Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Spielberg Blogathon: Day 11 (The Final Day)



A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001): A Film by Steven Spielberg

by Carson Lund

Frankly, A.I. possesses qualities of the termite and the elephant: on the one hand, there is the haphazard, messy presentation in service of a scatterbrained script that bursts with potentially intriguing ideas and on the other, there is the superficial slickness, the empty-headed spectacle, and the ultimately watered-down substance. The tension makes for an experience that is profoundly aggravating during the fact and somewhat of a growing curiosity after. The aggravation met its pinnacle for me in the much-discussed "double ending" of the film, in which Spielberg almost concludes with a succinct and affecting summation of the film's thematic preoccupations only to burst into an outrageously didactic and less satisfying coda. One of the most revelatory images in all of Spielberg's career is that of David in his sunken futuristic cargo staring straight ahead at a glowing blue fairy while trapped inside a Coney Island Ferris wheel. Not only is it visually thrilling but it also presents a rather penetrating and accurate insight into the state of the human race: we are constantly looking ahead to our goals, believing in the unreachable, and even if we are trapped in a fundamental way, unable to fully enlighten ourselves, it doesn't make the experience of searching any less fulfilling. Never mind Spielberg's irksome tendency to dilute the simple power of his images in this scene (David's stuffed bear sidekick's reiteration of "we're trapped") and in the scene directly prior (William Hurt's spelling out of this very philosophy) - this is thoughtful filmmaking at a blockbuster level.

Escapism as Art: Steven Spielberg's Duel

by Eric Kohn

My growing awareness of Spielberg’s mainstream qualities engendered a short-lived disdain for his work, the feeling that he had exchanged talent for showmanship, as if the two were mutually exclusive. Actually, if it took sheer cinematic skill to make the modern Hollywood blockbuster click, Spielberg was the man to do it—an artist-as-movie-brat with strong awareness of the medium’s power over the spectator. But it must be said, for better or worse, that “Duel” displays a sign of things to come. It perfectly lays out the commercial potential of speed (See: “Speed,” of course, and more recently “Unstoppable”) and captures the profound craft behind escapist entertainment—in the right hands, anyway.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

by Ratnakar Sadasyula

In sharp contrast to other alien movies, which generally depicted them as nasty, scheming monsters, Spielberg actually breaks ground here by showing them as friendly and of course he takes it further in E.T. by showing the bonding between an alien and a young boy. Actually in a way the fascination for UFO’s and aliens, is a reflection of average American paranoia. During the cold war it was of course those Russians. So this constant fear of the other, could be Russians/Germans/Japs, some how explains the plethora of literature and movies dealing with aliens attacking planet Earth. Of course the extreme manifestation of this paranoia could be seen in movies like Independence Day. James Cameron again attempted a similar theme of human-alien bonding, in The Abyss, but there it went a bit deeper, with the aliens warning Earth of destruction, if the arms race was not stopped.

Something Evil vs. Duel

by Simon Abrams

If you compare
Something Evil, an obscure, made-for-tv Rosemary's Baby knockoff Steven Spielberg directed in 1972, with Duel, his more well-known 1971 TV movie about a man menaced by a killer truck, you'll see how far the artist regressed over the course of a year. While it's easy to blame writer Robert Clouse's weak screenplay for Something Evil's shortcomings, Richard Matheson's script for Duel could have just as easily automatically sank the project beneath the pretension of it macho premise. The key difference between the two films is their subject matter: Something Evil is about a mother's fears of losing influence over her children while Duel is essentially about gay panic inspired by a traumatic car accident (or at least, the film's comparatively more interesting first half is). Though I readily admit that I could be making something out of nothing here, the fact remains: Spielberg has never successfully made a movie centered around a woman's world. The absent father figure is a staple of his cinema because his movies are typically about men struggling to regain their agency. No dad means no manly influence, which means a lot more in Spielberg's world than you might suspect at first glance.

Loving and Hating My Idol

by Fei Meng

Unlike most or all of the other contributors to this blogathon, I identify myself as a filmmaker. No, I'm not a professional yet, but having gone through film school and directed a number of shorts myself, I can at least offer the perspective of a filmmaker. The hardcore technical aspects of the craft are irrelevant to the discussion; what I wish to relate is what I think about Spielberg as a fellow artist of cinema and what he means to me in that context. For me, loving and hating Spielberg is not so much about the movies themselves as it is about about what he represents as an artist.

Memories of Jurassic Park

by Rob Humanick

What I realized, with so much hindsight, was that the reason Jurassic Park disturbed me at that age - raw and easily overloaded with the emotions, sometimes disturbing, on the screen - was that this was a film that took death seriously. Unlike most of the flimsy monster movies I'd seen up until that time -- in which a cop snatched from traffic by the hungry jaws of a monster was just a throwaway figure -- this was the work of someone who considered the spirit and flesh and blood of everyone involved, even the cowardly lawyer and pudgy, greedy hacker. He was too wise and experienced even at that point in his career to not be aware of a certain inherent silliness in the material, and yet this awareness grounds it, by relocating the narrative pull away from the physical action (which is beautiful as well) to the universal human impulses (life finds a way). It's this core of humanity that appeals to me so strongly in all of Spielberg's films, and yet he's not one without his darker sides. If Jurassic Park (and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, among others) tells us anything, it's that Steven likes to kill people. And do I ever love him for it.

