 million dollars. It’s gripping. And it’s not cheap, either. It’s made in a way so effective, it proves to each and every aspiring filmmaker that they don’t need a big budget to make a great movie. If you effectively ration your action, you can make a hell of a film with any budget you want.

Spielberg does this brilliantly. By only introducing the actual shark in to the main action around half way through the film, and by capturing only a single pyrotechnic event, Spielberg drastically reduces his budget effectively, and adds a second tier of suspense and wonder to the infamous shark.

Looking into the shark’s eye, one sees the cold-blooded killer that horror movies across the years have been trying to replicate. Even though sometimes mechanic, the feeling of real terror and the nagging phobia of sharks resonates in a viewers mind years after watching Jaws. Each time it gets worse, too. Jaws is one of the few films I wouldn’t recommend kids aged 5-10 watch. And not because it’s too scary. But because it is a film that requires a special level of appreciation for the fine art of suspenseful, economic and rationed film making, to truly enjoy.

Watch out, Steven!

Watch out, Steven!

Jaws is the introduction to Spielberg at his finest. In the years after Jaws, Spielberg would wow audiences with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and E.T. – all fantastic films. Spielberg quickly became the king, and he didn’t become just the king of one genre. With those four films, Spielberg had become the king of everything; horror, thriller, action, adventure, sci-fi, family, and most importantly, storytelling.

Geez. All these great films. I’m making myself consider changing the name to the Spielberg Award.

There are so many great lines in Jaws. The script is rock solid. Every line can be locked in the brain and remember for years and years. Everyone has a favourite, right? From “Smile, you son of a-“, to the infamous “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”, the classic lines from Jaws are both numerous and genuine. The characters are brilliantly relatable and very well developed. Richard Dreyfuss was great, Robert Shaw is enveloping, and Roy Scheider is simply superb. Spielberg helped cast the perfect actors and even the supporting cast added to the film. The ultimate success of the characters is their profound fear of the unknown – something we can all relate to.

Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum da-dum da-dum da-dum DA-DUM DA-DUM DA-DUM!

Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum da-dum da-dum da-dum DA-DUM DA-DUM DA-DUM!

John Williams’ score is incredible. So simplistic, yet iconic. Williams’ chilling theme has become one of the most recognizable scores of all time, smashing through the barrier between great, and sublime. Spielberg once said that 50 percent of Jaws’ success was thanks to Williams. How could you disagree.

Jaws’ incredibly afterlife rivals only that of Star Wars. The cult fan following of George Lucas’ record-shattering film is the only reason that Jaws isn’t the biggest influence on modern entertainment today.

You know what? Forget all the mumbo jumbo. Forget the fancy words. Because put simply, Jaws is brilliant in every way.

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