Entries tagged with “Steven Spielberg”.

Movies about the late 60s or early 70s become more and more epoch films. They describe a time when dollars were kept in boxes to be used by kids ten or fifteen years later and still have some value, when smoking in restaurants and working places was the norm, when journalist used typewriters and lead was making the printing industry a health hazard, when people used public phones and put coins in them to get a dialing tone, and when parking places were available in Manhattan. And yes, a time when women were an exotic presence in board meeting rooms (unless they were serving coffee) and when printed press mattered. Yet, understanding the past seems essential to make sense of our present, including some of the wars of today that seem to have been fought forever (or at least since half a century ago). These include the need and right for a free press to tell the truth even if this is inconvenient for the government, and the need and right to have women who make key decisions at the higher levels of our society and institutions. These make the story and the essence of ‘s most recent film The Post.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6294822/mediaviewer/rm198401792

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6294822/mediaviewer/rm198401792


The Post is actually ‘The Washington Post’ whose story we follow until the very moment that starts the Watergate case, one of the most famous cases in the history of the United States of America and of printed journalism. Before the newspaper became famous it was a respected but rather small and ‘local’ liberal newspaper, run for long time as a family business. They were not the first to write about the Pentagon documents but had their opportunity when the NYT were preempted to continue the publication by a judge order. The risks they took were both economic and personal and the film describes the crucial week when the decisions of the owner of the newspaper () and the editor-in-chief () promoted the Post on the national scene and wrote a page of courage in the history of the American journalism and democracy.


(video source 20th Century Fox)


Of course, the two principal theme resonate today but in a different context. There is no need for a journalist or for a TV reporter for any citizen of the US or of the world in order to make their opinion known or generate news. The problem is not in making the news public, but in filtering between fact and fake. Yet, the right of saying what is right and true even if it comes in conflict with the interests of the rulers is still a critical problem. So is the role of women and the attitude towards their contributions. Women are no longer a rarity at decision levels, but they are still under-represented, and other factors of the relations between the sexes in the centers of influence became a priority lately. I would say that of the two strong political messages of the film, the feminist one was better presented, and no little credit belongs of course to . I was not enthusiastic with the level of the cinematographic execution of the story overall. I expect more from a film directed by Spielberg than plain and clear story telling, but he seems to have decided to let the things run and speak for themselves on the screen. A classical political story about good journalism deserves a classical cinematographic approach Spielberg may have thought. Yet, some of the technical details overwhelmed the story, and a few moments were too ‘classic’ in style to my taste. The three minutes dialog between Kay Graham () and her daughter compete for Spielberg’s worst three minutes of film in his whole career. On the other hand is – again! – stellar in his acting. He IS Ben Bradlee, the journalist professional and the citizen. This is one of the several reasons to see this film, which may end by receiving more honors that it deserves, for various reasons.

So after sharks, dynos, extra-terrestrials, WWII, Holocaust, Olympics terrorism, future, Lincoln and handful of other themes, it’s the turn of the Cold War to be processed, re-created and brought to screen in the vision of Steven Spielberg. ‘Bridge of Spies‘ inspired by the historical character of James B. Donovan, defender of the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel and then main negotiator in the spies exchange that set him free for the US pilot Gary Powers downed while in a mission over the USSR, is also the first movie in the political thriller genre directed by Spielberg.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3682448/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3682448/


Had the script of this film been written by Ken Follett or the late Robert Ludlum, I would probably have accepted much easier the outcome. However, when brothers Coen are two of the three authors of the script I would have expected more than a smooth narrative structure and well written dialogs (in many moments). There is almost nothing of the sparks or daring insolence of many of the scripts in the films directed by the two. The story is roughly divided into two parts, and the tentative to synchronize the two threads (Abel’s story and Powers’ story) fail not only because they were separated in time by five years but also because it is only the first that has interesting material and consistency. The lawyer who does the right thing defending the rights of a criminal who presumably caused harm to his own country in time of what some perceived as war is too gross an analogy to the contemporary fight against terror viewed from a liberal point of view. The second part is more like the classical East Berlin spy stories, but here again the schematic description of East Berlin and of the Eastern German policemen and even officials lacks authenticity and complexity.


(video source 20th Century Fox UK)


We are left with enjoying two formidable performances by as James B. Donovan and especially by and Rudolf Abel. I am looking forward to the nominations for the Academy Awards and I hope that Rylance will get at least an Actor in a Supporting Role nomination. His act here is my favorite from all 2015 movies I have seen until now. On the other hand the political messages that this film tries to convey are much too obvious. Yes, they are important, but important messages are not well served when the style gets that close to propaganda. Actually the genre this film is closer than other is the Western. One lonely hero fights for justice against the whole world and wins against all odds. It’s just that the century is the 20th and the hero is not using his gun, but is a lawyer. Problem is that the analogy does not work very well in this recent film of Spielberg.


