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Filmism.net Dispatch November 8, 2015

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First of all, I want to clear something up. When you see the stars zooming across the water to settle over the mountain for a Paramount movie or the panning across Hollywood searchlights in a Fox movie, they're not logos. Logos are a still image. They're called 'idents'.

No, we probably haven't had this conversation. But every time someone uses the wrong word it drives me nuts. Time to switch to decaf tea, maybe...

But in other news, there's the problem of Steven Spielberg. Problem, you ask?

Look, we always forgive Harrison Ford for being the movie star equivalent of a grouchy old man sitting on his porch yelling at kids when their ball rolls onto his lawn (he was infamously disinterested in Star Wars questions during his Reddit AMA). Bringing Han Solo and Indiana Jones to life buys a lot of tolerance for behaviour, let alone Six Days Seven Nights and Hollywood Homicide.

Spielberg is surely in the same class. After Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, The Goonies and Gremlins (more peripherally when it comes to those last two, but that just goes to prove my point), he deserves a lifetime of free passes.

In fact the world realised how good he was so early on we gave him a pass when his career had barely begun in earnest for 1941. Since then we've done it a few more times, for Catch Me If You Can and The Terminal among others.

Now we're doing it again for Bridge of Spies. Is it a bad movie? Absolutely not, and neither were Catch Me If You Can or The Terminal. The Spielbeard couldn't make a bad movie if he tried.

But since The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun (cemented later with Schindler's List), something's happened to Spielberg. His 80s self would hate to think it, but he grew up and started making films about subjects that meant something to him as an adult, like the Holocaust and World War II. Anything wrong with that? Not even a little bit, telling personal stories is how the best art is made.

But the old Spielberg had the mind of a 12 year old boy along with the talents of a grown up undoubtedly necessary to direct a movie (patience, ability to work with others, an editorial sensibility, an appreciation of how a script is constructed, the smarts to navigate the neck-high levels of bullshit in Hollywood, etc).

His old movies looked at the world through the eyes of that inner child. The pitches were often a single word any kid will tell you would make an awesome movie. Aliens! Dinosaurs! An alien stranded on earth! Shaaaaaark!

We trusted him so much we even went along with concepts he knew were going to be cool but we didn't. With pal George Lucas, he knew the feeling those old matinee serials gave them as kids, but no child of the 70s or 80s (yours truly included) had any inkling a swashbuckling 1930s archaeologist-adventurer fighting the Nazis over priceless artifacts would be so much fun.

As I watched Bridge of Spies, I couldn't help but sigh and wish for a more innocent time. I hesitate to use the term 'competent', because Spielberg's competency as a director is beyond doubt.

But lets be honest, a parliamentary chamber full of old, bewhiskered men talking about slavery made Lincoln feel like one you should see rather than one you wanted to. It didn't exactly cause the hairs on the back of your neck to prickle up like the first frame of the T-rex busting through the wire to menace Lex and Timmy in the broken down electric SUV, the rain pouring down and the great reptile roaring angrily.

What I'm saying isn't that I'm disappointed in Spielberg, it's just that I'm still waiting for his 21st equivalent of Close Encounters, Indy, Jurassic Park or Jaws. Something you know he's going to bring back that old Spielberg magic for, giving us visuals for the ages and characters we love when the default setting today is caricatures from a playbook and CGI we forget as soon as it's over.

If you're thinking 'wait, what about The Adventures of Tintin?', good point. He did try to resurrect that old good-timey swashbuckling spirit. Like Bridge of Spies, Tintin was a well made movie, but it didn't shake the foundations of the art form.

Maybe spectacle cinema is truly dead, co-opted forever by Marvel to be pre-sold as fast food licensing deals and video game tie-ins. Maybe not even Spielberg is powerful enough to find the magic in that kind of stuff any more.

As a 70s child, I can only keep hoping he is, and that he's interested enough to try again one day.

Along with Bridge of Spies, it's been a disappointing few months at the movies, with The Walk, Crimson Peak and a bunch of others failing to catch on. A couple of small movies you probably missed in the flurry are well worth your time, though. First is the documentary Back In Time, which revisits the making of and shines a light on the fandom surrounding the Back to the Future Films.

And the other is the awards favourite Room, a sublime film about point of view and childhood like you've never seen before. Go straight past all the multiplex duds and track it down.

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