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Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb  

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  1. 1. Should Dr Strangelove be on the AFI top 100 list

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  • Poll closed on 01/17/20 at 08:00 AM

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Paul & Amy sap your bodily fluids with 1964’s Cold War satire Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb! They unpack how director Stanley Kubrick manipulated his cast to get the best performances, learn the origin of Strangelove’s voice, and play a Strangelove-inspired song by a classic SoCal punk band. Plus: recapping the Golden Globes!

What other satires would you add to the AFI list? Call the Unspooled voicemail line at 747-666-5824 with your answer! Follow us on Twitter @Unspooled, get more info at unspooledpod.com and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts. Photo credit: Kim Troxall

This episode is brought to you by Sonos (www.sonos.com).

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One connection between this and 2001 they didn't mention in the podcast (maybe this is apocryphal), but at one point Kubrick was planning to end 2001 with the Star Baby coming back to earth, triggering all the nuclear missiles, wiping out humanity, making way for the new type of man (repeating the theme of advancement in the Dawn of Man scene being advancement leading to the destruction of the old).  But ultimately decided, he just ended his last movie the exact same way, so no.

The decision to make the president not sickly/etc, was, if the logic of the scene needed a comic straight man for everyone to play off against. You can still things like tissues in some of the scenes because they had already started filming it with him sick.

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This seems like a no-brainer Yes for the Top 100 list. It's clearly one of the 100 most influential American films (and between this and 2001 a clear argument that "one film per director" isn't a totally workable rule).

My favorite nugget about the influence of Dr. Strangelove is that when Ronald Reagan was elected President, he asked his staff if he could see the War Room. Only there is no War Room; it was just invented for the movie. Now a lot of other governmental conference rooms have used the movie design as inspiration.

https://qz.com/638778/the-man-who-designed-dr-strangeloves-apocalyptic-set-shaped-todays-negotiation-rooms/

And of course this led to probably my favorite comic line of dialogue in any movie.

 

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I'll be honest. I don't care much for this movie. I can respect it. I understand it's greatness. I see the jokes and understand why they are funny. I just don't laugh or find that it puts me in a humorous mood. I'm not turned off by the humor being dark or about war and death. It's just meh for me.

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I had heard Dr. Strangelove was inspired by the theorist of nuclear strategy Albert Wohlstetter. Per his wikipedia page, other inspirations were Herman Kahn, John von Neumann, Edward Teller and of course Wernher von Braun.

I watched this after the AFI first put it on their list. My dad had talked up how funny it was, but I didn't get many laughs out of it. Maybe I was too young to fully enjoy it.

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I thought of this every time they used the term “megadeath.” Which, by the way, yes, the band is named after:

 

 

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To me this a no-brainer for the AFI top 100. One of the funniest movies, but still able to communicate serious themes about humanity's dark side and the fear that we can't overcome the darker impulses of our species. This and 2001 are my favorite Kubrick films, and I agree with sycasey 2.0 that both need to be on the list despite discussion of a one-film-per-director rule.

Thanks for the Tom Lehrer clip above - love that song! In 1960 there was a biopic about Von Braun titled I Aim at the Stars. Mort Sahl's been cited (though I guess there's some question about whether he actually said it) as suggesting the film's subtitle be "...But Sometimes I Hit London."

A personal note about the filmIn the 1970s my dad was in the Air Force and worked with Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles for 10 years. For a time he was one the officers who would turn the key (no buttons) that would launch the missiles in the event of a nuclear exchange. Anyway, I didn't learn until I was an adult that one of my dad's favorite movies is Dr. Strangelove. Talking to him since, I think even a lot of the military personal trained in nuclear deterrence theory and doctrine recognized the insanity at the core of what they could possibly be asked to do. So in a way I understand Kubrick's inability to deal with the subject effectively without resorting to comedy and satire. I think that's what my dad can relate to in Kubrick's humorous approach to such a grim subject. 

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I don't recall this "one film per director" line of thinking being bandied around as heavily during any of the Spielberg episodes.  And in my mind, asking which belongs between Jaws, Schindler's List, and E.T. is just as silly as considering only one Kubrick film.  For my money, I'd also put The Shining on the list.  I'm in agreement with Amy that I could leave off Clockwork Orange and Spartacus (particularly since I had Clockwork ranked much lower on my list than Amy did on her's), but Dr. Strangelove2001, and The Shining are all vastly different types of films, and all are among the best examples of their respective genres, so I'd go with those three Kubricks on the list.

