Monday, July 30, 2012

The Good, The Bland, and The Ugly: Steven Spielberg


The premise of this is simple: if someone, who knows little about the director/actor/etc. in question, asked you to select one film for each of the following three categories below what films would they be?:

1) The Good – A film they should seek out right away
2) The Bland – Not among the best, but still a film they should see.
3) The Ugly – If pressed for time, this is the one film that they should skip in order to squeeze in more hours for the top works.

Keeping this in mind, my three would be as follows:


The Good – In many ways it is fitting to feature the king of the summer blockbusters, in my eyes at least, as we hit the final leg of this summer’s movie season. Similar to the previous two directors featured in this column, Steven Spielberg is a director that is tough for me to only single out one film for each category. The fact of the matter is that his films are one of the reasons I have grown to love cinema so much. While I am sure my choice will change given the particular day, I will start off by selecting Jurassic Park in this spot. While not as definitive as say Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, or even Schindler’s List, I must admit that Jurassic Park is the film that brings out my inner child every single time I watch it. I still remember my fifteen year-old self being mesmerized by what was unfolding on screen. Although the film may not have been as chilling as the novel, what Spielberg and cast achieved is truly outstanding. The film is filled with several characters that you actually care about. If the film was made by a lesser director, characters such as Dr. Grant (Sam Neil), Dr. Sattler (Laura Dern), and Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) would have been merely be one dimensional figures that offered nothing significant to film. However, Spielberg manages to bring depth and emotional weight to each character. One other thing I find truly interesting about the film is that, after almost 20 years since its original release, Jurassic Park still holds up very well from a visual standpoint. The film’s special effects look far better than most big budget films released today.


The Bland – I know there will be those who will instant think of A.I. Artificial Intelligence, but aside from the unnecessary final act A.I. is a brilliant film. For me, War Horse is a film that fits this section perfectly. From a strictly technical standpoint War Horse is solid, as you would expect from Spielberg film, the sound is fantastic and the film is beautiful from a visual standpoint. However it is the human characters in the film, despite the talented actors Spielberg enlists to play them, who did not grab me at all. The film tries to show the various aspects of war through the individuals the horse encounters along its journey. The problem is, outside of the horse’s plight, none of the human stories struck any emotional resonance. Whenever the horse was not on screen, the film just felt rather bland. War Horse is one of the few films that I actually wished I had just seen the stage version instead.


The Ugly – Hook. I will never understand the love that many have for this film. Normally I am all for taking well known characters and reimaging them into something new and refreshing. However, Hook never evoked that childlike nostalgia in me like it did for so many others. The film focuses on an adult Peter Pan (Robin Williams) who has lost all sense of his youthful spirit. It is only after Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) kidnaps Peter Pan’s children, that Peter ventures back to Neverland to regain both his kids and his childlike sense of wonder. Aside from the performances by Hoffman and Bob Hopkins, who plays Smee, none of the other performances grabbed me at all. At the end of the day though, it is the script that ultimately ruins Hook for me. The film is supposed to evoke a sense of childlike adventure, but everything from the one-liners to the overall plot conventions feels very uninspired.

What films would you select for each category? Let us know in the comments section.

15 comments:

  1. I like your choices as it is difficult to choose from Spielberg's extensive filmography, but I would go with:
    The Good: Jaws
    The Bland: Amistad
    The Ugly: A.I. Artificial Intelligence

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    1. Never was a fan of Amistad, I would take A.I. over that film any day.

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  2. Given my love for the man's films, this post is right up my alley.

    The Good: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
    The Bland: The Terminal
    The Ugly: 1941 - His worst with a bullet. Anyone who tells you otherwise hasn't seen it.

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    1. Not going to argue with you about 1941, though I must admit I was not that fond of The Terminal either.

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  3. The Good: Raiders of the Lost Ark
    The Bland: Munich
    The Ugly: War of the Worlds

    Really dig this feature, BTW.

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    1. Personally, I would put War of the Worlds in the bland section. I loved the first half of the film, but the story goes off the rails once they reach the Tim Robbins section.

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    2. Wait! Tim Robbins was in War of the Worlds? Totally forgettable movie.

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  4. God..Do we have to limit to just one ?? Really difficult, unfortunately even in ugly category.

    The Good: Saving Private Ryan
    The Bland: Raiders of Lost Ark (Not a popular choice I know, but at least it isn't ugly)
    The Ugly: A.I. Artificial Intelligence

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    1. Really surprised to see Raiders in the bland section, people seem to like Raiders the most out of the four Indy films.

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  5. Let's see... The Good: Saving Private Ryan, E.T. the Extra-terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, & Raiders of the Lost Ark.

    The Bland... Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Empire of the Sun, Catch Me if You Can, Minority Report, & Munich

    The Ugly... Hook, Amistad, Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World, 1941, and Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

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    1. I would place A.I and Minority Report in the good column. Munich would be another film that I would possibly move up as well, but I have only seen that film once.

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  6. I'm not sure how much I can join in on this one, I'm not a fan of the guy so haven't seen the entire back catalogue.

    Good: Jurassic Park is a great choice, I too get that same sense of awe I did as a kid whenever I see it.

    Bland: Indy 4, even writing this I'm gagging at how much I disliked it but it wasn't a bad movie like some others that he made.

    Ugly: Minority Report. I almost made it bland but when I thought about it there wasn't a film made by the most famous director still alive that i disliked more than this one.

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    1. I am a huge fan of Minority Report. The film has its flaws but I thought it was a very engaging science fiction film overall.

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    2. I enjoyed when I first saw it but these days I have no patience. I can't get past stupid in sci-fi, my eyes rolled too many times in too short a space of time when I rewatched.

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  7. Good - Saving Private Ryan... The films gets me every time, but there are more than a few Spielberg movies that fit this category.

    The Bland - I'll go with Munich, although I actually really like that movie. It's just very long and can get a little boring at times.

    The Ugly - War of the Worlds. Not a fan.

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