Sad that it's ending today... but all good things must end. Many thanks to all those who contributed to the blogathon, advertised it, and read the pieces during what is the busiest time of the year for all of us, no less. We couldn't have done it without you.

Happy New Year, everyone. Much love.


Monday, December 27, 2010

The Spielberg Blogathon: Day 10



E.T. The Sacred Cow

by Andreas

All of this is not to say that I find E.T. totally worthless. I just don’t think it deserves the enthusiastic critical accolades it’s received since its release, setting it up as this unassailable masterpiece. For me, it’s symptomatic of Spielberg’s worst and best qualities. In terms of the former, it’s ultra-commercial (and with one rerelease after another, the E.T. profits never stop flowing), preachy, and about as subtle as a hammer to the face, painting with the very broadest of strokes.


Encountering Spielberg: A Steven Spielberg Profile (Part 5)

by Trevor Hogg

Venturing into the realm of science fiction writer Phillip K. Dick, Steven Spielberg produced a cinematic adaptation of Minority Report (2002). In the near future, mutated psychics known as “precogs” are used by law enforcement agencies to predict and prevent crimes. “What first attracted me was that there are two alternative belief systems to this whole Phillip K. Dick idea,” explained the filmmaker. “The one belief system is self-determinism; you are in charge of your destiny. Every move you make is your move and you’re in control of your own life and you can determine the outcome. And the other school of thought is that we are following a map to our destinies that were written by a higher power and we’re just following a script that somebody else wrote. So if Tom Cruise’s character has been fingered to kill somebody, can he change his destiny?”

The Spielberg Ending

by Sean Weitner

So let's really consider those endings, starting with Spielberg's last Oscar at-bat. This isn't about being a fanboy — I've struggled with Spielberg in these pages for a long time — but about trying to take the long view of film history, in which all of this player-hating will seem short-sighted and viewers will acknowledge the director's efforts to take his huge audiences somewhere unexpected as the kind of artistic ambitiousness rarely seen at the multiplex.

A.I.

by Ilias Dimopoulos

It’s in the tone of Mr. Spielberg’s direction that things begin to radiate the constantly evolving character of the actual director (and writer - for only the second time since Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind…) of the film. “Overcoming” the coldness of the clearly Kubrickean first act, Spielberg indulges gradually to some of his most unforgettable magnum opus moviemaking, building monumental sets, moving his camera in an energetic frenzy of talent and ideas. Supposedly, in the last “to Jupiter and beyond” act, this is well suited. Yet I ‘m not sure how Kubrick would enjoy the second act extravaganza. Which brings me to the first crucial question: Should we in any case bother with “how would Kubrick have done it?” The answer is an emphatic no. Regardless of Mr. Spielberg’s declared homage intention, after all is said and done, A.I should definitely reflect his own intentions.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Spielberg Blogathon: Day 9


Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal or Before the Age of Spielberg

by Greg Ferrara

Steven Spielberg doesn't take part in the documentary (but is thanked in the closing credits) although I'm sure if the same doc were put together now he'd be front and center. Two of Pal's biggest works in the fifties have either already been remade by Spielberg (War of the Worlds) or will be soon (When Worlds Collide). And while it doesn't bother me that Spielberg has made, or will make, these movies, I do wish there was more of an appreciation these days for the work of Pal, a filmmaker who clearly influenced Spielberg in many ways.

War of the Worlds

by Ilias Dimopoulos

Then war breaks out. The father now has to earn his parental credentials. What is of unique interest is what these credentials are according to the director. Mr. Spielberg masterfully builds the atmosphere of terror, an environment where post 9/11 shock and awe is “returned to sender”. American audiences must have felt quite uncomfortable watching such a vivid depiction of innocents being evaporated and (in one of the unforgettable images of the film) an army of homeless people walking aimlessly to nowhere. No, this can’t be mindless summer entertainment; this is an austere political statement coming from the pope of Hollywoodland.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Spielberg Blogathon: Day 8 (Christmas Day Edition!)



A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001): Look Again

by Adam Gentry

See, the ending is anything but a happy one. It is impossible to recreate all that an individual human being is from a single strand of DNA, even in the fantastical world of A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Even if it were possible to recreate a person’s body (which is not entirely inconceivable), DNA isn’t truly what makes a person a unique individual. Memories created by a singular life experience are the things that define who someone is. If it were possible to reconstruct someone’s body, there would be no way to restore that person’s soul. The lights would be on, but the same person wouldn’t be home.

