A note: This is the twelfth in the Cinépathétic series, an interview-style back and forth between me and the interesting people in my life, jabbering about movies and why we love them so damned much. This week, I’m interviewing Jason Gibner, fellow fanboy, brilliant artist, and co-founder of the greatest mixtape dance party on Earth, The Bang!  Jason and I begin to chip away at the mountain of our differences over Man Of Steel, how Alex Murphy died for our sins, and the continued potency of Stephen Spielberg, director.  As usual, be wary for spoilers throughout, and please, enjoy.

man_of_steel_ver12_xlrgJason: Let’s get this party started. I’m excited, can’t take it anymore. Thanks for asking me to do this, Jarrod!

DR: Thank you for agreeing to it! This can be a long night for some people.

Jason: It can. I understand that. Wednesday nights can be the longest night of the week. That makes no actual sense, I know it.  I’m set.  I drank a green tea and I’m ready to party.

DR: (laughs) Where do we begin, Jason? I know we have a lot to talk about.

Jason: We do have a lot to go over. Should we start with the elephant in the room and get it over with?

DR: Are you talking about… What I THINK you’re talking about?

Jason: I think so. And I come in peace. Actually I wish we were talking about the Dolph Lundgren film I Come In Peace because that movie is amazing.  But yeah, Man Of Steel. Let’s just get it out there.

DR: (laughs) Of course, you mean Man Of Steel.  We have a… Differing opinion on this film, don’t we, Jason?

Jason: Yes we do. And I can fully admit that you are a much more knowledgeable fan of Kal-El then I am. I would classify my fan level as casual at best. I grew up with the Reeve films and have dabbled in Supes comics here and there, but I would never admit to being a hard, HARDcore fan of Krypton’s Last Son.

DR: There has been so much heartache for me as a die-hard Superman fan in my life, so many times where I’ve been disappointed in his depiction in popular media, and the innate silliness with which he has been handled makes it difficult – but not impossible – for me to defend the character anymore. But Man Of Steel makes it so damned aggravating. What about this movie does it for you, Jason?

Jason: Let me back it up by saying for the longest time I tried to defend Superman Returns.  I really, really tried to stand by that movie and eventually I caved in and admitted that while its heart may have been in the right place and its intention good, the movie was just flat.  For me, the last thing I wanted in a Superman movie was to feel nothing.  I want to be able to stand up and cheer for Kal-El when I’m watching a Supes movie.  So there were times when watching Man of Steel that I was like, “OH FUCK YES.”  When he’s flying up inside the terraforming robot thing with his fist just working that damn thing.  I was into that.  When he walks out of the Sears – I know – and the military guys are like, “this dude isn’t our enemy…” I was into that.

DR: Which is interesting to me.  I agree with you.  I also want to feel something in a Superman movie.  More than anything, I want to feel something that makes me sense that heroism – especially nowadays, at the risk of sounding like some pretentious wanna-be codger – is something to applaud for, to cheer for.  What I want in a Superman film is not only to believe that a man can fly, I want to be able to believe I can fly with him.  But Kal-El in Man Of Steel is not a hero.  Not yet, anyway.  More a rube that gets lethal superpowers and doesn’t really know how to use them.  This movie turns Superman into a yokel.

Jason: I can totally groove with that. And were Superman to be a bit more SUPER in the film I may have jumped through the screen, Kool-Aid Man style. I also feel that Man Of Steel was totally Superman Begins and much like the first Nolan Batman movie, I left the theater saying, “MAN, THIS NEXT ONE IS GONNA BE THE CHERRY JAM!!!” But now I’m not so sure. Most of the time my guideline with watching any film is “did I have fun?” That can be stupid fun, serious intellectual/emotional fun, whatever. But if a movie bores me or I think about whether or not I remembered to pay the phone bill during a movie, then it has failed for me.  And usually I am pretty optimistic about upcoming films. I’m trying to convince myself currently that hey, maybe I might like that crap lousy-looking RoboCop remake thing. Now that Man of Steel sequel thing… That I think we can agree on.

DR: This sequel Warner Bros. is cooking up could be enough for another entire interview for us, don’t you think?

Jason: Oh, my God, yes. It baffles even the most forgiving fans.

