First off, is it just me, or is "Ratatouille" the first recent big-budget animated picture to not have a tie-in with a big fast-food franchise (here in America, anyway)? And isn't that a welcome change? Animated movie tie-ins with fast food places are always the same thing: the kid's meals come with a toy from the movie, thus cementing the idea in people's heads that animation is for kids only and that animation itself is cheap, low quality and unsatisfying like fast food. Who wants the public to equate their film with greasy cardboard Happy Meal boxes and the smell of French fries?
It would also be an uncomfortable proposition for any fast-food giant to have a tie-in with a movie that's all about eating well, I would assume. When I worked on "Home on the Range" there was a lot of debate over whether a movie about cows should have a fast-food tie-in. In the end Disney and/or McDonalds decided not to partner on the deal, so I guess that makes "Ratatouille" the second recent animated film not to have a fast-food tie-in. In any case, let's hope it's the beginning of a trend.
Anyway, after watching the Spielberg documentary (see below) I watched part of "Saving Private Ryan" to look at some of the staging. Spielberg is a master of great staging - there is absolutely no one better to look at to get a feeling of how to place the camera to tell the story. For all of the amazing staging in all of the incredible battle sequences, I was struck by this example, in particular: the Jeremy Davies character (Upham) is asking the Tom Hanks character (Miller) the question all of his men want to know: where did he come from and what did he do before the war? He asks the question in a roundabout way and Miller deflects the question, and the lengthy scene is all staged from this angle. The light and focus are all on Upham and Tom Hanks is out of focus, in the dark and turned away from us the whole time.
Spielberg resisted the obvious choice to cut around to Tom when he is giving his answers. Most directors and/or producers would want to show as much as they could of Tom, I would think: he is the most famous actor in the world, and why give all the emphasis to Jeremy Davies instead? Well I can't speak for Spielberg but I'm guessing it's because the visuals underscore the point of the scene: at this point in the movie, the Miller character is remote and unknowable. Because Spielberg has made such a point of that information, it has become important to us and we want to know the answers, but we are not going to get them just yet. On that point Miller is inscrutable and so he appears that way to us: he looks away, we can barely see his face and he won't meet Davie's gaze (or ours either). Even though we have had many close-ups and explanatory scenes with him so that we feel we know him pretty well, when it comes to his past he is still a cypher to us, blurry and unknowable. It's a subtle piece of staging but very effective.