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On 1/9/2020 at 10:33 PM, grudlian. said:

I'll be honest. I don't care much for this movie. I can respect it. I understand it's greatness. I see the jokes and understand why they are funny. I just don't laugh or find that it puts me in a humorous mood. I'm not turned off by the humor being dark or about war and death. It's just meh for me.

Do you feel you understand its comic greatness?

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On 1/12/2020 at 2:05 AM, bleary said:

I don't recall this "one film per director" line of thinking being bandied around as heavily during any of the Spielberg episodes.  And in my mind, asking which belongs between Jaws, Schindler's List, and E.T. is just as silly as considering only one Kubrick film.  For my money, I'd also put The Shining on the list.  I'm in agreement with Amy that I could leave off Clockwork Orange and Spartacus (particularly since I had Clockwork ranked much lower on my list than Amy did on her's), but Dr. Strangelove2001, and The Shining are all vastly different types of films, and all are among the best examples of their respective genres, so I'd go with those three Kubricks on the list.

I think it's because they covered them earlier in their run. Then they did two Marx Brothers movies and argued if that was really necessary. That kind of morphed into should anyone be represented twice. I personally think the idea is silly because I don't think it's the AFI's aim to represent every aspect of American film.

11 minutes ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

Do you feel you understand its comic greatness?

I guess so or maybe I don't and that's why I'm not actually amused by it. I don't particularly care either way. I've seen it multiple times and never cared much for it except in a purely analytical way. But analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog and all that. 

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On 1/12/2020 at 1:05 AM, bleary said:

I don't recall this "one film per director" line of thinking being bandied around as heavily during any of the Spielberg episodes.  And in my mind, asking which belongs between Jaws, Schindler's List, and E.T. is just as silly as considering only one Kubrick film.  For my money, I'd also put The Shining on the list.  I'm in agreement with Amy that I could leave off Clockwork Orange and Spartacus (particularly since I had Clockwork ranked much lower on my list than Amy did on her's), but Dr. Strangelove2001, and The Shining are all vastly different types of films, and all are among the best examples of their respective genres, so I'd go with those three Kubricks on the list.

I couldn't agree more. I don't think there's more influential, and just overall great movies, than Dr. Strangelove, 2001, and The Shining. I'm still shocked every time I look at the list again that The Shining isn't represented.

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The Shining would definitely be a strong contender for a new version of the list.

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Yea I was reading on The Shining a bit last fall when I went to see the remastered re-release and it seems that when it came out, it wasn't particularly well-received. I know that hasn't stopped other movies from making the list when their rep grew, but I reckon that because of it, combined with all the other Kubrick movies on there, is why it didn't make the list. It seems to be seen as fairly niche, still.

(I agree it probably should be on there though.)

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54 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Yea I was reading on The Shining a bit last fall when I went to see the remastered re-release and it seems that when it came out, it wasn't particularly well-received. I know that hasn't stopped other movies from making the list when their rep grew, but I reckon that because of it, combined with all the other Kubrick movies on there, is why it didn't make the list. It seems to be seen as fairly niche, still.

(I agree it probably should be on there though.)

I feel like attitudes may be changing towards horror movies (what with "elevated horror" becoming the new thing these days), and a hugely influential horror-movie text like The Shining would have a better chance going forward. Blade Runner would be the precedent: not that well-received in its time, but now recognized as a major influence on sci-fi filmmaking.

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On 1/12/2020 at 2:05 AM, bleary said:

And in my mind, asking which belongs between Jaws, Schindler's List, and E.T. is just as sil

Jaws

22 hours ago, grudlian. said:

I guess so or maybe I don't and that's why I'm not actually amused by it. I don't particularly care either way. I've seen it multiple times and never cared much for it except in a purely analytical way. But analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog and all that. 

I never followed up in our conversation in the Star Wars thread (short of time/etc) - but with that question I was just toying with the idea of someone going, "Here's a list of the greatest 100 American Movies of All Time.  Included: A comedy that I do not find funny."  Admittedly, Strangelove is that odd case where I can imagine a case being argued ("While I found the intended comedy too flat and calculated, I did find the American deterrence strategy terrifying and absurd when thought about.  And no other movie I can think of conveyed the stupidity of it, and possible all human extinction, as aggressively as it did."  But still, it is odd to see someone say a movie, that to them effectively failed in one of its key presentations - to make the viewer laugh - is better than possibly some other political commentary movies that did not fail in its genre (to the viewer making the list).

