Episode 1 Transcript – Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

[Intro Music]

Sam: Hello my name’s Sam

Tonks: And I’m Tonks

S: And that’s Jay in the corner, and this is Celluloid Scrutiny. This is our new podcast where we take movies up, hold them under the light, look at them through the lens of the social issues of 2018. I am Sam, I am an amateur filmmaker and screenwriter living in Nottingham UK.

T: I’m Tonks. I am primarily a writer writing under Rachel Tonks Hill. Fiction writer, poet, and non fiction writer and I also make films with Sam, mostly on the filming and editing side rather than writing and directing.

S: This podcast is essentially a way for us to share our love of movies with each other and with you the listener. I am a cinephile, of sorts, I love movies and I own so many movies and I’ve seen a lot more movies than Tonks has

T: Sam is going to force me to watch classic movies, for his definition of classic, and I’m going to look at them with the lens of a person- a woman, largely – living in 2018 and going “why aren’t there any women in this movie?” “where are all the black people?” “give me some more queer rep!” and you’re going to talk crap about budget and facts from behind the scenes.

S: Today’s film is Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

T: Which is the third movie in the series following on from Close Encounters Of The First Kind and Close Encounters Of The Second Kind

S: It’s a franchise deal

T: And I probably should have watched the first two before watching this one

S: No, in actual fact it is just a stand alone movie. It was written and directed by Steven Spielberg. You may recognise him from such movies as almost everything in the world ever.

T: [laughs] He’s a real up and comer is that Steven Spielberg. I think he’s got a great career ahead of him

S: He’s one to watch, for sure. He did Jaws, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List. I’m not going to insult your intelligence by going on and on and on. In terms of cast it starred Richard Dreyfuss and François Truffaut, and Bob Balaban, and Teri Garr. When it was made it cost 20 million dollars, that was it’s budget, and it bought in 306.1 million dollars. So it did rather well.

T: So that’s a decent return on investment

S: It was good, it was- yeah.

T: So, what can you make for 20 mil these days? Like-

S: I mean, you can still make a decent movie for 20 mil, clearly. It’s just I don’t think you could make a franchise movie, like a Marvel movie for 20 mil

T: Yeah

S: I think that has to cost more

T: Yeah, you can make a fifth of a Marvel movie

S: [laughs] Just like- what like half the first act or something?

T: Yeah, something like that. I dunno, it’s like Tony Stark says something sarcastic and insults someone and the film ends.

S: That 20 mil is just to pay Robert Downey Junior

T: [laughing] In fairness, yeah actually, that’s about what he brings in

S: So this film came out in 1977. So there’s some things to know about 1977. This is right towards the end of what’s known as the New Hollywood Era. So you had all the Golden Age of Hollywood with the big megastars and everything and that started petering out when televison became a thing in peoples homes and studios lost touch with the disaffected youth of America and the movies that they were making they weren’t drawing in the young crowd, the youth crowd

T: The youth

S: The yoofs with their hoodies, no, no, this is

T: Their hoodies and their ringtones

S: It’s pre hoodies and ringtones, it’s with their denim and their motorbikes

T: Which are still in, you know

S: In certain circles. But yeah, so, they started giving money to young directors and this is a director driven period and directors were setting up their own mini studios and their own production companies and you had, for example, your Dennis Hoppers. Dennis Hopper, not just an actor, directed Easy Rider, it was *the* 60s counter culture movie. And from there you had your Martin Scorseses, your Francis Ford Coppolas

T: Some small filmmaker called George Lucas with his, you know

S: Oh yeah, he made a really low budget indie film

T: That never really went anywhere

S: What was it? I think it was a Star War. Something like that

T: Yeah it didn’t do very well

S: It’s worth digging it up. If you can find a copy out there, it’s mega rare, you won’t have heard of it but if you can find a copy out there. Do that

T: It’s worth a watch to see what these young filmmakers were doing with their budgets and not at all revolutionising the film industry as we know it

S: No that’s what they did, they revolutionised, you know, the industry. And George Lucas, he set up Industrial Light and Magic to be able to make the effects in Star Wars and now they’re this huge powerhouse of special effects

