HOLLYWOOD—I watched a very interesting documentary about filmmaker Steven Spielberg on HBO chronicling his filmography and rise to the ranks in Hollywood. I was aware a bit about Spielberg’s upbringing and his fascination with making movies, but getting a slice of his personal life and hearing him share his tales of struggle was aspiring for someone like myself hoping to become a successful filmmaker one day.
That documentary really got me thinking about some of Spielberg’s greatest flicks and how his films have inspired me, not only as a writer, but as a director. When many people think of Steven Spielberg, the first name that comes to mind is “Jaws,” but he made a film a few years before that known as “Duel” that was a classic. It followed a man who found himself stalked by an unseen driver. It probably had the most suspense ever for a flick made in the early 1970s.
However, let’s talk about “Jaws” a bit people. It was a film that many speculated would be a massive flop considering it went over budget, had a shooting scheduled that was nearly doubled what was expected, and there was plenty of chaos behind the scenes. I mean no script, a lack of cast as the movie began shooting. It seems like a director’s worse nightmare. However, Spielberg went to work and turned a movie about a shark and swimming to the scariest thing to date. I’ll be honest; I was one who refrained from seeing this movie for quite a while because it scared me senseless. I’m not certain if it was the water, the shark or the music. Perhaps it was all three of those things.
So “Jaws” is indeed a classic that needs to be heralded much more in the horror genre, but another classic that surprised me as I got older was the discovery that Spielberg had a massive role in the 1982 classic “Poltergeist” that made people afraid of the TV screen, especially if you didn’t get a visual while changing the channel. There were rumors of conflict behind the scenes between Spielberg and Tobe Hooper. Some say Hooper crafted the flick; others noted it was all Spielberg.
This is a man who is known for his eclectic library of films, but he delivered some of the best dramas to date including 1985’s “The Color Purple.” Wow, wow, wow, this is a film that strikes you emotionally at the core and has to be hands down the most powerful piece of cinema I have ever witnessed. The fact that it was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and NOT win a single was a travesty. Why? It should have absolutely won the Best Picture prize, and Whoopi Goldberg’s overlook for the Best Actress prize is something people still debate about till this day.
We then have to discuss the iconic “Schindler’s List” which earned Spielberg his first Best Director Oscar and Best Picture Oscar. The director has been nominated countless times, but has been overlooked more than a few times by the Academy in my personal opinion. As much as I love “The Color Purple,” one of the director’s greatest pieces in my opinion is the 1998 war flick “Saving Private Ryan.” This has to be the most brutal and I mean brutal war flick that I have ever seen. The opening sequence for the film is bloody, difficult to watch and so visceral that it gives Americans a slice, a small slice of the horrors of war. Watching the filmmaker lose the Best Director and Best Picture categories at the Academy Awards solidified what I suspected: it’s a popularity contest people, and the best of the best don’t always walk away victorious.
Since then the director’s filmography has grown even more with flicks like “Minority Report,” “Jurassic Park,” “Lincoln” and “Bridge of Spies.” However, I would honestly love to see Spielberg cross back over to the dark side and dabble in the world of horror and suspense. I mean it’s been nearly 30 years since the director has heralded a truly suspenseful flick to leave audiences on the edge of their seats America.