Commenting Steven Spielberg's Works
Steven Spielberg is my favorite director, and the first film he directed, that I could see was Color Purple, then, ET, Saving Private Ryan, and Jurassic Park. I guess, we have time in our lives, that things make more sense than never. Time I could go to the movies, and enjoy my favorite films. I was very young when I first saw Color Purple, but the film made me think so much, about social conflicts, and racism. This is not a very serious problem in Brazil anymore, as well as it is in the USA, because of our ethnical roots, but it was in this country. There’s abundance of sensibility, in the notorious performance of Woopy, and she just catches us in the deepest of our heart, besides her physical appearance.
The audience also gets emotionally involved with ET and Ryan, even in such circumstances they are. So, what changes our opinion after seeing his films? Spielberg explores the situations in such a way, that a creature, human or not, fights to be understood, to resist to all the pression, and become a hero, an unforgettable creature, a memorable personage. It makes me remembering the words: “Nobody is so important as he/she imagines and so insignificant as he/she seems to be”. In Jurassic Park, we also could see that danger is much a human creation, than nature can really produce. This is a remarkable feature of his work, and for sure, his fantastic ability to present scenes in such a real atmosphere, that we do believe everything is really going on. He plays with danger.
His Academy Awards confirm it. Let’s see something about his autobiography. There are a few cheeky references to Spielberg-directed movies in the series: in the first part, the cinema in 1955 presents A Boy’s Life and Watch the Skies, early titles for ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind respectively; and in the second, Jaws 19 (directed by none other than Max Spielberg, Steven’s son) is showing at the hi-tech multiplex of 2015 - there’s also a Jaws Nintendo game in the window of an antique shop. There’s literally never a dull moment in a Spielberg movie, thanks to the man’s predilection for intense, dazzling, epiphanic light shows. Close Encounters probably wins the gold here with its whizzy disco-ball UFOs and coruscating ‘city of lights’ mother ship, but honorable mentions go to: Empire of the Sun for the atomic beacon that was Hiroshima; 1941, where every light bulb in the world comes to pop in LA; Raiders of the Lost Ark, for God’s inimitable way of dealing with the Nazis; ET and Jurassic Park, where torches and headlamps punch great white holes in the night; and Always, with its warm ‘n’ fuzzy Heavenly glow. ‘I have always loved what I call “God Light”,’ Spielberg says. ‘Shafts coming out of a spaceship, or coming through a doorway. It’s just been very romantic and extremely wondrous to me, light.’ Every week cult sci-fi show The X-Files pays homage to Spielberg, as Mulder and Scully wave their ultra-powerful FBI torches in dark, forbidden places and flying saucers bedazzle more hapless earthlings. Those with no fondness for Stevie’s favorite cinematographic touch have to include the eponymous stars of Gremlins, as any exposure to bright light causes their ugly mugs to melt into a puddle of bubbling effluvia. My alter ego, says the director who has cast him thrice (Jaws, Close Encounters, Always) as the sometimes responsibility-evading but ultimately gold-hearted bloke-next-door (who happens to confront huge sharks, board alien spacecraft and fly dangerous fire-fighting missions). There are many similarities between the two: Jewish background, intuitive, childlike nature, love of A Guy Named Joe, facial hair, glasses. Although Dreyfuss has played a number of other memorable roles - in Tin Men (1986), Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1990), Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995) - he is most often recalled for his gentle humor and quirky manner in Spielberg’s two classic 70s hits. He is as close an actor to Spencer Tracy as exists today ... he is a lot like Every man at the same time. Richard’s easier to identify with than, says Robert Redford. Most of us are like Richard Dreyfuss. If you ever need an insight into Steven, “When You Wish Upon A Star” [heard in CE3K] is it. What comes out of Steven unconsciously is that he’s a big kid who, at twelve years old, decided to make movies. ... He’s focused every one of his powers and capabilities on making movies and blocked everything else in the world out of his personality. Spielberg found his source material in a short story by sci-fi author Richard Mathison published in Playboy magazine (no doubt he would often scour its pages for ideas) and later commented, ‘in all the years I’ve been making movies I have not found anything as potentially fraught with suspense and tension as Duel.’ Reading too much into such a visceral entertainment is inadvisable, but it has been suggested that the film is about technology versus man (n) and the impotence of contemporary masculinity (a common Spielberg theme): Weaver’s character, claimed Spielberg, ‘is typical of that lower middle-class American who’s insulated by suburban modernization. A man like that never expects to be challenged by anything more than his television set breaking down and having to call his repair man.’ The decision to make the sinister truck driver anonymous came about when his face was obscured by sunlight during filming and Spielberg jumped on the idea of the truck itself becoming ‘the personified villain.’ (Note the existence of other non-human, personified Spielberg baddies such as the shark in Jaws and the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.) The film was lavished with critical praise, including a few words from one of Spielberg’s favorite directors David Lean, who saw the young man as ‘a very bright new director.’ The super-duper direction of the vehicles, proving that Spielberg can wrest a better performance from a ten-ton hunk of wheels and noise than most filmmakers can from professional actors. It’s a minor quibble, but Weaver’s interior monologue is as irksome and intrusive as Harrison Ford’s in the original Blade Runner. ‘This is The Color Yellow,’ snorted Pauline Kael; ‘Spielberg seems to be making everything nice ... How can he make an epic about the soul-freezing scuzziness of war as experienced by a child if he sweetens things?’ Where Empire scored was in the technical stakes, with favorable comparisons made to Lean’s sense of grandeur and scale and Oscar nominations dished out for cinematography, costume design, art direction, editing, original score and sound. Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Margaret Avery, Oprah Winfrey, are some of the diamonds in the jewel “Color Purple”. 