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K.A.W. Archives Part 2
Saving Private Ryan

Last Week: A Kex Classic: Shaving Ryan's Privates:

There is something spooky about renting movies that makes me a little nervous. No matter what movie I go to rent, someone, somewhere, apparently already knows what Im going to select. How else can you describe the chilling message that appears at the beginning of every rented film I pop into my VCR. Im telling you, it gives me the willies every time I see it.

I cant quote the message word for word, but it goes something like this: This film has been altered from its original version, and reformatted to fit your screen. Is that spooky or what? I can only wonder, how did they know what kind of TV I have? How did they know what size my screen is? Most important of all, how did they know what movie I was going to rent?

Naturally my first thought was that there was some sort of infiltrator in my household, feeding information to some sort of movie rental consortium someplace. So I was careful this week not to let anyone else know exactly what I intended to rent. That wasnt all that difficult, because until I got to the rental place, I didnt even really know what I intended to rent. Still, I popped my selection into the VCR, and there was the message. I dont know how they do it, but I think somebody needs to look into this. Talk about big brother watching.

Oh, yeah, the movie review. Once upon a time, there was a movie director who became well known, and developed a popular following by making fun, light-hearted movies that people loved to go see. Just about every film he ever made was a box office smash, and people really loved his work.

Then somewhere along the line, he got the idea that he didnt need to make films for the people anymore. Instead, he could satisfy his own whims with self-indulgent crap. Most of what followed ranged from annoying and generally painful to watch, to full blown trash. Its not an uncommon kind of thing in Hollywood: Let a man make a few successful films, and suddenly he starts to think roses grow wherever he pees.

But enough about Woody Allen. Or not enough: Maybe somebody should tattoo the mans name over the lenses of Steven Spielbergs eyeballs. If ever there was a man hell bent on tripping merrily down Allens path of self-righteousness, its Spielberg. I toss into evidence the general body of work he has done over the last 10 years or so.

Dont get me wrong here: Schindlers List was one of the great films of all time. Not just by our estimation here at K.A.W., but its either in or very near the AFI top 10 as well. Amistad was a perfectly credible and good movie, and our target this week, Saving Private Ryan got roundly screwed a couple of years ago when it was bested for Oscar honors by the unspeakably dull and pretentious Shakespeare In Love. K.A.W. was still in its infancy when that debacle erupted, and I wasnt doing reviews yet. But if I had been, there might very well be a review rating entitled Sucked as bad as Shakespeare In Love.

Ive made the point here that winning the Oscar for Best Picture is not necessarily an indication that a particular movie is good. Consider the assaults on our sensibilities that have been awarded the coveted statue the past few years: Titanic , Shakespeare In Love, American Beauty ....its almost as if Hollywood is trying to convince us that some of their collectively most obnoxious celluloid bowl movements really represent high art.

But back to Spielberg: Here is a guy with a reputation of possessing the proverbial Midas Touch. That reputation isnt entirely illegitimate, because it was built on entertaining and fun stories about sharks, flying saucers, alien visitors, Indiana Jones and what not. Of course, we deliberately leave reference to 1942 off the list, because that film nearly sucked the universe right out of existance; even Spielberg is human.

So, he develops this golden touch reputation, the latter mention notwithstanding, and just like Allen, decides to slow down a bit and start making sort of personal type movies. Naturally the studios toss about a hundred million bucks a shot at him, because afterall, he is Spielberg. And what does he use the vast resources of Hollywood to tell us, with these new, personal type films? The Holocaust was bad. Slavery was bad. Now with Private Ryan, he really stretches the envelop and tells us (drum roll) war is bad. Damn Steve. Dont go sticking your neck out any there buddy.

There is only one member of the cast of this film who ever appears as much of anything other than a glorified extra with a couple of lines. That is Tom Hanks, who gets a nomination for a Best Actor Oscar about as often as Sylvestor Stallone gets nominated for a Golden Raspberry for worst actor. In other words, about everytime one of them appears in a film. Hanks is a Captain who is trying to rescue a soldier who has already lost 3 brothers in the war. So, he leads his ragtag bunch of perennial film extras behind German lines, and proceeds to show us that war really is hell.

Okay, so I liked Saving Private Ryan in the sense that is a well made, maybe even important film. I can even forgive Spielberg his desires to try to make important movies. But hey Steve, for a hundred million bucks, could you at least go out on the limb a little?