821. Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

This illustration originally appeared in Issue D of the excellent film zine Shelf Heroes.

Well, what can I say about this film? It’s one of my absolute all-time favorites, and I’ve watched it more times than I can count. In case there’s anyone who hasn’t seen it, DR. STRANGELOVE is Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War black comedy about nuclear annihilation, starring Peter Sellers in three separate roles. As satire, it’s basically perfect, squeezing every bit of humor out of the fact that our world’s safety rests with a handful of men who are either petty, incompetent, or unbalanced. And as terrifyingly realistic as the chain of events seems to be, it’s also funny as hell, start to finish, even fifty viewings later. I could easily rattle off a list of favorite jokes, or expound on how Kubrick matched his deliberate style to comedy, or explore the broad influence of the film’s iconic imagery. But lately I’ve been giving more thought to the film’s singular plot. Peter Sellers may play a range of parts, yet this is a film with only two characters: the earth, and humanity. And I’d be hard-pressed to name another film that makes me want to root less for humanity. Especially one this goddamn delightful.



538. Paths of Glory

Considering I call Stanley Kubrick my favorite director, it’s shameful that it took me so long to watch this early masterpiece. Set among the French troops during World War I and based on actual events, PATHS OF GLORY is more than just an antiwar film. It’s a moving, cutting look at corruption and the abuse of power at the cost of human empathy. Kirk Douglas, who is magnificent in his impotent outrage, portrays a colonel who must defend his men against being sacrificed. The scenes of battle are dramatic, but the trial that results is even more tense and horrific. And Kubrick’s direction is gorgeous—particularly the constant tracking shots through the trenches that make the film so obviously his.