The Fabelmans 4K UHD arrives shortly before the Academy Awards as a last ditch effort to appeal to a wider base. What might the end result be for Spielberg? Honestly, I’m having a hard time seeing anything derail Everything Everywhere All at Once. But, I’m still secretly pulling for an All Quiet on the Western Front upset.
95% of America doesn’t care how you got into film, even Spielberg.
Didn’t we already see the best parts of this in Close Encounters? At the heart of The Fabelmans is the story of how the Steven Spielberg stand-in got into film. He fell in love with The Greatest Show on Earth and had a supportive family that pushed the Arts on him. Between the Spielberg documentary now streaming on HBO Max and the constant fanfare around this film, they make it sound like his saintly mother wanted to raise him in an artistic Utopia.
Honestly, it’s what makes me feel bad for his father. The Fabelmans tap dances around the issue, but it’s so much harder having to keep the ship in shape. Too often, we get to these delightful fantasies of the kids rule and parents drool. Some adults join in on the Nickelodeon style antics, while there is always one left on the wayside. Hell, Paul Dano didn’t get enough respect for his role in the film.
That being said, Paul Dano is still a passive sample of a wider audience that isn’t connecting with Spielberg’s recent work for a reason. He ain’t doing Indiana Jones, dinosaurs or wild-eye fantasy again. Referencing John Ford at the end of The Fabelmans tells you a lot. Outside of digging up an old Spielberg interview story, it gives you an idea of where Spielberg views himself along his artistic journey.
Cheyenne Autumn or An Artist Prepares to Close
Have you seen Cheyenne Autumn? I highly recommend viewing this 1960s John Ford final Western. Watch the trailer below, as I prepare to set up something. Steven Spielberg isn’t John Ford, but both men have been at this place before. Ford was upset at a film culture changing around him and becoming too European. Spielberg is upset at what he sees as the death of film culture and wants to give a reason to believe in movies again.
The myth of the artist’s creation is truly an American invention. Sure, auteur theory exists, but Americans never really had a grasp on what that meant outside of the business aspects. In America, you have a rags-to-riches story or a secretive wealthy family story that will now get you semi-cancelled. Either way it goes, nobody becomes an artist in America for love of the craft. The same love we give to everyone from Brady to Michael Jordan to physical prowess is missing even at the heart of The Fabelmans 4K. Why?
Well, it’s because artistic pursuits don’t have the same appeal in this country. Some of it is leftover resentment from our Puritan ancestors. A lot of it is because in a hyper capitalist country, art for art’s sake usually means poverty. These themes come up in The Fabelmans 4K a ton, but get addressed with the depth of a high school book report. Why? Because in Spielberg’s world, emotion not logic rules all.
I love watching older talent look upon the world they helped make with disgust. Older eras did it with fervor and then the Boomers got older and kept wanting to be so emotional about it all. You will see far more crying and wistfulness about streamers killing theaters. Which is funny when it was a century scale pandemic that kneecapped a concept that was only propped up by convenience.
Ford looked upon the 60s and 70s with annoyed disgust at a generation of kid talent slapping paint without knowing the horizon. Spielberg throughout the Fabelmans 4K looks at an incoming generation that can’t see anything that isn’t the center of the frame. How do you compete with the death of imagination? That is one of the many arguments boiling under the Fabelmans.
Never end your movie on David Lynch
It’s the same rule as never start your album with a cover of a famous song. You create a shadow that hangs over your work and it dampers the audience’s feel of what has happened. David Lynch is a dynamic actor, filmmaker, voice-over artist and Big Boy enthusiast. Whenever he’s in the room, all eyes go to him for a reason. So, when he plays John Ford yelling at Spielberg stand-in to pay attention to the entire frame instead of the center, it feels hollow.
Fan adoration gets old. You need it as a starting artist and the Fabelmans 4K highlights that. But, you will get old and successful if you keep your head on right, then all that young love becomes is a reminder of the struggle. Struggle goals are great when you’re up-and-coming, but there comes a time when it reminds you of what you lost.
Throughout the Fabelmans 4K, we get both sides of that argument. As little Sammy grows up and gets better with filmmaking, his parents lose touch with each other and break apart. His family grows distant and when he finally meets John Ford, he is scared at seeing the old man he is destined to become. When Ford storms into that office, the lipstick on his cheeks and collar is a distraction from the fact that he’s a caged bird.
David Lynch as John Ford is so ideally perfect. By having the one director that consistently tells off the system that Spielberg helped define for a generation, the Fabelmans 4K director tries to have his cake and eat it too. David Lynch doesn’t need a movie like this or to tell his story. He got to make his movies and he understood where the horizon was.
Spielberg got super obsessed with horizons on other worlds or how to make the clouds look prettier. As the master director approaches 80, he is staring down something that he has never faced in his career before. The idea of a Hollywood movie magic system that has grown beyond him. Ford looked at it in disgust, but something tells me Spielberg is going to fight against the dying of the light with his entire being.
What’s on the Fabelmans 4K UHD?
Universal delivers another well packaged 4K UHD release. They don’t anything super fancy, but they offer up a well-rounded package that lets you know you have the best they have to offer. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track is the start of The Fabelmans 4K. It’s supportive of a modern drama without overpowering the story that is being told. The 2160p transfer is an amazing look at what should be the standard level of 4K UHD transfers.
The Fabelmans 4K comes with three featurettes that take the audience through different aspects of the film. You get a look at the personal journey, as Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner explain what got Spielberg’s real-life into this story. There are also looks at the art, costume and set design. Plus, you get to see what went into casting each of the actors.
If there is anything left to say about The Fabelmans 4K, it has to be how much I can’t wait to eventually hear a Spielberg commentary. Even that feels like I’m going out of my way to find a downside to the Fabelmans 4K. If you’re one of those looking for reference material, then The Fabelmans 4K won’t be the disc you pull out. Stick to Transformers, I hear the new one has robotic dinosaurs.