30+ DAYS OF SPIELBERG – A Preview

In the attempt to flatten the Coronavirus curve, our nation is now shifting from a two-week phase of #StayAtHome precautions to a full month marathon of doing them all throughout April. Having something to pace yourself while being bunkered down for that length of time can be really helpful.

A recommendation: experiencing a filmmaker’s entire filmography, in order, from start to finish. There are few canon’s more suited to that kind of journey than Steven Spielberg‘s.

Nearly four years ago, during June of 2016, I did a “30 Days of Spielberg” marathon, watching and reviewing his films, day-by-day, one at a time. It was a fascinating way to contextualize his growth as a filmmaker, how his obsessions evolved and changed, and how stylistic signatures remained constant even as he took risks beyond them.

But perhaps most rewarding, for a filmmaker as transparent and sentimental as Spielberg, it’s also fascinating to experience his evolution as a person over a fifty year arc.

Since that marathon was first done, three movies have since been added to Spielberg’s slate — The BFG (2016), The Post (2017), and Ready Player One (2018). In addition, a never-before-available TV-movie from 1973 called Savage is finally on YouTube, so I will be watching and reviewing that final entry into Spielberg’s full canon for the first time. Those will bring the marathon total to 35.

Throughout April and into May, I’ll re-post that journey along with the new additions in “30-Plus Days of Spielberg”.

Starting on April 1, 2020, I’ll be posting my reviews of each and every feature-length film that Steven Spielberg has ever directed. One film per day, each day, in order of their releases, from the very beginning on up to today.

Along with general observations about each film, my daily reviews will occasionally highlight interesting patterns that emerged, divergences from those patterns, as well as 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).

At the end of the journey, I’ll revisit my ranking of his entire filmography, from Worst to Best.

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 actually directed. The shoot, which followed his storyboards, was helmed by Tobe Hooper, but Spielberg was on-set 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. There was a time when I even expressed how I didn’t believe that he’d ever made a “bad” movie, even if some of them weren’t as good as others. This marathon changed that opinion, however, and I never let my personal admiration keep me from making pointed critiques when necessary (even in some of his bona fide classics).

Spielberg is known for his sentimentality, a trait that many have seen being as much of a flaw 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 treasures, especially in our increasingly divisive, cynical age.

So join me on April 1 (or play catch-up if you’re joining in late) as we embark on a “30-Plus Days Of Spielberg” adventure.

30-Plus Days of Spielberg

(see also: The Spielberg Oner)

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

You can also read my review of the HBO documentary Spielberg, a comprehensive look at his career driven by on-camera interviews with Spielberg himself.

2 thoughts on “30+ DAYS OF SPIELBERG – A Preview

  1. Regarding POLTERGEIST… as you should. The degree to which Hooper disregarded the storyboards (that he and Spielberg, by general consensus, worked on together, in an accepted practice considering the two developed and essentially wrote the film together) in order to fabricate new ideas on set – his preferred approach – is clear from looking at the storyboards.

    1. Thanks for that confirmation, PT. It also further emphasizes why Spielberg has always refused to take credit for it even when pushed, and has graciously abdicated to Hooper as being *the* director.

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