From Yahoo news….in which we learn 1.) maybe just maybe a spielberg film of uplift will transform the middle east; 2.) spielberg condemns the mass murder of athletes 3.) having a family makes someone a nuanced “individual” and 4.) killing a person up close is “excruciating” (who did spielberg kill? I hear he lunged at Phyllis Diller with a steakknife at Morton’s). spielberg, as a one man hollywood blitzkrieg, has taken on world war 2, the holocaust, prehistory, outer space….and now international terrorism! can’t the guy just do something about a couple of people sitting in a room? however, I do look forward to Tom Hanks playing Arafat.

Spielberg Film Looks at Munich Olympics

NEW YORK – Steven Spielberg is taking on terror. His latest film, “Munich,” centers on the aftermath of the killings of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany.

“I don’t think any movie or any book or any work of art can solve the stalemate in the Middle East today,” Spielberg tells Time magazine in its Dec. 12 issue. “But it’s certainly worth a try.”

Eric Bana (“Troy”) stars as a Mossad agent who leads a secret Israeli squad assigned to assassinate 11 Palestinians suspected of planning the killings.

“We don’t demonize our targets,” Spielberg says. “They’re individuals. They have families. Although what happened in Munich, I condemn.”

Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner would not reveal the identity of the man Bana portrays, whom they interviewed at length.

“There is something about killing people at close range that is excruciating,” Spielberg tells the magazine. “It’s bound to try a man’s soul.”

32 thoughts on “Egomania”

  1. It’s true, though–killing people at close range does try a man’s soul.

    I try not to listen to people trumpet their issue films. I remain semi-hopeful; Kushner is far from sentimental in his plays, and rarely lets a simplistic political or moral assertion stand untested or unchallenged.

  2. Kubrick was far from sentimental, but look what Spielberg did with A.I.! Of course, Kubrick was dead and couldn’t do anything about it.

    Actually, A.I. wasn’t too bad. Am I a minority here?

  3. I liked A.I., despite the last twenty minutes. (And I’m curious: I know Kubrick’s films so avoid sentimentality that they can seem well-nigh inhuman, but he was a HUGE Pinocchio fan, right? Wasn’t that the common ground for the two filmmakers, the rationale behind their collaboration?) I thought the first third (after the weird prologue bit) was wonderfully creepy, and throughout there are these beautiful fairy-tale images…

    I liked Minority Report, barring the last 20 minutes. In fact, that caveat about the last 20 minutes covers the last three films I’ve seen by Spielberg.

  4. i liked “a.i” all the way till the aliens showed up and resurrected the kid’s mother. i was almost willing to forgive that as well because of teddy, but not quite. teddy and ho-bot jude law may be spielberg’s best creations since amon goeth.

    tom hanks played an all-purpose immigrant with funny accent in “the terminal”. i see no reason why he couldn’t play arafat–he’s hank-tastic! but alas, i fear michael was joking.

  5. you are right, he was very good in the terminal. but you know, it would be nice, once in a while, to see brown people play brown people, and jews playing jews, and italians playing italians, and indians playing indians: that kind of stuff (i guess i’m thinking of that jack of all trades, ben kingsley, best actor in the world, but still, not an arab or an indian or a german jew or a persian either).

    i, like michael, am bugged by spielberg’s egomania, but what worries me most is that he has this uncanny ability to get his storied heard and listened to, thus making fresh history of old history every damn time. if he were humble, and really interested in drawing people’s attention the the tragedies of the world, maybe he would support and promote local foreign directors and, himself, do movies about two people sitting in a room.

  6. I agree with Gio’s two points. First, casting should be identity-specific. That way, all the plum gay parts (plum for actors, not for the historical people implied by the characters) that come around every Oscar season would be reserved for gay actors. If you want to play one, you better come out of the closet. (Come on, you know who you are.)

    Second, Spielberg should research more thoroughly the context he does films about and the contemporary implications of his re-presentation of that context. Or just make movies about two people sitting in a room. Or better still, he should make movies about contexts he knows ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about. Like outer space. Oh wait: George Lucas did that, and look how forward-thinking and liberatory his racial identity politics turned out to be.

