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Paths of Glory (1957)
The most realistic, most emotionally draining, and most beautifully photographed movie ever made about trench warfare in WW I.
I think that Stanley Kubrick is the greatest of all film directors, and in my opinion "Paths of Glory" is Kubrick's best film because:
1. It is FAR AND AWAY the most realistic, most emotionally draining, and most beautifully photographed movie ever made about trench warfare in WW I, which has to be considered to be one of the significant episodes in all of human history. The story is fiction, but the events are patterned after some actual mutinies in the French army that took place in 1917.
2. I first saw this film 46 years ago, and it not only made me an avid Kubrick fan for the rest of my life, it made me want to watch it over and over again -- more than 250 times over the years, and every time I see it, I cry at the end (when Kubrick's future wife, and the only woman in the film, sings "The Faithful Hussar", causing the audience of French soldiers to change from a jeering crowd to a hushed, teary-eyed group of lonely men).
3. Everything about the movie is PERFECT!! There are no flaws in the acting, the pace of the movie, the photography, the dialogue, etc. Scene after scene is more powerful and ironic than the preceding one, building to a shattering climax. It is simply a gem.
4. Try as I might to think of actors that could have been substituted in their places, I think the casting for each and every part in the movie really could not have been any better. No one could have been better in their respective roles than George Macready, Adolphe Menjou, Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, and all of the others. Many of these actors appear in Kubrick's other films.
5. Has there ever been a better scene than the one in which one of the condemned soldiers (Ralph Meeker) stares at this cockroach and cries that tomorrow that bug will still be alive and he will be dead. Whereupon one of the other condemned men (the fatalistic Timothy Carey) squashes the cockroach and says "Now you got the edge on him".
6. You could probably change a few things in most of Kubrick's other masterpieces to slightly improve them, but I DEFY anyone to single out anything in "Paths of Glory" that could be improved upon. I could go on and on raving about the beauty and pathos of this film, but I think I will stop here.
Twelve O'Clock High (1949)
The best WWII bombing movie ever made--no question about it!!!
This tells the story of the early Eighth Air Force bombing missions in WWII better than any other movie ever made!!! I have seen it more than 50 times, and
believe me, this IS THE ONE TO SEE.
Accuracy: A+++ (although there was no 918th Group and no Archbury airfield)
Acting: A (particularly Hugh Marlowe, Dean Jagger, and Gregory Peck}
Opening Scenes: A++ (Tears come to my eyes every time I see Dean Jagger's
return to the airstrip at Archbury)