Amph The Style of Spielberg

Discussion in 'Community' started by StarDude, Apr 18, 2006.

  1. StarDude Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2001
    star 5
    This thread is discuss each and every movie directed by Steven Spielberg--the most commercially successful filmmaker of all-time. The idea of this thread is that we go beyond just discussing whether or not we like the film in question, and talk a little more analytically and in-depth about it.

    We'll be starting with what most consider to be Spielberg's debut film, although it originally aired on television, Duel (1971).

    [image=http://www.stlux.com/uploaded_images/duel-dennis-weav-717829.jpeg]

    The film is about an everyman named David Mann who is driving across California on a business trip. He's on his way to an important appointment when he decides to cut off a truck. The truckdriver takes offense and decides to stock David in his truck from the remaining hour and a half.

    You can't get a simpler plot than that. Like Jaws, this is one of Spielberg's more elemental thrillers--relying on situation rather than plot. It's easily the most dated film of his.

    Although it's by no means his deepest work, I have to admire it as a debut film. Spielberg certainly shows that he's a student of Alfred Hitchcock. He uses the smallest amount of plot as possible, and relies on the characters to get themselves into situations.

    Not exactly a trademark Spielberg film, but good nonetheless. Discuss.
  2. Zaz Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 11, 1998
    star 9
    It is a very simple, yet highly effective movie.

    All you see of the trucker is his boots. I rather wish they hadn't shown even that much. The truck itself has a sort of manic, primal energy.

    I still remember the weird capering at the end.
  3. MatRags Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Feb 5, 2001
    star 4
    I really admired Duel for its simplicity. It does what it does and does it well. This sort of movie could never be done for television today (unless it's a remake!). It would be watered down with pointless melodramatic subplots. We'd meet the driver who'd turn out to be some middling star who can't get better work, and we'd meet the main character's wife and so on and so on.

    Duel is quick, simple, and suspenseful.
  4. winter_chili Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2002
    star 5
    It was made for TV, and I imagine if I saw it in that context I'd be REALLY impressed. As is, it's a good example of tension and pretty clever. It's based on a Richard Matheson short story so you can't really go wrong.
  5. JohnWesleyDowney Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2004
    star 5

    I really admired Duel for its simplicity. It does what it does and does it well. This sort of movie could never be done for television today (unless it's a remake!). It would be watered down with pointless melodramatic subplots. We'd meet the driver who'd turn out to be some middling star who can't get better work, and we'd meet the main character's wife and so on and so on.

    Duel is quick, simple, and suspenseful.


    Boy, you hit the nail on the head.
    I shudder to think what idiot television executives would
    do to this nowadays. They would demand the writers put all
    kinds of garbage in there that would have slowed down
    Spielberg's kinetic and visual energy.

    It's a masterpiece of tension and simplicity.
    An awesome debut.

    It was released in Europe theatrically and made 6 million dollars.
    Since Universal had already made a profit from it's airing on
    American TV, that 6 million was all gravy and Spielberg had made
    the studio happy. He was on his way.
  6. Zaz Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 11, 1998
    star 9
    I remember the truck sounding like---a Tyranasauras Rex, actually. Hmmm. :D
  7. Forcefire Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 17, 2000
    star 4
    I just watched the big documentary feature on my Jaws DVD, and Spielberg was talking about putting a dinosaur sound effect from an old movie in at the end of Duel, which he used again after the shark gets blown up in Jaws (not to get ahead of the current discussion).
  8. StarDude Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2001
    star 5
    Next up: The Sugarland Express (1974) starring Goldie Hawn.

    [image=http://www.sensesofcinema.com/images/27/spielberg/sugarland_express.jpg]

    The only Spielberg feature I haven't seen, and one of three that I don't own on DVD (the others being Duel and 1941. I don't expect much of a discussion on this one. Here's the plot summary I found on IMDb:


    Lou-Jean, a blonde woman, tells her husband, who is imprisoned, to escape. They plan to kidnap their own child, who was placed with foster parents. The escape is partly successful, they take a hostage, who is a policeman and are pursued through to Texas...

    Based on the events of May, 1969, when fugitives Robert and Ila Fae Dent kidnapped Department of Public Safety trooper Kenneth Crone, commandeered his car, and led police law enforcement officials on a chase from outside Port Arthur, through Houston, up to Navasota, and on to Wheelock, where Ila Fae Dent's mother lived. At one point, a motorcade of more than 150 police cars and reporters joined the pursuit. FBI agent Bob Wiatt (who retired in 2004) confronted them at the mother's home and was forced to shoot Robert Dent, who was armed, in the neck, killing him. Wiatt wrestled Ila Fae to the ground and handcuffed her.


    I have a friend who took a Spielberg class at USC last Fall. He said the movie was crap.

  9. Zaz Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 11, 1998
    star 9
    It was a success with the critics, but a thundering flop at the box office.

