Trailer: Steven Spielberg’s War Horse

Your daily dose of news, nuggets and notables updated throughout the day:

Bryan Cranston is en fuego. Joins The Gangster Squad
As little as I ultimately thought of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (review), it at least appears to have helped launch Bryan Cranston from kicking ass on the tube to doing the same on the big screen. For that I’m glad it exists. (Variety)

Diablo Cody to make directorial debut with Lamb of God
Great, so now a whole generation of bitter director wannabes can hate her just like the raft of failed screenwriters jumped on her Juno success. I personally didn’t think much of Juno (review), but the subsequent hate heaped upon Ms. Cody was kind of gross. (Deadline)

Thor to become a Shadow Runner
He’s attached to the thriller about elite commandos from an idea by much buzzed Hossein Amini (Wings of the Dove, Drive). Otherwise, no other details about the project are known so your interest likely rests entirely on your affection for Thor. (THR)

Michael Bay says that “small” film he threatened a couple years ago is next
I sprained my eyes rolling them when Bay announced he wanted to make a small dark comedy that was “very Pulp Fiction-y” with no special effects “just real characters and very little action.” It turns out it’s a project based on a true story about body building criminals and it’s not only still on the burner, the auteur of awful says he wants to do it next. Yeah, because he shows such a knack for comedy and character development. (Playlist via MTV)

Jonesing for another Roland Emmerich movie?
No? Me either, but you’re getting one anyway on May 17, 2013. Nothing is known about it except it’s a sci-fi pic called Singularity. If history is a guide, it won’t be very good. For what it’s worth, “singularity” in science/science-fiction refers to the idea of a super-human intelligence we can’t yet comprehend and the hypothetical emergence of which renders moot our ability to accurately predict the future. It’s a term coined by sci-fi writer Vernor Vinge and popularized by folks like futurist Ray Kurzweil. I don’t know about that, but I can guarantee you Roland Emmerich does not represent that super-human intelligence. (Deadline)

Il Postino director Michael Radford to tell the story of Castro’s Daughter

Will Smith eyes Denzel Washington for Katrina drama The American Can

New Gandalf the same as old Gandalf but with less white hair
A new Hobbit pic (Empire)

Colombian hostage drama The Mission dreams of netting Brad Pitt and David O. Russell
Russell is “circling” while Pitt remains a studio pipe dream. It’s based on the 2008 rescue of 15 hostages held in the Colombian jungle for 5 years by FARC. FARCin’ A, man. (Deadline)

Will Ferrell attached to star in Swear to God. Adam McKay could direct
The script Deadline describes as “a buddy comedy in which Ferrell plays a narcissistic hedge fund manager who thinks he has seen God” was written by Alan Cohen and Alan Freedland who were the same guys behind Todd Philips’ mostly dismal Due Date. (Deadline)

Former Tarantino partner Roger Avary to adapt Faulkner’s Sanctuary
William Faulkner’s controversial Mississippi-set 1931 novel has been previously adapted as The Story of Temple Drake. (Deadline)

Clip: Harry Potter and the Something of Whatever
For those of you who are hopping up and down on one foot like you have to pee with excitement for the last of the Potter flicks. Enjoy (EW)

The Secret (Of Happiness) optioned for big screen adaptation
I’ve haven’t read the novel but I like saying the name of its author Demosthenes Armeniades. (Deadline)

Michelle Yeoh booted from Burma for playing Aung San Suu Kyi
Turns out the Burmese government isn’t keen on people making movies about their once-imprisoned pro-democracy activist. Where’s Rambo when you need him? (THR)

Another Three Musketeers trailer
I’m assuming this is the same one that played in front of Transformers. Even the 3D looked wretched, which is surprising because it’s supposedly shot in the format and not converted afterward. It was as convincing looking as a pop-up book and less entertaining. (THR)

Giancarlo Esposito joins Tyler Perry in I, Alex Cross
His recent turn on Breaking Bad reminded me of how much I like Giancarlo Esposito. I’d be more enthused about this Alex Cross reboot if he was the star. (THR)

(above) Trailer: Steven Spielberg’s War Horse
“DreamWorks Pictures’ War Horse, director Steven Spielberg’s epic adventure, is a tale of loyalty, hope and tenacity set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War.”

