Further thoughts on the Book of Jones

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark & Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:

    These movies are just so shining and pure. The choreography and comedic timing on the fights and the chase scenes are without compare. To be clear, I despise Spielberg. I find almost everything he's done to be pandering, saccharine nonsense, and I'm repulsed by his fetishization of the suburbs that informs everything he's done. But these two movies are masterpieces. Absolute gold. Also there's so much nazi punching.

  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom:

    I hated this when it came out, and I hate it even more now. It's just plain mean-spirited. It has none of the "fun" of episodes 1 and 3, no good choreography, and this movie just really, really dislikes women. And though the whole series is awfully imperialist -- I mean how could it not be -- holy cow is this one racist. But more than that, it just mostly makes no god damned sense. There's a secret temple under a secret temple and a secret mine and subway under that. Yo dawg I heard you liked theme park rides so we theme parked your theme park so you can theme park under your theme park. Ugh, it's just the worst.

    (Counterpoint: Say what you want about Mola Ram, at least his goal was to attack and dethrone God.)

    Also -- and this may be the nightclub owner in me speaking -- but any time someone crawls through a hole to get to the secret gigantic auditorium, I immediately want to know how those other two hundred people got in there, even the elderly ones with bad knees, and how nobody saw them doing it. Not to mention catering and janitorial. Someone has to service and re-set the trapdoors.

  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:

    I hated this when it came out, and... I am shocked to say this, but you know what, I don't hate it. Now this is not a good movie, don't get me wrong. It's bad. It is a bad movie. Shia LaBeouf is terrible. Karen Allen and John Hurt are wasted. Cate Blanchett deserved a better movie in which to chew that particular scenery (and finally got it, in Thor Ragnarok). All these things are true. But it has some fun moments, it made me laugh several times, and in retrospect, it is far better than Temple of Doom. Your worst memory of Crystal Skull is how incredibly stupid that "getting nuked inside the refrigerator" scene was, but I'm here to tell you that that scene is not nearly as stupid as the Temple of Doom opener where they jump out of an airplane in an inflatable raft.

Where's the Marion Ravenwood movie?

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29 Responses:

  1. Tha_14 says:

    To be honest I found the scene at Doom Town funny as hell. Just Indie's face not realizing what the place actually is immediately made for a very memorable moment. In my opinion the rest of the movie is pretty bad since it's all a blur from when I watched it and oh god those awful green screen scenes.

  2. Dude says:

    I remember years ago Roger Ebert writing about how a good thing about Spielberg's films is that Nazis are always villains; if they appear to be sympathy-inducing at first, they'll just betray you later (see Saving Private Ryan).

    Although I'm a bit more forgiving of Spielberg's catalogue, this part:

    I despise Spielberg. I find almost everything he's done to be pandering, saccharine nonsense, and I'm repulsed by his fetishization of the suburbs that informs everything he's done.

    ...reminds me of how (for a time) his most interesting work was attaching his name to the work of his direct proteges: Zemekis; Chris Columbus, and - best of all - Joe Dante. (I don't mention Joe Johnston because he's never taken any real risks.)

    Zemekis came up with Back to the Future's more raunchier elements (Marty's mom being hot for him) and anti-Reaganite-suburbs tone that can also be seen in the anti-capilatist moments of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?... then, he did Forrest Gump - a movie so pro-conformist it's downright fascist at times - and he's been doing milquetoast shit ever since.

    Chris Columbus wrote the scripts for the "fuck the suburbs" Gremlins and the anti-eviction Goonies... then he directed Macauley Culkin setting booby traps and everything went to Hell.

    And Joe Dante did two movies about Gremlins to lash out against "old-fashioned" ideas (the first against the "safety" of the suburbs, the second against capitalism run amok), one Tom Hanks flick about suburban xenophobia (which falls apart in its final 12 minutes), and one John Goodman flick about how the US's sabre-rattling will probably get us all killed. His output's been spotty since then.

    Even though I like Spielberg's work, A.I signaled a point where he leaned into his worst instincts and seemingly chose never to improve upon them... especially endings. Why is he so goddamn bad at endings?

