As Anne and I discussed in Friday’s Oscar Talk podcast, Disney/DreamWorks has been screening Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse” to the public in a pop-up screening strategy kinda/sorta like the one Paramount employed for “Young Adult.” Some are taking the cynical route, thinking the strategy is playing keep-away with a film that doesn’t have the goods for Oscar. The goal of these screenings is indeed fuzzy, but the reactions are key, and they seem to be wide-ranging.
If you dissect Twitter you can find them. Some call the film a “masterpiece.” Others call it shameless “Oscar bait.” Whatever it is, I stand by my comments on Friday. If press members want to feel scorned by not getting an early look at such a highly anticipated film and then take it out on said film, that’s incredibly petty and sad. I look forward to seeing and hopefully enjoying the film on its own terms.
Meanwhile, though, the press tour is showing signs of life. And one of the first considerable interviews with Spielberg I’ve seen regarding the film has popped up over at the Chicago Tribune with film critic Michael Phillips.
In the interview, Spielberg notes that, due to the animation process of “The Adventures of Tintin,” which he had already filmed, suddenly he had a lull in his schedule. He first saw the play upon which “War Horse” is based in early 2010. He brought in Richard Curtis to punch up Lee Hall’s pre-existing screenplay and was in production on the film by August.
He tells Phillips:
“This broken bond between this amazing young man and this miracle horse, this deep, deep friendship between human and animal, I don’t know, it just hit a good button for me…[Audiences are] watching a great story [on stage]. And that’s what involves them, even more than the great puppeteering. That’s what I glommed onto, even after being moved to tears by the puppeteering. I was also moved to tears by the storytelling.”
Meanwhile, it’s also worth noting the revelation that there is very little digital effects work in the film. Spielberg claims there are only “three shots lasting about three seconds” with CGI, because the horse’s safety became an issue. “That’s the thing I’m most proud of,” he tells Phillips. “Everything you see on screen really happened.”
Scattered press will be seeing “War Horse” throughout November. Most of us will get a look at the end of the month. The film is set for release on Christmas Day.
Check out the Chicago Tribune for the full interview. The bit at the end regarding Alfred Hitchcock’s thoughts on a young Spielberg was sweet, I thought.