Steven Spielberg - classic or dud

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over the course of a long career in film making, has this man proved himself to be one of the greatest film makers who ever lived, or a tired peddler of cheap sentimentality?

DV (dirtyvicar), Wednesday, 27 July 2005 21:23 (seventeen years ago) link

Little of both.

Eric H. (Eric H.), Wednesday, 27 July 2005 21:51 (seventeen years ago) link

classic who's done dud

philmy, Wednesday, 27 July 2005 21:54 (seventeen years ago) link

what eric said... the two are not mutually exclusive. see also griffith

s1ocki (slutsky), Wednesday, 27 July 2005 23:15 (seventeen years ago) link

what eric said but he tends to be extremely dud when he is.

jed_ (jed), Wednesday, 27 July 2005 23:18 (seventeen years ago) link

example?

s1ocki (slutsky), Wednesday, 27 July 2005 23:19 (seventeen years ago) link

how much better would war of the worlds have been if you didn't see the alien until the end, when the tripod crashes and the alien flops out... but it's ET!! and they died not from bacteria but from homesickness!!

s1ocki (slutsky), Wednesday, 27 July 2005 23:19 (seventeen years ago) link

Mostly Dud. Jaws is fun. Raiders is great. Empire of the Sun is pretty good, but mostly ruined by Williams' oppressive score. Everything else is pretty much worthless. (tho I am curious about Duel).

Shakey Mo Collier, Wednesday, 27 July 2005 23:21 (seventeen years ago) link

I haven't seen his "Twilight Zone: The Movie" segment in a long time but I remember that being pretty good. Also there was one episode of "Amazing Stories" that I really liked.

Shakey Mo Collier, Wednesday, 27 July 2005 23:23 (seventeen years ago) link

tonight i was having dinner with some relatives i haven't seen in a while and i mentioned i was going to minor in film studies and one of them said, "oh, are you going to be the next STEVEN SPIELBERG?"

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Thursday, 28 July 2005 02:46 (seventeen years ago) link

i think i might like "close encounters" more than any truffaut film.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Thursday, 28 July 2005 02:55 (seventeen years ago) link

Spielberg has two issues: the need for deep, moral messages and a perpetual underestimating of his audience. This translates to about twenty minutes of movie time we don't need. Families return to go hug Schindler and cry. Tom Cruise's character gets saved from the deep freeze in Minority Report so he can exact his revenge. He's usually better when he's being schlocky, Jurassic Park aside. I still think he did some of his best work with Gremlins and Gremlins 2.

mike h. (mike h.), Thursday, 28 July 2005 03:13 (seventeen years ago) link

Dud. I love the Indiana Jones trilogy (the latter two more as childhood memories than for the films themselves), Jurassic Park was one of the last good blockbusters, the first part of Saving Private Ryan is still riveting. Other than that, I'll go with cheap peddler of middlebrow twaddle.

The Terminal stripped him of any claim to classicness.

milozauckerman (miloaukerman), Thursday, 28 July 2005 03:14 (seventeen years ago) link

Not that he directed those, but that he was involved. Yeah, Gremlins.

mike h. (mike h.), Thursday, 28 July 2005 03:14 (seventeen years ago) link

if producing counts, then Band of Brothers almost redeems the bullshit that was The Terminal.

milozauckerman (miloaukerman), Thursday, 28 July 2005 03:19 (seventeen years ago) link

Steven Spielberg - meh.

It's one thing to get excited in a 'film school' sort of way about his technique. It's another thing to sit in a dark theater and be moderately entertained by his movies. But has Speilberg overcome the limits of his medium to create great and lasting art in the way of Cocteau or Fellini or Howard Hawks or Preston Sturges? Not in my view. He generally makes clever confections. He's a great chef.

However, his depiction of the D-Day landing in Saving Private Ryan is a classic that stands head and shoulders above his normal work, including the remainder of SPR.

Aimless (Aimless), Thursday, 28 July 2005 03:22 (seventeen years ago) link

i knew it was only a matter of time before someone had to make the distinction between mere "entertainment" and "great and lasting art."

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Thursday, 28 July 2005 03:26 (seventeen years ago) link

did anyone else enjoy Catch Me If You Can? overrated, but once you lay the hype aside it's a fun bit o fluff. Tom Hanks entertainingly stiff and starchy, well-plotted, etc. most of Sbergs other movies i can't stand, but that one gets a pass from me.

yuengling participle (rotten03), Thursday, 28 July 2005 03:31 (seventeen years ago) link

Lemme see if I can make this a bit clearer on the "lasting art" business.

Take, for example,Brininging Up Baby. It aims at nothing more than sheer entertainment, but it is so entertaining that it sheerly delights me with its artistry and wit, its little-red-wagon sense of fun. It is an exemplar of light-hearted foolery, a gush of google-eyed silliness, a whole 'nother world you step into.

E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial aims at something a bit more than 'mere' entertainment. It wants to achieve a certain modicum of significance, in a warm and fuzzy sort of way - as a statement about wonder and innocence or something like that. But it doesn't really work on that level. It achieves a sappy, happy sentimentality about wonder and innocence. You cry when ET is dying at the hands of the mean, cold-hearted scientists because, um, never mind why. But can you take any part of it back into your life and make it work for you.

That's why Spielberg is meh. He's a perfect B+ student. He gets all the low-hanging fruit and most of the middling stuff, but never quite bags the topmost stuff.

Aimless (Aimless), Thursday, 28 July 2005 03:46 (seventeen years ago) link

That's a workable theory, but doesn't take into account some of Spielberg's fantastic second-gear movies that I don't see aiming for anything much other than 'mere' entertainment... other than to question why the prefix 'mere'... stuff like Temple of Doom, certain showcase scenes in the two Jurassic Parks and, yeah, War of the Worlds.

