May 22, 2008


Walter's review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is finally live. (We forgot it opened on a Thursday.) Anyway, if we did a talkback for X3, we should surely do one for Indy 4, so: bombs away.

Also, what's your fave entry in the series? Really, that one?! Whatchu talkin' about, Willis?

P.S.: Be sure not to miss THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR's appreciation of the OT, "Smitten with a Whip". Between Matt's and Keith's apologias for Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade, respectively, I felt like Indy in the thrall of Mola Ram.


Dan said...

As a kid, I re-watched TOD all the time. I adore the opening 15 minutes and the closing 20. The heart scene and "zombie Indy" stuff in the middle also really scared me. Loved it, loved it.

As I became a teen, I realized ROTA is a far superior film, but TOD gave me a better "hit" as a youngster. There was just more to experience as an 8-year-old. In Raiders, after the opening, I'd fast-forward to the snake pit, then the melting faces, and that would be that. No need to fast-forward in TOD.

I loved TLC at the time, and find it improves over time. I saw it recently and was actually amazed by how much the Connery/Ford chemistry made me laugh. Hard. Great film.

So, I like them all. ROTA is the best film (all things considered), but TOD is underrated and perhaps fondly remembered by kids watching it on VHS all the time. And TLC is like a fine wine.

I expect KOTCS to be good fun, in a Crusade-y way. Most reviews I've read are pretty good (what I expected, really) with very few people totally hating it. And I'm not treating it like the Second Coming, just a chance to see a childhood hero do his thing -- probably for the last time.

renfield said...

But did they have to have some young upstart in there to offset the aging Ford? I understand the movie coming from Die Hard 4, but honestly...

All three originals have their great moments and serious flaws. Isn't the scene where Indy points the rocket launcher at the Ark a bit cheap? Consider the abrupt transition to this scene, and then to the divine intervention. Sounds like they had written themselves into a corner here.

Temple of Doom is easier to ridicule, obviously, what with Capshaw's unforgivable performance, and its little Asian sidekick. The action sequences, though iconic in their own right, grow tiresome as well.

Last Crusade scores major points for reintroducing some classy intrigue...a library built upon ancient catacombs, for example. Let's not forget the Choosing the Grail sequence, either: hokey though it may be in its spiritual affectations, the Knight is perfectly executed Indiana Jones high-adventure-camp. Almost makes one forgive the yawnerific tank battle that precedes it, and the moment of truth decision that follows.

renfield said...

"He chose....poorly."

No shit, Sherlock.

Reminds one of a moment from Empire Strikes Back. "I love you." "I know."

chris said...

For ages, I've always said Last Crusade is my favorite, and I've only recently gone back to examine why that is. Walter calls it sentimental bullshit, and he may have nailed it: Last Crusade makes me sentimental, so it wins.

But it's impossible to say any of them are better than Raiders. It might be that with that film, the idea was to emulate those old Saturday-morning serials, and then with the sequels they *became* the serials.

Seeing Crystal Skull, however, made me giddy in a way that rivals how I feel watching Last Crusade, even as the second half lingered on into the night. I loved the setup more than the payoff, but what a setup!

Incidentally, the best thing about all this has been that trailer. *That* trailer. Oh my god.

jacksommersby said...

Temple of Doom is my favorite, with Raiders very good and Last Crusade just terrible -- every time Connery said "Junior!" I wanted to frigging backhand the guy. Also, I just can't stand neither the overexposed Shia LaBeouf nor the always-mediocre Karen Allen; and taking into account my dislike of going to cineplexes, I'll probably just wait to see this on home video, so I won't have anything to really contribute here.

Rick said...

Alex should watch Raiders now, id like to hear his thoughts on all four.

Anonymous said...

The idea of a person not liking Last Crusade is as foreign to me as a world where two and two make three.


jer fairall said...

What Kim said.

jacksommersby said...

The only genuinely-felt sequence in Last Crusade was the prologue. Other than that, you have Connery unbearably hamming it up and a stale story that hasn't so much as an iota of immediacy to it. I saw it opening day and afterward there was a collective slump in the audience, like they were supposed to applaud a supposedly great film that had absolutely no wings. The opening action sequence in Temple of Doom in that nightclub alone is better than Last Crusade in its entirety -- in fact, it probably qualifies as the best opening action sequence in film history.

