Monday, January 12, 2009

Steven Spielberg: proudly of, by, and for the people (of Hollywood)



I've preferred watching the Golden Globes to the Oscars over the past decade. Mainly because even at its most snobbish, the Globes include television, which hasn't yet found a way for the good stuff to be known as the good stuff without the approval of the viewing public.

Last night, though, nearly put me off movies for good. Seriously. I went to bed mildly depressed.

I had recorded it, enabling me to burn through the whole thing in an hour or so -- '24' on another channel had first dibs on my valuable TV time -- but viewed even at double speed, the complete lack of connection to anything that made me fall in love with movies (and by extension award shows) was painfully apparent.

Only once last night did the magic of movies make me sit up and smile. It lasted all of 30 seconds, as clips from the first half of Steven Spielberg's career were shown for his Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award.

You know the ones I'm talking about -- Jaws, Raiders, E.T., Close Encounters -- back when he made movies, not films. Back when entertaining audiences with the raw energy of Duel defined him over the more recent need to "give back" with depressing, important fare like Munich or even the excellent but trying Schindler's List.

I know he made The Color Purple in 1985, and he can still be a ton of fun today ala War of the Worlds. But I could clearly feel the "magic" of his body of work fading as the clips marched toward the present day.

Then Spielberg himself explained why in his speech moments later.

Referring to the entertainment that put a smile on the face of a depressed nation in the 1930's -- later, not coincidentally, to become known as the "Golden Age of Hollywood" -- Spielberg said:
"In these hard economic times, we'll be asked to make movies for broader and broader audiences, but we can't forget that we're an audience of individuals first."
That sounded promising... Until he explained next that his fellow creatives in the (well-insulated, high-security) room were, in fact, the individuals to whom he was referring and from whom he today draws his "inspiration" to create.

It was a particularly sad Freudian slip at the end of a speech which had began with a great story of how the magic of a childhood trip to "the movies" -- specifically a Cecil B. DeMille-directed scene of pure spectacle -- had launched his love of movies.

In other words, Steven Spielberg, perhaps the greatest natural filmmaker in history, was drawn into the magic from the outside, as a citizen of flyover country, by a movie made for broad audiences, yet today his focus is largely on the closed system in which he exists today.

Which is all the long, sad way of validating what conservatives have been saying about Hollywood in general, and these awards shows in particular, for more than a decade now -- that what once proudly billed itself as the "art form for the masses," what used to be the alternative to opera and high-falutin' theater, has itself become the roped-off playground for the nation's creative aristocracy.

Come back to us, Steven. You've still got it, with more talent in your little finger than everyone else in that room combined. I won't lie and say we need you now more than ever necessarily. We'll get by. But, man, do we miss you.

1 comment:

K said...

Don't beg. Never beg.

There will be some defections, just as soon as the Obama administration begins making the inevitable mistakes and the Hollywood ardor for him cools. He's already got them nervous, for example, about his lack of support, so far, for the gay left agenda.

In addition, when the New New Deal kicks in, libertarian/small gov conservatives who didn't give a damn about Bush will start to be energized into pushing some free market films into the mainstream.

But then I'm an optimist.