Joyce Carol Oates: ‘The Fabelmans’ Is ‘Remarkably Mediocre’ and ‘Discouraging’ to Young Filmmakers

Oates tweeted that Steven Spielberg has a "superficial triteness" as a director following the autobiographical film's Golden Globes win.
Joyce Carol Oates, Steven Spielberg
Joyce Carol Oates, Steven Spielberg

Joyce Carol Oates is calling out Steven Spielberg in an influencer feud we did not have on our 2023 bingo card.

Amid the awards season circuit where the adaptation of Oates’ fictionalized portrait of Marilyn Monroe, “Blonde,” and Spielberg’s autobiographical epic “The Fabelmans” are both making the rounds, Oates shared her film review for Spielberg’s personal feature.

“This was the most imaginative scene in ‘The Fabelmans,’ which was on the whole a remarkably mediocre movie for all its attention & the recent award,” Oates tweeted with a photo of David Lynch as director John Ford following “The Fabelmans” Golden Globes win. “Must be discouraging for young filmmakers.”

Netflix and Plan B film “Blonde” has been mostly iced out of the awards season buzz, other than in the SAG and Golden Globes categories of Best Actress for Ana de Armas’ performance as the legendary star. Oates maintained that the controversial NC-17 rated film is a “feminist” work while director Andrew Dominik defended the feature from being viewed as anti-choice.

Oates continued on Twitter, “I didn’t see the award ceremony but — did ‘Fabelmans’ really win over ‘Tar’ — ? ‘Banshees’? Amazing.”

She also retweeted a post reading, “I thought [‘The Fabelmans’] was awful. The writing so heavy-handed and the whole thing so artificial. Bleh.”

Oates clarified her dig at Spielberg’s film, writing, “By making a blonde-Aryan-antisemite the pseudo hero of his high school movie the young Fabelman disarms enemies & wins a pseudo friend. Is this an acknowledgment of the superficial triteness of the director’s career as an entertainer?”

Spielberg has not commented on Oates’ criticism.

“The Fabelmans” stars Michelle Williams and Paul Dano as Spielberg’s parents, with Gabriel LaBelle playing a young budding director named Sam. Seth Rogen also stars as a family friend.

Actress Williams was also nominated, as well as Spielberg and co-writer Tony Kushner for Best Screenplay and John Williams for Best Score.

“I’ve been hiding from this story since I was 17 years old,” Spielberg said during his acceptance speech of finally making the film. “I never had the courage to hit the story head-on until Tony Kushner…The fact that everybody sees me as a success story and everybody sees all of us the way they perceive us based on how they get the information. But nobody really knows who we are until we’re courageous enough to tell everyone who we are. And I spent a lot of time trying to figure out when I could tell that story and I figured out when I turned about 74 years old. I said, ‘You better do it now.'”

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