31 Responses to “News du Jour: Spielberg’s “War Horse””

  1. did they use CGI on the horse to give it emotion? some of those shots don’t look natural at all, and it looks…..strange. In a bad way. I’m not a fan of this trailer at all, and I hope Spielberg hasn’t retreated back to Oscar bait just because his last few dramas received a mixed response by critics and audiences (mainly “Munich” and “AI”). I think for the most part he’s done some interesting, high-quality work in the last decade, especially with those films and also “Minority Report” and the underappeciated “Catch Me If You Can”. This trailer reminds me of “Amistad” for some reason. Sentimental and self-important almost to the point of parody. Maybe I’m still a bit disappointed he backed off the Chicago 10 movie and put “Interstellar” on the shelf. Between this and “Tin Tin”, I can’t say I’m eager to see his 2011 lineup. I actually think his animated film looks more intriguing than this one, and I just about despise Mo-Cap. But again, a trailer is a trailer, and this is a teaser at that, so hopefully the actual film has the goods.

  2. I should add that even if his 2011 lineup is safe and uninspired, I think “Lincoln” will be something extraordinary with Day Lewis in the lead and Kushner writing the script.

  3. Yes consider me underwhelmed. I’m going to give the guy the benefit of a doubt – and I have to admit the trailer actually looks better than I expected – but the whole thing fails to get my pulse going.

    Bring on Lincoln.

  4. I had actually thought “War Horse” was the title of his Lincoln movie. Which to be quite frank, I’m not sure why we need, exactly. I’d be more interested in seeing a video release of whatever play it was that Sam Waterson played the Railsplitter in, before becoming everybody’s favorite New York DA on “Law and Order”.

    Anyway, a horse is a horse, of course, of course. Don’t we already have enough of these kinds of “Black Stallion” types galloping around? It looks like Spielberg returning to his oddly mercenary mid-to-late 80’s phase, where he turned out perplexingly out of character stuff like “Empire of the Sun”. Between this and “Tin Tin”, I don’t really know what to make of him anymore.

    Oh, and on the matter of “Tin Tin”– I’d rather see the “Adele Blanc-Sec” movie that Luc Besson did a year or two ago. Can we have that obscure French comic-book movie instead, please?

  5. All I can say about Lincoln is that it’s got Daniel Day Lewis in it, so I’m there.

  6. Lincoln had a kinda nasal voice, so I frankly think he’s not a great pick.

  7. If “War Horse” is even half as good as “Empire of the Sun” I’ll be thrilled.

  8. Maybe I should’ve used “Always” as a better example. Nevertheless, Spielberg hasn’t really win me over since the 90’s.

  9. I guess I’ll go ahead and set up by myself in the “Oooh, pretty horsey movie!” camp, representing little girls everywhere. Sure, the trailer’s not exactly inspired but it looks like a good story and I know Spielberg will tell it well (though being Spielberian and not exactly edgy fare, it’s obviously not going to appeal to everyone). I’m glad at least there’s more horse in this horse movie than there was in the much-less-promising Secretariat last year.

  10. I got your back Jennybee.

    I assume Spielberg will get carried with the sorts of moments that always tend to cause Spielberg to get carried away (he apparently, after all this time, still doesn’t understand how good he can be with images, as he always pushes things we already know in our faces.)

    That said, Spielberg IS a master with images, and the idea of the older, somewhat darker Spielberg tackling this material is interesting for me.

  11. Thanks, Chuck. :)

    This is probably well-known to all but me, but I have wondered before how much those over-the-top Spielbergian moments are due to his film editor’s influence. It’s ultimately an editorial philosophy as much as a directorial. Then again, it’s possible those ARE his subtlest shots.

    And they do please the crowds, so there’s that.

