A week in books
Boyd Tonkin is Senior Writer and a columnist at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Literary Editor at The Independent, and before that Social Policy Editor and then Books Editor at the New Statesman magazine. He has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes and has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize. In 2001, he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for literature in translation, and serves on its judging panel every year.
Saturday 21 December 1996
$900 million in box-office receipts and a place of honour in most living- rooms: not bad for a movie with all the wit of a brontosaurus brain. It belongs in a sequence of epics - from Jaws to Schindler's List - whose role as modern sacraments far outrun their value as mere films. Oprah Winfrey once even said to him: "I sometimes feel that you aren't a real person, Steven, but that God has loaned you to us". Time for what Barry Humphries would call a Technicolour yawn.
That quote surfaces in Andrew Yule's new biography, Steven Spielberg: father to the man (Little,Brown, pounds 16.99). Yule is a dogged sleuth with a rather wearing line in Variety-style Hollywood patter, but his tireless research only serves to show how hard it is to fix in words this nerdy shaman's power. This book can explain, for example, why Spielberg knocked a year off his age. (Supposedly born in 1947, he has in fact just passed what Yule calls "the big 5-0".) However, Spielberg's ability to create an ersatz catharsis in Bradford and Bogota alike calls for a critic with the combined strengths of Pauline Kael and Claude Levi-Strauss. Faced with the task of assessment, Yule too often reaches for his fat cuttings file. It could be that the non-reading tycoon will always baffle old-style verbal types. Rather than respecting words, he stifles safe Good Books (The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun, Schindler's Ark) in primitive reverence.
If the movies' future turned on what lies under Spielberg's baseball cap, we might well despair. But as John Pierson's smart and breezy chronicle of low-budget hustling in Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes (Faber, pounds 11.99) shows, one glory of recent US indie cinema has been its flair for fast and funny scripts. From Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It to Kevin Smith's Clerks, nifty words have staged a comeback. And no one could accuse the ultra-gabby Tarantino of promoting strong, silent heroes. So, with luck, the future on film may sound a bit more eloquent than the roar of a digitised T Rex.
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 East 17 bandmember Brian Harvey in 'very desperate situation’
- 2 Germanwings plane crash: Video shows co-pilot Andreas Lubitz learning to fly as a teenager
- 3 Vladimir Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
- 4 Germanwings crash: Captain of doomed plane was only 'on board because he changed job to spend more time with his children'
- 5 WrestleMania 31 results: Seth Rollins stuns WWE as he cashes in Money in the Bank contract to claim title from Brock Lesnar
Cassetteboy joins forces with Russell Brand for Emperor's New Clothes film
Poldark, review: Demelza’s insouciance is almost as impressive as Ross’ pecs
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity, TV review: The affable Englishman routine is wearing a bit thin
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew