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Citizen Spielberg

Lester D. Friedman

Publication Year: 2006

Steven Spielberg is the director or producer of over one third of the thirty highest grossing films of all time, yet most film scholars dismiss him as little more than a modern P. T. Barnum--a technically gifted and intellectually shallow showman who substitutes spectacle for substance. To date, no book has attempted to analyze the components of his worldview, the issues which animate his most significant works, the roots of his immense acceptance, and the influence his vast spectrum of imaginative products exerts on the public consciousness. _x000B_In Citizen Spielberg, Lester D. Friedman fills that void with a systematic analysis of the various genres in which the director has worked, including science fiction (E.T.), adventure (Raiders trilogy), race films (The Color Purple, Amistad), and war films (Saving Private Ryan, Schindlers List). Friedman concludes that Spielbergs films present a sustained artistic vision combined with a technical flair matched by few other filmmakers, and makes a compelling case for Spielberg to be considered as a major film artist. _x000B_

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. vii

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pp. ix

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...

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Introduction: The Elephant in the Center of the Room

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pp. 1-10

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...

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1. "I'm Sorry I Didn't Tell You about the World": Spielberg's Science-Fiction and Fantasy Films

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pp. 11-62

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...

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2. "They Don't Know What They've Got There": Spielberg's Action/Adventure Melodramas

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pp. 63-118

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...

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3. "Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear": Spielberg's Monster Movies

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pp. 119-179

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...

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4. "The World Has Taken a Turn for the Surreal": Spielberg's World War II Combat Films

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pp. 180-243

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...

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5. "Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins": Spielberg's Social Problem/Ethnic Minority Films

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pp. 244-289

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...

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6. "Control Is Power": Imagining the Holocaust

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pp. 290-324

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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pp. 325-332

Works Cited

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pp. 333-346


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pp. 347-261

E-ISBN-13: 9780252091292
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252073588

Page Count: 376
Publication Year: 2006