Monday, November 17, 2003

why I don't like spielberg/on rankings, and peter jackson{related: another countdown}

Yes, I wouldn't have minded Peter Jackson's inclusion in the Guardian's list. Anyone who can make outrageously funny gore-fests like Bad Taste and Braindead/Dead Alive, and then make something sanely chilling as Heavenly Creatures, and then step up to front an adaptation of Tolkien's trilogy that rocks just for how he makes telling such a long complex multitextured tale with such ease and elan.

And now Mr Steven Spielberg. It's not that I haven't enjoyed his movies. But his ouevre seems awfully limited and constrained. Yes one may argue for his ease at making end-of-the-seat entertainers, critiques of war and genocide, sensitive socials, and comfortably mixing genres. To borrow a phrase from the C2Wiki entry, his films are "affable and homiletic". Which would translate as feel-good treacly, emotional, simplistic cinema for the family to cuddle up to. Now I don't have anything against films for the family, I don't think SS's ability to churn out one blockbuster after another that follows the same pattern would qualify him for the Guardian's list. He always squeezes in fists of emotional moments into all his films, and this can often conflict directly with the vision of the premise and mood of the film (Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, A. I.). I have constantly failed to understand Kubrick's vision, which meant that A.I. represented the worst of both worlds as far as I was concerned (and what little I saw failed to win me over, except visually, which is what most of Spielberg's cinema does for me). SPR was another example of a good idea meandering down the path of John Williams-drenched mellow drama. Everything "new" that he ever attempts soon succumbs to his overarching vision of cartloads of the milk of human kindness.

A little example to close my quick belch of words above. Triviamongers will recall that Schindler's List was originally a project to be directed by Martin Scorsese. Spielberg was wrestling with Cape Fear. They swapped projects and Spielberg went In Scorsese on Scorsese as well as in his commentary accompanying Cape Fear, Scorsese talks about the changes he made to Cape Fear, and how Spielberg would have approached the project. In the case of this film, I liked Scorsese's approach. It would have been interesting to see Scorsese's Italian-Catholic approach to Schindler's List, but then again, I haven't seen the film yet (yes, the horror!), so I am hoping it's as good as people make it out to be (the Oscars notwithstanding).

As for the Wachowski Brothers: In addition to the cinema-hall pleasures of the Matrix trilogy (also forking off countless scribbled napkin-discussions, blogs, websites and cliques), they were responsible for things as diverse as the screenplay of Assassins (which actually has a couple of cool shots in it), fronting Bound, which easily mixed the caper movie, the gangster movie, the film noir, the sex movie (more precisely the lesbian sub-genre) and the slapstick comedy. Tip of the hat for that. Their next flick could cause a drastic shift in my opinion, but I'm hoping against it.

Related flames/posts: Anti's take

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