Wide-eyed Wonder
December 14, 2011 8:57 AM   Subscribe

The Spielberg Face
posted by fearfulsymmetry (55 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
0_0
posted by griphus at 8:58 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seems a bit week to repeatedly show clips from Close Encounters.
posted by zeoslap at 9:00 AM on December 14, 2011


weak. rats.
posted by zeoslap at 9:00 AM on December 14, 2011


Is this a particularly Spielbergian thing? I don't think of it as such. I mean, he uses it a lot, but are there many other ways to get across a reaction shot saying "wow" besides, well, having someone look like they've seen something "wow"-worthy?
posted by rmd1023 at 9:02 AM on December 14, 2011


As an industry expert, I can confirm that all of those people did, indeed, have faces.
posted by gurple at 9:02 AM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'd say there's at least three faces there: "the fuck?" "holy shit!" and "oh shit, am I fucked."
posted by Iridic at 9:06 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's telling that upon reading the post (prior to clicking any of the links), I thought that the "Spielberg Face" would be a wide-eyed, mouth ajar, heading-craning-down-and-looking-up kind of thing.

I had never really thought of it before now, but it came to mind rather immediately, so I suppose it is rather distinct to Spielberg. Still, I'm sure it would be the same of any director whose films so routinely have characters struck with awe and wonder.
posted by incomple at 9:06 AM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


heading-craning-down-and-looking-up kind of thing.

Err, make that "'chin-down-and-eyes-up' kind of thing."
posted by incomple at 9:08 AM on December 14, 2011


Obligatory MST3K shoutout
posted by rmxwl at 9:10 AM on December 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


chin-down-and-eyes-up

That's the Kubrick face.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:15 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Spielbergo face.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:19 AM on December 14, 2011


chin-down-and-eyes-up

thats the way we like to...
posted by nathancaswell at 9:19 AM on December 14, 2011


There isn't one Speilberg face in all of 1941?
posted by stinkycheese at 9:20 AM on December 14, 2011


So, it's not really the Spielberg face, but the Spielberg shot. The faces are not all the same. It's the slow, moving shot of the face.
posted by The World Famous at 9:21 AM on December 14, 2011


The only reason I can see for someone to associate this practice with Spielberg would be that they've been woefully unexposed to the larger history of Hollywood cinema. This is an element of film language that dates back to well before Spielberg was born.

It might be more entertaining or informative to cut together clips as an explanation of why Speilberg films are so emotionally impactful, giving full credit to a century plus of cinematic evolution.
posted by trackofalljades at 9:23 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Michael Bay has his own cheeseball version of this, which I believe is referred to as the "Shit just got real" moment. In which the protagonist slowly rises to a standing position staring into the middle distance while the camera cranes around him in slow motion.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:25 AM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


Spielberg's other signature visual trope is shafts of light revealed by smoke machines in night time shots.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:26 AM on December 14, 2011


Correlation does not equal causation.

And in my mind, the quintessential "Spielberg" shot is the dolly zoom. Although Hitch got there first.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:27 AM on December 14, 2011


To be clear, I realize that the editor here is crediting past filmmakers...but the claim that "none" have ever been as "prolific" in using this mechanism as Steven Spielberg just really grates on me. At best it's uninformed hyperbole and at worst it's deliberate misinformation.
posted by trackofalljades at 9:27 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am exceptionally disappointed that this video did not examine Spielberg's first movie: Duel. The most significant device in this movie is that you never see the face of the antagonist.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:29 AM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Tarantino has his "shot from the trunk" trademark.

Cameron has his use of feet trademark.
posted by fijiwriter at 9:30 AM on December 14, 2011


use of feet trademark? Example please?
posted by wabbittwax at 9:31 AM on December 14, 2011


What's fascinating about this is what it says about what Spielberg chooses to work on. Many (most? all?) involve "everyman" characters that encounter the unusual, the extraordinary, the otherworldly or the truly horrific.

There's no dippy romantic comedies here, and even the worst of them (Hook) at least offered a sense of magic. No offhand grittiness. No pulpy cynicism.

For if there were, what would they be looking at that could astound them?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:39 AM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


And in my mind, the quintessential "Spielberg" shot is the dolly zoom. Although Hitch got there first.

