Spielberg -- Why?

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Spielberg -- Why?

Postby Lady Sheridan on Thu Aug 24, 2006 7:38 pm

I'm setting myself up here for some serious attacks, I think, but you know I can take it. 8) And yes, I know we've had Spielberg threads before but I think this is a new debate and won't overlap on what we've had before. Hopefully. Otherwise, I'm going to have my first thread locked.

I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade the other night and my mom and I got into quite a discussion about Lucas, Spielberg, the Prequels and Indy 4...so it was rather odd to see the Indy 4 debate start up here again.

I know we've talked about Spielberg having lost his sense of "whimsy" (to borrow Rogue Scribner's phrase) but have we ever debated why?

I have a theory--and I think it's that Spielberg became the cool kid.

For years, he was a real pariah in Hollywood. He made nerdy films. They didn't win awards. They were dismissed as popcorn flicks. And if you go back and watch all of his early films, they are the imaginings of an outsider.

E.T. and Close Encounters are probably my two favorite Spielberg films, and the most vivid examples. How much more lonely can you get? A boy who's family life has fallen apart, a kid without friends, who finds what we all dreamed of finding as a kid. Close Encounters centers around a man who's personal life is falling apart, but he gets touched by a huge event from beyond this planet.

I think you can even make the case for Indiana Jones--who is quite the nerd in his academic life, but gets to be the action hero every geek knows lurks inside him or her, if he was only allowed to prove it...

But Spielberg isn't the outsider anymore. With "Schindler's List" he made it into the A-list, he became critically acclaimed. He gets the front row at the Oscars now. While I don't think recognition of his talent is a bad thing...I do think he is too "in," especially in his own mind. He's the nerd who made it into the clique...and as a result, his films lost that magic streak. He isn't the lonely outsider wanting the alien friend. Now he's Steven Spielberg who can expect a massive hit, a good review from Roger Ebert and a Best Director nomination.

Now, I'm not saying Spielberg makes bad movies now--not at all. And certainly, I have heard it said that his focus is no longer on the fantastic but ordinary people. I don't think there's anything wrong with shifting your focus as you get older...but whenever he does try to make a jump into sci-fi or fantasy, they fall flat. And I think this is why.

All right, fire away.
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Postby Vicarious on Thu Aug 24, 2006 7:56 pm

War of the Worlds was the worst thing I've ever seen, so I'm inclined to agree.
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Postby RogueScribner on Thu Aug 24, 2006 7:58 pm

I think you make a compelling argument. Maybe Speilberg doesn't try as hard anymore because he already attained that which he sought. Maybe as he matures in age, it's harder for him to tap into that inner child of his like he did back in the '70s and '80s. He has an adult sensibility now, which isn't a bad thing, but I think it's caused a lot of the fun of his films to fade. Jurassic Park was his last true visceral ride of a movie, but even that film teetered on the brink of favoring violence (certainly an adult sensibility) over adventure. The Lost World totally went in that direction, thus it wasn't fun in the least. Now all Speilberg makes are message movies and light "romps" that don't really amount to much of anything.

I don't think Speilberg has worsened necessarily, but he certainly has changed. Gone is the Speilberg of E.T., Close Encounters, and Raiders, which is why I'm not excited about another Indy film. The Speilberg, Lucas, and Ford who made the Indy trilogy no longer exist which makes me fearful for the proposed next installment. I don't need to see a cgi-laden message movie starring some over the hill grump-face.
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Postby MasterWhedon on Thu Aug 24, 2006 8:03 pm

Vicarious wrote:War of the Worlds was the worst thing I've ever seen, so I'm inclined to agree.

I'd wager heavy money you're at least slightly exaggerating.
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Postby Doc Holliday on Thu Aug 24, 2006 8:13 pm

Interesting POV Lady S - not considered that before and you know - it works.

I remember how he went from just pure geek newcomer to complete outsider, first with being snubbed for E.T (criticised for not being "adult" enough)...and then with "The Color Purple".

But thinking about "The Color Purple" again, Spielberg was keen to be accepted by the Establishment - even back then. It was very much a conscious attempt to win Oscar...and he was really annoyed about the 11 nominations/0 wins snub of '86. Not just disappointed - but took it personally - like the kid that asks to join a gang and gets told "no".

But it weren't long before he was back looking for that golden boy to take home. It meant so much to him!

And ever since Schindlers - with the exception of SPR - his films have been, well, more pedestrian. For the most part, certainly. Like, he's in the club now - feet up time.
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Postby TheBaxter on Thu Aug 24, 2006 8:18 pm

i've read spielberg talk in interviews about how having kids of his own changed him and his approach to making films. for instance, the end of CEOT3K when dreyfuss leaves with the aliens represented his own wish to go on that adventure, but now that he has kids, he'd never consider leaving them the way dreyfuss left his kids to go on the ship in that film.

you can also definitely get the sense of that in WOTW, with all the scenes between cruise and his kids, and the metaphorical scene where he lets his son go. so i think becoming a father has a lot to do with his more recent films becoming more 'mature' than his earlier, more adventurous ones.
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Postby austenandrews on Thu Aug 24, 2006 8:24 pm

I'm not sure I'd put it down to becoming establishment, so much as shooting his wad with fantasy-oriented material. I don't think he has much else to say in that department (see A.I. as evidence, which he only did because of Kubrick). He does seem to have something to say in other arenas and it shows. I think this would be the case even if he'd never won an Oscar.

I'm also harboring silent dread for Indy 4. Silent because I want to give it every chance to succeed, but, well, you know.
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Postby Vicarious on Thu Aug 24, 2006 9:25 pm

MasterWhedon wrote:
Vicarious wrote:War of the Worlds was the worst thing I've ever seen, so I'm inclined to agree.

