Given how much space physical media takes up, it’s hard for movie buffs to say no to the great promise of “cloud storage,” and the idea that we could summon anything we want to watch with just a couple of clicks. But so far, reality hasn’t matched the hype. Streaming services have been focused on exclusives and original programming, to the extent that the only way to have access to everything available is to spend hundreds of dollars a month on subscription fees. Meanwhile, older films keep disappearing from the digital archives; and even items that cinephiles “own” sometimes become inaccessible whenever software updates or a site shutters.
Steven Spielberg has only gotten busier in recent years; the prolific director has been adding a fair amount of projects to his growing to-do list, including Indiana Jones 5, set to hit theaters in 2019. Harrison Ford will return to reprise his iconic role as the archaeological adventurer despite repeatedly denied rumors that Disney is looking to pass the torch to a new star. If you had any remaining doubts, Spielberg himself assures fans that Ford isn’t going anywhere — at least not in his Indy universe.
Last week, we took note of a new business venture called Screening Room spearheaded by Napster founder Sean Parker. The proposed service would digitally stream the latest major-studio theatrical releases into the confines of private American homes for a hefty estimated fee of $50 on the same day as in-theater premieres, rendering a trip to the local cineplex less necessary than ever. Naturally, this radical new strategy would change the entire face of the industry, and has accordingly raised hackles on the production, distribution, and exhibition sides of Hollywood. As movie theaters struggle to stay relevant and profitable, Parker’s every press conference sounds like a death knell. And this weekend, both sides of this instantly contentious debate dug in their heels on their positions.
When all you care about is money, bad things happen. That’s the message of Jurassic World, where greedy theme-park executives hoping to spike attendance engineer the “Indominus Rex,” a genetically-modified dinosaur that immediately turns on its creators and runs amok. Designed as a cautionary tale about the dangers of building a meaner, badder monster purely for the sake of profits, Jurassic World works equally well as a cautionary tale about doing the same thing in movies. All of the rationalizations provided by Jurassic World’s employees — “Consumers want them bigger, louder, more teeth.” “Somebody’s gotta make sure this company has a future!” — could have been taken directly out of the mouths of the studio executives who approved this gene splice of a reboot and a sequel. Their creation — the Indominus or the movie, there’s basically no difference — is as advertised; huge, mean, and visually striking. But this experiment is not without consequences.
When Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg last made a war film, they produced Saving Private Ryan, which was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, and features what’s widely considered one of the greatest battle scenes ever captured on film. They’ve worked together since, including on Catch Me If You Can, one of the best movies of either man’s career, but Bridge of Spies might be considered a kind of spiritual sequel to Ryan. That was Hanks and Spielberg’s World War II picture. This is their Cold War one.
On June 20, 1975 a movie about an angry fish opened in about 500 theaters around the country. It was called Jaws, it was directed a guy named Steven Spielberg, it was scary as hell, and it changed the world forever. Its unique release strategy (wide instead of limited), intense television marketing campaign, and record-breaking box office essentially created the summer movie season (and made Spielberg a household name). 40 years later, regardless of its impact, Jaws remains a masterpiece, and a much better and more interesting movie than the vast majority of so-called summer blockbusters that it birthed.
There’s a running joke in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade that Indy took his nickname from the family dog. That joke has some truth to it though because as George Lucas was developing Raiders of the Lost Ark, he actually named the character after his dog, Jones (the “Indiana” was a riff on Steve McQueen character Nevada Smith). Coincidentally, the same dog was the inspiration for Chewbacca in Star Wars. Need more Raiders of the Lost Ark facts? Throw us the idol and we’ll throw you the latest episode of You Think You Know Movies!
Well, this was unexpected. After a few years of development, Warner Bros. is officially moving forward with a big screen adaptation of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and they’re doing so with the director most likely to break the brains of the novel’s biggest fans: Steven Spielberg. Yes, Spielberg is going to direct a science fiction story powered by raw ‘80s nostalgia for the same studio where he produced Gremlins and The Goonies.
We all watch the Oscars for different reasons. Some watch for the sheer spectacle. Some watch to see if the movies they like actually win something. Some watch so they can drunkenly criticize what everyone is wearing. But in the end, it all comes down to all viewers doing the exact same thing: watching people thank other people for upwards of three hours. But which people have been thanked the most in 86 years of Oscar history? Someone with a lot of time on their hands decided to figure that out.