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Biography, Documentary
IMDB rating:
Susan Lacy
Richard Dreyfuss as Himself - Actor
Arnold Spielberg as Himself - Parent
Leah Adler as Herself - Parent
Sue Spielberg as Herself - Sister
Janet Maslin as Herself - Film Critic
John Williams as Himself - Composer
Bill Butler as Himself - Cinematographer
Michael Phillips as Himself - Producer
David Edelstein as Himself - Film Critic
Nancy Spielberg as Herself - Sister
Anne Spielberg as Herself - Sister
J.J. Abrams as Himself - Director
Martin Scorsese as Himself - Director
Steven Spielberg as Himself
Storyline: A documentary on the life and career of one of the most influential film directors of all time, .
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It is what it is
If you Love Steven's work you will love this documentary. I am a fan and really appreciate the opportunity of getting to know the man and his motivation for doing the brilliant films he has made so far. I didn't love all his movies, actually through this documentary I realize I haven't seen some of his earlier films. But if I have to mention by heart movies that have deeply touched me, either for a really fun time, horror or drama, Spielberg will be at the top of my list. Here you get to see the man behind the legend. and I personally got to like him as a person even more.
Somewhat rah rah, but overall, very good!
This documentary does a good job of analyzing Steven Spielberg's film career. It is in rough chronological order, but not exact chronological order. For example the film starts out with "Jaws" (1975) and comes back to Steven's film directorial debut with "Duel" (1971) later.

It goes into details about his home life only when it is relevant to his work as filmmaker, and it is apparently relevant a great deal. The audience knows this because it is Steven Spielberg himself who contributes the most to the commentary. Apparently Steven has a great gift - he has retained a vivid memory of what it was like to be a child all of these years later. That explains why he made some of the films he did, and how he worked with children and could show the viewpoint of children so well. Spielberg talks about how he has had the same team of professionals working with him on films for years, some since the 70s, and he pays tribute particularly to composer John Williams.

It does go into some of his failures, though only briefly. Apparently he considers "1941" (1979) a failure, and I guess I can see how coming off one hit after another in the mid to late 70s he might feel that way.

Many of the actors and actresses that have starred in his film are almost giddy with praise, and I guess we should expect that, but that is countered with Spielberg's criticism of his own work, which is very insightful.

The best stories: the pandemonium and the overruns in time and money on the set of "Jaws", and how Steven Spielberg, the perennial C student, could not get into USC film school no matter what he tried, so in 1968 he simply trespassed on the Universal lot, found a vacant office and took up residency, and began to go on different sets learning how professional directors practiced their craft. He was even thrown off the set of a Hitchcock film once! However, it was six months before anyone even challenged his presence at Universal, and even then he ended up with a seven year contract directing for Universal TV. Things and security have certainly changed in 50 years!

I'd highly recommend this work to anybody who wants the story of Spielberg's career from the mouth of the subject himself. 147 minutes seems like a long documentary, but for me the time just flew by.
What do YOU think of Spielberg?
While I understand why the filmmaker might feel the need to address criticism leveled at Spielberg and his work (too populist, overly sentimental, etc), she takes a far too direct approach by voicing through interviews precisely why the viewer should dismiss those and see Spielberg through the same lens she does. The recent documentary DePalma, made about one of Spielberg's fellow "movie brats," did a brilliant job of asking that filmmaker, Brian DePalma, to open up about the work, major themes and controversies, and left the viewer to draw conclusions for themselves. Watching this last night, I found myself wishing the documentary itself hadn't decided itself to become so sentimental, only explaining the merits of Spielberg's oeuvre.

Don't get me wrong, Spielberg certainly is one of the most (if not THE most) influential players in the film industry and the film does a great job of showing how he became so successful, but the most interesting segments involve discussion of the craft behind iconic films. For Jaws, the discussion of how a low budget helped to build suspense is as rewarding as the anecdotes about Spielberg's process with actors on the set of Schindler's List. With a running time of 2.5 hours, not every film gets equal treatment, but revealing details of his process abound for the cinema buff.

All in all, worth a look, but don't be afraid to make up your own mind.
A Less Than Great Documentary about a Great Director
(RATING: ☆☆☆☆ out of 5)



IN BRIEF: An well crafted but bias love-fest about this great director.

SYNOPSIS: A document that celebrates the films of Mr. Spielberg.

