Silver: I’ve come back around on Ron Howard. For me, the hyperbolic sentimentality of his films and his overly lavish set pieces always felt like he was trying too hard. I tend to not like films that are so blatantly campaigning for an Oscar, and would rather a film’s innate importance be a tad subtler. But after recently catching Backdraft and Apollo 13 on cable, I went back and rewatched the entire Howard catalogue, and it became clear that my ire against his filmography was a case of a few bad apples spoiling the bunch.
Cinderella Man, The Da Vinci Code, and Angels & Demons are just poorly produced, pedantic movies. But there’s a certain earnestness and genuineness to the vast majority of his other films that, as I went title-by-title, came to be a welcome antidote to the cynicism inherent in so many films released today. Even in the titles some folks might consider to be weaker — The Missing, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Paper — ol’ Opie's heart bleeds through every frame.
This week brings the release of Super 8, director J.J. Abrams’ bighearted tribute to the sort of wide-eyed, family-friendly alien adventure movies Steven Spielberg used to make before he discovered less interesting things such as American history, Oscars, and Tom Hanks. The compelling wrinkle? Spielberg himself is the film’s executive producer and, in Abrams’ words, its "key voice." Imitation, flattery, and outright theft have a long, distinguished, and shameless history in Hollywood — but this strikes us as something different. Rather than merely aping his idol, Abrams is, essentially, making a Spielberg film for Spielberg.
And this got us thinking: What other faded masters could use the vibrant influence of their own artistic descendants — and what current up-and-comers could really use the firm, if graying, hand of an old master? Thus we propose the Director Mentorship Academy, in which younger directors enroll to make a better version of someone else’s movie — with the help of that very someone else. Below are some suggestions for the inaugural class.