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Thread: Looking for Artistry in the Commercial World: The Spielberg Canon

  1. #201
    Montage, s'il vous plait? Raiders's Avatar
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    Fuck 1941. I'll come back to it. I just have no interest in writing about it given the limited amount of free time I have to write anything substantial. I'm moving forward.
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  2. #202
    Cinematographer StanleyK's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Raiders (view post)
    Fuck 1941. I'll come back to it. I just have no interest in writing about it given the limited amount of free time I have to write anything substantial. I'm moving forward.
    Throw us a bone. Did you absolutely hate it? Think it was not that terrible? Sometimes funny, or never at all funny?

  3. #203
    Quote Quoting Raiders (view post)
    Fuck 1941.
    The perfect review of that movie.
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  4. #204
    Montage, s'il vous plait? Raiders's Avatar
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    Fine...

    1941
    (1979)



    Nothing is more subjective, perhaps in all the world, than the art of comedy. It is almost impossible to pinpoint in each of us what makes us laugh; why we laugh at certain humor and not others. Often discussion of comedy comes down to a "different strokes" agreement with "I found it funny" and "I didn't" being about as much as we can defend. After watching Steven Spielberg's 1941, still the director's only pure attempt at comedy, it can objectively be said that it is loud. Very loud. Almost every character is pitched at a great volume both in personality and in their vocal delivery. What cannot be said is that it is funny, at least not to me.

    Spielberg builds the comedy much the same way he builds a summer action spectacle. In the process, he unfortunately drowns out and suffocates the actual humor. The film cannibalizes its own strengths. John Belushi doing what John Belushi does winds up simply matching the scenery instead of being the high-pitched highlight; Robert Stack's deadpan calm fails to be as effective as in Airplane! because it simply gets swallowed up. There is no "comic timing" in the film, it is one long view of hysteria pitched at 11 for its whole length.

    Yet, in this over-produced mayhem comes a kind of admirable ridiculousness. There's a quaintness, yes quaintness, to the film's screaming and shouting and all-out absurdity despite it never once coming to ground for any breaths. Even if the film is almost never actually funny, it has some kind of eloquence in throwing everything at the viewer it can think of (I particularly liked Ned Beatty's obtaining an anti-aircraft gun to mount on his beach-front property and Stack’s response to Dumbo—a mildly funny moment but also subtly interesting comment on his remove from the mayhem outside, burying himself instead in a classic moral children’s film).

    What ultimately happens is the realization Zemeckis and Gale had something here. There is an idea in there about finding the comedy in the post-Pearl Harbor west coast mindset, about how decorum and common sense become lost in the panic. There is a nice cultural look at LA in the time period, not only in the war paranoia but as well the zoot suits. If only Spielberg and his crew had showed some restraint in characterization and tone, a lot of the events could have seemed almost surreal, a kind of deadpan hysteria that I believe would have been not only a lot funnier but more thoughtful in the nature of what it was dealing with. But Spielberg doesn’t deal well with the largely plotless affair, frenetically cutting back and forth and losing any momentum and winds up creating too much story and too much noise.

    Still, if nothing else, you have to give Spielberg, the man largely responsible for Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, credit for taking such an irreverent stance to World War II. It can be said with near certainty we will never see this again from him, and even if this result is rather poor, that does make me a little sad.

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  5. #205
    Replacing Luck Since 1984 Dukefrukem's Avatar
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    I'm loving the Last Crusade love here.

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  6. #206
    Cinematographer StanleyK's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Raiders (view post)
    What ultimately happens is the realization Zemeckis and Gale had something here. There is an idea in there about finding the comedy in the post-Pearl Harbor west coast mindset, about how decorum and common sense become lost in the panic. There is a nice cultural look at LA in the time period, not only in the war paranoia but as well the zoot suits. If only Spielberg and his crew had showed some restraint in characterization and tone, a lot of the events could have seemed almost surreal, a kind of deadpan hysteria that I believe would have been not only a lot funnier but more thoughtful in the nature of what it was dealing with. But Spielberg doesn’t deal well with the largely plotless affair, frenetically cutting back and forth and losing any momentum and winds up creating too much story and too much noise.