Kurt Halfyard said...

The 'momentum' in the jungle portion of the picture just felt completely strained and limp and lifeless. In trying to bring Tarzan and the Valley of Gold into the picture with Shia The Beef on Vines, Spielberg jumped Bruce even by Indiana's pulp standards (Surviving the fridge was a bit lame too...harder to swallow than the awnings in Doom or the Submarine surfacing in Raiders even) The temple/trap sequence seemed far too in love with itself - contrast it to the three traps in The Last Crusade where there were some sort of stakes, i.e. Dad's life).

The myth-making and fetishization of the object in the first three films where completely lost with Crystal Skull which looks like a Museum gift-shop souvenir. This may at first seem like a small thing, but a large part of the wonder is the time spent on the Ark/Stones/Grail - here we have Magnetism of non-magnetic materials. Whoop-de-do.

I second Walter's adoration of Indy vs. The Mushroom cloud. I'd also like to add Indy in leather and cotton earth-tones contrasted with Edward Scissor-hands plastic-fake suburbia of the Atomic Cafe town was a very compelling contrast for me visually. I liked that a lot.

Two good lines of dialogue - "We've hit the age where life stops giving and starts taking away" - too bad the film never went anywhere with that. Also liked "When Hysteria hits Academia, we might just as well pack it in" Thus leading to the simple conclusion that Ed Broadbent is a welcome addition to the film whereas John Hurt was simply embarrassingly wasted. I hate when I pity an actor for choosing a role. Thus was the first time for Hurt since he appeared in Spaceballs for a bland re-enactment gag.

Have to say that a lot of technical gaffes (namely CGI overload and the too-clean look of the picture) were deal-brakers for me with Indy IV combined with pretty poor dialogue and malformed characters (again, even by Indy Standards). Blanchette was fun, but not particularly memorable.

And for sheer pulp momentum, yea, Temple of Doom gets a pass for me. The Last Crusade, not so much.

Kurt Halfyard said...

Erm, The Submarine "DIVING" not surfacing... oops.

Kyle Puetz said...

"It probably qualifies as the best opening action sequence in film history."

To which I respond Hardboiled.

Dave Gibson said...

While not exactly subversive, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was a revelatory and unique film when released. The market was not clogged with umpteen superhero movies and the American auterist movement was still to gasp its final breath so, the appearance of a Saturday Afternoon Matinee (at a time when many folks still freshly remembered such things) down the street from “Reds” and “Chariots of Fire” or god-awful “kiddy fare” like “The Incredible Shrinking Woman” or “Heartbeeps” was pretty intoxicating. An apocryphal viewing experience for me personally (my parents pre-screened the film and finally relented, presumably after gauging the damaging effects of watching Nazis’ melt) Raiders is so permanently and irretrievably shrouded in the gauze of my childhood nostalgia to consider any of the subsequent installments as anything other than faint echoes of a time long past. Therefore, yeah Raiders is the Best Movie I Have Ever Seen (circa 1981) this is not to say it is actually a great film, it is certainly not one I would pick for the Spielberg time capsule. Despite the oft-lamented Capshaw performance and insufferable “kid-sidekick”, (a character I detested even when I was a kid—yeah I am looking at you Robin, Bucky and Captain Marvel Jr.) “Temple of Doom” is still a borderline brilliant physical comedy, which I find eminently more watchable than the turgid bore that is “The Last Crusade”, the one which seems to most bear the George Lucas self-cannibalizing Connect the Dots Aesthetic. Here, another iconic myth is dissected into bits of purposeless allegory (The River Phoenix “hat” sequence is missing only a Moe Syslak walk-on: “And that’s the origin of that!”) and turns on a boomer, post-war psychology which pretty much betrays the entire point of the first film—which is: none. (Did Gary Cooper have “daddy issues”? I can’t remember)

Anyways—Raiders is the best. But y’all knew that right?

Love Gorilla said...

