Steven Spielberg

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Finch
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Re: Steven Spielberg

#201 Post by Finch » Wed Apr 03, 2019 5:50 pm

It doesn't bear thinking about what he might have done to his other films and his future ones if he hadn't gotten so much shit about the E.T. release.

War of the Worlds is a better Holocaust film than the one that he actually made about the Holocaust.

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Brian C
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Re: Steven Spielberg

#202 Post by Brian C » Wed Apr 03, 2019 6:00 pm

whaleallright wrote:
Wed Apr 03, 2019 5:41 pm
this is correct. I know folks who have shown this in classes and students are initially like "yay! Spielberg movie! aliens! fun!" and then they get 2 hours of sheer visceral and existential terror. not to mention vivid nightmares for ever after.
It's funny perhaps, but the only Spielberg movie that ever actually gave me nightmares was Munich. Kept me dreaming for 3-4 nights after I saw it, really unpleasant stuff although I don't remember the details at all now. I don't actually even remember the movie itself all that well, except for a feeling that I don't really know how to describe ... "spiritual claustrophobia" is the closest I can come.

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Dansu Dansu Dansu
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Re: Steven Spielberg

#203 Post by Dansu Dansu Dansu » Wed Apr 03, 2019 6:09 pm

I am surprised that this conversation has gone so long, and even included a tangent about his need for uplift and sentiment in his endings, without anyone mentioning Empire of the Sun, for me his best film of the eighties (albeit still uneven in places). I think he momentarily learned a lesson in the film’s box office failure, being that his people-pleasing instincts were important after all.

He did intend for Schindler’s List to have a cultural impact, so I am personally not too quick to dismiss what is excellent within the film merely because he wanted his noncommercial passion project to connect as widely as possible. The “I could have done more” scene is more of the old Spielberg, yes, but it is the scene my parents always reference, and they don’t reference Empire of the Sun.

Speaking of Schindler’s, I also find the reaction to the shower scene more nuanced than usually discussed in that if it is theme park filmmaking, it is also the film’s best counternarrative to the so-called “narrative of success” that also gets mentioned in criticism of the film. Since survival is necessary to the truth of the story, the Auschwitz sequence underlines how much these individuals matter while clearly suggesting that over a million mattered just as much and did not survive. It shows what “I could have done more” essentially means, being he ultimately did little in a historical framing. The sequence is formally manipulative, but given his childhood, I fear Spielberg worried gentile viewers would not truly care about his characters without subjective identification.

I suppose it is insecurity as Finch states, but I see this more as a product of his formative years than merely a need to be the most popular or wealthy filmmaker in Hollywood. For better or worse, the insecurity tints his films towards an authorial earnestness rather than purely cheap manipulation, the latter being the trade of his imitators.

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movielocke
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Re: Steven Spielberg

#204 Post by movielocke » Wed Apr 03, 2019 7:44 pm

Finch wrote:
Wed Apr 03, 2019 5:36 pm
knives wrote:
Wed Apr 03, 2019 4:44 pm
Finch wrote:
Wed Apr 03, 2019 2:39 pm
I'm not sure literally every filmmaker does it. Some resist the temptation to pander to their own instincts more than others.
What does this mean?
Badly phrased on my part. What I'm trying to get at is that my impression of Spielberg is of someone who is very gifted on a technical level but who often enough isn't critical at all or not critical enough of his own choices and motives. If you invent an entire scene because you don't approve of your real life subject's choices, shouldn't you be asking yourself if you are really the right person to tell said subject's story? I mean, it's okay even desirable to be critical of whoever you are portraying but what Spielberg by his own admission has done is to add a scene to the film to make Schindler's behaviour more palatable to himself and to smoothen out what he seems to have regarded as a rougher or more indifferent side to Schindler's personality. I suspect he also did it out of a fear that audiences might have found Schindler less likeable and relatable as a person if he hadn't added the emotional breakdown.
I actually think this illustrates the tension between Spielberg's dual roles as a director and as a producer.

Which is to say that the artist might be worrying about critiquing the micro of the film, crafting and shaping it, finessing it etc; the producer is worrying about the macro of the product in the broader social-cultural environment. that is to say, does this work, will this make sense, will audiences buy this or that scene, will they understand it, what can we do to smooth and aide the audience reception, so that they don't get tripped up on some niggling thing, so that they instead appreciate the whole of the thing. The whole point of producers having input and giving notes and shaping films from development-to-delivery is to have someone actively interrogating the micro from the perspective of the macro. And pretty much that is what every producer and (often) every director strives to do, to critique literally every choice, to analyze every motivation, development is an intensive, excruciatingly detailed process, far more so than the a passive viewer of a film ever really comprehends.

