The first word of Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan is 'Dad!', as an old man visiting a war cemetery in Normandy is overcome with emotion and staggers, causing concern to his devoted but otherwise mute family. It is the grown son he gets the only line in prologue and it serves as a kind of dedication to Spielberg's own war veteran father who he would frequently site as a motivation for doing the film.
1997 saw Steven Spielberg rerunning 1993. Following his longest hiatus after Jurassic Park and Oscar-winning Schindler's List, it was pleasingly symmetrical that he should return with Lost World paired with Amistad, one of the very few American films to deal with the slave trade.
"Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running and um, screaming," so says Ian Malcolm, chaotician and franchise survivor. It's a nice note of Jeff Goldblum's smooth self-awareness and although there's something unnecessary about the sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a thoroughly enjoyable old fashioned piece of entertainment.
If you've been following the SpielBlog you'll have noticed a significant gap between entries and that might be a good place to start. I was reluctant to re-watch Schindler's List for a number of reasons.
Another film, another dream project. Dinosaurs had always been something that fascinated Steven Spielberg and he counted Ray Harryhausen as one of his earliest influences. But with Jurassic Park there was also a sense that Spielberg was going back to his first proven success. He wanted a monster movie Summer blockbuster, like Jaws had been. And that's what he got.
Generally speaking I've enjoyed writing these SpielBlog posts. Even a flop like 1941 had something to recommend it. But Hook was deeply tedious and took me a good three tries to watch. Following on from Always, it was the first time in his career that Steven Spielberg made back-to-back stinkers.
Always is a first in more ways than one. All of the films I've watched so far for SpielBlog I've already seen. Most of them at the cinema. And most several times. And all of them - even 1941 - have had something worth watching. But I'd never seen Always and now I have I wished I hadn't.
Along with many others I watched Solo with a growing sense of disappointment. Here was an iconic Star Wars character, a hero, who didn't really need an origin story. And yet here we were. And the fact was the origin story of another Harrison Ford hero had already been done and done well. It comes in the first ten minutes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
There's a rhyming in the posters of E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial and Empire of the Sun. The big moon is replaced with the the big sun; the silhouetted child on the bike is now a silhouetted boy and the Michelangelo inspired contact between the alien finger and the human finger is now a near meeting of the boy's toy airplane and the kamikaze fighter returning to the Earth in flames.
I've never really understood this idea that Steven Spielberg felt it necessary to move into serious films. To me Jaws, Close Encounters and E.T. qualify as serious films. Yes, they also happen to be hugely entertaining and popular, but that's beside the point. The Seven Samurai was successful as was 2001: A Space Odyssey. Vertigo also. And they're also highly entertaining and serious films. But it was Spielberg himself to some extent who wanted to move on to more weighty material. To prove that he was an artist and not simply a money maker. And so we come to his 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker's breakout novel The Color Purple.
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.