Eric H. (Eric H.), Thursday, 28 July 2005 04:30 (seventeen years ago) link

On balance, classic. Especially for Jaws, ET, Raiders, Schindler and Close Encounters.

He may be pretty middlebrow, but stuff like Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, WOTW etc is very entertaining, well made cinema. I agree that he often feels like he's trying to make a bigger statement than he actually achieves, but I cannot think of another director working currently who has consistently entertained me so well over the last 25 years.

No mention of it yet here, but I'm on the side that feels A.I. is one of his best films, too. There's plenty not to like about it, but the stuff that works (the whole opening act, the journey to drowned Manhattan, fuck it, even the ending) is some of the most mesmerising, compelling sci-fi I have ever seen. Real cinema of wonder in a very pure form.

Bill A (Bill A), Thursday, 28 July 2005 08:58 (seventeen years ago) link

how did howard hawks 'overcome the limits of his medium to create great and lasting art'? he's about the most bog-standard shot-reverse shot directors in the history of film. great fun, but, come on, 'overcoming the limits of the medium'? all you've said is that 'bringing up baby' has teh robbles.

N_RQ, Thursday, 28 July 2005 09:13 (seventeen years ago) link

i can think of like ten howard hawks films that qualify as "great art" if anything does. meh to anyone who thinks he's not great cos he doesn't do those BIG IMPRESSIVE CAMERA MOVES (though sometimes he did).

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Thursday, 28 July 2005 09:26 (seventeen years ago) link

funny i was thinking about just this lying in bed this morning. I recon War of the worlds was great. I found it really frightening at times, I wouldnt bother with it on DVD but in the cinema it was genuinly gripping.
He has always been flagged as an auteur the creator of modern blockbusters etc etc, i think the truth is that he is a director for hire, who makes a few personal projects, and a lot of projects personal.
Amoung my faves are empire of the sun, Jaws, 1941, gremlins 2 and it has to be said, catch me if you can.
so classic, though minority report and ai both sucked ass, as does close encounters, so much build up for so little pay off.

lukey (Lukey G), Thursday, 28 July 2005 09:31 (seventeen years ago) link

it's not just about that (although, you know, it's nice to have more than the two-shot, the close-up, the master -- nice also to have expressive editing JUST OCNE IN A WHILE). i don't care if he's "great art" (blah jargon) or not; it's just he isn't all that interesting. there are more interesting directors. like spielberg!!! they both have a somewhat limited and audience-minded view of 'human nature', praps.

xp

N_RQ, Thursday, 28 July 2005 09:33 (seventeen years ago) link

I'm with NRQ here.

Sick Mouthy (Nick Southall), Thursday, 28 July 2005 09:50 (seventeen years ago) link

i'm gonna have to restrain myself from writing an entire essay here, but suffice to say i think hawks is one of the five greatest directors ever and i can't even begin to say why his best films transcend "expressive editing" and all that film school bullshit. this is verging on "the ramones aren't as interesting as frank zappa" territory. and i hope no one thinks i'm being a boring old film rockist because hawks is like the most ENTERTAINING great director who ever lived. and i don't think your last sentence shows much (or any) understanding of his attitude toward his audience.

i actually LIKE spielberg and feel he gets a bad rap from "entertainment is not art" types, but howard hawks is a greater director than spielberg for the same reason charles schulz is a greater artist than dave sim.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Thursday, 28 July 2005 10:15 (seventeen years ago) link

haha when ppl ask me tomorrow why i look so sleepy i'll have to say "cos i was up at 4 a.m. being the film geek version of that guy who throws a fit because you think picard is better than kirk."

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Thursday, 28 July 2005 10:16 (seventeen years ago) link

and i hope no one thinks i'm being a boring old film rockist because hawks is like the most ENTERTAINING great director who ever lived.

i. dis. agree. there, that wasn't so hard. in this context, i don't care about great directors. i care about entertaining films. hawks' films are *quite* entertaining. but they don't stand out particularly from hollywood films of the 'classic' (c. 1930 - c. 1960) period.

he has a slightly nasty, right-libertarian view of society based on the rugged-individualist/masculinist ideal (women have to be men). it's this glib view of 'how to deal' that i mean by 'audience-minded'. he's all about winners.

expressive editing (blah phrase, but whatevs) is not film school bullshit. following the aesthetic choices of 1950s cahiers du cinema is film school bullshit!!

N_RQ, Thursday, 28 July 2005 10:25 (seventeen years ago) link

when did great exciting crowd-pleasing moviemaking become "film school bullshit"?

s1ocki (slutsky), Thursday, 28 July 2005 13:24 (seventeen years ago) link

if indy running from the rock is now considered some abstract academic film-school braininess then i don't even know what we're talking about anymore

s1ocki (slutsky), Thursday, 28 July 2005 13:25 (seventeen years ago) link

i think jd thought that what i meant [that was fun] by expressive editing and non-shot-reverse-shot moviemaking was, i dunno, something hyper-intellectual -- resnais, or whatever. i love resnais, but i *also* meant modern movies LIKE 'SAVING PRIVATE RYAN'. i have my qualms but as movie art there's a shitload more to chew on in 'SPR' than there is in anything by hawks.

N_RQ, Thursday, 28 July 2005 13:30 (seventeen years ago) link

i'm gonna refuse to take sides on this one

s1ocki (slutsky), Thursday, 28 July 2005 13:33 (seventeen years ago) link

would the oft-overlooked michael curtiz be a better predecessor comparison?

s1ocki (slutsky), Thursday, 28 July 2005 13:34 (seventeen years ago) link

no-one has seen all of curtiz's movies. he made 100s. there's no pressing reason to separate his stuff from hawks' or from thatera of hollywood in general: more unites 'to have and have not' and 'casablanca' than, oh i dunno, two curtiz films i've forgotten the names of. it doesn't belittle classic genre films to say that the differences between them are not particularly big -- in the context of the history of film as a whole.

point is the kind of stuff spielberg does, like the beach scene, was beyond the dreams of any classic hollywood director. they'd have fucking killed to have done it. maybe sam fuller with spielberg's crew would be the best thing.

