Film has long played a paramount role with The Luncheon Society. This year, we were pleased that Richard Schickel joined The Luncheon Society for another great gathering, this time to talk about his retrospective on Steven Spielberg.
Schickel’s books remind readers of a more glamorous time in Hollywood because they are these large glossy endeavors that draw the reader into a great film story.
Schickel has a deft touch of capturing the full arc of a creative life and nobody knows the inner working of the studios (especially Warner Brothers where he created the well-received documentary “You Must Remember This.”) and I am pleased to have gotten to know him over the years.
We gave lost count on the number of books Richard Schickel has written over the years and we believe that the number is somewhere north of 40. He has been equally prodigious in creating documentary films and commentary for DVD’s, a market which has sadly crashed in this Netflix era. Some of the books, like that of Bette Davis, look back at one of the giants of Hollywood, who kept acting long after she outlived most of her rivals. Others, like Schickel’s “Conversations with Scorsese,” breaks each of his films into a series on in-depth conversations between the subject and author. It represents the sum total of an artist’s progress and each film has its own chapter.
With his book on Steven Spielberg, Schickel charts his career arc from Duel to Lincoln and all of those films in-between. For me, some of his films, like Empire of the Sun , are seen in a different light through adult eyes while others like Minority Report appear to accurately predict the future.
Enclosed is the book jacket synopsis from Richard Schickel’s “Steven Spielberg.” It sets up the rest of the story about somebody whose films we all love.
“Every movie is a time capsule. When you finish a film and you say goodbye to your cast and crew, you’ve buried your life right there on the set and that‘s going to stay there forever. For more than four decades, Steven Spielberg has created inspiring and unforgettable movie magic. Jaws, ET, the Indiana Jones series, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and War Horse are among the many favorites that have thrilled cinema audiences all over the world. They are some of the highest grossing, most captivating, and enduring films of all time—contemporary classics that indelibly remain part of our lives.
Steven Spielberg’s own story is itself the stuff of dreams. He was born in 1946 in Cincinnati Ohio. His father was an electrical engineer and his mother a restaurateur and concert pianist. In 1959, he made a mini-movie to earn his Boy Scout Photography merit badge, an achievement that proved to be a catalyst for his future career. By the time Spielberg was a teenager, he was charging his friends admission to his home movies and won first prize at the age of thirteen for a short war film. Soon he took to wandering the lot at Universal Studios, hoping not to get caught, and eventually taken on there as an intern. The rest, as they say, was history.
This timely retrospective celebrates more than forty years of Sven Spielberg’s boundless energy and his unwavering commitment to excellence in all areas of his work. The distinguished writer and critic Richard Schickel, himself a documentary filmmaker, provides unique insight on every one of Spielberg’s twenty eight major movies to appraise the director’s remarkably prolific and varied career. Featuring many first person drawn from Schickel’s interviews, as well as a personal forward by the director himself, this is an insider’s perspective on Spielberg’s legendary achievements.
Impeccably designed and illustrated with more than 400 suburb images, many sourced from the Steven Spielberg Archive, this book is an essential companion to the art of making movies and an authoritative tribute to a Hollywood legend.”
We hope you enjoyed this excerpt.
What makes Richard fun to read is his long history with the film community. Now that all of the issues of Life Magazine have been scanned for Google, I found myself reading a 1970 Life profile on a rising star named Robert Redford. As we emailed back and forth, the conversation quickly went to Redford latest project, the J. C. Chandor film “All is Lost ,” where Redford is a solo sailor fighting for his life after disaster strike sin the middle of the Indian Ocean. He is a favored to get an Oscar nomination in what will certainly be a crowded field. We both agreed that Redford finally found a film that suits his artistic temperament. Everybody seems to agree; he received a standing ovation at Cannes. Richard is able to take his institutional knowledge and distill it into something that remains fresh and earnest, something that often eludes many in his field.
Biography. Richard Schickel is a film critic, documentary film maker and movie historian, who has written over 30 books, among them The Disney Version; His Picture in the Papers; D.W. Griffith: An American Life; Intimate Strangers: The Culture of Celebrity; Brando: A Life in Our Times; Matinee Idylls; and Good Morning Mr. Zip Zip Zip. His 30 documentaries include Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin; Woody Allen: A Life in Film; and Shooting War, which is about combat cameramen in World War II. He has just completed a book about Elia Kazan and a documentary about Martin Scorsese, which is the eighteenth in the series of portraits of American film directors he has made over the course of his career. He has held a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was awarded the British Film Institute Book Prize, the Maurice Bessy prize for film criticism, and the William K. Everson Award for his work in film history. His recently completed reconstruction of Samuel Fuller’s classic war film, The Big One , was named one of the year’s Ten Best Films by the New York Times , and he has won special citations from the National Society of Film Critics, The Los Angeles and Seattle Film Critics Associations, and Anthology Film Archives. He has been reviewing movies for Time since 1972 and writes a monthly column, Film on Paper, for the Los Angeles Times Book Review.
The Luncheon Society ™ is a series of private luncheons and dinners that take place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Manhattan, and Boston. We essentially split the costs of gathering and we meet in groups of 20-25 people. Discussions center on politics, art, science, film, culture, and whatever else is on our mind. Think of us as “Adult Drop in Daycare.” We’ve been around since 1997 and we’re purposely understated. These gatherings takes place around a large table, where you interact with the main guest and conversation becomes end result. There are no rules, very little structure, and the gatherings happen when they happen. Join us when you can