kottke.org posts about Steven Spielberg
Bridge of Spies Jun 08 2015
Steven Spielberg is directing Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies, a movie about the negotiation to release U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers from Soviet custody. Here's the trailer:
The script was punched up by none other than the Coen brothers.
The Art of the Scene looks at how Raiders of the Lost Ark came to be and how the opening scene is the perfect introduction to the main character and the "look and feel" of the rest of the film.
Raiders of the Lost Ark in black and white Sep 23 2014
In 2011, Steven Soderbergh revealed he'd repeatedly watched Raiders of the Lost Ark in black & white. Now he's released a full-length version of the film in b&w, with no dialogue and an alternate soundtrack (Reznor and Ross's score to The Social Network) so that you can focus on how the film is constructed visually.
So I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot -- whether short or long -- held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me. Oh, and I've removed all sound and color from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect. Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I'm not saying I'm like, ALLOWED to do this, I'm just saying this is what I do when I try to learn about staging, and this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are -- that's high level visual math shit).
Spielberg to direct The BFG movie Jun 24 2014
Renowned film director Steven Spielberg will direct the new adaptation with Melissa Mathison, who last worked with Spielberg on ET, writing the script. Frank Marshall will produce the film and Michael Siegel and John Madden are on board as executive producers.
I can't find any direct evidence, but the way the news is being reported, this seems like it'll be a live-action film and not a Tintin 3-D motion capture affair.
Jurassic Park's groundbreaking digital dinosaurs Jun 10 2014
Great short film about how ILM's groundbreaking visual effects came to be used in Jurassic Park.
When Spielberg originally conceived the movie, he was going to use stop-motion dinosaurs. ILM was tasked with providing motion blur to make them look more realistic. But in their spare time, a few engineers made a fully digital T. Rex skeleton and when the producers saw it, they flipped out and scrapped the stop-motion entirely. Fun story.
The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark Jan 10 2014
This is wonderful: an hour-long PBS documentary from 1981 on the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Lots of behind the scenes footage, interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Ford, etc.
I love how delighted Spielberg is after the idol exchange scene.
The themes and techniques of Steven Spielberg May 10 2013
A nice short analysis by filmmaker Steven Benedict of the themes expressed and techniques used by Steven Spielberg in his films.
Steven Spielberg is doing a sequel to Lincoln called Obama and he got Daniel Day-Lewis to play the lead. I knew Day-Lewis was good, but this is bonkers.
Wow. In 1978, George Lucus gathered together Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan to go over ideas for a film Lucas had wanted to make about a swashbuckling archeologist, i.e. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Their sessions were recorded and there's a transcript available online.
Lucas - Now, several aspects that we've discussed before: The image of him which is the strongest image is the "Treasure Of Sierra Madre" outfit, which is the khaki pants, he's got the leather jacket, that sort of felt hat, and the pistol and holster with a World War One sort of flap over it. He's going into the jungle carrying his gun. The other thing we've added to him, which may be fun, is a bull whip. That's really his trade mark. That's really what he's good at. He has a pistol, and he's probably very good at that, but at the same time he happens to be very good with a bull whip. It's really more of a hobby than anything else. Maybe he came from Montana, someplace, and he... There are freaks who love bull whips. They just do it all the time. It's a device that hasn't been used in a long time.
Spielberg - You can knock somebody's belt off and the guys pants fall down.
Lucas - You can swing over things, you can...there are so many things you can do with it. I thought he carried it rolled up. It's like a Samurai sword. He carries it back there and you don't even notice it. That way it's not in the way or anything. It's just there whenever he wants it.
Spielberg - At some point in the movie he must use it to get a girl back who's walking out of the room. Wrap her up and she twirls as he pulls her back. She spins into his arms. You have to use it for more things than just saving himself.
Lucas - We'll have to work that part out. In a way it's important that it be a dangerous weapon. It looks sort of like a snake that's coiled up behind him, and any time it strikes it's a real threat.
Kasdan - Except there has to be that moment when he's alone with a can of beer and he just whips it to him.
Patrick Radden Keefe at the New Yorker read through the whole thing and has some highlights and general thoughts.
