Critical Analysis: Steven Spielberg

Discussion in 'Entertainment Forum' started by Henry, Mar 25, 2016.

  1. Henry

    NYA Moderator

    Every two weeks or so, we will choose a director or actor and share our opinions on their body of work. You can discuss individual films that you love, his body of work as a whole, recurring themes, or basically anything else. We ask that your criticisms be thought out and not derogatory. Other than that, have fun!

    For the first week, I felt it best to go with, arguably, the most popular director of all time. More likely than not, you have seen a Spielberg film in you life. The man is responsible for some of the biggest films of all time.

    To name a few films he has directed:

    Jaws
    The Indiana Jones Series
    E.T.
    Jurassic Park
    Schindler's List
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind
    Munich
    Saving Private Ryan
     
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  2. OhTheWater

    Let it run Supporter

    Cool. Real talk, I probably haven't seen a single Spielberg movie since I was about 12-13, aside from Amistad which I saw in college. I need to rewatch Jaws, at the very lease. Always enjoyed his films, was never raised on any of them necessarily so my fandom isn't as intense as most. It'd be interesting to view his films under a more critical lens.
     
  3. Garrett L.

    mi capi Moderator

    Jurassic Park is probably one of the most influential movies on my tastes. I've been watching it since I can remember, and it still carries the magic I remember feeling when I was young. I've enjoyed the majority of the movies I've seen that he's made. Due to my heritage, I think Schindler's List may go down as the most important film that he made, but it's hard to deny his body of work and the entries that could also vie for that title.
     
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  5. Jason Tate

    chorus.fm @jason_tate @encorepodcast Staff Member

    Spielberg to me is a master class in movie making. Even if I don't like the movies he makes, I am usually glad I saw it (besides that 4th Indiana Jones movie, heh). Minority Report, War of the Worlds, and Catch Me if You Can I've re-watched in recent years and am always surprised at how many things I find in even the less praised of his catalog that I like. I think the word "solid" is my overarching feelings on Spielberg. He's solid, reliable, and while maybe not the "cool" director of the day — someone who I greatly admire and respect in the art of film.
     
  6. Meerkat

    Officer Hot Prestigious

    My favorite Spielberg movie is easily Hook. I think it's far and away one of the best fairytale companion pieces. I love how it takes the themes of Peter Pan and kind of repackages everything. And it's definitely one of my favorite Robin Williams performances as well.
     
  7. Your Milkshake

    Trusted Prestigious

    Empire of the Sun, Jaws, and Catch Me If You Can are his best films
     
  8. DarkHotline

    Anthony Prestigious

    Saving Private Ryan is the best WWII movie in my opinion. Also a great way to test just how good your sound system is, the audio in that film hits so hard. A buddy of mine and I one night tested this when he was living with his ex. According to him, his ex's parents, whom lived down the road, could hear everything clearly in their bedroom 100-200 yards away.
     
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  9. troyplaysbass

    reunion tour Supporter

    Looking through Spielberg's filmography, I'm actually surprised at how much of it I haven't seen (including a few essentials like Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan). That said, what I have seen always has a big impact on me. I'd be hard pressed to think of a single movie that shaped my tastes at a young age more than Raiders of the Lost Ark. Everything, from the characters to the settings to the action sequences to the story, is impeccable. I still get excited about the idea of watching it, no matter how long it's been since my first viewing.
     
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  10. Your Milkshake

    Trusted Prestigious

    The Thin Red Line
     
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  11. Nathan

    Always do the right thing. Prestigious

    I love Spielberg's classics (Close Encounters, Jurassic Park, Jaws) as much as anyone, but his post 9/11 work is really fascinating to me. Minority Report, Bridge of Spies, and especially Munich are deeply political films that have a hell of a lot to unpack. I'd like to revisit War of the Worlds and even the Terminal, both of which I haven't seen since around when they came out, to view them in that context. Minority Report, Bridge of Spies, and Munich are pretty critical, sometimes even scathing films about post-9/11 America, dressed up in other contexts (sci-fi movie, Cold War period piece, 70s Israel/Palestine period piece).

    Munich in particular is a little underseen, at least by most people I know, and maybe the most packed thematically and politically, especially given its delving into Israel and Palestine. But Spielberg actually uses the story to portray a Jewish character who ultimately ends up at least sympathetic to Palestine, even at times overtly supportive. Given Spielberg's reputation as a blockbuster filmmaker who's overtly sentimental at times, it's interesting to see Munich is so dark and harsh. It's more fair to the Israel/Palestine conflict than one would expect a mainstream American movie to be. Rather than paint the conflict from an outsider's perspective, Spielberg dives right into the heart of it with human characters with investment on all sides. In fact, the American perspective on the conflict is treated as cold and detached, not actually engaging with the issue, but waiting on the outskirts, reluctant to truly engage. It's really endlessly interesting, I'd like to give it a re-watch soon but I only saw it for the first time a few months ago, I'd like to give it maybe a little more time.

    But I'll always see anything Spielberg makes. He is without a doubt in the top five, probably top three American filmmakers working today, with valid arguments that he's the best American filmmaker alive.
     
