I’m happy to see that the AV Club has included Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut in their New Cult Canon, which includes such films as Donnie Darko, Babe: Pig in the City, Primer, and Reservoir Dogs. EWS is under-appreciated in my book and Scott Tobias nails exactly why I find the movie compelling.
Critics pilloried the anti-erotic ridiculousness of the orgy, with its funereal organ music and self-sacrificing hookers and mass-like rituals involving cloaked high priests and great plumes of incense. But the orgy is more about power than sex; in that respect, it’s the opposite of some free-love hippie bacchanal, where the fucking is more democratic. Here, the rituals are about affirming the elite, and Bill doesn’t belong to this exclusionary country club, whose members are intent on subjugating their inferiors. For Bill, it’s the peak of a humiliating journey, and Kubrick accomplishes the remarkable feat of making Cruise, the brashly confident movie star, look small and scared behind that mask.
Overall, 1999 is still my favorite movie year. I saw more than 50 movies in the theater that year, including EWS, Rushmore, Princess Mononoke, Election, Run Lola Run, Being John Malkovich, Iron Giant, The Matrix, Magnolia, American Beauty, Toy Story 2, and Three Kings. Quite a year.