- The Mysteries
of A.I. - The Director
A.I. Artificial Intelligence is what some people
call, "The Lost Kubrick." It was originally a pet project
of Stanley Kubrick's, until he passed away in 1999. Kubrick had
kept Steven Spielberg informed of the project since around 1990,
and had stated that Steven would be the perfect director if he
couldn't make it. In fact, he even went so far as to say that
Steven should direct it and that he would produce it, but death
ultimately got the better of him. And now, on June 29th, we shall
view the final product - Stanley Kubrick's last dream, realized
by Steven Spielberg.
Mysteries of A.I. is also proud to feature three guest columns,
written by Ernest Rister, providing a very detailed commentary
on Spielberg's films, from A.I. to Empire of the
Sun to Saving Private Ryan. Well worth a read.
Spielberg, Kubrick, Disney's PINOCCHIO, and A.I...
EMPIRE OF THE SUN: Spielberg's Misunderstood Overlooked Masterwork
Defending Private Ryan: A Look at SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
Steven Spielberg was born on December
18, 1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and to this day is realized as one
of this generation's greatest, and most popular, directors.
Growing up in Phoenix, Ariz., Steven
Spielberg charged admission to his home movies while his sister
sold popcorn. The introverted son of an emotionally remote electrical
engineer father and an indulgent concert-pianist mother, he completed
his first scripted amateur film - which was funded by proceeds
from his tree-planting business - at the age of 12. A year later,
he won a prize for a 40-minute war movie titled Escape to
Nowhere. At 16, Spielberg's ambitious 140-minute science-fiction
production, Firelight, was shown in a local movie theater.
In college (he studied film at Cal State after earning a B.A.
in English), the Boy Wonder's 24-minute short Amblin'
was screened at the Atlanta Film Festival - the film was well-received
enough that it netted the 20-year-old neophyte a seven-year contract
as a TV director with Universal-MCA.
Spielberg made his debut helming the
pilot episode (which starred legendary screen queen Joan Crawford,
no less) for the Rod Serling series Night Gallery, and
further cut his teeth with episodes of such weekly series as Columbo
and Marcus Welby, M.D., and with a handful of telefilms.
One such movie, 1972's Duel, which starred Dennis Weaver
as a salesman menaced by a giant diesel truck, became an instant
Spielberg's first feature film, The
Sugarland Express, released in 1974, won him the chance to
direct Jaws, an adaptation of the Peter Benchley thriller
about a great white shark that terrorizes a small New England
beach community. Despite the fact that production on the film
ultimately overran by an expensive 100 days (the greenhorn director
had a disgruntled crew and a faulty automated shark on his hands),
the $8.5 million pic grossed $260 million, effectively ushering
in the modern age of summer movie blockbusters. Catapulted to
Hollywood's A-list, Spielberg followed up Jaws two years
later with Close Encounters of the Third Kind: the revisionist
sci-fi film not only garnered him a Best Director Oscar nomination,
but it cemented his reputation as a visionary of pure cinematic
Stanley Kubrick was born on July 26, 1928, in Bronx,
N.Y. He was regarded as a master filmmaker, and an eccentric genius.
Kubrick passed away of natural causes in 1999, a few months before
the release of his final film, Eyes Wide Shut, starring Tom Cruise
and Nicole Kidman.
Born to a middle-class family in the
Bronx, filmmaker Stanley Kubrick received his first camera from
his physician father at the age of 13; three years later he was
working as a photographer for Look magazine. (Kubrick had planned
to go to college instead of to work, but had lost his place to
a returning vet when he flunked a high school English class.)
Though Kubrick claimed he was hired "out of pity," he
credited the job, which he held until age 21, for providing him
the opportunity to learn the fundamental photographic aspects
of filmmaking - composition, lighting, location, and action shooting.
During those years, Kubrick became obsessed with filmmaking. He
spent most of his nights at the Museum of Modern Art, absorbing
the subtle nuances of the craft he would later use to give life
to his own innovative and unconventional visions.
In 1950, Kubrick took $3,900 he had squirreled
away from his photographer's salary to make his first one-reel
short, Day of the Fight, a documentary based on one of
his Look photo series, about prizefighter Walter Cartier.
He sold the film to R.K.O.-Pathe for $4,000 - the most money the
studio had ever paid for such a film. Following his first principle,
"the best way to learn is to do," Kubrick acted as scenarist,
director, cameraman, soundman, and editor on Day of the Fight,
as he did on his second short, The Flying Padre. Encouraged
by the relative success of his fledgling documentaries (at the
time, success meant just breaking even), Kubrick quit his day
job to focus his attentions fully on filmmaking. He next persuaded
a poet friend to pen a dramatic screenplay for his first feature
project, Fear and Desire, while he scrambled for financial
backing. Made for $40,000 begged from family members and friends,
the moody war drama failed to earn back his investors' money,
but Kubrick's spirits were irrepressible. Wisely asking different
associates to back his next effort, a crime thriller he scripted
himself called Killer's Kiss, Kubrick managed to sell
the film to United Artists for distribution. As with his earlier
endeavors, Kubrick's masterful cinematography in Killer's
Kiss earned him critical plaudits, as well as the attention
of actor Sterling Hayden, who agreed to star in Kubrick's next
feature (and first property of his newly formed production company),
The Killing. United Artists seconded Hayden's commitment
by pledging financial support to the tune of $200,000 - and for
a change, Kubrick had enough money to pay a full crew and a cast
of professional actors.
United Artists came through again financially - this time with
a cool million - for Kubrick's production of Humphrey Cobb's World
War I novel Paths of Glory, which starred Kirk Douglas.
Due to the uniformly favorable reviews he received for the film,
and by virtue of his growing reputation as a skilled professional,
Kubrick was then asked to replace director Anthony Mann on the
$12-million, cast-of-thousands super-spectacle Spartacus.
Secure in the knowledge he had successfully proven himself by
Hollywood standards, Kubrick moved permanently to England, where
he engaged author Vladimir Nabokov to adapt his notorious novel
of nymphet worship, Lolita, for the screen, bravely forging
ahead with production despite the sure knowledge that the censors
would do their worst to alter his artistic representation of the
story's controversial content. Unfortunately, he was right, and
critical reception of the final watered-down version was just
that - critical. Moviegoers queued up, expecting a veritable stag
film of teenage sex, and Kubrick was forced by conventions of
the time to deliver a too-subtle alternative of Humbert Humbert's
eroticism couched in double entendres, visual metaphors, and implication....