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A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange  

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  1. 1. Does "A Clockwork Orange" belong on the AFI list?

    • Yes. Well, don't think about it too long.
      11
    • No! NO! Stop it! Stop it, please! I beg you! This is sin!
      7
  2. 2. Which is the better film?

    • A Clockwork Orange
      3
    • Taxi Driver
      11

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  • Poll closed on 12/07/18 at 08:00 AM

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I think Amy's words are getting twisted around. She wasn't saying that the victims deserve to get assaulted or killed. She said that Kubrick made the choice to make the victims seem unlikable and therefore unsympathetic.  

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19 hours ago, Cameron H. said:

I wanted to call A Clockwork Orange the KISS of movies, but I'm not sure if it even deserves to be called that. At best, it's Marilyn Manson. No one remembers him for being a great musician, just his "shock value." A Clockwork Orange is peanut-packed bro-core, drenched in sophomoric moral philosophy, that titters maliciously behind the guise of "Art."

No thanks. 

 

There's a lot more to it than that. The fact that you can get something new out of it with every watch makes it deeper. 

This last time I noticed all the parallels. Take the writer and Alex. Alex has extreme trauma from music that was associated with violence (Beethoven with the Nazi video). The writer experiences the same thing. When he hears Alex belt out "Singing in the Rain" in the bath it also causes trauma from its violent association.  It's little touches like this that adds so much richness to the film.

And the movie is saying a lot of things about empathy, indifference, the correlation we make between sex and violence, the justice system, power, free will, revenge.

You might not like the art of the movie, but I don't know how anyone can say it's not art. I mean there's a sped up sex scene to William Tell in it!

I have less defense for Marilyn Manson, although I'll stand by "Beautiful People" being a great song.

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12 minutes ago, tomspanks said:

I think Amy's words are getting twisted around. She wasn't saying that the victims deserve to get assaulted or killed. She said that Kubrick made the choice to make the victims seem unlikable and therefore unsympathetic.  

I just don't see how they were portrayed as unlikeable. They didn't want to let Alex in, but what rational person would in that world? Maybe the second woman talked in a bit of a stuffy way, but her artwork proved she wasn't THAT stuffy.

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17 minutes ago, tomspanks said:

I think Amy's words are getting twisted around. She wasn't saying that the victims deserve to get assaulted or killed. She said that Kubrick made the choice to make the victims seem unlikable and therefore unsympathetic.  

I agree that was the intent, but for me there were a few moments where I raised an eyebrow and thought her argument was starting to tilt into the former.

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6 minutes ago, ProfessorRockstar said:

I just don't see how they were portrayed as unlikeable. They didn't want to let Alex in, but what rational person would in that world? Maybe the second woman talked in a bit of a stuffy way, but her artwork proved she wasn't THAT stuffy.

Amy gave the examples you provided above.  Amy's take was those were Kubrick's decisions and she interpreted that as the victims being unlikable.  It seems like a case of you not agreeing with Amy and that's fine, but don't twist her words to make it seem like Amy is victim blaming. (ETA: Not you specifically)

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3 minutes ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

I agree that was the intent, but for me there were a few moments where I raised an eyebrow and thought her argument was starting to tilt into the former.

I definitely raised an eyebrow when Paul said that Kubrick made the rape scenes "engaging."  

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2 minutes ago, tomspanks said:

Amy gave the examples you provided above.  Amy's take was those were Kubrick's decisions and she interpreted that as the victims being unlikable.  It seems like a case of you not agreeing with Amy and that's fine, but don't twist her words to make it seem like Amy is victim blaming.

I'm not. I don't think that she was insinuating that the victims deserved it. I just don't think Kubrick was intending to make the victims unlikeable. In fact, I could imagine him being friends with the penis sculpture woman.

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7 minutes ago, tomspanks said:

I definitely raised an eyebrow when Paul said that Kubrick made the rape scenes "engaging."  

Hah, there was that too.

I get it, it's a tough movie to talk about in a live format.

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Sorry for the multiple posts - I'm catching up on the episode - but what did raise my eyebrow was at Amy's statement that art should make you feel uncomfortable.  While I agree that it's great if "art" makes you think or maybe even consider distressing or foreign concepts, it shouldn't be the only criteria for judging whether you like that art.  I felt like Amy didn't really have much defense for the movie, but in the end she even preferred it over Taxi Driver because of this one criterion.  I don't get it.