T: Yeah it’s like-

S: I think

T: Yeah they are

S: I’ve not actually looked and seen if they’d gone- been subsumed by something else actually

T: No, I’m quite fond of looking at the credits and yeah Industrial Light and Magic are one of *the* big effects houses for Hollywood to go to if-

S: That’s good

T: you need a lot of things. It’s like them and Weta Digital at the moment

S: I was gonna say, Weta haven’t, you know, run them out of town

T: No

S: This era, New Hollywood, lasted from the mid 60s, from Easy Rider and the Graduate through the 70s, Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver, all the way up to the very early 80s. And that’s when these movies started flopping. And when they started flopping it’s because, again, out of touch with the youth

T: So we’ve got Close Encounters Of The Third Kind which I had never seen before

S: Nope. What it is is it’s an alien visitation movie before we had, you know, alien invasions

T: Like, casually destroying 15 large american monuments during the course of the movie

S: Yeah, and the 50s B movies, you know, “It Came From Outer Space” and all that and in the 70s I think there was a need for something a bit more hopeful, a bit more optimistic. Probably because Vietnam. Because a lot of things in the 70s happened because Vietnam. If you want to know more by the way about the New Hollywood Era check out Peter Biskind’s book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. It’s a really, really good book and it just covers the whole thing, really in depth. So Close Encounters, what was the plot of Close Encounters?

T: It was kinda difficult to tell at points. [laughs] It kinda starts out meandery and you’re not really sure what’s going on and at the beginning it was kinda about a bunch of white dudes I didn’t care about. It sets up this mystery, like planes are reappearing that disappeared in the second world war, there’s a massive ship in the middle of the desert, you’ve got unidentified flying objects, and then they hone it down and start actually telling a story around a character. And like, the two kind of protagonists, one is a single mum who’s 3 year old gets kid- abducted by the aliens and she’s trying to get him back, then the other one is a married father of 3, I think

S: Yeah

T: These people, they see mysterious lights flying around in the sky and he’s driven slightly mad by the visions he gets after it and his life falls apart and he’s trying to search about what it means. What does it mean? To-

S: Yeah

T: Yeah he’s searching for meaning behind what he’s seen and he goes and he sees the aliens and the aliens do stuff and the movie ends

S: So yeah, it’s about a man who becomes obsessed after his alien experience with experiencing it again and finding out why. Why me? What am I experiencing? Why am I feeling this way?

T: Why am I putting small, like, trees and bushes through my kitchen window?

S: Why am I growing hair in unsightly places? Why am I touching myself? Oh no, that’s puberty, sorry, that’s puberty

T: [laughs]

S: That’s not Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, my bad

T: Yeah, like I say, I’d never seen this before. Probably like a gaping hole in my childhood nostalgia movies. Overall I liked it. Like, it was kinda slowburn at the beginning and I got more into it as they started actually telling a story with characters instead of just going “what is this?” “why is this?” “what?”

S: Yeah, but you’ve gotta seed the mystery

T: I actually think that the bit with the bit with the planes and stuff is irrelevant. If I were editing it, and yeah, I, you know, I have done a small amount of short film editing, I’d actually edit that bit out because I don’t think it’s necessary

S: Now it’s interesting you say that because that was actually filmed later

T: That was added in

S: That was added in. Spielberg, after making the movie, watched it and was a bit dissatisfied and said I’ve underwritten this. There’s 4 scenes missing somehow. That was one of the things that got added in, the ship, the bit with the ship was added in

T: In Mongolia yeah

S: In Mongolia. Because the big ship from the 40s just reappears, because that was abducted by the aliens. The insert scene of the screws unscrewing themselves, we’ll get to that later, that was added later.

T: What was the other thing he added?

S: The other thing was in the same thing as the screws. It was, you know, with the light that was coming down the chimney

T: The chimney, yeah, that scene

S: Those two, those latter two additions in that scene, those were really good

T: Yeah, the screws and the chimney yes, because they add the sort of terrifyingness of that scene. That bit was fine. But yeah, no I was really kind of underwhelmed by like the first ten minutes or so of the entire movie and I’m sat here thinking “I’m going to hate it. Sam’s really going to be p$%£ed off at me because I hate this.”

