Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Reading Spielberg

Monday, April 28, 2014

Reading Spielberg


Revised 4/30: Good news - I've just received an update from publisher John Pruzanski, offering readers of this blog a 20% discount on the guide (click on the link to access the discount page).

When I was 7 years old, I fell in love with "the movies" - no longer harboring affection for just certain movies, but for the cinema as a whole. There were several factors in this infatuation, but the biggest factor may have Steven Spielberg. In this, I'm hardly alone and therefore it's appropriate that I join around 70 other contributors to take part in the massive Take 2 Guide to Steven Spielberg e-book compilation. This incredibly rich tome spans nearly 800 pages, and collects contemporaneous reviews from authors like Jonathan Rosenbaum (did you know this famed Spielberg skeptic actually offered a rave review of Schindler's List on its premiere? I didn't, until I scanned these pages), extensive blog entries, interviews with the filmmaker, and material written exclusively for this volume. Publisher John Pruzanski selected six of my pieces for inclusion: on Jaws, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, The Lost World, and Lincoln, plus a dual review of Schindler's List and Munich and a piece on the DreamWorks cartoon How to Train a Dragon which mentions Spielberg's influence.


The e-book is available on iPad, Kindle, Nook, and other electronic devices; personally this Luddite has to read it on computer and phone, but no worries - it works there too! (Full disclosure: depending on sales, I will receive some form of royalties for my contributions.) I can comfortably assert you're getting several books for the price of one, and that the enthusiastic, authoritative, and illuminating overviews by editor Adam Zanzie are alone worth the price of admission. Pruzanski couldn't have chosen a more appropriate curator and commentator, as anyone who's spent more than a minute in the blogosphere has noticed Zanzie's passion and knowledge on the subject of his favorite filmmaker. Divided into sections, the book offers Zanzie's voice to guide us through each period in Spielberg's career and it ends up being the glue that holds it all together.

Looking back over my own contributions, I'm fascinated to see that only one of my reviews counts as an unqualified rave (Jaws, Spielberg's first and in some ways most straightforward film, which over the years I've come to realize is probably my favorite). The Lost World is an amusingly appalled pan (trust me, the film is worse than you remember, even if you didn't like it at the time), while I offer more mixed and cautious praise of Lincoln and E.T. (the latter ranked as my favorite film of all time when I was a kid). Munich and Schindler's List impress me while I have issues (primarily with the earlier film, although ironically I also consider it the greater work). Although he's one of my favorite directors, perhaps familiarity has made me all too aware of flaws and contradictions - while also appreciative of these very qualities: most great movies are hardly perfect, after all. Either way, it points to an important fact about this collection - it runs the gamut from strongly favorable to deeply unfavorable views of the auteur. Ultimately, all these contributions have in common is that they are thoughtful, enjoyable, and informative takes on one of the world's most famous filmmakers.

Enjoy the trip - and don't forget your shark repellent.




Just for fun, John Pruzanski set up a video and accompanying quiz, in which all of us appear with Spielberg-related hats:


Don't forget to visit the quiz where you can guess which hats belong to which Spielberg films, and learn who's who among the contributors.

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