    Still, if nothing else, you have to give Spielberg, the man largely responsible for Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, credit for taking such an irreverent stance to World War II. It can be said with near certainty we will never see this again from him, and even if this result is rather poor, that does make me a little sad.
    I agree with basically everything you say, this part especially. I got the impression that there was some kind of powerful statement or something about wars bubbling under the surface, which could've come across if only the movie wasn't so desperate (and failing soundly at) to entertain. Even the USO dance brawl, which is the best part, is more impressive than actually funny.

  7. #207
    Bark! Go away Russ's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting StanleyK (view post)
    I got the impression that there was some kind of powerful statement or something about wars bubbling under the surface.
    I'm a bit of a 1941 defender, I guess, but what the heck gave you that idea?

  8. #208
    Cinematographer StanleyK's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Russ
    I'm a bit of a 1941 defender, I guess, but what the heck gave you that idea?
    The Wild Bill Kelso shenanigans did:

    Quote Quoting StanleyK
    And amidst all the chaos, in which we have 'americans fighting americans' like Aykroyd's character admonished, americans shooting down american aircrafts, a theme emerges, if to be left relatively unexplored, that in the wartime, it's difficult to tell friend from foe.

  9. #209
    Montage, s'il vous plait? Raiders's Avatar
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    I think it is intended to be the Maple Street syndrome to an extent; in time of hysteria and panic, we turn on each other.
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  10. #210
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    I can has updates?
    Sure why not?

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  11. #211
    Replacing Luck Since 1984 Dukefrukem's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Watashi (view post)
    I can has updates?
    An update on Spielberg?

    Quote Quoting On Jurassic Park reboot
    Hollywood Reporter is saying director/producer Steven Spielberg has been meeting with screenwriter Mark Protosevich to kick around ideas for how to reboot the lucrative dino-tale. (They can't get it off the ground just by using the the moniker "3-D"?) Both Universal, which released the trilogy, and Spielberg's camp stress that no one has been engaged to write a script and that the discussions have been purely exploratory.

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  12. #212
    Cinematographer StanleyK's Avatar
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    Always feels to me like the epitome of a director who doesn't care going through the motions. Imagine the blandest, most watered down Hollywood romance, with glaringly artificial characters (and their disconnect from reality isn't part of any theme) who talk exclusively in 'cute' comic relief and 'deep' philosophizings. Not a single moment in the film feels sincere, it's one of the phoniest and most workmanlike I can remember seeing in quite some time. Dreyfuss' character, the protagonist, is a total asshole, spending the little time he's alive putting down his friends and girlfriend with sarcastic remarks. The main conflict of the film is that after he's dead, he has to let his girlfriend move on (which is pretty backwards and fucked up now that I think about it), and so he has to learn to stop being controlling and obsessive and makes her have an epiphany. But in the end, as the movie doesn't consider the possibility that people can be happy single, he hands her off to his protégé, condescendingly calling them 'my girl... and my boy'. He's no less of an asshole, he's just a different kind of asshole, and with the same hero complex. Nothing has been learned, and my time has been wasted. It's kind of impressive how death itself is rendered uninteresting by how boring this story is; in fact, at several instances I felt I was going to pass out of boredom. Spielberg's movies tend to, even at their weakest, be at least entertaining; this is, by my estimation, his worst by far, taking the distinction away from the occasionally interesting 1941.

  13. #213
    Nah, I like Always. My only problem is the pacing is a bit too slow.

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  14. #214
    - - - - - Irish's Avatar
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    Well said. Always is an awful movie. Too bad it was one of Audrey Hepburn's last roles.

    Can't wait for the write up on Hook.

  15. #215
    Crying Enthusiast Sven's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting balmakboor (view post)
    Nah, I like Always.
    Haha. Yeah, I like it too. Looks like StanleyK and I are looking for different things.

  16. #216
    Cinematographer StanleyK's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting balmakboor (view post)
    Nah, I like Always.
    Quote Quoting Sven
    Haha. Yeah, I like it too. Looks like StanleyK and I are looking for different things.
    What do you guys like about it?

    Quote Quoting Irish
    Well said. Always is an awful movie. Too bad it was one of Audrey Hepburn's last roles.