S: [laughs]

T: Yeah the abduction stuff and the planes and- I would have left out, because it’s like… I’d have started with the scene in the air control tower where they get their first instance of the UFO, which instantly is like the, apart from a few Mexican characters in the unnecessary beginning scene, is the only instance of a person of colour in the entire movie. Like we have a couple of Mexicans at the beginning, we have a black person with *lines* in the flight tower then *everybody* is white from then on. Because America in the 70s was like nearly 100% white. Obviously. Black people weren’t invented til 1980.

T: What?

S: I don’t know, I don’t know what to say [laughs]

T: It’s just like- But yeah it’s like I would have started with that scene and like seeding the UFO and then introduced the characters

S: Yeah

T: And at the beginning Neary kind of annoyed me because he’s kind of a s*$£ dad to begin with

S: I dunno, he was… He was an ineffectual dad. Like, there was chaos going all around him and he was, you know, he was trying to connect with his kids and he was trying to be one of the funny dads. I dunno, the whole family dynamic was a bit off.

T: Yeah, I don’t know, ineffectual sounds like a multi syllable way of saying s@$&. But yeah, no, that was one of the things that-

S: That’s fair

T: struck me about the film was that Neary’s family dynamic was kind of horrible and I don’t know whether it made me more sympathetic to the character or not. Certainly as the film progressed and he’d seen the flying lights and starting to get this vision of this shape in his brain and was kind of behaving really erratically, the wife character was kind of awful and it’s like, I am normally like, pro female characters in most circumstances, but her response to anything that Neary said was she just started shouting and screaming

S: Just shouting, yeah

T: And it made me really super uncomfortable

S: And shouting at the children as well

T: Yeah well, he was guilty of that as well. I mean like, in the first scene you see with Neary, who is our protagonist

S: That’s right

T: Who is the character you’re supposed to be rooting for

S: Yeah

T: He makes two separate death threats to his children

S: “You are inches away from death” yes, yeah

T: And I’m like, I don’t care that this is the 70s, I am like massively uncomfortable with any parent in any circumstance leveraging death threats at their kids. That opening scene, it seeds the Pinocchio thing so it’s like “oh his childlike wonder” and I’m like “this is a goddamn asshole”

S: The When You Wish Upon A Star theme, that was incorporated into the soundtrack by john Williams but I remember it being a bit more present throughout it. And I don’t know if this is a Mandela effect thing or if it is because we watched, not the special edition, we watched the collector’s home edition. Which added a couple of things, but took away some other things. Including the scene inside the UFO that was in the special edition

T: Ok

S: Because the studio- Spielberg was like I wanna redo this movie and I want to do it my way because, I don’t know some things-

T: He and George Lucas are cut from the same cloth

S: Yeah l- well not literally, they’re not made of cloth, but you know

T: [laughs]

S: He said I want to redo this movie and do a few things to make it right and they said yes, ok, but we want you to show the inside of the spaceship because that’ll draw people in. And he did it but he regretted doing it. So when the edition that we have on DVD came out that last bit was gone

T: That bit got taken out, yeah. I kind of, my first impression of Neary was that he was an asshole. And I kinda didn’t really get into the film until we had the visual gag when he’s in the truck

S: Oh god yes

T: And we get the car with the lights and then he- the car comes round and then the lights come up behind him and he gestures for the car to go round him only the lights go up vertically

S: Up, up into the sky

T: Because it’s one of the ships and it’s like that was kind of the moment where I actually started enjoying the movie. Everything before that either I thought was unnecessary or dragged too much or the characters were assholes

S: I think it’s one of Spielberg’s real strengths the way he uses light and shadow and not just- like in this one it was literal physical lights, you know, and how they were moving, but the way he lights his scenes and he uses the bright beams flashing down creating these really stark shadows, like in that particular scene. So the woman.. Jillian? Yes Jillian