Question for any of the Film Freaks - is the film The Cell any good, or is it just another crappy failed experiment claiming to have but completely lacking depth (ala What Dreams May Come)?

Dan said...

The Cell's very poor with a smattering of great visuals from the director Tarsem. His latest, The Fall, looks to be a fair bit better and similarly extraordinary to look at.

Bill C said...

THE CELL leaves a terrible aftertaste, but it sure is dazzling in the moment.

I've actually done a 180 on Tarsem since reading the interview he recently gave to THE A.V. CLUB. The monomoniker used to epitomize his pretentiousness for me, for example, and now I realize he was probably just trying to distance himself from his father. He may be a candidate for auteur-dom yet.

clint said...

I hate to venture off topic, but the int'l for The Curious Case of Bejamin Button is out

jacksommersby said...

Man, that trailer is frigging awesome. Beautiful yet disturbing, too. Would be nice if a Fincher film could get Oscar-nominated for a change.

theoldboy said...

I haven't actually watched the trilogy in ages, but I'm going with my gut and saying that while I recognize Raiders as clearly the best movie in the trilogy, I am perverse enough to have Temple is my favorite. Spielberg there is venting his spleen all over the children of the 80's (and beyond, me being a child of the 90's who loooved me some spleen). Willie is terrible, but Short Round is to me sort of iconic. I was looking at the archive of Pauline Kael capsule reviews and I found that she didn't really care for Raiders but really liked Temple, though she liked it as a slapstick comedy, while I like it as a pop gonzo hellscape.

Love Gorilla said...

On that note, can someone explain Pauline Kael's popularity for me? I'm too young to know anything of her alive, but I've picked up a few books and the majority of what she says appears to be insane, inconsistent unapologetic blather. I can get behind being unapologetic about her tastes, but those tastes are just batshit. Her writing style is also very varied.

Alex Jackson said...

Alex should watch Raiders now, id like to hear his thoughts on all four.

I'm planning, at least, to put Crystal Skull off for the moment so I can catch a Prince Caspian and Speed Racer double feature. (I'm behind on my blockbusters!)

I did see Raiders not too long ago and... I can't say it's better than Temple of Doom or Last Crusade. I hold them all more or less in equal esteem. Blame early imprinting in childhood. Also Temple of Doom I first saw off television and it got mixed in my consciousness with stuff like Gremlins, Monster Squad, and all the stuff on Commander USA. You know, I literally saw it as a great "B-movie" where "B-movie" meant these fun moster movies. The crassness of it-- the relentless pace, the gore, even the racism. It just made sense to me. I don't know how else I can explain it. That film captures everything I love about "trash" cinema.

And Last Crusade was one of my earliest movie theater memories and it's a great early movie theater memory. There's that beautiful ice cold blonde. The loud machine gun fire particularly in the battle with the tank, with the dogfight, and when they're in that revolving castle door and the Nazis are firing at them. And that whole Holy Grail thing. That great A Clockwork Orange quote: "Ever notice how the colours of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen?" which inspired the title for my website, it applies here especially. Watching that movie I felt like I was watching reality, only it was a better kind of reality and that's perhaps the best way one can describe the appeal of the movies in general.

Raiders, well I think it makes sense that it's considered the best or even the "only good one" of the trilogy. There's something in it that I think might be a little too "good". There's a kind of scrubbed perfection to it that the other two don't have. The film feels a little bit smarmy and in the know. There was a wide-eyed naiveity to the other two films. Here I get the feeling of everything being in quotes.

It's hardly meaningless that Raiders of the Lost Ark is the only one of the original trilogy not to have Indiana Jones' name in the title. (Or that someone like Bill, who is of the "Raiders is the only good one" camp, bristles at the idea of seeing the title changed). Raiders of the Lost Ark isn't really about Indiana Jones like the other two are. I think it's more about itself as an homage to adventure serials. Look at how the three films end. Temple of Doom and Last Crusade both basically have Indiana Jones walking or riding off into the sunset. Raiders of the Lost Ark ends with a Citizen Kane homage. The Movies themselves replace human beings as the film's focal subject.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is much more sophisticated than the other two. And much colder. I call it a draw.