Having made some of the best and some of the most successful movies in the history of film making, Steven Spielberg has nothing to prove to anyone but himself. He is the complete master of the subjects and themes, genres and styles, and I suspect even of the financing of his films. Thus I am not surprised at all to see him pick Tintin as a hero for this film made in 2011 in which he plays on the ground of movies for children while allowing his own childish self to enjoy the making and the story and experimenting with the almost unlimited possibilities offered by computerized animation.


source www.imdb.com/title/tt0983193/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0983193/


There are two things that I did not like in Spielberg’s version of Tintin. One is the de-belgization of the character. Titin as a character has a Belgian flavor and although his appearance and the the one of the surrounding characters created by Herge are respectfully preserved, the rest is all but lost in translation. The second is the fact that there is too much action in this film. Yes, Spielberg is a fantastic action director, but he seems to have become at some point too much absorbed in creating action at the expense of creating emotion. Kids today already have at hand a lot of action movies, TV shows, games. If this is to be a film for kids and if parents take their precious ones to see a film by Spielberg I would expect then to experience emotion and not so much action thrills.


(video source ClevverMovies)


Otherwise The Adventures of Tintin is an amazing technical achievement and a superb visual experience. It’s almost a masterpiece in hyper-realistic cartoon making if you believe such a combination exist. I must just honor the names of the people in charge with the art – they are Andrew L. Jones and Jeff Wisniewski. I will be excused however that I expected more from the great film-maker named Steven Spielberg.


‘Lincoln’ is one of the bigger favorites for Oscar Awards this year and will certainly be one of the heroes of the evening in Hollywood a few weeks from now. It is made by one of the greatest directors of our time, it tells a big American story and features a big American hero, it enjoys some fine acting and is very accurate in searching into history and retrieving a moment and a story that continues to impact the American social and political fabric until today. And yet, ‘Lincoln’ did not turn to me into a cinema experience to enjoy. Actually something interesting happens with my relation with Steven Spielberg. The film I liked most is one of his first – the very little known Duel, a minimalistic masterpiece, followed by the wonderful Close Encounters … and E.T. I enjoyed the Indiana Jones and The Jurassic Park series for what they are meant to be – great entertainment. However my personal experience with his ‘serious stuff’ is mixed. While Saving Private Ryan is for me the best war film ever made, and Schindler’s List is one of the best in the Holocaust genre, other stuff looks sometimes pretentious, sometimes too naive. As much as he tries to prove, Spielberg cannot do films about any subject, I mean he certainly can, but not all are that good.


source www.imdb.com/title/tt0443272/


Most of the action in ‘Lincoln’ takes place during the month of January of 1865. After four years of Civil War victory is quite close for the North, but the ending would have been meaningful only if the 13th Amendment making slavery illegal was adopted, making the reason of going to war and the temporary judicial war decisions part of the Constitution. Timing is critical, as the nation is tired and aspires for peace and recovery, and without the adoption of the amendment the end of the war may mean a compromise that leaves slavery in place. Abraham Lincoln will make all possible political maneuvering in order to have the amendment pass, in a Congress where he did not have the required majority. There is an interesting dilemma here about using ‘unclean’ political means in order to achieve a just cause and this is one of the principal themes. There are two problems here however in my opinion. One is that the political intrigues occupy a good half if not more of the film, and what we get on the screen is a painfully long succession of bearded gentlemen under top hats arguing and bribing for the good cause. I guess some of the American audiences are more familiar with the historical characters, but even so this is a long and repetitive succession of more of the same, and even the climax scene of the voting in the House misses some of the thrill I have expected. The other problem is the political speak which is attributed to almost all characters in the film. Maybe the script writers used fragments from speeches, I do not know, but there is too much rhetoric, too many historical sentences are being said by many characters (not only by Lincoln) and even in what should have been day-to-day situations.  The overall result seemed to me tiring and emphatic. It is actually the non-political secondary threads that seemed more interesting – for example the agonizing decision of the parents Lincoln not allowing their elder son to fight in the war. This dilemma would have deserved a film by itself, a smaller but maybe better one.