T: Jillian, her name is Jillian

S: Her name’s Jillian

T: You don’t find that out til like right at the end of the movie. She’s just like random woman number 4 until right at the end when Neary kisses her for no adequately explained reason

S: Because he’s forced his family into- away at that point. He’s forced his family to flee him so we need to retain some sense of, oh you know, he’s approachable, he’s empathisable. So you know, you throw that in there

T: That just came out of nowhere and it really, really annoyed me cause it’s like he’s got a goddamn family like yeah his wife is behaving, kind of reacting really s$%£&ily to what’s going on with him. But he has a family, he has a wife, and she’s, yeah, as far as we’re aware she’s mrs something or other, there’s no sign of husband I don’t know- we don’t know what’s happened to him, but she’s like a single parent whose 3 year old kid has been abducted by aliens, she’s trying to get him back. What- why is she kissing him back?

S: Look, sometimes-

T: There’s no chemistry between them and it’s just unnecessary

S: We all feel that way, sometimes you just have to force you family to flee to your- to their sister’s house in your station wagon, cross the country to Wyoming, and kiss a random lady whose kid has been abducted by aliens. It’s just, it’s a thing, it happens

T: Really

S: It happened to me last week

T: I’m so angry about like the unnecessary kiss at the end I’ve forgotten what you were talking about beforehand. You were talking about lights

S: Lights, yes. In that scene the one we were talking about with the screws and all that, the kid is welcoming the aliens into his home, cause he’s a tiny child, and you’ve got these ominous clouds at the beginning and she rushes into the home and starts trying to secure the doors and the exits and the kid’s just running around going “yaaay!” But the lighting is superb. The orange, the deep orange, and the stark white and the way it blasts up through that grate

T: Yeah

S: And, oh, it’s actually, it’s a really, really tense scene. And that’s something Spielberg does really well, is create tension

T: Yeah, I mean, that whole scene with the kid getting abducted, I think the way we both put it while we were watching it was it was f$£%ing terrifying. And, and it was because doors rattling and she’s running round and barring the windows

S: Hmmm

T: And trying to get the grate for the chimney shut and it, it rang pretty true as well because you’ve got this 3 year old who’s running around going “Yay aliens, come and play!”

S: Oh actually-

T: Because that is probably exactly how a three year old would react
S: What he said-

T: And the parent is crapping her pants

S: Yeah. What he said was “toys!” which to me made no sense, but then I thought maybe it’s because maybe the aliens are to him big toys of some kind, but it turns out it’s literally because somebody off camera, to make him smile, had pulled out some toys

T: [laughs]

S: And he goes “toys!”… Cut? Can we try that again? Maybe? No?

T: No. Just-

S: No? Alright then

T: See I-

S: I know he’s only a kid but c’mon

T: I didn’t know that and the way I was seeing it was when that character, Barry…

S: Barry

T: Because it’s the 70s and 3 year olds were called Barry in the 70s

S: I looked down into the angelic, cherubic face of my newborn child and I said yes, you are a Barry

T: But yeah, when he’s introduced, like, one of the first things that goes on with the aliens is that all of his light up toys, like he’s got police car toys and fire engines and things

S: And robots

T: And they light up. Also a really creepy monkey with cymbals. Why. Why are those a thing

S: Oh yeah the traditional one that you see whenever you want to scare the s!$£ out of someone. You’ve got that cymbal banging monkey with the bug eyes

T: It’s like why-

S: Like in Toy Story 3

T: See I was thinking Aladdin. They turned Abu into one

S: Yeah but was less creepy in that one

T: It’s creepy. But yeah, it’s like, so to me that was reading as like there’s flashing lights and stuff and he’s just going flashing lights equals toys because he’s 3. And the parent was kind of, you know, absolutely losing her s%&$, which seemed like a very natural

S: Yeah, yeah

T: Adult reaction to the situation

S: Well I mean the first time we see them he runs out the house, or, well he doesn’t even run, he waddles out the house. And down the road

T: At 4am

S: At 4am. And she’s just like “oh wait, where’s Barry?… Barry?!”