  12. I would take Amistad over Star Wars III any day of the week.

    Plus, com on. He made a dinosaur sequel in the same year. Not his best effort by any measure, but there are two sequences in it that are better than anything in any of the Star Wars prequels. The bit with the RV over the cliff, and the scene in the tall grass with the raptors. Lucas cries himself to sleep at night wishing he could have that much command of his form.

  13. Honestly, JP1 and “Schindler’s” are the last of Spielberg’s films that I enjoy and respect in equal measure. And frankly, thr latter film I’m ambivalent on for just how mch Januscz Kaminski has ruined his later films with overexposed cinematography. Granted, there’s some movies here and tere that are fun and bright, but none that are terribly great (thiugh I do find all the “Look At Me, Mommy” sentiment of evrything from “AI” through “Munich” colors those films, and maybe everything else he’s made, through the milky lens of the mother of all Oedipal complexes).

    As for Lucas– nice try, Craig.

  14. Great cast in this so it has that going for it, and I’d like to angle more towards Chuck and JB’s comments but I agree with Ari that this feels like it might end up in Amistad/Saving Private Ryan territory. I think it’s that kid that does it for me. He’s just too perfectly…Spielbergian. Hoping for something that follows more in the range of his work from the last decade, but I have to wonder if the creative surge he had following 9/11 isn’t mostly extinguished now.

  15. Bob, if you don’t like Hitchcock, I would’nt expect you to like Spielberg. In many ways they’re cut from the same cloth, but in different cinematic eras. Both advanced the form in there own way. They both straddled the line between populism and art in ways that no one else has been able to do. Both made so many films that it’s easy to pick this or that one and hold it up as inferior, but in bulk, both are unrivaled by anyone.

    There’s a stretch there where Spielberg was often making two decent films in a year. Sometimes they were great, sometimes not so much, but all of them were better than most films and in many cases better than their current reputations.

    Mind you, this is AFTER the films that most reasonable people will accept as great: Jaws, Close Encounters, ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Take way his established great films and the dude is still entirely amazing:

    in 1993 he made Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park. You can nitpick either one, but both are superb examples of their type.

    as I said above, 1997 was Amistad and JP2. Both deeply flawed, but epecially JP2 has a ton to recommend it. The guy can fart movies like this and they mostly work.

    2002 finds Minority Report and Catch Me If You Can. Two TOTALLY different movies and both brilliant in their own way. Most filmmakers would be lucky to have one of these in their entire careers and Spielberg tosses them off in a year.

    2005: War of the Worlds and Munich. Two of the best post 9/11 movies without overtly being about 9/11 and they came out in the same year! Sure, you can nitpick the ending of the former, but if we’re going to be honest with ourselves, the ironic anticlimactic ending of the short story doesn’t work very well on film anyway. The rest of it is Spielberg’s one and only horror film and it’s amazing. Munich speaks for itself, unless you’re Jeff Wells in which case you’re a giant dick and we won’t go there.

    It’s true, Spielberg occasionally stumbles and not ever film of his is genius, but I challenge you to pick another filmmaker working today who has had as many hits as misses and who has been working as long and has been so prolific.

    Honestly Bob, you’re welcome to your opinions, but you toss out firebombs like “Hitchcock and Spielberg” are overrated without actually laying the intellectual groundwork to support your ideas (which for the record are way outside generally accepted thought) and they don’t hold much water.

    Feel free to make your argument in either case, but you haven’t done it yet.

  16. As for your Kaminski comment, it’s utter Jeff Wellsian horseshit, and you know it.

  17. Craig, I’m actually not as hard on Spielberg as you seem to think. His early stuff, I agree, are class acts. He had some misfires in the 80’s (he was never right for “The Color Purple”), but his work in the 90’s is mostly okay (“Jurassic Park” is great, as is “Schindler’s” for the most part”, and hey, I even have a soft spot for “Hook”).