David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia inspired him to become a director. As a teenager, filmmaking kept "those scary whispers" from starting up, providing him a security that life itself could not deliver. His use of close-ups, stationary angles, fluid camera movement, personal storytelling, and quick cuts established his unique style. His sanitized view of suburbia and the Americana, his sentimental view of nostalgia, and his love of childhood and family can be found in most of his films. This is Steven Spielberg. And Susan Lacy's well made documentary examines this legendary filmmaker with much skill (and just too much adoration).

The documentary gives us all the facts about this great director using archival footage, interviews with friends and associates, and snippets of his many movies. Turned down from USC film school, he snuck off the tour bus on Universal Studios and observed directors like Hitchcock at work. He later worked at that studio as a first time director gaining knowledge and experience by creating television episodes and movies before his big blockbuster summer hit, Jaws, changed the film industry forever.

Using his own personal experiences and his avid love of cinema encouraged him to explore many genres: sci-fi (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., A.I. Minority Report), war movies (Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, Empire of the Sun, War Horse) horror (Jurassic Park, Jaws), adventure (Duel, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Adventures of Tintin), historical biographies (Lincoln, the underrated Bridge of Spies), even comedies (1941, Always, The Terminal).

Spielberg delves into his beginnings very effectively. Upset with some critics' assertion that he was primarily a successful commercial and mainstream filmmaker, Mr. Spielberg took up the challenge and created films on more serious subjects such as racism (Amistad, The Color Purple), terrorism and 9/11 (Munich, War of the Worlds), and genocide (the aforementioned Schindler's List). This documentary spend a great deal of time on one of his greatest achievements about the Holocaust ever made, with numerous segments from that Academy Award winning film.

Ms. Lacy's film, though well researched, purposely skips over some of his lesser works and allows Mr. Spielberg himself to sidestep his early personal life with the former Mrs. S. (Amy Irving). Yet it still manages to flaunt his happy marriage with his current spouse (Kate Capshaw) and his now happy family life.

Directors Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Francis Coppola, J.J. Abrams, and Brian DePalma were his friends and creative rivals and their comments in interviews add great insight to the technical aspects of this man. In fact, the point is made numerous times that his films dealing with technology advancements were living examples of state-of-the-art filmmaking themselves. (CGI use in Jurassic Park, Minority Report, A I., War of the Worlds, Close Encounters, etc. elevated the bar in cinematic terms)

The documentary is always entertaining with special moments to savor: Spielberg's own reminiscences of filming of his two masterworks, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler's List, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski discussing his camera work with fascinating details in conjunction with the director's vision on the latter epic, scenes of him directing a young Drew Barrymore and Henry Thomas on the E.T. set that are very insightful and gives us a glimpse of his extraordinary technique as a director. The director himself gives due credit to his artisan family who are his crew for many movies, including composer John Williams. However, his personal life and hardships are glossed over such as his first marriage and divorce and his film duds are rarely acknowledged (Hook, The BFG, his comedies).

The film becomes a love-fest rather than a serious chronicle of an artist. It continuously lauds him. Janet Maslin, Todd McCarthy, J. Hoberman, and A. O. Scott analyze his films with much admiration. Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day Lewis, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Oprah Winfrey, and Ben Kingsley speak eloquently of working with him. Yet, except for his estrangement with his father, there are no warts at all in this depiction of Mr. Spielberg and that becomes a bit of the problem for such a flattering documentary.

One wishes would have could have shown a more balanced vision of this immensely talented man with at least a margin of human error, but that does not exist in The World of Spielberg. Just as some of his films rely too heavily on uplifting and positive viewpoints, so does this documentary and that prevents this film from becoming a great work of art about a great director. Perhaps the subject himself could not give up complete control to Ms. Lacy to make an completely honest portrait of an artist.

Still, while the documentary shows this visionary director in the best of light, with little shading, it also shows us some of the best films of the last 40 years that emerged from a master craftsman who celebrates "pure movie-making". Spielberg is a fine testament about one man whose love for the movies made the world a better place.
The amazing life and times of Steven Spielberg
"Spielberg" (2017 release; 147 min.) is a documentary about the life and times of legendary film maker Steven Spielberg. As the movie opens, Spielberg describes in glorious detail the profound impression left on him when he saw "Lawrence of Arabia" in the theater in 1962, and again and again (much later in the documentary, Spielberg confesses he still watches that movie at least once a year). We then go to the "Bridge of Spies" movie set, where Spielberg is seen giving detailed instructions as a particular scene is being prepped. Next comes a lengthy passage about "Jaws", whose unexpected commercial success (in particular in view of the almost disastrous production) "changed my life", Spielberg comments. "It Was a free pass into my future". At this point we are less than 15 min. into the documentary.

