|THIS GUY GOT TO DIRECT A FREAKING DINOSAUR.|
The old insult goes, “Jews run show business.” To that I say “thanks.”
Jews make up about 0.2% of the world’s population yet they have always been a loud (emphasis on the loud) and prominent voice in film, television, music, and comedy.
The next eight days are Hanukkah, which is not the most important Jewish holiday, but we do get presents. For each night of Hanukkah, I will share one Jewish entertainer who has had a big impact on me. For the third night of Hanukkah, let’s talk about Steven Spielberg:
Spielberg is my first non-comedy Jew of the list so far. Although “1941,” “Catch Me If You Can,” and Jeff Goldblum’s poses in “Jurassic Park” are equally hilarious.
Spielberg’s inclusion just seems like a given. Few directors have achieved the kind of financial, cultural, and critical success that Spielberg has had over his long career, which shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Think about it. Just think about it. This is the guy who brought Indiana Jones, E.T., and “Jaws” to life. He could retire now and maintain an amazing legacy. Yet, Spielberg never stops. Besides directing movies, Spielberg also runs Dreamworks as well as a television production company.
Like any director with a huge creative output, Spielberg has his off days (wait? You’re saying there was a fourth “Indiana Jones” movie?). However, his ambition is always there. “A.I.” was a bit of a mess, but directing a film that Stanley Kubrick was supposed to direct is basically a thankless job. And while I wasn’t a fan of “Lincoln” (even though I might one of the few), it was an admirable film, and sooner or later Daniel Day-Lewis (also a Jew, by the way) was bound to play Honest Abe.
Along with creating some of the most iconic pieces of entertainment of all time, Spielberg’s forays into more dramatic cinema have often been astounding. “Saving Private Ryan” is a stark, realistic portrayal of war. The D-Day sequence is one of the best battle sequences ever portrayed on film. How “Shakespeare in Love” beat it for Best Picture that year is still beyond me. Then, of course, there was “Schindler’s List” Spielberg’s piece of Holocaust remembrance and his ultimate gift to the Jewish community. Besides making such a vivid portrayal of cruelty that is ultimately about life, Spielberg donated every cent he could to Jewish charities. Tzedakah as many would call it. Portraying real life tragedy on film is always tough and controversial. Spielberg did it right by turning it into a purely selfless act.
Even in the ones where you least expect it, I have always have Spielberg’s films to be very Jewish because they about the value of family, something which I happen to tie very closely to Judaism. I don’t know if this is how everyone feels about it, or it is just the way that I was raised. But Spielberg’s works, from “E.T.” to “The Last Crusade” to “War of the Worlds” are all about families being drawn apart and then coming back together. Some might call it cheesy or overly sentimental, but there is something beautiful in finding family in the most unexpected places. In the end, that is what movies are all about: creating a communal experience and an unexpected family out of that.
My Favorite Spielberg Film: This is such a tough call, because most of Spielberg’s earliest films could qualify as his best. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is close, but I would say that “Jaws” is Spielberg’s most masterful film on so many levels.
His Most Underrated: “Munich.” “Inglourious Basterds” isn’t the only film about Jews kicking ass. “Munich” is a great thriller that has sadly gone under the radar.