Steven Spielberg Blogathon: Directing Actors

Steven Spielberg is rightly credited with being the most effective visualizer of stories working in the last forty years. He took a liability like a non-functioning mechanical shark and managed to create an extremely visceral film out of it. That “Jaws” works is largely a function of his ability to feel how a movie will play to an audience. He took the extra step when making that film, of shooting additional material in the pool of one of his collaborators, to get the audience reaction right. The opening of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is a litany of visual and emotional elements from the Saturday serialized films of the Golden Age, but updated and intensified as only Spielberg has been able to manage. The brutality and honesty of the first half hour of “Saving Private Ryan” is a testament to being able to connect with an audience’s emotions in the strongest possible ways. Plenty of horror films have been as graphic and disturbing, but none have carried the power of those horrifying images the way that this World War II film managed to do. Continue reading

The Bounty

The first weekend of May is now the official start of the summer movie season. Back in 1996, Twister and Mission Impossible managed to move up the crowded summer release schedule by almost three weeks. In 1984, the summer blockbusters still waited until the end of the month. Dramas and comedies dominated the box office until the big budget spectacles arrived Memorial Day weekend. “The Bounty” is a prestige piece that originated in the minds of Sir David Lean and his longtime collaborator Robert Bolt. The team that gave us “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Doctor Zhivago” and “Ryan’s Daughter” had imagined a two part film to rival those impressive predecessors. Those plans were too great for the studio that was backing the project and their film fell through, although the star cast as William Bligh stayed attached to the picture and was eventually cast in this version.

the-bounty-1984Casting is one of the attractions of this film from thirty years ago. Two future Academy Award winners are prominently featured in the movie, as were two future box office titans. It was also one of the last feature films to star the legendary Lawrence Olivier, himself an Oscar winner and a figure from the glory days of old Hollywood and British Theater. With so much going for it, there is plenty of reason to ask why it was a disappointment. It was not remembered at the end of the year and it was a flop when it comes to getting a return on investment. It is however a very effective telling of the well known mutiny story. Continue reading