Browsing Tag

Steven Spielberg

Posted on October 23, 2022

Inheritor of Charismatic Spiritualism- Tangina Barrons in Poltergeist

Guest Post

In Poltergeist (1982), director Tobe Hooper and writer Steven Spielberg created a haunted house that ditched cobwebs in favor of wall-to-wall carpeting, central air conditioning, and a family television set turned scrying mirror. A panoply of characters fill Poltergeist, but no one outshines spirit guide Tangina Barrons. Actor Zelda Rubinstein’s magnetism poured from her 4’3″ frame, evoking the nineteenth-century Spiritualism movement’s tradition of empowered and charismatic mediums communing with the spirit realm.

Poltergeist centers on a suburban California family, the Freelings, and the supernatural abduction of the youngest daughter, Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke). Diane Freeling (Jo Beth Williams) is a counter-culture figure who emotionally connects the viewer to the otherworldly kidnapping, emphasizing the metaphysical bond between a birth mother and child. Diane’s spouse, Steven (Craig T. Nelson,) is a loving father but absent from most of the family’s daily life, establishing skepticism and confusion. While the hustle of the modern world frays the Freelings, they remain a bound and loving family. Gnawing at that unity is the paranormal kidnapping of their youngest child. That child, lost within the newly-built dream domicile, can only be wrestled from the clutches of a tortured soul, The Beast, with the help of another. Read more

Posted on June 20, 2020

Jaws: Novel vs. Film

Dawn Keetley/ Elizabeth Erwin

On the 45th anniversary of the release of the film that made people afraid to go in the ocean, we consider Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) in relation to Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel. Which is better? Or, perhaps a more useful question, what do the novel and film uniquely do? Check out answers by Elizabeth Erwin and Dawn Keetley.

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Fallen Kingdom
Posted on August 4, 2018

Fallen Kingdom and Empathy for Dinosaurs

Guest Post

Nothing will ever be Jurassic Park. In an interview for Fallen Kingdom, executive producer Steven Spielberg recalls his experience directing the franchise-opener explaining, “the moment that brought this home for me as a filmmaker was when the T. Rex started to attack two modern Ford Explorers, and you saw the modern world and you saw the prehistoric world meeting up 65 million years later. To me, that’s when I really felt we had captured lightning in a bottle.” That sensation, what Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) evokes when she asks Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), “Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur…it’s like, a miracle. You read about them in books. You see the bones in museums. But you don’t really believe it,” cannot be replicated.

Fortunately, that is not what Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) is attempting to do. Rather, the film evokes the memory of those emotions, via visual callbacks and recurring characters, both human and non, to drive J. A. Bayona’s purpose—empathy. The director insists, “It’s not about people rescuing people anymore; it’s about people rescuing dinosaurs. The whole movie’s about empathy. An empathy toward the dinosaurs.” This objective is simple, and Fallen Kingdom excels at simplicity—in jump scares, with Blue, demonstrating the dangers of commodifying life. However, the questions the film raises are inherently complex, and, though fun, Fallen Kingdom sometimes finds itself lost in its own complexity.

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Posted on July 5, 2015

Jaws, The Slasher, and the Encounter at the Heart of Horror

Dawn Keetley

Directed by Steven Spielberg, Jaws was released on June 20, 1975, and the story of its immense critical and popular success doesn’t need to be rehearsed here. Suffice it to say that not since Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho had a film so terrified audiences.

On every count, Jaws is a masterpiece. This summer marks its 40th anniversary—and it’s still as powerful as it was in 1975. Not least, for much of the film only minimally visible and identified by the unforgettably ominous theme music composed by John Williams, the shark itself is still utterly chilling. And the acting is brilliant—notably Roy Scheider as Chief Martin Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as oceanographer Matt Hopper, and the truly incomparable Robert Shaw as Quint. Read more

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