Archive for July 11th, 2016


By Roderick Heath


The box office success of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), his third trip to that popular well, partly disguised Steven Spielberg’s struggle to find his artistic maturity, a struggle that defined his oeuvre in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. With the fervent, Dickensian lilt of The Color Purple (1985) nominated for multiple Oscars but then frozen out, and Empire of the Sun (1987), now regarded as one of his greatest achievements, a box office bomb and object of critical suspicion at the time, his foray into a more “serious” brand of cinema might have seemed a blind alley. He returned to lighter, fantastical tributes to moviemaking past with Always (1989) and Hook (1991), but in spite of fine moments in both, they still look like awkward by-products. Whilst Spielberg was still working up the project that would eventually become Schindler’s List (1993), he also set out to find a new property to convert into hard-charging popcorn cinema of the type he had made his name with on Jaws (1975). He found it in a novel by Michael Crichton, a former MD who had turned to writing smart-pulpy sci-fi and thrillers for the printed page and TV in the late 1960s, and even found some success as a film director himself for a time. Crichton had essentially recycled the core idea of his 1974 hit film Westworld for Jurassic Park, both being tales of a futuristic theme park contrived to realise deeply cherished fantasies for its audience, before things go wrong, the illusion of control vanishes, and the exhibits quickly become hunters.


Jurassic Park now looks very much like a pivotal moment in Spielberg’s career—not just chronologically, or in its success, which was colossal, even industry-deflecting, re-establishing Spielberg as the titan of pop cinema and giving the Computer-Generated Imagery era its clarion blast. Jurassic Park is its own work of theatre and self-dramatization, paying tribute to the ageless wish to see something truly awesome—and to be the one who can satisfy that desire. But it’s also a study in complication, the awareness of mechanics behind spectacles and the dangers of knowledge—the lot of adulthood. Westworld’s grounding in the Me Decade milieu of the ‘70s depicted very adult fantasies realised through the well-worn sci-fi concept of the humanoid robot that goes berserk. Jurassic Park by contrast had a more original and timely scientific McGuffin to employ, and developed it with a variation on Crichton’s recycled concept, this time with broader appeal: what if scientists could recreate dinosaurs using advances in DNA technology, and exhibit the results as the ultimate tourist attraction? The concept of primeval forces placed before armies of sticky-fingered kids and their bewildered parents was obviously irresistible to Spielberg – life, and death, for whole family to enjoy. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Our thoughts continue to focus on Allan, who is tentatively scheduled to begin his treatment on Wednesday.  As always talking about film or any other subject seems meaningless.  Yes life goes on, but mired as it is now in the most dire form of sadness and depression.

The Science Fiction Films Countdown is moving along nicely with uniform writing excellence in the essays and quite a bit of interest in the comment sections.  But Saturday we will have reached Number 90 and counting down.  Essays will continue until October 13th when the Number 1 film will be reviewed.

The only film I saw in theaters was the psychological thriller OUR KIND OF TRAITOR based on a novel by John LeCarre.  I found it a mixed bag:


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