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4 minutes ago, ProfessorRockstar said:

I'm not. I don't think that she was insinuating that the victims deserved it. I just don't think Kubrick was intending to make the victims unlikeable. In fact, I could imagine him being friends with the penis sculpture woman.

Right, I edited my original post to say it wasn't you specifically.  I'm reading fast here and don't remember who said what in the first page.  Like I said, it's a case of you disagreeing with Amy and I don't think either one of you is right or wrong.

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25 minutes ago, ProfessorRockstar said:

I just don't see how they were portrayed as unlikeable. They didn't want to let Alex in, but what rational person would in that world? Maybe the second woman talked in a bit of a stuffy way, but her artwork proved she wasn't THAT stuffy.

I think we're getting stuck on 'unlikable'.  I read Amy's statement as being about how the victims were portrayed as "upper crust" so  I think there was some reading of "sticking it to the man" in some of the violence, which is a form of justification in some ways.  I think that was the issue. 

Albeit, we get this view through an unreliable narrator's eyes, so I don't think it should be seen as "the point," and it shouldn't be hard to dismiss that justification. 

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11 minutes ago, tomspanks said:

Sorry for the multiple posts - I'm catching up on the episode - but what did raise my eyebrow was at Amy's statement that art should make you feel uncomfortable.  While I agree that it's great if "art" makes you think or maybe even consider distressing or foreign concepts, it shouldn't be the only criteria for judging whether you like that art.  I felt like Amy didn't really have much defense for the movie, but in the end she even preferred it over Taxi Driver because of this one criterion.  I don't get it.

I definitely don't think art "should" make you feel uncomfortable. Art should make you feel something but it doesn't have to be discomfort. And a lot of things that aren't art make me feel uncomfortable. And I'm not sure how Taxi Driver doesn't make someone feel uncomfortable. So, it meets that criteria in spades.

I'm also not a fan of A Clockwork Orange either. I've always thought a lot of it came across as almost amateurish. I just think of bits like a person getting stabbed with a giant penis and the, I guess, subliminal messaging of cutting to the paintings during the stab. Things like that feel like film school student saying "did you get the symbolism?????" I know there's more to the movie than that but ehhhhh. This is just boring. I'm not offended by the content. It just doesn't do anything for me.

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For the record: I’m 100% offended by the content. (Which I think is kind of the point) I don’t know that being offended by the content and not liking the movie in general have to be mutually exclusive. I will also confess, I’ve hated this movie since I was a teenager, and I hate it now as an adult.

Personally, I don’t need gratuitous scenes of protracted rape to “get it.” I also don’t think the idea that Alex is forced to watch horrible images of rape and violence while A Clockwork Orange’s audience is watching them voluntarily is as clever as the movie seems to think. It all feels like an ill-conceived college film.

I don’t care if everyone else loves it and I have no interest trying to convince people otherwise. I’m just speaking my truth. 

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1 hour ago, grudlian. said:

I definitely don't think art "should" make you feel uncomfortable. Art should make you feel something but it doesn't have to be discomfort. And a lot of things that aren't art make me feel uncomfortable. And I'm not sure how Taxi Driver doesn't make someone feel uncomfortable. So, it meets that criteria in spades.

Yeah, to me it's more about having SOME purpose (beyond base impulses like making more money). It could be to make you feel uncomfortable, or it could be something else.

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2 hours ago, tomspanks said:

Sorry for the multiple posts - I'm catching up on the episode - but what did raise my eyebrow was at Amy's statement that art should make you feel uncomfortable.  While I agree that it's great if "art" makes you think or maybe even consider distressing or foreign concepts, it shouldn't be the only criteria for judging whether you like that art.  I felt like Amy didn't really have much defense for the movie, but in the end she even preferred it over Taxi Driver because of this one criterion.  I don't get it.

I'd have to listen to the episode again, but I would guess, truthfully, I think Amy just hates Taxi Driver (I can't remember her ranking of it), and that was her attempt to differentiate the two.  It's quite possible that she really just hates the gritty 70s movies, and while ACO is dark and violent like the 70s, it's stylized and not gritty. Or (more closely to her literal answer), ACO seems more overt, at least on some level, you should dislike the protagonist.

Or maybe she just ran into more people for a longer time that live Taxi Driver, and she's effectively experienced backlash against them both, but more strongly with Taxi Driver (or it has calcified more strongly).

Or maybe my entire attempt to spitball psycho-analyze is pure folly.

