Friday, May 6, 2011

Best 10 Films of Steven Spielberg

Spielberg has directed 49 films, but produced
a total of 125 projects in all, including television,
making him one of the most influential in film history.

  1. Schindler's List (1993) No. 6 on the IMDB 250, 7 Oscars®, including best picture, director 72 awards overall
  2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)  Two Oscars®, cinematography and sound effects 12 awards overall
  3. Minority Report (2002) 2 Oscar® nominations, 16 awards overall (Acad. of SF-fantasy films gave it picture, director, screenplay, and supporting actress, Broadcast Film Critics gave it director)
  4. E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial (1982) 4 Oscars®, 42 awards overall
  5. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) No. 22 on the IMDB 250, 4 Oscars®, 22 awards overall "why does it always have to be snakes?"
  6. Munich (2005) No Oscars (5 nominations, incl. picture, director), 7 awards overall
  7. Saving Private Ryan (1998) No. 43 on the IMDB 250, 5 Oscars® (director, editing, cinematography, sound, sound effects) 57 awards overall
  8. Catch Me If You Can (2002) 2 Oscar nominations, 11 awards overall
  9. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) No. 107 on the IMDB 250 (one Oscar®, sound effects) 5 awards overall  "we named the dog Indiana"
  10. Empire of the Sun (1987) 6 Oscar® nominations, no wins; 11 awards overall Based on the autobiographical novel by J.G. Ballard; these events happened to him as a child in Shanghai when WW2 broke out
  11. Jurassic Park (1993) 3 Oscars® (Sound effects, sound, visual effects) 22 awards overall "..but when a ride breaks down at Disneyland, the pirates of the caribbean don't go out killing tourists" (that's a different film series..)
  12. The Color Purple (1985) 11 Oscar® nominations, no wins (tied with Scorsese's Gangs of New York for winless total nominations) 11 awards overall
[That's 26 Oscars®, 288 awards total for just these 12 films. Add another 3 Oscars® and 12 awards for Jaws (1975),  which is #117 on the IMDB 250 - and 1 Oscar®, 5 awards for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 6 awards for Amistad, 12 more for A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and the total is 30 Oscars® and 323 awards. Steven himself has won 121 awards, including two Oscars®, both for directing: Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List - plus the honorary Irving Thalberg Award. Spielberg is listed as director on 49 film titles at IMDB.]

And as producer
He was also producer on 125 titles overall, including the True Grit remake, The Lovely Bones, Men in Black, and Shrek. For my money, Band of Brothers was the best project Spielberg had a hand in, and is the best miniseries and war film of all time, ten hours total.

I guess, from looking at my rankings, that I prefer the science fiction films to reality, though I placed Schindler's List at the top. These are really hard to rank, whenever I see Catch Me If You Can, I want to move it higher again, but what do I move down? I guess E.T. and Raiders are just crowd-pleasers, like Jaws, but they do seem perfect in what they attempted, while I found Jaws a little fake-looking and not as credible, also predictable (and almost laughable at times). I never knew what the heck was coming next in Raiders, and if not for some total silliness (ie, the men on the ship all cheering when Indy was climbing onto the sub, and he waves at them - nothing like a 'low profile' for spies), it could have been the perfect adventure film.

I think with Close Encounters, the version to see is the one with Spielberg's preferred ending, I think that's the Special Edition, instead of 'Director's Cut', the term Ridley Scott used for the 2nd version of Blade Runner. [The 'Director's Cut' versions of Apocalpyse Now and The Last Emperor each added nearly an hour to the running time; this just added maybe 10 minutes] Close Encounters was mind-boggling to me (and there are no "bad guys", something it shares with 2001: A Space Odyssey), and over 500 military personnel online have sworn that the story is true (but at a different location), and that the government gave it to Spielberg because they knew he could make aliens palatable to a panic-prone public.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was a George Lucas screenplay. After the financial failure of Spielberg's 1941, Lucas wanted to help is friend out with what he suspected would be a big winner, so he turned the project over to Spielberg to direct. The result was a terrific collaboration and a take on the old movie serials, which ran one reel (15 min.) each, ending with a cliched 'cliffhanger' or a chase, to be concluded next time in a new reel; these preceded the actual movie features in the early days and were quite popular at one point, the most famous being "The Perils of Pauline", who had far more than nine lives.

Munich is better than given credit for; and it was a carefully researched project and a fair assessment of what likely happened in secret after the Munich Olympics. I liked the entire cast and it was like a realistic James Bond film.

Minority Report, from a story by author Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner), is a very underrated SF film. It has the added elements of crime and mystery, and also a good bit of action.

Other films worth seeing that he directed include Amistad (1997), A.I Artificial Intelligence (2001) (to complete Stanley Kubrick's last project, left unfinished at his death), and the War of the Worlds (2005) remake.

I probably should like The Color Purple more - it's very well done with terrific acting, but the story is pretty tough to bear, and it's one that I'll never rewatch. You can't say that about most of these, I've seen my top 9 at least twice each already, and Raiders, Minority, and Close Encounters about 5 times each, and Munich may catch up (3 times already in 5 years).

Even Spielberg's first wife, Amy Irving, produced the touching and artistic romance Crossing Delancey (1988), using money from their divorce settlement. If this was a Spielberg film, I'd have it about 8th on the list above, it's very good.

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