Steven Speilberg does it agan

Instead of Kansas, Steven Spielberg gives us New Jersey in his latest film, The Fabelmans. Instead of Dorothy, he gives us Sammy Fabelman. Instead of Uncle Henry and Auntie Em, he gives us Burt and Mitzi Fabelman. And there’s a Wizard in the movie too. That’s Uncle Bennie. Instead of a tornado, it’s a train wreck that will transport Sammy to Oz. And not just any train wreck. It’s the circus train wreck in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth. And it won’t be the Yellow Brick Road that will get young Sammy to Hollywood, but making home movies.

It’s 1952, and Burt and Mitzi Fabelman are trying to convince young Sammy that he’s going to love The Greatest Show on Earth. When he sees the train wreck on the big screen, he is hypnotized. Not by the movie or the train, but by the train wreck. He’s got to see that again.

When his father gives Sammy a toy train for Hanukkah, Sammy wrecks it the way they did in the movie. The train isn’t wrecked but his father tells him he needs to be more responsible.

Now we know that when a parent tells a kid in a movie to be more responsible, there’s going to be trouble. And sure enough Sammy sneaks around and does it again. Only this time, his villainy is aided by his mother. Mitzi Fabelman has turned into Glenda the Good Witch. Instead of a pair of red slippers, Mitzi gives the hero of this tale a camera. “If you film the train wreck, you can see it over and over again.”

And that is how Steven Spielberg begins his autobiographical film. Movie making is Sammy’s Yellow Brick Road to the Oz of the 20th Century and those childhood fantasies of wonder, JawsClose Encounters of the Tihird Kind,  E.T., Jurassic Park, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

But things aren’t all peaches and cream in the Family Fabelman. It’s like Professor Harold Hill sang in The Music Man. “There’s trouble right here in River City.” But the one thing that keeps Sammy going is making movies. It’s something that will lead him straight to a legendary filmmaker’s office.

As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed The Fabelmans. Enough to see it twice. And want to see it again. It reminds me of why I love movies the way Cinema Paradise did. When we can stream whatever movie or tv series we want, there is something that is missing for me. And that’s the WOW experience. The kind of experience I got when I first saw No Time for SergeantsBen HurPsychoIt’s a Mad Mad Mad World, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings and The Color Purple, and so many others on the big screen in movie theaters.

The Fabelmans gave me that rare experience.


Why did she have to raise cabbage? Anything but cabbage. Charles hated cabbage, and she knew he hated it.

Since they were married for the past twenty years, Helene had been obsessed with cabbage. Just try it this way, she said time and again. This way or that way was never going to work for him. He hated cabbage.

“Charles,” she said to him a number of times, “the rabbits are eating my cabbage.”

“Good,” Charles responded. “Now you don’t get to force it into me.”

“You know you would love my cabbage strudel if you would give it the old college try.” Just the thought of cabbage strudel about drove Charles insane.

He gave murder some thought over the years. No judge would convict Charles. “Your Honor,” he would say, “you will understand when you hear the circumstances of my crime. You will have no reason to convict me of the murder of my wife.”

After the judge heard his plea, he would immediately release Charles. “Justifiable homicide. No man could live with the persecution Charles has lived with for twenty years.”

This was Charles’ reasoning for some years, but no more. The country had gone cabbage crazy. It was becoming harder and harder to find a restaurant, a tavern or a friend who did not serve a cabbage dish with every meal.

Finally a solution came to Charles. A one way ticket to America. He had heard that America was a savage country where men and women ate only meat. America, everybody claimed, was a barbarous place.

The westward voyage was such a comfort. Not one meal on the menu offered cabbage. The ship passed the Statue of Liberty with its promised freedom from the tyranny of cabbage. As the ship moved into its berth at the port of New York, Charles smiled his broadest smile. He had turned his back on the religious persecution of his home country’s love of cabbage. Before him stood a cabbage-free life.

The ship docked. Charles gathered up his bags and headed into the city. His plan was to follow Horace Greeley’s advice of “Go West, Young Man.” Soon he would be on a train to California. First he must try a meal at one of New York’s finest restaurants.

Charles opened the menu and read. He just about vomitted. It seemed America’s finest restaurants too had embraced the contagion. Before him were offerings of cabbage and potatoes, cabbage rolls, boil-that-cabbage-down, cabbage stew and cabbage burgers. Cabbage mania had struck America when Charles wasn’t looking.

On and on the cabbage dishes ran until he came to the final offering. “Cabbage strudel topped with a dab of vanilla ice cream.” It was named, of all things, Cabbage a la Helene.