DR: But getting back to Man Of Steel… Zack Snyder really made an attempt to present the majesty of Superman to contemporary audiences that just don’t “get” him – and who don’t deserve him, in my opinion – but that majesty gets diluted by his feeble approaches to making Clark Kent more relatable.  Is it nit-picking when I say I don’t need to see Clark drinking a Bud and watching a football game?  I’d prefer to see how the Hell he got his job at the Daily Planet by the film’s end.  How in the Hell does he pull that off anyway?  I suppose everyone else had died.

Jason: I thought that too.  Daily Planet, for being a pretty major newspaper, has a pretty fast and loose background check policy.  I did like the idea of Clark watching football though.  Though it would have been more head-banging for me if he was drinking water.  Or V-8, or like a cup of sun energy or something.   But yeah, I get you.  Do you think it brought more fans, for better or worse to Superman?   ‘Cause now I feel like with the sequel all anyone cares about is the Batman shit.

DR: See, that’s my main gripe. Zack Snyder never gave a shit about Superman. He took the job from Warner Bros. – just like he took the job for Watchmen – because he could, and the money was damned good. The end game for Warners and Snyder is Justice League. Getting Batman back from Nolan. Competing with Marvel. It’s never been about the source material.

Jason: Yeah, and now that all that is becoming so clear, it kind of bums me out.  I’m hoping for something good, but it all just feels like desperately chasing after that Marvel gold. Now what’s your take on the Marvel juggernaut? Do you have a favorite film so far?

DR: I appreciate the game plan Marvel put together. It’s innovative, it’s savvy, it’s historic. It’s taking DC to task just like it did in the 60s, when Lee and Kirby jammed the Fantastic Four down DC’s throat.  And even though I’m not completely sold on the first two films of Marvel’s Second Phase – Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World were wholly inadequate buzzkills after The Avengers – I have high hopes for what remains. Captain America: The Winter Soldier looks incredible. But so far? I love the first Thor, the first Iron Man, and of course, The Avengers was a goddamned symphony.

Jason:  It’s true! I seriously thought there was no way an Avengers movie could work.  And I’ve never really bought into the whole Cult Of Whedon in any way, shape, or form.  My favorite by far is the first Cap movie.  Dude, I fucking love that shit.  Again, when Cap jumped off the GIANT TANK, I wanted to do back flips down the theater’s aisles.  I would actually die if I tried that.  So, yeah, I am beyond excited for Cap 2. Did you see that extended preview before Thor 2? That elevator scene? GOD DAMN.

DR: Damn straight I saw that!

Jason: Made me sit up pretty freaking straight in my seat right there!

return_of_the_jedi_ver1DR: (laughs) We could really go on forever like this, but let’s move on with your Top 5. Where should we begin?

Jason: Okay, okay.  You are right.  My number one of all time is Star Wars Episode VI : Return of the Jedi. No question.

DR: That is a fine film to begin with. Man, I had so many ways to approach you with this one. I assume we’re talking about the original theatrical release here? Not the, um, refurbished version?

Jason: Dude, for real, I’ll go with either one.  I like the extra banthas added for no good reason, but I’m not super into my favorite song Lapti Nek being gone. Also I don’t love Boba Fett flirting with the girls and all that. But is it blasphemy to say I like that new age ending song better then Yub Nub? ‘Cause I do.  I know, I know…

DR: There’s a certain appeal to Yub Nub! And them Ewoks made steel drums out of Stormtrooper helmets. I mean, there’s more reverence for the ordeal the Rebellion went through in that fife-playing jazz in the Special Editions, but Yub Nub was in my head all through my childhood.  What is it about Jedi that puts it over the top for you, Jason?

Jason: Well, I can admit seeing it age six opening night had a huge effect on me.  I was just the right age to have my mind blown. I was a fan of Star Wars and Empire but I was still really young with those. Jedi was the gas on the fire. I can admit that it isn’t the best Star Wars movie. I mean, it’s fucking nonsense the whole way through. Bunch of muppets in space talking space jibber-jabber. But that movie is 100% my comfort blanket, and I just think the whole ending with Luke throwing down his saber is one of the most badass moments ever.

DR: I was just talking about that moment the other day. “I’ll never turn to the Dark Side…” So fucking COOL.

Jason: And I kind of like how often Star Wars just doesn’t give a fuck. I know that pisses a lot of people off.

