Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Man's reach should exceed his grasp...

I think this writer goes a bit too far in criticizing Steven Spielberg as overrated filmmaker. I have my own problems with some of Spielberg's work, which I discussed recently here. Spielberg is no fan of subtlety, refusing to allow his audience to figure out for themselves his movies' messages. He's got a weakness for sentimentality, and in some of his recent films he seems to be running up against the limits of his talents.

But he is a good filmmaker, and in the post above the writer pans some good movies, including "Catch Me If You Can" and "Munich." Perhaps on multiple viewings I'll develop the same view of the former that I've come to have of "Saving Private Ryan", but the first time I saw "Munich" it left me curled in a fetal ball on my family room sofa. Spielberg was able to illuminate the complex moral issues faced by the Israel--and by proxy, the U.S.--in hunting down and killing terrorists without being equivocal toward the Palestinians' crimes. He also brought out some fantastic performances from the likes of Eric Bana and Daniel Craig.

"Catch Me If You Can", despite its serious overtones, was a rather whimsical film that proved Spielberg is still capable of not taking himself too seriously at times. Leonardo DiCaprio demonstrated his evolving talents, and Tom Hanks turned in a strong performance as well. (Say what you will about his Boston accent.)

I also liked "A.I.", a very strange film when one considers it was originally developed as a film by Stanley Kubrick, and then directed by Spielberg. The only thing stranger, in my mind, than a Spielberg/Kubrick collaboration would have been a Ron Howard/Kubrick collaboration. Many of the film's early scenes were shot much in the style of Kubrick, but the ending, unfortunately, was pure Spielberg. He just couldn't bring himself to end the film ambigiously, with David trapped beneath the ocean, whispering his prayer to the Blue Fairy. That was what Kubrick might have done. Instead, Spielberg granted David's wish: The robots who inherited the frozen Earth gave David one day with the mother he so dearly loved.

On second thought, maybe that was the darker ending. Many of us no doubt would cherish just one more day with a departed loved one. But what would the next day be like?

(Hat tip to The House Next Door.)

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