I think somewhere in there explains why I never checked out Raiders of the Lost Ark as a kid despite being a fan of the other two films. I'm not sure I could have really appreciated it. It sounds corny, but I truly believe that growing up means gaining a lot more intellect and losing a lot more heart.

Keith Uhlich said...

Thanks very much for the shout-out to the House Indy entry, Bill. Much appreciated. :-)

Anonymous said...

Can't Kael's popularity be traced back to her being one of the few taking film criticism seriously, whereas everyone else was tossing about with their useless "I had fun with this movie so it must be good!" opinions ala Ebert?

Jefferson said...

I can almost forgive Temple of Doom's appalling pidgin caricatures, its obtuse know-nothingness about any and all Indian cultures and religions, up to and including its insistence that every evil henchman on the subcontinent wear a turban because that's how they dress there, doncha know -- until we get to the point where Indiana Jones is tormented and unmanned by a tiny maharajah sticking pins in a voodoo doll.

Bill C said...

My pleasure, Keith.

Nothing to add to the discussion here, 'cept we might actually be reaching that point where Pauline Kael is no longer a rite of passage for young film buffs. There's definitely a "you had to be there" aura collecting around her work of late.

Here's a sidebar survey: fave Spielberg movie, period? I had this weird epiphany the other day that mine might actually be DUEL.

Anonymous said...

Hi all from a longtime Film Freak reader. Having seen Indy4, I believe Walter's review is really spot-on. I disagree with him about Crusade, though - there are many Spielberg movies so sentimental and saccharine that they could be the death of a diabetic, but not that one. Besides, the humour was genuinely amusing and the chemistry between Ford and Connery was brilliant.

Temple of Doom, on the other hand, was dreadful - not Crystal Skull bad, but pretty bad. It's stupid, ugly, racist (see the booga booga charicatures), juvenile (that dinner is unforgivable), it features two of the most annoying sidekicks EVER, with a typically horrible "the little child saves sthe day" moment, it's too violent and mean-spirited for kids and too dumb and cartoonish for adult.

Nice action scenes, though.


Dave Gibson said...

Favourite Spielberg?

Gotta go with "Jaws" but I'll take "Close Encounters" in a pinch. "Duel" is pretty frackin' great however, love to see Stevie do a horror film, if he could get out of his own way.

Rick said...

Always. JK, Close Encounters.

Though I believe this will be the consensus pick.

Rick said...

Also, loved the thoughts from Alex on Indiana Jones. The fact that a super intellectual guy would rather watch Bad Boys 2 than a slick, polished, distant "masterpiece" is endlessly fascinating to me. I'm glad im not the only one who gets a charge out of deeply flawed (stupid) movies that are nihilistic, and not commentary on or about nihilism from filmmakers who probably don't back it up.

jer fairall said...

Re: Fave Spielberg.

Possibly I'm just being defensive here, but I gotta go with Last Crusade.

Alex Jackson said...

Temple of Doom, on the other hand, was dreadful - not Crystal Skull bad, but pretty bad. It's stupid, ugly, racist (see the booga booga charicatures), juvenile (that dinner is unforgivable), it features two of the most annoying sidekicks EVER, with a typically horrible "the little child saves sthe day" moment, it's too violent and mean-spirited for kids and too dumb and cartoonish for adult.

Too violent and mean-spirited for kids? I don't know if you meant that to mean that the film is socially irresponsible (certainly a case could be made), but as a kid I liked it plenty because it was violent and mean-spirited. The ugliness was part of the appeal to me.

My feelings toward the film's use of racist caricature is very complicated. It's essentially anachronistic, yes? Like that isn't really how we view Chinese and Asian Indians today or in 1984, it's how we might have viewed them in 1940s pulp fiction.

I recently read this great Wikipedia entry about the profoundly racist author H.P. Lovecraft, presenting his racism as a function of his challenges toward the values of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Christianity:

Lovecraft, like his contemporaries, envisioned "savages" as closer to the Earth, only in Lovecraft's case, this meant, so to speak, closer to Cthulhu.

I dunno. I kind of like the idea that when you acknowledge that there is a supernatural element to the universe and it is far from benevolent or even with any real moral diminsion, you latch onto an ideology like racial superiority almost out of desperation.