I'd wager heavy money you're at least slightly exaggerating.


Well, the last 20 minutes of WotW was the worst experience I've ever had in a movie theater. So it might be a slight exaggeration, but not much. However, I love so many of his movies that it probably doesn't matter.
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Postby magicmonkey on Thu Aug 24, 2006 10:03 pm

Spielberg the new M.Knight Shyamalan.

I like his movies, he kinda lost his way and experimented a bit with things like "Catch me if you can", "Minority Report" and "A.I". But, he seemed to find his feet again with "The Terminal". I see what you say about the outsider thing, and from what I've read I don't think I would like the guy, but I like the movies.

The Indy movies are highly overated tho, IMO. I love the character of Indy, I love the production design, but they are so badly scripted and written expecially "The Last Crusade". They are true pap, well polished saturday morning serial pap, but they are no "Schindlers List". The question for me is, is he too pretentious like Shyamalam.

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Postby Lord Voldemoo on Thu Aug 24, 2006 10:13 pm

magicmonkey wrote:
The Indy movies are highly overated tho, IMO. I love the character of Indy, I love the production design, but they are so badly scripted and written expecially "The Last Crusade". They are true pap, well polished saturday morning serial pap, but they are no "Schindlers List".



ZZZZAAAAAAAACCCCKTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh wait, I can't do that.

mm, they're not really supposed to be Schindler's List, are they?

I know everybody gets all crazy now when someone defends the "saturday morning serial" type of movie, post SW prequels, but to me the Indy movies completely succeed in pulling this off with style. The easy action, likeable characters, hateable bad guys (some with charisma like Belloch and blonde nazi chick and some without like Mola Ram). Light romance, whips, guns and car/plane chases. Kickass scares, booby traps. What could be wrong with that? The writing isn't amazing but it's not nearly as clunky as the Prequels, IMHO. It's not deep, nor is it supposed to be. I wish they were still making popcorn movies this well.

I love me some Indy.
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Postby Tyrone_Shoelaces on Thu Aug 24, 2006 10:23 pm

I think part of it is that it's not a challenge any more. He no longer has to ask himself, "Well, gee, how am I gonna do this?" He's either already done it or someone will write a check to make it happen. I'm sure that every time he says he wants to do something they automatically start the budget at 60 million. I'd like to see him peel away a few layers of comfort and do something small and simple.
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Postby magicmonkey on Thu Aug 24, 2006 10:24 pm

Lord Voldemoo wrote:
magicmonkey wrote:
The Indy movies are highly overated tho, IMO. I love the character of Indy, I love the production design, but they are so badly scripted and written expecially "The Last Crusade". They are true pap, well polished saturday morning serial pap, but they are no "Schindlers List".



ZZZZAAAAAAAACCCCKTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh wait, I can't do that.

mm, they're not really supposed to be Schindler's List, are they?

I know everybody gets all crazy now when someone defends the "saturday morning serial" type of movie, post SW prequels, but to me the Indy movies completely succeed in pulling this off with style. The easy action, likeable characters, hateable bad guys (some with charisma like Belloch and blonde nazi chick and some without like Mola Ram). Light romance, whips, guns and car/plane chases. Kickass scares, booby traps. What could be wrong with that? The writing isn't amazing but it's not nearly as clunky as the Prequels, IMHO. It's not deep, nor is it supposed to be. I wish they were still making popcorn movies this well.

I love me some Indy.


I love them too, but to be honest I think they are a bit overated, if they are examples of the best of the genre then lord help us! Its a shame they have never been bettered, but its maybe more to do with studio formulas etc that get in the way of this ever happening.

I was trying to say that I think Spielberg is as good now as he was in the past, post post nerd acceptence. Perhaps there were too many layers in my post, trying to compare Spielberg with Shyamalan, his experiemental period and how overated Indy is. They (Indy Movies) are poorly scripted, great films that shouldn't have to fall apart when inspected closely. Still, the music, the production design and Ford carry it through.
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Postby brokebackcowboy on Thu Aug 24, 2006 11:24 pm

It could be that Spielberg has sort of the same problem that Lucas has - and that is he doesn't hear enough constructive criticism. They are surrounded by people who are there, happily, for the purpose of carrying out their visions. But does anyone tell Spielberg (we KNOW no one tells Lucas - hello Mr. McCallum!) that perhaps some of his ideas don't really work? Like in WotW, I think it was a huge mistake to build the whole movie around the Ferrier character's POV. It could have been Spielberg's ID4, and it could have been the most amazing spectacle ever. I remember seeing the tripods for the first time and saying ... holy shit, this is going to be amazing. But as the movie progressed, the movie felt too confined. And there were character development and plot flaws. The only difference between Spielberg and Lucas is that Spielberg has genuine, masterful talent. And no one can argue that the man isn't productive. Now about Munich - I think that was one of his finest films, a truly great film. It had some problems, but those could have been fixed with better editing. Great story, acting, dialogue, pacing, cinematography ... all with the Spielberg touch. I had a better time in the theater watching WotW, but for me, Munich holds up to repeated viewings much better. Because in the end, you want the 90 to 120 minutes you spend in front of the TV to be worth the time.
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Postby Chairman Kaga on Thu Aug 24, 2006 11:40 pm

I don't think I really get this thread. I mean people are stating Speilberg hasn't made a popcorn action "fun" sorta flick in the vain of the Indiana Jones films in a while which is true so how are people jumping to the conclusion that he no longer can do so??
I mean here's his directing filmography since Jurassic Park