    On the set-pieces you’re so enamored with in “JP2”– the first is okay, but strikes me as more unrealistic than any of the dinosaur stuff throughout the film. As for the raptors in the grass– frankly, that whole episode felt terribly tacked on, as though Spielberg and his screenwriters had realized they’d forgotten to do anything interesting with the stand-out creatures from the original film. Furthermore, though he does some nifty action there, it’s all rather empty, and ignores what was the most frightening stuff about those particular dinos in the first place. It wasn’t that they could run through the jungle and hunt you down– it was the fact that they could turn a door-knob, and hunt you in places where you thought you were safe from all the big, nasty predators. Chrichton’s book made the logical, and terrifying next step to have raptors reaching the mainland, where they could wreak havoc in ways that the bigger creatures would be too easy to stop (the T-Rex in the city at the end is fun, but not terribly threatening), and it’s a shame that for the sequel they just decided to do a retread of the first. If anything, I’d like to see the long-fabled draft by William Monahan and John Sayles, just for how bugnuts crazy it sounds.

    For me, the problems begin with “A.I.”, which is a movie that finds him caught between the childlike wonder of his blockbuster entertainments and the more adult-minded fare of his 90’s dramas. Granted, this is part of what gives the film its charm, and when it works it does so frightfully well (the whole final act is some of the best stuff he’s ever done, save for the fact that he never develops the Super-Mechas very much and frankly makes them a wee bit too E.T.-ish). But there’s a lot in the film that feels wrongheaded in its attempts to congeal the mature-and-juvenile aspects of the story with humor. The gag-deaths of the Flesh Fair feel uncharacteristically cynical for Spielberg, but at the same time they reveal a tendency in his work to build up to big moments in any of his set-pieces like the punch-lines of Rube Goldberg cartoons, something that’s present even in stuff like “Saving Private Ryan”. Overall, it’s a film I have problems with, but it’s a revelatory experience to understand him. A beautiful mess.

    In a sense, all of his movies from the past ten years are messes of some kind, if they’re worth anything. “Minority Report” is mostly a mostly solid take on Dick– yeah, it conforms to Hollywood conventions and police mystery formulae a little too easily (if you’ve seen “L.A. Confidential”, you know who the bad guy is from scene one), and it’s a little overburdened with expository speeches tumbling out of everybody’s mouths a mile a minute, but for the most part it’s a nicely bleak little dystopian adventure. The real problem for me, again, is the way he injects more humor than is really necessary, particularly in the scenes that involve the cops trapsing through ordinary citizens’ homes, treating invasion of privacy as a joke. Again, I can see why it’s there, using laughs as a gestalt to deal with the subject matter, but it feels redundant in a story that’s already talking about it rather frankly, to begin with. Also, small nitpick– the “House of Bamboo” clip in the background of one scene feels like it’s just there to impress people, as if to say, “Look! I know who Sam Fuller is!”. Is it there to set up Tom Cruise in the bathtub? Maybe, but it’s a little showy.

    “Catch Me If You Can” is disposable fluff. Yeah, maybe that’s the point, but for me it went in one eye, out the other. Nothing stuck.

    “War of the Worlds”– No. This movie just plain stank. Furthermore, I find the notion of it being “a 9/11 movie” rather ludicrous, as it’s aiming only to capture the sheer horror of the event itself, the shock-and-awe trauma of buildings reduced to rubble, people reduced to ash, and all with the bright, shining technicolor day-glo of a 1950’s sci-fi flop (that’s probably intentional– the way the aliens come out from under the ground here evokes William Cameron Menzie’s “Invaders From Mars”, another movie that, like a lot of Spielberg’s latter day stuff, has a few stand-out moments, but is mostly nothing special). Add to that the ludicrous overacting we get from Cruise, Robbins and especially Fanning (for god’s sake, please stop praising her so much, everybody– she can memorize her lines and cry on demand, that doesn’t make her Meryl Streep), and there’s little for me to find even remotely worthwhile in this film. I like the joke of it starting out in Jersey, like Welles’ radio broadcast, though.