DR: That doesn’t bother me so much anymore. I remember being one of the dweebs who went all batshit about the Prequels, but now I keep them in a little fallout bunker in my brain. Jedi has some very killer moments in it. The speeder chase comes to mind.

Jason: I love tough-as-nails black outfit Luke Skywalker in that movie. I love it SO MUCH it’s not even right.  Yeah, the speeder bike is amazing. And that end space battle has STILL never been topped in motion picture history.

DR: It hasn’t! It really hasn’t. Lando strapped into The Millennium Falcon, hee-hawing his ass through the biggest fireball of the galaxy, all while the Empire goes down in flames. It’s too much. It’s really too much.

Jason: And dude the fucking sail barge scene! Luke does like a triple-flip in the air and comes down and catches his freakin’ saber??!  Too damn tough.  That’s a perfect way of summing up Return Of The Jedi.  It really is too much. It’s a beautiful mess of a movie, but I love it with all my heart.

DR: When it comes down to it, there was only so many ways to follow the momentum of Empire Strikes Back, and this was certainly one of the ways to go about it.  I don’t mind the Ewoks any more.  I didn’t mind them when I was a kid, but I suppose when I got to be this smart-assed teenager, I suppose I thought I was above it, that Star Wars was only about Siths and Tie Fighters and lightsabers and Jedi.  I superficially edited out most of the rest.  What a shit I used to be.

Jason: Yeah, silly muppets are totally part of the DNA of Star Wars, I feel. Fascinating side note, I’ve been reading that giant making of Return of the Jedi book and it seems there was massive controversy about the Ewoks during the making of the film. Kasdan and Lucas had long arguments about them being in the film, and Lucas pushing them to stay in was part of Ralph McQuarrie leaving the film. I get it with Ewoks but yeah, they’ve never bugged me either.

DR: The extended takes in Jabba’s Palace always chafed me, though.

Jason: Yeah, those aren’t my favorite. That’s the thing with the Special Editions… I don’t hold the Trilogy sacred like they’re my childhood photos or something but there are some changes I don’t get.  I’m all for stuff like putting the correct Emperor in Empire but what was wrong Lapti Nek? NOTHING!

DR: Lucas done lost his damn mind.

Jason: I think he has, and I’m all for it.

Amsel_RAIDERS_rereleaseADR: What’s next on your list?

Jason: Still on the Lucas beat, moving on to one of the most perfect movies ever made: Raiders of the Lost Ark. I mean seriously, can you even handle how good Raiders is? It’s not even right how solid that movie is.

DR: I know. It’s exasperating. How can one movie be so much fun, so consistently? But Raiders pulls it off. This was back in the day, when Spielberg and Lucas could still play in the same sandbox. Beautiful stuff. Why did you put this one up there?

Jason: Now I was fucking FOUR years old when I saw Raiders. Which blows my mind, as that’s the same age my daughter is now.  I wanted to be Indiana Jones then and I think part of me still does today. Much like my love for Star Wars, Raiders – and the other Indys – is something that has timeless appeal. They’re not like going back to something like Last Starfighter and being all nostalgic and pumped and realizing the movie is a little funky around the edges. Raiders stays fresh like a goddamn Twinkie.  I could watch that movie every day because it is like the definition of fun.  And young Spielberg made making that stuff look so effortless.

DR: There is no better way of putting it. Have you shown your daughter Raiders yet? Or Jedi, even?

Jason: She and I watched parts of Empire once, which was awesome as she was like constantly, “who’s that/why did he do that/where are they going/are they friends…” Really curious. I don’t want to force anything on her though. I don’t wanna be one of those obnoxious parents who is like, “YOU’RE GONNA LIKE STAR WARS TOO! AND HERE LISTEN TO THIS GUIDED BY VOICES 45 FROM 1996!” I don’t want to do that. Let her discover things on her own for the most part. And for Indiana Jones, she’s out. We went to Disney World recently and I got selected to be in the Indiana Jones Live Stunt Show. (Thank you, Jesus.)  Anyhoo, at one point I had to pretend to BE Indiana Jones and pretend to be killed by blow darts and do a dramatic death in front of the audience.  Long story short, she REALLY didn’t like seeing Daddy die and scream real loud.

