Spielbergization and Its Discontents

Hoberman01

Certain directors—the practiced self-promoters Oliver Stone and Spike Lee come to mind—see themselves as political commentators. Recently, they have been joined by a few producers, on both the secular left, eBay founder Jeff Skoll, and the Christian right, Bush fundraiser Philip Anschutz. But the embodiment of responsible, socially aware moviemaking is that repository of the industry’s institutional memory known as Steven Spielberg.

No one since Reagan has so demonstrated a belief in the redemptive nature of Hollywood entertainment. Such faith is not without a material basis. Spielberg’s status as a moneymaker peaked a dozen years ago, when his two greatest hits, E.T. and Jurassic Park, were first and third on the list of all-time Hollywood box-office attractions, with Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark still inhabiting the top ten. But even today, Spielberg is credited with nine of Hollywood’s hundred highest-grossing movies—more than those directed by his nearest rivals, George Lucas and Peter Jackson, combined.

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