This is actually why I think Spielberg has trouble with endings, when it comes to endings he's fussing too much not as a director, but as a producer.

So I've always seen that "I could've saved" scene as a consideration not of the needs of art, but of the needs of audiences. The natural anticlimax of reality isn't going to help the audience grasp what they need to grasp, which is to extrapolate and scale up, I could have saved more is shorthand for grappling with the millions who were not saved, it's to provide a channel for the tsunami catharsis of audience grief to begin as the film ends, it's why it has such a cultural and social emotional presence. With the more natural ending, you have the audience all built up, about to overflow as they've experienced everything, but nothing to do with their experience of having watched it. Providing release is important and I think that's what Spielberg is really going for in adding this scene, As we reach this point in the film, it's about a dialog with the audience about the holocaust, a dialog continued by the self-reflexive placing-of-stones coda with actor and real-life counterpart side by side.

And to an extent, Spielberg was right. because the Holocaust tends to shut audiences down. There can't be much growth or dialog or education or finding-of-allies if every time you talk about genocide people just shut down. It's why I turn off NPR daily when they switch to their daily fetish of third-world-tragedy-porn. Just fuck it, I don't want to hear it, I shut down, so do millions of others, it's the way the human brain is wired to behave, it's how we're evolved and socialized to handle disasters. Spielberg coaxed people along and kept them from shutting down and that changed a lot of things in how our culture has dealt with the holocaust, it's no longer the provenance of those lucky few to be smugly elite enough to not shut down, it's something that a much broader swath can grapple with rather than avoid at all costs.

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Rayon Vert
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Re: Steven Spielberg

#205 Post by Rayon Vert » Wed Apr 03, 2019 7:52 pm

dda1996a wrote:
Wed Apr 03, 2019 4:11 pm
I'm wondering out loud, do most of you find it hard to still love him and his films (other than his 70s) even when it's mostly his ending that fail? I'd say a third of his films are brilliant but undone by their endings (Minority Report, Saving Pvt. Ryan). It still doesn't stop them from being amazing works of cinema.
In the case of the post 70s films that I really like where that happens (like those two you mention, along with Schindler and WOTW), the disappointment isn't enough to significantly decrease my liking of them. As to loving "him", that's another question! He's such a potentially able director in terms of skills that I wish he had less "heart" and more of a purely reptilian brain to produce more films like Jaws and WOTW, rather than spending so much energy on the types of films he more regularly chooses.

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Brian C
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Re: Steven Spielberg

#206 Post by Brian C » Wed Apr 03, 2019 11:11 pm

movielocke wrote:
Wed Apr 03, 2019 7:44 pm
So I've always seen that "I could've saved" scene as a consideration not of the needs of art, but of the needs of audiences. The natural anticlimax of reality isn't going to help the audience grasp what they need to grasp, which is to extrapolate and scale up, I could have saved more is shorthand for grappling with the millions who were not saved, it's to provide a channel for the tsunami catharsis of audience grief to begin as the film ends, it's why it has such a cultural and social emotional presence. With the more natural ending, you have the audience all built up, about to overflow as they've experienced everything, but nothing to do with their experience of having watched it. Providing release is important and I think that's what Spielberg is really going for in adding this scene, As we reach this point in the film, it's about a dialog with the audience about the holocaust, a dialog continued by the self-reflexive placing-of-stones coda with actor and real-life counterpart side by side.

And to an extent, Spielberg was right. because the Holocaust tends to shut audiences down. There can't be much growth or dialog or education or finding-of-allies if every time you talk about genocide people just shut down. It's why I turn off NPR daily when they switch to their daily fetish of third-world-tragedy-porn. Just fuck it, I don't want to hear it, I shut down, so do millions of others, it's the way the human brain is wired to behave, it's how we're evolved and socialized to handle disasters. Spielberg coaxed people along and kept them from shutting down and that changed a lot of things in how our culture has dealt with the holocaust, it's no longer the provenance of those lucky few to be smugly elite enough to not shut down, it's something that a much broader swath can grapple with rather than avoid at all costs.
This is very well put.