N_RQ, Thursday, 28 July 2005 13:41 (seventeen years ago) link

Hitchcock was also "middlebrow" (which seems to be the label for a great image-maker who also entertains a mass audience). Not that Spielberg has ever achieved the consistency of Hitch from 1954-64, but his films (esp post-Jurassic) generally show more complexity and disturbingly adult themes than directors who are taken more seriously (cf Spike Lee, Soderbergh, Coens).

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 28 July 2005 13:46 (seventeen years ago) link

Here are some movies I have not seen and don't have any real intention of seeing.

# Indiana Jones 4 (2006) (announced)
# Untitled Steven Spielberg/Abraham Lincoln Project (2007) (pre-production)
# Untitled 1972 Munich Olympics Project (2005) (filming)
# War of the Worlds (2005)
# The Terminal (2004)
# Catch Me If You Can (2002)
# Minority Report (2002)
# Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)

This list, of films I have seen, arranged more or less in descending order of quality (last = best) is the reason why I'm not interested in any of the films above:

# Saving Private Ryan (1998)
# The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
# Schindler's List (1993)
# Jurassic Park (1993)
# Hook (1991)
# Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
# Empire of the Sun (1987)
# The Color Purple (1985)
# Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
# E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
# Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
# Jaws (1975)
# Duel (1971)

In conclusion, Thank You Mr. Spielberg for bringing some really fantastic adventures to the big screen, and showing us some highly exciting moments, No Thank You Mr. Spielberg for saddling nearly all of them with increasingly awful casting as time marches on and for trying to choke us to death with your faith in the human spirit or whatever you want to call that unbelievably smug annoying self-congratulatory horseshit.


xpost,
more complexity and disturbingly adult themes
So do the fucking Matrix movies. OMG HE DIES TO SAVE EVERYBODY

TOMBOT, Thursday, 28 July 2005 14:22 (seventeen years ago) link

Such soul-crushing cynicism deserves, oh, Michael Bay.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 28 July 2005 14:30 (seventeen years ago) link

"unbelievably smug annoying self-congratulatory horseshit"

this is kinda otm -- it's there in the movies -- but the horseshit bits are outnumbered by the highly exciting moments. or, they're *both* there. same way fall-flat bits of unfunniness and misanthropy coexist with real chills in hitchcock.

otoh, is 'saving private ryan' really that smug? it has those terrible bookends, and the matt damon bits are really annoying, but i've seen far less convinving movies about war.

N_RQ, Thursday, 28 July 2005 14:34 (seventeen years ago) link

Spielberg has always been very good at provoking a visceral reaction using whatever crap he has available. He knows how to make ostensibly exciting movies. Unfortunately, since you know that all of his ostensibly exciting movies will be ending in some fashion that makes you feel like a baby chickadee just regurgitated golden liquid cuddles of redemption directly into your stomach, the thrill isn't there, because you're just waiting for the hammer to fall and get the brainwashing over with.

The first time I saw Duel I knew it was supposed to be "atypical" Spielberg but I still spent probably half the movie waiting for some insipid deus ex machina to rob me of all my actual emotions and replace them with spoonfed lotus blooms. This is what he's done to his legacy.

TOMBOT, Thursday, 28 July 2005 14:34 (seventeen years ago) link

into the west was awesome - rachel leigh cook!!

j blount (papa la bas), Thursday, 28 July 2005 14:36 (seventeen years ago) link

i helped my friend videotape an audition for into the west! he didn't get the part though :(

s1ocki (slutsky), Thursday, 28 July 2005 14:38 (seventeen years ago) link

I am the only person in the world who thinks Jaws is a shitty, shitty movie. I don't entirely blame Spielberg because the book it's based on is even worse than the film, so in that respect, he did well.

Looking at that list above I realize I've disliked a LOT of his movies, without even really realizing they were Spielberg flix. I mean the only movies that I like in that list are Raiders, Last Crusade, Duel, Catch Me If You Can (and that's not even an active like because I forgot I saw it until recently) and...uh...well, I don't actually like Jurassic Park at ALL but Jeff Goldblum dresses fantastically in it so I'll give it a little bit of a pass (THAT FINAL SHOT OF THE T-REX AND THE RAPTORS IS THE ABSOLUTE WORST SHOT IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY AND DIRECTION AND THAT IS A STONE COLD FACT PEOPLE). I'd like Saving Private Ryan better if the bookends were deleted and it was about a half hour shorter.

Dr. Morbius, how about you discuss the "disturbing adult themes" in, say, Catch Me If You Can?

Allyzay knows a little German (allyzay), Thursday, 28 July 2005 14:38 (seventeen years ago) link

He's okay. I thought Minority Report was pretty decent, up until the ending, anyway.

Leon C. (Ex Leon), Thursday, 28 July 2005 14:39 (seventeen years ago) link

anyway, i gotta agree with everyone praising band of brothers on this thread, i really liked it so much more than i expected (and overall a lot more than saving private ryan).

s1ocki (slutsky), Thursday, 28 July 2005 14:39 (seventeen years ago) link

Dud. Fuck him. I am Filmist.

Anti-Pope Consortium (noodle vague), Thursday, 28 July 2005 14:40 (seventeen years ago) link

Ok the more I'm thinking about that final shot of the T-Rex and the Raptors in the lobby with the fucking banner floating in front of them in Jurassic Park the more angry I'm getting. Goddamn hack.