    And “Munich”? At best, at VERY best, it’s another one of the “beautiful mess” movies. But it gets messy to such a degree in this film, that I’m not sure I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. In one sense, all the Oedipal stuff is rather interesting (shooting one conspirator and spilling milk from the grocery bag– very “Manchurian Candidate”), but sometimes it’s just too queasily on the nose (all those flashbacks to the scene-of-the-crime leading up to an intercut of the murders and Eric Bana screwing his pregnant wife, in coital climax). I can kinda see what people see in it for how he tries to weave a decent period spy-caper, with assassins traveling around the world to kill people in exotic locales (somebody please just let him direct a Bond movie, already). But there’s too much here that doesn’t add up, and not just for the turbulent sexual/emotional stuff that he never bothers to connect all the dots with. Just what the hell was going on with the bombmaker who blew himself up? I dunno, just a perplexing project, altogether– I wonder if he lost his nerve after the controversy spiked, or something.

    Again– Spielberg is somebody who, in recent years, is problematic for me, but for what it’s worth the problems are at least interesting. Save for a handful, I can’t say the same about Hitchcock, though the link between them isn’t a bad one.

  18. War of the Worlds and Minority report, taken on a literal scene by scene and nothing else level, offer problems. But both, visually, are near masterpieces: visceral, jazzy, accomplished, alive.

    Bob, in terms of Hitchcock, I can’t really argue, because you aren’t offering any examples, just the “he’s not all that” stuff that, in truth, smacks of shallow piss on the accepted totems of cinema shock value.

  19. Chuck– visually, I find WotW rather ugly. MR is interesting, though again, Kaminski’s lighting is a bit too bright at key moments. I really miss the work Spielberg did with his DP’s in the 80’s, and even Dean Cundey on JP.

    On Hitchcock– I like “Rear Window” and “Vertigo” okay. “Rope” I’m rather close to loving, entirely. The rest of his stuff, frankly, feels too artificial and hollow, borrowing a lot of the tricks that Fritz Lang used in his thrillers and putting them to good (and on technical terms, often better) use, but with none of the rich political or mythic subtext that was present in any of the German master’s fare. Oftentimes, his whole “MacGuffin” angle feels fairly rote for me– yes, at the right times, it can be a great way to string a story and series of set-pieces together with a minimal amount of exposition, but so often it feels as though it’s just there to give more running time to the rather half-baked romances that I could do without.

    “Psycho” is the really problematic film for me, because it starts out rather brilliantly, and just gets better as it goes along, until the third act, when we abandon Norman Bates just as we’ve been lured into sympathizing with him, transitioning our identification from Janet Leigh to (little do we know) her killer. It feels as though he copped out from taking it the next logical step further, and bridging us directly from Bates to “Mother”. Instead, we’re asked to give a damn about a sister and a boyfriend, or whoever, who show up in the last portion of the film like new characters joining the cast of a television-series in its final years, covering for actors who suddenly decide to leave. As such, it’s half of a good movie.

  20. Wow, you hated on all of Spielberg’s best work from the last decade: bravo!

    I have to disagree the WotW just stank, as the first half of the film is pure, unadulterated horror that works on a level few films can attain: it’s both thrilling and visceral. I never turned away from the screen because it was nauseatingly graphic, where most modern horror ends in miserable predictability, yet I felt the pain and despair or each horrific death depicted on-screen and off. Spielberg is playing for keeps here, and while I’d agree that the second half makes some questionable choices, this is a film that reeks of the death and destruction of 9/11. Where as you see it failing in only “sheer horror of the event itself,” I see it succeeding for doing so. 9/11 was a moment in time of experiences completely new and alien to us all. For any film to capture that horror and do so honestly, respectfully, and yet horrifically is truly a rare moment in cinema.

    Catch Me If You Can is a solid piece of entertainment from end to end. There’s nothing wrong with that. If there’s something wrong with purely entertaining films, well…you know where I’m going with this, Star Wars guy.

    I think maybe you’re couching your comments on AI and Minority Report in a bit too much “well, it’s not my cup of tea” rebuttal to match your “beautiful mess” attributions (since the term seems reflexively dismissive on your part), but OK, they have their flaws and if those don’t work for you, then so be it.

    As for Hitchcock, don’t really know where to start. I’m glad we’re both big fans of Rope, but I have to wonder what you mean when you say “The rest of his stuff, frankly, feels too artificial and hollow.” The plots, the characters, the emotion? Are you confusing the style of the period with modern films, which are more overtly “realistic” in their acting and drama?