Munich (2005)
War of the Worlds (2005)
The Terminal (2004)
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Minority Report (2002)
Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)
The Unfinished Journey (1999)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Amistad (1997)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Schindler's List (1993)

The only one of those films he did remotely in that style (Close Encounters/Raiders/ET) is the JP sequel which admittedly is not good but is everyone assuming he has "lost it" because of The Lost World? He obviously turned his attention to another type of film style but I hardly think that indicates a lack of talent or ability to produce the type of thing he used to make.
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Postby brokebackcowboy on Thu Aug 24, 2006 11:56 pm

Chmn Kaga: Spielberg's recent films have lacked the sense of wonder and fun his early films had. You're probably right in that it may be attributed to the types of stories he has chosen to work with. And the style of his early films have been copied ad infinitum - many by his own proteges working under his productions. But no one seems to be disputing that he's still a master director. I sure am not.
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Postby TheBaxter on Fri Aug 25, 2006 12:21 am

magicmonkey wrote:Spielberg the new M.Knight Shyamalan.

I like his movies, he kinda lost his way and experimented a bit with things like "Catch me if you can", "Minority Report" and "A.I". But, he seemed to find his feet again with "The Terminal". I see what you say about the outsider thing, and from what I've read I don't think I would like the guy, but I like the movies.

The Indy movies are highly overated tho, IMO. I love the character of Indy, I love the production design, but they are so badly scripted and written expecially "The Last Crusade". They are true pap, well polished saturday morning serial pap, but they are no "Schindlers List". The question for me is, is he too pretentious like Shyamalam.

Does M Knight know he subconsiously remade his own version of Cocoon? Will Hollywood ever make real films? Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion...


wow, if my opinion on Spielberg's films are "matter" than yours are "antimatter" and if they ever collided the universe would be destroyed. this is about as completely opposite of my opinions of his films as is possible.

'catch me if you can' was a really good fun film, and minority report and AI, while imperfect and falling apart a bit towards the end, were still decent flicks. but 'the terminal' has to be the worst piece of shite spielberg's made in his life... including those cheesy WWII kiddie films he made as a teenager.
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Postby RogueScribner on Fri Aug 25, 2006 12:21 am

I'd say MR, WotW, and AI all could have benefitted from the classic Speilberg touch. Unfortunately, all three films took themselves too seriously and, as already mentioned, the scope of WotW was way too confined. It didn't even meet the standard of Lost World.

It's not just that. CMIYC and The Terminal are akin to the Ocean 11 movies to me, meaning there's a great director behind the camera directing top stars in front of the camera resulting in a pretty flat end product. It's like he wasn't even challenged making those films. It was too easy so nothing really creative or interesting made it to the screen. Were they bad movies? No, but considering the talent involved they should be better.

I just think coming out of the '80s Speilberg made the choice to dump his fantasy adventure schtick. He made Hook and probably realized halfway through that his heart wasn't in it and this movie wasn't going to be as good as it should have been and he chose a new career path. I'm pretty sure I recall the only reason he did Jurassic Park was to get Universal to pay for Schindler's List. And then the rest is history. Speilberg probably expelled the last of his innerchild making JP and now he's making more adult films. Again, there's nothing wrong with that, but it's for this reason that I hope he doesn't go back to the well for Indy 4. I'm afraid he'll find out that his heart just isn't in it anymore, or it'll be some vain attempt to recapture his former adventure film glory. I hope I'm wrong.
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Postby Chairman Kaga on Fri Aug 25, 2006 12:24 am

According to Speilberg he originally was going to collaborate with Chrichton on a completely different adaptation and at the time Crichton was writing JP and told Speilberg he was working on a Dinosaur story. Speilberg is so enthralled with Dinos he immediately became more interested in what Chrichton was writing then the original project they were going to work on. In fact Speilberg was storyboarding sequences from the book before he even pitched it to Universal. I hardly think he did it only to get Schindler's List made.

I still think it's ridiculous to assume that because he makes films in a completely different style now he somehow "lost" the ability to create "wonder" and "fun" in his films. I think he simply chooses not to due to the subject matter of the projects he works on.
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Postby TheBaxter on Fri Aug 25, 2006 12:49 am

Chairman Kaga wrote:I don't think I really get this thread. I mean people are stating Speilberg hasn't made a popcorn action "fun" sorta flick in the vain of the Indiana Jones films in a while which is true so how are people jumping to the conclusion that he no longer can do so??
I mean here's his directing filmography since Jurassic Park

Munich (2005)
War of the Worlds (2005)
The Terminal (2004)
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Minority Report (2002)
Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)
The Unfinished Journey (1999)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Amistad (1997)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Schindler's List (1993)

The only one of those films he did remotely in that style (Close Encounters/Raiders/ET) is the JP sequel which admittedly is not good but is everyone assuming he has "lost it" because of The Lost World? He obviously turned his attention to another type of film style but I hardly think that indicates a lack of talent or ability to produce the type of thing he used to make.


i've got to say, though i can plainly admit to spielberg's faults, and miss him working at the level he did when he was making jaws and CEOT3K and raiders, when i look at that list above, the only two films listed above i didn't enjoy on some level were the terminal and amistad (and i haven't seen unfinished journey). everything else there i liked, even if there was something in the film that disagreed with me or that i thought could have been better, i still feel like overall spielberg is one of the most consistently entertaining directors around. three of those films (schindler, ryan, CMIYC) i think are in the same league quality-wise with his earlier stuff, though completely different in genre, subject and style. there aren't many directors who are good enough that i'd watch just about anything they made... spielberg, scorsese, kubrick, at this point still shyamalan (LITW didn't sour me on him yet)... so even if he never makes another film as good as raiders or jaws, i'll still be happy if he keeps cranking out pics as good as these. look what happened to lucas, or coppola... it could've been a lot worse for steve-o.
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Postby Flumm on Fri Aug 25, 2006 12:56 am

TheBaxter wrote:i've read spielberg talk in interviews about how having kids of his own changed him and his approach to making films. for instance, the end of CEOT3K when dreyfuss leaves with the aliens represented his own wish to go on that adventure, but now that he has kids, he'd never consider leaving them the way dreyfuss left his kids to go on the ship in that film.

you can also definitely get the sense of that in WOTW, with all the scenes between cruise and his kids, and the metaphorical scene where he lets his son go. so i think becoming a father has a lot to do with his more recent films becoming more 'mature' than his earlier, more adventurous ones.