    Can't wait for the write up on Hook.
    Just curious: how many Spielberg movies have you seen? And were there any ones that you enjoyed?

  17. #217
    - - - - - Irish's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting StanleyK (view post)
    Just curious: how many Spielberg movies have you seen?
    All of them except Sugarland Express, Color Purple, and 1941.

    And were there any ones that you enjoyed?
    Sure. I like a lot of the stuff he did in the 70s and 80s. After that, I think he relies heavily on cheap emotion (Shindler's List) and big spectacle (Private Ryan). I think he gets far too much credit for being some kind of master auteur when in reality, he's a journeyman moviemaker and always has been.

  18. #218
    Kung Fu Hippie Watashi's Avatar
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    Hook is a movie I make sure to see every year.

    Still is amazing with every rewatch.
    Sure why not?

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  19. #219
    Kung Fu Hippie Watashi's Avatar
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    I haven't seen Sugarland Express, 1941, Always, or Amistad.

    I need to rewatch Empire of the Sun, The Last Crusade, and Catch Me If You Can.
    Sure why not?

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  20. #220
    Quote Quoting Watashi (view post)
    I haven't seen Sugarland Express, 1941, Always, or Amistad.

    I need to rewatch Empire of the Sun, The Last Crusade, and Catch Me If You Can.
    Except for Empire of the Sun, you probably have his 6 worst films listed there.
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  21. #221
    Cinematographer StanleyK's Avatar
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    transmogrifier was right: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is bland, superficial and unexciting. Which is very strange, considering it's the most overt yet use of the 'distant fathers' theme Spielberg is so fond of. I think he's better off dealing with it in more metaphorical ways, such as in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. Those movies were sincere and heartfelt; here, like in his other effort of the year, the people and their drama are held at a distance, scrutinized rather than being involved with, likely due to the film's light and jokey tone. Nothing is taken very seriously, everything is comically exaggerated: Henry Jones Sr. isn't just absent, he straight up doesn't give a shit about anything that happens with Indy; the opening doesn't just show Indy's first adventure, he acquires basically every piece of his mythos in the course of one evening; it's not enough that we know the nazis are bad, we have to see them at a book-burning rally; and so on. The film's action, I must say, is top-notch, and the climax at the cave is very well-handled, but with no emotional weight to any of it, it ends up very dull, just a technical feat to be admired rather than a genuinely gripping story.

  22. #222
    Replacing Luck Since 1984 Dukefrukem's Avatar
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    Last Crusade bland? Hell no. It has some of the best banter/comic relief in the entire series!!! Not to mention, the best opening.

    "No Ticket!" / The chair sequence with the spinning wall / breaking through the crypt at the library / The entire scene when we meet Connery for the first time....

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  23. #223
    Administrator Ezee E's Avatar
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    Yeah, Last Crusade might actually be my fave of the bunch.

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  24. #224
    Quote Quoting Irish (view post)
    After that, I think he relies heavily on cheap emotion (Shindler's List)
    I don't think that's fair to the film. It's powerful with a brutal honesty for the entire running until the final 5 or 10 minutes when it cheapens itself. But a weak coda doesn't ruin how brilliant the rest of the movie is.

  25. #225
    - - - - - Irish's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting amberlita (view post)
    I don't think that's fair to the film. It's powerful with a brutal honesty for the entire running until the final 5 or 10 minutes when it cheapens itself. But a weak coda doesn't ruin how brilliant the rest of the movie is.
    Honesty? I don't know about that. When I talk about cheap emotion, I'm talking about stuff like this.

    If you watch the movie, pay careful attention to incidents of violence and tension. You'll notice that Spielberg's camera is no more than 5 seconds away from framing a small child in the center of the screen at every incidence of Nazi insanity. He doesn't just do this once or twice, but every time. That alone is manipulative as hell.

    The movie contains a lot of powerful, emotional images and sequences. But then so does any book, documentary, or comic about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

    For a dramatic, narrative filmmaker, getting an emotional reaction out of your audience with this kind of material is a gimme. It's a done deal, and in that sense, cheap, because Spielberg doesn't have to work any anything. He doesn't have to bother with story arcs or characters because only someone made of stone wouldn't well up at Amon Goth's random brutality.

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