At a commencement speech to Harvard graduates, Steven Spielberg revealed why his movies have evolved into a much less blockbuster status than his previous work—his pre-college work. After his outstanding success, colleges looking to ride the coattails of the famous director as second-handers gave out honorary degrees as a way to attach themselves to his genius. Unfortunately, Steven grew up a little insecure and the sudden attention and social acceptance was enjoyable and he found himself bending more toward the liberal view of things as progressives had infiltrated Hollywood at every level, from finance, marketing, to actual manufacture—and Spielberg was the top of the heap, the standard-bearer of the entire movie industry. Unfortunately, the last brilliant movie of Steven Spielberg was Schindler’s List which he made the same year as the first Jurassic Park. From a box office standpoint, and the quality of art perspective, Spielberg has been in decline since 1993. He has done good work, but it hasn’t been on nearly the same level largely because of his acceptance of the global education he received from his honorary degrees and return to college to finish what he started before success interrupted his education at USC.
During the commencement speech Spielberg explained that he attended California State University, Long Beach but dropped out of school in favor of an internship at Universal — a choice, he said, that affected his filmmaking: “Up until the 1980s my films are what you could call escapist, but I was in a celluloid bubble because I cut my education short and my world view was limited to what I could dream up in my head and not what the world could teach me.”
He later re-enrolled and, in 2002, he completed the credits that were necessary for a B.A. from CSULB. He joked: “It helped that they gave me a course credit in paleontology for the work I did on Jurassic Park.”
Spielberg has since garnered an impressive list of honorary degrees from schools like Boston University, Yale and the University of Southern California, which rejected the director from its film school when he applied out of high school.
I watched Bridge of Spies recently while on an oversea trip and I thought it was good. But it wasn’t great. The same with Lincoln. It was a pretty average movie, certainly not on par with Spielberg’s earlier work—like The Color Purple or Always. Now in my opinion, Steven Spielberg earned the right to make whatever movie he wants to. He had a string of films from 1975 to 1993 that dominated the box office and essentially made Universal Studios a successful business. Without Steven Spielberg, there would be no Universal Studios, Florida theme park. From E.T. to Jaws, Jurassic Park, to the Transformer series—even Back to the Future—if it wasn’t for Spielberg, there would be nothing. Likely, the brilliant film composer John Williams would still be in obscurity and unknown if he had not fallen into the fortune of working with Spielberg then his friend George Lucas in the late 70s. It is important to understand that all of Spielberg’s early success and the industry of Hollywood essentially, came as a result of him dropping out of college. Clearly, Spielberg doesn’t understand the Metaphysics of Quality. He has natural talent that was best utilized as a direct result of his individual mind, not the collective efforts of team collaboration. He is a collaborator, obviously, otherwise he wouldn’t be a great film director, but in essence, his trust in his abilities drove everyone from the front, not from the boardroom of collective input. Once Spielberg allowed for that type of collective—“worldly” thinking, the value of his work decreased immensely. Spielberg no longer means GREAT! Now it just means—interesting.
All the world can teach us is to be average, and submissive to its limits. That is the Spielberg after 1993 to the present—a broken man who has fallen into the rut of “average.” He no longer strives for perfection, or his place in history as a great filmmaker. He is surrounded by “yes men” and second-handers—and that includes the last four presidents of the United States. I still watch his movies, but often I wait until I can catch up to them a few years after their release. They are no longer for me opening night events—and that makes the world not a better place, but a far worse one. I would say that the movie industry was better off with Spielberg produced films like Batteries Not Included and Gremlins than it is with Munich or that stupid movie he did with Oprah recently about French food.
Spielberg upon reading this might think I don’t know what I’m talking about, but he’d be wrong. I grew up just a few miles from where he did in Cincinnati. I’ve read many of the same books and have very similar interests. The difference is, I never really grew up into an adult, and that was something that made Spielberg appealing as a filmmaker to many people who had lost their childhoods—as cynical adults. I have fought that “growing up,” because I don’t see the value in it. Colleges are more about crushing individuality into a collective mush, and that is not a good thing. Intellectuals call that “worldly” I call it “defeated.” I deal with really smart people every day—several of them with doctoral degrees and often they require me to navigate for them through the mine fields of business. I have to waste a lot of time “re-teaching” them how to unthink all the garbage they learned in college to get back to their inner child. Personally, I don’t think human beings should stop learning with the wonderment of children. Sure adults need to be responsible caretakers of civilization, but getting through Harvard doesn’t do it—nor does getting honorary degrees. Success comes from individuality, and it is something that is very unique. They don’t’ teach success in college. They teach compliance.
I honestly miss Steven Spielberg. I am grateful he has done what he did, but I miss the energy and hope of his pre-college work. He calls them “escapism” films but the important thing to ask is why people feel a need to escape in the first place. What is it they want relief from? It is the world of college destroyed autonomous thinking that has ruined the minds of millions of otherwise very smart people. Steven used to give people hope that life wasn’t so bland. Now his movies are about accepting how bland it is—because that’s the world view he learned in college—and it’s quite sad. What he told the Harvard graduating class is probably the worst advice anybody could probably give those young minds. But then again, Steven had the same advice given to him—which he followed toward his own destruction—and the eventual destruction of the entire film industry coming soon to a multiplex near you. Escapism is good when the world wants to throw shackles on your mind and destroy it for collectivist consumption. And that used to be why Spielberg films were always so special—and why they no longer are.
Rich “Cliffhanger” Hoffman
CLIFFHANGER RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
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