T: I know this is in the 70s and it’s like rural Ohio. Yes

S: Is it Ohio?

T: It was Ohio. There was like a very handy label in the bottom of the screen

S: Oh was there?

T: That said [unintelligible noise] Ohio

S: Ohio. Is Ohio next to Wyoming? I assume they didn’t have to go far

T: I don’t know. Like, possibly? It’s in that middle bit that I don’t understand. I know this is the 70s in rural Ohio but it’s still like your 3 year old child is able to get out the front door and run down the road at 4am. Maybe try running a bit faster? No? Ok, yeah. One of the things the movie, you think it does better is it sets up the mystery of what’s going on a bit better

S: Mmm, yeah I think it does

T: Quite well, and I- [sigh] That was one of the frustrations for me, watching this for the first time in 2018 I think is the year we are currently and having seen and having seen alien movies of various stripes a lot over the years. Watching this in 2018 and not in 1977 having seen the movies that this went on to inspire, it was a frustration of mine that they didn’t look at everything and immediately go “aliens” and I think-

S: Well I mean, they hadn’t had a lot of- I mean, Roswell was what? The 40s

T: We kind of have a genre savvy where it’s like if there were like mysterious lights running around the sky that I couldn’t, you know, identify I would at the very least go “oh it could be aliens.” I might then dismiss the thought but I wouldn’t have like the whole “wooo what is going on? This is mysterious.” And it’s like we’ve had 40 something years of alien movies. We’ve got enough media on the subject that it’s like they talk in the flight centre about UFOs and it’s like UFO doesn’t mean unidentified flying object in the common parlance anymore, you say UFO and it means flying saucer, it means alien spaceship. Watching this for the first time with the weight of that pop culture, it does frustrate me a little bit that there’s so much mystery to it and I kind of had to keep reminding myself that yeah, no, in 1977 this would have been pretty brand new

S: Yeah

T: Pretty groundbreaking

S: I mean, the term “close encounters” was actually coined in a book by J Allen Hynek called The UFO Experience: A Scientific Enquiry

T: Yes. Scientific.

S: It was published in 1972. So this is really recent stuff in 1977, because obviously they’d have made the movie in 76, 75

T: Yeah

S: But this is really recent stuff. So for anyone who is wondering what the close encounters are, you’ve got a close encounter of the first kind is seeing the lights, or what could be termed as an unidentified flying object, up close from about 500 yards away, so yes. Close encounter two is experiencing physical effects from these thingies, so for example, crop circles, Neary gets sunburn over half of his face, that is considered a close encounter of the second kind. Close Encounter Of The Third Kind, and hey there’s a movie in there. Close encounters of the third kind is when aliens are present and, you know, there are aliens and they’re there. Later on, other people would add to these, you’ve got, you know, the Fourth Kind, which is a s£!?$&y movie. [laughs] No sorry, the fourth kind which is alien abduction, so technically this is Close Encounters Of The Fourth Kind because Barry gets abducted. The fifth is direct communication so “hello” “hello” or “I’m an alien” “That’s, that’s good… Please put some clothes on.”

T: [laughs]

S: The sixth is the deaths of any humans or animals as a result of an alien experience, so-

T: Independence Day

S: Independence Day. Cattle mutilations is, I think, you know. And the seventh [laughs] and the seventh is human alien hybrids so basically the entirety of the X-Files

T: [laughs]

S: A bunch of X-Files s£!?

T: Yeah I can see your notes and it says, yeah, “some X-Files s@%” and I’m like yeah

S: But anyway, going back to what you were saying about pop culture I do think the X-Files is why

T: Yeah, like-

S: You know-

T: You know, sat here and we’ve got 10 plus years of X-Files TV and they made some movies

S: They did

T: They made some movies

S: They made… 3?

