CLOSE ENCOUNTERS AGAIN

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I may have even written about CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND before, but I just got a chance to see it again last night during the 40th Anniversary release, and I just wanted to write a bit about it.

It’s hard to explain why, but this has become one of my favorite films.

I love the pacing of the scenes and sequences, the way Spielberg starts a scene on an intriguing image and ends it as such. The small character touches like Balaban’s interpreter, in the opening scene, declaring that he was a cartographer before interpreting French, and how that smoothly comes into play when the coordinates come in the picture. And then the scientists, in an era before Google Maps and iPhones, grab a globe, roll it through the facility to look up coordinates.

Also, this movie is remembered as the story of Richard Dreyfuss’s “Roy”, basically, yet as the protagonist he’s about the last major character introduced. We get the mysterious opening and meet Lacombe (Francois Truffaut, perfectly cast), then we meet Jillian and her son, Barry, when the mystery of the opening now touches home and becoming real to an outsider. Then, finally, we meet Roy, our “main character”, at home with is family, perhaps in their happiest moment that we see them during the film.

When I watch older movies, I often wonder what they would look like if made today, what kinds of studio notes would come into play, and then I get kind of sad that we don’t see many movies like these any more. Wide shots displaying a grand location, or even the layout of a house so that we understand where everyone is, where they’re going, and what they can do in their environments. The measured, sparse use of a closeup to really convey emotional beats and character moments. The use of music to build tension and expose character struggles, rather than telling an audience how to feel. Even characters talking over each other, the realistic nature of a chaotic house with kids reflecting the confusion that’s setting in with the scientists as they figure out where the signals are coming from.

And what I really like is that, other than a big moment in the middle when Roy breaks down in his shower, his family the next day leaving him to his madness, there are no huge, melodramatic character revelations or extreme arcs. They just ARE who they are.

Lacombe is fascinated by the discovery, looking to find a way to communicate, even if he doesn’t understand what is being said. He has a soft spot for Roy, for the drive of a person to find purpose just as much as he has or has wanted to.

And Jillian has her son — she lives alone in a rural farmhouse – and when her son is taken, she has to get him back. That’s her mission, to get her son back, to protect him. He is the meaning she is searching for, and becomes a simple A- to – B plot, in the end.

And for Roy, whose family he is disconnected from, he is searching for that connection. His wife seems on a different wavelength, can’t understand his job (she passes him the phone when the boss tries to tell her what’s going on), his kids want Goofy Golf rather than see PINOCCHIO, a childhood favorite of Roy’s that stokes his inner kid, the curiosity that’s been buried in years of “living and working” and that is restless to come out, and does so when he’s been “encountered.”

I love this film, encourage you to watch it again if you haven’t seen it in a while, and fill your imagination with possibilities.

 

 

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Oscar Nominations are in!

My Dad and I do this little game every year, a sort of “side pot” before the Oscar nominations are announced. We gather our Intel and try to guess what the nominations will be for the ‘major’ categories. This year, I guessed more correct than he did, so there’s a small victory for me. Continue reading

Contact: First Contact

I have a soft spot in my heart for the film Contact.

I can’t exactly tell you why, I just took a fast liking to it and enjoy watching it when it  presents itself. I first saw it when I was 14, with my mother. I remember the opening BOOMS of the “signal” out in space, and was instantly hooked. The idea of seeing a movie exploring not just aliens but the idea of contacting them, of a more practical look at the effect of such contact, was exciting to me. Continue reading

FORTY-NINE, 2.0

The popcorn was almost gone from Michael’s bucket, and the previews hadn’t even started. Why the hell did he buy it so early? He loved popcorn almost as much as he loved the previews, why didn’t he just wait?

Twenty minutes prior to the movie you buy the popcorn, that was his tradition. Seven minutes out, you go to the bathroom and get that out of your system. Once the previews start, at that timing, you shouldn’t have to leave your seat again until after the credits roll.

As he got older, Michael recognized that he had to pee more often, so he only brought a small bottle of water with him, nothing fancy. no more sodas, no more coffees. Just water to go with the popcorn. The popcorn received two pumps of butter and three sprinkles of salt.

He sat at the end of the middle row, or as close as he could get. Being on the end served two purposes. First, in the event that he did have to pee, he wouldn’t have to climb over anyone. Second, in an emergency he could leave in a hurry and hopefully lead the way for all others to follow.  Michael didn’t consider himself a hero, but dammit he knew this theater front and back, no one should have to suffer.

But now, as he sifted his fingers through the bottom of the bucket, something was off. He’d forgotten to eat breakfast, and in his hunger he’d eaten the popcorn too quickly. He also forgot to sprinkle it with salt.

He looked at his watch: nine minutes until the previews started, which meant at least fifteen until the movie began. Enough time to buy more popcorn AND pee? He’d have to risk it. He couldn’t stand watching without popcorn, couldn’t fathom the idea of leaving to pee during the movie.

Not THIS movie.

It was the last of a trilogy, one he’d been dying to see since he was four years old. This long for a third movie, thirty years, but dammit it would be worth it. So he stood, made sure his coat guarded his seat (as well as the stranger to his left, who gave him an odd look of “yeah of course, bro”) and went out to go to the bathroom.

Fudge, the concessions line was long. He checked his watch again, calculating, slowing his walk while he did the math. Standing in line would take at least twelve minutes, given that each person would take two minutes and there were six-seven people per line. The bathroom would take two minutes as well, but as he thought this an earlier showing of the movie was just getting out.

Risk a longer bathroom wait, plus possible spoilers?

Hell no.

He moved to the shortest concessions line, dumping the rest of the popcorn in his mouth while he waited. He felt a bump at his back, some idiots elbow, no doubt. Michael ignored it, checked for more kernels — and felt a bump again. One more, he’d allow, and then —

A third bump.

He turned, fuming, already feeling his bladder fill and wondering what point in the movie he’d miss — then he saw her face, the girl behind him with the loose elbows, phone to her ear, brushing the blond hair from her face as she cringed. “So sorry,” she said.

He just nodded to her, offered her his remaining popcorn kernels. She took them without hesitation. “Thanks, dude!”

Michael was about to speak but the guy behind the girl caught his attention, the line was moving forward. Michael turned, but after stepping forward he shifted and looked back at the girl on the phone who was no longer on the phone. “What are you here to see?”

The girl shook her head, hanging up the phone, “Nothing, I just dig the popcorn. Two pumps butter, three sprinkles of salt, and a day’s worth of goodness.”

Michael smiled at her.

She smiled back.

Michael missed the movie that afternoon.