Encountering Steven Spielberg: A Steven Spielberg Profile (Part 4)

by Trevor Hogg

“Now that we’ve been educated in Hollywood’s version of how dinosaurs are created by man, it’s a tougher challenge to justify why these characters, who wouldn’t ever imagine returning to that nightmare alley, decide to go back,” remarked Steven Spielberg. “It’s not unlike William Holden being asked by Jack Hawkins, in The Bridge on the River Kwai [1957] after that horrendous ordeal of escaping from the Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, to lead an elite commando group back in.” Jeff Goldblum reprises his role of Dr. Ian Malcolm, who upon learning that capitalist John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) has persuaded the mathematician’s paleontologist sweetheart Dr. Sara Harding (Julianne Moore) to observe dinosaurs on a second island location, angrily responds, “You sent my girlfriend to the island alone? It’s not a research expedition, it’s a rescue mission!” With that remark, the story is immediately set in motion.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

by Allan Fish

We know with hindsight that announcing one’s plans is a sure-fire way to make the almighty laugh, and fate robbed us of the opportunity by Kubrick’s sudden and much-mourned passing. Spielberg was one of the coffin bearers at his funeral, and they had been close friends since the days when Spielberg watched Kubrick shoot The Shining while waiting to begin Raiders of the Lost Ark. When the notion came for him to take up the baton for his old mentor and friend, he could do no other. He even made the film not at his customary Universal but at Stanley’s home since 1971, Warner Bros. It would be the first time since Close Encounters that he would write the finalised script himself.

Happy Hanukkah to the Spielberg Family!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Spielberg Blogathon: Day 7


Making Contact: Spielberg's Close Encounters and E.T.

by Jim Emerson

Spielberg's (and "E.T." screenwriter Melissa Mathison's) characters use every conceivable means to make contact: gestures, symbols, telepathy, spoken language, written language (Elliott and Michael leave Mary a note to inform her of E.T.'s resurrection and their plan to get him back home). But perhaps the closest encounter of all is actual physical contact. As Michael gently strokes E.T.'s cheek in a farewell caress, the alien exhales a delicate, almost orgasmic sigh, full of sorrow, gratitude and yearning. In "E.T.," the act of touching often carries with it the miraculous power to heal. In the film's final scene, gesture, language and touch are fused: E.T.'s healing gesture (a glowing fingertip, applied to Elliott's wounded digit and to Michael's trick knife-in-the-head -- like the peanut, the latter is fake) becomes associated with Elliott's exclamation, "Ouch!" E.T. expresses his pain at having to leave Elliott by tapping his chest, motioning toward Elliott, and saying, "Ouch." Elliott repeats the movement and the word. Finally, E.T., echoing Elliott's earlier promises (as he left E.T. in his bedroom, and as they both lay dying), combines his healing gesture with the words, "I'll be right here." E.T. touches his own lips, and then, with that glowing fingertip, touches Elliott's forehead. Though lightyears of space and time may henceforth separate Elliott and E.T., each will continue to live in the other's mind, the other's dreams.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

by Ratnakar Sadasyula

He wears a hat, has a stubble. He dresses in soiled jacket, rough jeans and equally soiled shirt. His only weapon for protection is a whip and a small pistol. He is afraid of snakes and most of the time he keeps running in and out of trouble. Yes I think you got whom I am talking about, Indiana Jones, the hero of 3 Hollywood blockbusters directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and by far the best of all, the 1981 classic Raiders of the Lost Ark.


Amistad

by Roderick Heath

I’ve expected myself to reevaluate Amistad over the years, to decide it’s preachy, stagy, and minor. Yes, seeing perpetual beach bum Matthew McConaughey in the film is actually more distracting now than it was at the time when he was still a fresh-minted star. Nonetheless, Amistad has instead consistently remained my personal favourite of all Spielberg’s dramatic films. Whilst it doesn’t conjure anything quite as startlingly staged as the Krakow and warfare scenes in its trilogy partners, it also doesn’t provide anything as excruciating as Schindler’s List’s more stilted dialogue exchanges, or Private Ryan’s flimsy present-day frame, and its attempts at providing a kind of Socratic dialogue within itself are the most integral and persuasive of his several attempts at such. I take enormous pleasure in every sequence, every performance, in the deeply, physically convincing recreation of the historical milieu and the care with which Janusz Kaminski filmed it. It is fitting that Amistad gave to cinema the career of Chiwetel Ejiofor, one of our finest contemporary actors, as well as the charismatic Djimon Hounsou. Every bit as rigorous in terms of intense physical detail and production polish as his other films, it is nonetheless the most beautiful, coherent, and classical of all Spielberg’s serious works. Amistad achieves the effortless blend of the near-mythic and the intimately conversational those old-school cinema heroes the likes of John Ford, Howard Hawks, William Dieterle, and Michael Curtiz could bring to such dramas.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Spielberg Blogathon: Day 6



Saving Private Ryan (1998): What Is Happening?

by Adam Zanzie

I think Samuel Fuller is really the only filmmaker, out of all the filmmakers Rosenbaum mentioned in his review, who had a significant influence on Saving Private Ryan. Fuller and Spielberg were evidently good friends during Fuller’s lifetime (Spielberg had cast Fuller as the Interceptor Command officer in 1941), and, thus, Fuller’s influence is already present in a handful of Spielberg’s later films: Short Round in Temple of Doom, for example, was named after the kid from The Steel Helmet; and, in Minority Report, a violent scene from House of Bamboo is playing on television during the sequence in which Anderton’s eyes are taken out. Saving Private Ryan, thus, has a lot of scenes that reek of the influence of scenes from Fuller’s own war films. From The Steel Helmet, Spielberg recycles a scene in which GIs shoot in all directions at a sniper hiding in an elevated area, as well as a scene in which GIs contemplate executing an enemy POW. From The Big Red One, Spielberg recycles the device of a soldier who starts out a pacifist and ends up a cold-blooded killer by the end (Jeremy Davies’ Upham = Mark Hamill’s Griff). And you can tell that Spielberg probably watched the D-Day sequence in The Big Red One dozens of times before heading off to shoot the D-Day sequence for his own film.

The Great Schism: Spielberg As A Villain

by Elliot Gallion

The movies to which Steven Spielberg has as-of-late lent his name and capital, both creative and financial, are detrimental to the art form. I do not want another Transformers movie from EXECUTIVE PRODUCER STEVEN SPIELBERG. I do not wish to see a $250 million movie based on an idea that could have been pitched by a producer of daytime cartoons from EXECUTIVE PRODUCER STEVEN SPIELBERG. I do not wish to see another Indiana Jones movie. I do not wish to have my local multiplex polluted with the likes of a full-length feature film that consists entirely of digital motion capture. I do not wish to see movies with more people filtered through computers than people with organs in their bodies whose sadness and humor are actually alive. I do not care if “anything is possible”; the harvest at the end of the frontier has so far yielded little crop. I want to see movies about people living in the world. By my assessment, Steven Spielberg—either through his own work or by his support of others—has abandoned that basic precept.

Duel (1971)

by Chris Zafeiriadis

The film features a one and only central character, on the road for a business trip. He travels alone in an almost deserted highway, and during that trip, and without either wanting it or having sought it, he finds himself in a race of survival (“everybody runs”), face to face with a mammoth dirty truck. A giant road shark, who seems to be the ultimate-born baddy, terrifies and attacks his victim without obvious motivation. All right... the last bit was a bit too easy, so I take it back without wanting to push further the obvious reference to that other glorious movie.

The Color Purple (1985)

by Jake Cole

Alice Walker initially questioned the choice of Spielberg as director, a fair objection considering the entire point of the novel is that men (and specifically white men) run the world. Walker relented when she saw E.T. and considered the director's portrayal of the alien and the abuse it suffered as that of an ethnic minority. However, Spielberg's thematic concerns make him a surprisingly easy choice for the film: his own history of father issues translates well to a larger critique of masculinity, while his earnest, if naïve, sentimentality ensures that he tries his best to break down racial barriers.

Encountering Spielberg: A Steven Spielberg Profile (Part 3)

by Trevor Hogg

“I’ve always found that science speculation was about the preternatural,” observed Spielberg. “It is more or less what the name implies. It’s elements of nature that we know exist; we’re just not sure how they exist or how to measure their existence. But they’re things that we know are around us in everyday waking life. Science fiction, of course, is just boundless. It’s to the limits of one’s imagination. And so far it hasn’t been discovered where those limits reside.” Teaming with directors John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), Joe Dante (Gremlins), and George Miller (Babe), Steven Spielberg recreated two classic episodes and produced two original stories inspired by a classic Rod Serling television series for Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). The director was responsible for the second segment called Kick the Can where a group of seniors in a retirement home play the game of kick the can which transforms them back to their childhood selves. Production on the project was seriously marred when a fatal helicopter crash occurred during the filming of John Landis’ portion which led to the deaths of veteran performer Vic Morrow (The Bad News Bears) and two child actors.

Man vs. Machine

by Joel Bocko

A visual tribute to Duel.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Spielberg Blogathon: Day 5


Minority Report

by Ed Howard

The film's literalization of seeing the future is so potent because it's a metaphor or a model for the cinema, but even more poignantly it's compared to home movies. Anderton spends his days looking into the future, but his nights are spent immersed in the past, in home movie recordings of his young son, who disappeared and is presumed dead. We never say that we are seeing the past in the same way as we talk about seeing the future, but when we look at home movies or a photo album, we are in fact seeing the past, visually engaging with memories. When Anderton pulls up the footage of his son playing on the beach, selecting it from a larger collection like a connoisseur, he engages with it in much the same way as he does with the precogs' visions of the future: looping and rewinding, revisiting key passages as though hoping to extract some meaning, some tangible clue, from these images of his laughing, energetic son. It places Anderton's work in heartrending relief, as an effort to find the truth in these video images of the future, the truth that eludes and mystifies him when trying to make sense of the loss of his son through video records of the past.

