Tag Archives: Stanley Kubrick

Blindspot / He Says, She Says: Full Metal Jacket

This Blind Spot entry will be done as a He Says, She Says post, because Full Metal Jacket was on the list of twelve films that Jonathan selected from his favorites that he wanted me to watch, which was the original genesis for this series. We never got around to it the year we made those lists for each other, but I’m glad we did now. These Blind Spots lists really are good for getting around to stuff we want to watch. :)

The Movie

full_metal_jacket-posterDirector: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Michael Herr, Gustav Hasford
Cast: Matthew Modine, Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Baldwin, R. Lee Ermey
Info: 1987 USA/UK, Warner Bros.
Chooser: Both (Jon’s choice for me to watch, my choice to watch this week)
Date and Method Watched: 2 February 2014, Blu-ray

She Says…

Jandy-avatarGoing into this film, I’d heard that it breaks cleanly into two parts, and that most people vastly prefer the first part. Coming out of it, the first statement is self-evident, but I ended up liking both parts quite a lot. The first part is set at Marine boot camp, with a hard-nosed drill sergeant putting a group of raw recruits through the wringer. The second part is set in Vietnam, following Joker, one of the more accomplished recruits, now a correspondent for a military newspaper.

I can see why people like the first half more – it’s tightly focused and basically flawless. As a microcosm of the boot camp world and how it either makes or breaks you, it’s self-contained, intense, and brilliant. On its own, it would work just as well as an extended short film. Vincent D’Onofrio (who I didn’t even recognize) goes from adorable to terrifying, and I believed every second of it.

The second half is much more sprawling, but that’s what war is. Boot camp is controlled, tight, and regimented. It’s supposed to prepare you for war, but war, especially a war like Vietnam, is unpredictable. There’s no way to prepare for the situations the men find themselves in once they get there, and that’s the point. The first half makes you think the drill sergeant is putting them through hell. But he’s not. War is hell.

There are lots of other things I could say about the film – most of the music seems incongruous and yet is utterly fitting, which I love. There are a ton of great shots, from the tracking shot leading the sergeant around the barracks in the beginning to the silhouettes against a blood-red sky in Vietnam. I didn’t expect to like this movie all that much, let alone enjoy the experience of watching it, but I did. A lot. I should’ve known to trust Kubrick.

My Souvenir: There are so many I could take from this. The sergeant’s opening monologue, Pyle’s success (albeit short-lived) with the Joker’s encouragement, the look in Pyle’s eyes in the bathroom, the intensity of the whole sniper showdown, etc. But I think I’ll take a thematic moment. After the sniper goes down, Joker’s face is half lit, half in shadow – his face showing that duality that he previously indicated somewhat facetiously with the “Born to Kill” slogan and the peace sign button. The whole movie kind of comes together at that moment, purely through visuals and symbolic means. That’s what filmmaking is all about.

He Says…

Jon-avatarI saw Full Metal Jacket fairly early on, either at the end of high school or the beginning of college. A bunch of us knew this guy who would quote R. Lee Ermey’s lines repeatedly and I wanted to see what kind of film would match such aggressive dialog and what would – in a roundabout way – make said guy want to join the Marines.

I dug the film well enough on first viewing but it took awhile for it to become the favorite that it is now. At the time I didn’t really understand the connection between the two parts and couldn’t figure out why Kubrick didn’t just jettison the meandering last half for the pristine filmmaking that was the first. With time and repeat viewing I came to realize that both parts were vital together and that Joker’s duality wouldn’t have played nearly as strong without everything that came before. This most recent viewing really hammered that home and in turn made this even more of a favorite.

And the music! I completely forgot how mismatched the soundtrack was from the content of the film. In lesser hands this sort of thing wouldn’t have had nearly the punch that it did. Case in point: the soldiers singing the theme song to the Mickey Mouse Club as they march triumphantly through wreckage and debris. Pretty much my new favorite scene from that film.

50DMC #18: A Movie That Disturbed You

The 50 Day Movie Challenge asks one question every day, to be answered by a few paragraphs and a clip, if possible. Click here for the full list of questions.

Today’s prompt: What’s a movie that disturbed you?

I went through a few different options with this one, and almost put in Quills, one of the few movies I’ve ever seen that put me off so much I can’t separate myself from it enough to appreciate the good acting and stuff that I know it has. But I don’t necessarily think disturbing is bad; sometimes disturbing is exactly the right thing for a movie to be, and that’s what makes it good. (Some people might say that’s true of Quills; I don’t.) So instead I’m choosing A Clockwork Orange.

Kubrick’s dystopian film (based on Anthony Burgess’ novel) sets up Alex as an amoral sociopath whose only goal in life is to perpetuate a bit of the old ultraviolence, and proceeds to do so by brutalizing an elderly couple for no reason whatsoever. That’s already disturbing. You want someone to stop him, even as you find him weirdly charismatic. But in the second half of the film, he is arrested and subjected to behavior modification treatment, rendering him utterly passive and debased. And as horrible as Alex’s actions were, you basically end up feeling like the treatment is as inhumane as what he did to others, and you begin to sympathize with him, even as you remember what a terrible person he was. I still don’t ultimately know what I think about the film, but I can’t argue that it’s effective…and disturbing.

YouTube seems to have most of the clips unembeddable, so click here to see Alex being set up for the treatment.

August 2007 Reading/Watching Recap

Time off school in August meant non-required reading yay! For the record, a lawn chair by a lake in Minnesota is a good place to read in August. Especially after 100 degree heat in St. Louis and Texas. After the jump, reactions to The Shining, The African Queen, Hannah and Her Sisters, Becoming Jane, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Dancer in the Dark, Zodiac, INLAND EMPIRE, Stardust, Le petit soldat, The Thirteenth Tale, Thursday Next: First Among Sequels, and more.

Continue reading August 2007 Reading/Watching Recap

March Reading/Watching Recap

I’m a month behind again! Hey, I’ve been putting more effort into watching and reading than writing. (No, really. I’ve been busting through my goals pretty well this year. I’m practicing for grad school, when I hear I’ll have half as much time to do twice as much work. We’ll see.)

Also, some day I’m going to write about something other than movies and books. Really. I promise.

Reactions, not reviews, blah blah blah jaffacakes.

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Continue reading March Reading/Watching Recap