[Film: Stand by Me, Rob Reiner, 1986]
Unromantic Nostalgia:

The Fantastic Rendering of Childhood in Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me

 

Introduction:

Stand by Me movie posterIt’s time once again for a movie recommendation, and what better film to recommend for the holiday season than a sensitive coming-of-age story about four childhood friends seeking a corpse? The film in question is Stand by Me, directed by Rob Reiner and starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell as young friends Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern, respectively.

Stand by Me is undoubtedly one of the disproportionately few truly great films in the staggeringly immense catalogue of movies based on the writing of Stephen King. It is a grounded and realistic story of a weird-yet-simple adventure. Yet the impressiveness of its achievement is not its success as a King adaptation; the impressiveness of its achievement is its success as a movie about childhood. For every piece of writing King has penned and seen turned terrible on the big screen, there are at least five failed attempts to capture the experience of childhood, which is Stand by Me‘s greatest strength.

As tempting as it is to dissect what makes this movie great in minute detail, I intend to instead keep this one spoiler-free in the hopes that any and all interested parties will find a way to watch it. Instead, I want to talk about what sets this movie apart from all those other attempts to capture childhood.

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[Film: Stand by Me, Rob Reiner, 1986]
Unromantic Nostalgia:

The Fantastic Rendering of Childhood in Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg, 1977]
Spielberg Before the Sentiment:

Discord and Discovery in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind

 

Introduction:

Steven Spielberg - Close Encounters of the Third Kind - epistemology, knowledgeIn the study of film, the group ready to identify Steven Spielberg as an immensely influential, clever, and popular director, but not a particularly artistic filmmaker, is no minority. The reasons for this are not all that difficult to figure out, after you are familiar with a large number of his films.

Spielberg’s dramas are often overwhelmingly saccharine; his action films often sacrifice tension to safety and predictability; his historical films play loose with the facts and the tone, often in the interest of either the aforementioned sentimentality or else American nationalism; and many of his films across all genres rely on reductive, trite moralizing. A prime example of many of these issues is fan-favorite Saving Private Ryan, which represents at times a relentless, graphic, unsentimental portrait of armed conflict, but which is interspersed with and ends with a clarification that the film loves a good soldier, loves America, and loves any war America should happen to fight.

Praising and Criticizing Spielberg:

With all that stated and recognized, however, I do not count myself among those who dismiss Spielberg as a creator of blockbusters, and nothing more. Even if I would agree that many of his films (even many of his most popular films) do not stand up well under scrutiny, I think that some of his films do pass beyond the (unjustly maligned) category of entertainment, and into the hallowed category of art.
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[Film: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg, 1977]
Spielberg Before the Sentiment:

Discord and Discovery in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind

was last modified: February 26th, 2021 by Daniel Podgorski