DR: I can imagine that being a difficult thing to explain to a small child. I remember seeing this late at night on VHS at a sitter’s house. They wanted to watch it, and I was along for the ride. But that movie left one hell of a mark on me. I’m sure I was about 5. But it wasn’t until I turned 13 that I had an Indy awakening. Indiana Jones became as potent an adventure hero to me as Superman, or James Bond. Then I discovered Temple Of Doom, and… Well. I’m very grateful for Last Crusade, let’s put it that way.

Jason: (laughs) I had a Temple of Doom t-shirt that I tried to wear every day during the summer of 1984. It was blue and had a shitty drawing of Indy holding that giant machete. I fucking loved that shirt. I feel like my top 5 is like the all-nostalgia trip. Somehow I never realized that until now.

DR: I am totally not complaining. It makes for some great copy.

Jason:  One Last Crusade story, then we have to move on to movie number three. I’m in Junior High and I am BUGGING out over Last Crusade coming out while I’m in school. I get this girl to write me a fake doctor’s note, and I walk from the Junior High to the movie theater to see Last Crusade, first show, opening day. I’m siting there with my backpack, scared as Hell that an usher or somebody is going to call the school and rat me out.  All ridiculous to think about.  Every time I watch it, I think of that now.

DR: Man… I wish I had a story like that for a film as killer as that. When I got around to skipping school, I was seeing movies like Toy Story 2 and Sleepy Hollow. I got gypped.

Jason: Man, Toy Story 2 busts me up. That “when somebody loved me” Jessie song? Messes me up every time.

DR: What do you got for number 3?

robocop_xlgJason: ROBOCOP.

DR: (laughs) You know, I’m reviewing Paul Verhoeven’s original and the remake next week.


DR: (laughs) What?

Jason: Don’t get me started on that remake. Though I’ll be seeing it Thursday night at the first show. But yes, Alex Murphy died for our sins.  Jarrod, have you ever noticed how at the end Robo walks on water?  Or how when Alex gets his arms blown off, it’s in a cross shape?

DR: That, um. That water wasn’t that… Hm. Yes, I suppose it… JESUS. This never occurred to me. So much for objectivity.

Jason: Yeah, you kinda just gotta roll with it.  I think I first thought about it as Verhoeven talked about it NON-STOP on the Criterion DVD commentary.

DR: Why is this movie on your list?

Jason: RoboCop, for me, is much like Raiders, as I find it a perfect movie. It’s nasty, seriously fun, and has a gonzo message that never would have slipped into movie theaters if it wasn’t wrapped up in such a silly premise.  Verhoeven’s movies, especially those American audio sci-fi ones, have such a crazed Euro energy and point of view.

DR: And a frenzy, I always felt. Verhoeven has always been balls-out with his films, whether they had some underlying social messages like Starship Troopers, or meant nothing at all, like Basic Instinct. But every time I watch these movies of his, I’m thoroughly entertained, even when I should be disgusted. And that’s the point. Splatter-gore for the highbrow.

Jason: EXACTLY! And I feel Verhoeven delights in disgusting us.  Making the viewer a fascist with Troopers – or so he says in that commentary.  That totally is the point. I just think RoboCop is his masterpiece and one of the greatest science fiction FILMS of all time.  That remake looks like a goddamned turd on a plate though.

DR: Certainly does. And it takes a certain amount of audacity – that even Paul Verhoeven couldn’t muster, I think – to remake it as a PG-13 movie. Makes you wish Darren Aronofsky had taken the job, like he was supposed to.

Jason: I know, right?  You gotta wonder what he would have brought to the table.

DR: There’s so much sincere buffoonery in this movie. And an incredible cast of smarmy motherfuckers: Kurtwood Smith, Ray Wise, Miguel Ferrer, Ronny Cox… These bastards are running Detroit, and that makes the ensuing bloodbath all the more satisfying, doesn’t it?

Jason: Seriously.  Just the fact that Kurtwood Smith is the main baddie.  Something about a massively sadistic evil dude with glasses is so great. That loves the Tigers.

DR: Nobody could get away with that today. That’s what is so great about RoboCop for me, that one of the main bads is this fairly innocuous-looking guy, and Kurtwood Smith is such a charismatic monster in this flick. “You probably don’t think I’m a very nice guy,” Smith says. He isn’t, and it shows. Fucking captivating.  And the look of Murphy post-op. His skull is a horror to perceive without his iconic helmet. But in this remake, it’s all cleaned up. Pussed out. That’s what will keep this original a monolith compared to whatever these chumps cook up next week.

