Sunday, March 30, 2008

Back-to-Back Spielberg

I had the horror of watching Steven Spielberg's 1979 bomb, 1941. Okay, can someone please tell me what was the point of this movie? I understand it's supposed to be about the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and an incoming invasion of California by the Japanese, but there is really no actual story to sustain this general summary. There are about a gazillion characters with their own stupidly unfunny little subplots. This film tries so hard to be funny and it shows. By the middle of the film, it turns into an absolute mess, one of the worst catastrophes I've ever witnessed on film. For the entire 2 hours and 26 minutes (which I swear, felt like five hours), I only found one scene slightly amusing but was bored throughout. I guess some attempt to use the comedic talents of Dan Aykroyd and John Beluishi might have helped the film a bit, but I don't think anything could have saved the film from its ultimate doom.

Even Spielberg himself is kind of embarrassed about the film's existence (Wikipedia):
Spielberg humorously joked at one point that he considered converting 1941 into a musical halfway into production and mused that "in retrospect, that might have helped."
(If anyone knows which interview the above Spielberg quote is from, please let me know.)

If this wasn't directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, I would have banned them from working in the film industry (even though I wasn't even alive in 1979). But this is Spielberg, Gale, and Zemeckis, so if they were banned after the release of 1941, we wouldn't have Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, etc. So I guess they've redeemed themselves pretty well.

While watching 1941, I realized the only person working in the film industry who is always consistent is John Williams. I don't think I've ever heard of a bad John Williams score. Even his march for 1941 is pretty awesome, despite the movie's awfulness.

Rating: 3/10 (Yes, this means I enjoyed a Rob Schneider film more than a Spielberg film.)

Same director, 23 years later:

I'm kind of glad that ABC aired Catch Me If You Can last night so I could wash the bad taste of 1941 out of my mouth. The film certainly isn't Spielberg's greatest effort as a director in his post-1941 career, but it is truly one of my favorites. I don't think I've seen a film as effortlessly entertaining and stylish as Catch Me If You Can.

What I find myself liking about this film after multiple viewings is Tom Hanks's understated work as Carl Hanratty, the FBI agent that spends years trying to catch Leonardo DiCaprio's young con-man, Frank Abignale. I have always sympathized with the character because the man is so obsessed with his job to the point that he even loses his family. Hanks is so subtle and funny here that he gives one of the best supporting performances of recent years. Fine, his southern? Boston? accent did sound awkward, but who cares? It is starting to become one of my favorite Hanks performances, too. I like how he doesn't completely steal the film away from DiCaprio because after all, it is DiCaprio's movie, but he is able to keep up with DiCaprio's youthful energy.

Plus, the funniest scene in the entire film. (Contains the F-word, so that's why ABC had to replace it with some other word (flog?), which unfortunately diminished the humor.)

Rating: 9.5/10


  1. I think Spielberg's best work was on Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's the perfect action film and one of my favourite movies full stop. I'm waiting on tenterhooks for Indy 4.

  2. I think all the Indiana Jones are perfect action/adventure films. I think The Temple of Doom is severely underrated and is often overshadowed by Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade. I love all of them, though.

  3. I looooved Catch Me If You Can. It was completely hilarious, ingenious, and heartbreaking all at once (the scene where he sees his half sister). And I love Indianna Jones too, but I feel the best one was The Last Crusade. I watched it just last night, and I adored it. Sean Connery was simply fantastic, and I love the whole legend thing of the Holy Grail. The music was perfect too. Temple of Doom I was not so fond of. I thought it swayed too much towards horror and vulgar scares. xxx

  4. @ anahita
    Catch Me If You Can is one of those few films that can be both breezily entertaining and emotionally effective. I feel that is quite rare in many films.

    If I had to pick a favorite Indiana Jones film, it has to be The Last Crusade as well. I love Sean Connery in the film--pitch-perfect comedic timing.

    The Temple of Doom is quite different from the other two, but I thought it was enjoyable for what it was: a fun, care-free action movie.