A Look at “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977)

During my childhood, there were four soundtracks that I listened to.  A lot.  Two of whom have nothing to do with Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  [For the record, they were Disney’s The Jungle Book and Grease.]

Of those four, two were written and conducted by the same man, John Williams.  Mr. Williams gave us the iconic Star Wars theme.  But he also gave us “Wild Signals,” a piece of music that I don’t think is spoken of when people think of John Williams.  But for me, I know it like the back of my hand, as I learned when I re-watched Close Encounters for the first time in probably about three decades (even though I’ve had the blu-ray edition of it for quite a while).  It’s an amazing piece between an piccolo (?)* and a tuba.

Close Encounters also has, at least for me, an opening that stands out amongst almost all other openings to a film.  The sudden change from black to bright white light in the middle of a desert storm has stayed with me since I first saw the film in 1977.

One of the great things about watching this film again, as can be seen in the complementary video piece, was watching it with my 12 year old son.  He sat quiet through most of it, which had me wondering if he was enjoying it.  When it was over, his enthusiastic “It was awesome” reassured me a little that he liked it.

While watching it with him, and not having seen it for so many years, I realised that it is definitely not the same film I saw when I was 9 years old — yet it’s heart is exactly the same.  It’s like coming across an old friend you haven’t seen in forever, who’s gone through a lot of life changes, but they’re still that same person you knew.  I mean let’s get to the heart of this difference – Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss).  And let’s admit it, he’s kind of a big man-child, which ties into the overall theme of the film

The thematic heart of the film is laced through the soundtrack: “When You Wish Upon a Star” is interlaced with Williams’ own original compositions throughout the film, and it’s this dream chasing that Roy Neary does that leads him on the greatest of adventures, and on the path of a dad who abandons his family.  It’s a catch-22 with Roy, because when you view the film you can also see that Roy’s family doesn’t treat him very well, really.  His wife, played by the amazing Teri Garr, might love him but at the same time she doesn’t get him and tries to control him.  It’s subtle, but it’s there.  And Roy’s kids don’t give him much respect.  Roy comes across as competent in his job, though he’s the go-with-the-flow type and doesn’t seem ambitious at all: he does his job, does it well, but that’s it.  Even his supervisors tend to treat him a bit like his family does.  So when Roy’s visions start, we have already seen that he’s a creative dreamer, but whose dreams are based in reality (as can be seen with his train track and models).  Roy’s bundled up his creativity, and when it’s time to get the visions out, he goes for broke.  Although I’m still at a loss as to why he needed to put everything *into* the kitchen sink and not go through the back patio door with all his building materials where he grabbed everything *but* the kitchen sink to put in it.  I’m also not sure why the neighbour didn’t call the police for his stealing her chicken wire, but hey, this was the 70’s – they were probably dealing with people complaining about communist Russians.

The film won an academy award for Best Cinematography, thanks to the late Vilmos Zsigmond, and a special achievement oscar for sound effects editing.  It was also nominated for seven other Academy Awards, inluding best director, best supporting actress (Melinda Dillon as Jillian), and best original score.  Steven Spielberg manages to bring sense of thrilling urgency to the movements as well as the story which he helped craft.

There’s much more to this film in themes and actions (such as a possible romance between Roy and Jillian, a woman whose son was taken by aliens) than I’m covering in this look, but it’s definitely a film that fits in both the 1970s and now.  It’s a nearly timeless story that holds up well, especially in the visual effects.

Have to give it a rating?  A-.  Have to give it a star rating?  4.3 stars.  It’s not a perfect film.  It does have flaws within the character arcs that I don’t feel are fleshed out enough to be a welcome dynamic to their growth, especially with Roy’s arc of abandoning his family.

Reasons to see this movie?  Many.  Mostly, though, because of how the film leaves you at the end … wanting your own dreams to be able to come true simply by wishing hard enough (which, oddly enough, is a theme in a lot of films that I tend to really like).  There’s a tremendous amount of wonderment that the film revels in.