T: You know, but yeah, with 10 years of X-Files TV shows under your belt and you know coming after that, it’s like, UFO it means aliens, like under the weight of that pop culture I kinda felt, I kind of had to put some effort in to like pretend I was in 77 again and it was brand new

S: I’ve gotta say there must be two things that you can’t deny were fantastic about the film. The soundtrack

T: Oh yeah, I mean, John Wiliiams. It was great

S: And the visual effects. The visual effects, with the possible exception of the clouds I think that dated a little badly, but the actual spaceships themselves, Douglas Trumbull did an amazing job

T: I don’t-

S: They just looked so beautiful

T: Given that it’s 40 years old I don’t think the cloud effects have aged as badly as they could have

S: That’s good, ok

T: Like in my brain I’m comparing them, there’s a similar effect in Independence Day where the ships are coming through the atmosphere, kind of-

S: Oh really

T: The atmosphere burn

S: I don’t quite remember that

T: And there are cloudish around them. And just thinking it’s not aged as badly as they did

S: Is that after they’ve launched the nukes?

T: No that’s as the big ass ships are, like, coming down to Earth

S: Oh is that when they first appear?

T: Yeah

S: Oh ok and hover over the White House

T: Yep

S: And the Empire State Building. And Trump Tower. If only

T: Yeah, the physical effects, even the- Would they have-

S: Even the aliens

T: Would they have been some digital effects at that point?

S: No. Spielberg did do a trial run on what would have been the first use of computer generated graphics but he didn’t like- It didn’t look real enough so he used photo effects

T: Yeah

S: The aliens, you had children-

T: I was going to say they looked like children running around in suits

S: With long fingers. And then the spindly alien guy I believe was an animatronic

T: But yeah, it was like that

S: And his little smile at the end and he does the hand gesture and he’s like [happy noise]. And his, the little edges of his mouth just like lift up, it’s a cute alien. Not like ET

T: But yeah

S: ET was a bastard

T: No ET’s cute, I like ET

S: No he isn’t

T: But yes

S: He has a throbbing head

T: But yes

S: We’ll get to ET

T: Speaking of ET, there were, for me. ET is kinda like the big Spielberg alien film I saw as a kid, like-

S: It’s everyone’s big Spielberg alien film

T: I have a lot of nostalgia for that film and yeah there were some obvious comparisons and there were obvious influences.

S: Oh yeah

T: This came before ET yeah? ET was…

S: ‘77, ET was ‘81, ‘82

T: Something like that so there were like, particularly in the ship I could see-

S: Mm-hm, yep

T: The influences the things that they would go on and later use in ET, which was nice

S: And the abduction scene itself had a very ET like feel to it

T: Yeah

S: In the way it was shot

T: Even the design of the aliens kind of felt like a prototype for ET. And watching Close Encounters for the first time

S: No, no, Of The Third Kind

T: [laughing] Watching Close Encounters for the first time I couldn’t help but look at comparisons to ET and it could just be nostalgia goggles but ET came off better

S: Well I mean they would have had probably a higher budget

T: I don’t think it’s budget or effects, things like that. ET feels more like a more human story to me. ET gets, right from the beginning, ET is about 1 boy and 1 alien and it tells the entire story through that lens. Whereas Close Encounters starts of kind of muddley, you’ve got these white dudes in the desert and you’re not really sure why and then you’ve got the scene in the control tower, and then you introduce Barry and his mother and Neary

S: Well I mean the way it’s supposed to be in Close Encounters is you’ve got the two parallel threads running. You’ve got Neary and his family but you’ve also got Lacombe, played by [questionable French accent] François Truffaut, I can’t say that. You’ve also got Lacombe played by François Truffaut, who is a legendary French director in his own right, and his interpreter Bob Balaban, I don’t remember the character’s name so he’s Bob Balaban to me

T: He’s the interpreter who’s like “I’m a cartographer!”

S: “So I can provide a crucial plot point later.” But you’ve got their journey to work out the mystery alongside Neary’s journey, so it’s not like you’ve got this beginning and then you’ve got Neary and f&@! those other guys, you forget about them. They keep coming back, so-

T: Yeah they do keep coming back, but I dunno, I think looking at this from purely a story point of view I think it would have been a better story if it had focused just on Neary and Barry and his mother. Like the other characters can come and go, they’re fine, they didn’t need the set up, we didn’t- You know, you don’t need like Bob Balaban at the beginning going “I’m a cartographer!” in order for him to just get the plot point with the coordinates later. You know, just going before I was an interpreter, which you can tell he is because he’s interpreting, just says yeah, “before I was an interpreter I was a cartographer” and for me you didn’t need the set up

S: So you think it feels more natural, or natural enough rather, just in that scene?