  12. Your Milkshake

    Trusted Prestigious

    seems as if most here have not seen Empire of the Sun

    Munich is great
     
  13. Your Milkshake

    Trusted Prestigious

    RE: best working american directors

    PTA, Malick, Coen Brothers, Linklater, Scorsese have flawless or nearly flawless filmographies and much more identity. Spielberg is involved with plenty of duds
     
  14. DarkHotline

    Anthony Prestigious

  15. Nathan

    Always do the right thing. Prestigious

    I regret my declaration, not because I don't think Spielberg stacks up with those names, he does, but a ranking or grouping isn't the kind of discussion I'm super interested in. My fault for making the statement.

    To say they have more identity I think does Spielberg a disservice, directors who can work through so many different genres and styles like him and Soderbergh aren't any less great than those names. Their identities manifest a little differently.
     
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  16. Henry

    NYA Moderator

    Yeah, comparing other directors, doing completely different things kinda defeats the purpose of discussing arguably the most influential directors of the last 40 years.
     
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  17. Your Milkshake

    Trusted Prestigious

    I only did so bc I personally disagreed with a preceeding statement
     
  18. Henry

    NYA Moderator

    It's cool. I don't have a problem with it. I just don't want the threads to devolve into lists.
     
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  19. Nathan

    Always do the right thing. Prestigious

    Jurassic Park is on TV and I love the introduction to the dino poop scene. Laura Dern is treating the sick triceratops and says she needs to see its droppings. Cut to an expository plot mechanics scene. Cut back to Jeff Goldblum walking up to the pile of poop. Introduce the audience to the poop, we see how gross it is, then it pulls back and we see Dern shoulder deep in it, digging through it. It escalates everything and makes it more sensory. Spielberg just understands the cinematic language and how to communicate what our characters are dealing with. These are things that so many modern blockbusters or even "prestige" pictures just don't bother with. There are a lot of things Spielberg does well, but his communication of information via cinema, where he figures out in detail how he wants to communicate every detail of what's happening, rather than just go straightforward showing her reaching into the poo or having her be disgusted with it. There's character information there, sensory information there, it's comedic, it's fantastic. She's in action while she talks about what she's doing, she doesn't just talk about doing it, explaining it all, which is a flaw way too many mainstream American movies have.

    Also, Samuel L. Jackson is fantastic in this and maybe an underrated actor in just how good he is, but that's another discussion.
     
  20. smoke4thecaper

    hold on, let me catch my breath Supporter

    Spielberg gets a ton of shit, but he is absolutely the world-class auteur every aspiring filmmaker should evaluate and study when it comes to masters of their crafts, particularly in mainstream Hollywood.

    His technique is simple, yet it's incredibly effective. I haven't seen most of the films he's made the last several years, but when I re-watch his classics, the way he edits, shoots, and lets scenes breathe is pretty goddamned fascinating. Not many directors gets to achieve such mainstream success and then have their movies studied over and over again, by countless individuals.

    I love this breakdown of what makes his work so sharp and memorable:
     
  21. VanMastaIteHab

    Trusted Prestigious

    I'll be that guy, I really don't like Spielberg. Think basically every one of his movies (that I've seen, and I'll certainly admit I'm missing a few important ones) is overblown/cliche blockbuster to the max. I have a small soft spot for his sci-fi adventure stuff (E.T, AI, and Close Encounters), but even then I wouldn't call any of those movies "great".
     
  22. Garrett L.

    mi capi Moderator

    I don't mean this to come off as it could potentially sound, but aren't Spielbergs the original blockbusters? (Jaws, in particular is marked as The First iirc.) So technically, they weren't the cliche, they were the groundbreaking. We're just so inundated with blockbusters, if they're visited without that mindset they could seem derivative.
     
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  23. VanMastaIteHab

    Trusted Prestigious

    ^True, cliche is probably not the right word here. But in that case he basically invented the "blockbuster" style that so many others imitate and is bad IMO. That's probably where my resentment comes from honestly. It's not that I hate any of his movies, they're for the most part fine/acceptable/sometimes fun. But they've left a permanent mark on cinema by spawning so many imitations and creating the now ubiquitous "blockbuster" style.
     
  24. smoke4thecaper

    hold on, let me catch my breath Supporter

    ...and now he hardly ever makes blockbuster spectacle films. He put his thumbprint on so many, I can see how you could call him a "hack" or his material "cliche," but in essence, he was the brainchild of it all. The sensation of Jaws essentially birthed the idea of summer being a destination for tentpole blockbusters. Hollywood ruined the idea of blockbusters; not Spieberg.
     
  25. VanMastaIteHab

    Trusted Prestigious

    And I respect him in a way for being that "brainchild", but I still don't enjoy that style at all. I'm very deliberately not calling him a bad filmmaker, I recognize he has a lot of technical prowess. I just really dislike most of his films and when I do like them, it's only because I watched them as a kid and have a soft spot for them.
     
  26. smoke4thecaper

    hold on, let me catch my breath Supporter

    That's fair. I don't take any qualms w/ that. I haven't seen many of his recent films, so I can't weigh in on whether or not he still maintains a certain style that captures the eye or reels viewers in the same way he did w/ many of his seminal classics.