Allyzay knows a little German (allyzay), Thursday, 28 July 2005 14:42 (seventeen years ago) link

minority report had a pretty good first third/half, i guess, but boy does it ever go to shit. and it's about as dark and adult as an episode of young indiana jones

s1ocki (slutsky), Thursday, 28 July 2005 14:42 (seventeen years ago) link

catch me if you can woulda been alot more disturbing/adult/fun if it'd kept true to frank abagnale's motivation in the book (pussy).

jaws fucking rules ally. jpark3's pretty great, the best of the bunch no doubt. poltergeist was pretty great. band of brothers was incredible. into the west was rousing fun.

j blount (papa la bas), Thursday, 28 July 2005 14:44 (seventeen years ago) link

catch me would've been better if it had been about 30 mins shorter

s1ocki (slutsky), Thursday, 28 July 2005 14:44 (seventeen years ago) link

right!

intern at pepe le pew research (Simon H.), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 14:35 (one year ago) link

I've enjoyed recent Spielbergs while watching them but tbh the last one that actually stuck in my mind was War of the Worlds.

Alba, Tuesday, 27 April 2021 14:36 (one year ago) link

And once you get Beymer and Tamblyn, work Kyle MacLachlan in as Officer Krupke.

clemenza, Tuesday, 27 April 2021 14:36 (one year ago) link

Tintin is not bad. Ready Player One's problem is the amount of care and detail put into a story not worth caring about, imo.

I imagine Spielberg, one of the most prolific of big contemporary directors, has a lot of juggling of foundations, production jobs, etc., to contend with, which may explain his relatively uneven recent output, despite no apparent decline in his abilities beyond occasional lapses in project choice.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 27 April 2021 14:49 (one year ago) link

Check out Spielberg's oeuvre since 2000. The man's productivity would astound an indie director.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 14:53 (one year ago) link

I've enjoyed recent Spielbergs while watching them but tbh the last one that actually stuck in my mind was War of the Worlds.

― Alba, Tuesday, April 27, 2021 9:36 AM (eighteen minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

The first half in isolation would count among the best films he ever directed. But then there's that second half to consider.

You Can't Have the Woogie Without a Little Boogie (Old Lunch), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 14:56 (one year ago) link

Yes, of the second half I remember only the very end, and that for being bad.

Looking through his list since WoTW, the only two I haven't seen are Munich and The BFG, and I'm also reminded that Crystal Skull is also memorable to me and not only for the bad bits: the opening drag race scene soundtracked by Hound Dog is terrific.

Alba, Tuesday, 27 April 2021 15:05 (one year ago) link

Get on Munich right ... away!

avatar of a kind of respectability homosexual culture (Eric H.), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 15:19 (one year ago) link

I was a big fan of both Munich AND A.I.! /introduce_yourself

A Stop at Quilloughby (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 16:07 (one year ago) link

It's too bad that his Amazing Stories episode 'The Mission' isn't as widely known as it should be. It's like a mini-movie and it might be the gem of his mid-'80s 'whimsy & wonder' period. Looks like you can watch it on NBC's website, so it's good to know that it's available.

You Can't Have the Woogie Without a Little Boogie (Old Lunch), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 16:31 (one year ago) link

Is that the one with Kevin Costner and the WWII plane?

I still haven't seen Lincoln, either.

edited for dog profanity (cryptosicko), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 16:53 (one year ago) link

Yeah, that's the one.

You Can't Have the Woogie Without a Little Boogie (Old Lunch), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 17:00 (one year ago) link

three months pass...

Not the most original take, but watched The Terminal last night and it kind of took my breath away how offensive & ill-judged Hanks' performance is. He seems like he's been dropped in from a particularly xenophobic 50s sitcom, doing the thing where because he doesnt know English, it follows that he also acts & reacts like a toddler. Like the when when he hears the name of his fake country, he starts flashing thumbs up and yelling it individually at each person in the vicinity. Or when someone teaches him a new word and he proceeds to proudly yell the word at random people out of excitement, like a 2 year old might. I get that hes supposed to be an innocent abroad in the fairytale world of SpielbergLand, but still, it was kind of shocking to see him he play it somewhere on a spectrum between Latka Gravas and a talking dog.

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Monday, 23 August 2021 22:10 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

I love Spielberg, I love Michelle Williams, but that seems a bit ... much.

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 11 September 2022 14:42 (two months ago) link

Judd Hirsch: "LIFE!"

The self-titled drags (Eazy), Sunday, 11 September 2022 16:59 (two months ago) link

The reviews are pretty positive. I guess it makes sense, Jews know schmaltz.

(I kid, I bet this will be good, though I admit I kept watching Williams and Dano with Sarah Silverman's "Jewface" rant in mind. Hirsch and Rogan, on the other hand, have resting Jewface.)

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 11 September 2022 17:11 (two months ago) link

It’s hard to know from the trailer if these are the plum profound/metaphorical lines or if all the dialogue is like this. But with all the strong reviews, and having seen Jaws in a theater last week for the first time ever, am up for finding out!

The self-titled drags (Eazy), Sunday, 11 September 2022 18:38 (two months ago) link

Spielberg's Licorice Pizza?

I'm kinda hoping it turns out to be a Boogie Nights prequel...

but also fuck you (unperson), Sunday, 11 September 2022 18:54 (two months ago) link

Dirk Digger's Day Off

Mr Haaland's Opus (Neanderthal), Sunday, 11 September 2022 19:07 (two months ago) link

But with all the strong reviews, and having seen Jaws in a theater last week for the first time ever, am up for finding out!

Lol, would have been hilarious and perfect if this movie was called "Jews" !