I'm thankfull you brought this up, Baxter, I could only vaguely remember the childhood, homemade war movies, and after first reading LS's, I think quite valid, inital idea, to me somehow the thought of him growing up in various ways, becoming a father to several children of his own, seemed to me like the more natural fit in terms of how his personal like could affect his creativity, in any way that we could gauge anyways.

It's one of those things, although it's always different for the indivudal, and that it would seem ridiculous that a person's abilities as an experienced, proven, proffesional film maker should somehow be affected in some way with just growing older, and yet it seems to happen repeatedly.

I still think he's making interesting films, that he has a genuine love for his craft still, but as much as I have a great affection for him, and that he can take as many tries as he wants to make a good movie, I'm gonna watch it sooner or later, I'm not all that sure if I can honestly say to myself that his output of recent years matches the quality of his earlier years.

EDIT: But your point Baxter, of him being one of the most consistantly entertaining directors working, still absoloutely stands, I think, and as summing up of how to apraoch it all, is as valid a conclusion as any. As long as he will be making films, I will be there to see what he's got to say.
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Postby HeadlessCrane on Fri Aug 25, 2006 2:28 am

I have worked with a shitty budget before... and... you don't hear directors say that they almost quit movies, for no reason... or that they were certain the whole time that they'd never work in films again. Working while pushing the budget and technology is cool and exciting for us, but to them, it's a horrible experience.

Look at Spielberg's method of making movies. He's got it down to a science. He doesnt' particularly feel like making his life a living hell while making a movie. Yeah, that means that the terror fueled inspirational moments are missing, but, in my opinion, it's better to do what you love and not to have it kill you or make you hate it more than life.

Starving art sounds cool. Live fast, die young. All or nothing. Yeah. These are great in stories. But not in real life. There's a hell of a lot more to live for than movies... Spielberg is just living... so he doesn't pour every ounce of himself day and night into his movies anymore.
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Postby RogueScribner on Fri Aug 25, 2006 2:37 am

Spielberg is just living... so he doesn't pour every ounce of himself day and night into his movies anymore.


But isn't that what artists do?
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Postby Chilli on Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:10 am

Spielberg hasn't made a fun film, for my view, since Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. I very rarely want to see adult, depressing films. Therefore I think Spielberg has decided that he doesn't care about making fun, kick-ass films. He just cares about being remember as a great director.

Shame WOTW was bloody shite.
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Postby magicmonkey on Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:15 am

Chilli wrote:Spielberg hasn't made a fun film, for my view, since Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. I very rarely want to see adult, depressing films. Therefore I think Spielberg has decided that he doesn't care about making fun, kick-ass films. He just cares about being remember as a great director.

Shame WOTW was bloody shite.


WOTW is a good film. A tale of one mans personal apocalypse, as he loses his wife and family and has to work a lousy job for 12 hours a day whilst living in a shitty house. He then has to put up with aliens, being a man of strength in adversity he battles on and on, until the ending. Now, the film has nasty scenes of humanity at its worst, it has terrific spectacle, it has fear and dread. It has kick ass special effects and sound. It is shot quite realistically, not too stylish, but down to earth. What, I mean what do you see wrong with the picture, please quantify "Bloody shite", it makes not a jot of sense to me. All I can picture is that you like ID4, with Will Smith punching aliens and never a glimpse at real emotion. Please prove me wrong dude.
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Postby RogueScribner on Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:20 am

See, I thought Signs did it better.
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Postby Chilli on Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:23 am

One, I have to prove YOU wrong now. I can't 'do' that, because it's an opinion generated by my reaction to the film.

Two - I didn't like WOTW. Why? Because to have a character centric drama with overtones of science-fiction the film has to make you care about the characters. The problem with this in WOTW is that Tom Cruise is apparantly a 'deadbeat' Dad, but they can't have him shown as real 'deadbeat' because he's Tom Cruise, so they skirt on the whole concept of a 'deadbeat' Dad, and make him charming and jovial. If they'd started by making him slightly wary of his kids it might've worked. Then we get his insane knowledge of the weather patterns, which comes out of nowhere. Then we get the opening attack which is directed well, but has no heart story wise.

I could go on, but I gave up after half an hour. Feel free to 'prove me wrong' on how I percieved the film.
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Postby magicmonkey on Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:34 am

Cruise, plays the "deadbeat" father as you refer to him rather well I thought. I didn't like the guy and neither do/did his own kids. Cruise plays a man who has lost everything around him, soon to be his entire world planet through the fact he is an arsehole. Its a grand human tragedy played on a large scale, he has to learn to defend his family and protect them, trust them to do their own thing and make their own choices. Sure, he thinks he loves his kids, but he has to learn to really love them, to do what they want to do, see any political in readings going on here about a paternal culture? Anyway, his knowledge of the bleeding weather is neither here nor there, the fact that he is a "deadbeat" does not mean he is an idiot and doesn't sit in front of the weather channel for the 7 hours he is at rest at home, the guy is a guy, he knows shit about the weather.