  3. Michael says:

    > Your worst memory of Crystal Skull is how incredibly stupid that "getting nuked inside the refrigerator" scene was,

    No, my worst memory is the extended fight scene with the Russians while driving through the shitty CGI jungle. An attempt to re-do the fight scene from Last Crusade, but “more dynamic” and “with CGI”.

  4. mhoye says:

    I think about this comment from a former Metafilter member a lot:

    [...] ". Steven Spielberg is one of the bitterest commercially successful directors working. No mainstream director is as consistently subversive; no director is so fully committed to depicting the failure of the ideal of the 1980s American nuclear family.

    Time and again in his movies you get a nuclear family that's abandoned by its father figure to chase some wild-eyed fantasy, because in Spielberg's world families just aren't meant to hold together, for people prefer idle idealistic fantasies to the family structure that's supposed to be the realization of the American dream. In Jaws the family gets abandoned for some guy to chase a giant shark. In Close Encounters of the Third Kind the family (which is even more deliberately annoying, especially the screaming kids) gets abandoned for some guy to chase a spaceship. In Hook the family gets abandoned for some guy to play Peter Pan. And ET is a pretty clever trick, because while you, the audience member, are distracted by the little animatronic alien making its quirky noises, just as if you're the standard Spielberg protagonist, you don't have your eye on the ball--you're not noticing the single mother in the kitchen who drifts off to the edge of the frame and cries for a little while, then turns and re-enters the action with a false smile on her face as if there's nothing wrong. And listen to the wisecracks that the doctors make over ET's corpse--that is a complicated and bitter movie, with a deliberate sugarcoating to make the subversion commercially palatable.

    The further in Spielberg's career we go, the more cynical he gets, and he still gets a sentimental rap. In A.I. we even get a movie that ends with a child cheerfully climbing into bed with the corpse of his own mother and the general consensus is still, "Well, that movie was great, until it turned into a Spielberg movie."

    I still can't really stomach a lot of his work, but I still think about it.

    • mhoye says:

      I'm also about 90% sure that the ski chase scene from Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Anderson making fun of Spielberg for the painfully forced video-game-tie-in action sequences he's crammed into every movie he can, so there's also that.

    • jwz says:

      So I was a big fan of Todd Alcott's blog. He wrote analyses of movie scripts, and he always noticed interesting things like, "the protagonist of The Avengers is actually Thanos" and "this script actually has 5 acts, not 3, and they aren't where you think."

      And he's a huge Spielberg fan. He spent like a year writing these in-depth analyses of the scripts, and it was fascinating stuff, and definitely made me appreciate the scriptwriting more.

      But I still hate Spieberg's movies. Hate.

      • Dude says:

        But I still hate Spieberg's movies. Hate.

        I'm like that with Nolan. Other directors, too, but few with the acclaim of Chris Nolan: supposedly, the Oscars extended Best Picture from 5 nominees to 10 due backlash over The Dark Knight not being nominated... not that it deserved to be. (And fans seem to willingly forget that Man of Steel was as much his fault as Zack Snyder's.)

        Although I find plenty to like in most of Spielberg's oeuvre - and there are definitely scenes in Nolan flicks I've liked - I can't defend the recurrent problems in Nolan's flicks that regarded as virtues:
        the sexism
        the bad dialogue
        the Shyamalan-esque "What a tweest!" revelations
        the sexism
        the bad editing
        the fact that he (and JJ Abrams, for that matter) couldn't choreograph or frame a fight scene if his life depended on it
        the sexism
        the way he (perhaps in an attempt to cover the bad dialogue?) turns up the sound mix on the "noise", but mixes it down on all the dialogue (Lynch can get away with that, not Nolan)
        the fetishisation of heteronomativity that makes me believe he doesn't even know Queer people exist
        the sexism
        the way he uses his clout to get big-name actors only to waste them time and again (though, I'm glad Ken Watanabe seems to have stopped returning Nolan's calls)
        And, oh yeah, did I mention all the sexism?
        Women are a concept to Nolan, not human beings.

