2016
Amblin Partners
Executive Kristie Macosko Krieger is the new “Kathleen Kennedy” in Steven Spielberg’s inner circle of creative collaborators.

Krieger served
as head of worldwide publicity at the USC Shoah Foundation, before she joined DreamWorks in 1997, starting a stellar career.

Back in 2012, when George Lucas pondered about making Kathleen Kennedy co-chair of Lucasfilm he felt obliged to first call Spielberg. “He wasn’t technically her boss—it was just
about friendship.
It was kind of like, ‘Oh, by the way,
Steven, I’m going to marry your wife.’ ”

After Disney acquired the company and Kennedy became president of Lucasfilm in 2012, there was no denying: Spielberg had to find a replacement for his trusted long-time producer and co-founder of Amblin Entertainment. The Disney production The BFG (2016) has probably been the last Spielberg-directed film, with Kennedy attached as producer – unless Spielberg is hired by her to direct Indiana Jones 5 for Disney.

Spielberg must have seen it coming: Fifteen years ago, he made Kristie Macosko Krieger his assistant on A.I. – Artificial Intelligence (2001). For Catch Me If You Can (2002), she became Spielberg’s associate and continued to prove her skills and trustworthiness on projects such as The Terminal (2004), War of the Worlds (2005), and Munich (2005).

Meanwhile, Kathleen Kennedy showed extraordinary commitment to mentoring
the next generation of female executives. Macosko Krieger must have been among them. Asked about Kathleen Kennedy, she says:

“If I’m stuck in a Turkish prison, she is my first phone call.”

When preparing Lincoln (2012), Spielberg made Macosko Krieger his co-producer, before she was assigned as producer of Bridge of Spies (2015) and executive producer of The BFG (2016).

She is currently producing Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One (2018) and a film adaptation of the New York Times best-seller “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek” written by Maya Van Wagenen.

Photo:

© 2016 Amblin Partners

2016

Steven Spielberg’s The BFG is a 3-D fantasy adventure film adapted from Roald Dahl‘s classic children’s book, The BFG. It is co-produced by Walt Disney Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media.

Watch the trailer

The screenplay is written by Melissa Mathison who also penned the script for E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Fittingly, the tagline and typography of The BFG’s poster evoke Spielberg’s masterpiece E.T.

This is the final film written by Melissa Mathison before her death in 2015. It is dedicated to her as a tribute. Spielberg about his collaboration with Mathison:

“I don’t miss Melissa yet because I haven’t had the chance to mourn her, because she is still with me. I’m not saying that in a supernatural way, because Melissa is alive in every single frame of The BFG. She has been with me all through this process and she is as tangible as if she were sitting next to me. What I’m not looking forward to is when I finish with The BFG and I have to face the fact that Melissa is no longer with me.”

“Melissa could do something most of us could not. She observed people without judging them. The only other people I can think of who observe with curiosity and without judgment are children. And I think that’s why she understood them and wrote them better than anyone else.”

The BFG is a Big Friendly Giant and nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country. Standing 24-feet tall with enormous ears and a keen sense of smell, he is endearingly dim-witted and keeps to himself for the most part. In contrast, giants like Bloodbottler and Fleshlumpeater are twice as big and at least twice as scary. Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie, a 10-year-old orphan girl from London, is initially frightened of the mysterious giant who has brought her to his cave, but soon comes to realize that the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming. Together, they set out on an adventure to capture the evil, man-eating giants who have been invading the human world.

Spielberg had read Roald Dahl’s book to his then-young children. He recalls:

“They loved the privacy and secrecy of his own special giant-speak. And they also loved that this little 8-year-old girl can tell a 26-foot-tall giant what to do.”

The BFG is the first Disney-branded film directed by Spielberg and the first with a female lead since The Color Purple (1985). Spielberg explains why the story appealed to him:

“It’s a story about friendship, it’s a story about loyalty and protecting your friends and it’s a story that shows that even a little girl can help a big giant solve his biggest problems.”

The film stars Ruby Barnhill, Mark Rylance, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall and Bill Hader.  

The BFG marks Spielberg’s second collaboration with Mark Rylance who won an Academy Award for Bridge of Spies. (2015). Rylance plays the title role via motion-capture – a process of recording movement and mimics of actors that Spielberg previously applied in his film The Adventure of Tintin (2011). 

Spielberg tries to convince Gene Wilder to do a cameo in the film, but Wilder declines. He appeared as the title character of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) which is based on another story written by Roald Dahl. 

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Principal photography takes place between 23 March 2015 to 16 June 2015, with filming locations in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada as well as in Scotland and England

Development for the film project goes back as far as 1991 when producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy set up a deal with Paramount Pictures. Robin Swicord and Nicholas Kazan write a screenplay in 1998 (revised by Gwyn Lurie

in 2001), with Robin Williams in mind for the title role. 

In September 2011, DreamWorks picks up the film rights to the book, with Kennedy and Marshall set to produce, and Melissa Mathison as screenwriter. Originally, John Madden is supposed to direct but in April 2014, Steven Spielberg takes the helm (Madden remains attached as executive producer). After Walden Media agrees to co-finance and co-produce the film, Walt Disney Studios joins The BFG as a co-producer and co-financier.

Regular Spielberg collaborators include: Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski, Editor Michael Kahn, Composer John Williams, Production designer Rick Carter, and Costume designer Joanna Johnston. Visual effects are created by Weta Digital

The BFG is produced by Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Sam Mercer with Kathleen Kennedy, John Madden, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Michael Siegel, Frank Smith and Naia Cucukov serving as executive producers. 

Roald Dahl’s books, which also include “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach” and “Matilda,” are currently available in 58 languages and have sold over 200 million copies worldwide

Originally created as a bedtime story, “The BFG” was Dahl’s own favorite of all his stories and is made into a live action film for the first time, marking Dahl’s 100th birthday.

Spielberg notes: 

“It was very important for us to be loyal to the language, and the great writer Melissa Mathison, who also wrote E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, wrote The BFG.”


Roald Dahl created the fantasy language Gobblefunk, which is spoken by the BFG. Here is a glossary of some of his words:

Cannybully … … … . . Cannibal

Chatbags … … … … . Chatterbox

Chidlers… … … … . . Children

Crickety Crackety … … Sound of cracking bones

Delumptious… … … . Delicious

Despunge … … … … Deplore

Earbursting … … … . . Loud

Figglers … … … … . . Fingers

Frobscottle … … … . . Carbonated soft drink where bubbles float downwards rather than upwards

Frumpkin Fry … … … Pumpkin Pie

Giggler  … … … … . . Little Girls

Glummy  … … … …
. Yummy

Glumptious… … … . .
Scrumptious 

Golden Phizzwizard … . A
wonderful dream

Hippodumplings… … . Hippopotamus

Hipswitch … …
… … Hence/Straightaway

Human Beans … … … Human Beings

Humbug  … … … … . Humble

Humplehammers … … Something that is very big

Jabbeling… … … … . Babbling

Jiggyraffes… … … … Giraffes

Majester … … … … . Majesty

Murderful … … … … Murderous

Phizzwizards … … … . Happy dreams

Rummytot… … … … Nonsense

Rumpledumpus . .
… . . Rumpus

Scrumdiddlyumptious . . Scrumptious

Scuddling … … . .
… . Scurrying

Skumping … … … … Worried

Sloshfunking . .
… … . . Like godforsaken

Snozzcumber … … … A
gruesome vegetable
only found in Giant Country

  

Splitzwiggled  … … … Caught

Swalloped … … … … Swallowed

Swigpill … … … … . . Swill

Swizzfiggling … … … . Deceiving

Telly-telly
Bunkum Box  . Television

Trogglehumper… … . . A horrible nightmare

Whiffling
… … … … . Going off to somewhere

Whizzpopper  … … … Fart

Whopsey… … … …
. Adjective similar to little or trifling


The BFG has its world premiere out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14 prior to its U.S. opening on July 1. E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982) also premiered on the Croisette. Just like E.T., Spielberg’s The BFG receives standing ovations.

In his Cannes review, Variety critic Peter Debruge writes: 

“That’s the beauty of Roald Dahl’s The BFG, as brought to life by recent Oscar winner Mark Rylance: You believe. No matter how fantastical the tale (and it gets pretty out-there at points), this splendid Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation makes it possible for audiences of all ages to wrap their heads around one of the unlikeliest friendships in cinema history, resulting in the sort of instant family classic “human beans” once relied upon Disney to deliver.”

Screenshots: © Disney Enterprises, Inc., DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media

Crossing the Bridge of Spies

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Annotations to Spielberg’s superb portrait of the Cold War era

Now that Bridge of Spies has received six Academy Awards nominations (facing tough competition), I want to invite all of you who have watched it to follow me on my quest for some fascinating details that can be found in the film…

Some of them might be new to you…

1. Opening sequence

A. Triple Self-Portrait

Rudolf
Abel is the story’s pivot point – he is the first person we see in Bridge of Spies. In the first shot, the camera tracks back slowly,
revealing Abel in in a threefold representation:

– as a reflection in a mirror
– as a film character
– as a self-portrait painting.

