Tag Archives: Spanish

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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Harsh Times: Get Some Christian Bale

In one of my favorite Christian Bale films, Bale plays a hardened soldier newly returned to South Central Los Angeles. With new promising jobs for himself on the horizon, Jim Davis (Bale) has his feet in two camps. In one, Davis is a well-to-do yet slightly skewed veteran soldier that wants to bring his loving Mexican girlfriend to the U.S. and marry her. In the other, Davis has returned to his old haunts around the streets of L.A., drinking and living the life of a hoodrat. Cruising around with his friend Mike Alonzo (Freddy Rodriguez), attempting to right their lives but always falling short.

Jim Davis, although its not explicitly stated, suffers from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. After serving over in the Middle East, Davis suffers from bouts of extreme anger and unquenchable violence. This get him in some trouble throughout the film. In a manner of speaking, Davis becomes his own undoing, turning into a destructive time bomb ready to explode at any moment, hurting those he cares about. As an outsider viewing this, Alonzo (Rodriguez) is a spectator to the bomb

Two thugs, cruisin’ to get their. Rodriguez is creepin’ a bit hard on Bale though…

show. Both serve as peer pressure for the other, although, in the end, Davis seems to want to remain in his in between life much longer than Alonzo does.

The film starts with a bit of iffy war footage of Christian Bale running around in trenches, letting his gun go at will and laying waste to the terrorists. This is juxtaposed to the waking fear that he feels when he wakes up in the squalor of his girlfriend’s poverty in Mexico. Marta (Tammy Trull) is a wonderfully devoted character who is only a product of the environment around her. She makes the best of what she has and loves Davis dearly. Jim loves her too, and surprisingly never cheats on her. In this movie, Spanish is the language of love, spoken competently by Bale in this film, as if he picked it up after falling in love with Marta. The language barriers and connections in this film between the white and Latino characters is one I applaud in its representation in the film.

The hardened stare of a killer.

I was also impressed with Freddy Rodriguez’s performance in this film as well. Not seeing him in much other than the Grindhouse films and Six Feet Under. His voice is more recognizable than his acting, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because he ran his mouth in this film. Sylvia, played by Eva Longoria, was just thoroughly average in this film, as she usually is. (I did surprisingly like her in Over My Dead Body… if that’s what it’s called). Terry Crews, star of The Longest Yard and The Expendables, made a surprise appearance as a semi-believable street thug, providing some of the only comedy in the film. And last but not least, J.K. Simmons made an appearance as a Homeland Security agent looking to hire Davis. He’s always believable as authority figures in his films.

In this film comes a lot of the breakdown of what happens to someone who suffers through war. It may not appear during their service as in this film, but it may occur anytime after, triggered by any number of things. For Davis, I felt it was his return to a society that was just as cruel as the conditions he felt in

Look everyone, it’s the Old Spice Guy!

war times that did it for him. He came back to more of what he knew, and treated it like the warring sands of the Middle East. And what impressed me more with David Ayer’s writing and directing, is that he based these characters on real people from his experience in South L.A. This brought a new level to Christian Bale’s acting and the way in which his character was formulated.

Bale and Rodriguez getting the direction they need from Ayers.

Let me say again how impressed I was with Christian Bale’s acting in this film. As one of my favorite films of his, Christian Bale does nothing less than attempt and succeed at an American accent. Although I felt that the lingo used in this film was a bit over the top, when it was used, it was more than likely appropriate. With some tricks of the trade thrown in there and some real mean streets shizz, it wasn’t a stretch to believe the events of the film. But it just goes to show that the corruption of the streets can easily lead to a tragedy. And the way that Christian Bale portrays that breakdown of a character, up to the tears and fear, its a commendable performance. Not to mention how frightening Christian Bale becomes when he’s serious. I wouldn’t wanna deal with him in a dark alley.

So with his performance, some true to the streets gang banging, and the whites vs. the latinos really

Jim Davis, rollin’ hard to get his.

adds a lot to a well written story. The psychological thriller elements of the film are well delivered and I can connect things I’ve witnessed in my life to the events onscreen. On a touchy subject like the recent tours of duty over in Iraq and Afghanistan, this movie touches just the right spots with aplomb. I’ll give this one, as should be expected, a decent 84. out of 10.