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Stanley Kubrick Loved 'White Men Can't Jump,' Hated 'The Wizard of Oz'

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire July 26, 2013 at 9:37AM

Thumbs-up, 'White Men Can't Jump.' Thumbs Down, 'The Wizard of Oz'
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Kubrick

Nick Wrigley, who founded the influential Masters of Cinema DVD label -- often called Europe's answer to the Criterion Collection -- has been concentrating on his own writing since 2012, and his latest piece for the BFI is a doozy: a "master list," compiled over years and from many different sources, of Stanley Kubrick's favorite movies.

I count myself among the many admirers of Kubrick's films and his remarkable aptitude for problem solving in all areas of life. I would argue that the only remaining unexplored area of Stanley's life in film is his relationship with, and love of, other people's films. In his later life he chose not to talk publicly about such things, giving only a couple of interviews to large publications when each new film was ready – but through his associates, friends, and fellow filmmakers it's now possible to piece together a revealing jigsaw.

The list is essential reading, as is the accompanying interview with Kubrick's confidant and executive producer Jan Harlan, who has become the chief spokesperson for Kubrick's legacy. You learn, for example, that in addition to the carefully orchestrated spectacles of Max Ophuls, he loved John Landis's An American Werewolf in London, W.C. Fields' The Bank Dick and Ron Shelton's White Men Can't Jump, and that, according to his daughter, Katharina, "he hated The Wizard of Oz." (If you're wondering where Kubrick's tastes overlap with Lena Dunham's, the answer is Claudia Weill's Girlfriends.) Perhaps most surprising from a director famous for his obsessive attention to detail is this comment on Charlie Chaplin, whose City Lights was also among Kubrick's favorites:

If something is really happening on the screen, it isn't crucial how it's shot. Chaplin had such a simple cinematic style that it was almost like I Love Lucy, but you were always hypnotised by what was going on, unaware of the essentially non-cinematic style. He frequently used cheap sets, routine lighting and so forth, but he made great films. His films will probably last longer than anyone else's.

Needless to say, the list of Kubrick's favorites would make a hell of a film series (or a Netflix queue). Here's one of the few -- along with Bo Widerberg's Adalen 31 and Jan Troell's The Emigrants -- that isn't available on DVD, Arthur Lipsett's landmark short-film collage Very Nice, Very Nice.


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