Tracker Pixel for Entry

​The emperor of dreams: HBO debuts ‘Spielberg’

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | October 25th, 2017

Veteran “American Masters” producer and series creator Susan Lacy, whose access to subjects and breadth of knowledge is the envy of scores of documentarians, looks at Steven Spielberg in a nearly two-and-a-half-hour-long portrait for HBO.

Simply titled “Spielberg,” the movie is surprisingly safe, conservative, and risk-free. Populated with an endless supply of close-up talking heads and anchored by the famous filmmaker’s own on-camera commentary -- with many of the anecdotes offered up for what feels like the umpteenth time -- Lacy’s result plays like the television equivalent of the Eagles’ multi-platinum greatest hits collection.

For cinephiles, the make-it-or-die-trying determination of the nerdy kid who sneaked and bluffed his way (“print the legend”) to a Universal gig as the youngest ever contract director at a major Hollywood studio is familiar. Really familiar.

Even so, an undeterred Lacy’s first in-depth dive is “Jaws,” and the resulting re-cap sets the tone for the remainder of the show. Sustained Jawsmania has already given birth to Laurent Bouzereau’s 1995 making-of doc, Erik Hollander’s 2007 “The Shark Is Still Working,” and Jamie Benning’s 2013 “Inside Jaws,” but the mogul and the great white shark are like peanut butter and jelly: unthinkable to separate, despite the oceans of existing records.

And so it goes. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” form a one-two punch between a “movie brats” roster breakdown accompanied by home-movie film and a note on Spielberg’s magic touch with child actors.

The latter, punctuated by a behind-the-scenes clip of the director’s grimace into the camera while comforting a sobbing Drew Barrymore, recognizes the fraught terrain of emotional manipulation by directors looking to acquire the perfect shot by any means necessary. A thought from Leonardo DiCaprio hints at a more complex exploration of the matter, but Lacy moves on.

More big dogs are lined up for veneration, with “Schindler’s List” and “Jurassic Park” each receiving predictable scrutiny, but to her credit Lacy introduces a few unexpected surprises. A short but refreshing account of “1941” is one early, albeit rare, example that Spielberg could stumble hard.

Even more satisfying is the way in which Lacy covers the director’s inability and/or unwillingness to dig more deeply into the relationship between Shug and Celie in “The Color Purple,” as Spielberg blushes at the very notion that his adaptation could have included the mirror scene. Ultimately, any more serious considerations of race and sexuality fail to make the cut.

Lacy also skirts most charges of Spielberg’s tendencies toward sentimentality, but a handful of acknowledgements, including one by Tom Stoppard, turn up.

A lukewarm appraisal of whether massive commercial success and blockbuster appeal preclude the possibility of artistic merit hovers at the fringes, and J. Hoberman -- one of several critics invited to participate in the movie -- tantalizingly assesses the value of Spielberg’s apparent humanist neutrality in “Munich,” referring to the filmmaker as “the Hollywood equivalent of a public intellectual.”

It is also during the section on “Munich” that Lacy demonstrates Spielberg’s potent sense of spatial orientation. Without specifically invoking Hitchcock or mentioning the privileged viewer, Spielberg argues soundly on behalf of suspense.

Overall, however, Lacy pays very little attention to Spielberg’s directorial technique ala the “pure cinema” discussed by Kevin B. Lee in “The Spielberg Face.”

Thematic approaches, especially those concerned with divorce and the dissolution/reunification of the family fare much better, and Lacy makes excellent use of Spielberg’s sisters Nancy, Anne, and Sue, as well as father Arnold (currently 100 years old) and mother Leah Adler (who died in February), to underline the biographical touches to which Martin Scorsese alludes when describing Spielberg’s oeuvre as deeply personal.

Recently in:

FARGO – Nearly half of the Walmart employees claiming discrimination from management at the world’s largest retail chain came before Fargo’s Human Relations Commission Thursday, to appeal for help, and the commission…

Culture

​Gaming and Steam

by Chuck Solly

I have hesitated in the past to ride into the gaming world with my guns blazing and my hair blowing in the wind. My reasons are many and varied.In my own personal case, I don’t play online or offline games because it is a huge…

Artist reception: Saturday, February 17, 6pmKaddatz Galleries, 111 W Lincoln Ave, Fergus Falls MNFirst regional solo photo exhibition for the Bemidji native, documentary filmmaker and photojournalist, featuring rural, marginalized,…

Editorial

​Savoring local flavor

by Sabrina Hornung

What draws people to a particular area? Food? Culture? Nostalgia? It’s hard to speak on behalf of the populace but we obviously know what draws us in as individuals.Here’s another question: What makes an area thrive and what…

Do we finally have ‘beauteous mankind in a brave new world?’British philosopher and writer Aldous Huxley used a line of Miranda’s speech in Shakespeare’s play "The Tempest" as the title for his book about the future…

This year’s Cocktail Showdown yielded a mixture of familiar and fresh faces to compete in the Fifth Annual Bartenders Battle when it returns to the Holiday Inn on Sunday February 18th. With a bright and colorful Tiki theme, we…

By Melissa Martin, Ph.D. Melissamartincounselor@live.com Emotional eating refers to a range of behaviors in which individuals eat for reasons other than physiological hunger; and eating is an attempt to self-soothe emotions.…

Whoever said rock n’roll ain’t pretty must have never had the opportunity to speak with Wanda Jackson, often referred to as “the queen of rockabilly” and even the “first lady of rock n’ roll.” The Oklahoma native just…

Given the film’s somewhat odd marriage of style -- the personality-driven presence of chatty neophyte documentarian Bryan Fogel -- and substance -- the ugly realities of the longtime Russian doping program for Olympic competitors…

The Red Raven had their annual opening party for the Erotic Art Show last week, drawing in a sizeable crowd that got to take home free condoms, lubricant, chapstick, and Planned Parenthood pins and brochures.The red candles at each…

By Nathan Roybardsdream@gmail.comYou are absolutely right. The title is not “To be or not to be” from the famous Shakespeare soliloquy in "Hamlet." I won’t be talking about Shakespeare particularly. I will expound the…

Fargo has its share of people who are passionate about stand-up comedy, even if the success of clubs devoted to it has been mixed. Despite the fact we have seen places like Courtney’s Comedy Club and Level 2 Comedy Club close…

“What are some of your favorite bottles of whiskey?” is a question I get asked quite frequently and is often harder to answer than one might think. One of the great rewards of my profession is getting to sample some of the…

Essential oils. They are all the buzz lately. It seems everyone has heard of them or is purchasing them. Some people know how to use them; others are just interested in the wonder of their complex scents.Essential oils are as…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

By Gary Olsonolsong@moravian.eduThe ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas; the class which is the ruling material force in society is at the same time the ruling intellectual force.- Karl Marx and Friedrich…