Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Tribute to Steven Spielberg

An Impressive Look Inside the Mind of An Auteur

      A few weeks ago, the Director's Guild of America, perhaps to coincide with the release of Super 8, held "A Tribute to Steven Spielberg," which features J.J. Abrams and James Cameron discussing Spielberg's influence on their careers. What's more impressive is the fact that Spielberg offers a very candid and extensive look at his own, very unique filmmaking perspective, a perspective that Abrams refers to, quite eloquently, as "child-like," not in terms of maturity, but inspiration. Child-like, Abrams elucidates, is a "manifestation" of that ephemeral feeling, palpable during our formative years, which projects a "tangible" sensation of wonder and awe. It was a powerful, honest moment. Spielberg, rightly so, was quite touched.
      With the luminous likes of Spielberg and Cameron on stage, holding court, some of you may be surprised by the somewhat dubious inclusion of J.J. Abrams. The question, of course, is what has Mr. Abrams accomplished in the nascent stages of his career that has earned him a front row seat amongst two titans of cinema. Well, after watching the entirety of the discussion, I can give you a de facto answer. The point of the night was to pay tribute to Spielberg, to show precisely how his direction has influenced his peers, both new (Abrams) and old (Cameron). It was not, on the contrary, intended to be a symposium for which giants of cinema (a title that Abrams has not quite achieved, yet?) could reflect on their careers. It's very clear from the outset that Abrams is a tremendous fan, and close friend of Spielberg's. And after Super 8, he has become a collaborator. In other words, Abrams was the perfect choice to serve as a third wheel. Plus, in terms of a dichotomous, generational representation of the three speakers, Abrams is the sole constituent and flag carrier for the "new" breed of filmmakers (not that Spielberg or Cameron plan on retiring any time soon).
      The moderator of the lengthy tribute is a fella named Michael Apted. He's somewhat of a "journeyman director;" you know, been around the block, but never quite gained widespread acclaim or recognition. Regardless of his credentials, he does a fine job controlling the flow of the discussion and prodding Mr. Spielberg into some nifty territory.
      If you watch the entire tribute—I DID!—listen for some unexpected verbal salvos from the always-polite Spielberg. Borrowing the fierce tone of Lt. Colonel Jessep made famous in his memorable monologue from A Few Good Men, "We [Spielberg] use words like [bullshit, clusterfuck, bullshit]. We [Spielberg] use these words as the backbone of a life spent [directing] something. You [I] use them as a punchline." And believe me: Spielberg provides some colorful, anecdotal bits about his prodigious career including his one major directorial regret and the moment of his creative epiphany. Plus, as a more curious, fanboy look into his personality, he offers up a list of his favorite films (as a director and moviegoer), and he singles out the one film, from his sterling filmography, that best exemplifies his cinematic sensibilities.
      Finally, as a last-ditch sales pitch, I want to assure you that this discussion, while a bit on the longer side, is a must-watch. Like an engaging film, it's really a magnificent near-two hour account of Spielberg's brilliant career; a brisk medley of fascinating stories and anecdotes. And for devout loyalists of Mr. Spielberg, it's an opportunity to rejoice, in what is, quite frankly, a deluge of effusive praise (springing from the mouths of his colleagues and contemporaries, Abrams and Cameron). The best way I can describe it is it's sort of a confederacy, not one of rebellion, but indebtedness; the kind of gratitude reserved for cinema's greatest directors. And such highbrow adulation typifies the imprint of Spielberg's legacy, for his career has inspired so many and marveled so many more. 


Unfortunately, the video is not embeddable, so I urge you to follow these simple instructions: Click the video screenshot above (which brings you to the appropriate page of the DGA website) and scroll down to the very first image under the "EVENT PICTURES AND VIDEO" section. Click that image and voilà, you're done. Watch and enjoy! Or, pretend you watched it, which I don't encourage.


  1. Interesting post, thanks!
    Have a nice day.

  2. Great tribute, Matty. I'm sure Spielberg had an influence on any other director younger than him. He's a genius! I love him!!!

