If I were to make a list of my all-time favorite films, many of them would have one thing in common: a man behind the camera who is perhaps the greatest creative visionary and most imaginative film maker of our time — Steven Spielberg.
This week Entertainment Weekly published a lengthy (and well-deserved) cover piece about Spielberg, and reading the article brought back memories of what Spielberg’s work has meant to me.
I can’t think of another director who has as many universally well-loved films as Spielberg: “E.T.”; “Jaws”; “Jurassic Park”; “Indiana Jones”; “Schindler’s List”; “Saving Private Ryan” — and the list goes on. The Internet Movie Database called him “one of the most influential film personalities in the history of film” and “perhaps Hollywood’s best known director.”
I can remember watching many of Spielberg’s films for the first time, often as a kid, and the emotional response they elicited: my heart breaking for E.T., the poor little alien who just wanted to go home, and tears welling in my eyes when he finally did; sitting on the edge of my seat during “Jurassic Park,” terrified of when those really scary raptors were going to appear again; and thinking as a kid, after watching “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” that Indiana Jones was pretty much the coolest action hero ever.
Spielberg has the ability to produce films with spectacular special effects and heart, something other film makers in Hollywood aren’t always able to pull off. I’ve seen too many blockbusters that barrage you with impressive special effects, but in the end, the films don’t have much emotional weight. Spielberg seems to understand the importance of grounding a film with a strong story and strong characters, and special effects just become the icing on the cake. This is probably also why his films have aged so well. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is now about 30 years old, but it’s still one of my favorite action films. And Indiana Jones is just one of Spielberg’s iconic characters that have stood the test of time.
Yet perhaps what makes Spielberg’s films so magical is the childlike sense of wonder he brings to all his projects. In a world that seems to be growing increasingly more jaded, Spielberg hasn’t lost his sense of imagination or willingness to dream big. Read or watch an interview with Spielberg, and you quickly pick up on the enthusiasm and passion he has for his projects (I imagine seeing Spielberg on the set of a film would be a lot like watching a kid in a candy store). If anyone had a right to have a big ego in Hollywood, it would be him, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. He always seems more eager to talk about the process of film making than promoting himself or his accomplishments.
Of course, like any film maker, there are a few “duds” on his resume, but those seem to be few and far between. He’s willing to learn from his mistakes, and many of his movies have topped “biggest blockbusters of all time” lists. He’s coming out with two new films this month — “War Horse” and “The Adventures of Tintin ” — both of which I’m planning on seeing.
After more than 40 years of work in Hollywood, he already has a great legacy, and it’s one I’m hoping he continues to add to for many years to come.
To read an Entertainment Weekly interview with Spielberg, visit http://insidemovies.ew.com/2011/12/05/spielbergs-origin-story-ew-interview/#1_undefined,0_.