Steven Spielberg

Winner! 2006 Judges' Award for Lifetime Achievement

Steven SpielbergWhen it came to the nominees

for the Lifetime Achievement Award, both the Beliefnet community and the

panel of judges

had very firm opinions--though they strongly disagreed with each other. The community voted by a wide margin to give the People's Award to

Mel Gibson

, the man behind "The Passion of the Christ," while the panel voted just as strongly to give the Judge's Award to Steven Spielberg, whose body of work includes "Schidler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan."



Interestingly, however, the community and the panelists agreed on one thing: Morgan Freeman came in second in both tallies.  Below, you will find our judge's profile of Spielberg. Click here for

Gibson's

.

Steven Spielberg: Our Collective Remembrance

I am on record calling to attention the deficiencies of "Munich," Steven Spielberg's take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but in considering the possibilities for Beliefnet’s first Lifetime Achievement Award, it is clear that, among contemporary American filmmakers, Steven Spielberg is a man apart. Earlier in his career, Spielberg was derided (with some accuracy) as a technical virtuoso who found himself hopelessly adrift when confronted with real life or genuine suffering. Faced with the enormity of Nazi crimes, Spielberg offered the cackling baddies of "Raiders of the Lost Ark"; his soggy adaptation of Alice Walker’s "The Color Purple" did little to assuage the naysayers. There were exceptions, as always--Robert Shaw’s recollection of the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis in "Jaws" is a spine-tingling piece of verbal theater in a film otherwise dedicated to scares of a more visceral brand. But when he took on "Schindler’s List," something changed inside Spielberg, inside the DNA of his work. By far the most rigorous film he had ever made, "Schindler’s List" is personal without being disrespectful to the enormity of the tragedy it partially chronicles.

Having previously remained defiantly childish in his outlook, Spielberg awoke to history, and there was no falling back asleep. Spielberg has never ceased to be optimistic, to seek the best in everything; what has changed is the nature of the stories he tells. His hopefulness, in "Schindler’s List," "Saving Private Ryan," "Amistad," and other films, is far more tenuous, partial, and hard-won. Spielberg’s optimism has remained, bloodied but unbowed, even when confronted with the Holocaust, slavery, and the Second World War, and this has come to appear no congenital defect, no residual trace of childish naivete, but a principled moral position. Even in the face of the worst, Spielberg finds--in the struggle for equality, for human decency, and for survival--traces of that higher calling that lifts us all, no matter what name we give to it.

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