Jason: No one could get away with any of the original RoboCop the way it is.  The whole classic boardroom scene with the ED-209 seemingly endlessly shooting that poor Mr. Kinney? Never.  And what pisses me off  – and what really cheesed me off about RoboCop 2 – is that the whole heart, soul, and point of the first movie – the man in the machine, the soul in the system – seems to be lost on EVERYONE involved with RoboCop, everybody except Verhoeven. I remember the end of the first one, Robo looking at the camera, smiling a little and saying, “Murphy.”  Then the title RoboCop comes up so you know the name of what just kicked your ass. Then RoboCop 2 starts out and he’s talking like a robot again. I just don’t get it.  We should move on; I could go on all night about this…

DR: We could start a show on this, Jason, we really could.

Jason: Could and SHOULD!

MPW-19401DR: But you’re right. Let’s move on. What’s number four?

Jason: Number four is Terry Gilliam’s 1985 masterpiece Brazil, which I like to think of as a companion piece to RoboCop. The soul in the machine. The man against the system.

DR: Excellent segueway.

Jason: Brazil‘s Sam Lowry is very much like Alex Murphy. A good guy just trying to get by, but once he becomes part of the “real world” of big business his soul gets a bit lost and found again as a hero. Sam’s fate actually isn’t too different then Alex Murphy’s actually.

DR: I can get behind that.

Jason: I just think Gilliam’s brain is one unique damn machine and this film is getting a the best chance to look around in there.  The final 20 minutes or so of Brazil is some of the wildest shit there is. and much like Robo, it rides that same low brow/high brow vibe perfectly,

DR: The film is, in a sense, just a love story – love of self, love of security, love of rebellion, love of the rescue – but there is so much more at play here. Gilliam’s themes are inherently similar to Verhoeven’s in RoboCop – you’ve made a brilliant point there. And setting it through the eyes of Jonathan Pryce is always wicked fun for me. The man is criminally underutilized as a formidable cinematic presence.

Jason: And the recurring theme in ALL of Gilliam’s work is “what is reality and what is fantasy?” That same way of thinking can be used for RoboCop, Starship Troopers and obviously Total Recall.  And YES, I love Brazil‘s maybe tragic/maybe not love story between Sam and Jill. Both of those actors are so perfect in that film. But then I think everything is perfect about Brazil.

DR: It fucks me up when he sees that his mother – a woman that has domineered his entire life – turn into the woman he desires to save, in daydreams during his blasé, rigmaroll days as a pencilpusher. He finally gets the nerve to save this woman, and this is what happens.

Jason:  Totally. His mind starts to go. Or does it. Who was his mother to him? Why is he so attracted to Jill the terrorist? Why does he reject the life given to him? The film, again much like RoboCop, was such a comment on 1980s society but the questions asked by both films are timeless. The whole question “does Brazil have a happy ending?” Well, yes and no.  I side with yes.  Fantasy is what keeps reality worth living. RoboCop can believe he is still Murphy.  We’re getting heavy here, Jarrod. Weren’t we talking about Ewoks a while back?

DR: (laughs) It happens sometimes on Cinépathétic, but don’t be afraid of it! Let the knowledge, the emotions, flow through you!

Jason: Give in to your feelings, boy!

DR: And I’m with you on the “ignorance is bliss” angle. Sam may ultimately get the ending he wants, but not in the way he would prefer to have it – The American Dream, huffily sniffed at by Gilliam. I think we’ve all blithely sung “Brazil” as our dreams took us from the reality we blissfully ignored. This movie aces those themes brilliantly. And hauntingly. No small feat.

Jason: Not at all.  And for Gilliam to suckerpunch the audience with that final scene?  No wonder Universal freaked out.  They thought they were getting a wacky Monty Python movie!

aliens_ver1_xlgDR: And what do you have for our last film?

Jason:  Last is a tie!

DR: (laughs)

Jason:  I know I’m cheating, but I couldn’t decide between Spielberg’s A.I. and Cameron’s Aliens. Both movies absolutely rock my world.

DR: Fair’s fair. It’s not like I have rules about this thing.

Jason: Fuckin’ punk rock here.

DR: Which one do we talk about first?

