I'm not sure if J-Ro really soured on Schindler's List or if it was one of those things that he liked but thought was overvalued and always had to take shots at to try and "put it in its place." I used to think that he didn't like The Godfather movies but then he wrote an article about "revisiting The Godfather (which he didn't have to do because he was already retired at that point) that made it clear that it was one of those types of cases. For that matter he often made similar kinds of comments about his friend Roger Ebert's reviews. Scorsese is another example.:
When it came out he called it the 4th best movie of the year but said:
(1) The beauty and density of Janusz Kaminski’s black-and-white cinematography, ranging from exquisite high-contrast night scenes to richly textured deep-focus long shots to grayish hand-held documentary-style footage. It far surpasses the look of any other new American feature I’ve seen this year and reminds me once again how the idiotic commercial requirement of color in Hollywood movies — usually blamed on the tastes of brain-dead teenage viewers (who don’t know any better) rather than on gutless producers and other movie executives (who should) — steadily deprives us of both visual pleasure and verisimilitude. I know that “life is in color” is supposed to shoot down every argument on behalf of the verisimilitude of black and white, but the fact remains that the colors in the life I know have scant relation to the colors I usually see in commercial movies; and the failure (both artistic and technical) of most directors and cinematographers to control color meaningfully has turned good contemporary black-and-white cinematography into even more of an aesthetic luxury. Alas, Spielberg’s expressed justification for using it — “Virtually everything I’ve seen on the Holocaust is in black and white” — is the lamest reason I can think of, denying any motive beyond an obeisance to dubious popular cliches about the past versus the present. But fortunately Kaminski’s work shows us countless better reasons for what he and Spielberg have done.
(2) Spielberg’s power as a storyteller. The film runs for 185 minutes, and none of it drags or stalls. Very little of it fragments into show-offy set pieces or sequences destined for Premiere magazine’s “Shot by Shot” feature, the standard bane of this sort of Oscar-mongering. The most important exception to this is a fancy montage sequence intercutting a Jewish wedding in a labor camp, the camp director harassing and then beating his Jewish maid in his wine cellar, and Schindler cavorting at a nightclub — a sequence that is on all counts the worst thing in the film. Otherwise, the script, credited to Steven Zaillian (most recently the writer-director of the first-rate Searching for Bobby Fischer), is generally a model of exposition and pacing. If it leads to certain questions about the ideological implications of Spielberg’s method — implications already suggested in the quotation by Robert Phillip Kolker at the head of this review — it can’t be faulted for its craft.
(3) The performances. Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler and Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern, Schindler’s Jewish accountant and right-hand man, are both indelible portraits, and as good as any work I’ve seen from either actor. I’m somewhat less happy with the characterization of Amon Goeth, the camp director, but the performance of British stage actor Ralph Fiennes in the part is good (in fact, I suspect Fiennes may wind up with the most prizes). And the work of countless other actors, mainly Eastern Europeans, is no less accomplished.
(4) The film’s success at conveying some of the enormity of the Holocaust, as well as some of its banal details, in a fully accessible manner, at a time when much of our collective memory and understanding of it is rapidly slipping away. Much of the time it accomplishes this less through graphic portrayals than through appeals to our imaginations. Another film that took on this task and performed it more responsibly and comprehensively — if less accessibly — is Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah (1985). But Shoah [see above photo] is a documentary and explicitly a Jewish film, and with an eight-hour running time to boot it clearly can’t address as wide an audience. Despite both the subject matter and the fact that Spielberg himself is Jewish, Schindler’s List is anything but a Jewish film. Indeed, as I hope to show, even Jews who see this film are implicitly transformed by the narrative structure into gentile viewers.
Point 4, the only one relevant to his later pot-shots, already has some caveats there. Also, he didn't add any sort of disclaimer to the review when he put it on his current website. He's done that with other movies. He now prefaces his three star review of Gremlins 2 with
A more recent look at this sequel shows that it dates badly, even (and perhaps especially) with all its Trump references. Its gibes all remain on the same level, even when they’re funny, so that it never becomes disturbing (as its predecessor does) or provocative. — J.R.