As we approach the end of the SpielBlog, I'd be lying if I didn't say it gets a bit tough. War Horse, Tintin, Indy 4, and soon Bridge of Spies, the BFG and The Post see something of a slump in quality. But Lincoln is a masterpiece, an adult work that takes its own mission and history seriously, while at the same time maintaining an eye for the human and the humour in the details of a historical canvas.
Based on Michael Morpurgo's 1982 novel and its 2007 play adaptation, Steven Spielberg's 2011 film version was on to a loser. The book was well loved and the theater adaptation had been praised to the heavens. It was unlikely that Spielberg could create something to compete and the fact is his film is little more than a series of compelling moments tied together with a fairly ropey plot, that comes off as a live action version of Spirit.
Every time Steven Spielberg makes a movie it seems to be a passion project or a childhood dream. The Adventures of Tintin has its origins in Spielberg's life from just after Raiders of the Lost Ark was released, when Spielberg noted that French reviews kept citing Tintin as an influence.
I have to be honest. When I first saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull I thought it was okay. I had been prepared to hate it, and it was okay. Not terrible. Harrison Ford was likeable in the role; there was running and jumping and some of the ideas - like the mushroom cloud pictured above held a real pathos. But it is not a good film. And indeed in the context of this blog, I'd say it is Hook bad.
Steven Spielberg's weird relationship with seriousness continues with the 70s style thriller Munich - a film that never really finds its footing in the murky world of counter-terrorism.
Steven Spielberg owes a lot to aliens from outer space. His 60s mentality of awe and wonder made for the slack jawed welcome of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the glowing heart of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, both were huge successes and went some way to changing attitudes towards the other. Just as aliens in the 50s had been the result of Cold War paranoia, so E.T. showed an 80s optimism. But 9/11 took us to a hot war on terror and War of the Worlds registered a retreat into the old patterns of fear and loathing.
After all the recent running around of Catch Me If You Can and the chasing of Minority Report, it was perhaps understandable that Steven Spielberg wanted to take breather, but The Terminal is a thumping stop, almost a collapse into feel good whimsy.
Catch Me If You Can is possibly Steven Spielberg's last absolutely great movie. There are movies to come which have a lot of things which I like, but Catch Me If You Can is almost perfect.
There's something fresh and invigorating about Minority Report. Based on a short story by Philip K Dick, the film was Spielberg's second consecutive science fiction drama after A.I. Artificial Intelligence and would begin a two film collaboration with top movie star Tom Cruise. Originally conceived as a direct sequel to Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall in the early 90s, there were extended delays until it saw the light of day in 2002.
Steven Spielberg has not been shy about his dads. One of his most winning qualities is his enthusiasm for the people he admires in his craft. Whether it's David Lean and his love of Lawrence of Arabia, or his peers George Lucas and Martin Scorsese, or even his own estranged father whose experiences in World War II gave the impetus for Saving Private Ryan. Stanley Kubrick was another of these daddy figures and Spielberg's admiration and indeed love for the bearded auteur led him in 2001 (fittingly enough) to complete a project which had been gestating for decades.
John Bleasdale is a writer. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Il Manifesto, as well as CineVue.Com and theStudioExec.com. He has also written a number of plays, screenplays and novels.