“We Can’t Just Do Nothing”
August 27, 2009
Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror By Mahmood Mamdani (Pantheon, 398 pp., $26.95) The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and For All By Gareth Evans (Brookings, 349 pp., $24.95) I. IN THE SUMMER OF 2007, Mahmood Mamdani found himself at a meeting of activists and politicians, listening to sentiments that had by then become quite common among a certain class of politically active Americans. The speakers were calling on the United Nations to send peacekeepers to Darfur.
Ask A Stupid Question...
May 13, 2009
The Hollywood Reporter poses the question "Is J.J. Abrams the new Steven Spielberg?" and answers: not quite. Spielberg and Abrams are consummate showmen who know how to deliver mainstream entertainment with the right mix of adventure, interesting characters and eye-popping spectacle. They also share the ability to inspire those around them with their creative energy, childlike enthusiasm for their craft and endless streams of ideas for multiple media. But whatever their similarities in filmmaking style and creative taste, Abrams is not -- as yet -- in the same class as Spielberg. "As yet"!
Spielberg And China
February 13, 2008
Yesterday, Steven Spielberg announced that he is withdrawing from his role as artistic advisor to the Beijing Olympics in order to protest China's link to the Darfur genocide. Spielberg is certainly correct that Beijing has supplied Khartoum with weapons, money, and diplomatic cover. And anything that embarrasses Beijing over this morally indefensible support for Sudan is a positive development. In that respect, good for Spielberg. Yet Spielberg's statement announcing his decision bothered me--for reasons having nothing to do with Darfur.
Matters of Fate
January 29, 2007
In the otherwise brilliant opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan, dramatizing the American landings in France on D-day, Steven Spielberg made one small slip. He completely engulfs the viewer in the American assault; but when we are thus immersed, he inserts a brief clip of German machine-gunners firing at the Americans. This complete switch in view cracks our involvement. It takes a few seconds to become American-absorbed again. Knowingly or not, Clint Eastwood has converted the Spielberg slip into a triumph.
Men at Arms
November 13, 2006
These are the first minutes of FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, Clint Eastwood's new film about the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. When word came of an Eastwood film on this subject, the blood didn't exactly freeze, but it did become tepid. Did the twenty-first century really need another gung-ho tale of World War II? Eastwood's reply is no. His film is crammed with physical horror and courage in crisis, but the intent is not mere replication of battle.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Spielberg's List
January 23, 2006
By now the filmgoing world knows that Steven Spielberg has three selves. First is the self most frequently summoned, the maker of superlative entertainments (Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial). His second self applies his talent seriously to serious subjects (Schindler's List, Amistad). The third self produces hybrids, films that use both of the other two selves (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Saving Private Ryan). Spielberg's new film, Munich, was made by the third self.
December 24, 2005
Last week I attended a screening of Munich in Washington. The evening included testimonials to the film's cinematic power from former Clinton officials Mike McCurry and Dennis Ross, both serving as consultants to the movie's rollout, plus more praise from Princeton Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter and Foreign Policy Editor-In-Chief Moisés Naím.
Paint it Black
November 29, 2005
It's rarely an attractive sight when a lifelong good guy decides it's time to show everyone he can be bad. For most men, such crises of character involve the midlife acquisition of a motorcycle or sports car, though in some cases an electric guitar suffices. (The leather jacket and sunglasses are givens.) The metamorphosis can be particularly disturbing in filmmakers, who after all have more vivid ways of dramatizing their states of mind than mere automobiles and accoutrements.
Terror and Television
February 07, 2005
The speed at which popular culture now dramatizes actual events is extraordinary. I'm not sure whether a movie was made about Kennedy's assassination not long after the event, but it was decades before a film appeared that portrayed Kennedy's murder with real provocative detachment, Oliver Stone's tendentious JFK. Two years later Hollywood finally applied itself big-time to the Holocaust with Schindler's List. There were previous Holocaust films, obviously; but Hollywood gigantism in the treatment of the subject had to await Steven Spielberg.
July 26, 2004
The basic idea of The Terminal, Steven Spielberg's new film, comes from the story of an Iranian citizen who became trapped in a Paris airport with an invalid passport. He could neither enter France nor go home. With this fact as base, Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson have fashioned a screenplay for Spielberg--original story by Gervasi and Andrew Niccol--set in the international terminal of Kennedy Airport in New York. That basic idea is stimulating. Airports, as experiences, are haunting.