This
shot deals with a typical Spielberg theme: “reality“ vs. perception. It
is inspired by a painting of Spielberg’s favorite artist, Norman
Rockwell: Triple Self-Portrait (1960). Right in the beginning, Spielberg poses the central question: Who is Rudolf Abel? Is
he “a threat to all of us, a traitor“, a mean-spirited spy who seeks to
„drop bombs on us“? Or is he “a good soldier serving a foreign power“
or an “artist“ as Donovan calls him?

B. Range of communication

In
the first couple of minutes, Spielberg decides to refrain from any
spoken words. Abel listens to the ringing phone, picks it up but does
not talk before hanging up. The sequence underlines another of
Spielberg’s favorite topics in this film: communication, its opposite
and its absence.

Communication: Spielberg’s
preceding film, Lincoln, demonstrated that persistent negotiations lead
to mutual agreements that help to solve pressing issues of society.
Bridge of Spies is not different: With his disarming words, Donovan
builds bridges on his quest for basic rights that are endangered during
the Cold War era. He wants to keep espionage “chess figures” from being
“shredded”.

Dysfunctional communication: The film
displays several variants of it, e.g. talking without listening (CIA
agent Hoffman), talking in different languages, intimidation,
interrogation, suppression of free speech, misinformation, propaganda…
The film’s most harrowing symbol for the lack of communication is the
Berlin wall, the very opposite of a bridge (and communication).

Silence: One of the film’s themes is secrecy. On the one hand, it’s the spy’s
pledge not to talk about any detail of their missions, on the other it’s
Donovan’s professional discretion as an attorney which is tested by the
CIA.

2. Standing Man

Rudolf
Abel tells his attorney Donovan a story about a “stoikiy muzhik“, a
“standing man“ (unshaken by his adversaries). Later, Abel compares
Donovan to that man. In the final iconic image on the Glienicke Bridge,
Donovan is literally depicted as a “standing man“.

3. Handkerchiefs

Spielberg
makes a point of having several people in the film repeatedly use a
handkerchief, cleaning their nose. First, it’s Abel in prison, then it’s
Donovan catching a cold in Berlin. Finally, it’s CIA agent Hoffman.
Maybe Spielberg wants to tell us that they are all human beings, sharing
the sniffles (regardless of the nations they live in and their
different points of views).

4. Transistor Radio

Donovan
manages to get a radio into the Soviet spy’s cell, so Abel can listen
to a broadcast of a Shostakovich concert. Silently listening to the
broadcast, Donovan and Abel share the music, which is a fundamental way
of communication between different nations and convictions. The
first film Spielberg centered around music as nonverbal communication
shared by different species was Close Encounters of the Third Kind
(1977).

The radio in Abel’s cell happens to be a
portable transistor radio, an innovation at that time. Spielberg’s
father Arnold designed the first transistor computer at RCA.

So, on
another level, it’s a nice nod to Spielberg’s father who was the
director’s main inspiration to tell the story about the incidents in
Bridge of Spies
. Arnold Spielberg was on an
exchange visit to the USSR in 1960 when the U-2 spy plane crisis
occurred, resulting in tremendous fear and hostility between the two
nations. Steven Spielberg recalls the story as told to him by his
father:

“The Russians were putting the pilot Gary
Powers’ helmet and his flight suit and the remains of the U-2 plane on
show for everyone in Russia to see. A military man saw my father’s
American passport and took him to the head of the queue and repeated
really angrily to the crowd, ‘look what your country is doing to us.’”

5. Berlin cinema

While in
West Berlin, Donovan and agent Hoffman walk past a cinema where one of
the movies playing is Eins, Zwei, Drei. It’s the German title of the
Cold War comedy One, Two, Three (1961), directed by Billy Wilder, one of
Spielberg’s mentors. The film is about an American business executive
who, like Donovan, must cross over into East Berlin and negotiate with
Soviet officials for the release of a political prisoner.

Other films displayed on the marquee are:

Das Geheimnis der schwarzen Koffer (1961) – an Edgar Wallace thriller, shot in Berlin and produced by Polish-born Artur Brauner.