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 11 September 2022 19:09 (two months ago) link

Eh. Probably not terrible but sure looks gloopy with wide-eyed wonder.

a man often referred to in the news media as the Duke of Saxony (tipsy mothra), Sunday, 11 September 2022 19:15 (two months ago) link

David Sims loved it

at one point in THE FABELMANS 18 year old Spielberg shreds the mind of a goy bully with the power of CINEMA. it rules

— David Sims (@davidlsims) September 11, 2022

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Sunday, 11 September 2022 19:20 (two months ago) link

And he says the trailer is more gloopy than the film

i’ll just say the movie is more bittersweet (obv it’s a spielberg memoir. it’s got some treacle)

— David Sims (@davidlsims) September 11, 2022

a man often referred to in the news media as the Duke of Saxony (tipsy mothra), Sunday, 11 September 2022 19:27 (two months ago) link

Boy howdy! That trailer sure telegraphs how seriously this movie takes itself. It takes itself very seriously. It explores very serious themes, like whether movies are art and whether art is serious stuff. Perhaps it ought to have been titled "A Young Serious Man".

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Sunday, 11 September 2022 19:30 (two months ago) link

The trailer couldn't be any more gloopy if it was a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. It's like "Cinema Paradiso" minus the subtlety.

Seriously, though, I love Spielberg, so generally trust this will be good. All the best stuff about "West Side Story" was thanks to him operating at the peak of his powers (short of him resisting making "West Side Story" in the first place). Making you love every frame of a movie you didn't particularly like takes real skill.

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 11 September 2022 19:36 (two months ago) link

Will watch . Love the man, gloopy or not.

SQUIRREL MEAT!! (Capitaine Jay Vee), Sunday, 11 September 2022 19:48 (two months ago) link

Same.

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 11 September 2022 20:15 (two months ago) link

saaaaame <3

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Sunday, 11 September 2022 22:09 (two months ago) link

What you all said with a little less enthusiasm.

Bait Kush (Eric H.), Sunday, 11 September 2022 22:20 (two months ago) link

Same.

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 11 September 2022 22:41 (two months ago) link

in for David Lynch playing John Ford at least

Number None, Monday, 12 September 2022 09:17 (two months ago) link

Immediately remembered this from the John Ford thread. It's unlikely I'll see The Fabelmans but I can easily imagine David Lynch in this scene.

Spielberg says that he first met Ford when he was only about 15, aspiring to be make movies like those he admired by Ford. “So you wanna be a picture maker?” he remembers Ford saying (Ford in his office, dressed like he had just returned from a safari instead of lunch). “What do you know about art?” He sent the boy to a wall in his office where he had hung a series of Western landscape paintings. Asking young Spielberg to identify the location of the horizon line in a couple of them, Ford pronounced, “When you can decide that putting the horizon at the top of the frame or the bottom of the frame is better than putting it in the middle of the frame, you may, someday, make a good picture maker. Now get outta here.” Spielberg smiles.
http://www.popmatters.com/pm/tv/reviews/7352/directed-by-john-ford/

― Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, November 8, 2006 12:42 PM

Elvis Telecom, Wednesday, 14 September 2022 08:20 (two months ago) link

one month passes...

The trailer couldn't be any more gloopy if it was a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. It's like "Cinema Paradiso" minus the subtlety.

I've been dreading this based just on the trailer. But I have a plus-one invitation to see a screening of this at AFI Silver next week--does anyone want to check this out with me?

Infanta Terrible (j.lu), Wednesday, 9 November 2022 23:35 (two weeks ago) link

I'm going next week

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 9 November 2022 23:46 (two weeks ago) link

i think i heard it is a better and more interesting film than the gloopy trailer suggests. i'm hoping that's true, anyway.

Doctor Casino, Thursday, 10 November 2022 00:48 (two weeks ago) link

It's supposed to be great. I read some clickbait article about Spielberg frequently reduced to tears during filming, which sounds like something I would do if I had a fraught childhood, was getting older, and had an unlimited budget to recreate my childhood/family/childhood home down to the last detail.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 10 November 2022 00:50 (two weeks ago) link

the trailer made me tear up but also i am deeply spielberg-pilled already anyway

werewolves of laudanum (VegemiteGrrl), Thursday, 10 November 2022 03:54 (two weeks ago) link

A very trusted critic friend of mine who is decidedly NOT in the tank for Spielberg every at-bat says this is a fantastic movie

ex-McKinsey wonk who looks like a human version of a rat (Eric H.), Thursday, 10 November 2022 15:04 (two weeks ago) link

Armond?

Les hommes de bonbons (cryptosicko), Thursday, 10 November 2022 16:26 (two weeks ago) link

I'm a Friend of Dorothy, not a Friend of Armond

ex-McKinsey wonk who looks like a human version of a rat (Eric H.), Thursday, 10 November 2022 16:27 (two weeks ago) link

I really wish I could hear Morbs' thoughts on this ... it's his best since Munich.

ex-McKinsey wonk who looks like a human version of a rat (Eric H.), Tuesday, 22 November 2022 04:30 (four days ago) link

i watched the hbo doc yesterday in preparation, hopefully seeing on wed

werewolves of laudanum (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 22 November 2022 04:35 (four days ago) link

Also, it's not perfect and it's actually a thrill to see a Spielberg movie where he's not actually in full control throughout.

ex-McKinsey wonk who looks like a human version of a rat (Eric H.), Tuesday, 22 November 2022 04:41 (four days ago) link

Interesting. I thought he was in full control of "West Side Story," and it wasn't that great despite it, so I am curious what the opposite looks like.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 22 November 2022 13:19 (four days ago) link

The final shot is the movie in a nutshell ... surprisingly loose-limbed and also emotionally overwhelming

ex-McKinsey wonk who looks like a human version of a rat (Eric H.), Tuesday, 22 November 2022 16:30 (four days ago) link

goddamn i loved this so much

i have no insight just that it’s sad & beautiful & funny & sad & great

werewolves of laudanum (VegemiteGrrl), Thursday, 24 November 2022 01:28 (two days ago) link

Posting a great interview Spiellberg did w AO Scott where he talks about the backstory of the movie

pasted in full in case it’s paywalled, sorry for long

Steven Spielberg Gets Personal

In making his autobiographical film “The Fabelmans,” he confronted some painful family secrets, as well as what it means to be Jewish in America today.

