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Steven Spielberg Thinks I’m Dumb 26 September 2006

Posted by VARANGALI in Humor, Reviews, VARANGALI.

I am no movie critic, and have never met Steven Spielberg. I would imagine he is a gentleman, dedicated to his work and just pompous enough to avoid the crowds. Yet we have a relationship, he and I: I watch his movies, and he thinks I’m dumb.

This is most evident in his butchering of Stanley Kubrick’s A.I. Spielberg takes over the film’s production after Kubrick dies, who made the first two-thirds of the movie. Whereas Kubrick’s movie was an awkward meditation on the alienation of childhood, Speilberg turns it into a heart-wrenching tale of a boy incessantly looking for his mommy. Who wouldn’t be moved to tears by this? Me.

Spielberg, in short, is the master of the unsubtle. When seeking to convey the horrors of war in Saving Private Ryan, he zooms in on Tom Hanks’ eternally shaky hands. Five minutes later he does it again. And again in another ten minutes. And just in case you missed it the first few times, Hanks trembles his hands a few more times for the camera. I do not mean to make light of the horrors of war – Spielberg in fact tends to place his schlock in morally absolute contexts – who dare mock the horrors of war (Saving Private Ryan), slavery (Amistad), or childhood innocence (E.T.)?

Perhaps Spielberg should stick to work devoid of moral judgment – I remain a big fan of Back to the Future, Animaniacs, and Catch Me If You Can. Or maybe he should just refrain from ruining his own great movies with his unflinching belief that I won’t “get it,” and therefore he must hammer it in.

And enough with the Tom Hanks fixation, there are other overachieving actors out there who could use a hand.



1. The Turk - 26 September 2006

I think the worst butchering was Eyes Wide Shut. That movie was excellent until halfway and you can see the story and darma the Kubrick had created die and Spielberg take over. Kubrick was examing the very real connection of evil, power and decandance.
If you believe the conspricy theorists story of the “illumanti” secert cabal group encircling the world; it was a movie of that story. Spielberg ruined it..

2. VARANGALI - 26 September 2006

Turk, thanks for your comment. I’m not sure Spielberg had a hand in Eyes Wide Shut (I can’t find him on the imdb listing for Eyes Wide Shut).

3. shmoo (EK) - 26 September 2006

I’m pretty sure Kubrick completed the film before dying. Perhaps some edits were made by others, but not Speilberg.

4. MOZAFFAR - 26 September 2006


Spielberg wasn’t involved with “Eyes Wide Shut.” The film was entirely Kubrick’s film. There was some criticism that he edited the movie to receive an R rating, but the movie was still wholly his movie. Meaning, even those edits were his own choice.

I personally loved AI.

Regarding Saving Private Ryan, it’s greatness was the opening act. That was just amazing.

Omer M

5. talib - 27 September 2006

frankly, i don’t think Spielberg’s thinking is off target Varangali.

i don’t mean that you’re dumb. i’m just thinking that if Spielberg has made directorial decisions in lieu of his audience’s intellectually abilities, and lo and behold, he becomes rich and famous, loved by the masses, then he’s made the right decisions. that is, if money and fame are his goals. if the creative process and insight are ends in themselves, however…well, how many people know who Stanley Kubrick is? moral of the story: people are dumb and willingly throw money at the enterprising individuals who take advantage of their lackings.

6. Irving - 29 September 2006

Speilberg has made many beloved formula films, Indiana Jones, ET, etc, and one hell of an opening for Saving Private Ryan, which many vets who saw it said it was as true as can horribly be. He has also made only one great film. Schindler’s List. As horrible as your worst nightmare, and as true as evil.

And if I were on Omaha Beach on D-Day, my hands would shake for a lifetime.

7. VARANGALI - 30 September 2006

Irving, thanks for your comment.

My quibble with Spielberg is not that he is a bad filmmaker (some of his films are among my all-time favorites), but rather that he has an annoying habit of hammering his point in, rather than letting it come across subtly.

As I note, he tends to couch his hard-hitting metaphors in contexts that are difficult to criticize for moral reasons. For example, you found fault in my criticizing “Saving Private Ryan” – it is undoubtedly true that one’s hands would shake for a lifetime after surviving D-Day. But a historic film is a microcosm of real life, and one need not show each iteration of a real event to get one’s point across (Kubrick does an even better job of portraying the horrors of war – without a recurring metaphor – in “Full Metal Jacket.”)

A few years ago, I stood on Utah beach and looked out onto the thousands of symmetrically laid out crosses at the American cemetery, with the waves of the Channel crashing behind and the German bunkers still sitting on the sands, unmoved for over fifty years. Standing there, silent in awe and respect, I felt there could be no artistic re-creation that could ever capture the sense of gravity that I felt then, that quiet Fall morning.