*I don’t feel like researching it at the moment, so I’m just going off of memory.


Upcoming (Updated!)

Along with the reviews that I’m going to put up for my “Seven Favourite Films” hashtag, I’ve been inspired to try something a blogger termed “Sci-Fi September.  This means watching at least one film a day for each day of the month … so 30 films.  I already have them picked out, but not quite in the order that I’ll be watching/reviewing.

Here’s the list in advance, though.  [Note: It’s finalised, so if you’d like to watch along, feel free!  They’re based on what’s available on Netflix and Shomi in Canada, so may not be readily available if you’re in another country.]  They’re mostly films that I haven’t seen.  The ones that I have seen I haven’t seen in so long that it’s basically new.

1. The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
2. Brazil (1985)
3. Cowboys and Aliens (2011)
4. Divergent (2014)
5. Elysium (2013)
6. The Forgotten (2004)
7. Godzilla (2014)
8. Howard the Duck (1986)
9. I am Legend (2007)
10. Dredd (2012)
11. Knights of Badassdom (2013)
12. Looper (2012)
13. Mad Max (1979) / The Road Warrior (1981) – [double feature!]
14. Never Let Me Go (2010)
15. Sunshine (2007)
16. Project Almanac (2014)
17. Repo Man (1984)
18. Robocop (1987) / Robocop 2 (1990) / Robocop 3 (1993) – [a triple feature!!  wtf???]
19. Snowpiercer (2013)
20. The Terminator (1984) / Terminator Genisys (2015) – [Whew!  Only a double feature!]
21. Upside Down (2012)
22. Van Helsing (2004)
23. Womb (2010)
24. Thunderbirds (2004)
25. Young Ones (2014)
26. Z for Zachariah (2015)
27. The Martian (2015)
28. Signs (2002)
29. The Rover (2014)
30. The Road (2009)

You may have noticed a bit of an alphabetical thing going there.  Tried very hard to get each letter, but it didn’t quite work out.

So there’s the list.  And may goodness have some mercy on my soul.  I’m already looking forward to harming my brain in October with another theme month …

A Video Review of “Super 8” (with Daniel)

I watched SUPER 8 with my son, Daniel, and then we did a second video review.  Which pretty much means we’ll be doing more and more of them.  Yay!

Feel free to comment!

A Video Review of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (with Daniel)

I watched CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND with my son, Daniel, and then we did a video review.

Feel free to comment!

My interpretation of a potential intelligence briefing with Donald Trump as President

My interpretation of a potential intelligence briefing with Donald Trump as President (based off of the news reports that have him stating that U.S. Intelligence isn’t worth anything):

Trump: So, today’s intel. I don’t trust you guys, just so you know. And nobody has trust issues like me, believe me. So what do you have for me.

Briefing Officer #1: Well, there’s a situation in Damascas.

Trump: Damascus. Damascus. Why does that seem familiar?

Briefing Officer #1: Its –

Trump: I got it! I got it! It’s Congress.

Briefing Officer #1: Er…

Briefing Officer #2: No, Mister President, it’s –

Trump: Congress. That damnable Congress. Dem ask us for money all the time.

Briefing Officer #2: We don’t do intelligence reports on Congress, sir.

Trump: I would imagine not. Not much intelligence there to gather. And I know about lack of intelligence. Nobody lacks intelligence better than me.

Briefing Officer #1: Maybe we should try another report.

Trump: Go ahead. Make it brief.

Briefing Officer #2: It is a brief.

Trump: Brief what?

Briefing Officer #2: You, sir.

Trump: I’m not brief. I’m long-winded.

Briefing Officer #1: Back on track here, sir. The next report we have is about Turkey.

Trump: Turkey!! I like turkey. Not as good as Trump Steaks, but yummy all the same. Now that I think about it, and nobody thinks like I do, I could really use a sandwich. A nice Turkey sandwich. With Dijon mustard. Not that French’s stuff, because I don’t like the French.

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