T: Yeah that felt absolutely fine for me. Even if he hadn’t been a cartographer just be like “yeah, no, I like maps” you know that’s enough

S: Or “didn’t anyone take geography in school?”

T: [laughs] Well I did and I couldn’t have told you that those were latitude and longitude

S: I didn’t pay attention to geography in school so I couldn’t tell you what they teach

T: But yeah, ET felt like a more human story but there was a sense with Close Encounters that it was far more for the spectacle of it than trying to tell a story with good rounded characters that you care about and that kind of gets more obvious as you go on because it’s like when Neary first encounters the lights there’s the 2 larger ones and the smaller one

S: Mm, yeah

T: And they’re almost dancing around the sky

S: And the little orange one that runs along behind

T: And the little one, it’s like-

S: Going “wheee!”

T: Unexplained why there is a teeny tiny light running around behind. And then especially when the mothership, when they finally have the proper encounter at the end with the mothership

S: Oh god

T: There’s-

S: With the synthesiser

T: There’s long lingering shots over the mothership and the bit the synthesiser

S: Yes

T: Where they’re communicating and there’s the synthesiser notes and there’s the lights going and they’re going back and forth. They are much longer scenes than, you know, maybe I would have edited. They feel very much about the spectacle and that for me was how I think Close Encounters was. It’s dated in the sense that it’s making a mystery out of a thing that certainly I have way too much pop culture knowledge to readily accept is a mystery. But, yeah, no, it at the time was. And it’s not- It’s a story about first contact but it’s also kind of not. It’s the story of- It’s the spectacle of, you know, alien life coming to Earth, and it’s the spectacle of the mothership landing and the lights and I think that’s why it fell down a little bit for me was because it was- I mean, it was gorgeous, the sound track and the effects, everything was gorgeous

S: So beautiful

T: But it kind of, was spectacle almost at the expense of story. It’s like I enjoyed it, but that is ultimately why in my comparison to ET, ET is kind of- comes out on top

S: It might interest you to know then that it was actually- the script was written by Steven Spielberg himself who’s not really known for being a screenwriter and that might-

T: True

S: That might explain a couple of things for you

T: Yeah

S: That might make you think “oooh”

T: Yeah

S: Because he will have been writing it from the director’s eye

T: So that might be why it feels spectacle, but yeah, ultimately I found myself enjoying the movie

S: Yeah

T: And I’m glad I’ve seen it

S: I mean it’s got some good performances in, it’s got a great soundtrack, and it’s very pretty to look at

T: It kind of fell down a little bit on the story for me. And I think if it had been written by somebody else who was more invested in story and more fleshed out characters and perhaps who hadn’t written Neary’s wife as a shrieking harridan. I think-

S: There’s a lot of that in film though, there’s a lot of that in film

T: Yeah. I think it would have been pretty much been a perfect movie had it been stronger on story and character

S: So, modern Hollywood, rebooting everything, would you want a reboot of this? If they were to reboot it, what would you want to see from it?

T: I’d say I wouldn’t want a reboot

S: I agree

T: Not because it’s, you know, close to my heart or anything. I think it’s very much a film that’s of it’s time and I think a reboot would almost certainly not work and the changes you’d have to make, partly because of the pop culture advancement, would make it not the same movie

S: Yeah, that makes sense. It would be a completely different- It would be about an alien invasion for example, or something like that

T: Yeah, I don’t think it could be about the spectacle of it

S: No

T: Because that didn’t work for me who is probably fairly close to your average 2018 viewer. That said I did take one look at Neary and say if that were rebooted today he’d be played by Chris Pratt