I think Spielberg is oftentimes misread as having a very simplistic "good and evil, black and white" view of the world. In fact, I often find his films distinctly nihilistic. Why is the shark eating people in Jaws? Why is the truck pushing that guy off the road in Duel? Why are the aliens invading in War of the Worlds? There is no reason. No reason at all. You'ld be reaching if you tried to find a connection between these monsters and the protagonists' backgrounds. This shit just happens. It's totally fucking random. The truck in Duel isn't a manifestation of that guy's guilt. It's chasing him simply because a butterfly in Argentina flapped it's wings.

And then in Saving Private Ryan he displays empathy toward the German soldiers and that's actually equally nihilistic! They really don't do anything at all we can't imagine the Americans doing if put in the same situation. On the level of the solider, politics don't really matter. They are fighting because sperm met egg to make zygote in opposing countries.

Regarding the Indiana Jones films. If the Nazi picked the right chalice in Last Crusade he would have lived forever. If the Nazis turned their heads in Raiders of the Last Ark they wouldn't have melted. Good guy, Nazi, God doesn't make distinctions.

And that stone in Temple of Doom, it works for the Thugee cult just as well as it works for the villagers. No distinctions. The Indian's "magic" is no less real than the White Man's "magic". No less superior.

I don't know if I really made my case, but I think the racist attitudes in Temple of Doom are directly related to the nihilism in Spielberg's worldview.

On the slight side note, my favorite Spielberg film? As part of the backlash against the backlash, I declare it to be Schindler's List particularly because it bridges Spielberg's "evil being arbitrary" worldview and his empathy for his antagonists. There's that great line where Goethe's maid talks about how she asked him why he is beating her and he replies "The reason I beat you now is because you ask why I beat you". Exactly what the shark in Jaws would say.

But yeah, I find myself increasingly having empathy for the SS in that film. That sounds weird and maybe even willfully politically incorrect, but it occured to me that even if they saw the Jews as nothing more than animals, working in a slaughterhouse is a profoundly shitty job. Seriously, I'm serious about that. I don't think that observation trivializes the Holocaust, I think it helps to paint a more complete picture.

The film is filled with moments where you see the guards and even Goethe struggling to find the dignity in what they do. You know, you're liquidating the ghetto and they tell you that you have to shoot them if they aren't compliant and you don't want to shoot them because you aren't some trigger happy psycho. One of my favorite moments in that film is during this sequence where this Rick-from-Casablanca guy is carrying his wife who is sick and is saying that they need to take her and the officer shoots her. Not quite humanitarian, but certainly practical. They don't have the means to accomodate her and so they can't bring her.

DaveA said...

Fave Spielberg - I'm afraid I have to say A.I. I don't think it's his "best" - I guess it's consensus that this movie is deeply flawed. But I think that some of Spielberg's very best scenes are buried in this mess of a movie.

Berandor said...

I always loved Temple of Doom ever since I first saw it on video during lunch... It may not be a "great" movie, but for kids it's awesome. And the moment where Indy is lit up by the coal cart, the cart race, the opening, ...

My favorite Spielberg film? My quick choice would be Jaws, but it's a problem that I haven't seen the newer films as often (or even twice in some instances). In the theatre, I thought War of the Worlds was great right up until the end. But does it hold up? No idea, I guess not, but perhaps it does.

Never really cared for Close Encounters, I'd rather watch Hook. Munich was great, too. Hm.

No, Jaws it is.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your answer.Sorry if I insist about TOD.

Yes, kids enjoy darkness and (to an extent) violence. Just see how creepy many fairy tales are.
However, I believe TOD crossed the line: showing an innocent man screaming in horror as he has his heart ripped out was too much.

What's really fastidious to me, in any case, is that the movie is tonally inconsistent. First we have this scene, then the 10 years Short Round beating a huge Thug with some bs karate moves, with John Williams providing a cute jingle. TOD wants to be both violent/dark and cartoonishly cute, and the dissonance is jarring. For me, at least.

