Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hoberman's Spielbergization

I just finished a fascinating essay written by Village Voice critic J. Hoberman - check it out here.

Last year, I threw the Best Film of '06 love onto Spielberg's MUNICH. I thought the picture was moving - challenging - and full of interesting images and ideas. Hoberman's essay speaks a lot about MUNICH as well as Spielberg's many other brilliant films - the essay looks deep into the directors intentions and associates his political drive to the Daryl Zanuck's "let's make propaganda for the public" call to arms in the 40's.

Although I disagree with quite a bit of the reading that Hoberman does (calling WAR OF THE WORLDS a defense of Bush War agenda? Somehow a statement that we should lay our arms and trust our government? Not sure about that.) the essay is a quick and engaging reading of Spielberg's work.

Not for the masses - Kern will enjoy - Kreitner might dig it - but it is written for the film criticism geek in mind!



Kern said...

Sweet! Ahthankyou for that, and it's good timing because I actually have Munich at home on my DVD player. I've been trying to block out three hours of time to watch it but I've been unsuccessful. Saturday morning might be the time. Then I can write my little essay about the new face of the sympathetic terrorist in film as seen in Fight Club, V For Vendetta, and Munich.

By the way, speaking of that kind of stuff, I have been trying to keep up with new stuff for my blog so I did a review of a film today. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Damfino said...

Oh yeah - I stopped by this morning but did not read - maybe this afternoon. (The trouble is I have not heard of the film so my interest is only in your writing - I will read though)

Ooh - your discussion of sympathetic terrorist in FC V and Munich will be interesting... I don't care for V - it felt flat and insultingly preachy... it lacked any sort of style and interest that Fincher and Spielberg produce.

But - ya know - bring it on.

Kern said...

Yeah, I kind of assumed that the draw there would be purely academic in nature. There was actually more I wanted to say about it in terms of symbolism and such, but I felt I kind of wrote myself into a tight corner and feared ruining the flow I had established. I'm always interested in seeing people's critique of the actual writing itself.

I actually liked V a lot, but it's mostly because I love the book and felt that it did a decent job of streamlining its most pertinent parts and delivered the gist of its message in a way a modern audience could grasp. I see your point about it being preachy though, and I wish there had been a touch more subtelty involved instead of making the dictator a George W analogue, which in many respects is quite lazy, in all honesty. It's like picking on the defenseless nerd with the huge glasses and slow reflexes in the schoolyard. Everyone laughs as he's mocked and humilated, but it's almost pointless as the whole thing is just far too easy.

On another note, those kids will, I mean, time to close some files. Yeah, that's it...

Deit Heimley said...

I read the Speilberg piece. I liked it as a critical piece on his career, but I think the essense of the later Speilberg was missed. In a sense, Speilberg is a comic. He cannot escape his desire to make light of the darkest of subjects. Was this not the problem with all of his most wretched films? Shindler's List? Munich? Saving Private Ryan? Comic?

Well yes, but not in the HA HA kind of comedy. They are comic in the sense that they are not tragic, which seems like a poor definition of comedic, but it's true. Take AI, a movie I liked the first time I saw it because I was taken in by the Speilberg gloss. On closer examination though you see that the film suffers because Speilberg just has a hard time being depressing. Look at Shindler's List then in this light. It is comic because you are suposed to laugh at the Nazis -- he even shows you how they got their just desserts. Saving Private Ryan shows us horrors and then lifts us up from that to show us hope.

The problem that I have with this review is that the reviewer seems to have missed this and takes Speilberg at his word without seeing the sly smile behind the shark. After all, real comedy in life is when the mean boss dies of a sudden heart attack while cheating on his wife. That is drama to say the least, but a comedy at its core.

Also, Speilberg suffers from people NOT GETTING THE POINT. So mnay times a movie like Saving Private Ryan is lifted up as a movie about war, and it is, but what the movie is REALLY about is the legnths we will go to be nice.

I could go on, but I sense I have gone on for a while now.

Thoughts, disputes?

Oh, and I haven't really seem Munich but I did skim it -- it's really long.

Damfino said...

Deit... I may have to kill you for the skimming comment.

"Comic?" I am not sure if I get what you mean by this.

I would say Spielberg is flawed in his dramatazation of specific moments he wants to push in his films.

Schindler crying in the crowd of Jewish survivors "this jacket could have saved another!!!"

The African slave taking up a chant in the middle of a courtroom - "GIVE US US FREE!!!"

To a lesser extent - the entire 3/4 of Saving Private Ryan - after the beach scene... everything seems a little fake.

And Munich - the final montage of Avner screwing his wife and the murder of the hostages...

Spielberg has an amazing ability to really get an audience's emotions moving... his imagery is astounding... he just fails when he takes that Spielbergian step over the line.

Kern said...

Bad Stephen!

Fino-I responded to your comment over at Listen! Thanks for reading it. I know my reading was relatively weak, but I appreciate the insight on it. I think my cinematic vocabulary isn't quite deep enough to sustain close readings with great success, but I think given the film's age(which may not have aged particularly well, come to think of it), the techniques he used were a big step forward stylistically for his time and genre, considering Shintoho was basically was paying him to churn out a the Japanes equivalent of Cry Wolf or whatever kind of PG-13 nonsense passes for horror these days in Western films.

Anyway, I appreciate any constructive criticism I get. Hopefully I'll pull my game up when I do my sympathetic terrorist piece!