WESTWOOD — Director Steven Spielberg announced a new set of filmmaking standards to an enthusiastic mix of Hollywood insiders and journalists at a late morning, last minute press extravaganza at the Bruin Theater, catching many of the industry’s media elite off guard.
The veteran director dropped what some are calling a “new Magna Carta” at the feet of the Hollywood film industry.
Fueled by his lackluster opinion of friend and sometimes rival George Lucas’ latest Star Wars film, Spielberg challenged the movie capital of the world to a list of moviemaking “Cinema Commandments” which he outlined during a slide presentation and several multimedia clips displayed on the Bruin’s 30-foot screen, and which were an all-too-obvious slap in the face to Emperor George Lucas.
“What I’m trying to do is basically just get George to realize that Phantom Menace may have looked like Star Wars, and may have sounded like Star Wars, but it really wasn’t Star Wars,” the veteran of Saving Private Ryan and Jurassic Park told the exclusive crowd of 500.
“What you had was a lot of ‘whiz’ and a lot of ‘bang,’ but very little ‘oomph,’ said Spielberg.
The mogul’s Hestonian list, enumerated in true-to-life King James prose, was obviously intended as a wake-up call for Lucas and his cgi-heavy movie empire, and for a film industry edging ever further into the realm of “debasing eye-candy,” which Spielberg argues comes at the expense of story and character.
Spielberg’s Cinema Commandments to George Lucas:
“10. Thou shalt not alter films, in any shape, or in any form.” Spielberg called this “next to the Armenian Genocide, the ultimate atrocity.”
“9. Thou shalt not remake films, even your own.” In light of the trend which has of late become its own genre, Spielberg says remakes have no place in a creative industry, “whose primary function is to create.” (When poked about his Close Encounters of The Third Kind Special Edition, Spielberg barked a laugh at the hapless questioner, but offered no other reply.)
“8. Thou shalt not attempt to digitally recreate human life.” “Not until the technology catches up,” Spielberg added. “And even then, it still doesn’t make it very kosher. I’d like to see it outlawed. It’s like cloning, but much, much more dangerous.”
“7. Thou shalt not portray gratuitous violence or sex.” An anonymous spokeswoman for Spielberg commented later: “Don’t think for one moment Steven was joking about Number 7. He’s seriously very ready to kick butt and take names.”
“6. Thou shalt read the script.” The cardinal rule, according to Spielberg. “If George hadn’t printed his Episode One script out on corrugated cardboard in the name of secrecy, maybe somebody could’ve read it and given him a head’s up about the things that just didn’t work. Which was really, I’d say 95- to 99.999 percent of the film.”
“5. Thou shalt take a refresher course in filmmaking.” An apparent broad-faced attack on Lucas’ talents as a film director, this controversial edict drew the most fire from the post-presentation q&a session. Spielberg responded to the barrage by throwing up his palms and demanding “What do you want from me?” When the questions persisted, Spielberg aimed his laser-pointer (in true Jedi fashion) directly into the eyes of Gene Shalit, who fled from the room with tears in his eyes.
“4. Thou shalt not over-merchandise.” Lucas gets the brunt of the blame when critics of the film industry heat up about the merchandising frenzy which accompanies just about every major theatrical release in the United States. “Pepsico basically fronted George the money to make (The Phantom Menace). The jury’s still out on whether or not that’s the way movies are headed. But in any case, my family drinks Coke. It really is the real thing.”
“3. Thou shalt not pander to children.” “Children are smarter than George gives them credit for. Most kids knew that the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were fake. But how many knew they were fake in Lost World? Not many,” Spielberg ventured. “My kids loved the first three films. Star Wars was great. Empire, phenomenal. This one, they looked up at me and whispered: ‘Daddy, is this plot oversimplified and non-conflictive, or are we just victims of an inflated media hype process?’. I was floored. Stunned,” the director said.
“2. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife.” Spielberg astounded the media circus with candid color slides of a grinning Lucas on the set of Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, with his hand on an obviously-disgusted Kate Capshaw’s left breast while Spielberg conferred with crew in the background.
“1. Thou shalt quit when thou art ahead.”“Too many movies spawn too many terrible sequels,” the legendary director stated in closing. “Show of hands. How many here would’ve liked to see the legend of Look Who’s Talking left alone?” asked Spielberg, raising his hand. Then, with tears clearly visible behind his glasses, the King of Hollywood set down his light-saber-laser pointer and took a drink from his water glass. “They’re ruining everything. Everything.”
With the question of “So what are we gonna do about it?” left dangling in the air, Spielberg and his entourage briefly fielded an onslaught of questions, mostly regarding his relationship with Lucas. “I mean no harm to George. I just want him to snap out of it, make better movies, and get his own goddamn wife.” And with that, the Hollywood legend thanked the assembly for their attendance and made a quick exit to an awaiting Hyundai.