Family in the Spielberg Canon

by Ilias Dimopoulos

Telling of contemporary reviewers’ inability to convert imagery and concept into words is the comparatively prevalent notion of Steven Spielberg as “the family man” of modern Hollywood. It’s one thing to be a gifted entertainer and a completely different one to be a conservative storyteller of children stories to childish adults. People tend to overlook the difference. It’s easier that way.

The Greatest Film I've Ever Seen

by Damian Arlyn

Although controversy has always surrounded Schindler's List, I myself wasn't aware of most of it upon its release. All I heard was praise for the film. This was probably just as well since my passionate love for the film would've blinded me to anything negative anyone would've said about it. As the years have gone on, and I've watched it numerous more times as well as familiarized myself with the various writings on it, I feel I am in a better position to understand and appreciate the problems that people have with it (David Mamet famously called it "emotional pornography"). I can acknowledge that Schindler's List is not a "perfect" film (if such a thing even exists), but as the great Pauline Kael (who, incidentally, did not care for the film) once said, "Great movies are rarely perfect movies." There may be legitimate criticisms of Schindler's List, but they are not significant enough to undermine the overall greatness of the finished product. If Schindler missteps occasionally it does so because it reaches higher than most other films dare to. I've long thought it's better to strive for greatness and "fail" than aim for mediocrity and succeed.


Spielberg's Kids

by Machelle Allman

One of my favorite year end lists is the MSN "Moments out of Time". I love to see if the moments in film that I’ve fixated upon make the list, plus there’s the added bonus of discovering new ones. So many films in their entirety are aggravating at worst and boring at best, but there’s almost always at least one or two moments that catch the breath, or tingle the spine, or jolt the gigglebox. When I think of Spielberg, I tend to think of those transcendent moments almost as disconnected from the surrounding film. This is not to say that his films do not hold up, on the contrary, Spielberg has a remarkable stamina for making whole artworks. However, he also has an ability to find the perfect moment and lock it down for posterity.

Let 'Em Burn

by Bill Ryan

Steven Spielberg first showed that he had a way with violence in 1975 with Jaws. The severed, sinking leg, the terrifying, almost surreal death of the Kintner boy, and the brutal end of Quint still have a strong impact today, but Spielberg rather quickly backed away from that (unless you count the deliberately pulpy fantasy violence of the first two Indiana Jones films, which I don't) and became known for many years as a filmmaker of grand family entertainment, whose occasional attempts to branch out into more mature films, for lack of a better term, were slapped away by critics and audiences (most unfairly in the case of Empire of the Sun). But in the 1990s, he suddenly became one of the most deft, unblinking and morally complex creators of violence on-screen. This is not the sort of thing that a filmmaker is generally given credit for, as such, but I'm nevertheless going to point out that Spielberg never gets credit for it. At best, his way with violence is ignored -- because it's too low a thing to be appreciated? -- and at worst he's badly misunderstood.

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.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Spielberg Blogathon: Day 3



Jurassic Park (1993)

by Adam Zanzie

No question about it: Jurassic Park will stand the test of time as one of Spielberg’s more technically dazzling films. But as a character study, will it compare well to Spielberg’s richer studies of humanism? I doubt it. These characters won’t speak to future generations the way they spoke to us. The movie came out at a time when dinosaur discoveries were at their peak, paleontology was at its most celebrated and dinosaurs were every child’s favorite toy. But we live now in a new generation where that old fascination with dinosaurs is all but gone—not only will people probably not be as impressed with the film’s questions about dinosaurs as we were, but they will probably also marvel at how we could possible feel any affection for such loony characters. Yes, all of the characters undergo some painfully hokey transformations during the course of the movie—Grant cradling Lex and Tim in his arms in the final scene, confirming his maturation into a fatherly stage, is the hokiest of all. However, the moment when John Hammond looks upon his crumbling creation one last time, before being guided into the helicopter and flown off to safety, is not so hokey. It’s a reminder that the movie is mainly centered on the failed dreams of this character.

Knowledge is the Treasure: Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

by Lee Chase IV

The idea of God is to acknowledge a presence greater than oneself. We learn late in the movie that an ancient tribe worshiped these beings since they came from the sky, and because they were taught farming and irrigation, tools that would help keep them alive. In other words, these beings gave them the knowledge to gain the necessities of life, and to honor them, the people tied ropes around their children's skulls to elongate them in the image of these "Gods." We are critical of what we do not understand, especially when it comes to religion (or to be more precise, a religion that is not ours), but Indy is familiar with the lengths people will go to pay tribute to what they believe is true ("Depends on who your God is.").

