Thursday, April 5, 2012

Discuss: Steven Spielberg

Karen: What's your opinion of this prolific film-maker?

Karen: Personally, I love Jaws, and I really liked his TV movie, Duel, long before I even knew who Spielberg was. But I felt Close Encounters started well and copped out at the end, and ET was pure schmaltz. He seems to lean towards saccharine endings. But then, I can't deny his brilliance as a story teller, either. What do you think? Are you a fan? Or is he on your "no watch" list?


Edo Bosnar said...

"Duel" is outstanding. I also like "The Sugarland Express", another early movie of his that hardly anyone even knows about. "Jaws" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" are other hits of his that I like, although I don't like that fact that they led to numerous sequels (and television series) which never came close to matching the original product.
Anyway, he's not on my "no watch" list, but I am selective. And yes, I agree that he has certain signature storytelling tics that can sometimes be annoying (like the syrupy endings you mentioned - this was even a bit of this at the end of an otherwise emotionally devastating film like "Schindler's List").

William Preston said...

I loved most of Munich, but then there was one of those telltale Spielberg moments, when he shifted from the kinetic realism of most of the film to hyperbolic storytelling that ruined the entire mood. (Yeah, I'm thinking of the Flashdance-style sex scene.)

I loathe Saving Private Ryan, though more for the awful script (All their deaths are ironic! The point of view is a clumsy lie! No one swears!) than the goofy direction. The direction is actually, I think, immoral, as Spielberg does things like not show the German being summarily executed off screen. Really, that whole film is a wreck. And then there's his kind of sick humor that creeps in at the wrong moments, like the GI who checks his dinged helmet and then is shot, or, in Schindler's List, the long, slow, comic take that reveals the camp commander has shot the boy. I'm not he's aware of his tics, but they bug the hell out of me.

Doug said...

Edo --

Perhaps Spielberg sent a bad message at the end of Schindler's List -- pre-War Jewish life, ghetto, camps, Final Solution, liberation, and then BAM! Israel!! Sort of neglects the period between 1945 and the early 1950's when Jewish life in Europe had to be reconstituted and a second sort of diaspora takes place.

For the "true story" on the life of Oskar Schindler, who was much more complex a person than the character portrayed in Spielberg's film, I'd direct you to Thomas Crowe's fine (albeit very academic -- it's a long read) biography: Oskar Schindler - the Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activities, and the True Story Behind THE LIST.

In regard to Jaws, that was back in the day when Hollywood knew how to make a horror/suspense film. The tone is set by very brief glimpses, music, and your mind's image of what's happening. Extremely well-done picture that I enjoy every time I see it.


Doug said...

Sorry -- It's David Crowe. I had his first name and that of Thomas Keneally, the author of Schindler's Ark, mixed up.


david_b said...

It's a mixed bag for me.., I haven't 'really watched' too many of his extensive film catalog (he's either director, producer, or executive producer on SO MANY well-known films, per Wikipedia..), but loved 'Sugarland' and some later films like 'Ryan' and 'Schindlers List', and will have to read Crowe's book (thanks, Doug). I enjoyed his collaborative efforts like the 1st/3rd Raiders films.

Oddly, but as a 3-decade military man, I haven't watched 'Band of Brothers' yet. I'm familiar with the concept, but haven't had sufficient interest yet. I thought 'The Terminal was great, and am looking forward to seeing 'Adventures of Tintin'.

I also liked aspects of his seaQuest DSV series with Roy Scheider, but instead of developing it's own style, network pressure forced radical concept changes, confusing even the most loyal of fans.

What do folks think..? Does he do better as a project collaborator or when given full-control..?

William said...

I liked Tin Tin.

dbutler16 said...

Jaws is OK, but a moive about a shark doesn't really thrill me. I agree with Karen about Close Encounters and ET. I love the Indiana Jones movies, yes, even The Temple of Doom, Schindler's List was great, the first Jurassic PArk movie was pretty good, Minority Report was pretty good, Hook kinda stunk, and most of his stuff since Hook hasn't really interested me.

All in all, I'll echo David B and say "mixed bag".

david_b said...

I've actually never seen 'ET'... I recall the closest I came was standing in line to watch it as at 'dollar' showing on a Sunday afternoon at college in '85.