    Regardless, I have to disagree on Psycho. The intro of the sister/boyfriend team-up does nothing to dispell the audience’s sympathy for Norman. Unless you know the full story going in, you have no reason to stop sympathizing with him until (possibly) we end up in his cell at the end. The fact that Sam and Lila are both cardboard stereotypes only reaffirms this. They end up being the audience surrogate for those demanding standard Hollywood justice, but its clear who Hitchcock intends us to focus on right up until the last scene. it works brilliantly, and confirms why this film remains a classic.

  21. Nicely said Joel. I’ve not been much of a Spielberg fan for quite some time (with the exception of A.I.) because of what I experience as his tendency towards heavy-handedness when seeking to elicit audience empathy and to inspire uplifting feelings. But I can’t deny that his films continue to contain moments and periods of brilliance and are superbly crafted. I can find Kaminski’s work (when more painterly) distracting but admire its ambition.

  22. Joel– I respect your opinion on WotW. I still think the movie is completely full of shit. All of the early destruction scenes didn’t move me at all. It doesn’t help that Spielberg makes the characters as annoying as possible at the beginning, or that the initial deaths are all done in a candy-colored patina. So much of the way Cruise’s character acts is artificial movie nonsense (yeah, he’s kinda more real-world-ish than other roles, but he still says things like “leave this house in 30 seconds!”). Spielberg takes us out of the devestation of the early scenes by swirling his camera in and out of the mini-van while Fanning hyperventilates (and the son calms her down with Zen or something– I can’t pay attention to all the shock-and-awe while family comedy is in the way). Some of the later large-scale destruction set-pieces are interesting, but a little too jokey (mind the flaming runaway train). Furthermore, I don’t have any respect for a movie that just wants to capture and relive the immediate horror of 9/11, instead of trying to peel back the layers and look at the kinds of ignorance that led up to the attacks, and how they provoked a permanent state of emergency for politicians to take woeful advantage of. I wasn’t crazy about them, but Nolan’s Batman movies did a hell of a better job of that than Spielberg did.

    And becuase you call me “Star Wars guy”, I’ll say it– that shot of smoke pouring from the Jedi Temple on a clear blue-sky morning from ROTS said way more about what 9/11 did to the country than the entirety of WotW. Seeing the film in New York, I can tell you that audiences gasped audibly during that scene, and others like it. Hell, I even remember one lady walking out complaining about how “he made the Stormtroopers wear American uniforms” (the camo-wearing clones that Yoda decapitated, I imagine).

    On CMIYC– sure, pure entertainment is okay, as long as you’re entertained by it. Other than the groovy Saul Bass-homage opening credits, I was not terribly entertained by that film. Rather, I was somewhat bored by it.

    As for “A.I.” and “Minority Report”– I’m not couching my comments when I call them “beautiful messes”. They’re flawed, yes, and I don’t enjoy them as much as other movies, but that doesn’t mean I write them off entirely. “A.I.” was about as good a version of that movie we’d get without Kubrick behind the camera, and MR is one of the better Dick adaptations, for all its faults. “Beautiful mess” isn’t a pejorative to me– it’s rather something of a compliment. It means that despite the very clear problems it has, I find more than enough to find true quality in it. All of the “Star Wars” Prequels are beautiful messes to me, and if I value them more than Spielberg’s work, it’s not because I think they’re less messy. But maybe that is where the issue of taste is– they are my cup of tea.

    On the artificiality/hollow qualities of Hitchcock– plots, characters, emotion are all part of the issues I have, but not entirely. I don’t really care if a film is modern or period (that’s no excuse if a movie feels fake, is it?). On the characters, the films of his I tend not to like are the ones where people don’t seem to be taking the various dangerous situations they’re in very seriously– this is a big problem in his Cary Grant movies (a guy who acts about as genuine to the camera as a philandering husband giving roses to his wife on their anniversary) but it’s there in earlier stuff, too. “Lifeboat” is a movie that has premise, but is rather done in by the unlikable critic-woman who makes jokes throughout all the life-and-death melodrama. I do find myself prefering the films revolving around guys like Henry Fonda or especially James Stewart, who brings a genuine dimension of pain and anguish to his performances, and makes all the campier aspects recede into the background.

