During Cinque's flashback when a bunch of the Africans on the slave ship are chained to a bag of rocks and thrown over board, I – already an emotional wreck – actually sobbed. I was *sobbing*. Spielberg really knows how to tug on the ol' heart strings, awful, cheesy, stirring music aside. Like him or loathe him, he's a great film maker.
Actually, Amistad isn't a particularly good movie (too manipulative and incoherent), but it's still a hell of a lot better than most. What Spielberg does so well - and very few film makers do – is make you *feel* something. No matter how well made a movie is, how clever it is, how beautiful it is, if I don't have an emotional reaction of some kind, if I don't care about at least one character, I'm simply not interested. For instance, Terrence Malick’s Badlands left me cold, brilliant as it is, because I felt nothing for the two main characters.
The reason Spielberg isn't a favourite of mine is actually because he doesn't understand sex and therefore romance, and I'm a whore for that shit. There is zero eroticism in any of him movies (as far as I can remember), and his take on male/female relationships practically never rings true. But no film maker is perfect. They all have their specific talents, Spielberg more than most, and at least he doesn't often bother trying to do romance.
Which, obscurely, reminds me of Eyes Wide Shut and Kubrick's entirely unerotic orgy scene that makes me wish he had just stayed the hell away from sex, period. See, people are meant to *enjoy* fucking. It's why we do it. And yeah, I know Tom Cruise is a total eunuch, but he's also supposed to be an actor, right? So how come he wandered through an orgy - an orgy full of exceptionally hot women at that - and couldn't even muster a semi? He looked – bored. See, that has to have been Kubrick's choice, because he was a notoriously fascist director. Still, I'm curious. This guy wanted to make a hard core skin flick before he died. Actual, respectable porn. Personally, I'm delighted he didn't – good pornographers should almost certainly enjoy sex, understand sexual connection and adult relationships as well as have an appreciation for the physical beauty and erotic appeal of the naked body (not that I know of any good pornographers in the film world. I'd *love* to find one). Genitals may well be fascinating, but on their own, they're not erotic (just think of a disembodied vagina and you'll be where I'm at).
The reason I love Secretary so, so much is because Steven Shainberg *gets* sex (and romantic love). He understands that we're all fucked up and the best we can and should hope for is finding a person as fucked up as we are who complements us. That film is perfect from start to finish. I talked to a friend of mine about it before I'd seen it, who thought it was shallow and that it should have been darker - I guess the happy ending wasn't to her taste. But she missed the point. There was no other ending possible – Lee and Mr Grey belong together and I adore how this film teaches us that.
As for action, see Alias for how to do it better than almost every mainstream movie there is.