Temple of Gloom

Overrated/Underrated: The Films of Spielberg

Readers weigh in on the best and worst of Steven Spielberg

This week’s overrated/underrated: The movies of Steven Spielberg. He first made the scene when I was a kid, and I liked some and wasn’t so wild about others. I was usually bored by science fiction, and that Norman Rockwell-ish layer of sugar that we find on some of his films isn’t my bag.

But of course he’s been all over the lot by now but in terms of substance and cinematic style, and he’s certainly made many great ones.

Even so, looking at the filmography list, the needle does jump up and down. You would never really say that Spielberg captured his times, in the way you would have said of William Wyler or Frank Capra or even a Gregory LaCava, whom I would prefer, but I mostly like classic movies.

Okay then, my suggested lists below the fold. And by the way, there was some confusion last week. Just because I put Exile on Main Street on that list doesn’t mean I think it’s overrated. In fact I said below the fold that I thought it was great. I’m making objective suggestions based on things I read and the sense I have that times and tastes may have shifted public opinion about some work. We hear my thoughts all the time. In these posts, I’m actually interested (sort of!) in yours.

Most overrated:

Schindler’s List. Let’s just start at the top. I do know some people who fiercely hated it. I think mostly because of the alter kockers at the end, which did feel a bit manipulative. Personally, I thought the rest of it was really strong, but those are two of my favorite actors.

E.T. I’ve never gotten around to seeing this but can tell I’d hate it. I guess I’ll be watching it with my daughter in the coming years and will pretend to like it.

Minority Report. I saw this and don’t really remember the first thing about it. Oh wait, this was Samantha Morton in those weird baths? If so, that was fairly entertaining.

A.I. I think this is actually the one I don’t remember anything about.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Tried watching this recently. Let's just say I think audiences had more patience in those days.

Most underrated:

Jurassic Park. I think this is his greatest film. Rip-roaring, terrifying, chilling, the first time you see it. And kinda philosophically deep, about how it is inevitable—not likely; inevitable—that plans will go awry.

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Amistad. This had riveting and slow moments, but I do credit the guy for making the only movie in modern times about the slave trade, which tells us something.

The Sugarland Express. This was really good. Young Goldie!

Duel. So was this. This is reaching back there, like the same year Sticky Fingers came out.

Empire of the Sun. His worst box-office gross after becoming famous, but I thought this was pretty good. Great cast.

Okay, it’s all yours. I left out a lot of ’em on which I’m sure you have opinions: Jaws, Indiana Jones, The Color Purple, Munich, Catch Me If You Can, and these two recent ones, Tin Tin and War Horse, which I haven’t seen. Have at it.