By A.O. Scott
Nov. 9, 2022

Over more than 50 years, Steven Spielberg has directed movies about every subject under the sun. Sharks, dinosaurs, extraterrestrials both friendly and not, pirates, spies, soldiers and heroes both historical and imaginary. Not many filmmakers can match his range. But one subject Spielberg has avoided is himself.

Until now. “The Fabelmans” is a disarmingly, at times painfully intimate movie about a family closely modeled on the Spielbergs. It’s a portrait of the auteur as a young man that also tells the story of an unraveling marriage. Sammy Fabelman, played as a teenager by Gabriel LaBelle, is the only son and oldest child of Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and Burt (Paul Dano), who move from New Jersey to Arizona and then Northern California in the 1950s and ’60s. As Sammy discovers his cinematic vocation — shooting movies at home, at school and with his Boy Scout troop — he witnesses Mitzi’s deepening unhappiness and Burt’s inability to deal with it.

Written with Tony Kushner, his collaborator on “Munich,” “Lincoln” and “West Side Story,” “The Fabelmans,” which opens in theaters this weekend, takes Spielberg into uncharted narrative territory. I spoke with him this month via video call about his journey into his own past, and also about the present and future state of the movies. Our conversation has been edited and condensed.

“The Fabelmans” tells a story you’ve obviously lived with for a very long time. I was curious about what made it finally rise to the surface.
The impetus to actually get serious about telling it on film didn’t seriously occur to me until the pandemic.

When the pandemic first hit, some of my kids flew in from the East Coast, and they all took up residence in their old bedrooms and Kate [Capshaw, his wife] and I got a lot of our family back. It was very disconcerting not to go into work. Directing is a social occupation, and I’m very used to interacting with people every single day. I was not really acclimating to the Zoom world very well.

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I had a lot of time on my hands. I used to get in my car and drive for hours — all around Los Angeles, up Pacific Coast Highway, over to Calabasas, over near Twentynine Palms. And that gave me more time to think about what was happening in the world.

I started thinking, what’s the one story I haven’t told that I’d be really mad at myself if I don’t? It was always the same answer every time: the story of my formative years growing up between 7 and 18.
ImageIn a still from the film, the Fabelman family, dressed in midcentury period clothing, stands just inside the doorway to a home and look around a room where the furniture is draped in sheets.
From left, Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Keeley Karsten, Sophia Kopera and Julia Butters as the Fabelmans, fictional versions of the Spielbergs. Credit...Merie Weismiller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment
You’ve dealt with families before. You’ve dealt with a childhood in the suburbs before, with divorce, but never literally from your own experience. Was it hard to go there?
“Close Encounters” was about a father’s voluntary separation from the family to pursue a dream at the expense of losing his family. “E.T.” was a story of a kid who needed to fill the hole that a separation had dug out of his life, and he just happened to fill it metaphorically with this little squishy guy from outer space.

This story was no longer going to be about metaphor. It was going to be about lived experiences, and what was difficult was facing the fact that I might really tell the story. In theory, it was easy to talk to Tony Kushner about, would you collaborate with me in trying to arrange all these interesting disparate experiences into a movie narrative?

When we started writing this — Tony in New York, me in L.A. on Zoom — it started to become real, something that was tactile and triggering in all of these memories. It did become very difficult.

It’s hard to hold someone’s hand over Zoom, but Tony did a good job in giving me the kind of comfort I needed when we were tapping into moments in my life, secrets between myself and my mother that I was never ever, ever going to talk about. Neither in a written autobiography, which I’ve never done, or on film. But we got into those tender trenches.

You’ve dealt with Jewish themes and topics before, certainly in “Schindler’s List” and “Munich,” but this is the first time you’re going into a specifically Jewish American experience.
I didn’t experience antisemitism growing up in Arizona, but I had a major experience with it completing high school in Northern California.

Friends would always call me by my last name. So, the sound of Jewishness always rang in my ear when my friends would call across the hallway, “Hey Spielberg,” and I was very self-conscious about that.

Being Jewish in America is not the same as being Jewish in Hollywood. Being Jewish in Hollywood is like wanting to be in the popular circle and immediately being accepted as I have been in that circle, by a lot of diversity but also by a lot of people who in fact are Jewish. But when I was making those little 8-millimeter movies in school, at first my friends thought it was kind of weird.

It was sort of unprecedented. Nobody had cameras except a Japanese 8-millimeter camera that parents usually controlled, and they were only used for family home movies and things like that. But I was basically weaponizing my social life with a camera to curry favor with these athletic, popular kids who eventually all wanted to be in my movies.

In a way, the camera was a social passport for me. I was passionate about telling stories, but I was also passionate about belonging to something that I hadn’t been invited to belong to ever before. So, making these little movies was like a magic pill in a way.

Image
Spielberg looks off to the side as he stands against a red backdrop, one hand up to his ear, the other arm extended to touch the wall
His co-writer, Tony Kushner, gave the director the “comfort I needed when we were tapping into moments in my life, secrets between myself and my mother that I was never ever, ever going to talk about.”Credit...Chantal Anderson for The New York Times
Antisemitism is a specter in this movie that to some extent is chased away, which reflects the feeling of a lot of Jewish Americans in that time — a kind of optimism about their prospects in America. That hits a little differently in the present, when there seems to be a resurgence of antisemitism in some of its most toxic forms.