As for the opening attack, it shows innocent, curious people getting slaughtered and mass panic, where is the heart in abject slaughter?
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Postby Chilli on Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:40 am

Wait - you want me to convince you I'm right and you're wrong? I had a reaction to the film, you had a reaction to the film, and this arguement'll go round in circles, so let's cut it short.
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Postby magicmonkey on Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:52 am

Dude, the only way I can account for your perception is that perhaps you saw the original film and not the Spielberg version, which I guess is a little wooden, but still a classic.

Anyhow, the point of this debate, was to see you quantify your GLIB post of "bloody shite". Thanks for taking the time, and as my previous posts argue, I don't agree with you in the slightest. A good backwards and forward makes for a healthy debate, I don't hate ya for it but am interested in what you have to say when presenting a well reasoned argument.
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Postby Chilli on Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:58 am

Well, I respect your opinion. Perhaps if:

It wasn't written by David Koepp (who is a really, really terrifically bad screenwriter) I'd be able to say it was anything better than well-directed visually.
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Postby magicmonkey on Fri Aug 25, 2006 4:08 am

I've no problem with the "domestic" style of writing Koepp has, he brings a human level to his drama. Reduces issues to the self and the family, playing them on a smaller scale as part of a bigger picture. I appreciate his work doing this, its creative, human and socially responsable. I'll drink to that anyday.
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Postby Chilli on Fri Aug 25, 2006 4:38 am

... anyone else feel the disturbance in the force?
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Re: Spielberg--Why?

Postby tapehead on Fri Aug 25, 2006 4:58 am

Lady Sheridan wrote:I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade the other night and my mom and I got into quite a discussion about Lucas, Spielberg, the Prequels and Indy 4...so it was rather odd to see the Indy 4 debate start up here again.

I know we've talked about Spielberg having lost his sense of "whimsy" (to borrow Rogue Scribner's phrase) but have we ever debated why?

I have a theory--and I think it's that Spielberg became the cool kid.

For years, he was a real pariah in Hollywood. He made nerdy films. They didn't win awards. They were dismissed as popcorn flicks. And if you go back and watch all of his early films, they are the imaginings of an outsider.

E.T. and Close Encounters are probably my two favorite Spielberg films, and the most vivid examples. How much more lonely can you get? A boy who's family life has fallen apart, a kid without friends, who finds what we all dreamed of finding as a kid. Close Encounters centers around a man who's personal life is falling apart, but he gets touched by a huge event from beyond this planet.

I think you can even make the case for Indiana Jones--who is quite the nerd in his academic life, but gets to be the action hero every geek knows lurks inside him or her, if he was only allowed to prove it...

But Spielberg isn't the outsider anymore.




I can't agree with this - a 'pariah'?, and 'outsider'? Spielberg is the most consistently succesful member of his generation of filmmakers - he and Lucas essentially defined the Blockbuster, whether you want to praise or lament that fact. Spielberg does not make 'outsider' movies - he works in mainstream Hollywood and makes films with themes that almost everyone can relate to. He is the very antithesis of a rebellious voice in Cinema, but he is still held in the highest esteem by geeks, and pop culture, and academia.
His generation were the Film Students who got a look in after the studios starting to pay attention to the fact that a movie like 'Easyrider' could have commercial success. From what I've read, these guys were like a gang - they hung out together. His contemporaries today: Peter Bogdanavich and Hal Ashby have laboured on into relative obscurity, Robert Altman, who was older to begin with, is now coming to the end of his career but still making movies,and nobody has discussed Coppola as an auteur very much since 'Apocalypse Now'. Lucas has 'the franchise' and his future as a Director is, frankly, uncertain - he may go more the direction of his old mentor Coppola and produce film but diminish greatly in the public's eye.
Spielberg, for his last couple at least, is making adult films. They do lack a sense of whimsy, because they are not films for children, but his adult films have always been like that - there's little whimsy in 'Jaws' for instance, or 'Duel' for that matter.

The Academy is not 'Hollywood', and hasn't ever been.

I think if you want to see where Spielberg learnt his most valuable lessons, look at '1941', and 'Empire of the Sun' - there are reasons, for the first one good, for the latter, bad, that these films are amongst his most obscure. I'd be willing to bet there's quite a few Speilberg fans who haven't watched either (or 'Always' for that matter)
This is a good thread and already there's been some very interesting arguments made, but I had to get past these contentions made in the first post.
Last edited by tapehead on Fri Aug 25, 2006 9:48 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby HeadlessCrane on Fri Aug 25, 2006 5:00 am

No, not if they can help it. I know plenty and none of them prefer that kind of life. Don't mistake fucking around for a year and then killing yourself at the last minute to get your work done with having to do it for 8 months at a time. It's not the same. Be honest... did we really need to lose Stanley Kubrick in exchange for getting Eyes Wide Shut? No doubts, his health went to shit with that movie and he died early because of it. That's not cool, that's sad.
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Postby austenandrews on Fri Aug 25, 2006 9:17 am

Chairman Kaga wrote:According to Speilberg he originally was going to collaborate with Chrichton on a completely different adaptation and at the time Crichton was writing JP and told Speilberg he was working on a Dinosaur story. Speilberg is so enthralled with Dinos he immediately became more interested in what Chrichton was writing then the original project they were going to work on. In fact Speilberg was storyboarding sequences from the book before he even pitched it to Universal. I hardly think he did it only to get Schindler's List made.

Yeah, JP was a work of passion and it showed. As I heard the story, he agreed to direct The Lost World in exchange for Schindler's List. That showed, too.