I'll be honest and say that I've always found the "I could've saved more" scene to be deeply affecting, because it asks, how much is enough? It's a rhetorical question, obviously, but it's dual-edged all the same. In the face of such massive horror, nothing can really ever be enough, but at the same time, in such desperately bleak circumstances, every little bit of compassion and decency is profoundly meaningful. And I think that scene in the movie captures that paradox, the nobility of heroism against the backdrop of loss so overwhelming that all the efforts of Schindler and his collaborators in the factory could hardly be measured against it.

I guess this is a long way of saying that I don't find that scene sentimental or mawkish in the least. It leaves our last image of Schindler as a broken man, wrecked by guilt despite his heroics, which is then implied to be how he lived out the rest of his life.

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Finch
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Re: Steven Spielberg

#207 Post by Finch » Wed Apr 03, 2019 11:38 pm

Thanks movielocke and brian for your responses. It's making me reconsider the value of the "I could have saved more" scene a bit though I think he still lays on a bit too thick with the score and the group hug.

dda1996a
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Re: Steven Spielberg

#208 Post by dda1996a » Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:25 am

Rayon Vert wrote:
Wed Apr 03, 2019 7:52 pm
dda1996a wrote:
Wed Apr 03, 2019 4:11 pm
I'm wondering out loud, do most of you find it hard to still love him and his films (other than his 70s) even when it's mostly his ending that fail? I'd say a third of his films are brilliant but undone by their endings (Minority Report, Saving Pvt. Ryan). It still doesn't stop them from being amazing works of cinema.
In the case of the post 70s films that I really like where that happens (like those two you mention, along with Schindler and WOTW), the disappointment isn't enough to significantly decrease my liking of them. As to loving "him", that's another question! He's such a potentially able director in terms of skills that I wish he had less "heart" and more of a purely reptilian brain to produce more films like Jaws and WOTW, rather than spending so much energy on the types of films he more regularly chooses.
As I said, I think that still affects some of his films. And I can overlook some endings when the entire film is just terrific. Yes, he has more than five films that I consider nothing much or worst, but a lot more that are simply terrific.

Re Schindler, the film isn't about the Holocaust per second, but about hope and survival and continuation of a race. That's why the scene makes sense, and the scene in Israel. I too at first resisted it, but when viewed with the entire film in mind it has a purpose. It's not a film about the millions who died, but about those that managed to survive and have to face the horror and hardship of continuing so.

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Finch
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Re: Steven Spielberg

#209 Post by Finch » Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:54 am

An alternative cut of WotW could actually go straight from the close up of the dying alien to Freeman's closing narration or if you absolutely had to have at least some kind of narrative closure re the family, cut after Otto and Fanning hug each other and Cruise's reaction insert to the closing narration, i.e. before Ferrier jr walks into the shot.

The film would literally only lose a minute and a half.

The special effects work is spectacular, save for the burning train shot. I found the alien design a bit disappointing but appreciate that had they gone for something even more primal in a Giger-esque fashion, the film would have gotten an R rating. Though considering how relentless the tone of the film is and what else you get to see (floating corpses in the river etc), it's a small miracle that it got a PG-13. Made me wonder if they'd been as lenient if it had been someone other than Spielberg.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Steven Spielberg

#210 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Apr 04, 2019 9:36 am

Brian C wrote:
Wed Apr 03, 2019 11:11 pm
I guess this is a long way of saying that I don't find that scene sentimental or mawkish in the least. It leaves our last image of Schindler as a broken man, wrecked by guilt despite his heroics, which is then implied to be how he lived out the rest of his life.
Before I got around to seeing Schindler's List, the Holocaust was already very familiar to me and my classmates. (It's shocking to me how many students these days know little about it.) I recall a number of grandparents coming into class and not only re-telling their experience but bringing in items they saved from the camps. It was pretty surreal and kind of abstract - at the time, it was hard to understand how so many different people could allow something so enormous and terrible to happen. When I saw Schindler's List, up until that climactic scene, it was astonishing to see because there was so little about this businessman's character or history to suggest that he would risk everything to save so many. It felt like an honest reflection of morality - how the best and worst deeds aren't necessarily done by the people you'd expect, and how no individual (or individuals or nation of individuals) is easily defined by morality, it's just the nature of that aspect of humanity. But then he has his breakdown, and it seemed to simplify everything to the film's detriment. To my understanding, after the war Schindler didn't go on to do any humanitarian work and talked very little about what he had done - if he was plagued by guilt, there was no indication of it. He apparently kept looking for new ways to make money (in farming and industry), like he just moved on. It's a bit mysterious, and partly why it's so moving that he wiped away the one business success he had in his life to save so many.

