Browsing all articles tagged with Steven Spielberg

I meant to do a blog post about these pics a couple of years ago but, struggling for context, I left them to dwell for a couple of years, because…well, you’ll understand when you see them. Let me explain, a couple of years I was enjoying a leisurely cup of tea with my neighbour, who had recently moved back up north from the big smoke. She spent a lot of her time down there appearing as an extra in such notable TV shows as Eastenders (where she mingled with the likes of ‘Big Ron’) and films like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Interview with the Vampire (conversations about which would normally be proceeded by ‘When I was working with Tom Cruise…’).

Anyway, she produced a book she bought at a car boot sale. I can’t remember what it was, if memory serves it was a collection of oil paintings of cats but that my just be wishful thinking. Regardless, she bought this book from a car boot sale near Pinewood Studios. According to my neighbour, everyone who’s anyone would have their stuff sold at this car boot sale. In my mind this conjured up images of Stanley Kubrick pitching up to clear his archive of ceramic dogs, or Ridley Scott getting there early doors to build on his famed collection of brass horseshoes. The ‘reality’ however, wasn’t far from the truth. Check out this letter…

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and these were the images…

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OK, so it may be doubtful that Spielberg circa-87 would struggle to afford the likes of Patrick McGoohan and Sid James – though there were clearly other factors prohibiting the latter’s hiring in 1987 – despite what he tells the mysterious ‘Derek’. It’s equally unlikely that he used the story of an ex-convict exposing his boss’ corruption as an inspiration for Empire of the Sun, though he did hire Sean Connery for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1989.

Perhaps the biggest mystery is what Derek and his brother David made of the check for 5 million dollars, which was notable for its absence among the collection of painted cats. Maybe they didn’t receive it? Who knows? Who cares? I don’t really know. I’ll be back next week with a more comprehensive post – though I can’t guarantee it’ll make any more sense. Until then, have a better one.

super-8

But there are only 4 of them!

The following contains minor spoilers for Super 8.

Aliens are the new zombies. That’s not to suggest that there’s necessarily anything new about them (doubly so when it comes to Super 8, but we’ll get to that). But they seem to be the latest genre staple to get a shot in the arm since everyman and his dog, and Brad Pitt appear to be making films about the un-dead. And as with zombies, we’re seeing the charge from innovative filmmakers making the most of reduced budgets and summer blockbusters following behind with less offensive fare.

Super 8 slavishly follows the Spielberg template to such an extent that you can’t help but wonder if the Berg received the script and thought that someone was taking the piss. Then again, maybe he moved offices and forgot to tell anyone? Although he put his name to Transformers, so maybe he really doesn’t care. Either way, the film’s Spielberg-ness, which is undoubtedly the film’s strength – at least from a marketing perspective, and probably the reason it was made in the first place, is also its major weakness.

The basic premise of Super 8 – beyond the fairly innocuous storyline about a bunch of kids making a film – that a giant alien is going around a small town robbing cars and eating people doesn’t really gel with the formula established in Close Encounters and ET. Sure, each of those films had its darker aspects, with Richard Dreyfuss undergoing a mental breakdown and Elliott’s broken family, respectively, but as dark as they got, neither film featured the aliens abducting and eating their family members. This wouldn’t be a problem in itself but the fact the lead character is supposed to develop a sympathetic bond with the creature, which causes his eventual emotional catharsis, seems illogical at best, and pretty silly at worst.

In fact, with these conflicting aspects you can’t help but wonder who the film is made for. If the aim was the make it for today’s kids then why didn’t they set it in the present? The fact they’d probably end up making an alien happy-slapping film on their smart-phones notwithstanding. The real clue is in the title; if it were made for kids it wouldn’t it be called something else? Something that doesn’t raise questions like ‘when did the other 7 come out?’ or ‘where were all the superheroes?’

It’s telling that JJ Abrams decided to call the film Super 8. As mentioned, the story of children making their own zombie film on a super 8 camera really doesn’t have much relevance to the film’s plot. In fact it’s clearly more important to JJ Abrams on a personal level than it is in service to the script he wrote. In many ways this makes Super 8 is a really expensive fan film, with Abrams attempting an Amblin-era Spielberg film that features his own hallmarks: lens-flare, an alien that looks like a giant crab monster sucking lemons and a now-tokenistic marketing campaign that drip-feeds information to create mystery.

The recent Attack the Block seems like the next logical step from the Amblin films of yesteryear, and I argue is far more worthy of picking up the mantle. Sure, on surface level, the tale of a bunch of chavs fighting some hairy wolf-gorilla aliens bears little relation to most things, especially ET and its ilk. But, like ET, it’s also an examination of contemporary family dynamics and how they are impacted by the arrival of visitors from space. It just so happens that for many the modern family is so broken that kids are raising themselves.

Despite a fairly unique premise, Attack the Block is definitely beholden to the films of yesterday; it just knows how to tip its baseball cap without drowning in a pool of nostalgia. It looks backward but moves things forward. And is all the better for it.