S: He did look a bit like that, yeah

T: But yeah, he’d be played by Chris Pratt

S: He’d be a wisecracker more than- Yeah

T: He’d be a wisecracker. The wife and the family would probably be written exactly the same because modern Hollywood is misogynistic as all hell and hasn’t improved a huge amount since the 70s. They would do so much of it with digital effects

S: Yeah a lot of it

T: And I think you’d have to get a director in who balanced it because like we say it’s 40 years old and the effects have aged pretty well

S: So beautiful

T: Even considering all of the computer advances if we made it today we’d be looking at it in 5 years time and saying that looks s@!%

S: Yeah

T: Because they’d rely too much on the CG because it’s so cheap

S: Yeah, comparatively yeah. For my money I don’t think we need a reboot because we have a perfectly serviceable film already that does the exact same thing and it’s called Arrival. Arrival was amazing, Arrival is first contact, it’s a mystery, it’s one character’s obsession as well. It’s- It’s not the same movie by any stretch but it’s got the same sort of themes and for me now that we’ve got Arrival we don’t need a reboot

T: It has the same sort of the sense of spectacle as well

S: Yeah

T: I actually-

S: Those egg- Long egg shaped ship things

T: I actually drew the same parallels while watching it and thought this reminds me a bit of Arrival and I think that we should rewatch Arrival and do an episode on Arrival because watching Arrival gave me a massive existential crisis in a way that this failed to. But Arrival also had-

S: A strong female character not in the Strong Female CharacterTM sense but in the fact that she’s a strong character who’s a woman

T: I mean, to be fair, yes, it did have that but more relevantly to the discussion that we were having

S: Oh

T: It had alien, you know, first contact with aliens in sort of modern age and people are immediately like taking pictures and putting it on twitter

S: [laughs]

T: And like facebooking their aunt to go “look at this!” Which, you know, 1977 it’s like they were only really getting used to having telephones in your house

S: I’ll send a carrier pigeon to the Pentagon!

T: You know they were still getting used to that being incredibly widespread so it makes sense. But yeah, Arrival was a film I got on kind of better with as a modern viewer

S: So, overall rating?

T: I don’t know what are we rating out of?

S: X out of 5 somethings. 3 out of 5 Devil’s Towers

T: Erm… 3 and a half like-

S: 3 and a half Devil Towers?

T: Yeah 3 and half Devil Tower’s out of 5 I think. I enjoyed it, bits of it have dated, bits of it p$?@!ed me off wholesale but overall I enjoyed it

S: I just wish that we’d gotten to see it in the cinema because it was re-released recently in the cinema and I booked my tickets, I got super excited, I was psyched. And I was taking Tonks and I was taking Jay and we were going and we were going to watch it and sit and it was going to wash over us and the music and the visual effects and I would be able to share something that I watched as a child with Tonks, which is very important to me, and be able to do it in the cinema as god and Spielberg intended. And I got the day wrong. I booked the ticket and I went the day after the screening. And my heart was broken. Broken. So I’m glad- I’m glad I shared this with you and I’m glad that you didn’t hate it. I do agree with a lot of your points, obviously, and I’m looking forward to many more arguments

T: I do wish we’d gotten to see it in the cinema. I think I would have been wowed by the spectacle more in the cinema

S: Yeah

T: And I’m really sad that you got your heart broken by that but I’m glad I’ve seen it. I don’t think it’s going to be a film I rewatch particularly but I don’t regret seeing it and I don’t want to claw those two hours of my life back, so…

S: Ok, so that’s it, I’ve been Sam

T: I think I’m still Tonks

S: And Jay’s still in the corner. Roll the outro!

[Outro Music]

Jay: Episodes and transcripts of Celluloid Scrutiny, as well as more information on your hosts, can be found at celluloidscrutiny.co.uk and on Twitter @celluloidcast. Links to Tonks’ novels can be found at racheltonkshill.com and she is on Twitter @captainraz. Sam’s films as well as subtitled versions of the podcast, are on the YouTube channel Splendiferous Productions and he is on Twitter @splend.

And now the Shipping Forecast issued by your hosts: Claude Lacombe and David Laughlin aka the French guy and his interpreter.

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