zedz wrote:I haven't read the Godard piece either (and I frankly wouldn't expect much in the way of a cogent or penetrating argument from him). My response was more to counteract the "but he didn't take a salary" defence, as if a paycheck was the only possible way Spielberg could have been self-serving (thanks, Gregory) with this film.
"Oscar bait" is an overused epithet, but I think it applies to this film if it applies to any, in that it's a self-consciously BIG, SERIOUS subject, treated in a shallow, pandering way, by a director who had been repeatedly snubbed by the Oscars and sidelined as a "mere entertainer." It's all dressed up in art film drag (Black-and White! - but with Heavily Symbolic Splash of Colour, to show we're Just Pretending; Foreign Language! - but only when the Imperial Stormtroopers -damn- Evil Nazis are barking orders to the Ewoks -damn- Jews), but it's terrified of alienating its mainstream audience by actually being challenging or ambiguous in any meaningful way.
Well, I was right about this line of argumentation being very unpromising. My point was, it doesn't much matter whether Spielberg made the film as a "self-serving" gesture or not - the film is good or bad regardless of Spielberg's intentions. They're just not relevant, but this seems to form the crux of your problem with the film, that it's a "vanity project" to quote your earlier comment.
Your second paragraph is a mix of irrelevant ad hominems (Spielberg being snubbed previously), maximally uncharitable judgments of minor elements ("art film drag"), and stuff I just don't really understand. I mean, what does it mean to be "challenging" in this context? What does it mean and why is it important to be "ambiguous"? Ambiguous about what? These sound more like cinephilic buzzwords to me than honest and meaningful critique.
Speaking more generally, I often wonder what commentary on the film would look like if the film was exactly the same but hadn't been delivered by a director with such baggage, because so much of the criticism on the film - positive and negative - revolves around him personally in ways that often seem unfair to me. And this is what I was getting at in my earlier comment; it's virtually impossible for Spielberg to make a "serious" film without every reviewer in the world tripping over their own perspective on the legendary status of Spielberg. Even Rosenbaum, whose linked-to review earlier in the thread strikes me for the most part as an honest and fair attempt to grapple with his profound ambivalence towards the film, can't help but slide into ridicule of the director on a personal level. And to what end?