Monday, October 19, 2015

Spielberg Spiel

Steven Spielberg's latest film, Bridge Of Spies, is out.  It's gotten great reviews.  Whether or not it'll be a hit is up in the air. But there's little question Spielberg is the most successful director of our era, perhaps ever.  He's turned out numerous hits, and won a ton of awards along the way.

So when I saw there was a Vulture list ranking his 29 features, I was intrigued.  As you might expect, I have some serious disagreements.

Here's the list, bottom to top, with my comments.

29.  Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

Definitely a mistake.  I guess he loved making Indiana Jones films, but if you're going to come back to it, do it better than this. Perhaps it shouldn't be last, but definitely near the bottom.

28.  Hook

Not much here, but like so many of his weaker films, it's because the idea was bad to begin with.  We get a grown up Peter Pan going back to Neverland just so he can discover how great it is to be a father.  I'd have rather Spielberg just done Peter Pan and done it right. (Or stay away from fairy tales altogether.)

27.  1941

Maybe his biggest flops, but underrated. It's too big for a comedy, but it's still fun. I'd put it in the middle of his work.

26.  Always

Dull, maybe his worst.  But A Guy Name Joe wasn't much to begin with, and didn't need a remake.

25.  The Sugarland Express

Way too low. It's his first official feature and you can see right off the bat this is a talented filmmaker.

24.  The Adventures Of Tintin

Technically dazzling but not much else.

23.  The Lost World: Jurassic Park

A few excellent set pieces, but he needed to make this as much as he needed to make Jaws 2.

22.  The Terminal

I like Spielberg, I like Hanks, but why did they both agree to make a story so dreary in the first place?

21.  The Color Purple

Interesting how low it's rated, considering it got 11 Oscar nominations including Best Picture. But I agree, it's pretty weak.

20.  War Horse

I've heard the play is good, but it's about the puppetry.  Not sure why Spielberg, or anyone, wanted to turn it into a movie.

19.  Catch Me If You Can

Why is this rated so low?  The first one in the list that should be top ten.  It showed, if nothing else, that Spielberg hadn't lost it--he could still be fun, even with a serious theme.  (Still goes on too long, but that's a problem with a lot of his films.)

18.  Amistad

Some decent performances, but doesn't really work.

17.  Empire Of The Sun

One of my least favorite Spielberg films, so it's odd that some call it a classic.

16.  Bridge Of Spies

Considering how long it is, it moves along well, but not as good as the critics have it.

15.  Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade

His first three Indiana Jones films were delightful, so maybe they should all be top ten.

14.  Duel

The only TV film allowed on the list. And it is great--before Jaws, he showed he knew how to ratchet up the tension, creating elemental fear from just a truck.

13.  A.I.

Way too high.  This film is almost a complete disaster.  Looks good, but almost every plot point makes no sense.

12.  Jurassic Park

This is about right.  Well done, and some amazing set pieces, but he'd done terror better in Jaws.

11.  Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom

I like how it's rated higher than Last Crusade. They're about the same, but I've never understood why this Indy got slapped around so much. (Until he made Crystal Skull--that's what a bad Indy looks like.)

10.  Munich

A bottom ten film.  Like other recent films, it's too on the nose in delivering the message.  And these messages are always pat anyway--it's the story, Steven, and how you tell it.

9.    Lincoln

Looked like it could be a dry disaster, but turned out to be one of his best.  Helped by a great lead performance, but plenty of fine support..

8.    Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

Perhaps his most overrated.  Some decent set pieces (I'm getting tired of saying that, but Spielberg will always give you one or two no matter what he does), but the whole thing is kind of silly and doesn't hold together well.

7.    Minority Report

Some very nice sections, but not top ten.

6.    War Of The Worlds

What is this doing here?  There's exciting action here and there, but overall quite dopey.

5.    Saving Private Ryan

One of his best, even if it never again quite reaches the level of the opening Normandy Beach sequence.

4.    Jaws

A classic.  Probably should be number one.

3.    Schindler's List

A great film.

2.    E.T.

Another delight.

1.    Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Unquestionably the best of the Indiana Jones films.  And one of Spielberg's most influential films, in upping the number of quality of action sequences in such film.  But I don't know about the highest slot--tremendous fun, but doesn't have the soul of his other top work.  On the other hand, certainly deserves a place somewhere in the top five.


Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

I didn't know he was responsible for Jews 2. I had assumed it was a remake of Schindler's List.

2:54 AM, October 19, 2015  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I LG's reorder, with the following exceptions:

E.T. is beloved, but I maintain it is because of nostalgia of people who saw it as a little kid. I think it is poorly acted, the plot is nonsense, and even by the special effects standards of it's day it was not impressive.

Of course, I will then cop to liking Hook more than most people do. I loved Robin Williams, I thought the story was fine and the effects were fairly impressive. Hoffman was very entertaining as a villain, imho.

I have not seen all Spielberg's films, but of what I've seen, Jurassic Park II is the worst, followed by War Horse, Indy IV (Crystal Skull) and E.T.

And I agree, Catch Me If You Can is top 10, if not top 5, along with Jaws, Indy I. (I haven't seen Lincoln yet, but it's on my shelf).

9:20 AM, October 19, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Fixed it, ColumbusGuy. Now your joke makes no sense.

10:11 AM, October 19, 2015  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Well, that's rather charitable of you. I'm not certain it made any sense before.

Anyway, I'm sure the deep web has a permanent copy somewhere.

11:11 AM, October 19, 2015  
Blogger New England Guy said...

I actually loved Duel so much- I watched it on TV when I was a kid and we had just driven across America (Summer 1970)- that I could never watch it again. My mom was really really freaked out by trucks on the Highway. It was only years later when I realized it was by Spielberg

4:39 PM, October 19, 2015  

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