Perhaps Spielberg comes close, and that deserves our respect. But respect for the content of a work of art does not mean we cannot criticize the execution of it.

8. Sadiq Baqai - 5 October 2006

Salaam alaykum.

Is it just me, or is watching movies not permissible in Islaam? I think that it’s not permissible.

Rikaz - 6 February 2010

Duh! Pretty obvious your not supposed to! But human nature keeps on tearing our insides and we cleanse ourselves with Isthighfar only to soil our soul again. And so the cycle continues!

9. The Turk - 8 October 2006

Sadiq, I think you need to re-word that question. Me and ABD have debated this endlessly.. The question is there entertainment in Islam? What do you all think?

10. Sadiq - 9 October 2006

Salaam alaykum warahmatullah,

Turk, it was’nt actually a question. I was trying to be a little diplomatic. But if you want me to be a little more explicit, than so be it. There is entertainment in Islaam, but movies as we know them today are HARAAM! I say this because they contain things such as music, cursing, lewdness, and indecent displays of sex all of which are not permisslible in Islaam. Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking otherwise. Wasalaam,


11. ABD - 10 October 2006

wa alaykum as-salaam wa rahmatullah. Sadiq indicates not one but several good reasons to abstain from watching movies, at least the run of the mill ones we usually see. i can’t dispute that, but i will say (following The Turk‘s cue) that we muslims need to identify means of entertainment that we are comfortable with. it’s not clear to me what these might be.

to put this another way: i’ve always wondered what muslims would do for fun in an in an ideal islamic community. would we go bowling? would we read? would we play with the baby? would we make dhikr? i’m not being facetious here—these are genuine questions.

12. talib - 10 October 2006

i think you’re missing a very important question, ABD. we have to ask ourselves as muslims living in said Islamic community: would we play basketball? :)

there are some forms of entertainment that are in themselves haram (music, games of chance). there are then forms of entertainment which are not haram in of themselves but, often contain so much impermissible, inappropriate material that they can be considered as and often are considered as essentially haram by mainstream scholars (tv-can you watch 5 minutes of tv without being force fed a dozen ads with nudity or other lewdness?). we might also agree that there are some things which are not strictly innappropriate in content, but their addictive nature would render them bad for muslims such as it being recommendable for one to avoid them (such as video games). there are other things which are not innappropriate in themselves and not necessarily addictive, but can be detrimental if one is immoderate (stamp collecting, any sport). what is moderate and what is immoderate? one scholar said that if the otherwise permissible activity interferes with one’s performance of the obligatory and highly recommended in our deen, then it becomes haram.

we would also have to consider that the overwhelming plentitude of entertainment avenues available today and the high demand for it is something very new in human history. and so determining permissible and impermissible entertainment might not always be as straightforward as other things in our deen. however, we should not underestimate the knowledge and wisdom of the learned and pious by ignoring their advice and following our own desires.

13. Sadiq - 12 October 2006

Salaam alaykum,

ABD has raised some good questions unfortunately to which I don’t have all the answers. However, we can say in general insha Allaah that sports are permissible. There’s nothing wrong with playing basketball. The Prophet (sallalaahu alayhi wasalam) said “the strong believer is better than the weak believer,” so there’s nothing wrong with getting and staying in shape. However, we make it haraam if we end up missing our prayers because we were playing instead of making our salat at the appropriate times as the brother mentioned. In the NBA, for example, they make basketball haraam by having a half time show with cheerleaders dancing half naked.

Having said that, it’s better to watch basketball on tv (i think they don’t show the half time show) than to watch a movie with all the sexuality and music and stuff. This will come under the minor sins because the players’ awra is sometimes exposed (above the knee) and Allaah says the gist of which that if we avoid the major sins than He’ll forgive the minor ones. In regards to what the brother (drjou) mentioned about video games, once again, if we can find games without nudity and innapropriate material such as basketball, soccer or hockey, than we can turn off the music and play insha Allaah and if we’re moderate by observing our prayers on time, than this is better than watching movies or MTV. Of coarse, we have to keep in mind that we’ll be asked on the Day of Judgement how we spent our time.

The point here is that being a believer does’nt mean that we’re just in the masjid making dhikr and than we go home to get something to eat and than we’re back in the masjid like monks. Not everything is haraam in Islaam but we have to find things which are permissible. I know some brothers who are involved in martial arts and another who’s into quad biking. These are not haraam in and of themselves but as i mentioned before we can make them haraam. if someone is into martial arts and he bows to his teacher, that’s shirk for example, so he or she can avoid the bowing and take benefit from the skill of martial arts. Anything which I’ve said which is true is from Allaah and anything I’ve said which is wrong is from Satan. For further information I would recommend http://www.islam-qa.com.

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