For the record I also liked WotW. I thought he and Cruise captured the "selfish dad" theme with infinitely more depth than CE3K. The personal scope of the film was refreshing, while the excellent handling of the tripods was plenty "epic" for me.
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Postby Chairman Kaga on Fri Aug 25, 2006 9:22 am

austenandrews wrote:
Chairman Kaga wrote:According to Speilberg he originally was going to collaborate with Chrichton on a completely different adaptation and at the time Crichton was writing JP and told Speilberg he was working on a Dinosaur story. Speilberg is so enthralled with Dinos he immediately became more interested in what Chrichton was writing then the original project they were going to work on. In fact Speilberg was storyboarding sequences from the book before he even pitched it to Universal. I hardly think he did it only to get Schindler's List made.

Yeah, JP was a work of passion and it showed. As I heard the story, he agreed to direct The Lost World in exchange for Schindler's List. That showed, too.

Hmm Schindler's List came out the same year as JP in '93 unless Universal made him sign on for any possible sequel....I could see that and it would make sense.
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Postby MonsieurReynard on Fri Aug 25, 2006 9:41 am

It's easy to pick on Spielberg, but in my opinion Munich is one of my favourite films, and its arguments are now all the more relevant with the current conflict in Lebanon.

War Of The Worlds is flawed (as was The Lost World, another film that coincided with a serious release), but it wasn't truly bad (that award would go to Hook).

You look at other directors of his era (Landis, Carpenter etc) and most of them have fallen by the wayside.
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Re: Spielberg--Why?

Postby HollywoodBabylon on Fri Aug 25, 2006 11:31 am

tapehead wrote:
Lady Sheridan wrote:I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade the other night and my mom and I got into quite a discussion about Lucas, Spielberg, the Prequels and Indy 4...so it was rather odd to see the Indy 4 debate start up here again.

I know we've talked about Spielberg having lost his sense of "whimsy" (to borrow Rogue Scribner's phrase) but have we ever debated why?

I have a theory--and I think it's that Spielberg became the cool kid.

For years, he was a real pariah in Hollywood. He made nerdy films. They didn't win awards. They were dismissed as popcorn flicks. And if you go back and watch all of his early films, they are the imaginings of an outsider.

E.T. and Close Encounters are probably my two favorite Spielberg films, and the most vivid examples. How much more lonely can you get? A boy who's family life has fallen apart, a kid without friends, who finds what we all dreamed of finding as a kid. Close Encounters centers around a man who's personal life is falling apart, but he gets touched by a huge event from beyond this planet.

I think you can even make the case for Indiana Jones--who is quite the nerd in his academic life, but gets to be the action hero every geek knows lurks inside him or her, if he was only allowed to prove it...

But Spielberg isn't the outsider anymore.




I can't agree with this - a 'pariah'?, and 'outsider'? Spielberg is the most consistently succesful member of his generation of filmmakers - he and Lucas essentially defined the Blockbuster, whether you want to praise or lament that fact. Spielberg does not make 'outsider' movies - he works in mainstream Hollywood and makes films with themes that almost everyone can relate to. He is the very antithesis of a rebellious voice in Cinema, but he is still held in the highest esteem by geeks, and pop culture, and academia.
His generation were the Film Students who got a look in after the studios starting to pay attention to the fact that a movie like 'Easyrider' could have commercial success. From what I've read, these guys were like a gang - they hung out together. His contemporaries today: Peter Bogdanavich and Hal Ashby have laboured on into relative obscurity, Robert Altman, who was older to begin with, is now coming to the end of his career but still making movies,and nobody has discussed Coppola as an auteur very much since 'Apocalypse Now'. Lucas has 'the franchise' and his future as a Director is, frankly, uncertain - he may go more the direction of his old mentor Coppola and produce film but diminish greatly in the public's eye.
Spielberg, for his last couple at least, is making adult films. They do lack a sense of whimsy, because they are not films for children, but his adult films have always been like that - there's little whimsy in 'Jaws' for instance, or 'Duel' for that matter.

The Academy is not 'Hollywood', and hasn't ever been.

I think if you want to see where Spielberg learnt his most valuable lessons, look at '1941', and 'Empire of the Sun' - there are reasons, for the first one good, for the latter, bad, that these films are amongst his most obscure. I'd be willing to bet there's quite a few Speilberg fans who haven't watched either (or 'Always' for that matter)
This is a good thread and already there's been some very interesting arguments made, but I had to get past these contentions made in the first post.



Seconded. Spielberg has and will always continue to be a prime example of a major director who's films have cut across the divide of both populism and critical kudos. It's no mean feat. That he falls short sometimes is really beside the point. We should applaud the fact that for the past 30 odd years or so he's given us - on the whole - good to outstanding mainstream films that entertain, inform and move us.
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Re: Spielberg--Why?

Postby HollywoodBabylon on Fri Aug 25, 2006 11:31 am

tapehead wrote:
Lady Sheridan wrote:I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade the other night and my mom and I got into quite a discussion about Lucas, Spielberg, the Prequels and Indy 4...so it was rather odd to see the Indy 4 debate start up here again.

I know we've talked about Spielberg having lost his sense of "whimsy" (to borrow Rogue Scribner's phrase) but have we ever debated why?

I have a theory--and I think it's that Spielberg became the cool kid.

For years, he was a real pariah in Hollywood. He made nerdy films. They didn't win awards. They were dismissed as popcorn flicks. And if you go back and watch all of his early films, they are the imaginings of an outsider.