There I was, standing in line with all these little kids, and just thought 'screw it' and left. It didn't seem to be worth my time.

Anonymous said...

Matt alias Anonymous likes Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Can't think of any others I'd watch a second time.

Edo Bosnar said...

Heh, david_b: I am actually quite proud of the fact that I have never, ever seen ET, nor do I intend to.
Doug, thanks for the book tip - although it's not like I NEED yet another book to add to my massive to-read pile.

J.A. Morris said...

I can take or leave Spielberg. I own Jaws(1st dvd I ever bought!), Close Encounters,Raiders, Last Crusade are all great movies I'll watch again & again.

I agree with those who don't like ET. I thought the first half or so was fun, the ending was manipulative as hell, didn't like it.

I think Schindler's List is pretty good, even if the real Schindler was more complicated. I haven't read the Crowe book, but I thought the book 'Spielberg's Holocaust' was good.

Anonymous said...

I love Duel. One of the few times one would describe a film as ‘slow’ and mean it as a compliment.

Tintin was great. He changed a lot, but kept the soul of it intact. He really got it.

Hook was dreadful. Not just bad, and studio-bound, but really not what I would have thought he’d do with it.

Jurassic Park – OK, it’s probably trendy to say it’s crap because it was so successful you almost have to take up a position against it, but, come on, your jaw dropped at the time, right?

Schindler punched holes in me. The part where the doctor poisons the mental patients was incredible. At first, I thought, he’s going to try to save them , what a hero, then I thought he’s going to murder them to curry favour with the Nazis, what a bastard, then I realised he poisoned them because he knew they were all about to be shot. What a hero. All that in the space of a few seconds.

I tend to avoid his more ‘earnest’ works as I don’t like real, actual,genuine suffering of people manipulated to tug my heartstrings. To that end, I have not seen Amistad or Empire of the Sun, although The Colour Purple was good and not too schmaltzy as I remember.

Minority Report was tremendous!

Catch me if you can was fun, but did it need Spielberg to direct that?

Indiana Jones is like inverse Star Trek (1 & 3 good, 2 & 4 bad).

Jaws is great except it’s a shark film with a crap shark.

War of the Worlds was excellent, except ruined by an unnecessarily and bogus happy ending. Why did the son need to miraculously survive? It made the whole thing stupid.

The Terminal was sweet.

Guilty pleasure: 1941. No, really.


Garett said...

Saving Private Ryan is one of my favorite movies--I've watched it several times. I think Spielberg hit his stride in the '90s with this and Schindler, as he took on projects with great personal meaning. He's very talented, but needs a subject as big as his talent to overcome his tendency toward cuteness.

Raiders and Last Crusade were great fun. I saw an interview where Spielberg said that at this point in his career he could only handle cartoony versions of Nazis, and it took maturing to depict the "real" versions in Schindler and Ryan.

Duel was good, but almost a spoof for me, like a roadrunner cartoon. Not a Jaws fan, can't make it through, and I know I'm in the minority there--just loses my interest. I did see Spielberg's Columbo episode from '71 recently, as I'm discovering that show on dvd--great series, and the episode is good.

Fred W. Hill said...

I can take or leave Spielberg. Certainly, Duel, Jaws & Jurassic Park were entertaining thrillers. I thought Schindler's List was great and liked Saving Private Ryan, although I can certainly understand William's criticisms of that flick. I never saw Close Encounters (except small bits here and there). ET I saw at a drive-in with my mom & brothers the year I turned 20 -- it was ok but overly cute and apparently intended for a much younger audience. And here I am now 30 years older. At least no one asked me with his last dying breath to "live up to this" back then!

William said...

Seriously, Raiders Of The Lost Ark is one of my all-time favorite movies. And Indiana Jones is one of the Top 5 greatest fictional characters ever created, IMO. (The others being Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Batman and Superman).

I even like Temple Of Doom. At first I didn't care for it, but it's grown on me over the years. Crystal Skull on the other hand... Let's just say they shouldn't have waited so long to make another movie. Plus, I hate kid sidekicks.

So, if nothing else, Spielberg has my respect for his part in making those movies.

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