‘The Fabelmans’, Steven Spielberg’s latest movie, is a moving and touching tribute to himself.
The movie exists because Spielberg, like Joe Biden, has stuck around long enough to become an institution. Despite recent bombs like a woke West Side Story remake, Hollywood is willing to subsidize Spielberg much as the Democrats prop up Joe Biden, because he maintains the fiction that the industry represents something more than a cynical power and money grab.
And Spielberg, with Bidenesque levels of bad judgment, decided that what he wanted to do was film a mawky coming of age story that had been done a million times before. The sensitive boy, drawn to his mother, misunderstood by his father, who pursues his dream of writing novels or making movies until he succeeds enough to be able to tell the story of his own preciousness is a staple of literary and cinematic industries trapped in a narcissistic love affair with themselves.
‘The Fabelmans’ is formally dedicated to Spielberg’s parents, but would make them roll in their graves. But that’s okay. The protagonist of ‘The Fabelmans’ is the young Spielberg who heroically emerges from the trauma of middle-class life to make a movie about his growth as an artist. And the privilege of being the subject is reducing everyone around you to objects.
The trouble is that Spielberg is no more of an artist now than Biden is a politician. Both men are propped up by parasites and enablers dining out on their name recognition. Spielberg’s Ron Klain is Tony Kushner, a leftist hack playwright who has been the hump on Spielberg’s back for over a decade. The adult Spielberg, like the child filmmaker of ‘The Fabelmans’, had a knack for capturing dynamic moments, but no grasp of the bigger picture. Like other boomer blockbuster directors, including pal George Lucas, he brought to life the creative influences of his childhood, movie serials and thriller comics, monsters and space aliens, created as disposable rubbish by an earlier generation.
It never occurred to Spielberg or many of his contemporaries that they were destroying the culture that had made their childhoods magical while supporting social policies that are wrecking the lives of the next generation. The famed director need look no further than his daughter who has become a porn star. Instead, Spielberg once again cinematically looks to the past while funding radical politicians and causes, from George Gascon to abortion in Kansas.
The present that Spielberg helped to make by funding radical leftist causes is no pleasant place, from the homeless encampments and crime of Los Angeles, to the destruction of a generation of teens, so instead he keeps pointing the camera into the past so as not to see the future.
After running out of fairy dust from past generations, Spielberg turned to historical dramas whose only notable points were that he managed to miss the point about them every time. From ‘Schindler’s List’ to ‘Munich’ to ‘Bridge of Spies’, he rode liberal cliches around history while increasingly coming to side with the villains from the Muslim terrorists to Communist spies. Those movies and the hollowness of the Jewish background depicted in ‘The Fabelmans’ do nothing to disprove the otherwise implausible story from ‘Red Dawn’ director John Millus that Spielberg only discovered about the Holocaust from reading Time-Life books in his thirties.
Kushner provided Spielberg with a point of view, anti-American, and, in the case of ‘Munich’, anti-Israel, that only someone as fundamentally ignorant of history as Spielberg would have taken seriously. The historical howlers in ‘Munich’ and ‘Bridge of Spies’ are legendary, but Spielberg dismissed the critics as just younger versions of his father who don’t get his genius.
That’s fine, but there’s no more genius left. Biden is propped up by teleprompters and earpieces, Spielberg by special effects. The real visual talent in his latter-day movies like ‘The Fabelmans’ belongs to the editors and cinematographers who once collaborated with Spielberg but now drag him through the business of auto-tuning his movies to look visually stunning.
Editor Michael Kahn, who has been with Spielberg through ‘E.T.’, ‘Raiders’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’, and Janusz Kamiński, who followed him from ‘Schindler’s List’ through almost every project since, could make a student film look good. In the Peak TV era of massive budgets and runaway technological prowess, Hollywood projects have never looked so good or been so badly written, composed and edited. Spielberg is lucky to hang on to Kahn who can make even his most disjointed efforts seem coherent or to Kamiński who brings a touch of old world cinematography to fill any frame with light, but none of that can disguise the missing auteur.