Couple of comments: this documentary is directed by Susan Lacy, best known for being the Executive Producer of the American masters TV series. Here she presents a portrait of Steven Spielberg. While of course spending lots of time on Spielberg's key movies (none gets more screen time than "Schindler's List"), we also get a peek into Spielberg's personal life (reason that I refer to "the life and times"). "I am a child of divorce" could well easily have been the sub-title of the documentary, as Spielberg points out time and again how profoundly this has affected his film-making, and why there are so many "dissolution of family" themes in his films. We also get some fascinating 8mm footage from the Spielberg family when Steven was growing up (no mention, though, that Steven was born in Cincinnati--where I live). Lacy interviews a ton of people, including Steven's parents and three sisters, but of course also many contemporaries (in particular George Lucas, Brian de Palma, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola). But in the end, the most fun remains watching the many highlights of Spielberg's most important movies, commentated by Spielberg himself. Counting his early 70s TV work, Spielberg has been making movies for almost half a century! It simply blows the mind. You may or may not like Spielberg's style of movies, but he undeniably has been one of the top directors in Hollywood for decades, and still is to this day. Can't wait for his upcoming movie "Ready Player One", to be released in early 2018.

"Spielberg" premiered at this year's New York Film Festival to good acclaim, and recently opened up on HBO, where I saw it a few days ago. While the documentary isn't "revolutionary" (and clearly was made with the blessing of the Spielberg family), I nevertheless quite enjoyed it and was amazed how quickly these 2 1/2 hrs. flew by. If you are a film buff, or a fan of Steven Spielberg, you cannot go wrong with this.
Shines Because Of The Personal Interviews/Material
In the year 2017, it must be kind of difficult to produce a compelling documentary about a figure such as Steven Spielberg. I mean, in all honesty, what more can be said about the man that hasn't been already?! Where "Spielberg" really manages to shine, then, is in its coverage of Steven's personal life and background.

As per the usual, "Spielberg" covers all the "usual subjects" (Jaws, Indy, Schindler, Saving Private Ryan, etc.) and all the old stories get told yet again. Fortunately, the production values of this doc are good enough (that's what happens with the backing of HBO) that it never really feels old or stale.

Like I said, though, the real highlights are the personal interviews with Spielberg himself (or family members and those who know him closely). I learned many new things about his personal life, and I loved the home videos with wife Kate Capshaw and his seven children. We all know him as a fantastic filmmaker (which he surely is), but this doc does a really good job of portraying him as a person as well.

So, while perhaps not the most ground-breaking documentary of all-time, "Spielberg" is still entertaining (due to the production value) and information (personal information) and never failed to hold my interest during the almost 2.5 hour runtime.
Saccharine sentimentality, fawning and ultimately boring
This could have been great, especially given the access the filmmakers obviously had and the stature of the people interviewed. Instead it's an overlong, boring and unimaginatively grovelling look at Spielberg's life and career. Apart from a few tantalizing clips of a young Spielberg at work there's absolutely nothing new here and it just sinks into an extended EPK-level parade of sycophantic comments and backslapping, intended, it seems, more to curry favor with Hollywood establishment power than to offer any perception or insight into a master filmmaker, his films and his methods. Like the syrupy sentimentality of Spielberg at his worst, this is more of a protracted, tedious, sugar-coated eulogy than a perceptive and insightful documentary. It seems to me that the filmmakers are more fearful of incurring Spielberg's displeasure than presenting something engaging, new and compelling. What an awful waste of an incredible opportunity.
A celebratory piece with daddy issues.
If you dig Spielbergo you'll dig Spielberg (2017). It plays out pretty much like a Spielberg film. It's so Spielbergian! That light, disneyfied air floats over the screen while every now and then something serious will intrude like a knife and stab you but the disneyfiedness of the atmosphere heals all wounds with a rapidity unseen in history's tome of medical breakthroughs. Of course, sub theme of an elusive daddy permeates proceedings, but it's the mother of all daddy issues here, the great big cord that links all of Spielberg's work and which proves the man an auteur of cinema.