(video source Movie Trailers)


Much was said and written (even a cover story in TIME Magazine) about Daniel Day-Lewis‘s impersonation of Lincoln. He is good but far in my opinion from his own creation in ‘My Left Foot’ or from Joaquin Phoenix’s act in ‘The Master’ (best acting of the year in my view). The way he is filmed does not help, too many frames are looking towards catching his silhouette or making his profile look like the pictures which represent Lincoln in his time. Again, when he is human, when his words are not taken from speeches he looks and sounds better, but this is only for part of the time. Rhetoric prevailed in the building of this role, and Spielberg’s scope looks like creating as many scenes to quote, but less to link them in a fluent story as he knows to do that well. I liked much more the supporting roles of Sally Field as a Lincoln’s wife, or maybe the wife of all presidents or great men who sacrifice their personal lives for the greater causes, and of Tommy Lee Jones as the radical pro-abolitionist politician Thaddeus Stevens, a man whose life was dedicated to the fight against slavery, but who knows to make the right political move at the critical moment to achieve the legal confirmation of the dream, at a tough personal price with respect to his own ideals. In a movie where so many characters including the one that gives the name of the film are no more than rhetoric symbols, these two living heroes played by the two great actors make a refreshing difference.


I sat to watch Super 8 with the expectation of seeing  the science-fiction / fantasy film of the year. The director is after all J.J. Abrams, the director of the last Star Trek and the producer of my previous favorite science-fiction series Lost and of my current favorite Fringe.  No other than Steven Spielberg is the producer and rumors have that he had quite an active part in this production. And yet I was disappointed.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1650062/


Super 8 has a very spielbergian look, colors and cinematography-like. It is set in 1979, at the same period when Spielberg’s great science-fiction films were made. Kids are in the center of the action, and Spielberg likes and knows to make movies and maybe understands better kids than women for example. The first 15-20 minutes when we get to know the heroes are pure fun, as a gang of kids get together to make a film, kind of an homage to the films noirs of the 40s – all is fine as in a good Spielberg film. But, hey, wait a moment, this is a J.J. Abrams film, isn’t it? And actually trouble starts exactly when the aliens and the rest of the grown-ups world interfere. I mean trouble for the heroes, but also or merely for the film.


(video source movingpicturesnet)


Here is the problem of this film as I see it. There are too many Spielberg ideas here, and too little of J.J. Abrams. It looks like the master threw a basket of ideas, many ideas, good ideas, and the apprentice did not really succeed in putting them together in a convincing one story line. There are too many quotes in this film, from Humphrey Bogart passing through the special effects a la 50s and reaching to E.T. Many pieces of magic, a few scenes to remember, but here I am a few weeks after I saw the film and I cannot remember well the story line, which means that it did not really matter. Many people will like the film, and I also liked the passion for cinema and for alien encounters, but the overall impression is of a collection of beautiful scenes wrapped in a conventional and unconvincing story. A miss, maybe a miss to remember, but still a miss.


For once the Coen brothers played it according to all the rules of commercial cinema, and no wonder they did it as the producer of True Grit is no other than Steven Spielberg. The film went out in time for the Christmas week (in the US) and for the Oscar season, and the result is 10 nominations including the one for the Best Movie, although I am not sure it will eventually get that many (it certainly deserves the one for the cinematography – the camera work is exquisite). It is also probably the most mainstream film the Coen brothers have ever made, so mainstream that I had all over the feeling that a twist in the action may happen, or a there are some hidden underground meanings that I am missing. Yet, the director brothers chose to do a very well made version of a novel adaptation already brought to screen in 1969 by Henry Hathaway with John Wayne in the main role, a classical Western with many moments of good cinema. Not little thing, just less surprising that I would have expected from them.

source www.imdb.com

Much of this story of pursuit and revenge in Texas and the Indian country relies on the actors. Jeff Bridges melts in the role of marshal Cogburn, a drunken but effective and heart-opened man of law. Hailee Steinfeld is the 14 years old girl whose coming into age is destined to be spent searching for justice in Wild West and her role has all the chances to launch a great career. Matt Damon and Josh Brolin act fine in the two supporting roles that fill in the human landscape of the film. They all do a fine job, and some beautifully written dialogs help in the way – watch the one of the bargaining of the young girl with the man that had a dept with her late father and remember it – or maybe you need not as film anthologies will help you do it in case you forget.

(video source ClevverMovies)

As in many classical Westerns the landscape and the rendering of the atmosphere of the wild country in the second half of the 19th century America play a central role. As I already said the camera work is wonderful, and it creates the right setting for this very credible story of human solidarity. I do not like many of the post action epilogues in movies, especially when told with the off screen voice of the heroes quoting from the original book (so it seems) but here it fits movingly, but this is again the combination of the image and words that enhance the human feelings. Surprises may be missing but True Grit is a piece of true (and good) cinema.