Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Top 5 Spielberg Movies

Tim's Top 5:
Few people can make movies that alternate so completely between astounding and horrible as Steven Spielberg. He's all over the map genre-wise and has made everything except a pure comedy that anyone laughed at.

1. Saving Private Ryan - Ok, using this film to cram down a World War II monument was a little bit absurd, particularly considering the hasty monument they erected that lacks any of the emotional weight of the Vietnam Memorial. But there's not much doubt that it is one of the greatest war movies ever concocted. The D-Day sequence was unmatched, Spielberg gets adequate performances from people who have no business being in a movie (Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi), and it's not as cut and dry as most of Spielberg's work. Even if it's simplistic, it's a stunning achievement that was robbed at the Oscars by a movie that was memorably primarily for just being better than one would expect, but little more.

2. Catch Me If You Can - If you were going to express total disbelief that Spielberg directed a film on his resume, this would probably top the list. Nothing about it feels Spielbergian except that it involves parent-child relationships. It's a film that I can watch over and over again. Tom Hanks is sufficiently cartoonish for a composite character, Leonardo DiCaprio gives the performance of a career, and Christopher Walken actually gets to play someone that's not all that weird for a change. A superb accomplishment.

3. Jurassic Park - This is one of the movies I remember seeing in the theater most clearly. It's not a masterpiece of drama, but the special effects were unprecedented and I think few directors would have dared to accomplish adequate work with the source material.

4. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - I'm not really a big Indiana Jones fan, Raiders really just had a great climax going for it, the rest of the movie was pretty dry. But adding in Sean Connery here is one of the best examples of a character being integrated in the middle of a series of films without seeming glaringly out of place. Frankly, though, Indiana is still a weird name for a dog, too.

5. Schindler's List - I watched this movie once, it's a touching and depressing film that has some exceptional performances (particularly Ralph Fiennes), but it's also not a particularly difficult task to make a sad movie about the Holocaust. It told a story that needed to be told in an interesting and largely successful fashion.

Honorable mention: Munich, Jaws

Tory's Top 5:

Let me start my list by saying that I don't care for Spielberg, and am rather glad to see that there are a lot fewer movies of his that I liked than I thought (I had always assumed he did liked films that I never knew he directed, but he didn't.)

1. Hook - This is the quintessential retelling of the Peter Pan tale, with a pretty good performance by Robin Williams, and an outstanding dual-performance by Dustin Hoffman (who plays both Hook as well as a tall person.)

2. Catch Me If You Can - I agree with Tim on just about every point. This movie is amazing, and definitely one of Leonardo Dicaprio's best, even though I do believe he has had some other noteworthy performances that could rival this one. It definitely feels like it was done by a director with a much better film vocabulary.

3. Saving Private Ryan - Not my favorite WWII film, but definitely it would definitely make the top 5 WWII films list. I am also a huge Matt Damon fan, and I am somewhat affectionate towards Rabisi and even a bit towards Barry Pepper (at least after he did Three Burials.)

4. A.I. - I have a confession: I have not seen this movie, nor do I want to. The reasons that it made the top five are two-fold. The first being that I am having trouble finding movies on his IMDB that I liked enough to make a top 5, and the second being that the first half of this film was made with Stanley Kubrick. So Stephen Spielberg gets the credit (since it's his list.)

5. Empire of the Sun - Another confession: I haven't seen this one either. However my desire to see this film greatly outweighs my appreciation of any of his other films, as well as my desire to see or rewatch any of his other films.

Ryan's Top 5:

I'll preface this list with the fact that I am moderately drunk right now. I don't know where that will lead us.

1. Amistad - In all honesty, I haven't examined the historical accuracy of this one as closely as I have others (e.g., Quiz Show); I do know, for example, that Morgan Freeman's character is completely fictional (and not God, the President, or the narrator). That said, the portrayal of the Middle Passage in this film is pretty damn spot on, and thus, gruesome. Also, an excellent score. Anthony Hopkins is good as JQ, and Djimon Hounsou is good as Cinque. Matthew McConaughey also stars.

2. Catch Me If You Can - I agree with what everyone has said. I too can watch this over and over and over.

3. Jurassic Park - I just watched this recently on TBS for the first time in about a decade. It actually ages a lot better than I thought it would, despite some of the special effects. This is what Spielberg is best at, good summer blockbusters. You know, like A.I.

4. Jaws - I actually like this movie a lot and feel kind of bad ranking it so low. I feel bad in that I can't really think of a reason to disparage it... it's another good blockbuster. How about, I saw on Mythbusters that the part where the shark gets blown up after he shoots the oxygen tank is bullshit. (Frustratingly.) But I do love the line, "Smile you son of a bitch!"

5. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - This was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and in my mind is by far the best Indiana Jones movie. The action and chase scenes are good but not too outlandish, and they don't overwhelm the film at the expense of character development (see: Crystal Skull).

Honorable mention: Saving Private Ryan, Hook

Dan's Top 5:

Wow, everyone really swarmed on this one. I just feel embarrassed to be the fourth one posting. Unlike most everyone else here, I still like Spielberg. Though not the greatest of all time, the films that he's good at directing are legendary.

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark - This will forever be my favorite Indiana Jones movie. The Connery-heavy Last Crusade seemed a bit too cheesy for me, and relied a bit more on gags. I'm not saying it's bad, but I liked Raiders a lot more. Ranks as #1 on this list because the action is so memorable, and I imagine that such a movie would be pretty difficult to direct.

2. Hook - Everything about this movie is brilliant, and I mostly agree with Tory on this one. Unlike most family movies, it's actually enjoyable for any age group watching it. Furthermore, it doesn't resort to just retelling the Peter Pan story the way everyone has heard it a million times before. Loses points for the Rufio character, but gains them right back for the youthful ragtag-wildness of the Lost Boys, captured perfectly by the dinner scene (possibly my favorite in the movie.) Also, the soundtrack is a must-own.

3. Jurassic Park - I remember watching this movie when I was younger (9 years old) in the theater with my grandmother, and we both had a blast. (Screw you if you think I was a loser for not seeing this with friends; me and my grandma were close.) It was probably the most memorable movie experience I had in the theater growing up. To date, it's still the only CGI that has ever looked "real" to me, and as Ryan said, it really ages well.

4. Schindler's List - I feel bad putting this so low, as I watched it only recently and really enjoyed it. I agree with Tim about the exceptional performances, though my personal favorite was Kingsley's character. I had always worried that I wouldn't fully identify with this movie if I weren't Jewish and had no personal connection to the Holocaust. I was proven wrong, as it's really a film about human character more than anything else.

5. Jaws - Though I really liked Catch Me If You Can and feel it does deserve some mention, there's no way I can leave off Jaws. Keep in mind that there were no summer blockbusters before this movie. Of course, the suspense of this film is legendary - you never really get to see the killer shark until the end - to the point that you don't even care how fake the shark looks. At least, I don't anyway.

Honorable mention: Catch Me If You Can, Saving Private Ryan

1 comment:

Roughly Speaking... said...

A.I. is possibly Spielberg's worst movie, please for the love of God do not see it. While a lot of his movies aren't very good, A.I. has segments that are great that are overshadowed by how awful it ends up being.