Steven Spielberg Turns 65, Still Keeps Childlike Wonder Alive in Movies

Claudine Zap
Movie Talk

On December 18, Steven Spielberg turns 65. But it's the fans who get a present: The director will be bringing two major movies to theaters this month. The drama "War Horse" opens on Christmas Day, and the comic-book tale "The Adventures of Tintin" -- which has been nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature -- opens in the U.S. on December 21 and is already a global hit.

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Not surprisingly, the movies involve Spielbergian calling cards: Childhood delight? Check. Amazing effects? Check. Emotional storytelling? Check.

Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg

The Oscar winner's blockbusters around the world have made him what IMDb called "one of the most influential film personalities in the history of film." His formula for success: Some say Spielberg channels childlike wonder, often seen through the eyes of his actors with a trademark look known as the "Spielberg face."

A video essay from the blog Fandor (inspired by a story from the site Ugo), strings together many clips of classic Spielberg moments, when actors respond to events by staring silently, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Kevin B. Lee of Fandor describes the phenomenon this way: "Eyes open, staring in wordless wonder in a moment where time stands still. But above all, a childlike surrender in the act of watching, both theirs and ours. It's as if their total submission to what they are seeing mirrors our own."

Think back to the little boy when he first sees the alien in "E.T." Or residents of a town as they stare at a UFO coming toward them in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Something crazy and out-of-this-world is happening off-camera! The actors look as amazed as the audience is sure to soon feel.

Watch an exclusive clip from Spielberg's 'War Horse' >>

The filmmaker, who has entertained fans for decades, also claims some other ground-breaking moves on-screen: from the first summer blockbuster with the movie "Jaws", to the first use of product placement in "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" and, yes, the eye-popping special effects of those giant lizards in "Jurassic Park."

The producer, who has been spoofed by "The Simpsons" and credited as the inspiration behind J.J. Abrams's film "Super 8" says for him, it's personal. "I think most of my movies are personal movies. I think the most personal movie I've made is 'Schindler's List.' I think the second most personal movie I have ever made is 'E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.'"

You can see the video essay of the "Spielberg face" here.

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