Watch: Steven Spielberg’s Artistic Strength Depends Upon His Humanity
Fans of Steven Spielberg say he gets them at their gut; critics of Spielberg say he goes corny too often, and in so doing betrays his craft. Both viewpoints hinge on one attribute: his ability to capture moments of what we call, for lack of a better word, humanity, or times when human sloppiness, idiosyncrasy, even stupidity, might achieve resonance, even luminosity. This video essay by Andrew Saladino does an excellent job of calling out these moments, explaining Spielberg’s technique in executing them, and discussing their relevance to Spielberg’s work. Whether it’s an alienated scientist playing with mashed potatoes in ‘Close Encounters’ or a boy crying for his mother (or any mother) in ‘A.I.,’ the ability of Spielberg’s films to drop anchor, to reach his viewers in a memorable way depends on his skill at observing those viewers and the way they act when they think no one’s looking.
Watch: Vilmos Zsigmond Defined 1970s Cinema
The late cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond arguably defined the look of American cinema in the 1970s. He worked on films like Altman’s ‘McCabe and Mrs. Miller
,’ De Palma’s ‘Blow Out’ and Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ for which he received an Oscar. Despite the fact that few of his films look alike, Zsigmond developed a distinct visual style over the course of his illustrious career—namely succeeding in creating significance within the frame by juxtaposing his subjects using deep focus. In ‘Blow Out,’ the shot where John Travolta’s Jack Terry points his boom mic at the distant owl can be seen as representing the duality between sight and sound. In ‘Deer Hunter,’ you can also see a duality in Robert De Niro’s Michael "Mike" Vronsky. As he walks across atop a rocky mountain, his troubled past is represented by his mirror image that’s reflected on the lake surface. Zsigmond’s ability to maximize the area of the visual frame to produce new meaning beyond the film’s narrative is just one of the many reasons why he gained his legendary status in the filmmaking industry.