Jason: Let’s do A.I.   Or no, wait, Aliens. That one is simple. It’s ALIENS.

DR: (laughs) For sure. May I say, it’s refreshing to talk about this one over Ridley Scott’s Alien. I’M SICK OF RIDLEY SCOTT.

Jason:  I can see that.  I love Alien but I feel like it’s cooler to say you prefer Alien to Aliens.  I get it, Alien is fucking gold, but man Aliens is a cut and dry, simple fucking freight train of a movie.  It’s like the cinematic equivalent of the first Ramones record. Fast, fun, all killer, and no filler.

DR: I actually prefer Aliens to Alien. It takes a low-rent space-slasher and turns it into this heaving, grinding monstrosity of an action flick. As only James Cameron could offer.

Jason: Did you ever hear how Cameron wrote the screenplays for Aliens and Rambo 2 simultaneously? The structure of the two films are weirdly similar.

DR: Explain.

Jason: Rambo and Ripley are both sent back to the place where neither of them ever wanted to go back to. Both are sent to finish the job by a ugly government/company. They go there, things are weird, and shit gets out of hand real quick. Meet a new friend, but Rambo’s dies. Defeat the big boss at the end, escape the personal Hell and go drifting off to who knows where in the end.

DR: Huh. I suppose this is the first time I’ve ever found myself considering the plot to Rambo 2.

Jason: (laughs)  For everything there is a first time.  How are you with Alien 3?

DR: I’m not against it. I was talking about this the other day with a co-worker, and I felt that it was enough of its own beast that the three films could be set among each other more as an anthology than a straight trilogy. Though there is the obvious straight line that goes through the three film’s narrative – Ripley’s genesis into unlikely hero, superhero, then martyr – Alien 3 was a respectful capper to the series. Provided you don’t count Resurrection. And Ripley was crazy gorgeous with a bald head. Oof.

Jason: Oh, I agree with the bald head. I had a hard time connecting with 3 until i saw that Producer’s Cut on the DVD and then improved on the Blu-Ray. That is what the movie should have always been, in my opinion.

DR: It does lose some of the bombastic momentum of Aliens by the time 3 rolls around. But it’s more of a “back-to-basics” stance, what with scaling the alien threat count back to 1.

Jason:  Sure. Now it makes sense and I think it’s a ballsy as Hell move, but I remember being in the theater in 1991 and being disappointed with that.  Nobody was expecting that. I love that the movie is like, “oh yeah, Newt and Hicks… Yeah they’re all dead. Because everyone around Ripley has to die”.  Now I love it.

DR: I’m kinda getting to wanting to watch it again. 3, I mean.

Jason: Do that Producer’s Cut. It’s a totally different movie.

ai_artificial_intelligence_xlgDR: And finally… A.I.

Jason: A much misunderstood movie.

DR: Stephen Spielberg had some considerable balls picking up where Stanley Kubrick left off.

Jason: Sure. And what’s interesting is that while Kubrick was alive he kept trying to pass the movie off to Señor Spielbergo, but the dude kept saying no.

DR: Maybe he should have kept saying no.

Jason: I don’t know if you’ve noticed this about me, Jarrod, but I have a soft spot for science fiction.

DR: I think I picked up on that, yeah.  I love it!

Jason:  Can you guess the part in A.I. that pushed me over the edge in the summer of 2001 and made this tied in my top 5 of all time?

DR: Um… It wasn’t the Robin Williams vocal cameo, I can safely assume. The Mecha/Flesh Fair?

Jason: Oh, I wish it was that Robin Williams Dr. Know cartoon thing.  Yikes.  Nope.  The whole future aliens/mecha conclusion.  Just the fact that this robot is a future society’s only link to understanding what humans were.  And they give him his last moment of happiness with a woman who has been dead for thousands of years and who NEVER LOVED HIM AT ALL.  Taking it back to Brazil, for me that A.I. ending had the same punch in the gut “life is a lie” ending, which was falsely accused of being a “Spielberg happy ending.”  I never really think about Kubrick when i watch A.I. I look at it like I’m watching Spielberg Unplugged.  Like this is what that weird fucker’s dreams look like.  All with washed-out Janusz Kaminski light all over the place.