    In all seriousness though, Spielberg should do what Gio says and support local foreign film directors.

  7. I’m afraid that Spielberg imagines he has some kind of historical mission. as for identity specific, can you imagine all those ww2 movies where englishmen play Nazi’s with real Nazi’s??

  8. My short list of things that fare poorly when compared with Stephen Spielberg and his historical mission to make films (inspired by John’s last post):

    1. Genocide in Darfur (unless we bring up Always, in which case it’s even)

    2. The brutal ass-raping of poor orphan children by robot overlords

    3. Greta Van Susteren

    4. My historical mission to make a movie that ends famine, or if that doesn’t work to con a chit for free Dorito’s out of the wait-staff at our student center union

    Thank you.

  9. mike, i thought we had a conversation about posting while drunk? even mauer’s content-less comments are more interesting than yours.

  10. Don’t try to suck up to the robot overlords, Arnab. It’ll do you no good. Admit you liked my post, and that you really, really like me.

  11. ‘A.I.’ and ‘Minority Report’ are really not equivalent movies. For all its flaws of sentimentality and self-indulgence, ‘A.I.’ is a serious film about serious issues with some eerily beautiful scenes. Its images linger long after the movie is over, and it plays itself out as a modern fairy tale.

    ‘Minority Report’ is indistinguishable from ‘I, Robot’ or ‘Total Recall.’ All three are all mildly entertaining (though ‘Total Recall’ has the edge here in not taking itself too seriously), but it is hard to see any of them as involving film-making in any meaningful sense of the word.

    So let’s explore the argument about identity-specific acting some more. It has a certain intuitive appeal, but since there is meant to be some craft to acting, how far do we want to take it? Do we really want only gay actors to portray gay men on film? Should gay actors be able to portray straight men? Is it more or less transgressive if two actors who are not gay kiss onscreen than if they are known to be gay?

    How about disability? Should such roles be reserved for the actors who are themselves disabled? How about depression or autism? Do we want to avoid seeking actors with the range to portray clinical depression or autism or bipolar? It’s called acting, so where do we draw the line between seeking actors who step out of themselves for 100 minutes, and seeking people who portray themselves onscreen?

    Finally, are gio and Li’l Pony separate people?

  12. Two separate responses to Chris, done quickly:

    1. Minority and “film-making in any meaningful sense of the word” — are issues the only thing that make a meaningful film? I will almost happily grant you that MR (as opposed to AI) has little on its mind beyond the pleasures of spectacle and thrill. But I’ll distinguish at least from I, Robot in its careful, cunning use of classical film technique to push, knock around, cajole, seduce the audience. I found Report beautiful in almost every shot, every scene–but I’d particularly call attention to the glorious setpiece all around the eye “doctor” and the spiders, scurrying through the slum apartments, our own all-seeing Spielbergian eye voyeuristically peeking in on the fights and lives. Like any number of great ’empty’ thrillers, seeing is both a subject of and a fear in the film.

    Your distinction reminds me of Pauline Kael’s dismissal of Raiders, after celebrating Close Encounters. Yes–like AI and MR–they are different films, but we could probably celebrate their respective techniques and pleasures.

    Right? I know you agree, Chris–you just didn’t like MR, right?

    2. “Minority” or non-majority characters and majority actors–I certainly see your point about the potential absurdity of the logic of identity-determined casting. (Do only sad people get to play sad characters?) But I’m mindful of the context of production, too. Name four actors with a visible disability. Name two. Name fucking one, after that kid with Down’s syndrome from tv. [Actually, he was a kid when it was on. I doubt he’s one now.] When certain kinds of people can’t get roles, that complicates the issues of who does end up playing those roles.