E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial

by Ratnakar Sadasyula

In our quest to appear wise, intelligent and matured, we are unfortunately forgetting how to enjoy life. If we do something, its not because we love doing it, but because we want to be seen doing it. Maybe its time to awaken the child in us. We might not have choices in certain aspects but even when it comes to things like movies, music and books, do we have to put on an adult façade. We want to be seen liking serious and dramatic movies, else we are afraid, we might risk being called dumb. Now I don’t have anything against watching a serious movie, but is there a rule which says that just because you are an adult, you must not watch or appreciate a kid’s movie.

Encountering Spielberg: A Steven Spielberg Profile (Part 2)

by Trevor Hogg

Advance screening sessions are viewed by the director as being a useful tool in fine tuning a picture. “On Close Encounters, I had a very important decision to make,” explained Steven Spielberg, “whether or not to use the Walt Disney song When You Wish Upon a Star at the end of the movie, with Jiminy Cricket’s actual voice performing it. The only way I could tell was to have two different previews, on two different nights: one night with the song, one night without it. I then analyzed the preview cards very carefully, interviewed the people who left the theatre and made a determination that the audience wanted to be transported to another world along with Richard Dreyfuss as he walked aboard the mothership. They didn’t want to be told the film was a fantasy, and this song seemed to belie some of the authenticity.” Spielberg subsequently nixed the idea. “I didn’t want Close Encounters to end just as a dream.”


A.I. (31 Days at the Movies, Part 6)

by Sean Stangland

There's no use in dancing around it, so let's cut right to it: That third act. It has become de rigueur to criticize how Spielberg ends his films, and seemingly everyone hates the ending of "A.I." Many people still think the beings David (Haley Joel Osment) encounters at the end of the film are aliens, when they are clearly advanced mechas -- robots, just like him. They are identical in form to the statue we see at the Cybertronics building where David was built, the one David draws from memory for his "mother," Monica (Frances O'Connor).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Spielberg Blogathon: Day 2


Hook

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. It’s because of Jaws, they say, that we now have directors like Michael Bay, Roland Emmerich, Brett Ratner, J.J. Abrams and Zack Snyder. 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.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Spielberg Blogathon: Day 1



Amblin' (1968): What Filmmaking Is All About

by Adam Zanzie

Amblin’ is particularly noteworthy in Steven Spielberg’s career as the first installment in his “road movie trilogy”, a trilogy that would continue with Duel (1971) and conclude with The Sugarland Express (1974). When he couldn’t get the aesthetic he was looking for within the walls of studio backlots, Spielberg followed Dennis Hopper’s example—and began turning to inspiration on U.S. highways.

Catch Me if You Can

by J.D.

Ultimately, all Frank wants is for things to be the way they were when he was younger: his parents still married and living in a nice home. He thinks that by accumulating wealth and projecting a successful image, he can save his father from financial ruin and impress his mother enough so that she’ll take back Frank, Sr. But life doesn’t always work out that way and no matter how many glamorous professions he impersonates or fake checks he writes, is going to make things right. It is this sober reality that makes Catch Me If You Can more than just an entertaining caper film. In some respects, this is a coming-of-age film as we see Frank go from an ambitious teenager to a disillusioned adult. This is also a coming-of-age film for DiCaprio that saw him move on from youthful characters in flights of fancy-type films like Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Titanic, to working with prestige directors like Spielberg on more mature fare that dealt with weighty themes. It is a transition he has made successfully as evident with award-winning films like The Departed (2006) and critically-acclaimed blockbusters like Inception (2010).


Encountering Spielberg: A Steven Spielberg Profile (Part 1)

by Trevor Hogg

Steven Spielberg is a strong believer in being proactive. “Studios aren’t buying qualities like eagerness and enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. They want material evidence that you’re a moviemaker who’s going to turn a profit. They want to see and feel how good you are before they’re going to give you $300,000 to make a movie. I began by making 8 and 16mm films, some for $15 a piece and some for $200. You can’t excuse yourself by saying, ‘Well, I can’t raise the money to make the short film to get into the front door and show my work.’”

Jaws Memories (1975)

by Hokahey

Throughout the first half of the film, Spielberg continues the pattern of revealing the shark sparingly. He builds suspense without showing the shark, but the shark’s power and menace are clearly established. The beach sequence is a superb mixture of gimmicks: the fat woman walking into the water; the dog that goes missing; old Harry gliding through the water with his bathing cap; the sudden squeal as a guy raises his girlfriend on his shoulders – and all of this seen through Chief Brody’s eyes, his vision interrupted by passing vacationers. It’s all a tease, and Spielberg is a master of the visual tease.

Catch Me if You Can: Two Sides of the Same Coin

by Tom Hyland

In one of the most revealing moments of the film, Hanratty tells Abagnale over the phone that he (Abagnale) called because he had no one else to talk to on Christmas Eve. Hanratty laughs at this and is proud of this sudden discovery, but for Abagnale, this is an affirmation of his loneliness and it scares the wits out of him. Spielberg gives us a reaction shot of a clearly dazed Abagnale that is beautifully composed, with half of his face covering the top of the frame with the phone (out-of-focus) in the bottom half. John Williams' mournful cue, performed here as a saxophone solo, perfectly communicates Abagnale's isolation; this is a turning point for the criminal, who suddenly realizes how his life is not presenting the true freedom he so greatly desires.