Does he use a dolly zoom in any scene other than that one in Jaws? I can't think of any offhand.
posted by painquale at 9:41 AM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


use of feet trademark? Example please?

You're not going to trick us into engaging in trademark violation, Mr.
posted by The World Famous at 9:41 AM on December 14, 2011


wabbittwax: James Cameron likes feet (and wheels). The video only covers up to TITANIC, and I don't know that it proves anything about this being a trope peculiar to Cameron, though it does end up showing just how much you can tell about a character from footwear alone...
posted by rmxwl at 9:42 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's no dippy romantic comedies here

The Terminal.
posted by The World Famous at 9:43 AM on December 14, 2011


Tarantino has his "shot from the trunk" trademark.
Cameron has his use of feet trademark.


Scorsese's Mean Streets
posted by hal9k at 9:46 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Michael Bay has his own cheeseball version of this, which I believe is referred to as the "Shit just got real" moment. In which the protagonist slowly rises to a standing position staring into the middle distance while the camera cranes around him in slow motion.

Someone I know simply calls this the "STANDS UP" moment. All Bay's movies have one.
posted by Trurl at 9:46 AM on December 14, 2011


The Terminal

Page five of the first link: "The Terminal - Viktor Sees Krakozhia Fall Over the News"

I don't recall any Sandra Bullock movies containing scenes where her character watches her home country erupt in violence and chaos while she watches helplessly from thousands of miles away.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:47 AM on December 14, 2011


James Cameron likes feet

Not as much as Quentin Tarantino...
posted by griphus at 9:48 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't recall any Sandra Bullock movies containing scenes where her character watches her home country erupt in violence and chaos while she watches helplessly from thousands of miles away.

What, so that one plot element makes it not a dippy romantic comedy? Come on.
posted by The World Famous at 9:51 AM on December 14, 2011


chin-down-and-eyes-up... That's the Kubrick face.

Chin down, eyes wide shut.
posted by rokusan at 9:52 AM on December 14, 2011


No mention of the signature manipulative John Williams orchestral swell that tends to accompany the Spielberg face, just in case we weren't clear on exactly what we should be feeling.
posted by philip-random at 9:53 AM on December 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


rmxwl: "Obligatory MST3K shoutout "

Damn you, rmxwl! I was coming here to post that!
posted by Chrysostom at 10:06 AM on December 14, 2011


I'd like to replace each of those with a face from here.

But Spielberg does seem to favor a flavorless, Bradburian sort of pure-sugar, capital-W Wonder as shown in the Amazing Stories pilot: an old man talks at length about the imminent arrival of a ghost train that, dutifully, (SPOILER!) arrives at episode's end, just like he was trying to tell you.
posted by kurumi at 10:07 AM on December 14, 2011


Has anyone mentioned this?
posted by unSane at 10:10 AM on December 14, 2011


Spielberg face?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:44 AM on December 14, 2011


That's not a Spielberg face. That's a "I gave you thirty seconds to say something interesting and you did, so you get another thirty seconds to tell me why I should care" face.

Or possibly a "is this shmuck you hired serious about continuing to aim that gun at me?" face.
posted by griphus at 10:47 AM on December 14, 2011


chin-down-and-eyes-up

That's the Kubrick face.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:15 PM on December 14


Indeed.
posted by Decani at 10:52 AM on December 14, 2011


What, so that one plot element makes it not a dippy romantic comedy? Come on.

Have you even seen this movie? How can you put it in the same category as the Bullock/McConaughey oeuvre:

The Proposal
Two Weeks Notice
Forces of Nature
While You Were Sleeping
Fool's Gold
Failure to Launch
How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days
The Wedding Planner


jesus christ, i've seen all of those movies. that's 16 hours of my life right there. what the fuck is wrong with me?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:51 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you even seen this movie? How can you put it in the same category as the Bullock/McConaughey oeuvre:

I have seen the movie. It is directed, edited, shot, and produced better than the Bullock/McConaugheyeyheighey stuff. But it's a dippy romantic comedy where the guy from Bosom Buddies and the Da Vinci Code talks with a fake Eastern European accent and gets into wacky situations at the airport. So I guess the whole personal disaster angle puts it in the oeuvre of what, Bridget Jones 2, where she gets thrown in prison?
posted by The World Famous at 12:26 PM on December 14, 2011


The only thing I got out of Super 8 was the realisation that Spielberg is a genius.
posted by fullerine at 12:30 PM on December 14, 2011


chin-down-and-eyes-up

My best friend and I used to use that very expression to refer to the way people who are best avoided presented themselves on (at that time) MySpace. Now Facebook. There are people who have, like, 15 profile photos, and all of them are chin-down-eyes-up. STAY AWAY.