DR: I know that his “mother” – Monica, I think her name was – had a conflicting issue as David got to be a bother in her family, but I really don’t think she never loved him at all. I took her care and concern for David as the same sort one applies to an animal, a pet. It’s not the idealized mother/son love David wanted – and artificially gets by the film’s end – but it is a bond. That bond is fortified and exists before David even leaves his “family’s” house. That applied knowledge is what makes that ending so saccharine and false for me. I want to look at it like you do. And maybe Kubrick might have shot the ending differently. But I know what Spielberg put on that screen, and it set my blood to simmering. I really feel he wimped out.

Jason: For me, it’s all about those final scenes. I have a making-of book that’s full of Kubrick’s notes and his outlines and the ending is pretty much the same.  Future things, David’s last wish, etc… It’s that those beings were missing out on understanding one factor in what these extinct human were all about… Love.  And they learn that from the pure, yet “artificial” love that David has for Monica.  With a Monica that is only constructed from David’s memories. Not the real Monica, but the one he wanted. It’s all artificial, but it’s all they have to learn what it was like to be human.  I love that shit.  I left the theater that morning in a daze!

DR: I’ve read that Kubrick wanted that ending, Spielberg kept it, and that it all went down, plus or minus, how it would have gone down had Kubrick lived to see the production through. But I wonder, “what if” more than I wonder anything else when I watch A.I. It’s one of those films that acts – to a cinephile more than a genre fan – as a pure curiosity than its own entertainment. I’ve been in all sorts of conversations about this film, and that’s what I’ve distilled the arguments down to. I don’t hate this movie. But it made me seriously consider Stephen Spielberg’s body of work, past, present, and future.

Jason: Then Spielberg followed up A.I. with Minority Report, which has one of the worst endings EVER.   Fuckin pre-cogs hanging out in a log cabin wearing sweaters. WTF.

DR: Yes, Minority Report. Love the film, don’t love the ending. The emperor has no clothes.

Jason:  That’s true. For lovers of modern cinema it will always be a hot button topic. Spielberg, the king of the popcorn blockbuster mixed with the artist Kubrick.  But maybe that’s the thing with me and that movie.  I just saw one of the greatest robot sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen.  The “whos” and the “hows” all got lost as I was sucked along into it.

DR: I appreciate why you love this movie so much. And I know you’re not alone. The fact that we can have such a conversation about it is a feather in its cap. And I may have to sit down to this one once again. And soon.

Jason: For you, what film is Spielberg’s masterpiece? His definitive moment?

DR: Can I say the man has had one yet? I know he always strides towards greatness – his body of work certainly attests to that – but when you cut through the pretension of some of his heftier work – Amistad, Lincoln, War Horse – and get to the finer points of his craft, which is to profoundly entertain… I have always considered Jurassic Park to be one of his most audacious offerings. When I talk about “level-jumping” in cinema, I always go back to Jurassic Park.  Throwing out Schindler’s List is a gimme, and I don’t play that.

Jason: I can dig that. While Raiders is obviously my favorite, I am constantly blown away that the guy was like, what, 21 or something when he made Jaws?  I feel like that movie, Jaws, is the blueprint for just about everything he would do in his long career. That movie still holds up so so well.

DR: I completely agree. A lot of his films do. And the man, when business doesn’t get too much in the way of art, knows his craft and is a technical wonder. I admire his films and find them exhausting in equal, reverent measure.

Jason: The dude knows how to make an exhausting movie, that’s for sure. I did a double feature of The Adventures Of Tintin and War Horse a couple years back. Almost killed me.

DR: Yeah, I almost did that very same double-feature myself. I went and saw The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Young Adult instead.

Jason: I never saw either of those? How’d that go?

DR: Well, I brought in a pint of bourbon for each film, so it got a little hazy come around midnight. But I remember enjoying my night. I just love me some David Fincher.

Jason: Did you like Benjamin Button?

DR: Not every director is infallible.

Jason: (laughs)

DR: Jason, this was too much fun.

Jason: Oh, my God, yes it was.  Thank you so much, again.

DR: Forget it! Thank you!

Jason Gibner lives just south of Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife and his wild four year old daughter. When he’s not watching movies or obsessively thinking about what movie to watch next, he is the co-founder and co-mixtape DJ for Ann Arbor’s long running The Bang! dance party. He also likes to paint cool things and sells some of them from time to time. He is human, but is rumored to have merged with the V’Ger probe at a very young age.