One Thing I Love Today: Spielberg’s ‘BFG’ trailer promises some old-school magic

04.05.16 1 year ago

One Thing I Love Today is a daily column dedicated to putting a spotlight on some pop culture item worth your attention. After all, there's enough snark out there. Why not start every day with one quick shotgun blast of positivity?

Roald Dahl”s work has made for some interesting big-screen adaptations over the years. By far the most beloved version of his work is the Gene Wilder iteration of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, due largely to the sheer charismatic supernova that is Gene Wilder in that film. I”ve had a real soft spot for The Witches since its early ’90s release, and I think that Nic Roeg film gets the tone of Dahl”s work right in a big way.

It is safe to say that I am crossing my fingers and hoping for the very best with Steven Spielberg”s The BFG, and my optimism can be summed up in two words: Melissa Mathison. I read a 2009 draft she wrote, and it was a reminder of just how beautiful the art of screenwriting can be. Just as words on a page, it”s magic. When we talk about why Spielberg”s E.T. The Extraterrestrial is so great, Mathison”s script is a big part of the equation. The same thing is true of the terrific The Black Stallion and the underrated The Indian In The Cupboard. There are very few screenwriters who have ever been better at writing from the point of view of a child attempting to make sense of a world that can feel terrifying.

When they shot this film, Spielberg and Rylance had no idea Rylance would end up an Oscar-winner for their other recent collaboration Bridge Of Spies. I”m excited to see how Rylance approaches the cascades of near-English that define the character, and how Spielberg handles a whole movie filled with motion-capture performances. He”s done it in his Tintin film, but never in a movie that also incorporates live-action. He”s got a cast of giants that includes Bill Hader and Jermaine Clement, and the script is filled with that sort of timeless gentle character work that defines Mathison”s other work.

Spielberg”s made some big stylistic choices here, and it”s a beautiful storybook look. I wouldn”t say it looks especially realistic, but I don”t think that was the goal. Spielberg can do reality, but that”s never been his primary goal. When you look at the way his eye evolved from the hyper-reality of The Sugarland Express and Jaws and even Close Encounters to a much more lyrical and even lush visual approach, it”s clear that Spielberg enjoys the freedom that comes from defining the look of the world, and that he is as good as anyone ever at using visual language to fully control the audience”s reaction. There is so much beauty packed into this one short trailer that I am eager to see what the rest of the world looks like. There”s a wonderful collision of the modern and the timeless in Mathison”s script, and I”m curious to see if Spielberg keeps all of that. I really do hope that her script is the film, because it”s so odd and it”s structured in ways that buck Hollywood convention. It”s also fitting that the last script by Mathison would be a celebration of the value of storytelling and the power that comes from finding your own voice.

My fingers are as crossed as they can be on this one, and it”s a lovely sneak peek at what I hope is one of this summer”s most human movies.

The BFG is in theaters July 1, 2016.

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