Empire of the Sun

by Jake Cole

Empire of the Sun is a greater indicator of Steven Spielberg's capacity to show mankind's darker side than Schindler's List. The latter is a film about a good man among oppressors, a diamond in the rough who stands up for what is right in the midst of unspeakable horror. Empire of the Sun, however, is a film about how good people can turn on each other in an instant, about the corrupt among the downtrodden. Where Schindler's List (thankfully) did not attempt to assign motivations for the German population's complicity in the Holocaust, this effort says more about the human condition precisely because the Japanese internment of prisoners of war doesn't carry the same weight in the public consciousness as the Holocaust.

A.I. - Do Androids Dream of Love?

by Ratnakar Sadasyula

A.I.:Artificial Intelligence, was the collaboration of two men, who have been the Ying and the Yang, as far as directorial and narrative styles are concerned, Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick. The actual basis of the movie was a short story by Brian Adliss “Super-Toys last All Summer Long”, and Kubrick tried to bring it to screen, but languished due to a number of reasons, before he handed the story over to Spielberg. Close friends in real life, their directorial styles were as different as chalk and cheese, Kubrick’s dark, dystopian, nihilistic outlook, contrasted sharply with Spielberg’s more optimistic, feel good, humanist approach. A.I. was the most ambitious experiment ever in cinema history, as it attempted to fuse Yin and Yang on the screen. Typically doing a fusion attempt is a bit of Russian Roulette combined with some expert tight rope walking, you have to maintain the balance between the differing styles, ensuring that the worst practices of both don’t end up mixing with each other, and end of the day, you could end up delivering either a masterpiece or a super dud.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: The Return of Harrison Ford

by Tony Dayoub

Rooted in the B-movies of the fifties, the way the earlier ones were in the thirties, the film's plot is not original, but there are plenty of surprises and treats along the way. Spalko is a formidable adversary, and probably Indy's best since Raiders. Karen Allen's return as Marion, gives the film some of the heart that had been missing in the last two films. For fans of the Young Indy TV show who hoped that the series would not be brushed under the carpet, don't worry, it's not. Aside from the rather oblique references to the show in Indy's references to his exploits as an OSS spy in WWII (he had also been a spy in WWI in the TV series), there is a more direct reference to one of the episodic adventures midway through the movie. And don't ask me why, but I was impressed by the minimal supporting part that Igor Jijikine plays as Spalko's henchman, Dovchenko. Maybe it's his resemblance to Lawrence Montaigne (The Great Escape) on steroids.

A Look Back at the Summer of Jaws

by John Greco

So what about the film itself? Does it still hold up? It sure does. Sure it was made for just for pure entertainment, then again so was “Psycho,” (Spielberg and “Jaws” did for the ocean what Hitchcock and “Psycho” did for the shower) and in many ways it is just an old fashion monster film but Spielberg along with editor Verna Fields created a tense nail biter of a film that keeps your heart pounding throughout. Spielberg and crew created characters you cared about, characters much more likable than they are in Benchley’s novel, and are played to perfection by the three male leads. There is Quint the shark hunter for hire filled to the brim with macho bravado continuously showing that he is the man, the only man who can go head to head with the shark. Hooper the marine biologist and Brodie, the Chief of Police who recently left the New York City Police Department for what he thought would be a cushier job term as the Police Chief of a small Long Island tourist town.

Munich

by Ilias Dimopoulos

To be honest, however, Munich is a film that transforms each time different eyes set upon it. It can be an ode to humanity lost but it can also be a film that will confound you with its simplistic negation of history. Creating a troubled character/vehicle for a nation’s (supposed) quest for truth and divinely inspired righteousness does not necessarily mean justification for vindictiveness and crimes against humanity. Simultaneously, allowing much more than a “face” to the enemy (arguably, Palestinians in the film are more likeable) won’t get you through the night of their kamikaze tactics. (Similarly to Schindler’s List, for the most part, this is a film distinctly about individuals, not their historical environment.)

To Be Beloved is All I Need: A.I. Artificial Intelligence

by Noel Tanti

Many a monster is borne out of grief. When something bad hits us, like the death of a loved one, our natural reaction is to wallow in the murky waters of remembrance. This is where the first four stages of the Kübler-Ross model occur, as we strive to make sense and come to terms with the situation. We do not acknowledge the loss, we try to bring back to life that person who still means the world to us, and we try to do so by revisiting each and every memory we have, a mad kaleidoscopic rush of random images that make no sense except in the grief that we are experiencing. But we cannot alter the past: we can just look at it from afar and, hopefully, in time, realise that it’s where we’re going that matters and not where we’ve been.

