Tag Archives: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: My Father’s Take

Finally, here’s the long awaited post from my Dad for his Father’s Day present. Enjoy!

On the surface, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, released in 1977, is a story of how three individuals’ lives become intertwined when some possible alien ship encounters are experienced. Roy, an electric company engineer in Indiana, has a growing need to understand if he is crazy or if he has really received a message from the aliens. Jillian, a single mother from the same area of Indiana and her three-year-old son have received the message too and the aliens have apparently taken a particular liking to the little boy. The final character is Frenchman Claude Lacombe who is part of an international team both reaching out to the aliens and investigating the people the aliens have affected.

It would be easy to say I like Close Encounters because it is a Steven Spielberg movie. He both wrote and directed the film, and it was early on in his career when I feel he had a great child-like sense of wonder in his storytelling (E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire of the Sun). I also think he was enjoying his time saying, “I really get a big budget and get paid for having fun?” I could say I like the movie for the gifted John Williams score. I could discuss the symbolism of communication like languages (French, Spanish, Indian, English), physical interaction (radar, toys, sign), and art (music, painting, sculpture) to show that even humans have a hard time so why do we think the aliens could easily get their message across. I could say I like the 70s costumes – which weren’t costumes at the time but who would have put Teri Garr in a short yellow nighty and robe with earthy clogs – brilliant!! And I do think the special effects are good with the alien ships, the clouds, the lighting, the sandstorms, etc. I guess the problem I have is with the aliens. Why are there three different kinds of aliens so vastly different from each other?

My favorite part of the movie is the hero portrayed by the everyman who has been tapped for an adventure – Roy Neary. Despite his obstacles – like his beautifully portrayed dysfunctional family, like everyone thinking he is crazy, like his own belief that he is on the edge of sanity – he faces his fears, does the right thing, and is rewarded in the end. Richard Dreyfuss, who had been acting at this point for over 10 years but hadn’t had a great deal of recognition except for his role of Curt in American Graffiti and Hooper in Stephen Spielberg’s Jaws, is fantastic in this role. He shows anger, wonder, insanity, happiness, and despair. He gets to be in the action sequences – driving in the chase, driving cross country, climbing the mountain; being interrogated by the “bad guys;” saving the girl. He deals with the mundane – his son’s math homework, kids that want to stay up late (watch for a great quote – “I told them they could only watch five commandments), a boss who doesn’t want to talk to him, and a wife who cares for him but can only take so much. And he does it all while trying to figure out his purpose in life. He gets the Oscar nod from me!

So do yourself a favor, when you don’t feel the need for extreme action or extreme thought but want to play with your mashed potatoes, play in the dirt, and watch a great actor having a great time with a great script, get lost in the wonder of Close Encounters. It is better than Goofy Golf or Pinocchio. I give it a 9.9 out of 10!

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Super 8: Goonies Meets Close Encounters

Strangely enough about the “golden child” (I’m sarcastically giving him this name.) J.J. Abrams, I’ve only seen two of his films. (Star Trek and now Super 8) And I’ve seen absolutely none of his produced work. I’m a big opponent of Lost. Any show that ends with a dream-like plot in which all the characters are dead… Wow. Nice little steal from The Sixth Sense, you jerk. But I laughed because people were let down. Back to J.J. Star Trek was great, and Abrams only other sci-fi genre film. It was full of action and great dialogue, and, coming from someone who has never watched Star Trek (movies or otherwise) it was a worthwhile watch. True fans didn’t like it, did they? Oh well…

I’m just gonna say, examining J.J. Abrams sci-fi films, I am impressed. Especially with Super 8. This film had a great children’s main cast. Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) was a fantastic find for this film. Getting into acting through his struggling acting brother, it must suck to be his brother and lacking the opportunity Joel was given. Elle Fanning delivered as the spunky tomboy, Alice Dainard. Gaining a bit of a better reputation than her sister, Dakota, I hope that she goes far with this film. Other notables are Riley Griffiths as that fat boy director, Charles Kaznyk. If only he had stopped using the phrase “mint”, I would’ve liked him better. Ryan Lee was a great element of comic relief as Cary, the pyrotechnics expert. And, surprisingly, the most experienced out of the bunch was the least important of the characters, Zach Mills as Preston. His whiney pansy character fell into the background when the heat turned on.

And what was great about these children was the chemistry between them. Just like in The Goonies, these kids really felt like they were friends before they

A rag tag bunch of kids witness a violent track crash.

started filming. And the back and forth banter between these kids was something to behold. Some good solid character casting. This might be due more to the executive producing of Steven Spielburg, but who really knows? Also, what’s great about this film is that in takes place in Ohio. It needs to be said, being an Ohioan myself, that if you don’t know where to set a story or movie, set it in Ohio. To filmmakers, it appears to be someplace nondescript that anything can take place in. Word.

My big find for this film? Good old Simon from 7th Heaven, David Gallagher. Since then, he’s been doing a bit of work (most notably for me, Riku’s voice actor for the outrageously amazing Kingdom Hearts series) and he was in this movie. Didn’t seem him at first? Look again. David plays Donny, the burnt out, long haired druggie who helps out in the clinch for the rag tag bunch of hoodlums. And I spotted him 6 years later in this film. I’ll put that in the win column for myself.

A love interest. With a zombie film.

Should I talk about the plot of this film? Sure. In this movie, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is the son of a policeman (Kyle Chandler. See? I told you I’d mention him again after that Premonition mention.) and something tragic just recently happened. In a terrible accident at her mother’s factory job, Joe finds himself in a spiral of depression and separation from his father after what happened. Blaming it on a drunken man and his daughter (Elle Fanning), a love between Joe and Alice becomes a Romeo and Juliet situation. Meanwhile, helping Charlie with his zombie film, the friends get together to film a scene one night at a train stop. In a flash, a truck mounts the tracks and head on collides with the train, sending everything into chaos. In the confusion, a specter of an alien is released, causing havoc on the small town outside of Cincinnati. With the help of some locals, this group of filmmakers must find some way to figure out what’s going on and stop the devastation as a strange group of covert army men roll in hard.

For some reason, I wish I had seen this movie in theaters. Watching in on a smaller screen makes me wish I had seen the special effects on a bigger screen. Heck, I was even impressed with the amateur film the group of kids was making. With some big, booming speakers and some darkness to watch it in, my movie watching experience would have multiplied dramatically. But I made do with what I had. I enjoyed the story and characters immensely, but found the sci-fi aspect of the story to lack a bit of originality. The alien was hard to discern and its purpose and history left something to be desired. For me, it was about the kids. With all this in mind, I would give this movie an 8.5 out of 10.

Kyle Chandler does kick some ass in this film.