Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Spielberg Blogathon: Day 4

Schindler's List (1993): Control Is Power

by Adam Zanzie

How, oh how, did Schindler not recognize the gravity of the racism and the genocide occuring within the confines of his own party all this time? More importantly, how didn’t the world? That’s why the little girl is in red. The Holocaust was an event so obvious, so provocatively disgusting (like the color red), that it is incredible that the rest of the world refused to put it to a stop. When the little girl appears, in the second half of the movie, in a pile of burned corpses in a wheelbarrow, it isn’t because Spielberg wants to be “manipulative”: it’s because every time the girl makes an appearance, be it alive or dead, she’s a wake-up call to Schindler. Her first appearance is sort of like an omen that Schindler’s Jews are going to be torn away from him and taken to a concentration camp. Her second appearance is less an omen and more a direct warning: if Schindler doesn’t do something, quick, he’ll lose them for good. They’ll be sent from the concentration camp to the death camps and then that will be it. Another telltale sign of Schindler’s change of heart involves a strong shot of Schindler looking out the window in the wake of the closing of the Plaszow camp. His mistress, topless, is lying in a bed sleeping while a Billie Holliday song about wealth is playing on the radio. I think Spielberg is indicating here that Schindler is contemplating throwing away the wealth he has made over his enamelware factory in order to save “his” Jews. Is a big-breasted mistress and all the riches in the world worth the lives of a thousand people?

Always (1989)

by Jake Cole

My favorite shot of the film, capturing Pete's attempt to let his wife move on as Dorinda sits in a crash-landed plane having stolen Ted's plane not only to prevent harm from coming to the second man she's loved but in a subconscious effort to kill herself in the same manner that took her husband. As Pete, finally matured through death, urges her to continue living and to find love again, Spielberg places Dorinda in the foreground with normal flesh tones and Pete just behind her. Yet the blackness that dominates the surrounding frame and the colder light on Pete alters the perspective, distancing Pete even as he sits right behind her, as if the director placed Dreyfuss in the background and used a telephoto lens to crush him against Hunter, emphasizing how close the couple are even in death but also Pete's decision to at last leave this world and free his wife. Always itself may be a mixed bag, but this is one of my favorite moments in any Spielberg film.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (30 Years at the Movies, Part 1)

by Sean Stangland

I don't think I'm capable of making an intellectual argument in its favor. It is a movie that I respond to on a pure, visceral level, and one that has been a part of my life for almost 25 years now. Our entertainments are not perfect -- for every Space Mountain, there is an Enchanted Tiki Room full of animatronic birds named Jose who talk about their siestas getting "chorter and chorter." And sadly, it seems that it's still "OK" to make fun of Asians in pop culture. "The Simpsons" still have Apu, and I bet a lot of people were laughing at "South Park's" "The China Probrem" for all the wrong reasons.

The Streets of New Haven

by Ryan Kelly

As I walked to my car, up the streets of New Haven which were decorated with vintage store fronts and lined with pristine 1950's cars - which, combined with everyone being dressed in period costumes, was truly surreal - I suddenly realized I was walking through Steven Spielberg's memory, his vision of his childhood both as it existed to him and our culture's perception of it. This feeling was very much echoed when I saw the film when it was released in May of 2008, which opens with a shot of teenagers driving their car through the desert while Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" plays on the soundtrack, through its opening which ultimately finds Indiana Jones on a nuclear test site and nearly killed by a bomb, to the sequence's shot in New Haven which convey cold war era political tensions, and through the finale which conveys a genuine wide eyed appreciation of science fiction pulp. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is Spielberg at his most personally populist, a channeling of the popular conception of the '50s through his own personal memories and imagination. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is by no means a perfect film, but it's certainly a film that illuminates a lot about where Spielberg is coming from as an artist, and to be able to participate (however insignificantly) in its creation is an experience I'll always cherish.

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