How can you pick the best image from your favorite movies?
Those of you who know me or have been reading No Film School long enough know that Steven Spielberg is my all-time favorite. I think he is the greatest director in history. He's worked so consistently, taken so many chances, and produced such a large body of work that he's covered many genres and budget ranges. Spielberg is an auteur and has defined lots of cinematic experiences, with people using terms like "Spielbergian" and "Spielberg face" to describe awe and wonderment.
But is there one shot that defines his career? One that really shows everything he does as a director and encompasses all of his style?
Check out this video from All The Right Movies and let's talk after.
What's the Most Spielbergian Spielberg Shot?
I'll watch pretty much any YouTube show dedicated to Speilberg, and this waterfall of incredible shots was no different. The cascading images brought me back to the time and place I saw all of Spielberg's movies. When I chronicle them in my life, they probably are watershed moments. My first Spielberg in a theater was Minority Report. My first Spielberg ever was E.T. The first time I watched Jaws, I didn't get in the pool the next day.
There are so many things to appreciate in Spielberg's films, and the cinematography is close to the top. His work with Janusz Kaminsky is legendary, and his commitment to shooting on film has kept Hollywood looking both classic and cutting edge, thanks to his experimentation.
But how can you sum Spielberg up in one shot?
If you look at the breadth of his career, you could go with many different shots. After all, we have a thing called the "Spielberg face," which is a move into a close-up of someone staring in wonder. We also have the Spielbergian quality of movies in general, allowing us to invest in deep characters and to believe in something bigger than ourselves.
What if I told you my pick for his best shot actually incorporates both ideas?
It's a Spielbergian shot that subverts the Spielberg face, allowing the audience to wear it without showing us the look on the character's face right away.
For me, the shot of the bike going over the moon in E.T. is one that defines who Spielberg is as a director.
Over the Moon for Spielberg
The reason I picked this shot is that I think at its core it is Spielberg. We have excellent framing and a subtle camera move. There's also this otherworldly quality. We have an alien and a boy on a bike, but centered against the moon. We're reminded how big of an event this is for them, but how small they are in the universe.
We get the theme of adventure and coming of age, juxtaposed against the expanse of the universe. It's jaw-dropping in its complexity, but also, it's just fun. It's the essence of what we want from cinema. A story that draws us in and makes us believe in the impossible.
Let me know your favorite Spielberg shot in the comments.