With the first trailer for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film Lincoln being released yesterday, the reaction has been decidedly mixed thus far. We’re seeing many of the usual Spielberg criticisms starting to come out of the woodwork: He’s too sentimental. His movies are old-fashioned and full of cliches. He’s just making Oscar bait. While a lot of those things definitely apply to his last film, War Horse (and, in some ways, were appropriate for that film), I’m not entirely sure that Lincoln will follow the same formula. However, it also raises the question… why do people hate sentimentality in movies so much?
Google defines sentimentality as “excessive tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia.” Ironically, if you look around Hollywood lately, it feels like nostalgia is everywhere, and it’s not just Spielberg providing it. But I know that in most cases when people say sentimentality, they mean extracting emotion from a viewer in a manipulative way that is not earned. While I agree that a director can go too far in this regard, the fact remains that we do go to the movies to be moved and to have our emotions manipulated. You have to be willing to open yourself up to a certain extent. Part of me thinks that some moviegoers are too cynical nowadays and they just aren’t willing to give themselves up to the experience. However, I also think moviegoers are more savvy now, and a lot of old tricks don’t have the same effect that they used to. What do you think? Is there anything wrong with sentimentality in movies? Is Steven Spielberg stuck in an old way of thinking and unwilling to adapt? Why can’t people accept happy endings anymore? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.