        I'll say this for Spielberg: at least he had the goddamn good sense to push his film back to Xmas 2021, whereas Nolan was perfectly happy exposing more people to COVID so that his oh-so-important film would be shown on the big screen.

        • tfb says:

          I think Nolan suffers from classic rockstar syndrome. He made a highly-regarded first second album film, which caused torrents of money to fall from the sky on him and his immediate submergence in a sea of people who spend their entire time saying how clever and wonderful he is. The people who consume his films now exist for him only as dim shapes: the only thing that really exists is Nolan. And Nolan is very very important and very very clever, and each Nolan film makes more money than the last one, so no-one ever tells him that perhaps he has a little problem. So long as the money pours off him into the pockets of the people who surround him no-one ever will.

          And the end result is Tenet. I mean, I went to see it because it was the film which reopened cinemas here, and I miss cinemas (I even miss the people eating crisps) a lot. But it was so busy being so clever without actually being clever, and I just lost interest. I didn't completely understand the plot, but that's not because I'm too stupid as Nolan wants everyone to think they are: it's because I just lost the will to live for the last half hour of crashy bangy clever-clever expensive tedium, and I couldn't be arsed remembering who was doing what in which order, and I'm certainly not going to see it again. Tenet is the film you'd get if you bred Michael Bay with Stephen Wolfram.

          And, unlike Pink Floyd, he's not even smart enough to realise what's happened: if he was he might make a film about that, and like The Wall it would be pompous and terrible, but it would at least be trying to say something interesting.

          Some enterprising director should make a lightly-fictionalised biopic of him.

  5. Craniac says:

    Just reading these comments makes me realize I haven't read any good movie criticism in a very long time. I just go to Metacritic and sort by rating, descending.

    Temple of Gloom[Grantland]

  6. jwz says:

    Seriously though, there should be a Marion Ravenwood movie showing how she ended up running a bar in Tibet. Or an anthology series where the bar is the framing story. Unfortunately anything post-Raiders is kind of off limits, since that's when she had the kid, which means those stories would end up being about "fambly", or worse, about Henry Jones III, and I ain't got no time for that.

    • Michael says:

      This is the reboot of "Tales of the Gold Monkey" we deserve. The Monkey Bar was always the best part, besides Jake. Just retcon Henry away and we're in business!

    • K J says:

      I would 100% watch a Marion Ravenwood prequel movie. Jones doesn't even have to appear in it, and if he does it's fine if it's as a mobile set piece.

    • Craniac says:

      Apparently Tom Stoppard wrote every line of dialogue in The Last Crusade

  7. Ash says:

    I always thought the "getting nuked inside the refrigerator" was only ridiculous because I'm not a kid anymore. I still enjoyed Crystal Skull when it came out. I liked Temple of Doom, too, but I haven't seen it since I was a kid.

    The worst scene in Crystal Skull was Shia Labeouf swinging with the monkeys through the trees.

  8. Chris says:

    There are very few movies that I consider to be absolutely flawless. Raiders is one of them. That movie is timeless and manages to escape any sensibilities that would tie it to the era that it was made.

    • cthulhu says:

      Agree. When it came out, I was in college; my girlfriend and I paid (well, I paid for her too) to see this movie seven times, and it ran at one first-run theater for over a year. Then it came out on video two years later, and i immediately bought it and watched it regularly. (Note: the Raiders video was released at $39.95, which was about half of what most major studio releases cost on video in 1983, and the subsequent sales figures paved the way for mass-market video releases instead of studios trying to make higher per-unit profits on sales mostly to video rental places.)

      After that, it wasn’t available theatrically for a long time, and Shithead Lucas even renamed it “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” for DVD, but then in 2012 Spielberg (not Lucas!) remastered it and released it for a one-week IMAX run (leading up to the Blu-Ray release of all of them), and it was glorious. After that, our local SoCal luxe-o-plex started running it once a year for classic movie night, so I’ve seen it in its proper place - a good movie theater - about half a dozen times since 2012, and hopefully that will start up again in the not-too-distant future.

      Just like Strangelove and 2001, I never get tired of it...

  9. Dude says:

    I just now remembered this was a thing. I remember seeing a few episodes when they originally aired, but was never a regular viewer.