    Haven't seen it either, but there was news that Spielberg was planning to remake it.
  10. WEEBACCA Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2004
    star 4
    I've seen Sugarland Express a couple of times.
    It's far from Spielberg's best movie, but IMO quite interesting. It's probably Spielberg's closest attempt at being one of the American "new wave" filmmakers (Arthur Penn, Dennis Hopper, Coppola, Lucas, Scorsese, Milius etc.) as it has certain similarities with Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (mainly story that is). Spielberg's style is way more conservative though.
  11. JohnWesleyDowney Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2004
    star 5


    I have a friend who took a Spielberg class at USC last Fall. He said the movie was crap.

    It's a superb film, it indicates just how much he understood the medium of film
    at an early age, his choreography of the film's endless pursuit - especially law enforcement -the vast lines of state trooper vehicles, the delicate balance of comedy and drama - his handling of the actors, the first score Spielberg had John Williams for, it's incredible Spielberg did all this at age 24!!!!! Some of the shots in this film, before the era of steadicam, are just incredible. He must have driven his DP crazy with the demanding shooting style, because those interior car scenes using camera movement, pans, the lighting and lens requirements were VERY ambitious. And to keep the human element in the forefront while being technically daring shows this was a kid on the way UP.

    It's a dynamic debut. It also heralded one of Spielberg's most persistent themes,
    the separation of children from their parents and their eventual reunion.

    And by the way, the producers who made it with him were so impressed, they handed him
    their next film too. A much bigger and more important project. We all know what THAT was.
  12. StarDude Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2001
    star 5
    Have you read Spielberg: Interviews? He didn't sound like he was a big fan of the film. I need to see it though. I've heard he did some neat camera tricks with a police motorcade to give the film more scope. He made a few cars seem like a lot more.

    From what I understand, Spielberg barely got Jaws. And once he did, there was the constant threat of being fired over the disaster of a production that it was.
  13. JohnWesleyDowney Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2004
    star 5
    Have you read Spielberg: Interviews? He didn't sound like he was a big fan of the film. I need to see it though. I've heard he did some neat camera tricks with a police motorcade to give the film more scope. He made a few cars seem like a lot more.

    :eek:

    What??? Yes, you do need to see the film. TWO THIRDS OF THE FILM is a police motorcade,
    a chase across Texas! It's a dynamic, complex film that one critic (mind you I don't usually think much of what critics say) called the most astonishing debut in the history
    of motion pictures. For a guy that young to pull it off the way he did is a miracle.
    If he's expressed any antipathy toward it, it's probably because he didn't have the kind
    of budget he works with today. I don't think artists are always the best judge of their work. He got great performances, visuals, editing and music.

    Part of the reason he may not like it is that it wasn't a success and I have a pretty good idea why. The "rebellious youth market" movie trend that began in 1969 when "Easy Rider" became such a hit had played itself out. People were tired of this kind of film, as the market had been saturated. So no matter how well-made it was, it was the wrong time for this film.

    To watch the Sugarland Express, it's incredible that this guy had never made a movie before.
    The way it's shot and directed, you'd think he'd already made 20 movies. He was attempting to do some things that went way, way beyond just shooting two people in a room having a conversation.

    From what I understand, Spielberg barely got Jaws. And once he did, there was the constant threat of being fired over the disaster of a production that it was.


    Barely got it? They had a heck of time getting him to do it! He didn't want to do it because he was afraid he'd be typecast as an action director because he expected comparisons to the truck in Duel and the shark in Jaws. He didn't want to just do action films.

    I've read hundreds of articles about Jaws over the years, and the original Jaws LOG by Carl Gottlieb, and I've seen 3 documentaries about the making of the film and never once have I seen anything to indicate he was in danger of being fired. Everyone knew he wasn't the problem. It was the ocean and the mechancial shark that were the problems. If anything, it was Spielberg's professionalism that kept the whole thing afloat!

    I hope to God he doesn't remake it. It's fine the way it is. Leave it to the past,
    as a great indicator of what was to come.

    Thanks for hosting the thread, Stardude! Great idea. :)
  14. StarDude Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2001
    star 5
    Next up ... the big one:

    [image=http://www.tdubel.com/skinit/kuvat/evox/jaws.jpg]

    Jaws (1975) starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss.


    Although Star Wars cemented the Age of the Blockbuster (1977-2004), Jaws was certainly what started it. It was the first film to gross over 100 million in the North American box office. It went on to gross 470 million internationally and was the number one hit of all time until Star Wars. It won Oscars for Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and Best Original Score (without which the film would have been half as successful, according to Spielberg). It was nominated for Best Picture.

    One of Spielberg's best films--some would argue the best. It's famous disaster of a production rivals Star Wars. In addition, it's one of the few films that surpasses the novel in which it is based upon (written by Peter Benchley)

    Discuss.


  15. Jaden-Skywalker Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 13, 2004
    star 5
    Tense as hell, and it certainly stopped me from going in the water when I first saw it!