"I recently read this great Wikipedia entry about the profoundly racist author H.P. Lovecraft, presenting his racism as a function of his challenges toward the values of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Christianity:

Lovecraft, like his contemporaries, envisioned "savages" as closer to the Earth, only in Lovecraft's case, this meant, so to speak, closer to Cthulhu."

It's pretty funny that you bring up Wiki about Lovecraft - I happen to be very familiar with it, since I translated and enriched it for the Wikipedia voice about Lovecraft in my own language (Italian).

The fact is that in TOD racism concerns not only to the Thugs in a Lovecraft-ian way, it is spread all over the film! Even the good guys (first at the village, then at the castle) are the typical booga booga (good) savages (a la Ewoks) whose traditions are presented as the butt of every joke, and the white men have to patiently bear with these silly men and eat their awful monkey brain dish to not offend them.

Another things that bugs me to no end is how convoluted and aimless the plot is. Indy tries a deal with some gangster, fails, escapes on a plane which belongs to the gangster (and I cannot for the life of me understand why the plane took off instead of leaving Indy at the mercy of the villains at the airport, or why they didn't murder them in their sleep without sacrificing the plane), casually end up in India, casually wander into a village whose mystical MacGuffin has been taken by the horn-wearing baddie...

I don't know you, but it reminds me of those labyrinthine Star Wars prequels plot.

And Kate Capshaw... that performance was atrocious. On par with Karen Allen in KOTCS.

My favourite Spielberg movie is Jaws, BTW.


Jonathan said...

Favorite Spielberg?

I'm with Bill on this one-- Duel. My (irrational?) dislike for Richard Dreyfuss keeps me from going with Jaws or Close Encounters.

Kurt Halfyard said...

@ TOD intro as "Best Action Sequence Ever." Indeed Hardboiled (the teahouse, but actually all 3 big set-pieces indeed). Johnie To is behind a number of impressive ones too. And then there is Yuen Wo Ping's work.

I should have qualified with "Hollywood". I stand corrected!

jacksommersby said...

First, my favorite Spielberg is still Jaws. (It was also Steven Soderbergh's, as he wrote in his sex, lies and videotape diary; it was also his favorite film of all-time -- he always got weird looks from people who asked him what his favorite film was, like they expected something more typical like, say, Citizen Kane.)

Oh, and in defense of Temple of Doom, this is from David Edelstein back when he wrote for the New York Post:

"Temple of Doom was by leagues the best-directed of the series, even if it was undercut by a moronic script and some tasteless Third World stereotypes. Spielberg compressed so much visual information into so little space that the movie was exhausting, an overload. But no one ever gave us a ride like that."

Anonymous said...

I agree TOD was brilliantly directed. So was War of the Worlds, for that matter. Spielberg is a master of his craft, that's for sure - and it shows, even in his weaker movies. His flaws are others (lack of narrative rigour, a tendency to search for emotional compromises, a certain populist oversentimentality).

But yes, TOD is on the wrong side of stupid. I cannot get beyond how dumb the script is and how insufferable Indy's sidekicks are.

And Doom's James Bond opening, while technically fine, doesn't hold a candle to the Raiders prologue in terms of intensity, pathos and atmosphere. The opening of Raiders is probably one of my favourites of all times, with its build up of atmosphere, the essential use of dialogue, the adrenalized expression of Ford when he gets the idol, Indy surviving the traps. In Doom, we have a musical number, Kate Capshaw batting her eyelids, a bunch of cartoon villains poisoning a particularly dense and smug Indy, a human kebab, and a car chase with a kid being Indy's driver (let's face it, the whole insertion of a child sidekick reeks of juvenile puerility). The only moment of pure delight comes with the visual gag after the "So long, Lao Che!" line.


Jeffrey Allen Rydell said...

Bill Wrote: "Here's a sidebar survey: fave Spielberg movie, period? I had this weird epiphany the other day that mine might actually be DUEL."

Ask me on a different day and you'd probably get a different answer (most likely JAWS), but I'm going with THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS.

It's like a Rosetta Stone for Spielberg's film language, and he's so plainly giddy to have been given the tools to communicate so fulsomely. I think it's an astonishing film, just bursting with joyous creativity.