E.T. and Close Encounters are probably my two favorite Spielberg films, and the most vivid examples. How much more lonely can you get? A boy who's family life has fallen apart, a kid without friends, who finds what we all dreamed of finding as a kid. Close Encounters centers around a man who's personal life is falling apart, but he gets touched by a huge event from beyond this planet.

I think you can even make the case for Indiana Jones--who is quite the nerd in his academic life, but gets to be the action hero every geek knows lurks inside him or her, if he was only allowed to prove it...

But Spielberg isn't the outsider anymore.




I can't agree with this - a 'pariah'?, and 'outsider'? Spielberg is the most consistently succesful member of his generation of filmmakers - he and Lucas essentially defined the Blockbuster, whether you want to praise or lament that fact. Spielberg does not make 'outsider' movies - he works in mainstream Hollywood and makes films with themes that almost everyone can relate to. He is the very antithesis of a rebellious voice in Cinema, but he is still held in the highest esteem by geeks, and pop culture, and academia.
His generation were the Film Students who got a look in after the studios starting to pay attention to the fact that a movie like 'Easyrider' could have commercial success. From what I've read, these guys were like a gang - they hung out together. His contemporaries today: Peter Bogdanavich and Hal Ashby have laboured on into relative obscurity, Robert Altman, who was older to begin with, is now coming to the end of his career but still making movies,and nobody has discussed Coppola as an auteur very much since 'Apocalypse Now'. Lucas has 'the franchise' and his future as a Director is, frankly, uncertain - he may go more the direction of his old mentor Coppola and produce film but diminish greatly in the public's eye.
Spielberg, for his last couple at least, is making adult films. They do lack a sense of whimsy, because they are not films for children, but his adult films have always been like that - there's little whimsy in 'Jaws' for instance, or 'Duel' for that matter.

The Academy is not 'Hollywood', and hasn't ever been.

I think if you want to see where Spielberg learnt his most valuable lessons, look at '1941', and 'Empire of the Sun' - there are reasons, for the first one good, for the latter, bad, that these films are amongst his most obscure. I'd be willing to bet there's quite a few Speilberg fans who haven't watched either (or 'Always' for that matter)
This is a good thread and already there's been some very interesting arguments made, but I had to get past these contentions made in the first post.



Seconded. Spielberg has and will always continue to be a prime example of a major director who's films have cut across the divide of both populism and critical kudos. It's no mean feat. That he falls short sometimes is really beside the point. We should applaud the fact that for the past 30 odd years or so he's given us - on the whole - good to outstanding mainstream films that entertain, inform and move us.
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Postby tapehead on Fri Aug 25, 2006 11:36 am

Cheers, Hollywood Babs - good to see someone sees it a bit like I do :wink:
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Postby Chilli on Fri Aug 25, 2006 11:39 am

I think there is, for me, a difference between respecting what Spielberg's done and liking it.

He didn't need to move to adult stuff in my book. Stuff like Indiana Jones is classic cinema, and doesn't deserve to be dismissed by so many as 'trifling' under the comparison of Munich's and the like.
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Postby Al Shut on Fri Aug 25, 2006 11:48 am

Chairman Kaga wrote:I don't think I really get this thread. I mean people are stating Speilberg hasn't made a popcorn action "fun" sorta flick in the vain of the Indiana Jones films in a while which is true so how are people jumping to the conclusion that he no longer can do so??

He obviously turned his attention to another type of film style but I hardly think that indicates a lack of talent or ability to produce the type of thing he used to make.


Seconded, I'm with Kaga on that one. And that would make Indy IV the ultimate test. I mean surely he will try to recreate the spirit of the old movies and not gives us a serious or adult Indy, would he?
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Postby Chairman Kaga on Fri Aug 25, 2006 12:22 pm

Al_Shut wrote:
Chairman Kaga wrote:I don't think I really get this thread. I mean people are stating Speilberg hasn't made a popcorn action "fun" sorta flick in the vain of the Indiana Jones films in a while which is true so how are people jumping to the conclusion that he no longer can do so??

He obviously turned his attention to another type of film style but I hardly think that indicates a lack of talent or ability to produce the type of thing he used to make.


Seconded, I'm with Kaga on that one. And that would make Indy IV the ultimate test. I mean surely he will try to recreate the spirit of the old movies and not gives us a serious or adult Indy, would he?


Good question. Approaching it that way I can see how people might be hesistant about another Indy getting made.
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Re: Spielberg--Why?

Postby MasterWhedon on Fri Aug 25, 2006 12:36 pm

tapehead wrote:I think if you want to see where Spielberg learnt his most valuable lessons, look at '1941', and 'Empire of the Sun' - there are reasons, for the first one good, for the latter, bad, that these films are amongst his most obscure. I'd be willing to bet there's quite a few Speilberg fans who haven't watched either (or 'Always' for that matter)

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Postby thebostonlocksmith on Fri Aug 25, 2006 12:41 pm

There's a bit of an interview on the BBC movie website that says spielberg sees the indy 4 movie as his 'phantom menace' it doesn't how good it is, people won't like it as much as they remember watching it as a child. I think he has a point. he did go on to say that it was going to be moulded around just being 'fun', he didn't want to make it too serious. i don't know if that's a good thing...
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Re: Spielberg--Why?

Postby Ribbons on Fri Aug 25, 2006 12:41 pm

Lady Sheridan wrote:I'm setting myself up here for some serious attacks, I think, but you know I can take it. 8) And yes, I know we've had Spielberg threads before but I think this is a new debate and won't overlap on what we've had before. Hopefully. Otherwise, I'm going to have my first thread locked.

I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade the other night and my mom and I got into quite a discussion about Lucas, Spielberg, the Prequels and Indy 4...so it was rather odd to see the Indy 4 debate start up here again.

