directors, movies

Kubrick Stare vs. Spielberg Face

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Have you seen the marvelous Kevin B. Lee visual essay surrounding the trademark Steven Spielberg face? It’s engrossing and only nine minutes. Watch it, it’s fascinating.


The Kubrick Stare. The person lowers the head and stares away signifying madness.

OR my favorite Kubrick stare, Pyle in Full Metal Jacket

Their signature stares have become a cliché.  Whose are better? Kubrick or Spielberg?

actors, directors, movies, oscars

The Best Decade in Film: 1990s

It’s obvious to me that the 1990s were the best years in film. Drama defined the decade because of the contributions of Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and the Coen Brothers.

Tom Hanks. He owned the decade. Sure, there were mediocre choices like That Thing You Do! in 1996 or in 1992, as Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own. He managed to put his personal stamp on the film with the memorable phrase, “There’s no crying in baseball!”
But consider this blockbuster list:
1990, Bonfire of the Vanities
1993, Philadelphia (Best Acting Oscar)
1993, Sleepless in Seattle
1994, Forrest Gump (Best Acting Oscar)
1995, Toy Story
1995, Apollo 13
1998, Saving Private Ryan
1999, The Green Mile
1999, Toy Story 2
Many would say Saving Private Ryan is the best war film. His ability to represent the common man with simplistic charm is reminiscent of the great Jimmy Stewart. However, Jimmy only won one Oscar in 1940 with The Philadelphia Story. Of course, Tom Hanks greeted the new century with strong performances but it was the 1990s where he became the legend we know today.


Steven Spielberg
His relationship with Tom Hanks in films has served them both well. Not only is Saving Private Ryan arguably the best war film, which is a Spielberg masterpiece, Spielberg gets the credit for the best film ever made with Schindler’s List. That’s a subjective claim, but does anyone disagree that Schindler’s List is one of the finest films in the history of film making?

It happened in the 1990s.

What else did Steven Spielberg put out that decade? Two personal favorites are Jurassic Park, 1993, and Amistad in 1998.

Speaking of directors and actors teaming up, how about Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro in the 1990s? Here are the best gangster films combined with strong acting in DeNiro’s career:

Martin Scorsese                          
1990, Goodfellas  
1991, Cape Fear
1993, The Age of Innocence   
1995, Casino

Robert DeNiro

1990, Goodfellas

1991, Cape Fear

1993, This Boy’s Life

1995, Casino

1997, Wag the Dog

If you disagree that Schindler’s List wasn’t the best film of the decade, then you probably agree with a million other critics that Pulp Fiction was the best film of the decade. QT shocked with Reservoir Dogs and impressed us with Jackie Brown. If you are a Coen Brothers fan, then you probably are a cult follower of the Dude and drink White Russians as a token of homage. That was when I was snookered by Jeff Bridges as an exceptional actor in The Big Lebowski. Fargo, Miller’s Crossing, and Barton Fink solidified the Coen’s career and into the twenty-first they flew with one instant classic after another. Finally, if the above reasons don’t convince you, here are more random films from the 1990s that I favor:

L.A. Confidential, Mission Impossible, Being John Malkovich, Rushmore, Contact, Sense and Sensibility, Elizabeth, Dogma, Last of the Mohicans, Dances with Wolves, Sling Blade, The Piano, Star Trek: First Contact, and Run Lola Run.

Are you convinced now that the 1990s was the best decade in film-making history?

"Sincerely, your favorite fan", actors, directors, movies, scores

Dear Steven Spielberg,


I am tired of today’s version of the blockbuster film. Action directors like Jerry Bruckheimer, Roland Emmerich, and Michael Bay focus on the doomsday of time and the destruction of the world without hope with wooden characters that say sappy one-liners. They have nothing on you, Mr. Spielberg. You are the king of science fiction. Who could top you? Close Encounters of the Third Kind was profound and altered the world’s idea that meeting extraterrestrials could be a positive experience. You and Carl Sagan looked at space as a marvelous frontier. I appreciate that.


Your films bring hope, loveable characters and tell the story of the human spirit. You are the definitive director who has changed the world through film. Why are you the best? I know a few reasons why.

The Kids

Nothing creates empathy quicker than watching a cute kid suffer. It’s easy to put oneself into the shoes of a kid, triggering up insecurities of our own childhoods, and looking at their world with the wisdom of an adult. If you are a parent, it’s a double-whammy. You remember how hard it was growing up, and you want to protect the child as if he were your own. I say “he” because you have never had a female girl as the principal protagonist. How come? (No, Dakota Fanning doesn’t count. It was all Tom redeeming himself as Dad in War of the Worlds. And Whoopi Goldberg was a woman in The Color Purple.)


My favorite of your kids, better than E.T.’s Henry Thomas or A.I’s Haley Joel Osmend is Christian Bale as a twelve-year-old “Jamie” Graham in Emperor of the Sun (1987). Separated from his wealthy parents and surviving alone in Japanese occupation during World War II, he comes-of-age with an opportunist rascal played by John Malkovich.

Simple Plots

Frequently, you select very simple plots for your films. My favorite is Jurassic Park, which I think is one of your perfect films.


All the characters have to do is go from point A to B. If they make it, they win. In 1993 when this classic came out, you brought to the screen a marvelous philosophical adventure by author Michael Crichton about the possibility of dabbling in God’s domain. It was a modern twist Mary Shelley would have approved of. Only death and destruction to the man who ventures beyond what he should. Lovely, lovely stuff.

Historical Films

I love your historical films. With authenticity and bravado, you recreate the historical climate better than anyone. Your shots are powerful. I mean, in Saving Private Ryan, I was crying in the first ten minutes when the old veteran dropped to his knees at Arlington Cemetary.


I am excited about commenting on each of them in my new series, “History in Films” but I will say, my favorite two are Amistad and Schindler’s List which are perfect films and all humans should watch them.


The Middle Passage sequence and the character Cinque played by Djimon Hounsou was some of the best acting I can think of. Speaking of actors…

The Best Talent

Any actor would say yes to working with you. In fact, if you starred them in your film, no doubt, their reputations catapulted. You only sign up the very best to star in your films, and you have cemented the careers of many:


Tom Hanks: Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal


Tom Cruise: Minority Report, War of the Worlds

And these greats have all been a part of your magic over the last 40 years:

Anthony Hopkins, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Kingsley, Daniel Day Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Liam Neeson, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, Matthew McConaughey, Jude Law, Morgan Freeman, Bob Hoskins, Christopher Walken, Christopher Lee, Colin Farrell, Daniel Craig, Dan Aykroyd, John Malkovich, Ben Stiller, Danny Glover, David Strathairn, Dennis Weaver, Eric Bana, Geoffrey Rush, Hal Holbrook, James Brolin, Jeff Goldblum, Laurence Fishburne, Mickey Rourke, Sam Neill, Paul Giamatti…and on and on and on. Just about all the males in Hollywood have worked with you.

Oh, yeah. I forgot one.


Harrison Ford.

Mr. Spielberg, I wonder why you have starred relatively few women in your films? And why have you never worked with Robert DeNiro other than Cape Fear as Executive Director? Why not Al Pacino? Really? What have I missed?

John Williams

I’ve mentioned this before, but your relationship with John Williams is a marriage in heaven. I don’t know who benefited more, you or John. He has scored ALL of your major films except for The Color Purple. That is a huge factor in your success. The best score of all time is Star Wars. 

You are my all time favorite director, Mr. Spielberg. I only hope you will see fit to feature more girls and women in your films in the future. As the star of the show. Not the side kick or eye candy. Otherwise, I don’t care if your critics think you are overly-sentimental. I love to cry at films. You are the reason I love going to the movies.


Your Favorite Fan