Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Spielberg Blogathon: Day 2


by Jake Cole

These intelligent touches keep me coming back to Hook long after I should have grown out of it, but they remain frustrating when taken with the film's many missteps. There's a terrific moment of slapstick during the pirates' ballgame when a man tries to steal second and is shot, much to Hook's annoyance, but the funniness of the moment also begs the question why Jack just doesn't react at all to a man being murdered in front of him, in some ways because of him and his desire to play a game no one else in Neverland understands. The climactic fight should carry the weight of two old rivals engaging in their final duel, but the slapstick of the Lost Boys' involvement turns a bloodbath into Home Alone; I half-expected Commander Macaulay Culkin to lead a division of Lost Boys. And in one of the film's true serious moments, Peter's recollection of his mother and how he came to Neverland, Spielberg and his writers come up with a backstory that clashes with the director's visual accompaniment. Peter speaks of fleeing his family because he was afraid of mortality, yet the film shows his baby carriage simply sliding away (and his mother just not reacting in any way whatsoever). Even setting that aside on grounds of whimsy and fantasy, we're still left with a baby who was apparently engaged in philosophical rumination on the nature of death, and suddenly we're back in banana squash territory.

Steven You Can't Be Serious: My Problems With Spielberg's "Maturation" as a Filmmaker

by Craig Simpson

I don't mean to suggest that Spielberg is a dummy. He's obviously read a number of books -- not least of which Alice Walker's The Color Purple and J.G. Ballard's Empire of the Sun. I'm unsure though, based on his wobbly screen adaptations, how much he understood them; or if he did grasp their nuances but was reluctant to parse them. "All those people gamboling in the broiling southern sun," David Denby observed about The Color Purple, "was (Spielberg) crazy?" I could say the same about the internment camp sequence in Empire of the Sun, with enough jaunty Great Escape-like shenanigans to unravel the stark authenticity (and poetic lyricism) of the film's remarkable opening passages. As Hitchcock indicated, Spielberg's primary influences are other movies. Spielberg is a unique enough stylist to avoid obvious homages; you don't think of anybody else's movies while watching his. Yet he lacks the life experience to fully convey the reality that his higher-minded movies intend to replicate.

Catch Me if You Can

by Bryce Wilson

Even more impressive from this cinephile’s standpoint is the way that Catch Me If You Can, reconnects Spielberg with his working class roots. The thing that Spielberg never gets credit for, which is odd because I believe it’s the engine that fueled his genius for the first half of his career, is that he’s one of the greatest blue collar directors of all time. His early films are working class stories. The stories of ex cons, policemen, maintenance men, privates, single mothers, real estate agents, students and school teachers who had something amazing happen to them. That’s what the detractors still don’t understand about Spielberg, and what has made his films so seductive to “the masses” over the year. Spielberg’s early films take you aside and whisper in your ear that something amazing can happen to you. Yes you. Not to that guy up on the screen. Not just to the secret agents and the superheroes. But to you.

by Ilias Dimopoulos

Mr. Spielberg’s direction is visually monumental. From the subjective shot of the killer (a full three years before Halloween!) up until the majestic 30-minute coda of complete Aristotelian unity of time-action-space, Jaws is one hell of a thriller. Filled with great moments, superb timing and wondrous auteuristic brushes (stars falling in the beautifully animated sky serve as prologue to Close Encounters and create a magical fairytale aura) Jaws is one of the finest American films of all time.
The Power of Schindler's List

by Ratnakar Sadasyula

The massacre at Krakow is an unforgettable scene. You have heard tales of the Nazi atrocities but when you see it on screen, of them beating up unarmed defenseless people, shooting old people it shows up what these people were. Far from being heroes, most of the Nazis were no better than bullies. And more than ideology, they were just plain money minded. For all his rantigs against the Jewish vermin, Goth, lets them go, when he gets his payoffs from Schindler. Another superb scene is when Schindler transports his prisoners and saves them from the trains meant for Auschwitz. Especially the part, when some of his workers, are mistakenly being taken to Aushcwitz and he fights with the German guards to get them back.

The Big Kid: Steven Spielberg's E.T.

by Tom Elce

All this focus on the film's kid-centred bent isn't intended to imply that the manner of filmmaking Spielberg exhibits throughout E.T. is in any way childlike. Rather, the director's ability to seamlessly commingle the playful with the profound - lurching from such a sequence as the comic dressing-up exercise fifty-four minutes in to the multiple instances of pathos peppered throughout the final act - suggests the dab hand of a seasoned veteran. Though he uses technically traditional methods, Spielberg's direction quite clearly demonstrates that of the innate talent, not the learned. There's an extraordinary scene, around the hour-mark, that subtly illustrates the developing depth of E.T. and Elliot's bond at the same time as the title character's influence on and significance to the central family is emphasized. Peering out from the hiding place of a closet as Dee Wallace lovingly recites a bedtime story to Barrymore, E.T. and Elliott have their bond equated to that of a parent and child when the former heals the wound of the latter, resulting in a tender embrace. It's a wily, soulful scene that serves to perfectly complement what comes both before and after it, unpretentiously putting the twosome's bond into sharp, empathetic focus.

30 Years at the Movies: Part 1 - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

by Sean Stangland

But back to my living room in 1985: I was blown away immediately. The movie starts with a huge dance number scored to Cole Porter's "Anything Goes," sung in Mandarin. There's an incredible shot where the film's title appears in front of the background but behind Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw). I had never seen anything like that before, and to this day it remains the lasting image of the movie for me.

Jaws (1975): A New Hollywood Film

by Adam Zanzie

It is perhaps because Jaws was such a box office phenomenon that it is almost never mentioned in the same sentence as The Godfather, Taxi Driver or Carrie. For some reason it is not considered fashionable to lump a movie about a killer shark alongside movies about killer families, killer workingmen and killer telekinetic virgins. Many of Jaws’ fiercest critics say versions of the same thing: just because it was an effective crowd pleaser doesn’t mean it was worth the cultural impact that followed. Spielberg is always getting blamed for the modern American creature movie. Why is it, then, that Hitchcock is not also blamed for the modern American slasher movie? Why are John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper not also blamed for the modern American dead teenager movie? Merian C. Cooper for the founding of the American blockbuster? Tarantino for the modern hipster gangster flick?

A true thrill - we have a foreign language contribution. To me, this is the beautiful thing about art and the internet, its ability to bring people all over the world together. Ryan's girlfriend speaks Spanish, and selected the following paragraph as the most eloquent.

Indiana es el nombre de un Perro (Indiana is a Dog's Name)

by Jaime Grijalba

Lo interesante de estas películas son los objetos que buscan y, finalmente, es la calidad del McGuffin la que da a conocer la calidad de la película, es decir, si lo que busca Indiana junto a sus colegas, amigos o chica de turno es lo suficientemente profundo e interesante, la película es profunda e interesante. Obviamente el McGuffin no es lo importante, ya lo decía Hitchcock, es solamente el elemento que mueve a los personajes y los lleva a través de la aventura a relacionarse con otros y a la vez reflexionar sobre su propia condición humana. Sin embargo, en las películas de Indiana Jones el McGuffin, al ser generalmente un elemento sobrenatural, dan la posibilidad de entrar en conversaciones más profundas acerca de lo que es real, la magia, la mortalidad, elementos realmente interesantes y que son tocados con mucha atención en estas películas.

Google has a useful if imperfect translation feature, so be sure to go over and read it.

Thanks to all those who participated and made Day 2 yet another success.

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