    And Pat Morita recently died–a NYTimes editorial (which I won’t track down the link for) lamented that he was one of the most successful Asian-American actors of his time, yet his most prominent roles were as Arnold and Mr. Miyagi, minor supporting roles (and both explicitly in service to the white leads); most of his roles were as Servant #2 or generic Asian guy X. We don’t have too many Mickey Rooney yellow-face performances any more, and race seems to be taboo in cross-casting (after almost a whole century where it was the norm). But at least we should ask the question about production before completely dismissing the identity of the actor as a point of critical challenge.

    I ask to get the debate going…

    Okay, 3: I don’t think Li’l Pony is Gio. But I have my suspicions that frisoli is reynolds.

  13. I ain’t dismissing nothing, just wondering aloud. It’s the gay identity that I think is most interesting in this context because as long as no well-known straight actor would play a gay man in a movie, I’m not sure how much it mattered that the occasional gay actor got a part playing a (usually very camp) homosexual.

    Clearly, no one would deny that actors of certain identities have been either denied parts or typecast. I’m just not sure how far you want to extend the argument. After all, Meryl Streep would have no career without her ability to irritate audiences in several different languages.

    On MR, you got me, Mike. I really didn’t like it (I did like ‘Raiders’ I and III though). It just seemed insipid and sort of obvious. Me and Pauline Kael, we’re like this (imagine fingers crossed).

  14. I was, naturally, only half-serious when I made the initial suggestion about identity-specific casting. I think that at this point (that is, building on critiques of “identity” and of the social function of “performance”) we can probably chant in unison approximately 36 thousand arguments against identity-specific casting.

    But the half-serious part of my suggestion is, I guess, the part where the proposition was linked to the observation that these gay roles (boys don’t cry, million dollar baby, monster, philadelphia, brokeback mountain I’m sure, etc.) are the roles disproportionately recompensed with Oscars. The pastoral valorization or romanticization of these film roles is usually, of course, at odds with the social value allotted to the historical people implied by those roles. That seems to me like something of an injustice, for which it is easy to imagine correctives.

    Imagine the Cuba described in Vera Kutzinski’s cultural study _Sugar’s Secrets_ — where Cuban mulatto women suffered disproportionately in the labor arena while the cultural “figure” of the mulata enjoyed unequaled national prestige. This discrepancy is the foundation for critiques of blackface.

    The perception of relative affluence among US “gays” causes people to regard any analogies between straight-actors-playing-gay and blackface as exaggerations. But let me just say that it annoys me when every time a straight actor plays a gay role, they get applauded for their “courage” and lobbed interview questions like “how do you think this will affect your career, your fans??”

    P.S. My band name: “Counterfeit Penny”
    P.P.S. I am not Gio, but I sometimes wish I were!

  15. Nice post, Pony. In re “how will this affect your career,” River Phoenix used to futz around with interviewers after My Own Private Idaho, answering the question with sincere hopes that playing a narcoleptic wouldn’t affect his future roles.

    Chris, didn’t you used to sleep with Kael?

  16. i think the issue of sexuality should be distinguished here from the more visible issue of race and skin-colour.

    with this done, i’d be more into post-identity-specific casting if we’d first gone through a phase (say of 2 days) of identity-specific casting. also the idea of letting white actors display their chops playing brown people is nice but how about if brown actors were also given the opportunity to put on some skin lightening makeup and play white people?

    as mike, in one of his rare lucid moments, points out, it is also a matter of jobs. hank azaria and a handful of others who can play all the brown peoples of the world are doing well, but surely more such actors could have better careers if a) more parts were written for them and b) then cast with them.

  17. I think I’d buy a record from The Linus Solution as long as I don’t have to suffer through a documentary pitting them against The Dandy Warhols.

  18. Band names–cut/pasted from the Onion:

    “Worst Band Names Encountered This Year

    Public Display Of Funk
    Well Hungarians
    Snatches Of Pink
    Goblin Cock
    Swollen Members
    Libido Funk Circus
    Assbaboons Of Venus

    Best Worst Band Names Encountered This Year

    I Will Kill You Fucker
    Let’s Get Out Of This Terrible Sandwich Shop
    The Asshole Two
    When Rocky Beat The Russian”

Leave a Reply