 

I do think the uncomfortable line about art, though phrased such that it sounds like it applies to art universally, isn't intended that way literally.  It's just a common trait if something challenges pre-conceived notions.

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1 hour ago, Cameron H. said:

I also don’t think the idea that Alex is forced to watch horrible images of rape and violence while A Clockwork Orange’s audience is watching them voluntarily is as clever as the movie seems to think. It all feels like an ill-conceived college film.

Not me, I bailed after an hour.  Suck it, Kubrick! 

Yeah, the movie screams 2edgy4me to me.

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3 minutes ago, tomspanks said:

Not me, I bailed after an hour.  Suck it, Kubrick! 

Yeah, the movie screams 2edgy4me to me.

th?id=OIP.6FjKDtWLnMVX080zboukrgHaDJ&pid

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There's more meaty stuff I should be replying to, but I did want to throw this out there (but I have a lot of movie-watching to do tonight when I get home.  hopefully).

On the topic of the unreliable narrator, I don't think Alex is supposed to be Rashomon-type unreliable.  It seems like everything he describes happened, does in fact happen.  Just the tone and the take-away is sociopathic and wrong.  And in that sense, he's unreliable as the moral voice of the story.  It's been about two decades, but that's how I also remember the book.

However, of interesting note, Kubrick also adapted Lolita, which I can't remember if Humbert Humbert was also unreliable in the book, Rashomon style, or "only" unreliable in the sense of what I described above (and also unreliable in terms of events happening of large importance that get a small comment in passing as if it weren't important.  So unreliable of scope as well).

And the movie Kubrick did right after Clockwork was Barry Lyndon, which is an adaptation of a Thackeray novel, which had an unreliable narrator (IIRC, of the Rashomon variety).  I think I read somewhere it was supposed to the first literary case of an unreliable narrator, but I'm trying to fact check that, because statements like that always seem to turn out false when I try to verify them later. 
I recall an interview with Kubrick saying he couldn't keep it as unreliable in the film, for reasons I can't remember how he articulated the problems of.  But the 3rd person narrator in the movie, is bitingly ironic as hell.

I think the one thing we can all agree on, unfortunately there is no part of any of part of ACO, that could, in any way, possibly be a Jacob's Ladder scenario, what-so-ever.
 

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I took a film class in university in which the professor loved Kubrik. Like to him Kubrik wasn't a filmmaker but rather the second coming. As a result I think we covered all his films from 2001 to Eyes Wide Shut in class. Naturally we covered A Clockwork Orange and he went into a whole lecture about it and what it means and everything like it. He was also in the dark comedy camp as well. I remember him talking a bit how the message of the film is so obscure that people miss it and it is embraced for the wrong reason, kinda like Taxi Driver or Fight Club. There is a certain type of male that embraces these characters as examples of cool or what they should be while missing the point of the film. Needless to say I liked the movie. After university I watched several Kubrik films several teams again. 2001 and Dr. Strangelove I both really love and watched regularly. I was also one of those people that defends the second half of Full Metal Jacket. However Clockwork Orange never really got a rewatch. I would just regurgitate what my professor told me to people. Then for Unspooled I went back and watched the movie again, and for me it didn't hold up.

This whole movie to me came down to a feeling of wanting to have its cake and eat it too. We are going extreme to prove a message or a point so why not push it as far as we can. It is also the like Amy was saying the hold of Alex up on a pedestal. I found him unlikable, as we are suppose to, but I just found him uninteresting as well. There is no real depth to his character. "He's a thug but he loves art and classic music." Great, that's not depth. And again how the whole thing goes out of its way to dehumanize the women they attack and have the victims "ask for it" yet when Alex as the victim is sympathetic. I get that this can be due to the unreliable narrator aspect of it. We just have to accept that this is all his twisty version of events start to finish, but since I don't care about Alex why do I care to hear his fantasy. I kinda want the shoe to drop if that was the case, but that's just me personally. I also don't know if it is also a lot of the ideas I've now seen done in other films that I enjoy more. While not the exact same I think American Psycho is a better example of a dark comedy with an unreliable narrator from an ultraviolent book.

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18 minutes ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

On the topic of the unreliable narrator, I don't think Alex is supposed to be Rashomon-type unreliable.  It seems like everything he describes happened, does in fact happen. 

I don't mean to imply the violence didn't happen or is imaginary.  Just that it's skewed to how he envisions it -- attacking the 'upper crust' or perhaps even a consensual menage a trois with popsicle girls.  We don't know, though, if his telling of these incidents is anything close to reliable.  It makes for a difficult foundation of a movie, it seems we all are against this to different degrees, but I think his unreliability should be considered.