Antisemitism is only coming back because it’s being encouraged to come back. It’s not coming back because it ebbs and flows over the decades, but there has been an invitation to a toxic dance based on antisemitism being part of an ideology of separation and racism and Islamophobia and xenophobia, and it’s come barreling back. A lot of people who probably never had much of an antisemitic thought but did feel toward people of color — they felt differently, let’s say, than my sisters and I were ever raised to believe or feel, and suddenly antisemitism becomes part of the package. It’s been weaponized and it’s been encouraged more and more since 2015 or ’16.

I was struck by what you said about the camera as a way of belonging. For Sammy Fabelman, the camera is his way to get closer to people and to be included, but it’s also what separates him from people because he’s in the position of the observer.

I’m not going to spoil plot developments for readers, but there’s a very important truth about his parents’ marriage that Sammy discovers because of what he sees through the camera. I don’t know if that’s really what happened or if it’s a metaphor for how cinema works.

No. It really happened. That was one of the toughest things, I think, that I had to sit down and decide to expose, because it was the most powerful secret my mom and I shared since my discovery when I was 16. Sixteen years old is too young to realize that my parents are people, and also, the struggle not to hold that against them.

I’m also struck by the way it was discovered, because one thing that I’ve always thought about you as a filmmaker is that you convey a lot of emotional and psychological information by means other than dialogue — through body language or facial expressions or the unspoken energy passing through the scene. What’s remarkable about this film is it shows you doing that by accident, or maybe instinctively.
I think it was probably instinctively because as my wife always says, there are no accidents. She said, you know, you couch that in a joke, but there are no jokes.

That’s very Freudian.

The thing is, I was always in control of the movies I was making even as a 12-year-old kid. I was in control of all my films until this moment where I discovered I had no control over the information that was pulverizing for a 16-year-old kid. It’s something I’ll never forget, and it’s something my mom and I talked about for decades afterward.

Do you think that made you want to reassert control over what you were doing, over the stories, over the images?

Exactly. And maybe even make those images happy and friendly. I’ve not been in therapy. I went to my father’s psychiatrist to try to get a letter that I was crazy, so I wouldn’t have to fight in Vietnam. That was the only time I ever went to an analyst. By the way, it turned out he was very pro-Vietnam and would never write me the letter, and I wasted two months, three days a week, while I was going to college.

So movies, and my relationship with Kate and my kids and my closest friends and with the stories I choose to tell, that has probably been as therapeutic as anything I could have done in Freudian or Jungian therapy.

Was it different to be working with actors who are playing people very close to you and a version of you?
I’m trying to phrase this in a way that will make sense to you. When I tried to cast “The Fabelmans” like every other movie — with the best actors I could find that fit the role — I realized that wasn’t going to work, that there was going to have to be more about the familiar and less about the accomplished. Meaning, I was looking for great actors, but I needed actors that had already, in other films, struck me as similes for my mom and dad, and obviously, with less objectivity, struck me as similar to myself. As much as we can ever judge ourselves to really go out and find somebody like us.

So it became much, much harder, and I needed to know them in a different way. I needed to already have felt, oh, something about her reminds me of Mom and there’s something about him that reminds me of Dad. So, that limited the playing field.

I considered a lot of actors, but my eventual choice came down to actors that were great like Paul Dano and Michelle Williams. Two of the finest actors I’ve ever worked with.

Image
A black-and-white image of the director from the chest up, looking off to the side, his shadow on the wall behind him.
After more than 50 years, this is the director’s most personal film yet. Credit...Chantal Anderson for The New York Times
Were there particular performances of Paul’s and Michelle’s that struck you?

My favorite performance up to that point of Michelle Williams was “Blue Valentine,” but the most forthright performance, more different than anything she ever done before, was when she played Gwen Verdon in “Fosse/Verdon.” I realized, Oh my God, she can really step far away from everything I’ve ever seen her do to completely reinvent herself through a character, and that gave me tremendous encouragement.

There’s also the fact that Mitzi herself is a performer, a musician and dancer, and that part of her personality is very important and poignant in the film.
She was a performing artist, but she was also, as a mother, a performing artist of a mother. Just to give you a little insight: She was so much more peer than parent that my three sisters even from a very young age refused to call her Mom or Mommy and only called her Lee, her first name. I’m the only one that called her Mom or Mama. And that’s because she wanted to be part of the gang and wasn’t necessarily interested in being the truant officer of the family or the responsible caregiver. She wanted us to look at her like one of us.

That I think comes through in the movie and there is also just the temperamental contrast between Mitzi and Burt. The movie is partly about their discovery and their son’s discovery that they’re fundamentally mismatched.

My dad, like me, couldn’t sing on key, but he loved classical music and he appreciated her artistry as a pianist and a classical music lover. Their mutual love was classical music.

I remember being dragged to [Philadelphia Orchestra] concerts. I didn’t understand classical music as a kid. It was scary. It was intimidating, and it was way too loud. My mom and dad were in heaven sitting together with me in the middle. Often they would hold hands across my lap, and Mom and Dad would get tears in their eyes, but that’s where it stopped. My dad’s side of the brain beyond that was science. My mom’s side of the brain beyond that was performing art.

This is a movie about movies and also a movie about the history of movies: it begins with Cecil B. DeMille and ends with John Ford. The way I read that, because I’m a film critic, is that you’re tracing the tradition of moviemaking that you’re a part of.

I see the showman in myself that was C.B. DeMille, but I’ve always loved John Ford’s compositions. I’ve both studied and been very aware of his compositions. Ford was a hero of mine, and I got such great instruction from him, which he sort of made more of a bollocking than anything else. But I didn’t come out of that saying, Oh my God, he scared me to death. I came out of that so inspired.
I was only about 16 when I met him, and I didn’t know anything about his reputation, how surly and ornery he was and how he ate young studio executives for breakfast. That only came later when people began writing more about him. I felt I really escaped that office with my life.

