By Kevin B. Lee, Michael Joshua Rowin and Keith Uhlich
KU: I saw it at the Ziegfeld on opening night. I remember a Rex Reed quote pertaining to another film he saw, where he maintained, "I'm not affected by the audience." Well, when I saw A.I., it was the last 30 minutes or so when the hatred of the audience was palpable, I could feel the audience seething in dead silence, and it really affected me.
So I didn't like the movie when it first came out. But there was some discussion of it on the Brian De Palma Forum that was interesting.
So I saw it again on my own and this time it not only worked but it really turned Spielberg around for me. This film convinced me that Spielberg was worth my complete, devoted attention.
MJR: I was in college. I was a huge Kubrick-head. I had a professor at the time who was great, but he was going on about A.I. and how he would never see it because it was Kubrick's project but Spielberg took it over, and Spielberg just wasn't worthy. I was impressionable and thought the same, and frankly I hadn't liked Spielberg since I saw E.T. as a kid. His name to me meant schmaltz, big budget corporate spectacle. So I never saw it when it came out. I also heard from my brother and other people that they hated it.
And then, later on, when I was a little older I came across other people I respected and had an appreciation of Spielberg and really liked A.I. I came around and checked it out—it was just a couple years ago. And I was blown away in ways that were deeply emotional and philosophical. But I was also profoundly agitated by certain things that were going on that I felt were classic Spielberg manipulation.
Also, one thing I want to put out is that Spielberg is the Michael Jackson of cinema—someone who has an innate brilliance in putting together the elements of mass entertainment into something truly exceptional. I'll get into that more as we watch the movie.
KBL: I saw this opening night at the Sony Lincoln Square. I had read the reviews by A.O. Scott and Jonathan Rosenbaum which were highly favorable. Especially Rosenbaum's which actually argued against what many other critics were saying, that Spielberg doing Kubrick was a disaster. Instead he claimed that they compensated for each other, Spielberg's heart joined with Kubrick's brain, or something. Anyway I saw it in a packed theater and near the end, like with Keith's initial experience, the feeling among the audience was one of disbelief and ridicule. It was one of those rare weird experiences where you're on a completely different wavelength than the people around you, and in a way I kind of felt like David in this movie, just alienated. But I left feeling like my mind had been blown, that a Hollywood movie had presented a slew of ideas about the nature and the future of the human race I had never thought about before.
Click here to read the liveblog at Shooting Down Pictures.