I watched Lolita not too long ago (and read it much much longer ago). I don't think it's unreliable exactly, but what it is is a lot of characters confusing their feelings/actions.  So I guess there's some unreliability there, but it is more grounded.  Like, if you don't recognize the confusion it becomes an old guy creeping after a young girl, and obviously gross.  But once you see that his interpretations of feelings is just way off, and so is Lolita's, and so is her mother's, and on and on, it becomes much more of a strange web. I don't believe it should be viewed straight either, tbh.

 

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2 hours ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

On the topic of the unreliable narrator, I don't think Alex is supposed to be Rashomon-type unreliable.  It seems like everything he describes happened, does in fact happen.  Just the tone and the take-away is sociopathic and wrong.  And in that sense, he's unreliable as the moral voice of the story.  It's been about two decades, but that's how I also remember the book.

That reminds of me of a classic Crooked Timber post in which they noted that the John Birch Society had a surprisingly accurate conception of what some elements of the US government were up to. "The Bircher view is made up of real events, but it’s got the wrong background music playing behind it, like one of those joke film trailers".

 

wrecks is right about Burgess vs Kubrick on the 21st chapter. Burgess deliberately wrote the novel in three sections of 7 chapters each, and the whole point of the last one is that Alex is now an adult and has moved on from his youthful wildness. I read it before I saw the movie, as a highschool assignment. Unlike the Catholic Burgess, I was an ultra-Calvinist fundamentalist, who believed that most people are predestined to be damned rather than endowed with free will to choose to be good. I thought Alex should simply be executed for committing murder, and that removing his ability to cause further harm would at least be a decent substitute. By his actions he lost any right to make choices of the sort known to harm others. So I was irritated that in the last chapter he simply grew out of it rather than receiving more punishment for reverting back to his old ways after the treatment was unfortunately undone. Many years later, I'm now an atheist but still find the concept of free-will philosophically incoherent. I've also read Mark Kleiman on how excessively long prison sentences have diminishing marginal returns, in part because crime is a young man's game and many people do grow out of it. So maybe Burgess had a point, but someone as bad as Alex (and committing such severe crimes at such a young age is a predictor of being  a serious baddie as an adult) is still someone I think should be removed from society rather than waiting around in hopes he'll change of his own volition.

On the subject of how one perceives this sort of material, there's a british street punk band named Cock Sparrer* who did at least one performance for tv in droog getup (though nowhere near as Orange-obsessed as some other punk bands), and whose song "Riot Squad" always made me think of Alex's friends who shifted from criminal to cop. And the song does contain the same thing happening, but it was only after I actually read the lyrics that I realized that it was not intended to be a critique of the police for hiring such thugs, but instead was from the perspective of an unrepentant civilian hooligan mocking their old friend for being subject to rules & constraints in his (state-sanctioned) violence. I can still enjoy the song, but it seems more dumb & immature.

*A mispronounciation of "cockney sparrow", which is rhyming slang for "best friend" so old I haven't been able to find the original rhyme. So if any of you are cockney etymologists, feel free to chime in.

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I wish we could have a second poll for this thread. A Clockwork Orange vs Taxi Driver. 

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4 hours ago, tomspanks said:

I wish we could have a second poll for this thread. A Clockwork Orange vs Taxi Driver. 

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(I also made it so that people can change their votes until the poll closes, because this probably should've been enabled all along.)

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Amy's remarks on this picture remind of everything that is wrong with modern film criticism; lack of research surrounding the thematic elements in the film, filmmaker quotes and other historical elements taken out of context, and flimsy arguments used to support a negative view the film because stronger evidence to prove their point simply doesn't exist. Although, these complaints have always been around when speaking about film criticism, in this modern age they've taken a strangle hold over as the norm when criticly viewing movies. Looking purely at the surface value view of film, lacking any real investigation into the images and sounds of the film, and letting preconceived notions of what filmmaking (or filmmakers motives) is, has poisoned how the general public see motion pictures. Amy's opinions are a textbook example of these problems that are only becoming more entrenched as we let any person, regardless of their education or experience have an equal voice to those that do take the time and effort to evaluate the worth of films and art. 

Paul, on the other hand, should be given an award for his patience and grace in handling a conversation where he obviously disagreed with Amy. I intend on using this episode as an example with my students on how you can have a civil conversation with someone you don't agree with. 

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