Tag Archive: stephen spielberg


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Usually it’s hype to say things are wide open, based off of the nominations though, it might be more true this year.

Let’s start with who the Gold Guy sent on the Walk of Shame this morning: DiCaprio (Django), Affleck (Argo), and Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) were all considered locks.  No disrespect to those who were nominated, but frankly I’m as shocked as everyone else they didn’t get invited to the dance for Best Supporting Actor and Best Director respectively.  Their films are all recognized but damn; so that was the inspiration for this post’s title.  We do have a serious film geek collection of movies this year.  I hope the Academy isn’t putting all the pressure for ratings on Seth McFarlane…

That said, when I look at the ‘major’ awards, I see a ton of familiar names: Denzel, Spielberg, Hoffman, DeNiro and Day-Lewis.  Only one of those names I thought gave possibly their best career performance, but we’ll have that argument another day (reward for this year’s work vs. ‘lifetime achievement’).

Back to the film geek point, nine Best Picture nominees this year.  Again, speaks to this being a year without a ‘Titanic’; it also means things can get real interesting real fast when (theoretically) the vote can be split nine ways.  Not a math major obviously, but it seems like you could win Best Picture this year with a very small percentage of the overall vote.  So, could be looking at another ‘Crash’ type year when that last envelope is opened, just putting it out there…

Alright, as far as we’re concerned in this space…I’ve given you 3 reviews, 2 more for sure coming Sunday and Monday, so I owe you 4 more before the show.  That’s doable.  Don’t know yet if I’ll be doing previews with Mr. Thomas like we’ve done in the past, but we shall see.

Have a good weekend.  Mamba out.

 

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Super 8

 

No pun intended but ‘Super 8’ is in almost every way a throwback to an earlier generation of filmmaking.  I know I’m not the first person to say this but the early works of Spielberg are all over this bad boy.  You don’t have to be a film geek as much as you have to be someone who grew up in my generation to see implied or explicit moments that will remind you of ‘Jaws’, ‘E.T.’ and ‘The Goonies’ all within the first 30 minutes.  (And that’s just the beginning.)  It’s ironic in a way because a complaint I hear a lot is ‘Why doesn’t someone make movies like early Spielberg?’ and I definitely feel ‘Super 8’ works in part because this film would fit in perfectly with any of the films Spielberg was making at that point in his career.

So is this an all time classic?  I gravitate toward no even though I liked it.  Maybe it’s just that my view on the world has obviously ‘grown up’ as well, but the on the nose sentimentality that worked so well when I was a kid now feels, well, too on the nose.  So what’s the story about?  If you haven’t heard yet I won’t go into it here since the plot of the film is essentially a ‘What’s Going On?’ type of story.  But I will extend a congratulations to the folks behind this film, since I don’t know how in this day and age you keep the casual viewer from finding out the plot of a big budget film like this.

Final note, and this is for a very small group of you: my favorite part of the film to be honest was the end credits.  It’s funny no matter who you are, but if you ever had to have one of your teenage homies play the head of a major crime syndicate, you’ll get an extra chuckle and bit of nostalgia out of the credit sequence.

(Let me open this chapter by saying I almost certainly do more name dropping in the next few paragraphs than you will ever hear me do in a five minute conversation in real life.  Nature of the beast…)

Like any film geek worth his salt, I knew the names of the filmmakers who either graduated or were otherwise connected to the ‘USC Mafia’: Lucas, Spielberg, Singleton right off the top of my head.  My bootleg experiences had given me a rudimentary knowledge of how to make films; I honestly felt in undergrad I picked the basic knowledge of how to do that.  But I definitely didn’t know Hollywood: didn’t know how it worked, didn’t know how to get a project through the system, didn’t know anyone who could help me do these things. 

If I was forced to choose just one skill I picked up in grad school, it was relationship building, a.k.a. networking.  No one ever says it out loud, but my industry is not a meritocracy.  Don’t get me wrong, if it comes down to a Julliard trained cat with Broadway experience and some underwear model with no acting experience…um…bad example.  I don’t want to discourage the cat who was in my shoes many years ago; if you stay on your grind, push yourself to your limits, and constantly get your name out there, you will eventually create an opportunity of some type.  Even in Hollywood, persistence is rewarded (and somewhat mandatory).  My point though is the more people you connect to, the better off you are.  It was stressed to us very early to get to know the people to your left and right, because they will help shape your career.

USC is a great film school, and it’s unfair to say I didn’t pick up any new filmmaking tricks sitting in the classroom.  My craft absolutely picked up in my time spent in those halls.  But to come from the background I came from, what I was really paying for was ‘fraternity dues’ for lack of a better term…

Insider A: “Hey you ever heard of a Malik Aziz?”

Made Friend: “Yeah, I know Malik, he’s a friend of ours.”

You think I’m exaggerating?

My first mentor is now one of the hottest female screenwriters in town. (I won’t name her here, but for my non-Hollywood readers, I have a strong feeling you’ll start to become more familiar with her name in the next couple of years, if it takes that long).  Some of those guys ‘to my left and right’ have written top selling videogames and directed movies that have opened at the top of the box office.  Some have produced films that are already cult classics.  When I was 23 years old, I had my own office on a major studio lot, and was giving my script coverage every week directly to the head of the studio. (Another woman by the way; if I really did have any misogyny in me, it evaporated quickly simply by the constant support and interest shown in me by the numerous professional relationships I was finding myself in.)  Anyway, the studio job was cutting too much into my school time, so I had to find a new part time job.  And I did find one.  At the Playboy Mansion.  Catered lunches with the Bunnies, working on my thesis at night.  ‘Hollywood’, as my boys call me mockingly, was born.  If at that point I was becoming as smug and arrogant as I had ever been, could you really blame me?  I would never call myself ghetto, but in five years I had come a long way from Wyandotte County.  In two years, I had come a long, long way from Lawrence, Kansas. 

While I definitely feel I earned every opportunity that came to me, I was still nearly a year short of my 25th birthday when I got my Master’s degree.  It was, in retrospect, a little too much too fast.  I still had a lot of life experience to get under my belt.  I was fairly mature for my age, but I wasn’t remotely mature yet.  God works in mysterious ways of course. A strike shut down the industry the summer I graduated.  My student budget fell all the way back into the red.  With no money and limited options, I put my tail between my legs and headed back to Kansas. 

the-color-purple

Based on the critically acclaimed novel, The Color Purple was an equally popular film that received its fair share of critical acclaim.  On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  The storyline of black life in the South in the early 20th century would be enough for this category.  The inclusion of the film’s author and the film’s primary producer (one Quincy Jones) is enough for this film to earn its points in this category.

Legacy:  I’ll sidestep the various jokes that still get told in reference to the film’s story and point to two actresses who made their feature film debut in this movie: Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.  Perhaps you’ve heard of them?

Craft:  While a lot of the book’s bisexuality was left out of the film, the abusive material stayed pretty much intact (to Spike Lee’s delight).  This film still gets major play on cable, which is also a testament to…

Crossover:  the fact that it received massive love from the Academy…kind of.  The Color Purple still holds the record for the most nominations (11) without a single win.  Oh, one more thing for the crossover category; it was directed by Steven Spielberg.  Perhaps you’ve heard of him?

Apollo:  Not counting kiddie movies, this was the first film I remember my parents taking me to.  I was…11 at the time I believe, so my memory of watching it from that screening are slim to be honest.  You know what I do remember from that time?  Danny Glover was a bad man…

The next film entry is coming at the end of the month.