Over the intervening decades of enormous wealth and success, both Lucas and Spielberg have carefully tended their public images, so there is a voyeuristic thrill to seeing them converse in so unguarded a manner. As the screenwriters Craig Mazin and John August pointed out recently on the Scriptnotes podcast, one delight of reading the transcript is watching Spielberg throw out bad ideas, and then noting how Lucas gently shuts him down. Spielberg, who had sought to direct a Bond movie-and, astonishingly, been rejected-thought that their hero should be an avid gambler. Lucas replied that perhaps they shouldn't overload him with attributes. (Lucas himself had briefly entertained, then mercifully set aside, the notion that his archaeologist might also be a practitioner of kung fu.) There's a good reason we seldom get to spy on these conversations: really good spitballing, like improv comedy, requires a high degree of social disinhibition. So the writers' room, like a therapist's office, must remain inviolable.
Here's a big collection of behind the scenes photos of the filming of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg looking rad.
And this scene, which scarred me for several years.
The world's best audition (for Elliott in E.T.) Oct 15 2012
I've never seen a better audition tape than this improvised scene by Henry Thomas for the part of Elliott in E.T.
Raiders of the Lost Ark on IMAX! Aug 15 2012
Steven Spielberg is re-releasing Raiders of the Lost Ark in IMAX theaters for a one week engagement in early September.
Mr. Spielberg, who with the sound designer Ben Burtt supervised the conversion of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" to Imax, said that no special effects or other visual elements of the film were changed. The audio, he said, had been enhanced for surround sound: "When the boulder is rolling, chasing Indy through the cave, you really feel the boulder in your stomach, the way you do when a marching band passes by, and you're standing right next to it."
Beyond the uncanny valley Jan 04 2012
Kevin Kelly argues that Spielberg's Tintin movie passes beyond the uncanny valley into the "plains of hyperreality".
One of the great charms of the Tin Tin movie (besides its solid story, and uplifting sensibility) is the incredible degree of detail, texture, lighting, and drama that infuses every scene. Because the whole movie is synthetic, every scene can be composed perfectly, lit perfectly, arranged perfectly, and captured perfectly. There is a painterly perfection that the original Tin Tin comics had that this movie captures. This means that the stupendous detail found in say TinTin's room, or in a back alley, or on the ship's deck can be highlighted beyond what it could in reality. You SEE EVERYTHING. When TinTin's motorcycle is chasing the bad guy and begins to fall apart, nothing is obscured. Every realistic mechanical part is illuminated realistically. This technique gives a heightened sense of reality because every corner of the entire scene is heightened realistically, which cannot happen in real life, yet you only see real-looking things. This trick lends the movie a hyperreality. Its artificial world looks realer than real.
The uncanny valley issue has been less noticeable lately, but what really snaps me out of being immersed in movies lately is the Impossible Camera™. In 100% CGI shots, when cameras move quickly with sharp changes in direction over long distances, something that actual cameras can't do, it snaps me right out of the action because it's so obviously fake. For instance, any scene in the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies where Spidey is flying through Manhattan. Fay, fay, fake.
Tintin trailer May 17 2011
Produced by Peter Jackson and directed by Steven Spielberg, it looks like an all-CGI adventure. I got sort of a Polar Express vibe from the trailer though, which is not encouraging.
Spielberg's Abe Lincoln movie Nov 19 2010
It's called Lincoln and will be a collection of the talents of Steven Spielberg (director), Daniel Day-Lewis (plays Lincoln), Doris Kearns Goodwin (wrote the book), and Tony Kushner (screenplay).
It is anticipated that the film will focus on the political collision of Lincoln and the powerful men of his cabinet on the road to abolition and the end of the Civil War.
Steven Spielberg's Amblin' Jul 15 2008
Amblin', Steven Spielberg's first film shot on 35mm, is available on YouTube (~25 min long). Binary Bonsai has more on the first real movie that Spielberg directed (which the director now dislikes).
Spielberg's first outing is all about humanity, love, feelings, innocence and all the other softness for which he has since become almost infamous. Whatever tech-lust Spielberg might have, goes on behind the lens, not in front of it. And despite moving on to do some pretty tech-heavy films (Jurassic Park for instance), he almost always keeps the human side of things front and center.
The Whine Colored Sea issues a challenge: Nov 30 2006
The Whine Colored Sea issues a challenge: which directors, musicians, artists, authors, etc. followed a masterpiece with a bomb. Spielberg's Schindler's List followed by Jurassic Park 2 is a good example.