Paul Clark of Silly Hats Only recently read my giddy assessment of Steven Spielberg's 1941 and approached me rather gingerly in the comments column of that post with the news that he was about to finish an article singling 1941 out as one of Spielberg's worst movies. After cursing him out like Yosemite Sam enjoying the afterburn of a dynamite cigar ("Next you’ll be telling me there’s something wrong with The Boys from Brazil!"), I swore I'd keep an eye out for the article and link to it in the spirit of goodwill and free expression of ideas and all that. Well, I'm a couple days late in spotlighting it, but Paul's piece, entitled "When Good Directors Go Bad: 1941" is up and running at Screengrab. Here's a taste:
"The film seems curiously torn between lampooning gung-ho militarism and honoring those who fought for the American way of life. On the one hand, the film’s portrayals of American servicemen aren’t especially flattering, with our soldiers, sailors, and flyboys coming off alternately as crazed paranoiacs and strutting dopes who mostly want to drink and get laid. On the other, the motley crew of civilians who are forced to defend their homeland are bumbling, but they also manage to get the job done their way.
Another problem is the scattershot storytelling. While Spielberg has always excelled at large-scale filmmaking, he tends to be best when his films have a clear narrative through-line. Unfortunately, 1941 has too many plots for him to handle. Spielberg’s best films spotlight either a single hero or a small group of protagonists, but with dozens of major roles to juggle, he is unable to focus on anyone for very long and ends up giving short shrift to everybody. The result is a film that feels less like a war comedy than a cross between the ramshackle anarchy of late-70s comedy and the star-studded bloat of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and its ilk."
Ouch! Believe me, I certainly know that my view of the movie is not how most people feel about it. And it's nice to see Paul approach 1941 as a movie instead of a crime against humanity. (Why, I might even buy a sliver of the "against humanity" part, but the movie is no more a crime now than it was in 1979.) But if you're me, Paul makes a lot of points to spark argument here, in the spirit of goodwill and free expression of ideas and all that, of course, and I'll definitely respond to his piece under the Screengrab post. If you're not me (yes, I'm talking to you!), you're likely to shout "Yes!", crack open a beverage and relax into a very good piece about a movie that still resides in that love-it-or-hate-it zone nearly 30 years after its release. Either way, Paul's writing and Paul's blog are excellent places to make a habit, and I hope you do so soon. Give the man a little "rat-tat-tat" salute a la General "Mad Dog" Maddox and read up on yet another very good writer making his home on the Web.
By the way, Paul, what do you think of The Boys from Brazil?