Steven Spielberg can’t make a movie just like Joe Biden can’t be president. The army of spongers, grifters, enablers, talented colleagues and technical personnel can fool most people, but the resulting products never leave the ground because there’s no guiding vision. Neither Biden nor Spielberg are animated by any greater impulse than clinging to fame. Facing mortality and oblivion, they retreat into sullen tirades and narcissistic self-pity. Both men are celebrated for their empathy, but their decline reveals that they never cared for anyone but themselves.
‘The Fabelmans’ should be the end of Spielberg’s career. A final tribute to a man who lost the plot decades ago from an indulgent industry that uses the myth of creative genius to cover its many sins. But, like Biden, Spielberg has no intention of leaving the stage. Unable to tell any stories except those gleaned from his Time-Life library and then pre chewed by Tony Kushner, he has achieved his dream of being taken seriously while losing the young boy within.
That boy, the protagonist of ‘The Fabelmans’, is self-centered, but he’s driven by visions of adventure. What happens to that boy when he loses the impulse to imagine, to dream and invent, to escape his suburban life by imagining another one? The familiar story of Boomer culture is that he becomes a narcissistic shell without the redeeming quality of creativity.
The ranks of the Democrats and of the Left are stocked with these aged man-children who, despite their best efforts, became what they hated and feared about their parents, but without the sense of decency and responsibility that Spielberg still ridicules in his father. Spielberg’s Peter Pan, like his ill-fated movie project with Robin Williams, never goes back to fairyland, but also never grows up into a functioning adult. Even at the age of 75, he is still a child. But without the charm, the spark and the inventiveness of childhood. ‘The Fabelmans’ is a bookend to a career that began with glorified pulps, left childhood behind with ’Hook’ and returns once again.
Only this time the house is empty. All that’s left are old grudges and older memories.
The only thing interesting about ‘The Fabelmans’ and Spielberg is how uninteresting it all is. Some artists emerge from trauma, but that is no more of a precondition than any of the other myths of genius. The only achievement of ‘The Fabelmans’ will be to dissuade anyone from believing that there’s anything interesting about Steven Spielberg. But Spielberg was probably the only one who ever thought that there was. Much as Joe Biden believes he’s interesting.
After tiring of the cowboys and urban desperados, the pratfall comics and doomed love affairs that made it an industry, Hollywood fell in love with telling its own story. There’s a reason so many movies are set in Los Angeles and so many Academy Award winners revolve around the film industry. The greatest trick ever played by the industry is the conviction of its own importance. The mysticism of the auteur director, the little god of the theaters, still has its own shrine even as the industry is being reduced to an ancillary Big Tech project that exists to sell subscriptions to streaming services while the movie theaters go begging for spare change.
Spielberg could potentially help change that. ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ struck a powerful blow for movie theaters and for making movies the way that they did in populist 80s. But he’s too busy being wrapped up in his tiresome politics, nostalgia and narcissism. The director most celebrated by the industry is too busy looking in the mirror to save the movie theaters that made him great.
‘The Fabelmans’, prepped for a Thanksgiving release, is exactly the kind of movie that put people off going to movie theaters. Spielberg and his cohort once shook up a movie industry that had become wrapped up in virtue signaling and experimentation by making crowd-pleasing fare. Many decried Spielberg for turning out ‘dumb’ blockbusters filled with special effects and driving out the incoherent leftist navel-gazing exercises being inflicted on audiences at the time.
Spielberg never got over being snubbed as an unserious artist. After ‘Jurassic Park’ ushered in the age of special effects blockbusters that abandoned storytelling for computer generated fantasies, he spent a generation making po-faced cluelessly serious Oscar-bait. Now he can’t even properly do that anymore. All that’s left is more of the incoherent narcissistic navel-gazing that he built his fame and fortune on routing in his talented youth all those years ago.
Biden ran as the man who could save the Democrats, instead he’s destroying them. Spielberg keeps promising to save Hollywood, but like Biden, he’s too far gone to save his own legacy.
America and their respective industries would be better off without both of them.
Article posted with permission from Daniel Greenfield
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