Discussion: What Does Steven Spielberg Mean To Us?

For this Director’s Week, we decided to have a discussion in which we examine what Steven Spielberg means to us. This is also the first time our notable films are long lists rather than a couple films chosen.

Notable Films: Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, A.I. Artificial Intelligence 

A few months ago when we first started Director’s Week, we began with a daunting director to write about: Stanley Kubrick. It seems I like to write about more daunting and influential directors as this month we are now covering Steven Spielberg, who has changed movie history, made some of the most important and some of the best films of all time, and then was also able to produce at least a dozen more influential films. And he hasn’t given up as he just released a film, and has another 6 or so in production. It’s undeniable, Spielberg lives and breathes cinema, this is what he was born to do. From his understanding of the visual language (not to mention, making some up as he has gone along), even when he makes a “minor” film, it’s better than others best work. I love the horror genre, and he made one of the most important horror films of all time (Jaws), and also happened to invent the summer blockbuster in the process. E.T. was a film that I remember seeing as I was younger, but had since forgotten most of the film, so when I saw it again last year, it was like watching it for the first time, and seeing at the age of 22, I understood the child-like wonder that he perfectly captures in that film. I have a soft spot for A.I. as it was Spielberg finishing a film that Kubrick always wanted to make, and it’s heart-breaking and beautiful, both within the film but also that Spielberg made a film that was supposed to be done not by one of his idols, but by one of his closest friends. Close Encounters is my favourite film by Spielberg, but I’ll get to that later in the week. There is no 80’s without Spielberg’s touch, there is no advanced use of CGI without him, there are no blockbusters. Cinema, and the world is a much, much, much better place with him behind the camera, doing what he does best.

Notable Films: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones, Hook, Jurassic Park, The Terminal

Many of my earlier memories in life include a Spielberg movie. Being terrified of E.T. who, in my kid’s mind, was luring kids to kidnap them, following Indiana Jones into his extraordinary adventures and hiding under a blanket when in Temples of Doom the leader of the cult would remove hearts from people’s bodies. But beyond the terror some of his films made me feel as a child, there was always the grandiose storylines and cinematography that made me think “wow, this is a good film”. To this day, I will never forget the outstanding acting in Hook or the tremendous dose of adrenaline that would overtake me when I watched Jurassic Park. Spielberg makes movies grand and that’s what he’s known for, but what about his little gems? The Terminal remains my favourite film of his, which might sound strange because it lacks everything that he normally infuses his films with. But his director’s touch is still there and you can sense it in the details of the scenes. I think it’s safe to say that Steven Spielberg will never be forgotten as a director and artist.

Notable Films: Jurassic Park, and the Spielberg Moment

Spielberg gets taken for granted. A lot. He’s been such a consistent part of the cinematic landscape over the last 45 years that it’s easy to forget how incredible those individual pieces in his filmography are. Instead of talking about Spielberg as a whole then, it might be easier to just talk about one’s Spielberg Moment. Everyone has one. They aren’t scenes, mind you; the Spielberg Moment goes beyond our favourite set-pieces or exchanges. Let me give you an example: my Spielberg Moment was when I was 6 years old. (The SM usually occurs at a young age.) I was at my grandparent’s house, in the back room where the TV was. It was dark out. The grown ups were in the living room down the hall, talking about those things grown-ups talk about. Meanwhile, my brother and I were watching Jurassic Park. It wasn’t my first time, but I can’t remember a time when I hadn’t seen Jurassic Park. Every time I yelled at Tim to put the damn flashlight away. Every time I covered my eyes when Dennis gets killed in the Jeep. All these viewings became so blurred together I almost can’t separate them, but that isn’t what a Spielberg Moment is about. It isn’t about a singular moment in time or celluloid, it’s about the ability to relive that moment every time you watch the film. As if it were all the same screening. For my 19th birthday a few years ago I went to see the theatrical re-release of Jurassic Park, and you know what? I still yelled at Tim to turn off the goddamn light. I still covered my eyes as Nedry closed the Jeep door. I was in that back room again with my brother and the sound a whirring VHS. That is the Spielberg Moment.

Notable Films: Indiana Jones franchise, Jurassic Park franchise… you get the picture. 

Steven Spielberg has been releasing movies longer than I’ve been alive and has continued to do so throughout every stage of my life. He’s worked on some of the biggest, most beloved film franchises (listed above), and some of the most memorable films: Jaws, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, The Colour Purple and still had time to produce Poltergeist and Gremlins… need I say more? Most of this was before the ’90s! Spielberg’s ability to bring life to any project (in any decade) is inspiring, but his sci-fi, fantasy, and adventure films are the ones that stick with me most, because I grew up watching them, feeling like I was part of the story. He has no idea how important he is to me, but one day I really hope I can tell him myself. Growing up wanting to be an actor, Spielberg’s films thrust me into a feverish longing: to be a part of big movies. He was quoted as saying: “Every time I go to a movie, it’s magic, no matter what the movie’s about.” and that is exactly why I want to be a part of the film industry. To me, it is magic.


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