Jaws 35th Anniversary: She was the First

by Tom Shone

What is most striking about ”Jawsmania” today, however, is what a grass-roots operation it was, driven not by the studio but by private profiteers, pirates or just entrepreneurs with a single goofy idea. A Jaws discotheque opened in the Hamptons, complete with with a wooden fake shark; a Georgia fisherman started selling jawbones for $50; a New York ice-cream stand renamed its staple flavours sharklate, finilla and jawberry; a Silver Spring speciality dealer began selling strap-on styrofoam shark fins, for anyone who wanted to start their own scare in the privacy of their own beach. Meanwhile, up and down the coast towns of America, hotels reported a spate of cancelled bookings, as people caught wind of the sudden rise in reported shark attacks: which is to say, commercial interests lost actual money because of the release of Jaws. So much for synergy. In fact, the official Universal merchandising was minimal — t-shirts, beach towels, posters — and when Spielberg proposed a chocolate shark, he was turned down — the first and last time in the career of Steven Spielberg that he would be refused a merchandising opportunity by a studio.

"I Can Bring Everyone Back...": Spielberg's Fantasies of Reversal

by Bilge Ebiri

So, what does this reveal about Spielberg? In a way, it’s one of the keys to his success: Bringing our loved ones back, reversing great tragedies, etc…that’s probably the ultimate wish fulfillment. But in the way that he’s complicated it over the years, it shows a vision that has grown more complex and wise. Indeed, one could argue that this is why some of his later pop movies, like the fourth Indiana Jones movie, or (I’d argue) War of the Worlds, haven’t quite had the youthful verve of his earlier works: He can’t quite dream like a child again. His dreams are those of a man who finally understands that time marches relentlessly on.


The Spielberg Blogathon: Indy Edition

by Odienator, Matt Zoller Seitz, and Keith Uhlich

Odienator on Raiders of the Lost Ark:

Enough details and ramblings. Why Raiders remains my favorite time at the movies is simply this: It is damn exciting, technically crafted by Lucas, Kasdan, Spielberg, editor Michael Kahn (who won an Oscar for this) and composer John Williams into a well-oiled machine with well-timed shocks, how-did-he-do-that escapes and gory mayhem. Lucas may have re-edited so that Han Solo doesn't shoot first, but Spielberg still allows Jones to commit the overly ruthless execution of the Nazi driving the Mercedes Benz whose ornament Indy thrillingly hangs onto in (for me) the iconic shot of the film.

Matt Zoller Seitz on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom:

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has the series' simplest plot, most annoying love interest, most casually racist and imperialist attitudes and most grotesque imagery (Doom and its summer-of-'84 blockbuster cousin, the Spielberg-produced Gremlins, sparked the creation of a new MPAA rating, PG-13). At the same time, though, it's the most viscerally intense entry in the series and the most wide-ranging in its moods, spotlighting the imaginations of Spielberg and his co-producer, George Lucas, at their most freewheeling. It's a blast from the id—like Close Encounters, 1941, E.T. and A.I, a rare instance of the director appearing to construct images and situations for his own private reasons, rather than keeping his eyes and ears attuned for signs of viewer discontent.

Keith Uhlich on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:

Now only twilight and sunset. Illumination fades; the self annihilates in silhouette. And all (father, son, and spirit) is one.

Keith Uhlich (again) on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:

Tempting to call Crystal Skull Spielberg's own Youth Without Youth (a perfect subtitle for this enterprise in more ways than one). It shares with Francis Ford Coppola's unjustly maligned time-traversing romance an elder man's world-weary sensibilities ("We're at the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away," says Indy's academe confidante Charles Stanforth (Jim Broadbent), paying homage to the story-deceased Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) and Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery)) as well as a penchant for refracting era-specific fears and proclivities through the prism of pulp fiction. Yet this Indiana Jones distinguishes itself, too, as the first film in the series to take place during a time of which Spielberg has actual recall. No longer solely couched in a movie-geek's distanced obsession with old-time serials, Crystal Skull is a simultaneously multifaceted ode to an artist's formative years, to an imagination stoked as much by the possibilities of destruction as by the worlds out of sight.

Spielberg's 9/11

by Ryan Kelly

When I saw War of the Worlds when it was released in the summer of 2005, my opinion was pretty much in line with that of many other people - that it was a failure with some effective moments, that Spielberg's sappiness ruined the ending, and so on. When I saw Munich later that year I was forced to reconsider a film I had dismissed, because Munich made me stop viewing War of the Worlds as a piece of summer entertainment and made me think of it as a serious consideration of 9/11, as Munich most certainly is. Now I think of War of the Worlds as the dream and Munich as the reality, like when you wake up after a nightmare and begin to comprehend the imagery and dream logic; that which seemed irrational or nonsensical while you slept suddenly makes perfect sense.

More will be uploaded over the coming days. Thanks to everybody out there who helped make the first day of the Spielberg Blogathon a resounding success.

Oh... and Happy 64th Birthday to the man himself!