The Steven Spielberg Question.

Jeffrey Welles over at Hollywood-Elsewhere had his latest anti-Spielberg rant yesterday, to which I had to reply and set the record straight as to where Steven Spielberg, a flawed yet perceptively brilliant filmmaker, stands in my books and should really stand overall in cinematic history. 

Welles' view on Spielberg is this:
Spielberg knows his craft like few others, but 85% to 90% of his films have mostly been free of any kind of singular passion or deep-rooted beliefs about human nature and how the world works or an underlying current of any kind. Spielberg is a Capra-esque suburban sentimentalist who believes in the goodness of American families, small-town neighborhoods, emotional moms, chubby kids, aliens cute and ferocious, happy endings, carefully choreographed action and wow-level spectacle."
From ’75 through ’82 Spielberg was regarded by everyone (myself included) as a consummate filmmaker. He seemed to have an extraordinary ability to make his movies jump through the scrim — stylistically vivid (although not very artistic), often entertaining, and, of course, financially successful."

My take:
"I'd add 1971's "Duel" and 1974's "The Sugarland Express." So, really, he hit his stride between 1971-1984 (Duel, Sugarland, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Radiers of the Lost Ark, and, YES, even Temple of Doom). Starting with "The Color Purple" right up until "Amistad," (14 years) Spielberg was a lost puppy. Yes, he did make his best film during that time, that would be "Schindler's List," but everything else was bland, safe and too slick for its own good."
"Now, here's where we might differ Jeff. I actually find Spielberg became a better and more mature filmmaker post-Amistad. The craft and masterful storytelling he produced between 1998 and 2006 ("Saving Private Ryan," "Munich," "Minority Report," "AI: Artificial Intelligence," "Catch Me If You Can" and "War of the Worlds") was incredibly impressive. This was some of the riskiest storytelling he'd ever given us."
"Also, his technique seemed to have changed around that time. It felt more refined and less obvious. These were also some of the darkest, most despairing films he ever made. In other words, given the 30+ years of experience he had behind the camera, he just became a better filmmaker and learned from his mistakes. The way he edited, shot, and let the scenes breathe was just masterful. He also used long shots more often, a sure sign of having more confidence in his craft. His style looked simple, yet it was incredibly complex and effective."
"I can go on and explain how he lost his way again after that, starting with the hiccup that was Indiana Jones 4, but that would have to take up another few paragraphs. Suffice to say, it seems like he's been mostly hit and miss for the last 8 years or so."