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Entries in Steven Spielberg (42)

Monday
Jul272015

Thoughts I had while staring at that new Bridge of Spies Poster

Manuel here. I had to check but it strikes me that for a film that ranked #8 in TFE’s collective “We Can’t Wait!” list, we haven’t really discussed the upcoming Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg film, Bridge of Spies. I saw this poster displayed at my local multiplex and well, I had to share some of my thoughts on it.

• Floating head? Noooooo!
• It is a bit of an improvement over that floating head/flag one from a few months back.
• Hanks does give good furrowed brow.
• Red and black and white makes for a clean design and the typography clearly alludes to the film’s Cold War themes but this poster really isn’t helping you figure out the plot other than reminding you that Hanks is (yet again) playing an “honest man." To be fair, from the trailer, it looks like a hard one to boil down to a simple plot synopsis.
• Why isn’t Spielberg’s name more prominently displayed? Even those Daniel Day-Lewis-heavy posters for Lincoln had the “A Steven Spielberg” line a tad more visible.
• No “Academy Award Winner”? (but then Hanks has never been one to brag)
• At least the bottom of the film aims to remind you of that other Hanks/Spielberg’s collaboration, Catch Me If You Can, and its amazing opening titles. Still one of the best Spielbergs and just think of its young actressy roster: Amy Adams, Ellen Pompeo, Jennifer Garner, Elizabeth Banks, even a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her Amy Acker!
• That bottom half is also slightly Hitchcockian (and by that, I mean it’s a Saul Bassian riff on North by Northwest, no?)
• It’s also giving off The International vibes
• Are the red I's… bridges? I’m baffled by that design choice but maybe that’s why I’m not in movie poster designing business since I’d have squeezed in Amy Ryan into this poster and somehow made sure to remind you that Mark Rylance and Billy Magnussen are also in it.

Does this poster boost or dim your excitement?

Monday
Jun082015

Beauty vs Beast: When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth

Jason from MNPP here with this week's "Beauty vs Beast" -- actually it's more of a "Beast vs Beast" this time around, as we're finally tackling the movie franchise sixty-five million and twenty-two years in the making and as much as I love all of the Ellie Sattlers and Ian Malcolms let's not fool ourselves - we go to Jurassic Park movies to see the dinosaurs of our childhood dreams be brought to (terrifying, realistic) life. Jurassic World is out on Friday and as much hyped in the trailers they're giving us a new dinosaur, the Indominus Rex. It's a genetic hybrid, spliced together from blah and blah and didn't they learn anything from the Spinosaurus fizzle in Part III? We know they need new toys to produce but we just want the classics. The originals are, as always, the best. But which is King of the Park?

 

Before anybody nerds out on me I know that scientists now believe the T-Rex's "movement-based vision" thing is no longer the case but hey, it's what the movie believes, so it's true for this T-Rex. You've got a week to vote! And please, no write-in's for Chris Pratt. Doesn't he have enough already?

Thursday
May142015

E.T.'s Wish Fulfillment Fantasy

National Bike to Work Week. Here's Lynn.

It’s fun to zip around on a bike, but who among us hasn’t dreamed of having a bike that can literally fly?  If The Wizard of Oz engraved the image of a flying bicyclist into our brains as the ultimate nightmare (that moment when the mean neighbor turns into the Wicked Witch of the West still sends chills down the spine), then E.T. replaced it with the ultimate wish-fulfillment fantasy for legions of ’80s kids everywhere.

In a movie filled with memorable images, this one (which Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment would later adopt as its logo) remains the most iconic.  Separated from the film, there’s something haunting, even melancholy, about the sight of that tiny silhouette suspended against the giant, low-lying full moon – a hint, maybe, that E.T. must wane before he waxes again.  Yet the memory it evokes is Elliot’s incredulous joy as E.T. lifts his bike into the night, accompanied by John Williams’ soaring strings.  No matter how many times you’ve seen it, it still feels like the first time.  Never mind that the scene was shot against a blue screen, with cranes, and the footage of the forest and moon added in post-production.  It’s still magic.

The second liftoff comes at a much tenser moment, following an emotionally draining sequence in which E.T. dies and is brought back to life, and a white-knuckle bike chase – a standout scene in itself – in which E.T. and the boys are almost cornered several times by the authorities.  The suspense is surprisingly drawn out, as the viewer knows by now that E.T. has the power of flight at his fingertips and can’t help wondering, What’s he waiting for, why doesn’t he do it?

The moment he finally does, taking the boys with him, brings as much relief as exhilaration.  It also marks a brief return to the joy and wonder of the first half of the film before the imminent four-hankie farewell.  Once again, we have the image, now expanded, of a whole row of bikes against a large bright orb.  This time it’s the sun—a setting sun.  E.T.’s time on earth is drawing to an end.  But we’ll always remember when he made our bikes fly.

 

Friday
Mar132015

We Can't Wait! #8: Bridge of Spies 

Billy Magnussen (Into the Woods) on the set with Tom HanksTeam Experience is counting down our 15 most anticipated for 2015. Here's Tim...

Who & What: Steven Spielberg directs Tom Hanks for the first time since 2004, working from a screenplay written by Joel & Ethan Coen (whose solitary collaboration with Hanks, 2004's The Ladykillers, saw one of his best performances stranded in their worst movie). It's a true story about a lawyer negotiating the release of an American pilot from the Soviet Union during one of the tensest stretches of the Cold War.

