Fave Flick Flashback: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

**Some spoilers ahead**

Back in 2006 I discovered Flixster and thought it was so great that I started rating every single movie I’d ever seen (or at least could remember seeing). I even did up a list of my 100 favourite movies of all time on there.

Flixster kind of sucks now. Unless you’re in that niche market of people who enjoy websites with identity crises that are notoriously difficult to navigate and have homepages that are 90% crummy ads for crummy things. My list still exists but I’ve moved it to IMDB. You can see it here. And yes, IMDB’s homepage is completely overrun with ads too, but it’s rude to point out people’s glaring hypocrisy – so hush your mouth.

I’ve tried to keep the list updated over the years but it’s hard to do it honestly when I haven’t seen some of the films for a decade or more. So, in these “Fave Flick Flashback” posts I’ll be re-watching these movies to see if they really deserve their prestigious positions. I’ll also be revisiting the movies that are sitting just outside the top 100. I know they’re laying in wait like a pack of hungry dogs or ambitious businessmen just waiting for a second chance to prove themselves.

Or maybe they’re like dogs in business suits with a taste for the flesh of CEO’s! And once they climb the corporate ladder high enough they’ll take off their suits and be like “Sorry Rodney, I’m not Sammy your loyal offsider and golfing partner. I’m actually a ravenous canine and Imma gonna eat you!” … Anyway, what was I talking about?

First up is Steven Speilberg’s second-most universally adored “friendly alien” flick – Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

Plot: A guy has a close encounter with a UFO but no one believes him. He becomes obsessed with the encounter and a message that he believes the aliens were trying to get to him.

Then: I reckon I was about thirteen when I first saw this. I was really into aliens so the only way Speilberg was going to lose my approval was … actually I can’t think of anything, but he would have had to mess things up royally. All the iconic scenes really stuck with me (the mash potato tower, the abduction of the kid, the five-tone spaceship concert at the end) though I’m not sure how much of that was due to the parodies I saw later.

“That’s it! You people have stood in my way long enough. I’m going to clown college.”

Now: It tested my patience a little. I was surprised by how slow it was in parts and it’s also pretty darn long. Bits of it are also really heavily reliant on dated special effects. That whole end scene is just “Look at these awesome spaceships! Don’t they look cool? This is totally what it’d look like if aliens come to Earth!” and now that we’ve all seen better, the scene has lost much of it’s appeal.

There’s also the fact that I’m not nearly as open to the idea of alien abduction/visitation as I used to be. Sure, I still think it’s possible that space critters have come down to say hello at some point but it’s a remote possibility. So I guess becoming all logical and a bit sciencey has sucked the awe and wonder out of the film for me a bit.

I have some positive things to say though. The scenes with Roy (main character) and his family are really strong, and the way the whole “man alienates his family because of his obsession” thing is dealt with hasn’t dated much at all (which is really the essence of the film). It’s not just that scene with Roy carving a mountain out of his mashed potatoes either. When his wife finds him fully clothed, crying in the shower then finally leaves after he fills the kitchen with dirt and trees (so he can create a large scale model of the vision in his head) it’s surprisingly heartbreaking. (Some of these scenes may only be in the Special Edition or Director’s Cut or whatever the hell it is I actually watched).

Then there’s the alien abduction scene with the child.

That scene is still amazing. I’m sure it gave me nightmares as a young’n and I’m surprised it didn’t give me nightmares again as a 20-something. It’s full of startling imagery and it has to be one of the most genuinely scary scenes in an otherwise family friendly movie ever. Here it is if you can handle it …

The Verdict: I’m keeping it in the top 100 but knocking it down a little.

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3 Responses to Fave Flick Flashback: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

  1. I really liked your critique! I am re-watching close encounters while I type this. first saw it as a teen. Check out my movie reviews at lindalitebeing.wordpress.com I would welcome your feedback.

    cheers, Linda

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