I'm assuming you voted "yes" in the poll, since no one has voted "no" yet.  However, you may have abstained (in which case my comments aren't relevant).  

6 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

I feel like attitudes may be changing towards horror movies (what with "elevated horror" becoming the new thing these days), and a hugely influential horror-movie text like The Shining would have a better chance going forward. Blade Runner would be the precedent: not that well-received in its time, but now recognized as a major influence on sci-fi filmmaking.

It feels like these things ebb and flow.  Kubrick himself said he wanted to do a horror movie because these other respected directors had made these great horror movies (I believe Rosemary's Baby, and The Exorcist were the two he was thinking of).

And I think The Shining initially had troubles just because it was longer than what the public's attention span had become.  Hence the European cut being about 1/2 hour shorter (Kubrick re-cut it after its initial release was disappointing in Europe.  Though I've never heard of it struggling in the US like The Thing did).

I think the respect the genre had started to gather started to plummet in the 80s with the rise of the slasher franchises.

Anyhow, fwiw, on the BFI poll, you don't see any of the non-Pyscho type of horror movies in the top 100, but if you look in the next 100, you see Don't Look Now, The Shining, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre at spots: 127, 154, 183.  A little further down still and you see Videodrome at 202 (because I guess The Fly and Naked Lunch are just too mainstream).

And on the They Shoot Pictures variant for horror movies, "They Shoot Zombies Don't They - top 1000 horror movies of all time" (which is supposed to be an aggregate of various lists found over the net), up until a few years ago, The Shining was at the top of the list.  Then at some point, it slipped to number 2 behind The Exorcist.

Me, these days, the Kubrick I put right up next to 2001 as being my choice for best Kubricks is Barry Lyndon.  How "American" it is, I'd just leave it to other people to debate.

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In terms of re-evaluating pop-horror movies, back in the 70's Warhol (or at least his cadre) seemed big on doing it with the Universal horror movies they grew up with.  Though it seemed more in line of re-interpreting or re-creating them, more akin to Tarantino does now with 70's genre films (and Spielberg and Lucas did with the 50s serials for Star Wars and Indiana Jones).  The most notable I can think of were the Paul Morrissey movies Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula (sometimes known as Andy Warhol's Frankenstein and Andy Warhol's Dracula.  Famouse producers get their names on stuff).  But there was also Jack Smith's Normal Love, which admittedly seemed more a mixed media presentation, though maybe I just didn't really get it.  But it did trade in imagery and costumes of those horror creatures.

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1 hour ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

Jaws

I never followed up in our conversation in the Star Wars thread (short of time/etc) - but with that question I was just toying with the idea of someone going, "Here's a list of the greatest 100 American Movies of All Time.  Included: A comedy that I do not find funny."  Admittedly, Strangelove is that odd case where I can imagine a case being argued ("While I found the intended comedy too flat and calculated, I did find the American deterrence strategy terrifying and absurd when thought about.  And no other movie I can think of conveyed the stupidity of it, and possible all human extinction, as aggressively as it did."  But still, it is odd to see someone say a movie, that to them effectively failed in one of its key presentations - to make the viewer laugh - is better than possibly some other political commentary movies that did not fail in its genre (to the viewer making the list).

I didn't vote because my feelings are mixed. It will never go on my top 100 list of personal favorites. But I realize I'm an anomaly in this and my personal enjoyment may not necessarily outweigh what literally every other person has told me who has seen it. Because, again, I can see the quality even if I don't laugh at it.

Also, yes to Jaws.

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9 hours ago, grudlian. said:

I didn't vote because my feelings are mixed. It will never go on my top 100 list of personal favorites. But I realize I'm an anomaly in this and my personal enjoyment may not necessarily outweigh what literally every other person has told me who has seen it. Because, again, I can see the quality even if I don't laugh at it.

Also, yes to Jaws.

Okay, that's fair. My comments were meant more with the guess that you had voted (and had voted, yes). I've been mostly interpreting the question recently more as, "would it be on your ballot," as opposed to "should it be on the final list," which gives the individual the freedom to say, "this movie just didn't work for me for some reason." Well, I also imposed on myself a "let's make it the top 25 of these movies, so some non-passive decisions have to be made."

 

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