In short: there are lots of cool insights into the man, the work, the time and the people involved in the Spielbergian journey, so if that's your type of thing, this film is your type of thing. Spielberg!
"Speilberg" Documentary.
What's confusing about this documentary is not what they decided to show, but what they decided to leave out. Maybe its too early for a full retrospective as the subject is still alive and working and creating, but then what exactly is the point of this documentary, other than it comes out on the 40th anniversary year of "Close Encounters"? After Spielberg shuffles off this mortal coil the interviews gained in the process of making this film will serve admirably in the making of what will probably have to be a series of documentary films that follow Steven Spielberg's life and career, but as it stands this seems like a Blu-Ray special feature. There are many years and films that are completely skipped or glossed over, there is barely a mention of all the success he's had as a producer, and there's no real build up or glory to his triumphs or his failures. It's surface-level and polite. it doesn't pose tough questions or try to answer anything either. I get that this is a puff piece, that in no way would anyone sign off on a documentary that paints them in a bad light, but this doesn't even make Spielberg *complicated*, even his relationship with his father is immediately forgiven and then brushed aside. What would be more interesting, and perhaps more revealing, would be Behind the Scenes documentaries that we already have that feature Spielberg, strung together with new interviews, and footage that presents context, and present his life this way. As it stands what this Doc offers is a quick overview and celebrity cameos that isn't all together uninteresting if only hindered by it's inability to commit to deep dives of the subject's career.
the "George Gerswhin" of American cinema (as per Coppola's compassion) in this very good profile and truly in-depth look at an oeuvre
With Spielberg, we have another profile of yet another hugely influential American filmmaker on the heels of De Palma and By Sidney Lumet. And... when it's this filmmaker and this story and this group of films, I don't think for at least some of them (yes, even Jaws and lessor known ones like Empire of the Sun) enough can be spoken about them. It takes often a miracle for a movie to come out good let alone great, and Steven Spielberg has at least nine or ten masterpieces to his name.

I'm glad this one on Spielberg via Susan Lacy (a veteran go-to for American Masters docs) goes the full route on the career and the man in as much depth as possible. Though it lacks much about Hook, Lost World and Always (the latter's not here at all, the former is mentioned for five seconds as an example of 'sometimes he has failed'), I think I need what is presented here as the man's own words on his work, and his colleagues, AND especially the critical community, from Hoberman to AO Scott. You actually get a sense of not only Spielberg's growth or... No, wait, growth is the wrong word since he was already doing what he did so well in 74 and 74 & 75 and even Duel (that shot of the truck going off the bridge is a gorgeous monster movie moment in all cinema), more like a maturity and an expanding sense of what a movie can be. He has his complexities - who else can have Jurassic Park and Munich in his resume - but the critics point that out along with the objective fact that he is to film the major force in Hollywood in the past 45 years.

But it would be one thing if it is all "its the greatest guy ever" etc. This shows that Spielberg hasn't always known what to do on every film; seeing him making Schindlers List and Saving Private Ryan, his two Oscar wins, one gets the sense he had to figure out what to do day to day, and yet that also came out of many years of *doing* it, of understanding and getting even deeper than he already was. This doc does a great job is giving to the audience, whether they've known this about Spielberg before or not, that making ET and Schindler's List were no more or less exceptional efforts on what humanity is all about in all of its highs and lows, its just that an audience will take Nazis more seriously than aliens.

Or... Who knows? But through every anecdote and story from Spielberg, his sisters and parents, his fellow (now elder) "movie brats" who were as Lucas describes their version of Paris in the 1920s (and I think hes right), there's a full portrait of everything with this man. And that's what is the same and yet done unique unto itself as the De Palma and Lumet films. It's not *too* glossed over about what hes been in life (as someone admits about him, "hes a nerd. A lovable nerd, but still a nerd") and yet it cant help but be inspiring and I hope will be an inspiration for future filmmakers who didn't live through seeing Jurassic Park or Ryan or Minority Report or even Lincoln (one of those films that is still somehow underrated despite being a commercial and critical hit) in a first run. It didn't all come out of nowhere ultimately; the message that one comes away with is that passion and inspiration is crucial, but hard work and not showing fear in the process (though one may have it) is key.
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