Tag Archives: symbolism

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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Neon Genesis Evangelion

I need to say this right now about the original Neon Genesis Evangelion. This is hard to watch. It’s harder to watch dubbed, at least, from my experience it is. I feel the director/writer Hideaki Anno said it best about the show. “It’s strange that ‘Evangelion’ has become such a hit – all the characters are so sick!” And to me, that’s not “sick” in a good way. These characters, to put it better, suck. The main characters of this anime somehow don’t develop as the show progresses. And their back stories and personalities are just as bad. I don’t mean to put down a classic anime, but this show had problems from its inception.

Okay, basic plot. Shinji Ikari, in the first episode, comes to Tokyo-3. He’s there because his father asked him

Shinji. Pouting and whining with no comfort from Rei.

to come. This sounds odd you say? Well it is. Shinji has not seen his father for years, basically they became estranged after his mother’s death. (And Shinji’s father was implicated… sort of… not really… I’m not sure…) His father, one of the creators of N.E.R.V.,  has created these “machines” known as Evangelions. EVA’s for short. And these machine’s soul purpose are to destroy Angels. These Angels have been hitting the Earth for the past 15 years. Known as 2nd impact, this Angel that comes to Earth is defeated, but not before major devastation is wrought. And because of the 2nd impact, Earth has been changed and N.E.R.V. and a coalition of countries have been tasked with defending the Earth.

Evangelion. A cast to hate due to their "sick"ness.

And it doesn’t stop there. Just wait til the last 2 episodes. Either it will bore you or fascinate you. Either/or, it will confuse you. In typical mecha WTF fashion, this show will confuse you. And/or frustrate you with its characters. First of all, scum of the Earth #1 is Shinji’s father, Gendo Ikari. He neglects his son, and then doesn’t care if he lives or dies. Quite the father figure. There’s Asuka Langley Soryu, the most annoying German/Japanese girl on the planet. If she’s not berating Shinji with insults and back-handed comments, she’s most likely speaking terrible German (That voice actress has no idea what German is.) And she hates her life. Basically. So that’s another strike against her, among countless strikes. Rei Ayanami is another classically boring character that is hard to comprehend. Her monotone voice (it’s explained) mixed with emotionless conversation makes her scenes hard to watch. Misato Katsuragi is a whorish female major with nothing more to do than worry about others and become promiscuously unsavory. Quite the combo, including a ridiculously sloppy apartment.

And those are just to name a few. And, as I said, the one bane of this show is that none of these characters change throughout the entire anime. Not a one. They all remain in their own worlds of self pity and pettiness until the end. And if that’s what other people got from this show, I’m sure that is also portrayed across the board, subbed or dubbed. I watched the dubbed and pretty much regretted it. It being a 1995 anime, precursor to the golden age of voice actors going on now, these voice actors are hired more for their voices than their acting skills. I will give credit to 2 though. Kyle Sturdivant does a great Greg Ayres impression without even knowing it as Kaworu Nagisa (can’t explain, too far in). And Aaron Krohn does a great job as Ryoji Kagi, Misato’s love interest and all around stud. Everyone else was most likely just in it for the chance to “attempt” to voice act. I’m not quite sure.

The EVAs are cool, I just don't know what to say about the show...

Other than that, I would give the show in total a 5.2 out of 10. The concept, above all, is actually very interesting. I have a soft spot for mecha anime, and this is considered one of the best and most original. It is a classic. But I’m not sure it suits everyone’s taste. And that’s why they re-did the ending and added the movies for a different perspective on Neon Genesis Evangelion. The comments on symbolism and religion are quite prominent. But not until the end. The psychological/philosophical musings became redundant, as it seemed they were just lines to fill time more than actual reevaluations of the meaning of life. But I am interested to see the takes that were made after the original. So we’ll just have to wait a while and see what’s in store. And I’ll make sure to make a review to fill in all my “fans” with. But seriously, if you view my blog weekly/daily, why not subsribe? It’d let me know what people wanna see me review and what people’s interests are. Thanks for reading always, it’s a real treat inviting you to The Abyss.