Stephen Spielberg, a commentary

Steven Spielberg is under appreciated: A Commentary


It seems in today’s age of blogging, internet movie sites and message boards that fans of films have become extremely fickle. We no longer watch movies as a complete piece of work and then decide if we like it. Nowadays, we pick one scene and beat it to death, blaming it for ruining the entire film.

The phenomenon now even has its own catch phrase: “nuke the fridge.” It refers to the one scene in a film that was so unbelievable that it crushed an entire movie. In the case of “nuke the fridge” it’s referring to the scene in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” when Harrison Ford hid in a refrigerator to avoid an atomic blast. Other films have been said to have a “nuke the fridge” moment, such as when Jar-Jar Binks showed up in Star Wars Episode I or when Peter Parker breaks into a dance in “Spider-Man 3.” I bring this up because no filmmaker since the internet age hasthe brunt of criticism more than Steven Spielberg. It’s fitting that the majority of his most successful films were at a time when his only critics were actual film critics. Movie audiences flocked to his work and didn’t dissect every single moment or they would have realized most of his popcorn films have “nuke the fridge” moments in them and yet we consider these flicks classics. Here’s a list of what could be considered “fridge” moments from his earlier work:

1. Jaws: The shark diving on the boat and causing it to sink.

2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The spaceships fly around the town like kids riding big wheels.

3. Raiders of the Lost Ark: The boulder that chases Indy through the cave.

4. Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom: Ripping the heart out of a guy’s chest.

5. E.T.: Elliott releasing frogs all over the classroom.

All these scenes could be considered movie killers by today’s standards, and yet each of these films holds a special place in my heart. They’re not just great movies but they have been ingrained in our popular culture.

Steven Spielberg may be the greatest American film director in history. There are other filmmakers that may be more artistic, more daring, and even more influential, but there are none that can weave a story as well as he can. His films are captivating from beginning to end. Think back on watching Jaws and how quickly the time watching it lapsed between when the first victim swam out into the water and when Chief Brody and Hooper swam back to shore at the end. It takes a great director to take you out of your body and make you feel like you’re experiencing the story. No one has ever done that better than Spielberg. I suppose why I feel he’s under appreciated is that film buffs love to praise people like Terrence Malick for creating realism but then bash Spielberg for creating the unbelievable. All films were not made to create a sense of real world believability. Some are meant to take us out of our day-to-day lives and show us fantastic worlds and stories that we could never experience without the imagination of great filmmakers.

Spielberg also takes a lot of shit for trying too hard to appeal to a mass audience. I completely disagree. He really has a child’s wonder when it comes to the process of storytelling and it is easy to see on the screen. Whether Elliott is flying across the screen on his bicycle, Richard Dreyfuss is watching the landing of the first U.F.O., or Sam Neill is battling a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Spielberg knows how to capture our inner child and make us wonder about more than what is real. It’s not a marketing decision. It’s just how he sees the story.


3 responses to “Stephen Spielberg, a commentary

  1. Here’s the problem I have with this commentary: Crystal Skulls is a complete piece of shit of a movie regardless of the infamous “nuke the fridge” scene. In fact, that’s the least offensive scene in that whole film to the point where it doesn’t even rank on my list of “The Top 10 Things I Hate About Crystal Skulls.”

    As far as criticism is concerned, I agree; anyone critcizing Spielberg over the use of the fantastic in his film is simply a lousy critic who can’t be successful without being negative. There are a lot of critics like that. That boner for the San Francisco Chronicle that does television reviews comes to mind. They are frauds. They know nothing about the art they criticize and can only be successful by being contrary.

    I also agree that Spielberg is the greatest film-maker of our generation and perhaps of all time. NO ONE knows how to tell a story that’s relatable and will appeal to audiences like Spielberg does. The art of fine film-making IS fantasy and he knows it better than anyone else. Aaron Sorkin has taken a lot of heat for his dramatic interpretation of the history of Facebook for The Social Network to which he has rightly replied to the effect of, “why would I want facts to get in the way of good story-telling?” Bingo, and the best film-makers know that the truth in film-making doesn’t lie in the facts, the facts are for the history books. The truth in film-making lies how it affects the audience and THAT is the heart of good story-telling.

    To go along with theme of Spielberg bashing, there’s no denying that Spielberg has made some absolute shit but even with his shit, he has never strayed away from his unique brand of story-telling. Truthfully speaking, with Spielberg’s résumé being what is, he’s allowed to produce some clunkers but I don’t think there’s any one scene in any of his films that could take down an entire film by itself, not even today. Idiot Internet expert bloggers notwithstanding.

  2. I’ve always loved how Spielberg tells a story with the camera. You could watch his films with the sound off and enjoy them for what they are. I guess we’re in different world’s , as I haven’t heard any sort of criticism about him, everyone I roll with knows he the king.
    Having said that, Crystal Skulls was junk, and it should stricken from the record and credited to Alan Smithee.

  3. BTW, I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I’m defending Crystal Skull. I didn’t hate it as much as others but it’s not a good film. But, as bad as the fridge nuking might have been, I found Shia LeBouf swinging with the monkeys to be far worse.

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