  3. I loved his older films much more than the more recent ones, because they are becoming too sugary and too political, but he definitely is one of the biggest directors because he managed to bring so many people into cinemas.

  4. Whoa, haven't checked out the video or anything but I've got to correct your statements about Michael Apted. No acclaim? Coal Miners Daughter. Gorillas in the Mist. A Bond film. And the incredibly acclaimed documentary series that started with 28 Up. Michael Apted is a very respected and known British filmmakers with plenty of credentials. No offense intended - I've just got the back of the British guy who once told me I made the finest cup of Earl Grey he'd ever had. But thanks for the post and the point to the clip Matty!

  5. @ iNews

    You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by and sharing the love.

    @ Nebular

    Thanks! You are quite right, my friend. Spielberg's measure of influence has spanned the breadth of his career. I'm sure if we asked any modern directors who had some semblance of influence on their careers, they'd all say, in some capacity, Mr. Spielberg.

    As a professed lover of film and his remarkable body of work, I'd love to meet him. That'd be the day!

  6. @ Dezmond

    Interesting point! I somewhat agree with you, in the sense that I prefer his older work. I still love his contemporary stuff, but not to the same, almost unblemished extent that I loved his earlier films. And yes, he is responsible for encouraging so many moviegoers by giving them ample reason to embrace cinema. His infectious love for film oozes from his craft.

  7. @ Craig

    I was not disparaging Mr. Apted. I was merely pointing out the fact that he is somewhat of an unknown commodity, in terms of an awareness from regular, average Joe moviegoers. Everyone knows who James Cameron and Steven Spielberg are, but few moviegoers, outside people like us who follow film so closely, know who he is. That was all I was attempting to convey.

    I apologize for phrasing my words in a way that, according to you, came across as belittling the Man behind the "Up Series" and "Coal Miner's Daughter." I simply meant to suggest that he hasn't quite earned the "widespread acclaim" of Spielberg or Cameron.

    And you are quite correct. He is a prolific filmmaker (probably earns a lot more respect from the industry/his peers than average moviegoers) and it turns out, (after a little research), he's actually the President of the DGA. That explains his role as moderator.

    Thanks for the comment! I hope I clarified my statement.

  8. All good Mr. V. All good - I forget sometimes not everyone is "in the know" with the movies like those of us, er, in the know... ;)

  9. Completely agree with your opinion about this great director, Amigo!
    He's surely one great asset to the motion picture industry, who has given us film after film that has wowed the senses.

  10. Sorry I missed it! Some of my favorite directors there.

  11. Wow! I am just blown away right now. If it's even possible I love Spielberg, Cameron and Abrams even more. The insights here on Steven's work and directing in general has completely captivated me. I found it fascinating as Steven recalled anecdotes from his films because it shaded in some nuances that had not been there before.

    It was so interesting to watch them discuss such famous scenes as the Indianapolis recollection from Jaws. Because of that scene, I went out and read everything I could on the incident.

    I think Spielberg not only has influenced other filmmakers, but others creatives as well. I know that I count his movies as some of the inspiration behind my own storytelling. Most of the stuff has not been published, yet, but I'm working on it. ;)

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  12. @ Craig

    All's well that ends well.

    And thanks for pointing that out to me. It is never my intention to attenuate the work of talented people. Apted is a talented person.

  13. @ Jaccstev

    Thanks, man! And well-said. It's impossible to not attribute Spielberg's name to greatness.

    @ Alex

    All's good. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! You are quite the blogging royalty.

  14. @ Melissa

    Glad you enjoyed, Mel. And I'm more impressed that you spent some time watching the discussion. It was fascinating and I knew you would appreciate it :)

    The Indianapolis scene is one of the greatest monologues in modern film history. And to think that Shaw got hammered the night before he delivered that performance is astounding. What a remarkable talent. And Spielberg framed that scene perfectly.

    I completely agree. Spielberg's influence goes far beyond film; his directorial influence belies the enormity of his storytelling influence. If you write, read, watch, observe—any form of an engaged, behavioral creativity—then Spielberg has, in some capacity, large or small, influenced your approach. That, to me, is his greatest gift to the creative world.