Steven Spielberg’s Picks: Watch Him Share His Debut Recommendations from TCM’s Lineup as a Network Advisor

What’s so inspiring and energizing about Steven Spielberg is that he isn’t just one of the greatest filmmakers ever, he’s an eclectic cinephile who talks about his favorite films with the boyish enthusiasm of a fan.

So he was a natural fit, alongside Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson, for the advisory panel that came together in June to support Turner Classic Movies. As part of that role, he’s recorded his first “Spielberg’s Picks” video, a recommendations list of his personal faves from the September 2023 TCM lineup. Watch the video above, an IndieWire exclusive, for not just his choices, but his incisive comments.

For his debut picks, he chose Vincente Minnelli’s “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944), Douglas Sirk’s “Imitation of Life” (1959), Gordon Douglas’s “Them!” (1954), Minnelli’s “The Bad and the Beautiful” (1952), and Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Wrong Man” (1957). Scorsese and Anderson’s own picks are forthcoming, and the idea is that there will be at least one of these videos, produced for social media, from one of the directors each month during the time that they are advisors, a term which will last until June 2024.

Spielberg’s relationship with TCM goes way back. He’s appeared on the channel as a guest programmer, and he’s popped up in countless documentaries that have aired on the channel, such as the late Richard Schickel’s “Watch the Skies!” about 1950s sci-fi. Plus, he’s been a regular attendee at the annual TCM Classic Film Festival: last year, he spoke to network host Ben Mankiewicz about the 40th anniversary of “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” and, separately, introduced a restoration of George Stevens’ “Giant.” This year, he was part of a panel discussion with Anderson and Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav at the world premiere of the 4K restoration of Howard Hawks’ “Rio Bravo.”

Of “Meet Me in St. Louis,” Spielberg singles out young Margaret O’Brien as a highlight (she “practically steals this whole movie from everybody”), while lavishing praise on the performances of Lana Turner, Susan Kohner, and Juanita Moore for “Imitation of Life.” He makes the connection between “Them!” as the first American sci-fi movie about the unexpected effects of nuclear fallout and the original “Godzilla.” And only from Spielberg could you get an insight like this about “The Bad and the Beautiful,” which is an inside-baseball view of Hollywood about an executive willing to compromise any scruple to get his movies made: “Growing up in this business, I have known people like Jonathan Shields, played brilliantly by Kirk Douglas, who I would never want to work for, but who I could not wait to watch their next movie.” Of course! Spielberg actually has known people like Shields!

And of “The Wrong Man” he recalls the story about how Hitchcock’s father, to teach him a lesson, took him to a police station and had the cops there lock him up in a cell for a few hours. “I think this [film] is a result of this childhood trauma, directly,” Spielberg said. Hitchcock’s filmography is full of films about wrongly accused men on the run. But never did he otherwise address that idea with the seriousness and sadness he brings to “The Wrong Man.” As Spielberg says, “What his father did to Hitchcock was intolerable, but maaay just have made him the Master of Suspense and one of the greatest filmmakers in film history.”

Watch the video of Spielberg’s Picks above.

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