    Does these episodes fit into your "Book of Jones" rewatch, or are they considered apocryphal?

    • jwz says:

      I never saw any of it. It looked like it would suck. Did it suck?

      • Dude says:

        Well, I was 11 when it originally aired, so it's tough to judge episodes I haven't seen in nearly 30 years.

        But... I do remember falling asleep during the handful of episodes I saw. So...

        • Billy says:

          If I recall correctly, he's Forrest Gump - his college roommate was Eliot Ness, for example - but he does Indiana Jones stuff, sometimes.

    • Jim says:

      How did I not know this existed before now!?

      "filmed in more than 100 cities and 25 countries around the globe....
      Thomas Edison
      Theodore Roosevelt
      Sigmund Freud
      Pablo Picasso
      Vladimir Lenin
      Alexander the Great
      Charles de Gaulle
      Red Baron
      Gandhi
      Albert Schweitzer
      Transylvania
      Al Capone
      Sidney Bechet...."

      Woah!

  10. Kitty says:

    I drunk rewatched TOD the other night and I was just struck by the fact that it makes no damn sense at all.

    So, Indy and the crew get on a plane in Shanghai that's run by the bad guys who then ... fly it a thousand fucking miles before ditching it. Despite the fact that there were any number of perfectly serviceable wildernesses / mountains that you could have crashed it into and not made the pilot's trek back to Shanghai and his employer a massive fucking ballache. But whatever.

    Next up, we find a village - ok, fine. Hang on - those are some pretty dark-skinned people - not too surprising, given that the exterior shots were filmed in Sri Lanka, which is essentially on the equator, despite the fact that the purported location is basically at the same latitude as southern Spain. But folks from that part of the world pretty much don't look like that.

    But let's suspend disbelief - so we get inside the Maharajahs palace and now all of a sudden everyone is a light-skinned Indian. Again, this is not too surprising in terms of the production, because these shots were filmed at Elstree in North London, and to get the extras they probably just drove round the North Circular to the curryhouses of Southall and asked who wanted to be in the film. It probably also explains the wardrobe of the temple guards - the Queensdale Road Gurdwara is just down the road so it's quite likely that a large number of the extras were practising Sikhs.

    For confused Americans - so far this is about as believable as lots of establishing shots of Central Park and the Empire State building then cutting to a "glitzy Manhattan party" where literally everyone has a broad Texan or Alabama accent. My Indian students would find this equal parts confusing and hilarious.

    At this point, I started drinking heavily, so we'll gloss over the physics of the minecarts (and precisely whatever it is that is holding up the mine such that it can be knocked over by water - and where the fuck did that much water even come from).

    However, in conclusion (and speaking as a Brit) - any movie which ends with the British arriving to save the day in Northern India in 1935 is massively problematic copaganda. It is entirely accurate to point out that the British Empire was not as bad as the Third Reich, but that is quite literally the lowest of all possible low bars, and no amount of Sir Bufton Tufton and his cohort of the Third Regiment of Fluffy HandleBar-Mustache dragoons as a kitsch turn is going to make them the good guys in India.

    • Dude says:

      I know that the Indy series was influenced by 007 (Spielberg agreed to do Lucas' "grave-robbing hero" movie after Eon Films denied Spielberg the chance to direct a Bond flick) and Temple of Doom certainly feels like the Indy version of Bond's pro-imperialist bullshit.

      In terms of poor on-screen geography: I haven't seen The Crown on Netflix, but I am amused by the recent flame-up over their trying to trying to pass off Spain as Australia. Especially since I made the mistake if watching Invisible Man, which was shot in Australia... and they try to pass it off as San Francisco. Just... no.

  11. Mike Nomad says:

    I was letting this thread alone in hopes that someone would mention what I think is the other half (besides Raiders of the Lost Ark) of Spielberg's output worthy of space on my movie shelf. Sorry if this stirs things up... I find "1941" absolutely brilliant.

    Looks like I wind up threading up to Dude's earlier comment that they liked Spielberg's work associated with his "direct proteges" (1941 was written by Zemeckis, Gale, and Millius).

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