Dave Gibson said...

"Life goes on. Until it doesn't"

RIP Mr. Pollack.

Jefferson said...

Which is sadder: that Sydney Pollack is better known as a character actor than a director, or that his last prestige film was The Interpreter?

Anonymous said...

Re: best Spielberg film.

Jurassic Park. The best summer blockbuster not named The Empire Strikes Back. See this movie for an example on how CGI should be used, not for stunts, but for wonder. When they see a dinosaur for the first time Spielberg creates movie magic. Goldblum is hilarious as well.


Brian said...

Fav Spielberg: Poltergeist ;)

No, really, It's between Close Encounters and Catch Me If You Can for me. I know the latter is not a popular pick, but I find it completely ignored and a fantastic portrait of a tortured soul.

Dave Gibson said...

I almost picked "Poltergeist" too...can't we just go ahead and assign it to Stevie? Methinks the credit is more directors-guildy than real-lifey.

Which reminds me--don't watch Poltergeist again. You will be disappointed--except by Craig Nelson, the "T" is for terrific.

"Sugarland Express"? I'll see your nerd and raise you that Joan Crawford episode of "Night Gallery"

Please, someone hang it out for "1941"


jacksommersby said...

Sorry, I just can't endorse 1941 -- watching it's like being stuck in a pinball macine for 2 hours. Still, I'll take it any day over his nadir -- the unwatchable Always.

Rick said...

In case anyone is interested, Raw Deal: A Question of Consent after 7 years, finally got a DVD release. I know how much people seem to be drawn to loaded (morally ambiguous) film here, so I thought I would share. Especially when all angles are tainted with a shade-of-shit.

jacksommersby said...

Bill or Walter,

In the Cloverfield review, the screenshot is mistakenly accredited to The Stendhal Syndrome.

Just wanted to give a heads-up.

Bill C said...

Thanks for the heads-up, Jack.

omaha wade said...

Best Spielberg? I'll go this order:

Minority Report
Catch Me If You Can

I think I've seen Jaws too many times at this point, in the wrong way - on TBS or something.

Munich, to me, seemed like Spielberg's Apocalypse Now. Not in I-almost-died-making-it, but in its urgency to say something, and its willingness to embrace and depict existential terror. I'm not sure I've seen a more eerie scene in Spielberg picture than the phallic assassination one.

Here's an equally good question...


Bill C said...

Worst? Gotta be HOOK.

AMISTAD is also terrible (it oozes Debbie Allen from its pores), ALWAYS is lame, "Kick the Can" from the TZ movie is flat schmaltz, and 1941 is, as Jack said, like being stuck in a pinball machine. But HOOK is promising enough at the outset that its downward spiral into increasing unwatchability feels like contempt for the viewer.

So does JURASSIC PARK's laziness as a narrative construct (ever notice that about 25 cast members disappear halfway through without explanation?), for that matter, but the nature of it permitted him some cathartic black humour that kept it from completely self-destructing like HOOK.

Anonymous said...

My least favourite Spielberg movies are:

- WAR OF THE WORLD and AI (cursed by two jaw-droppingly terrible endings)

- 1941 (some bits are mildly amusing, others are like watching an hyperactive child screaming and running around)


-My pick would be THE LOST WORLD, one of the most genuinely disappointing moviegoing experiences I remember.

Surprisingly awful performances (from beautiful and talented Julianne Moore, of all people!), horrible character development, and, most of all, the loss of the sense of awe of Jurassic Park (which was certainly flawed, but entertaining - I mean, if JP is lazy, TLW is a sloth). Add to this the abominable "Godzilla" last act and the typically insufferable "child saving the day!" moment, and you get this abysmal (for Spielberg) blockbuster flick.

It's the first time I got the impression that Steven was going through motions, in full "grab the paycheck and run!" mode.

AMISTAD had some terribly cheesy moments (really cringe-inducing stuff), but also some remarkable bits. And my memories of ALWAYS are a bit hazy, but I seem to remember it was on Spielberg's average level of sappiness.

HOOK was on the wrong side of stupid, but the childish, cartoonish tone at least was consistent with the script and justifiable (kind of) with the "it's aimed at kids!" mantra. Whereas The Lost World wanted to ape the first JP and Aliens. And failed, miserably.