40 years in the life of Celie (Goldberg), a black woman in the Deep South who endures mistreatment at the hands of ‘Mister’ (Glover) and separation from her beloved sister Nettie. A pity then, that one of the most horrendous snubs in Academy Award history followed: The Color Purple was nominated for 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress twice (for Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey), but, amazingly, not Best Director - the most spectacular blow-out since Sam Wood was ignored for his helming of The Pride of the Yankees (which got 10 nominations) in 1942. To add insult to injury, the film didn’t win in a single category, whilst Sydney Pollack’s Out of Africa triumphed in 7. ‘When I’m 60, Hollywood will forgive me. I don’t know for what, but they’ll forgive,’ said Spielberg. (Actually, he’d didn’t have to wait that long - see Schindler’s List). He did later receive the director’s prize from the Director’s Guild of America and joined the Fellowship of the BFI, but it’s hard to countenance a decision seemingly made to punish someone for being young, popular and capable of working successfully in a different register. The excellent turns by Goldberg, Glover, Avery and Winfrey (performing almost as well as some of the people on her show); the moment when Celie at last gives the monstrous Mister what-for; Shug’s (Mister’s true love, played by Avery) charming seduction of Celie, handled with immense care by Spielberg. Some thought Celie and Shug’s relationship was handled a little too carefully, downplaying the lesbian aspects of the novel; others disliked the representation of black men as misogynist bullies (to which Goldberg responded, ‘people see lots of movies where white men abuse white women, and they never think “This movie stereotypes whites.”’). Yet the director succeeded in crafting a superbly-acted, beautifully shot, emotionally charged literary adaptation that also managed to be a big hit in a year when Back to the Future, Rocky and Rambo were socking it to the popcorn crowd. Alice Walker (who suggested a then-unknown comedienne called Whoopi Goldberg for the lead) was very satisfied with the way her work had been translated onto the big screen, and Spielberg felt it was ‘a wonderful movie ... one of the best movies I’ve ever made. Dante was given the chance to direct a segment of The Twilight Zone -The Movie (1983), executive produced and also partly directed by Spielberg. ‘It’s A Good Life’, about a mischievous kiddy who menaces his family with real-life ‘Toons, offers a sharp contrast to ‘Kick the Can,’ Spielberg’s gentle tale of regenerating oldies. Dante’s peak came in 1984 when Gremlins munched up $148 million at the US box office. The tale of vicious creatures wreaking havoc in a Capra-esque town was described as ‘ET with teeth,’ and Spielberg thoroughly approved the savaging of his creation. The sequel, released in 1990, was less successful and more unhinged, piling on the comic mayhem and movie in-jokes with abandon. This time Spielberg was less approving, and at one point requested his exec. producer credit be dropped. And Jurassic Park ? Is it Spielberg’s best? It’s certainly one of his most mega-successful - estimated to have been seen by about 240 million people worldwide, it made over $700 million (make that a billion if you add video sales) and was the biggest-grossing film of all time until it was toppled by Jurassic Park in 1993. Everybody everywhere loved it and sales of BMX bikes went through the roof (although many youngsters were disappointed when they found they couldn’t levitate the bikes through said roof). Ironically, Spielberg regards it as his smallest (and cheapest, costing just $10 million) movie venture, made with pure, non-profit-oriented motivations. ‘I didn’t intend for it to be a hamburger served to the world,’ he says, ‘I didn’t think anybody’d take a bite out of it because it was about kids, and in those days no films about kids under 18 years old were doing any business.’ Unlike a lot of his other films, it wasn’t planned like a military operation, with the director employing a looser, more intuitive. Spielberg is absolutely recognized, not only for his talent, but also for his great capacity to question, the possible limits of humans transitions, when interacting with new facts. He manipulates them in such a clever way, that decisions are made step by step, in each part of the film he directs, over a certain control, so that we have the sensation he’s going to surprise us with something new. The music or the facts themselves, the visual effects, or any action of the performers, sometimes are not expected. It surprises us. Who will forget when Celie thinks about the possibility to kill her oppressor when she was shaving him, or the astronauts coming in the boy’s house to catch the ET, or the electric wire in Jurassic Park, the shark, scaring the audience? And now, his extraordinary production (A.I.) with Kubrick 02 We all wish to decide the best for the personages. We hope they can run away from the danger, and a happy end is wondered. A good film is much more a result of a good management of the director, than the money producers put on it. It portraits the directors. For me, Spielberg is an example of coordination, harmony, and successful result coming from it. After many years, when I was in the Epcot Center, I had my chance to imagine being part of those scenes, by taking part on a trip in the globe. Someone asked me, after leaving the movie theater: What is the color of the hearth? Purple? I said I didn’t know, but for sure it was not white or black. Sounds there’s no difference. We all have the same blood, the same emotions in our veins. We always face people in trouble, but we never take their place, so that we could decide differently or not in each situation Spielberg presents. But, most of the time, the personages take right decisions. So, he teaches us, we ought to do right things, however the unpredictable facts can really come through any time in our lives, like September 11th, 2001. An eternal lesson for the humanity, maybe a surprise even to him, who presented so many different attacks, and reactions in fictional films. His capacity to deal with the frontiers of the imaginary worlds enchants me. That’s why he is for me, what his films are for the humanity. Unique!
Booker, Lee R. Elements of Film. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College
Publishers. Orlando: FL. USA. 1977. (Ch. 05)
Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, New York:
Modern Language Association, 1988.
Autor: ANTONIO DOMINGOS CUNHA
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