    Pity the sequels were messed up.
  16. solojones Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 27, 2000
    star 9
    I got into this thread late, so a few quick comments before we get to Jaws.

    Duel is a very good film, and a fantastic first film (and just... well, quite easily the best TV film ever made). Tense, creepy, rivetting... definitely a good way to start a career.

    Sugarland Express is one I haven't seen, but rumour has had it for a while now that Spielberg's been thinking of remaking it. An odd concept, but not unheard of (see Hitchcock remaking his own "The Man Who Knew Too Much"). Of course, I don't know if this will ever come to fruition, but it might be interesting.

    Now... Jaws... ah yes, the film that has given me my one and only true phobia. I live 2 miles from the ocean while in college, and I only went to the beach twice, and never went in the water.

    What can one say about Jaws really, that hasn't been said? It's in my top 10 of all time (helped by the fact that I'm a sucker for a good thriller, and head over heals for a great one). John Williams's score is simple yet perfect, much like the work Bernard Herman used to do for Hitchcock (see especially, of course, Psycho).

    This is one of those miracle films, where all the things that went wrong actually seemed to help the pieces fall together to make it great. Bruce working so poorly of course prompted Spielberg to get more creative, to think outside the box a bit, and to realise the best thing to do was actually to limit the use of the mechanical shark. This not only helps the film stand up better over time, but is what gives the film a lot of its tension in the first place. This kind of profitable ingenuity in filmmaking has unfortunately largely disappeared with the advent of CGI.

    And yes, this is certainly one of those rare cases where the film is actually (much) better than the book.

  17. Epicauthor Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 2, 2002
    star 4
    The genius of this film lies in the realization which occurs upon multiple viewings of just who the villian is.

    It's not the Shark.

    The shark is doing what sharks do, namely hunt and eat. Granted the shark in this place ate WAY more people than a normal shark, it's not too outside the realm of reality to think that Bruce's behavior is unnatrual.

    The enemy in this movie is the TOWN.

    Brody and Hooper spend most of the movie trying to convince the town to DO something about the shark and when they finally do, they find the first shark they can, kill it, and claim "Mission Accomplished." The fear that they didn't do anything about the shark and then the fear that they might lose their livelihood (summer commerce) is what puts more people in danger.

    I love it. Speilberg showed that people can be just as dangerous as the animals they hunt, but he did it subtly and masterfully.
  18. Drac39 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 9, 2002
    star 7
    Spielberg could have easily been the next Hitchcock. Jaws is probably the best thriller ever made. The mood is set perfectly.Spielberg was wise to keep the shark hidden because the Bigger boat scene is one of the best in film. Fine performances by all it's cast,especially the late Robert Shaw would should have recieved a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
  19. master_organa Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 5, 2004
    star 5
    I have to agree. Also, I havn't seen it, but Munich supposedly has a very Hitchcockian feel to it.
  20. StarDude Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2001
    star 5
    Munich is his most Hitchcockian I would say. But not in a fun way.
  21. solojones Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 27, 2000
    star 9
    Munich does indeed show noticable Hitchcock flair. But I think it's a bit hasty to try to label anyone as 'the next Hitchcock', be it Spielberg or Shyamalan. Because both these guys have had this label but both also have shown their more interested in making a broad range of films, not just thrillers. There's nothing wrong with making just thrillers as Hitch did- he was brilliant at it, and able to explore a lot of the darker side of humanity this way. But Spielberg and Shyamalan, while both concerned with the dark, are also notably more interested in emphasizing the light than Hitch ever was.
  22. Zombi_2_1979 Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Jul 13, 2005
    star 4
    I don't consider Shyamalan a Hitchcockian director. He makes speculative-natured thrillers, how many has Hitchcock made? Yes, quite apparent.
  23. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

    Member Since:
    Nov 2, 2000
    star 8
    Stylistically, both M. Night and Spielberg occasionally owe much to Hitchcock. Their subject matter is their own however.

    Jaws is certainly one of the greatest films ever. Most of these kind of movies fail. This one succeeds because of the complexity and the humanity. These are real people with real fears and real humor and real warmth and real sympathy. Even Quint, crazy as he is, garners our sympathy.

    The shark never being in frame, the deep rumbling score, the brilliant performances, the humor, the sheer, unbelievably gut wrenching tension of that boat trip . . . this is a masterpiece. A freaking masterpiece.

    Words fail me.
  24. Zaz Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 11, 1998
    star 9
    The start of the modern era. A great movie which has been relentlessly cannibalized ever since.
  25. MatRags Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Feb 5, 2001
    star 4
    Great movie. Spielberg reached the top of his popcorn suspense form and coasted for several years (not without a couple of bumps though). Jaws has also aged remarkably well (as all great movies do) and still scares the bejesus out of newcomers. Great, great movie. John Williams's music is also perfect and memorable, but he spit out perfect and memorable scores on an almost yearly basis back then.

    I just wish they'd update the ride at Universal Studios. That hasn't aged as well.