I know we've talked about Spielberg having lost his sense of "whimsy" (to borrow Rogue Scribner's phrase) but have we ever debated why?

I have a theory--and I think it's that Spielberg became the cool kid.

For years, he was a real pariah in Hollywood. He made nerdy films. They didn't win awards. They were dismissed as popcorn flicks. And if you go back and watch all of his early films, they are the imaginings of an outsider.

E.T. and Close Encounters are probably my two favorite Spielberg films, and the most vivid examples. How much more lonely can you get? A boy who's family life has fallen apart, a kid without friends, who finds what we all dreamed of finding as a kid. Close Encounters centers around a man who's personal life is falling apart, but he gets touched by a huge event from beyond this planet.

I think you can even make the case for Indiana Jones--who is quite the nerd in his academic life, but gets to be the action hero every geek knows lurks inside him or her, if he was only allowed to prove it...

But Spielberg isn't the outsider anymore. With "Schindler's List" he made it into the A-list, he became critically acclaimed. He gets the front row at the Oscars now. While I don't think recognition of his talent is a bad thing...I do think he is too "in," especially in his own mind. He's the nerd who made it into the clique...and as a result, his films lost that magic streak. He isn't the lonely outsider wanting the alien friend. Now he's Steven Spielberg who can expect a massive hit, a good review from Roger Ebert and a Best Director nomination.

Now, I'm not saying Spielberg makes bad movies now--not at all. And certainly, I have heard it said that his focus is no longer on the fantastic but ordinary people. I don't think there's anything wrong with shifting your focus as you get older...but whenever he does try to make a jump into sci-fi or fantasy, they fall flat. And I think this is why.

All right, fire away.


That's an interesting theory. I guess that means that the sense of whimsy in Spielberg's films comes from this feeling of being an outsider who is suddenly given access to a magical world that's even better and more fulflilling than the one shared by everybody else.

One thing: I don't know if this is true or even possible, but maybe he used to fantasize about these types of stories and possibly even formulate rough ideas of them when he was a child? Maybe that's why the highest concentration of those types of films happened at an early stage in his career.
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Re: Spielberg--Why?

Postby HollywoodBabylon on Fri Aug 25, 2006 12:49 pm

MasterWhedon wrote:
tapehead wrote:I think if you want to see where Spielberg learnt his most valuable lessons, look at '1941', and 'Empire of the Sun' - there are reasons, for the first one good, for the latter, bad, that these films are amongst his most obscure. I'd be willing to bet there's quite a few Speilberg fans who haven't watched either (or 'Always' for that matter)

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Me! It's been on the Filmfour channel here in the UK a few times. And it's a pretty good film - no, infact, it's more than that; it's a small jewel of a movie with a jazzy, freewheeling kind of direction and great performances (especially Goldie Hawn). It deserves a far higher profile in the Spielberg canon than it currently has. I'd certainly put it in his top 10 best, for sure.
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Re: Spielberg--Why?

Postby austenandrews on Fri Aug 25, 2006 12:49 pm

Ribbons wrote:One thing: I don't know if this is true or even possible, but maybe he used to fantasize about these types of stories and possibly even formulate rough ideas of them when he was a child? Maybe that's why the highest concentration of those types of films happened at an early stage in his career.

That's what I meant when I said he probably just shot his wad on those kinds of films. The reason musicians' sophomore records are notoriously weak is because they used a lifetime of musical ideas in the first one, and have to start from scratch for the second one. Same basic idea here.

Also, screenwriting has become much more formulaic over the decades.
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Postby havocSchultz on Fri Aug 25, 2006 12:52 pm

I still think Spielberg can direct circles around pretty much damn near anybody out there...even if he's "not as great" as he used to be.

I really enjoyed WotW up until the end...the ending almost ruined the whole movie for me...
But Spielberg can still direct action and suspense and intensity with the best of them.

Even in the much lamented "Lost World" we got the brilliant and tense trailer on the cliff scene.
I thought that scen was at least really well done. Even with Spileberg phoning it in.

Munich was great too - up until the end in my opinion. I thought it was a tad too anti-climactic, but who knows. Maybe that's how it might've actually "played out"
I just thought the film had a real interesting and engrossing build up to it...but who knows, maybe I'll just have to give it another shot to be sure...

I still like him, but I do agree with the sentiment that he seems to have "grown up" quite a bit in the last while. Minority Report and WotW (which would've used to have been considered his "fun adventure films") have an actual fairly dark and more adult core to them, so you can't really deny that assessment I guess...

But I don't know, I still think the majority of filmmakers and wannabe filmmakers would be more than happy to have the ability to direct the quality of films he still makes today...

But that's just me...
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Re: Spielberg--Why?

Postby MasterWhedon on Fri Aug 25, 2006 1:06 pm

HollywoodBabylon wrote:
MasterWhedon wrote:
tapehead wrote:I think if you want to see where Spielberg learnt his most valuable lessons, look at '1941', and 'Empire of the Sun' - there are reasons, for the first one good, for the latter, bad, that these films are amongst his most obscure. I'd be willing to bet there's quite a few Speilberg fans who haven't watched either (or 'Always' for that matter)

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Me! It's been on the Filmfour channel here in the UK a few times. And it's a pretty good film - no, infact, it's more than that; it's a small jewel of a movie with a jazzy, freewheeling kind of direction and great performances (especially Goldie Hawn). It deserves a far higher profile in the Spielberg canon than it currently has. I'd certainly put it in his top 10 best, for sure.

Really? I was really underwhelmed, and I loves me some Spielberg.
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