Tag Archives: Steven Spielberg

Film: Schindler’s List

Schindler's List is the most expensive black and white film ever made. Without adjusting for inflation, though, it's also the highest-grossing b/w film ever made. Uploaded by scenicreflections.com.

Schindler’s List is Stephen Spielberg’s masterpiece. And that’s quite a statement. It tells the true story of German businessman Oskar Schindler, a not particularly sympathetic character at first who exploits cheap Jewish labor in his factory. However, he comes to see the true horror of the holocaust, and saves the lives of some 1,100 Jews.

Spielberg (Great American Things, July 22, 2009) directed Schindler’s List to have  a documentary look. He said he “got rid of the crane, got rid of the

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Steadicam, got rid of the zoom lenses, got rid of everything that for me might be considered a safety net.” Shot in black and white, it’s said that no green items were allowed on the set because green didn’t look good on black and white film.

The film earned Best Picture honors and Spielberg was selected Best Director in the 1994 Academy Awards. It also took home five other Oscars. The American Film Institute’s list of 100 Years…100 Movies put Schindler’s List at number 8 – the only movie made since 1980 to place in the top 20.

TV Show: Columbo

Peter Falk presented Columbo as disheveled, quirky, and unassuming. Then he used his prey's overconfidence to his advantage in bringing them to justice. Uploaded to Photobucket by skjern 2007.

The TV classic Columbo was an “anti-whodunit.” Typically, we saw the crime being committed at the beginning of the episode, and knew who the “perp” was. The rest of the show was devoted to watching the wonderful Detective Columbo figure out the crime and catch the bad guy.

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The wonderful Peter Falk portrayed Detective Columbo as a rumpled, disheveled mess who was constantly underestimated by those he suspected of crimes. He didn’t usually carry a gun or need to resort to force, his unexpected wits and powers of observation being his main crime-solving tools. I’m sure he occasionally used forensic evidence, but Columbo is about as far from the CSI school of detection as it’s possible to get.

Columbo began as a segment of the NBC Mystery Movie (other segments: McMillan & Wife and McCloud). Its primary run on NBC lasted from 1971-1978, though it aired infrequently on ABC a decade later. By the way, the first season premiere “Murder by the Book” was written by Steven Bochco and directed by Steven Spielberg (Great American Things, July 22, 2009), both relative unknowns at that time. That’s one way to kick things off the right way, wouldn’t you agree?

Film: Jaws

Jaws created a whole new sub-genre of movies: The Summer Blockbuster. It was the first summer adventure movie to be released simultaneously nationwide, and the first to gross $100 million at the box office. Uploaded by tdubel.com.

Since so many of my friends are either at the beach now or will be soon, it’s only fitting that we remind them about the movie that kept Americans out of the ocean during the summer of 1975. Jaws was not only a popular success, but it created a whole new sub-genre of films: the summer blockbuster.

The film’s producers selected Steven Spielberg (Great American Things, July 22, 2009) to direct Jaws before his first movie (Sugarland Express) was released. Turned out to be a very smart decision. Spielberg streamlined the plot line from the source novel by Peter Benchley, made smart casting choices, and overcame a host of technical problems during filming. The movie came in over budget, but acquitted itself quite well, becoming the first picture to gross more than $100 million.

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The linchpin character is shark hunter Quint, played by the brilliant Robert Shaw. His obsession with great white sharks helps drive the film. Other memorable performances were turned in by Richard Dreyfuss as marine biologist Matt Hooper, Roy Scheider as police chief Martin Brody, and Murray Hamilton as the timorous mayor of the island town Amity. And of course, Jaws wouldn’t have been Jaws without the memorable score of John Williams (Great American Things, May 26, 2010).

Before this, studios usually premiered their films in a few cities, and then allowed word of mouth response to build an audience as more theaters started showing the movie. Jaws was released simultaneously to hundreds of theaters, and became more than a hit – it became a cultural phenomenon. Following its success, studios shifted their big-budget action movies to the summer where they could capitalize on the added leisure time that the season affords.

Jaws was number 48 on the American Film Institute’s original 100 Years…100 Movies countdown. It came in at number two on 100 Years…100 Thrills, and its score was chosen number six on 100 Years of Film Scores.

I featured this video in the post honoring Spielberg, but it’s so great that I’m hoping you’ll enjoy it again…

Music: John Williams

During his six decades as a conductor, John Williams has earned 45 Academy Award nominations and received 21 Grammys. Uploaded by fidgit.com.

Can a composer’s entire reputation be validated on the basis of just two notes? Beethoven needed four notes to embed his iconic Fifth Symphony into our consciousness. Well, John Williams did the master two better — the first two notes of the motif for the shark in Jaws are perhaps the most memorable in movie history.

Known best for his film scores, Williams broke in via the small screen. He composed music scores (though not the theme songs) for a number of series, including Lost in Space and Gilligan’s Island. Hollywood took notice, and soon he was writing music for film. He received his first Academy Award nomination in 1967 for Valley of the Dolls, and won the first time two years later for Fiddler on the Roof.

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His music caught the attention of an upcoming young director named Steven Spielberg (Great American Things, July 22, 2009). Spielberg hired Williams to score his first movie, Sugarland Express, but it was his second movie — Jaws — that earned the maestro his second Oscar, and brought him from the background into the spotlight film composers seldom see.

Since then, Williams has scored such hits as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (creating its distinctive five-note theme), the original Star Wars trilogy, The Poseidon Adventure, Superman, three Indiana Jones movies, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Born on the Fourth of July, Home Alone, Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, Memoirs of a Geisha, Schindler’s List, and the first three Harry Potter films. In all, Williams has received an astonishing 45 Oscar nominations, and won five statues.

When not scoring movies, Williams found time to conduct the Boston Pops Orchestra from 1980 to 1993. He has earned 21 Grammys, and received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004…

The Arts: Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton was a successful novelist, screenwriter, director, and television producer. Uploaded by exleyphoto.com.

You probably know Michael Crichton as a best-selling author. But he also achieved great success as a screenwriter, film director, and television producer. In 1994, he became the only artist to simultaneously have the number one movie (Jurassic Park), television show (ER), and book (Disclosure).

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As a writer, Crichton’s first top seller was The Andromeda Strain. It established his theme, the worst-case scenarios possible when modern technologies aren’t properly controlled. His novels were usually picked up quickly by Hollywood. Other books he wrote that became films include The Terminal Man, The Great Train Robbery, Sphere, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and Timeline.

He wrote and directed Westworld, a hit that established his directing credentials. Though he never focused on this part of his craft, he directed six film, including hits such as Coma, The Great Train Robbery, and Looker. His screenwriting credits include Jurassic Park, Rising Sun, and Twister.

Crichton originally planned ER as a movie. However as he was discussing it with Steven Spielberg (Great American Things, July 22, 2009), Spielberg asked him what he was working on these days. Crichton said, Oh, I have this idea about dinosaurs being brought back to life. So Spielberg focused on Jurassic Park, and Crichton turned ER to a television series. He wrote the first three episodes, and became the show’s executive producer.

Crichton held passionate views about the mistake of politicizing science. State of Fear made a statement about the issue of global warming, and how governments can control and manipulate citizens by keeping them panicked about environmental catastrophes.

Spielberg said this after Crichton’s death from cancer in 2008: “Michael’s talent outscaled even his own dinosaurs of Jurassic Park….There is no one in the wings that will ever take his place.”