At first glance, Michael Showalter and David Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer looks like a beat-for-beat remake of Meatballs. It’s also sentimental, but it’s sentimental about dumb sex comedies, not about its characters. The send-up is so smooth and affectionate it doesn’t immediately register as parody.
Steven Spielberg’s first five movies are interesting because while Spielberg’s technical proficiency grows by leaps and bounds, his interest in character steadily declines. Perhaps the first doesn’t necessarily crowd out the second, but it might. Raiders of the Lost Ark, conceived with George Lucas, is the ultimate pulp homage by two men who see movies as a funhouse and little else.
Once upon a time, there was a director named Steven, a prince in the Kingdom of Hollywood. Stephen was very talented and successful, so the king allowed him to make whatever movies he wanted, no matter how much time or treasure they took. Steven thought it would be funny to make a film about a Japanese submarine threatening Los Angeles shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The king thought this was a great idea and opened his vaults and instructed his courtiers to do whatever Steven wanted.
Spielberg’s technical proficiency, his skill in conceiving and framing images, his use of color as an expressive tool, make Close Encounters almost as awe-inspiring as the director intends.
Orgasm Inc. is funny. The best moment is when Liz Canner reveals that the erotic film she’d edited caused almost as many positive reactions in the placebo test group. The drug wasn’t working, but they’d proven that “women like porn.”
I love the movie, consider it great… The story’s structure is uncluttered, providing a robust framework for abundant comedic and metaphorical elements. Its heart is gold, often wringing tears of recognition from me and those sitting nearby. I’m talking about satisfying, gratefully bittersweet tears – reinforcing and illustrating the moral.
Jaws was released on June 20, 1975… When Hitchock saw it, he remarked “[Spielberg’s] the first one of us who doesn’t see the proscenium arch.” Watch the movie with that comment in mind – although Spielberg often constructs various frames for his shots (he builds the arch like Frank Capra used to), in many others the camera tracks so wildly through the action you can’t conceive how the blocking was accomplished.
The Sugarland Express has a lot in common with Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967) – both share a rollicking, episodic comedic structure that devolves into tragedy. Both feature a strong woman who drives men to actions they might not otherwise commit. Both feature crowds of “common people” expressing support for outlaws. It seems likely Spielberg was sincerely flattering Penn, although Spielberg can’t resist sentimental touches…
Duel is a fantastic good time. It’s about a truck that terrorizes a hapless car on a two-lane road in the desert. That’s it – you might wonder how the writer and director fill an entire movie; don’t worry.
If you’re thinking about seeing Pitch Perfect 2, consider going with a teenaged girl. As my daughter said later, “It was awesome. The movie was absolute fluff but there was a lot of singing and I knew most of the songs.”