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The Greatest Year Ever for an Artist: Spielberg’s 1993 Celebrates 30
Three decades of Spielberg's masterworks Jurassic Park and Schindler's List.
Patrick: Leonardo di Vinci was not painting The Last Supper and Mona Lisa at the same time. Maya Angelou wrote "Caged Bird" and "On the Pulse of Morning" two decades apart. But while Steven Spielberg was filming Schindler's List during the day, he would edit Jurassic Park at night. Both of these films are, in my opinion, masterpieces. Is there a better single year for an artist? I did some digging and only found two serious opponents: Shakespeare wrote Macbeth and King Lear in the same year, while Dr. Seuss did the same with The Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Taylor: I think the only artist that holds a flame to this kind of year is Rachel McAdams in 2004 when she filmed both The Notebook and Mean Girls. God, that was iconic.
Patrick: All joking aside, we're being a little silly here, but our jokes make it no less amazing. I've very stingy with my five-star ratings on Letterboxd (sorry if that makes me an elitist jerk) and I've only given eight films those perfect marks - these movies are two of them!
Taylor: Jurassic Park is the easiest five-star rating I've ever given. I give fives for all sorts of reasons - because they're personal, highly subjective favorites, they're nostalgic, I have a memory attached to them, etc. - but it's rare that I give something a five star because I wholly believe it is objectively flawless, and I believe that about Jurassic Park. Schindler's List is also brilliant. I think it's a lot to take in, and I've only seen it once, so I'd like to see it again before I dive right into "perfect" territory, but replace "perfect" for a number of other praising adjectives - it's touching, compelling, honest, beautifully shot, masterfully written, and just all around awe-inspiring. People chase one single achievement this big their entire careers, and to think he not only has a dozen of these successful movies under his belt, but made two of the very best in just one year...it's incredible.
Patrick: Let's start with Jurassic. This is a movie we go see any time it plays on a big screen and the recent 3D re-release was no exception. Obviously, it's cool to see dinosaurs run around up close and straight towards your face, but this time around I was really taken by how masterful his composition is in every single shot. The 3D just highlights the fact that he knows exactly where the camera should be, who the focus should be on, and what's most important during every image. And on top of being a great fundamentalist, he's a great sentimentarian (new word?) - I know there's a scene that always gets you choked up...
Taylor: On our most recent Jurassic outing, you mentioned being hesitant to go because you didn't want to get "burnt out" on seeing it. And in essence, I understand that sentiment. But this rewatch really proved to me that I could never get burnt out on the movie. Not only are we spoiled with new ways to see it occasionally (like this 3D re-release, and we still haven't made it to a symphony play-along) which makes it exciting and fresh, but there is always something new to me about it. I dial in on an aspect of the set dressing I haven't yet noticed or I see an easter egg in the background. But even beyond those new things, it's rich with things that are just simply rewatchable. The part that gets me choked up every time is when Ellie and Alan see the dinosaurs for the first time. He notices them first, then he turns her head and they stand there, acting against nothing (and this isn't a skill actors have really developed yet!), and I cry every. single. time. That moment doesn't need to be fresh or new, it's just absolutely brilliant, and it will never get old.
Patrick: I think that Spielberg's love for big, broad feelings often ends up the butt of a joke and I don't quite understand why. Don't we want our film directors to care deeply and passionately about making us laugh or cry or stand up and cheer? I think Schindler's really gets at the heart of that as well. He had already made plenty of Indiana Jones movies where Nazis were the bad guys, but those were fun action romps where Nazis get punched in the face. He wanted to tell a story that would be important to him and make sure it was deeply felt.
Taylor: My mom begged me for years and years and years to watch Schindler's List, and I never did because planning to sit and watch a movie that you know is going to emotionally destroy you just isn't very enticing. And while it did break my heart, my heartbreak is in no better hands than Spielberg. It is a dark, jarring, painful movie, but his approach is still distinctly tender. Not only is it unbelievable that he had the literal time in the day to make these two movies simultaneously, but how did he have the emotional bandwidth to do anything else in life while working on Schindler's List? It just blows my mind.
Patrick: Along those same lines, I don't understand how you tone-switch. How do you direct a leather-clad (and I must say, extremely jacked) Jeff Goldblum running away from an invisible dinosaur and then turn around and direct Ralph Fiennes on a recreated Płaszów concentration camp?
Taylor: It's one of those things that will give you a headache if you think about it too much. I think it's just a Spielberg thing. A moment in time unique to him. Maybe it's my lack of inherent artistry, but it really is something I just can't personally fathom so I have to take it on the head and simply appreciate it for exactly what it was - an artistic feat that will maybe never be rivaled again in our lifetime.
Patrick: We recently decided to finally give in and watch Schindler's after a day at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (which, I have to say, is a must-visit if you are in the D.C. area) and I was struck by how the film, while containing a lot of the same lessons that we learned at the museum, never felt like a museum piece. It was lively, it was real. Jurassic does the same thing with fake dinosaurs. On the opposite end, that movie is complete nonsense! But it always feels so real. He's somehow a master of cinema without letting anything feel too cinematic. It's a near-impossible balance.
Taylor: And a balance we clearly can't put into words. His movies make us feel big things, which is most important. But words seem to fail.
Patrick: I don't know how to put it other than this: his movies are so full of life. Life, which, as you know, always finds a way.
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