What does a guy have to do? The most commercially successful filmmaker ever (you could argue that he's been that for over twenty years), Steven Spielberg is criticized for tending toward escapism and sentimentalism and lack of serious artistic intent. This, in spite of three Oscars, the Irving Thalberg Award, the DGA's Lifetime Achievement Award, and countless Golden Globes and other awards — AND the only director with five films on the American Film Institutes Top 100 of All Time list. His "Schindler's List" also ranks in their Top Ten of all time.
Though it's now clear that this is a man who is pursuing his destiny, "dreaming for a living", that wasn't clear to USC admissions who turned him down twice. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1946, Spielberg graduated from Saratoga (California) High School and attended Long Beach State, which then had no film program.
He dropped out of there and into Universal Studios, where, the myth goes, he set up shop in an empty office, pretending to be a screenwriter, until he got a job. He started directing TV shows for Universal (Night Gallery, the very first Columbo) at the age of 21. Mentored by studio head Sid Sheinberg, Spielberg directed the brilliant "Duel" for television in 1971; his first feature, "The Sugarland Express", in 1974, and, still in his twenties, was then given the directorially impossible job of "Jaws".
Ironically, during the shoot, Spielberg (and many cast and crew) figured this would be the end of his career. Trying to negotiate the wind and the waves and the famous mechanical shark for months, he contemplated doing serious bodily injury to himself in order to be relieved of duty. The shark's mechanical failures forced him to make several "Hitchcockian" shots, which only hint at what was beneath the waves. The scene of the moving dock was one of many such choices, which made for a more suspenseful film.
Even though "Jaws" was the #1 most successful film at the time, when Spielberg asked Albert Broccoli if he could direct the next Bond film, Broccoli turned him down as not having enough experience.
"Jaws" is given credit for ushering in the age of the summer blockbuster. "E.T." is given credit for being the first film to use product placement. E.T.s predilection for Reese's Pieces made its sales soar.
For a guy who had to endure years of Hollywood's special brand of condescension for not being serious, Spielberg went against his "Spielbergian tendencies" to tell the story of Oskar Schindler and the Holocaust in his masterpiece "Schindler's List" in 1993, and of the Normandy Invasion in "Saving Private Ryan" in 1998. It's hard to imagine anything more serious than that.
— Nate Lee