…and now Slate author Bill Wyman wishes he hadn’t:
While I found the article an interesting read and agreed with some of the points Mr. Wyman is making, I couldn’t help but also feel this is the type of career tear-down is also rather unfair.
Let’s face it, there is no more famous/well known director of motion pictures in this world than Steven Spielberg. His reputation is very well earned because he has delivered some truly memorable, enjoyable, and terrific films.
And in Mr. Spielberg’s defense (as if he needs me to do that!), one simply cannot remain a viable creative force for 40+ years without a) coming out with clunkers now and again and/or b) repeating yourself.
Clunkers are to be expected. Not everything you try winds up working as well as one hoped it would. Sometimes, the “clunker” turns out to be a career-ender. Sometimes, the creative person simply hits a “rough patch” and may find their legs again…or sometimes the clunker is an early indication of the creative person’s descent. Subsequent projects may be good but never quite achieve the level of previous works. Is Mr. Spielberg in one of these three areas? A few years back he hit a “rough patch” and pulled himself up with works like Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. Lately, it appears he was once again slipping, only to release two films this winter, War Horse and Tintin, which have garnered generally good reviews…if not box office hit status.
As for repeating oneself, that too can, and does, happen. Ironically, we sometimes react negatively when an artist strays from their “comfort zone” and creates works that are too far removed from the works we are accustomed to them making. Yet there are also times we may react negatively when an artist does repeat him/herself. In the end, I’m not terribly bothered by the fact that Mr. Spielberg has used certain cinematic techniques/stories over and over again.
What I thought the author was dead right about was the fact that Mr. Spielberg does indeed have one clear difficulty, and that is in doing comedy. Yes, there are humorous elements in many of his films, but often that humor is in the context of a film that is something else, whether it be horror, suspense, action, etc. When his movie focus is entirely on comedy (1941, Always), he does appear to stumble.
Having said all that, to me there is no denying Mr. Spielberg has created a captivating body of work, warts and all. The very first film I ever saw and understood as a 5 or 6 year old child was Duel when it originally premiered on TV. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized Mr. Spielberg was the movie’s director. If you watch Duel and his first mega-hit film, Jaws, back to back, you can see how the former was clearly an influence on the later.
Both films remain two of my all time favorites, along with a few others he’s had his hand in. I don’t think I could sit through every Steven Spielberg movie…I have neither the time or the patience. However, there are those I could see over and over again, and enjoy them each and every time.