I was watching that and thinking a lot about the current uncertain state of movies and that experience of being overwhelmed by something on the big screen — that’s the primal moment in this movie and may not be something that future generations will have.

Yes, but there’s been stages throughout history where we’ve seen how Hollywood has countered the impact of losing a great market share of the audience to TV. In the early ’50s they invented CinemaScope and then 3-D [became popular].

They had something on NBC called “Saturday Night at the Movies” [beginning in 1961] and you didn’t have to go out to a movie on Saturday night. You could stay home and watch television because NBC was designing films especially for audiences that didn’t want to leave the house. This is nothing new.

The pandemic created an opportunity for streaming platforms to raise their subscriptions to record-breaking levels and also throw some of my best filmmaker friends under the bus as their movies were unceremoniously not given theatrical releases. They were paid off and the films were suddenly relegated to, in this case, HBO Max. The case I’m talking about. And then everything started to change.

I think older audiences were relieved that they didn’t have to step on sticky popcorn. But I really believe those same older audiences, once they got into the theater, the magic of being in a social situation with a bunch of strangers is a tonic.
Those audiences, I believe, left the theater if the movie was good and said aren’t you glad we went out tonight to see this picture? So, it’s up to the movies to be good enough to get all the audiences to say that to each other when the lights come back up.

Image
The director stands against a yellow-lit background, hands in pockets, head slightly raised with his eyes looking into the distance.
Spielberg would like to see streaming services give movies a longer theatrical run. That said, if he were making “The Post” today, he’d consider Apple or Netflix just so he could reach more viewers.Credit...Chantal Anderson for The New York Times
I wonder about what kinds of movies people will go out to see vs. what they prefer to stay home to watch and how the industry in whatever shape it’s in figures that out.

The industry is trying to figure that out right now. I found it encouraging that “Elvis” broke $100 million at the domestic box office. A lot of older people went to see that film, and that gave me hope that people were starting to come back to the movies as the pandemic becomes an endemic. I think movies are going to come back. I really do.

Certainly, there’s no question that the big sequels and movies from Marvel and DC and Pixar and some of the animated movies and horror films still have a place in society. And hopefully comedies come back, because you can’t laugh as hard at home as you can in an audience.

I don’t watch a lot of my movies with audiences, but my wife said you have to watch “The Fabelmans” at Toronto. We can sit in the back row, but you have to watch once, and it was a great experience. I was terrified, but the movie plays to a big audience of 2,000 people, and in the funny parts, it played like a big comedy.
I think there has to be a concerted effort on the part of movie directors to demand that the streaming services footing the bill for most of these films give their movies a chance to be exhibited theatrically and not just in four theaters to qualify for awards. It’s going to have to come from all of us — the WGA [the Writers Guild], the DGA [the Directors Guild] and eventually the academy.

When you’re first starting out, and a streaming service gives you a chance to direct your first movie, of course the streaming service is going to call the shot, but I don’t know anybody that wouldn’t like their movies to be shown on a big screen. I don’t know anyone that would say, no, I’d rather it be shown on an iPad or in a living room.

Certain movies are perfectly suitable to the iPad or the living room. So the decision that executives and executives like myself at Amblin Partners have to make is: Do we consign this movie to a streaming service or this other movie to a four- or six-week theatrical window? Those are decisions that I am making based on my other job, which is running a small film company.

That sounds like something fairly new, given especially that theatrical seems to be, and already was, I think, before the pandemic, dominated by franchises, tentpoles, by the movies that exhibitors know will make money for them. It just seems a narrower slot to get these kinds of non-I.P. movies into theaters.

Yeah. We don’t want these chains to file Chapter 11. We want theaters to stay open. By the same token, and speaking very honestly, I made “The Post” [about the Pentagon Papers] as a political statement about our times by reflecting the Nixon administration, and we thought that was an important reflection for a lot of people to understand what was happening to our country.

I don’t know if I had been given that script post-pandemic whether I would have preferred to have made that film for Apple or Netflix and gone out to millions of people. Because the film had something to say to millions of people, and we were never going to get those millions of people into enough theaters to make that kind of difference. Things have changed enough to get me to say that to you.
A number of films that I think were wonderful works of cinema seem to have their moment and then vanish into the algorithm.

We started amassing libraries [of films on home video] the same way we would amass LPs as I did as a kid. My film collection vastly outnumbered my LP collection.

But today, it’s all in the cloud, and we don’t have the shelf space anymore to put our beloved movies as part of the cultural heritage that inspired us to become better people, to find values that movies can communicate often faster than your parents can. What I miss is the hard copy. I miss the antiquity that I can hold in my hand and put into a player, but I’m an old-fashioned guy.

I’m 75 years old. I know what it’s like to possess something that I adored. I know what it’s like to possess the LP of [the score for] “Lawrence of Arabia” and then years later to have the actual DVD of it. I treasure that.

werewolves of laudanum (VegemiteGrrl), Thursday, 24 November 2022 01:44 (two days ago) link

sorry for multiple posts

it is rattling around in my brain still, i found it quite emotional

for one, carrying such a heavy burden for so long as such a young kid … and then confronting it all to unravel it and reform it into a movie seems beyond challenging but maybe the kind of emotional work finally needed after so long.

but also on a personal level, i grew up in a house where a marriage was in an unacknowledged freefall (far different circumstances & this one is still in freefall to this day) - but god, the ways spielberg shows how that can feel so much worse than a calamitous collapse, especially over a long period of time, the way it slowly poisons everyone, the tiny cynicisms that infect the children forced to watch.

and judd hirsch is pure ineffable magic.

werewolves of laudanum (VegemiteGrrl), Thursday, 24 November 2022 03:06 (two days ago) link


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