What I'm trying to say is that, if you go sentimental in a fairy tale (kind of), I can forgive you; when you do it in a monster movie, or adapting Philip K Dick, or in a dystopian, Kubrickian future, or in a monster movie, you're just being retarded.


Anonymous said...

The lapsus in my last post is rather telling - Crystal KULL, indeed! I guess KOTCS elicited memories of the crappy fantasy flick with Tia Carrere.

Jeffrey Allen Rydell said...


The list (yes, I actually keep an ongoing, ever-mutating ranking of Spielberg's theatrical features. I know...).

As such, no Duel or Kick the Can here. Of course, arguments can and should be made for inclusion, but I have trouble resolving them anyway. If included, Duel would be in the second section, Kick the Can in the last.

The occasional 'carriage returns' are demarcations of invisible dividing lines of descending 'quality' (success relative to intent).

Jaws (1975)
The Sugarland Express (1974)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Empire of the Sun (1987)
Schindler's List (1993)
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Munich (2005)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Minority Report (2002)
War of the Worlds (2005)
Amistad (1997)
The Color Purple (1985)
Always (1989)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Jurassic Park (1993)
1941 (1979)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
The Terminal (2004)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Hook (1991)


Dave Gibson said...

I concur with "Hook", aside from its innate dubiousness as a CAA "packaged film" (Hey! lets get Julia Roberts to play Tinker bell!) its a such an ugly film, especially in the "Neverland" sequences which have all the magic of a decommissioned Disney ride plopped into an airplane hangar. Add the de-rigueur "Dad's Too Busy For The Kids" plot, and Dustin Hoffman’s Giant Bag of Tics—and you’ve got Spielberg’s worst. That, and I’ve always hated Peter Pan, but that’s my problem.

“The Terminal” has some gorgeous scenes to look at, but it is so patronizingly awful-I would easily promote that one in a nanosecond.

Hey—guess I’ve never seen “Always”. Tough break.

Bill C said...

Yes indeedy: HOOK is the ugliest movie he's ever made besides. Also, it drives me crazy that Hook's ship never goes anywhere. It just sits there, docked. Kind of a metaphor for the whole enterprise, really.

When it came out, I wrote in my film log thingy that it looked like it was shot at the O'Keefe Centre. Fake Toronto Broadway shit, in other words.

And those Lost Boys: oy.

Anonymous said...

RIP Harvey Korman

James Allen said...

Rest in peace Hedy Lamarr...

Jefferson said...

He used his tongue purdier'n a twenty-dollar whore.

Joef said...

I hate to be both a nerd and a nitpicker, but in reference to the V for Vendetta DVD review - Alan Moore's opus is not called The Watchmen, but simply Watchmen.

Bill C said...

Cripes. I'm so used to seeing it perverted that way I forgot. Thanks--fixed.

Anonymous said...

As far as worst Spielberg goes, anyone remember his segment in the Twilight Zone movie?

James Pogue said...

I hate E.T. Talk about "sentimental bullshit", I think I vomited the last time I saw the "cute" alien's heart light up, bringing yet another Spielberg character back to life.


Anonymous said...

I think Spielberg's sentimentality serves him well in E.T. (like in Empire of the Sun); stories (mostly) about children seen through the eyes of children (but also, say, in The Terminal)
E.T., in particular, resembles a fairy tale. As I have already wrote, however, this sentimentality becomes unacceptable and obtrusive in movies with had a totally different mood - the endings of SPR, Minority Report, War of the Worlds - becomes the tone SHIFTS and the conclusion is incosistent with what we had seen before, reeking of facile insicerity.

To simplify:
Frank Capra was sentimental.
Stanley Kubrick was cynical.

Both approaches can make sense. What, however, comes across as a monstrosity is a Kubrick movie with a Capra ending (AI, for example).

I hope that makes sense,


Anonymous said...

I disagree with a lot I read on FFC, but I always keep reading because of stuff like this:

"you realize that the real problem with movies like this isn't that they're pitching confidence, but that they're pitching narcissism."