30 DAYS OF SPIELBERG – A Preview

StevenSpielberg

(To read my ranking of the Spielberg Canon, click here.)

On Monday May 30, 2016 – Memorial Day – I invite you to join me here at the I Can’t Unsee That movie blog to kick off a “30 Days Of Spielberg” celebration.

In anticipation of his upcoming children’s fantasy The BFG, I will be looking at the entire directing filmography of Hollywood icon Steven Spielberg. Starting on May 30 and then throughout the entire month of June, I’ll be posting reviews of each and every feature-length film that Steven Spielberg has ever directed (I intended the reviews to be brief, but who was I kidding?). One film per day, each day, in order of their releases, from the very beginning and up to today.

In preparation, I’m currently right in the middle of re-watching Spielberg’s entire catalogue, in order as well. Along with general observations, my daily reviews will occasionally highlight interesting patterns that emerge, divergences from those patterns, plus interesting historical trivia and context. For example:

  • Six times in his career, Steven Spielberg has released 2 movies that he’s directed within the same year. On five occasions, it was a blockbuster in the summer and a more serious effort in December. On the sixth occasion, the two films were released just four days apart.
  • Spielberg’s two most personal films, by his own account – E.T. and Schindler’s List – were sandwiched between releases from his only two franchises (the first two Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park films, respectively).

These reviews won’t necessarily be definitive looks at each film, but a mix of an honest take with a bit of reflection on how they’ve each held up plus, to what degree (if any), my views of them have changed.

At the end of June, after every Spielberg film has been re-examined, I’ll post my ranking of his entire filmography from Worst to Best. Then, on July 1, I’ll review his latest – The BFG.

This retrospective won’t factor in Spielberg’s anthology contribution to Twilight Zone: The Movie, nor will it include Poltergeist, a movie he produced but has long been rumored to have been the actual director of. The shoot, which followed his storyboards, was directed by Tobe Hooper, but Spielberg was present throughout. Co-Star Craig T Nelson described the production as a collaboration between the two. Nelson’s fellow co-star JoBeth Williams described it the same way, but then added that Steven had the final say. Take all that for what you will (which should, at the very least, color your next viewing of Poltergeist in a very interesting way), but since Spielberg has never taken official credit for having directed Poltergeist we’ll leave it out of his official canon too.

I should say upfront that I could be accused of being a Spielberg apologist, and it’s a label I won’t shy away from. I’m happily in the tank for Spielberg, and have even expressed that I don’t believe he’s ever “made” a bad movie, even if some of them aren’t so good. Even so, that opinion won’t stop me from pointed critiques from time to time.

Spielberg’s films were for me – like for so many – not just the films I grew up with; they were the definitive films that shaped how I saw all others. Suffice it to say they’ve left life-long impressions, often with unabashed sentimentality. Many see that trademark sentimentality as being as much a flaw for Spielberg as a strength, but on the whole – and in hindsight especially – the sincerity of that sentimentality makes some of his initially less-regarded, so-called saccharine efforts emerge as timeless gifts in our increasingly divisive, cynical age.

And it’s with sentiment that I also share this: a reflection on how Spielberg’s movies haven’t simply meant something to me in a general sense, but have been – at key moments – providential gifts:

  • When I was just a little kid first staring up at the stars, Steven Spielberg gave me Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, sparking a sense of awe, wonder, and (unlike Star Wars) possibilities.
  • When my family was facing its greatest challenges, Spielberg gave us Raiders Of The Lost Ark as a thrilling escape (and one that, on continuous viewings, never failed to completely transport).
  • Just as I was beginning to grow out of my childhood, Spielberg gave me E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial…and a desire to hold onto that childhood just a little bit longer.
  • When the realities of growing up could no longer be avoided, Spielberg gave me Empire Of The Sun, an example of how to face the world’s harsh realities with courage and perseverance.
  • As a young adult, when I was just beginning to form my own worldview, he gave me Schindler’s List.
  • And then at the turn of the century, as a professional with artistic ambitions of my own, Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick gave me A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.

Spielberg gave these movies (and more) to so many of us; indeed, to the world. But it’s telling – for me, anyway – how often they were so timely and relevant to a season of my life, and what I needed. No doubt many of you could identify some of his films in the same way.

So join me on Memorial Day, May 30, and all of June for “30 Days Of Spielberg”, a month-long retrospective on arguably the most influential – and easily the most beloved – director of our generation.

30 Days of Spielberg

And now his latest – The BFG (2016)

(see also: The Spielberg Oner)

To read my ranking of the Spielberg Canon, click here.

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