A2P Cinema's Featured Filmmaker


STEVEN SPIELBERG
Born: 1946, United States
Perhaps the most popular and well-known filmmaker in contemporary American film, Steven Spielberg is also one of the most acclaimed. He's certainly the most powerful filmmaker in today's Hollywood and just about every film he has made has reached box office success. Spielberg is a master of Blockbuster filmmaking. He is responsible for some of the most memorable and creative box office films in history, and you can say he is (along with George Lucas) responsible for changing the face of American entertainment in the film industry. However, Spielberg is above all a great storyteller and he easily connects with filmgoing audiences. He has a very traditional and knowledgeable sense of filmmaking (with influences ranging worldwide from John Ford to David Lean to Akira Kurosawa). Spielberg is masterful at the technical aspects of film and has successfully evolved his career with new technology, but his great strength is his ability to never abandon the story or the emotional impact of the story. Even in his most dazzlingly technical films lies a deeply human story- which generally involve family. Spielberg is also a producer and works with large budgets and teams of collaborators and as a result his films are extravagant. He has such a skill with controlling the grand and sweeping effects within the narrative structure of the story. Spielberg always goes for the bold and impacting emotion of scenes and as such he tends to be very forceful at times. The emotional impact is certainly effective, but if there is a flaw it is that this boarders on being overbearing (this to me is the greatest flaw of a film like The Color Purple- a film who's material probably required a less melodramatic touch). Since his earliest films, Spielberg has always been (and still is) a master of storytelling and creative technical achievement. Some of his more recent films have proven his creativity as a visual master as well. Spielberg's skill framing and visual trademarks have become a staple of American filmmaking (notably the gaze of his characters looking at an almost majestical world in the front of them with a beautiful awe and wonder). His compositions and of the sun, moon, and mirrored reflections of objects left behind have become essential pieces of his visual mastery, as has his classic collaborations with composer John Williams who is responsible for many of the most memorable scores in American film history.


1… A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0212720/

A masterpiece! Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg deserve equal praise for the collaboration. In some ways these two filmmakers have contrasting styles which, when combined, seem to really work within the themes of this film. I think A.I. was a very personal and important film to Kubrick, and he even thought much of it was more suitable for Spielberg. I believe Spielberg was very respectful of Kubrick's idea, and yet he still managed to express his own personal vision into the film. What results is an achievement that will stand the test of time and be recognized among the great films of American cinema. Spielberg handles the subject matter perfectly from opening shot to its powerful and heartbreaking conclusion.


2… Jaws (1975)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073195/

I have seen this many times, but it really never gets old. Jaws is a landmark of American film. It was Spielberg’s third feature film and really the film that gave him creative freedom and control throughout the rest of his career. It may be formula, but it is top-notch formula in every way, and in many ways a film that propelled the formula into countless imitators. I think Spielberg may have made more definitive or personal films after this, but to me Jaws stands as one of his very greatest achievements and it remains as relevant (and engrossing) today as it did in 1975.


3… E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083866/

E.T. might be the essential Spielberg film in that it seems to most embody every aspect of his filmmaking trademarks (both from a storytelling and technical perspective). So much to remember and embrace about this undeniably sweet and touching film.


4… War of the Worlds (2005)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407304/

Steven Spielberg's adaptation of HG Welles classic novel, War of the Worlds, is a film that will very likely be under appreciated. Through Spielberg's vision, the film becomes more a story of human-beings and most of all a film of family. Spielberg is working with an enormous budget and with it he creates some dazzling visuals effects, and technical mastery. Yet no matter what the budget or ambition of the film, Spielberg is always about capturing the emotional core of the family. Being a big star (and tabloid machine) Tom Cruise often gets overlooked as a great actor. I think he gives an outstanding performance here and the emotional center of the film really relies on him to be convincing.


5… Empire of the Sun (1987)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092965

Spielberg's 1987 film has the grand sweep of Cecil B. DeMille or David Lean (who was originally attached to direct) with all his signature emotional and 80s visual touches. This coming of age tale essentially blends two elements that defined Spielberg's career - the childlike wonder fantasies and the mature and somber themes. This film beautifully captures both the surreal and the harsh worlds of Spielberg's vision.


6… Saving Private Ryan (1998)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120815/

Spielberg's influence from the classic American filmmakers he admired are more evident then every here but Saving Private Ryan is a a film achievement to embrace. Spielberg flawlessly blends intense action with intimate drama, humor and sentimental period detail. Though not Spielberg's most original film, it is an incredibly respectful work and feels personal and stands memorable.


7… Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075860/

Spielberg's masterful buildup and storytelling skills are on full display here in this pure spectacle of Hollywood filmmaking. Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography is perfection and the films final act is simply wonderful.


8… War Horse (2011)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1568911/

There are plenty of Steven Spielberg type moments within this film and his influence from John Ford is as evident as ever. However, War Horse is a film unlike anything Spielberg has ever done before, as here the narrative drive is less on plot, instead it is an episodic structure which uses a non-human protagonist as a reflection of a larger human epic scale. This is one of Spielberg's most reflective films, alongside A.I..


9… Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087469/

To me, this followup to the beloved 1981 film is a slightly better paced and overall more entertaining film. Temple of Doom stands as the best of the series embodying all the adventure, humor, horror and excitement that make this such a lasting franchise.


10… Jurrasic Park (1993)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107290/

Jurassic Park is a landmark film, like a King Kong for the digital age. Spielberg brings to this his great sense of pace and spectacle, making this an instant family adventure classic film the will long be loved by American audiences.


11… Lincoln (2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443272/

Much of this films credit is in the incredible performance of Daniel Day Lewis but Spielberg does a beautiful job with the atmosphere and sense of period here. Biography films don't always work for me but I really admire what Spielberg, Day-Lewis and the entire crew/cast achieved here.


12… Schindler's List (1993)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108052/

Perhaps Spielberg's most acclaimed film, Schindler's List has (for me) not had the impact on repeat viewings. Spielberg does an incredible job of keeping you engaged for over 3 hours and serious credit is due to Janusz Kaminski's rich black and white photography. The film is sad but does have a righteous purpose that leaves it inspiring.


13… Munich (2005)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0408306/

While not as purely entertaining as many of Spielberg's films Munich is one of his most interesting works and a narrative departure for him as well. The film pace and craftsmanship is topnotch.


14… Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082971/

Spielberg's collaboration with George Lucas results in the start of one of the most beloved franchises in movie history. The opening adventure scene is thrilling and a landmark 1980s film moment.


15… The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119567/

The Lost World is an underappreciated followup to his landmark film. While it certainly has its fair share of sequel in-jokes this film does offer some darker themes and brings out a bit more soul in its digital dinosaurs then the 1993 film.


16… Catch Me If You Can (2002)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0264464/

Speilberg keeps this very loose true story light in tone and a charming lead performance from Leonardo DiCaprio make it feel like a lot less then its nearly two and half hour running time.


17… 1941 (1979)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078723/

1941 is Spielberg paying tribute to classic screwball comedy. Its known for being a massive bomb (both commercially and critically) but I think there is some underrated appeal here.


18… Minority Report (2002)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181689/

Repeat viewings have been kinder then I remember this sci-fi thriller to be on initial, mostly in part to Spielberg's visuals which resemble some vast cinematic influences (as wide ranging as Blade Runner and Persona). The opening portion is undeniably engaging.


19… Amistad (1997)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118607/

The films first half is far more appealing mostly in the way it finds humor and credit to the period details but this film lacks subtly as it moves along and grows more somber.


20… Always (1989)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096794/

Credit for its well intended and seemingly deeply personal details but this film misses the mark in most areas. This is a film I really want to admire.


21… The Terminal (2004)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0362227/

A modern ode to some of the silent comedies Spielberg admire, The Terminal is not a great film but it charming and lighthearted enough.


22… The BFG (2016)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3691740/

Lots of visual extravagance on display here but this lacks engrossing storytelling or sympathy.


23… Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097576/

This one just feels a bit to forced, soulless, and one-note for me.


24… Hook (1991)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102057/

A surprising disappointment in that it lacks the sense of adventure and entertainment you'd expect from both a Spielberg film and a Peter Pan story.


25… The Color Puple (1985)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088939/

This film is highly acclaimed but to me its resembles Spielberg at his worst or most forceful. There are some fine performances to be found here but the material requires a lighter touch then what we get.


26… Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0367882/

This fourth installment definitely plays on the nostalgia of the franchise and it begins with a setup that relies heavily on the iconic persona of Indiana Jones (the first image of him is his back turned reaching down to get his famous hat). The series has lost much of its charm mostly because Ford has as well. The plot here is rather uninteresting as they bring a science-fiction element into the mix.



DID NOT SEE YET:


Bridge of Spies (2005)

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The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
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The Sugarland Express (1974)

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