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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: Who is the “great American filmmaker”?

Steven Spielberg

I’m off to see Raiders of the Lost Ark in IMAX today. Earlier this summer I saw the rerelease of Jaws — twice — on a big screen. So Steven Spielberg has been on my mind a lot recently. (Oh, and he’s doing a Google hangout to introduce his new film about Abraham Lincoln later today.) And I’ve been wondering if perhaps he isn’t the “great American filmmaker.” Not the one who has necessarily made the “greatest” films, but the one who best embodies America… or at least America at a certain point. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Jaws, for instance, contain some of the most spot-on depictions of American postwar suburban life, even if the movies aren’t necessarily about that. War of the Worlds captured the anxiety of the post-9/11 zeitgeist better than any other film I’ve seen, even though it’s clearly “just” an alien-invasion story… and an old one, to boot.

Spielberg might be my choice for the “great American filmmaker,” anyway.

Who is the “great American filmmaker”? And why?

Have fun…

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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