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  • Writer's pictureValerie A. Higgs

2023 Academy Awards Best Picture Nominee: The Fabelmans

Updated: Mar 10, 2023


Steven Spielberg's autobiography about his family and how it affected his film career.

Steven Spielberg has perfected the act of movie-making. He's been making movies for almost 50 years, so I guess he decided to mark the occasion by making a movie about himself and his family. Seems reasonable. If he were anyone else, he would write a book.

Apparently, the only differences between this movie to his real life are the names of the characters. But it has been stressed that it is actually the story about the Spielbergs - for better or worse.

Before I get into how I felt about the picture, I want to talk about Andy Muschietti's film adaptation of It (2017). (You'll understand the sudden change in topic later.)

I have not made it a secret that I am a huge horror movie fan. I have seen my share of good and bad horror movies. I've watched the crappy horror movies of my youth only in recent years because at the time I didn't want to be bothered with bad-quality movies. Basically, I'm not an "it was so bad that it was good" horror movie fan.

As I've gotten older, I've gone back to those "crappy" movies because as a horror fan, I would find something special in each of them. Maybe I'm being sentimental, but a lot of those old movies remind me of growing up in the '80s. And a lot of those movies hired iconic movie-makers that we know and love today and are making big-budget quality movies.

Also, the Jordan Peeles and Ari Asters, and Andy Muschiettis of the horror world watched all of these "crappy" horror movies of yesteryear and sweetly pay homage to them in their current works.

In recent years, some respectability has been put on horror movies. I was about to say that I was going to ignore the remakes, but this is the exact issue that I have with contemporary horror movies.

The first remake I really watched was the 2010 version of A Nightmare on Elm Street by Samuel Bayer. I hated that they remade it. I didn't like it - I didn't finish it. I don't remember much about what I saw. What I did remember was everyone was so pretty.

That same year, I watched the remake of Fame (not horror, but further makes my point) on DVD. I poo-poo'd seeing it in the theater because I was also mad that they remade it. To me, it's like Casablanca - a perfect film with no need for a remake.

I really don't remember if I watched the entire thing. But what I did remember was everyone was so pretty (including New York City).

What is the point of remaking a beloved film? Do you want to make it better? or do you just want to see a version with pretty people?

Both movies definitely had a big budget. And they took care in hiring the best-looking actors. Both movies bored the hell out of me. Any charm of the original movies was ripped out of the script (also see the Total Recall reboot). Pick five recent remakes and notice how much of a budget they had and how attractive the cast is.

Back to It. Andy Muschetti was definitely a huge fan of Stephen King's work, and I don't have to look that up to make that observation. He most assuredly watched the made-for-TV mini-series with John Ritter. And he probably thought "I would love to remake this for the big screen." And he got his chance.

Stephen King's It is universally known as one of his scariest books, and Muschetti took great care in making the film version not only true to King's book but very scary. He had a gigantic budget, so he was able to do all kinds of things that mini-series director Tommy Lee Wallace couldn't (mainly because of technology).

I loved the cast choices, all appropriate. Muschetti didn't just cast folks that were good-looking (by early turn-of-the-21st-century standards) with big boobs, which was refreshing. He cast the best actors for the role.

The movie itself was excellently done and hard to look away from. It was pretty in cinematographer terms - very well shot. Bill Skarsgård's Pennywise was creepy as hell. Between the makeup, his expressions, and the CGI, Pennywise was super scary.

However, I didn't lose any sleep that night. A true frightening horror movie makes me look over my shoulder - especially at night, and especially when I go to bed. It simply did not do that for me.

But I repeat: it was excellently made. By the time the sequel came around, I was equally impressed with the quality of the movie but slept like a baby. What was my problem?

Could it be that it was done too well?

This was my problem with The Fabelmans. The movie was perfect. Spielberg is at the top of his game. The cinematography was excellent, the cast was excellent (although I didn't quite believe the otherwise exquisite Michelle Williams through most of the movie), and the costumes and make-up were eye-gogglingly beautiful. Nothing was ajar in each scene.

It may seem weird to say, but I really didn't care that much about Sam (played by the delightful Gabriel LaBelle - looking forward to more of his work). I was more interested in his sisters - in particular, Regina "Reggie" Fabelman (Julia Butters). She had some of the best lines in the movie and made me want to know what it was like growing up with wunderkind Sam as an older brother. She surely had to put up with more limitations as a Jewish young woman in the '60s. She definitely had the more interesting story.

Judd Hirsch (Uncle Boris) played against type as a slightly frightening and mysterious family member who breezes in for an overnight stay shortly after his sister passes away. I would have liked to have heard his story for sure!

I'm not going to say that I was bored. I was never exactly bored. I just wasn't that interested. There were scenes that made my stomach turn, but they were also expected, unfortunately.

My favorite scene was the very last when Sam finally gets to meet some movers and shakers on the CBS lot. That was the only time that I really was compelled to see what happened next. And the ending was adorable. A nice wink to the guy who gave him very valuable advice.

I also enjoyed how Spielberg cast notable directors in his film. Always great to see Paul Dano on screen, though he is spending more time behind the camera instead of in front of it.

Was The Fablemans worth the nomination? It's a Spielberg movie, so yes. Is it worth Best Picture? I am going to say no.

(Was The Color Purple? For sure! Was Schindler's List? Absolutely. But that's a discussion for another time.)

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