Tag Archives: Oscar worthy

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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The Shawshank Redemption: I Finally Saw It

As most gigantic film buffs know, this movie is top dog when it comes to classic films everyone has to see. And how long did it take me to see since I’ve been really into movies? 10 years. I know you may be thinking I might as well shut down my review website, but hold your horses Seabiscuit. It wasn’t like I wasn’t going to see it and shrug it off as some dumb flick not worth my time. (Although… a bit lengthy.) This movie is across the board considered one of the best of all time, and it came out a mere 17 years ago. And there’s quite a few movies that would rival that from more than 50 or 60 years. But no, this movie, paid with a dollar to Stephen King with a single dollar bill, is now considered a masterpiece.

This movie in particular holds quite a bit of significance to me, but more to my father. So yeah, it’s pretty special. My father grew up in Mansfield, site of the Ohio State Reformatory, located just outside of downtown Mansfield. Coming from a low budget movie filmed in one location (Mansfield), I would call the achievement of this film phenomenal. And turning the old reformatory into Shawshank State Penitentary in Maine, and thus turning Mansfield into a hotspot location for film buffs: fantastic. The streets of Mansfield, some family friends staring down the camera, yeah, this film has some history with me.

Okay, basic plot. Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of killing his wife all the way back in 1947. His wife was cheating on him with a golfer (naturally Tiger Woods) and she got what was coming to her. And it’s never really clear whether or not Andy committed the crime. Anyways, Dufresne is sent to Shawshank State Penitentiary in Maine, home of the writer of this short story, Stephen King. While there, Andy keeps his head down, stands up for others, and makes friends with Red (Morgan Freeman) the narrator of this fine film. Despite his status as convicted or not (all Shawshank inmates are innocent!), Andy Dufresne must stick by his beliefs and not get Shawshanked. Overused pun? Or am I the first? Let me know.

Of course, as expected with a great movie, there’s some great acting in it as well. It is Morgan Freeman. Known simply to most as “The Voice of God”, it was roles like The Shawshank Redemption that gave him the opportunity to narrate beyond a prison story. Tim Robbins, as I’ve figured from this movie, got into highly acclaimed, Oscar worthy roles because of this movie. Although Morgan Freeman won for best actor, it doesn’t demean Tim Robbins any that he was in a movie that was up for 7 academy awards.

Who else, you may ask, deserves a nod from this acclaimed film? I would tip my hat to William Sadler as Heywood, the bumbling idiot and all around good guy, just trying to get through prison life. The only life most of them know, and that comes across in this movie with James Whitmore’s performance as Brooks Hatlen, a role that would later be ironically poked fun at by a Robot Chicken sketch. (Get busy livin’, or get Kraken.) Come to think of it, there’s always the occaisional homage or spoof that comes up about this film, and now I can enjoy them more thoroughly.

So I give the biggest nod to Frank Darabont and his screenplay from the words of Stephen King, utilizing his Dollars to Direct program of all his short stories. I do wonder though if he’s kicking himself about missing out on this cash cow. But all-in-all, I’m sure this was a wonderful film to be a part of, and I know I’ll be watching it again in the future. 9.7 out of 10.

I also wanted to throw on this little clip from Seth Green’s Robot Chicken for a little quirky spoof that got me interested in The Shawshank Redemption. Enjoy!