    More than that, however, what feels hollow and artificial about his movies is the look of them, mostly in his color films, but throughout his black and white stuff as well (“Lifeboat” for instance). They just look fake, and there’s no excuse you can give for the period of the time– a damn Bond movie has more verisimilitude than some of those movies. Whether it’s his overuse of backscreen driving scenes, stagebound apartments with windows overlooking painted backdrops or overly cosmetic ranges of colors parading about the sets, costumes and lighting, there are so many visual signifiers that take me out of the reality of those movies and remind me that I’m watching something that was shot in a studio. Now you can say that he’s using all these aspects to draw out the artificiality for psychological reasons (this works in stuff like “Vertigo” or “Rope”) or that he’s using a controlled set in order to maintain order in the production (this works in “Rear Window” or, again, “Rope”), but for the most part it’s just an effect that I find aesthetically unpleasant, thus making it impossible for me to take so many of these movies at face value as undisputed classics.

    On “Psycho”, you make an interesting argument, although it’s one I don’t buy even for a second. We may still sympathize with Norman after the sister and brother (you actually remember their names?) come into the picture, but we stop spending very much time with him. In fact, it kinda starts earlier, when the detective comes to the hotel and is murdered on the stairs (another horribly fake looking moment). The more Hitchcock turns the film into a mystery movie surrounding the “Mother”‘s murderous drive, the more Norman recedes into the background. And yeah, I know you can spin that as “Oh, he is receding into the background, as a split personality!”, but that’s no excuse for the shoddy plotting. You’re right that they’re “an audience surrogate for those demanding standard Hollywood justice”, but the fact that he bows to this pressure effectively undermines the film, and my opinion of him as a director. In the end, he was a guy who played within the studio system too well, and I don’t see much to respect about that.

    I admire somebody like Lang more, a guy who was willing to more or less ruin his career for the integrity of a film, or else burn all his bridges with producers if they dared to get in his way, and wound up doing both on several occasions. Besides, I just like his movies better– there was the real “Master of Suspense”.

  23. To be honest, I don’t even remember the shots in the prequels you reference. All I recall is Obi Wan making a comment about the “younglings” being killed, to which someone in my theater actually laughed out loud. I’m not saying it wasn’t effective when you saw it, but no one gasped in shock at any point during any of the prequels when I saw them, nor did they storm out of the theater in response to Lucas’ adventurous thematic choices. But enough of that.

    Funny, I know lots of people that were shaken by Spielberg’s effective use of 9/11 visuals in WotW. It gave me chills, and I still find the shot of clothes and debris raining down from the sky one of the single most disturbing images in all of his films.

    In Psycho, Hitchcock isn’t bowing to audience pressure, he’s setting the audience up for the typical dramatic showdown that isn’t going to occur. It’s effective set-up for the finale, which is one of the most famous twists in the history of film. I appreciate that you don’t like or get Hitchcock, but I don’t find your criticisms of his work convincing or even grounded in reality.

    I don’t think you know much about Hitchcock or his career. He did work within the studio system and repeatedly took chances. Not all of his films were successful initially with audiences and critics, and he fought the studio system many times. Psycho is a perfect example of that. I really don’t feel the need to go into this further, since this is really film history 101 and I don’t think it’s worth the effort to try to convince you.

    “He was a guy who played within the studio system too well, and I don’t see much to respect about that.” You just blew off the careers of every major and minor American and British director working between the 30’s and 60’s. Again, bravo.

    Lang is certainly a great director. He obviously had an effect on Hitchcock and film in general, but trying to disparage Hitchcock by noting that Lang is the “real” master of suspense is only making you sound silly.

