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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 …


Anyone who happens to follow my blog, or happens upon it by accident, will notice I don’t have any one singular theme, although I do a lot of things from a humorous point of view.  But this year things are a little different.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had a bit of a writing slump with some serious writer’s block — going on about 10 years now.  I’ve managed to write a handful of poems, but nothing major.  Then this political cycle in the U.S. started.  It seems my muse is currently disguised as Donald Trump.

I’ve never cared about Donald Trump prior to his running for the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.  His life and business practices didn’t run in my information circles.  Next thing I know, I’m following him along his haphazardly self-lain mine field of a political run for something that he’s uniquely unqualified for.  My political ideologies skew Democrat/Liberal, but I see just value in fiscal conservatives.  Not Republican, per se, but there’s nothing wrong with doing great things for everyone if you can spend on it smartly.  I, by no means, believe the current Republican Party of the U.S. is what it used to be.  It’s full of the worst kind of politicians (spiteful, and if you don’t believe it just look up Senator Mitch McConnell’s public statements when President Barack Obama was elected – that the Republican’s number one job was to make Obama a one-term president), idiotic (really too many to count, but think Affordable Health Care Act and Benghazi), and so far to the religious right that it’s surprising they haven’t fallen off the flat earth.

So Donald Trump has become my TrumpSpeak muse.  He’s immensely fun to TrumpSpeak, especially when all I have to do is base it off of what he’s actually done in public.  I don’t have to make up any of the circumstance.  Satirical fun at it’s best.

July 17, 2016, or the Day I Started Some Stuff

2016 has been a strange year.  From noteworthy news to personal things, it’s run the gamut of emotional ups and downs.  The death of celebrated actors and musicians to the epitome of satirical/goofy political races.

For this year I had a goal of trying to watch at least one new thing a day, whether it was a film or t.v. show.  Hasn’t work out that way, though I have managed to keep to not watching something more than once (which is really hard to do when you have a handful of “comfort” films to watch and you’ve had enough times when you needed to watch a comfort film).

My son and I went to the local move theater to watch GHOSTBUSTERS, a film I’d been looking forward to seeing since it was first announced.  I loved the original.  I was there in theaters seeing it when it came out in 1984.  So when I heard who was directing it and who was starring in it, I got excited to see how it would play out.  I’m not going to go into detail about my thoughts on the people who were so offended by the remake and that it was starring all women in the lead roles, because that’s a whole blog entry by itself.  Then I saw Spy and was bowled over by how honestly funny I found it.  I hadn’t laughed at a film like that in a long, long time.  In fact, I think the last time I laughed that much or that hard was when I saw BRAIN DONORS (1992).  So I was primed to see it.

The only obstacle in the way of seeing the new GHOSTBUSTERS was … electricity.  Or more specifically the lack of it.  We did not get to see it today, but did end up with two comp tickets, so yay!

What prompted this blog was what would have happened right after seeing the film.  My son wanted to record a reaction/review of the film.  He was excited about doing it.  Little bummed out that we couldn’t do it today, but he’s certainly looking forward to doing.  This, in turn, lead to us deciding to review just about all the films we see.  I started making a list of films I want him to see and ones that he wants to see and films neither of us have seen but we might give a try.

I’m genuinely looking forward to this.  I’m looking forward to helping learn how things can be adapted (he’s already seen some films that have been adaptations of book) and how they can be compared to other films (such as multiple adaptations of a single source – Hamlet, for example).  I’m looking forward to how he sees things.

And in turn, as everything has some sort of consequence, I’m hoping that gives me a bit of jog on the creativity front.

So until next time (which, fingers crossed will be later this week)!!

Peanut Butter issues

Apparantly there’s a shortage on peanuts to make peanut butter.

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