“What would you do if Steven Spielberg walked up to you and said, 'Welcome, I've chosen you to direct our next project'”?
Personally, I'd probably piss my pants with excitement until I discovered that the 'next project' was a knockabout prison comedy starring Quentin Tarantino and Jennifer Aniston. If you have no idea what I'm prattling on about you may want to feast your peepers on the video below.
So that exists, and it proves the fallibility of the man. Because when he's bad, (and he can be bad - see Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls, The Lost World, the last ten minutes of AI) he's hard to defend, but when he's good (Jurassic Park, Raiders, Jaws) he's one of the most entertaining film makers alive.
In honour of the bearded one's imminent War Horse galloping onto screens here's a reminder of some of the finest works by one of the finest directors to ever have held a megaphone.
Let's begin at the beginning. That's right, Colombo. In between his childhood spent playing with Super 8 and his graduation to 35mm, Senor Spielbergio's North American equivalent made his name on TV working on shows like the Peter Falk classic. It was here on the small screen that Spielberg launched Duel, the epic Man Vs Truck tale. Packed with what would become trademark flourishes, Duel took a simple concept and wrung every conceivable piece of tension out of it. It's also a timely reminder that we need more moustachioed leading men.
In keeping with his life, there are a million and one different ways to tell the true life story of Frank William Abagnale Jr. His biopic could have been a epic Michael Mann style crime drama or an intimate study of a man struggling with a near genius gift for forgery. In the hands of Spielberg, Frank's tale is that of little boy lost and, given the character's eventual rehabilitation, it works perfectly.
Minority Report is far from being a great film. It suffers, as many of Spielberg's films do, from a 'too happy for the story' ending. But within it, Minority Report contains some of the best action sequences and visual moments of his career. From the frenetic race against time of the opening 'murder' to the tenser than tense 'spider robot sequence', enough of this sci-fi head-fuck remains a masterclass of suspense thanks to the tricks picked up from 30 years of film making.
Despite what your childhood tells you about Temple of Doom, it'd barely make the Top 20 of a Spielberg list. Last Crusade on the other hand is Indy-brilliance. A more emotional experience than Raiders, the introduction of Sir Connery as Indy's father was a piece of casting worthy of shouting “Iehovah” about. Given a million years and a million typewriters no-one could put dialogue into the mouths of Shia and Harrison to give them the chemistry Sean and Junior had.
As best pal George Lucas was making his first 'jumped-up firework display of a toy advert' (all the Star Wars films are, that's why those of us who like them like them) Spielberg kept his feet firmly in the sands of the American desert on Earth, looking up. Making far more philosophical movies than people gave him credit for, if you ever find yourself staring upwards on a clear night, there's a good chance Close Encounters was your inspiration. Wonderful, as in, literally full of wonder.
There's a reason it took until last year for someone to make a “Spielbergian film” (J.J Abram’s love letter Super 8), Spielberg is a one of a kind. Of course the story of a little boy befriending an alien is sentimental as hell, but the director has the innate ability to remind you with every single frame that once, perhaps a long time ago, you were a kid too. If anybody could make a workable film of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince it'd be Spielberg. Well, 80's Spielberg anyway. 2012 Spielberg would mo-cap it. Eliooottttt!!!
The go-to film as punchline to a million jokes (see, especially, the video below) for the simple reason that no-one can doubt the emotional power of Spielberg's holocaust. The worst thing that man has done to man in living memory, Schindler's List never forgets that it's a film and not a documentary. In doing so Spielberg lined the film with Oscar calibre performances, even if Liam and Ralph both lost out to Toms (Lee Jones and Hanks), and created a work that remains as chillingly effective 20 years on.
While the mention of another Indiana Jones movie after Crystal Skulls is enough to flagellate oneself with a trusty bull-whip, there's some of us that would love to see Indy 'do a Bond' and run forever. The reason for wanting, perhaps foolishly, more of the lecturer / archaeologist lies with the damn near perfection of Indy Number One. Fun, funny and in parts fantastically gruesome, Raiders set a benchmark for sandy action that hasn't been topped since. So yes, more please. With any luck they'll be like the opposite of Star Trek films, with only the even numbered ones being crap.
Referenced more than any other film in pitch meeting history ("it'll be like Jaws meets X"), it's the staple description for any movie in which something remorselessly, relentlessly tries to munch someone up. Alien is Jaws in space. Terminator is Jaws with a robot. Jurassic Park is Jaws with dinosaurs. Tremors is Jaws with slugs. Babe is Jaws with a pig. Okay it's not but you get the idea. As influential as Lady Gaga and almost twice as scary.
Having previously gushed about Jurassic Park on its re-release there isn't a lot left to say on one of, if not the, GREATEST BLOCKBUSTER OF ALL TIME. So we'll simply repeat the sentiment of that piece. If you're of a certain age Jurassic Park would have blown your tiny little mind. So pop on a dark blue baseball cap and doff it to a living legend. Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Steven Spielberg.
And while there will be still be some chomping at the bit to write “Spellberg iz a wang, LOLZ” in the comments below just remember he's also played a huge part in bringing to the screen Back to the Future, The Goonies, Band of Brothers, Flags of Our Fathers, Men In Black, Gremlins, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Poltergeist and he's influenced a million more.
Now where's my copy of Steven Spielberg's Director's Chair game. I have an invite to accept.
What are your favourite Steven Spielberg movies?