Directed by Stephen Spielberg: Poetics of the Contemporary Hollywood Blockbuster

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Although the blockbuster is the most popular and commercially successful type of filmmaking, it has yet to be studied seriously from a formalist standpoint. This is in opposition to classical Hollywood cinema and International Art cinema, whose form has been analyzed and deconstructed in great detail. Directed By Steven Spielberg fills this gap by examining the distinctive form of the blockbuster. The book focuses on Spielberg's blockbusters, because he is the most consistent and successful director of this type ...

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Overview

Although the blockbuster is the most popular and commercially successful type of filmmaking, it has yet to be studied seriously from a formalist standpoint. This is in opposition to classical Hollywood cinema and International Art cinema, whose form has been analyzed and deconstructed in great detail. Directed By Steven Spielberg fills this gap by examining the distinctive form of the blockbuster. The book focuses on Spielberg's blockbusters, because he is the most consistent and successful director of this type of film - he defines the standard by which other Hollywood blockbusters are judged and compared. But how did Spielberg attain this position? Film critics and scholars generally agree that Spielberg's blockbusters have a unique look and use visual storytelling techniques to their utmost effectiveness. In this book, Warren Buckland examines Spielberg's distinct manipulation of film form, and his singular use of stylistic and narrative techniques.

The book demonstrates the aesthetic options available to Spielberg, and particularly the choices he makes in structuring his blockbusters. Buckland emphasizes the director's activity in making a film (particularly such a powerful director as Spielberg), including: visualizing the scene on paper via storyboards; staging and blocking the scene; selecting camera placement and movement; determining the progression or flow of the film from shot to shot; and deciding how to narrate the story to the spectator.

Directed By Steven Spielberg combines film studies scholarship with the approach taken by many filmmaking manuals. The unique value of the book lies in its grounding of formal film analysis in filmmaking.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Steven Spielberg continues to arouse both positive and negative passions after 30 years of career success. Despite the multiplicity of books and articles written about the director/producer, Friedman (scholar in residence, Hobart & William Smith Colls.; The Jewish Image in American Film) claims to have penned the first comprehensive analysis of his films, and he may well be right. Friedman argues that Spielberg is consistently underrated by other scholars, with whom he frequently disagrees as part of his own analyses. Spielberg's films are divided into the not-always-comfortable categories of sf/fantasy, action/adventure melodrama, monsters, World War II combat, problem/ethnic minority, and the Holocaust. Friedman believes that Spielberg's central theme is how modern humans face challenges that sometimes require them to unleash their more primitive selves. Buckland (film studies, Chapman Univ., CA) offers a most useful complement to Friedman's work, a close examination of the filmic structures of Spielberg's blockbusters-from Jaws to War of the Worlds-with practically a shot-by-shot breakdown of some scenes. In deconstructing these films, Buckland uses his own definition of poetics: the activities and techniques involved in constructing a work of art. Like Friedman, he is an admirer of Spielberg's and absolves him of the oft-repeated accusation that his production of the "first" blockbuster (Jaws) ultimately spelled doom for the "little" movie. These two books may or may not be the ultimate analyses of Spielberg's work to date, but they are highly enlightening. Recommended for large cinema collections.-Roy Liebman, Los Angeles P.L. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826416919
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 4/19/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.68 (w) x 8.88 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author


Warren Buckland is author of four previous books: Studying Contemporary American Film (with Thomas Elsaesser); the best-selling Teach Yourself Film Studies; The Cognitive Semiotics of Film; and The Film Spectator. He also edits the journal the New Review of Film and Television Studies.

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Table of Contents

1 Origins of the contemporary Hollywood blockbuster 7
2 Poetics of film directing 29
3 Pre-blockbuster work : from Amblin' (1968) to Duel (1971) 53
4 "Duel with a shark" : Jaws (1975) 86
5 The UFO experience : Close encounters of the third kind (1977 theatrical release) 111
6 Serials, chase scenes, and off-screen presences : Raiders of the lost Ark (1981) 130
7 Dramas of suburbia and authorship : Poltergeist (1982) and E.T. (1982) or, who really directed Poltergeist? 154
8 "Close encounters of the prehistoric kind" : narrative, narration, and spectacle in Jurassic Park (1993) 174
9 Precogs dream of future murders (not electric sheep) : Minority report (2002) 193
10 News from Mars : War of the worlds (2005) 212
Conclusion : the film director as magician 223
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2006

    Informative book. Exactly what I didn't expect.

    When I ordered the book, I expected lots of full-color movie frames and captions explaining the shots. No. Do not expect that. Here's what I did get, though: 1) Critical break-downs of every style for most of Spielberg's films, including: Duel, Jaws, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Poltergeist, Close Encounters of a Third Kind, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Minority Report, and War of the Worlds. With brief summaries for some of his other movies. 2) Small, black and white stills of the more important aspects of these films (slightly disappointed by this). 3) Other notes including a brief histroy of blockbusters, Spielberg's infulence and creation of the genre, and much more. I would probably still have bought the book if I knew what it really was, but it wasn't what I expected, as I said before. Buy this if you want to understand, in depth, Spielberg's reasoning for his filming choices. Do not buy this if you don't want to read...a lot.

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