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Citizen Spielberg

Citizen Spielberg

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Citizen Spielberg
    Book Description:

    Steven Spielberg is the director or producer of over one third of the thirty highest grossing films of all time, yet most film scholars dismiss him as little more than a modern P. T. Barnum--a technically gifted and intellectually shallow showman who substitutes spectacle for substance. To date, no book has attempted to analyze the components of his worldview, the issues which animate his most significant works, the roots of his immense acceptance, and the influence his vast spectrum of imaginative products exerts on the public consciousness. _x000B_In Citizen Spielberg, Lester D. Friedman fills that void with a systematic analysis of the various genres in which the director has worked, including science fiction (E.T.), adventure (Raiders trilogy), race films (The Color Purple, Amistad), and war films (Saving Private Ryan, Schindlers List). Friedman concludes that Spielbergs films present a sustained artistic vision combined with a technical flair matched by few other filmmakers, and makes a compelling case for Spielberg to be considered as a major film artist. _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09129-2
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Elephant in the Center of the Room
    (pp. 1-10)

    This project did not begin as a labor of love. I was not one of those awestruck viewers mesmerized as the mothership harmonized with humankind, sobbing when E.T. finally left for home, or cheering as Indiana Jones rode off into the sunset. It began when students requested a course on Spielberg and, much to my surprise, I could not find a single comprehensive scholarly study of his films. While many of those currently on the market contain pockets of intelligent analysis, most are primarily concerned with other matters: biography (McBride, Mott and Saunders, Taylor, Yule, Baxter, Sanello), interviews (Friedman and...

  5. 1 “I’m Sorry I Didn’t Tell You about the World”: Spielbergʼs Science-Fiction and Fantasy Films
    (pp. 11-62)

    Science-fiction and fantasy films reveal more about the cultures that spawn them than the imaginary worlds they ostensibly describe. By extending contemporary societal problems far into the future, or by inserting fantastical elements into present-day environments, these movies encourage viewers to contemplate disruptive communal questions made less volatile by the mediating distance of time, the remoteness of space, and the illusion of supernatural encounters. Fanciful creatures (such as aliens, ghosts, or pixies) interjected into ordinary life, or diverse life forms confronted by human beings in galaxies far, far away, become representatives of “the cultural other,” allowing filmmakers to explore current...

  6. 2 “They Don’t Know What They’ve Got There”: Spielbergʼs Action/Adventure Melodramas
    (pp. 63-118)

    Although few critics discuss Spielberg’s films as melodramas, almost all of them could aptly be classified as family-based narratives that center on the tensions, fissures, and breakdowns within domestic relationships. It is worth-while, therefore, to review the cardinal tenets of the melodrama genre, noting how it connects to the action/adventure format commonly associated with Spielberg throughout his career. Traditionally, the film melodrama focuses on either an individual (usually a woman) or a couple “victimized by repressive and inequitable social situations, particularly those involving marriage, occupation, and the nuclear family” (Schatz,Genres222). Its emphasis on the family, an individualized unit...

  7. 3 “Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear”: Spielbergʼs Monster Movies
    (pp. 119-179)

    The monster movie, or horror film, has much in common with the science-fiction and fantasy film genres discussed in chapter 1; all three incorporate elements and creatures beyond ordinary reality. They compel audiences to confront difference, or “otherness,” in a wide variety of formulations, whether nonhuman creatures, alien beings, or deranged men and women. Narratively, Robin Wood’s basic formula for the horror film, “normality is threatened by the monster,” aptly fits films within the three genres. “Normality” might be defined as the status quo at the start of the movie, and “the monster” as the embodied force that seeks to...

  8. 4 “The World Has Taken a Turn for the Surreal”: Spielbergʼs World War II Combat Films
    (pp. 180-243)

    The films discussed in this chapter—1941 (1979),Empire of the Sun(1987), andSaving Private Ryan(1998)—all conform to Kathryn Kane’s basic definition of the World War II combat film genre as encompassing movies set during the Second World War that focus on “uniformed American soldiers fighting uniformed enemy soldiers on foreign soil” (1). Because Spielberg’s other films situated during this era,Schindler’s Listand theIndiana Jonestrilogy, use combat between uniformed soldiers only as a backdrop, I have placed them in other chapters. The three films considered here all contain uniformed German or Japanese military personnel....

  9. 5 “Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins”: Spielbergʼs Social Problem/Ethnic Minority Films
    (pp. 244-289)

    This chapter will explore Spielberg’s films that deal explicitly with racial and ethnic issues—The Color Purple(1985),Amistad(1997), andThe Terminal(2004)—under the rubric of the social problem film, a recognized category with a long and respectful lineage. American movies, as Kevin Brownlow observes, were “born in the era of reform” (xvi), and while the Hollywood studios were more adept at entertainment than social enlightenment, they often transformed stories culled from the nation’s headlines into dramatic vehicles distributed to a mass audience. This tradition of “issue-oriented movies” stretches from silent films such as D. W. Griffith’sA...

  10. 6 “Control Is Power”: Imagining the Holocaust
    (pp. 290-324)

    Before I wrote the first word of this book, I instinctively knew that my discussion ofSchindler’s Listwould constitute its final chapter, for personal and professional reasons. This film remains the single most important work in Steven Spielberg’s long career, the one that advocates claim catapults him across the perceptual canyon separating gifted entertainer from serious artist; it also remains his most critically praised and persistently attacked creative endeavor. More than any of Spielberg’s movies,Schindler’s Listsits within an intricate web of intersecting historical, cultural, theoretical, and aesthetic issues that range far beyond the borders of any movie...

  11. Filmography
    (pp. 325-332)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 333-346)
  13. Index
    (pp. 347-362)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 363-364)