I did like the Spielberg thing, though I agree that it's a tad less specific to Spielberg than advertised. It's a good essay on how Spielberg uses that particular kind of shot, though, and I particularly liked the way it was tied together with the parts about A.I. And I don't ever remember finding a discussion of that film particularly interesting before.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:50 PM on December 14, 2011


Seems a bit weak to repeatedly show clips from Close Encounters.

Not really.

I've always called this the "Spielbergian Reaction Shot", and he uses it a LOT.

And he uses it A LOT A LOT in Close Encounters.

The ones they've selected for the article don't even scratch the surface. The scene where Roy is out chasing saucers and nearly hits Barry and they're standing on the hill with all the people and it turns out to be helicopters... That's just a huge collection of Spielbergian Reaction Shots. Even more than that, they tell a story within them. There's the "look of wonder" series of reaction shots, and then all the same people in another series with "look of terror" reaction shots as the helicopters get closer.

I've watched Close Encounters WAY too many times. But I'm always struck by how much of the movie really is made up of Spielbergian Reaction Shots.
posted by hippybear at 4:09 PM on December 14, 2011


"But Spielberg does seem to favor a flavorless, Bradburian sort of pure-sugar, capital-W Wonder as shown in the Amazing Stories pilot: an old man talks at length about the imminent arrival of a ghost train that, dutifully, (SPOILER!) arrives at episode's end, just like he was trying to tell you."

Apologies if this is a derail, but I'm really curious now about what "wonder" means to you. It sounds like you're saying that a good, flavourful story should have a twist in it. (As opposed to the Amazing Stories episode where they set something up, and it happens.)

Spielberg certainly does use this kind of shot frequently as an indication to the audience that we're supposed to say Wow! at this point in the movie. Although in his defense, he has put a lot of genuinely wonderful stuff on the screen, so maybe the manipulation is justified.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:14 PM on December 14, 2011


The thing that gets me about so many modern movies is how no one ever takes a moment to let crazy, improbable things sink in. It's like we're so jaded now that alien invasions, drugs that make you superhuman, streets folding up like origami, it's all passé.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:19 PM on December 14, 2011


One of the reasons I love "Donnie Darko" so is the Spielberg send-ups, like here.
posted by rainbaby at 5:06 PM on December 14, 2011


Didn't Spielberg only produce Super 8? It was directed by J.J. Abrams, no?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:35 AM on December 15, 2011


Super 8 basically a love letter to Spielberg's 80s movies. I assume that's what was meant.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:04 PM on December 15, 2011


transcript.
posted by crunchland at 9:02 PM on December 15, 2011


I finally caught Super 8 a couple of weeks ago via sloppy download from some dubious source. I must say that, after all the negativity I'd heard about it back when it was released, I was pleasantly surprised. Very much so. In particular, I liked the kids. Having been around that age back in the 70s, I gotta say that something absolutely true was captured in their natures, their attitudes, their dilemmas -- something I've very seldom seen captured in a big deal American movie.

Yeah, in the end, the alien/military stuff went over the top. But it didn't ruin everything at all. Just knocked things a little off-kilter.
posted by philip-random at 9:32 AM on December 16, 2011


Related: Press Play has launched a video essay series examining "facets of Spielberg's movie career, including his stylistic evolution as a director, his depiction of violence, his interest in communication and language, his portrayal of authority and evil, and the importance of father figures -- both present and absent -- throughout his work,"

Magic and Light: The Films of Steven Spielberg:
Series Trailer.
Part 1: Introduction.
Part 2: Blood and Pulp.
Part 3: Communication
posted by zarq at 9:24 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


his interest in communication

Walkie-talkies?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:45 AM on December 21, 2011


Sys Rq: " Walkie-talkies?"

Speak n Spells.
posted by zarq at 2:13 PM on December 21, 2011


« Older On December 12, 2011, world-famous harpsichordist ...  |  I am under 21.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments