Spielberg: HBO Documentary celebrates Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg directing Lincoln. Courtesy of Walt Disney/20th Century Fox

Steven Spielberg’s life and career is celebrated in Spielberg, a new documentary from HBO.

From award-winning director Susan Lacy, Spielberg’s life is documented in 2.5 hours and that amount of time alone isn’t enough to cover everything in Spielberg’s career.  Many films are allotted to just a glimpse in a montage that covers Spielberg’s filmmaking career and even then, there are a number of Spielberg films that manage to get left out.

“I avoided therapy because movies are my therapy,” Spielberg said of his relationship with his father and being a child of divorce.

It’s true.  How many of his films focus in on divorce or childhood.  How many deal with separation and reunification?  These are themes that are frequently depicted over the course of Spielberg’s filmmaking career.

The legendary filmmaker was destined to become a filmmaker after watching the award-winning Lawrence of Arabia, the 1962 epic drama that starred the late Peter O’Toole.  This was a film that affected Spielberg much in the same way that his groundbreaking 1993 classic, Jurassic Park, did so for me.  How much of an impact did the classic have on Spielberg?  He still watches it every year.

There are numerous family members, friends, talent, and crew members interviewed over the course of the 2.5-hour documentary.  It cannot be stressed enough that 2.5 hours is not enough time to cover Spielberg’s career and to do so with justice.  How do you give more time to Empire of the Sun and completely leave out 1979 cult comedy 1941?  Much in the same way that mother! was released commercially, Empire of the Sun was given a wide release and failed on a commercial level.

Steven Spielberg on the set of Schindler’s List. Courtesy of HBO.

It can’t be said enough just how much Schindler’s List paved the way for Spielberg’s legacy to be set in stone.  Take away everything else that the filmmaker has ever done and it’s this film that made him “so proud to be a Jew.”  Here was a guy who felt so ashamed for his religion as he grew up being picked on and teased by his neighbors for being Jewish–and yet, he’s the guy who sets up the Shoah Foundation and enables as many survivor stories to be collected before time runs out.

The Spielberg classics that one expects to be covered with a decent amount of time devoted to those films are covered in addition to some of the other not-so-classic Spielberg films: Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, War of the Worlds, Munich, Lincoln, and Bridge of Spies.

Films like Amistad and The BFG are relegated to the clips in the montage of the filmmaker’s career–and again, a cult comedy such as 1941 gets completely ignored.

Lacy interviewed the legendary director for nearly 30 hours alone.  It would be nice to see what interview footage didn’t make the final cut.  It wouldn’t hurt to see what he had to say about his lesser-beloved films or the ones that audiences just didn’t buy into.  In addition to family members, interview subjects include J.J. Abrams, Christian Bale, Drew Barrymore, Cate Blanchett, Francis Ford Coppola, Daniel Craig, Daniel Day-Lewis, Brian de Palma, Laura Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio, Richard Dreyfuss, Ralph Fiennes, Harrison Ford, David Geffen, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Holly Hunter, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Ben Kingsley, Kathleen Kennedy, George Lucas, Liam Neeson, Martin Scorsese, Oprah Winfrey and Robert Zemeckis.

Spielberg airs Saturday, October 7th at 8 PM ET/PT only on HBO.  It will also be made available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and affiliate portals.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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