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Re: Steven Spielberg

#211 Post by htom » Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:47 pm

Finch wrote:
Wed Apr 03, 2019 2:27 pm
Schindler's List is so problematic on several fronts but what angers me the most is the lack of trust in the audience to be moved by the material without the sentimental music throughout the entire film, the histrionics of the "I could have saved more" ending and the tasteless manipulation in the shower sequence. I think David Mamet it was who called it emotional pornography and that description is spot on. Spielberg's sensibilities are why he was one of the most ill-suited directors for this project. Wilder wanted to make Schindler's List as his last film. I wish he'd stuck to his guns and directed it himself.
Regarding Billy Wilder's hope of making this film: I don't think he had any leverage in this matter. Spielberg had already optioned Thomas Keneally's novel, and after considering Roman Polanski and Martin Scorsese decided to direct it himself. Most accounts I've read did have Wilder asking Spielberg for the opportunity to film the novel, but Spielberg apparently had already decided to direct this one himself.

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Re: Steven Spielberg

#212 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Apr 05, 2019 7:23 pm

dda1996a wrote:
Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:25 am
Re Schindler, the film isn't about the Holocaust per se, but about hope and survival and continuation of a race. That's why the scene makes sense, and the scene in Israel. I too at first resisted it, but when viewed with the entire film in mind it has a purpose. It's not a film about the millions who died, but about those that managed to survive and have to face the horror and hardship of continuing so.
I would agree, though that itself makes it compare unfavourably with Europa, Europa, which has a much more complicated and potentially ambivalent take on a true story narrative. Where the triumphant final scene seemingly becomes less about remembrance and more about the traumatised war generation going on to continue inflicting separateness on the next generation (though I would concede that it might just be my modern day cynicism coming into play there more than anything particularly intentional, though the important part is that there feels like a bit of space to allow for that!)

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Re: Steven Spielberg

#213 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Apr 08, 2019 11:57 am

domino harvey wrote:
Tue Apr 02, 2019 10:52 pm
Well, 1941 is every bit the disaster its reputation promised. Imagine plucking several comic actors from SNL, SCTV, and Animal House in their prime and still coming up this empty! It takes real talent to fail this badly. One bad laborious set up after another here. A Ferris wheel shows up and we patiently count down til it comes loose, because what else is it going to do? At one point there’s a car chase through a paint factory, just so we can see big puddles of color go SPLOOSH. Treat Williams keeps trying to rape some USO dancer and hates eggs (the fuck?). Robert Stack desperately wants to watch Dumbo, which several someones thought was a funny idea meriting very, very long scenes of... Stack happily watching Dumbo. :thatsitthatsthejokeGIF: And on and on. Poor Toshiro Mifune, imagine that call: “Spielberg wants you in his next movie... to force-feed Slim Pickens prune juice and wait toilet-side for him to evacuate his bowels.” (That really happens, by the way, and it’s not even in the top ten of worst jokes that fall flat here) Poor everyone in this, though, really. And poor me for watching 2 1/2 hours of this. And lucky you if you don’t.
To briefly go back to 1941 for a moment, here's Mick Garris talking about the film over its trailer. It was good to be reminded of the way that this appeared to be duelling with John Landis's The Blue Brothers, and also to note from the cast list at the end that Nancy Allen, Wendie Jo Sperber, Bobby Di Cicco and Eddie Deezen (and Dick Miller!) appear here, who all appeared in Robert Zemeckis' I Wanna Hold Your Hand the year previously! I wonder if Spielberg, Zemeckis and Bob Gale talk about that crossover on the extra features on the Criterion edition of the Zemeckis film?

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Re: Steven Spielberg

#214 Post by Fiery Angel » Mon Apr 08, 2019 12:05 pm

colinr0380 wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2019 11:57 am
I wonder if Spielberg, Zemeckis and Bob Gale talk about that crossover on the extra features on the Criterion edition of the Zemeckis film?
No, they don't.

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Re: Steven Spielberg

#215 Post by domino harvey » Mon Apr 08, 2019 1:25 pm

Yes, Blues Brothers comparisons loom large over 1941, but that movie (which I also only watched all the way through for the first time recently) at least has a few scant laughs early on thanks to Landis' peculiar pacing and odd touches in the first act (all the stuff with Kathleen Freeman, the ambient ASMR-ish opening ten minutes), even if I found the much-lauded musical performances pretty poorly shot and executed. They're both similarly way, way too long though!

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Re: Steven Spielberg

#216 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Apr 08, 2019 2:08 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2019 1:25 pm
...even if I found the much-lauded musical performances pretty poorly shot and executed.
I hadn't seen the movie in ages (before I had any real interest in any of the musical performers featured), but when Aretha Franklin died, her scene was posted all over the place, and I too found it poorly shot and executed. (I think she felt it was poorly executed too when she was filming it.) I'm not sure how popular they actually were, but musically the Blue Brothers really were a mediocre tribute band at best, even with Steve Cropper and Donald Dunn backing them up. Ray Charles may have had the best number, but I've never felt compelled to revisit it - why bother when these artists have recorded so much more that's so much better?

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Re: Steven Spielberg

#217 Post by Zot! » Mon Apr 08, 2019 2:36 pm

hearthesilence wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2019 2:08 pm
I'm not sure how popular they actually were, but musically the Blue Brothers really were a mediocre tribute band at best
I think you and Dan Ackroyd might be the only ones who believe the Blues Brothers were an actual musical endeavor and not a joke. I like this movie a lot. Its not slick, but why should it be?

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domino harvey
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Re: Steven Spielberg

#218 Post by domino harvey » Mon Apr 08, 2019 2:37 pm

The Blues Brothers actually sold a ton of records in their prime

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Re: Steven Spielberg

#219 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Apr 08, 2019 3:07 pm

If the movie was actually slick, that would be worse.

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Brian C
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Re: Steven Spielberg

#220 Post by Brian C » Mon Apr 08, 2019 5:14 pm

domino harvey wrote:The Blues Brothers actually sold a ton of records in their prime
This isn’t really inconsistent with Zot!’s claim. Spinal Tap and Weird Al moved records, too.

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Re: Steven Spielberg

#221 Post by domino harvey » Mon Apr 08, 2019 5:25 pm

I get your point, but the Blues Brothers albums are not comic, they’re sincere Blues albums and sales were only brought in to contest the notion that audiences weren’t taking them seriously

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Re: Steven Spielberg

#222 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Apr 08, 2019 5:40 pm

Brian C wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2019 5:14 pm
domino harvey wrote:The Blues Brothers actually sold a ton of records in their prime
This isn’t really inconsistent with Zot!’s claim. Spinal Tap and Weird Al moved records, too.
Also, I'm skeptical that Spinal Tap and Weird Al fans think of those records as mediocre music. Yeah, it's meant as comedy, but if the music was truly poor, it would be tough to sit through over and over again.

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Brian C
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Steven Spielberg

#223 Post by Brian C » Mon Apr 08, 2019 5:47 pm

I doubt they think of the music as “mediocre” but rather just something fun to listen to.

Perhaps domino is right that people listened to the Blues Bros as legit blues music, but that’s never really been my impression. Hard to say for sure, and of course as with anything we’re talking about a large and not monolithic group of people. But I don’t remember really encountering anyone who wasn’t in on the joke on some level, which is why I thought Zot!’s dig at Ackroyd was pretty funny.

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Re: Steven Spielberg

#224 Post by Zot! » Mon Apr 08, 2019 7:32 pm

To be fair, and I say this on the authority of having spent my first 40 years in Chicago, the Blues Brothers covers of Soul Man and particularly Sweet Home Chicago got regular play on radio. Nobody thought they were authentic or definitive, but both are infectous and populist enough to maintain their cachet.

Keep in mind that the film features a slew of real blues and soul heroes for a reason.

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Re: Steven Spielberg

#225 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Apr 08, 2019 7:41 pm

Zot! wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2019 7:32 pm
To be fair, and I say this on the authority of having spent my first 40 years in Chicago, the Blues Brothers covers of Soul Man and particularly Sweet Home Chicago got regular play on radio. Nobody thought they were authentic or definitive, but both are infectous and populist enough to maintain their cachet.

Keep in mind that the film features a slew of real blues and soul heroes for a reason.
I'm from Chicago, and while Belushi was dead years before I knew of the Blues Brothers, the movie was still widely seen by everyone I knew. But nobody, NOBODY I knew bought or listened to their records, though I don't doubt it sold back in its day. Yeah, nobody thought they were authentic or definitive, and that's why they sound like a mediocre tribute band, and even if that's intended, that's not my idea of hilarious comedy. It's great they tried to give a boost to their heroes, but it doesn't make their act alone more enjoyable.

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