Die
Verdammten
(The Damned), a 1969 (!) Italian-German film directed by
Luchino Visconti, about a wealthy German industrialist family who are
doing business with the Nazi Party. The film was given an X rating.

Spartacus
(1960), directed by Spielberg’s friend Stanley Kubrick. A film about
Ancient Rome, featuring a prime example of a “standing man“.

Read more background stories on Bridge of Spies

Photo: © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox

2016
Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies is nominated as Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

Spielberg now holds the record for producing more films that have been nominated as best picture than anyone else. Bridge of Spies is his ninth Academy Awards nomination in the category.

The film receives six Oscar nominations in the following categories (click the links for background information).

Best Picture: Produced by Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Mark Rylance

Best Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo and Bernhard Henrich

Best Writing (Original Screenplay): Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen

Best Music (Original Score): Thomas Newman

Best Sound Mixing: Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Drew Kunin.

All Academy Award nominees and winners


Bridge of Spies is also nominated for the following awards (among others):

Golden Globes: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Mark Rylance)

Producers Guild of America (PGA): Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures (Steven Spielberg Marc Platt, Kristie Macosko Krieger)

Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG): Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role (Mark Rylance)

The Writers Guild of America (WGA): Best Original Screenplay (Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen)

American Society of Cinematographers (ASC): Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in a Theatrical Release (Janusz Kaminski)

Art Directors Guild of America (ADG): Excellence in Production Design for a Feature Film, Period Film (Adam Stockhausen)

Satellite Awards: Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction & Production Design

Bridge of Spies wins the following awards:

Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance)

AFI Awards: Movie of the Year

British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA): Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance)

Boston Society of Film Critics Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance)

Hollywood Film Awards: Cinematographer of the Year (Janusz Kaminski), Sound of the Year (Gary Rydstrom)

Indiewire Critics’ Poll: Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance)

National Board of Review (USA): NBR Award, Top Films

National Society of Film Critics Awards (USA): Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance)

New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance)

Toronto Film Critics Association Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance).

Photo: © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox

2016
Kodak
Launches Super 8 Filmmaking Revival Initiative at CES 2016.

The initiative is supported by directors such as Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams, Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan.

Steven Spielberg on why this Super 8 revival is so necessary:

“For me, 8mm was the beginning of everything. When I think of 8mm, I think of the movies.”

“When I watch the news, I expect and want it to look like live television. However, I don’t want that in my movies. I want our century-plus medium to keep its filmic look and I like seeing very fine, swimming grain up there on the screen. To me, it’s just more alive and it imbues an image with mystery, so it’s never literal. I love movies that aren’t literally up in my face with images so clear there is nothing left to our imaginations. Had I shot it on a digital camera, the Omaha Beach landings in Saving Private Ryan would have crossed the line for those that found them almost unbearable. Paintings done on a computer and paintings done on canvas require an artist to make us feel something. To be the cursor or the brush, that is the question and certainly both can produce remarkable results. But doesn’t the same hold true for the cinematic arts? Digital or celluloid? Vive la difference! Shouldn’t both be made available for an artist to choose?”

Photo: © 2016 Eastman Kodak Company

2016
Oscar-Winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond dies.

He created a groundbreaking imagery on the Steven Spielberg-directed films The Sugarland Express (1974) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). The video clip demonstrates his progressive camera style that is influenced by documentaries.

According to a Variety obituary, he escaped from his native Hungary after the 1956 Russian invasion and slowly worked his way up, starting with low-budget exploitation
films. He got his break with Robert Altman’s stylistically daring Western McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), in
which Zsigmond applied a limited palate of desaturated colors.

He later worked for directors such as Michael Cimino, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, George Miller and Brian De Palma

He received an Academy Award for his achievements on Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and was a three-times nominee for The Deer Hunter (1978), The River (1984), and The Black Dahlia (2006).

Within just over a week, the film community loses another of its greatest cinematographers: Zsigmond follows two-times Academy Awards winner Haskell Wexler, who worked on some of the landmark Hollywood films of the 1960s and ’70s but never collaborated with Steven Spielberg.

Asked by the Chicago Sun-Times, Steven Spielberg shares his thoughts about the upcoming year. For the famous director, looking to the new year is a reminder that 

“each year of our life is a new chapter. Sure, we are still on the same path, but I think it’s important to take that path in a new direction whenever we can. The new year is a great time to reflect on who we are, but also how we can try something new. I’ve said this before, but I really don’t think we need to be the exact same person for our entire life.

I hope that message can be heard by a lot of people.”