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August-September, 1998

Reviews this issue include:

Saving Private Spielberg
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by Luke Buckmaster

Through the years, Steven Spielberg has proved that he can not only deliver special effects fueled thrillers (Jaws, Jurassic Park), but also emotionally invigorating films (ET, Schindlers List). Although his other recent piece, Amistad, was one of the worst films he has made in the 80's and 90's, Spielberg has received much critical acclaim for Saving Private Ryan. With any luck, this film will strengthen the notion that mainstream cinema can still produce its fair share of masterpieces, and that movie-goers do not necessarily have to resort to watching Indie or art house films for a good amount of substance. Recent examples The Truman Show, Titanic and Gattaca have proved that brilliance can still be found in popular films.

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The film depicts the tale of eight men on a mission to save one during World War II. If Spielberg has pieced it together correctly, Saving Private Ryan may just install similar shell-shocked responses that films like Gallipoli and Schindlers List were renown, and feared for. If you have seen either of these films at the cinema, you may have experienced something similar to what I did - as the credits rolled onto the screen, the audience was silent. Silent perhaps because of the sheer power of the subject material, silent because of guilt that the human race could ever have allowed these horrific events to occur, or simply because no one wanted to spoil the moment. And what a moment it was.

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Unlike some of his early films, Spielberg has a wide range of talented crew members to strengthen his creation. Hollywood icon Tom Hanks is amongst one of the finer actors in the industry, having excellent performances in Philadelphia and Forest Gump (as well as many others) under his belt. In the production side of things, Spielberg has chosen some of the best: cinematographer Janusz Kaminksi (Schindlers List, The Lost World), composer John Williams (all three Star Wars films, JFK, Jurassic Park) and film editor Michael Kahn (Empire of the Sun, Schindlers List). As you can see, their records are impressive to say the least.

Spielberg began his directing career in the late fifties with The Last Gun (a barely known western) in a very different industry. Back then, the phrase "you'll never work in this town again" actually meant something - the studios were family based and perhaps a perfect example of corrupt-but-correct organizations. Although anyone could not just make a film without any problems (or rather, any person not affiliated with the industry); all that a potential director needed to do was share his or her ideas with a small bunch of people. Nowadays, there are hundreds of people who can say no for funding a film, and a small group of people who can say yes. And this is for obvious reasons, with the amount of crap that manages to barge its way into contemporary cinema.

But any film with the name "Spielberg" attached to it is bound to get the go ahead. From first looks, Saving Private Ryan seems like it may be some of Steven's best work. But that would be an awfully hard feat to accomplish, as this man has carved some unforgettable screen moments, revolutionary accouchements, and a few truly magnificent masterpieces that demonstrate the versatility and power of the whole cinematic experience. Hopefully, Private Spielberg will deliver the goods once again.

We keep all our previous A Reel Life articles on file, use the heading at the top of this page to click through previous months.

by Luke Buckmaster
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