Last night, after a long screening of Sex and the City, I discovered that Close Encounters of the Third Kind was playing at midnight in the same theater (the Universal Cineplex at Universal Studios). I haven’t seen this movie in 10 plus years so now was definitely the time. Plus, when else would I have a chance to see it on the big screen? Sure, my throat was sore (cold coming on) and I was tired, but I was determined to press on.
I’ve seen a lot of old movies play at this theater (Jaws, Goodfellas, Psycho, to name a few). They run one or two every week – and they are prints – which is easily one of the only cool things left to do in Orlando. It was great to see those other films on the big screen (especially Jaws) but the prints often felt like they were as old as the movies themselves. But the print of Close Encounters was absolutely fucking gorgeous. The first reel had a few scratches throughout but the rest of the film looked as crisp as I had ever seen it.
The one thing I never really picked up from this movie was the overage of father abandonment. Encounters was written and directed by Steven Spielberg (based on an original screenplay by Paul Schrader of Taxi Driver fame) during the early part of his career. It’s clear the dude has some family sadness in his past but I never quite saw its influence so much as I did last night.
This movie almost has two story lines – one follows a mother (Melinda Dillon) and a fatherless son as they discover UFOs flying around their property and the other follows a family man (Richard Dreyfuss) who becomes infatuated with the same sight. This family man has some kids who need him, and become frustrated by his new-found interest (shaping mountains out of mash potatoes), with a wife who wants no part of it. I guess he finds his family life too boring. He instead seeks to the skies for fulfillment.
Watch the Skies (6/2008)
In the end, this dude climbs aboard the ship and the film ends. Over. That’s it. This guy, instead of fighting to win his family back, chooses life on another planet so simply. Did he not think about his children growing up fatherless? Perhaps this decision isn’t really a character flaw. Instead, it may simply be a choice many of us would have made. Curiosity often gets the best of us. Too bad it took this guy to space and left his family with nothing.
I never saw the film in this light before. Perhaps it was because I was too young. After the film ended last night, I can only say that I loved it that much more. Too bad Spielberg doesn’t make films like this anymore – with real effects and interesting characters. That isn’t to say Munich wasn’t fucking amazing or anything but that new Indiana Jones movie hurt my eyes. Shitty green-screening, CG, etc. Everyone says, “Did you expect a movie made by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to NOT have CG?”
No, I did, I just wish it didn’t look like balls. Remember how good Lord of the Rings looked? Peter Jackson knows how to make it look good. Remember how good Jurassic Park looked. Steven Spielberg knew how to make it look good. What the fuck happened? But I digress.
Starting tonight, and running for the next week, that same theater is showing Total Recall at midnight. That’s awesome because I didn’t see it during its theatrical run. But you know what’s better? My last night in Orlando will be spent watching Terminator fucking 2: Judgment Day at that same theater. I doubt life could be better.