  24. I really don’t know what to say to anybody who got chills watching WotW. The only part of the movie that felt even remotely threatening to me was the portion with Tim Robbins being crazy, and even that was undercut by the aliens and their hardware nosing around and diverting all the suspense off of his genuinely unsettling paranoia for a while. But all in all, the film is just trying to stroke a pure sense of lizard-brain fight-or-flight instinct, something I find rather intellectually vacant. What does it have to say about the experience after it gets you all good and scared about the big scary boogeymen making the sky fall down? Nothing. All you have to do is wait for them to catch a cold and die on their own, and then you can go back to bed and never have to worry about them again.

    Ugh. It’s kinda sad that a movie that empty came from the same guy who did “Jaws”, a film which has much more to say about fear, commerce and politics than just about anything else he’s ever done. A sly little classic, that one.

    As for ROTS– I never heard any unintended laughter in that, or any other SW film. I did hear plenty of it during LOTR, and especially ROTK, where people were cracking gay jokes in the aisle whenever Sam and Frodo were on the screen. It’s all subjective. For what it’s worth, the one major sound I did hear during WotW– snoring.

    Regarding Hitchcock– No, I don’t like him. But I think I “get” him well enough. That’s WHY I don’t like him. I understand that he’s a fully canonized holy person of the canon of cinema, the patron saint of cold-blooded murder, and that’s just fine. But he’s not the director I’d choose as my confirmation name, if you get my drift.

    As for directors of the 30’s-60’s– don’t put words in my mouth, for christ’s sake. Playing well with others isn’t something I give a damn about. If you can do that and make good films, then yes, hats off to you. But if without that, why should I care?

  25. Oh don’t take it personally, Bob, the prequels aren’t your fault. I know a lot of people, myself included, that find all the ridiculous self-serious of the prequels funny but the only people I know cracking gay jokes about LOTR are homophobic imbeciles with the maturity level of Beevis and Butthead. You can bring that one up all you want, but it just makes you sound douchey.

  26. In all seriousness– I prefer the self-seriousness of the prequels to the at times a little-too jokey demeanor of the OT. I don’t need a Han Solo outsider to coax me into the story with his audience stand-in sarcasm. I’ll take my SW straight-up.

    Oh, and the people cracking jokes during ROTK were theater friends of my sister, half of whom are gay themselves.

    I’ll take Beavis and Butthead over Merry and Pippin.

  27. Yes, so your sister’s gay friends make you not sound homophobic when you toss that one off, over and over again. I can breathe a sigh of relief.

  28. I gotta back up “Catch Me If You Can” a little bit.

    On first viewing I thought it was solid entertainment. Light and smooth, with some good performances. But on subsequent viewing I found it to not only be one of Spielberg’s most effortlessly well made films, but also one of his most personal and emotional, and the performances aren’t just good, they’re all exceptional. This is still DiCaprio’s finest hour for me. By a long shot. The camerawork and visual design of the film is as meticulous and fluid as his best stuff in the ’80s. Kaminski’s work, I would say, is arguably his best outside of “Schindler’s List”. I think the emotion of the story sneaks up on you instead of over-selling it or trying to manipulate the viewer. It’s also one of Spielberg’s funniest films, and it’s a good to have him back in that mode. I love his sense of humor, and it’s on full display in this film. I’d actually say this IS his best film since “Schindler’s List”, and certainly one of my favorites in his filmography, up there with “Close Encounters”, “Jaws”, “Raiders” and “Empire of the Sun”.

  29. Ari, I know you’re a big fan of CMIYC, and again, if it works for you as entertainment, and leads on to bigger and better appreciation, mazel tov. For me, it was too lightweight for me to get a hold on, too giddy in its 60’s period wish fulfillment romp for me to invest much into the stakes of this babyfaced con artist scamming his way through the skies and into the miniskirts of stewardesses. I also can’t say that it means anything at all to me how “effortless” the movie seems– again, maybe I’d feel differently if there was anything I enjoyed about it, but as it stands it feels like thr kind of napkin thin fluff that he might’ve done as a TV movie of the week back when he first started, and not the type that would’ve won him accolades like “Duel”.

  30. Bob Clark, your joie de vivre is overwhelming sometimes.

  31. One person’s joie is another’s junk. And vice versa.

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