Why We're Excited About It: To paraphrase one of the writers' most iconic lines, "Spielberg. The Coens. What do you need, a road map?" The collision of two of the most distinct voices in contemporary American cinema, and in a genre (political thriller) that neither of them have ever quite dabbled in before, is absolutely worth being excited for regardless of any other considerations. But of course, those other considerations exist: Hanks working reuniting with filmmakers who have drawn out some excellent work from him in the past, the maddeningly under-used Amy Ryan with a big part, a ripe historical setting that Hollywood has been weirdly uncurious about exploring. In my totally private capacity as the most tedious kind of craft nerd, finding out what costume designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone has lined up after her tremendous work in A Most Violent Year is a pretty big draw, too.

What If It All Goes Wrong? Not only do Spielberg and the Coens have distinct voices, they're diametrically opposed voices, too. The king of audience-friendly sentiment and the court jesters of detached cynicism are perhaps likelier to clash atonally than find some third way that combines their disparate strengths. And so soon after Unbroken, it's hard to get unreservedly excited about the prospect of a Coen script that the brothers aren't also directing.

When:
October 16th in the United States - the same weekend that has recently given us 12 Years a Slave and Birdman, which speaks to Disney's understandable suspicion that they have a major Oscar player on their hands.

Previously...
#9 Taxi
#10 Freeheld
#11 A Bigger Splash
#12 The Dressmaker
#13 The Hateful Eight
#14 Knight of Cups
#15 Arabian Nights
Sidebar 3 Animated Films
Sidebar 2 Tomorrowland
Sidebar 1 Avengers: Age of Ultron
Intro Pick a Blockbuster

Tuesday
Oct282014

DreamWorks' 'BFG' lands its lead and a July 2016 Release

 Margaret here as your resident Roald Dahl enthusiast, reporting on the upcoming big-screen adaptation of The BFG from Steven Spielberg. 

The fantastical 1982 novel follows a precocious little girl named Sophie and the titular BFG (Big Friendly Giant) who whisks her away into his world of catching and distributing dreams. The story's elements of darkness and absurdity (horrifying man-eating giants and a surprising amount of flatulence) are typical of Dahl, though perhaps less prominent than in some of his other well-known works. 

DreamWorks has announced that revered British stage actor Mark Rylance will be taking the title role. The the winner of three Tonys, two Oliviers, and a BAFTA, Rylance is nonetheless relatively unknown in the film world. This left-field choice for the lead is heartening; to choose an actor whose bankability is so entirely off the map shows great confidence in his ability, and bodes well for an interest in serving the material.

Certainly Steven Spielberg, who will direct and produce, knows his way around a heartwarming family film. Yet for the work of an author as misanthropic and wicked as Dahl, my heart wants a filmmaker who's proven they can do fanciful children's stories with more of an edge-- someone more like Cuarón or del Toro than the man who brought us E.T. (Not incidentally, the team who brought us that Best Picture nominee are reuniting for The BFG: Melissa Mathison and Kathleen Kennedy are respectively set to write and exec-produce.)

Production will begin in a few months, and it will open in the United States on July 1, 2016. Let's hope that, as the BFG might say, they don't gobblefunk around with this children's classic.

Other Dahl fans among us: how does this look to you? Any theater-goers here willing to attest to Rylance's abilities? And the most important question of all: will the Queen make a giant-slaying cameo as herself?

Monday
Oct132014

75th: Absence of Melinda

Two time Oscar nominee Melinda Dillon turns 75 today. Since we don't like any major actresses to totally fade from public consciousness when they stop working, let's look back. Though her last working year was 2007 her most recent high profile gig goes back much further to a SAG nomination as part of the ensemble of Magnolia (1999, pictured left) in which she played wife and mother to Phillip Baker Hall and Melora Walters. 

Though she'd been working for a decade before it in small parts (TV guest gigs and improvisational comedy) her first real claim-to-fame came as "Memphis Sue" Woody Guthrie's wife in the Best Picture nominated bio Bound for Glory (1976). She received a Golden Globe nomination for "Best Acting Debut" (a now long defunct category) even though it wasn't her debut. Dillon's breakout led to bigger parts and two well-regarded Oscar nominations though curiously the Globes, who had first honored her, skipped her both times when her major hits rolled around. Her first Oscar nod made actually history: as the wide-eyed young mother in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1976) she was and will forever remain the first actor to ever receive a nomination for a Steven Spielberg film (it wasn't until The Color Purple when anyone else followed). Later she was nominated as a particularly fragile soul and key character at the heart of a war in Absence of Malice (1981) between journalist Sally Field and businessman Paul Newman (also Oscar-nominated).

Melinda Dillon as "Teresa" in Absence of Malice (1981)

Though Dillon's heyday preceded the birth of my own film/actress obessions I remember getting the sense that she was a critical darling, the kind of actress with a devout if not populist following. By the time I was watching movies regularly and passionately though the roles were all mom roles sometimes with lots of screentime as in A Christmas Story (1983) and Harry and the Hendersons (1987) and sometimes on the peripheries as in those very blonde family flashbacks in Prince of Tides (1991) or "Merna" in To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar (1995).

If you're familiar with her work what's your favorite of her performances? If she could be coaxed out of her retirement what would you have her do?

Thursday
Aug282014

1989 Look Back: The Last Films of Two Hollywood Legends

Hollywood in 1989 was a far different place than it was in the studio system heyday of the 30s through the 50s. The Old Hollywood glamour that made stars like Bette Davis and Audrey Hepburn once shine bright seemed like a distant memory compared to such blatantly sexual films as Sex, Lies, and Videotape. Trying to imagine Davis' Margo Channing or Hepburn's Holly Golightly appearing alongside the neon prints and leg warmers of the 80's is ludicrous. Except that both of these legendary Best Actresses happened to still be making films in 1989, decades after they had first achieved stardom. Sadly, 1989 would be the last year that both actresses would appear again on the big screen and what's worse, neither of their films (Wicked Stepmother and Always) would contribute much to their cinematic legacy.

more after the jump

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