Publication Year: 2006
Published by: University of Illinois Press
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Writing this book was a long and often frustrating journey, one that began in upstate New York, meandered through Chicago, and ended back in upstate New York. I was fortunate, as always, to have the support of my family during this trek: my parents, Eva and Eugene Friedman; my children, Marc and Rachel Friedman; my...
Introduction: The Elephant in the Center of the Room
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This project did not begin as a labor of love. I was not one of those awestruck viewers mesmerized as the mothership harmonized with humankind, sobbing when E.T. finally left for home, or cheering as Indiana Jones rode off into the sunset. It began when students requested a course on Spielberg and, much to my surprise, I could...
1. "I'm Sorry I Didn't Tell You about the World": Spielberg's Science-Fiction and Fantasy Films
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Science-fiction and fantasy films reveal more about the cultures that spawn them than the imaginary worlds they ostensibly describe. By extending contemporary societal problems far into the future, or by inserting fantastical elements into present-day environments, these movies encourage viewers to contemplate disruptive...
2. "They Don't Know What They've Got There": Spielberg's Action/Adventure Melodramas
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Although few critics discuss Spielberg’s films as melodramas, almost all of them could aptly be classified as family-based narratives that center on the tensions, fissures, and breakdowns within domestic relationships. It is worthwhile, therefore, to review the cardinal tenets of the melodrama genre, noting how it connects to the action...
3. "Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear": Spielberg's Monster Movies
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The monster movie, or horror film, has much in common with the sciencefiction and fantasy film genres discussed in chapter 1; all three incorporate elements and creatures beyond ordinary reality. They compel audiences to confront difference, or “otherness,” in a wide variety of formulations, whether nonhuman creatures, alien...
4. "The World Has Taken a Turn for the Surreal": Spielberg's World War II Combat Films
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The films discussed in this chapter—1941 (1979), Empire of the Sun (1987), and Saving Private Ryan (1998)—all conform to Kathryn Kane’s basic definition of the World War II combat film genre as encompassing movies set during the Second World War that focus on “uniformed American soldiers fighting uniformed enemy soldiers on foreign soil” (1). Because Spielberg’s other films situated during this...
5. "Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins": Spielberg's Social Problem/Ethnic Minority Films
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This chapter will explore Spielberg’s films that deal explicitly with racial and ethnic issues—The Color Purple (1985), Amistad (1997), and The Terminal (2004)—under the rubric of the social problem film, a recognized category with a long and respectful lineage. American movies, as Kevin Brownlow observes, were “born...
6. "Control Is Power": Imagining the Holocaust
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Before I wrote the first word of this book, I instinctively knew that my discussion of Schindler’s List would constitute its final chapter, for personal and professional reasons. This film remains the single most important work in Steven Spielberg’s long career, the one that advocates claim catapults him across the perceptual canyon...
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Page Count: 376
Publication Year: 2006