169. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

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Movie: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Release Date: November 16, 1977

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, François Truffaut.

Tag Lines: “Close Encounter of the First Kind – Sighting of a UFO. Close Encounter of the Second Kind – Physical Evidence. Close Encounter of the Third Kind – Contact. WE ARE NOT ALONE!”

“We are not alone.”

Relevance: B flat – C – A flat – A flat (lower octave) – E flat

Growing up in the 1970’s, my family had an electric organ that I would plunk out tunes on every once in awhile. Although I didn’t officially learn to read music for a few more years down the road, the organ and its subsequent music books did teach me some basics. I was able to play “Happy Birthday” during some family celebrations pretty decently and became famous for my rendition of “The Old Gray Mare.” And by famous, I of course mean in my own head. Every time my mom’s sister, my Aunt Mary Ann, or Aunt Mare as we used to call her, was visiting, I would play and belt out, “My old Aunt Mare, she ain’t what she used to be” to the delight of everyone except Aunt Mare.

I also played the theme from ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind” incessantly. Of course when I say the theme I really only mean those now infamous five tones. B flat – C – A flat – A flat (lower octave) – E flat But I played them all of the time to the which I am sure annoyed my family a lot. I don’t recall exactly when I first heard that theme or for that matter when I saw the movie, but like the music for ‘Jaws’ (both brilliantly composed by the super genius John Williams), it became iconic as soon as it was released. I don’t remember those melodies not being in my life. They are songs that you can hum, whistle or play on an electric organ and everyone who hears them, knows them.

Being only six at the time of its release in theaters, I know that my first “encounter” with ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ was through television. I know eventually I would watch it repetitively on HBO when that cable giant started playing it in the early 1980’s, but I may have seen it earlier. I just can’t remember. What I do remember is that by the time I had seen it, I knew who Steven Spielberg was. That was thanks to ‘Jaws,’ a movie that will be popping up on this list later this year,’ as well as the television movie ‘Duel.’ ‘Duel’ was Mr. Spielberg’s directorial debut and a movie that my father and I watched many times when it was on TV. We both loved the suspense and action of that movie, a trademark of Mr. Spielberg’s work.

I have always loved everything scary as reported many times on this blog. Aliens were near the top of the list. What made me love ‘Close Encounters of the Third kind’ so much as a kid was although it had some intense, terrifying sequences, its overall story of the unknown and the quest for truth was very important to my then young brain. And might I add very impressionable. I am a science and fact man. Always have, always will be. But my mind is open to countless possibilities. I always felt a close kinship to both the Richard Dreyfuss and Cary Gufefy characters in the story. Their performances were one of the reasons I kept going back to this science fiction masterpiece.

Like many movies from my childhood, I can’t even begin to count the times I have watched ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind.’ Let’s just say it was a lot. I was able to finally see it on the big screen once in my life when a local theater was playing it for one of its celebratory anniversaries. It is no doubt one of my favorite science fiction movies of all time by one of my favorite directors of all time. This is the second of nine Steven Spielberg films on my list of most influential movies of all time, most of any director (see 234. Saving Private Ryan for his first). His work always moves me as the man knows how to entertain, create suspense and make you fall in love with characters like no one else in his field. ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ does all of that and so much more.

Today’s Thoughts: “Have you recently had a close encounter?”

Just hearing those five notes induces chills. At least for me they do. I couldn’t wait to nuzzle up with my blanket and watch ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ again today. A movie directed by Steven Spielberg, starring with Richard Dreyfuss with music by John Williams will always be warmly accepted into my house.

Although it may not be my favorite science fiction movie of all time, it is definitely in my top six and is still as fascinating and entertaining to watch today as it was back when I was a kid. Mr. Spielberg is a brilliant director and surrounds himself with top-notch people in the industry to make sure he gets the best product he possibly can. Despite being produced in 1977, it still looks as fresh as ever. That is quite an achievement.

Some of those top-notch people are in the star studded cast. Richard Dreyfuss may be my favorite “every man” on screen. He is so perfect in this role. His comic timing is impeccable, but his dramatic moments are equally as mesmerizing. The rest of the cast including the incomparable Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, François Truffaut, Bob Balaban and Cary Guffey all give phenomenal performances. You can add as many special effects to a film, but if I don’t love the characters, I won’t like the movie. These characters, thanks to the actors’ portrayals, are ones that I most definitely love.

‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ is a classic movie that is, and should be, studied and celebrated by film fans, students and critics for generations to come. Even if you don’t believe in aliens, Mr. Spielberg will still show you an amazing, thought-provoking, entertaining time.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Vilmos Zsigmond (winner), Academy Award for Sound Effects Editing, Frank E. Warner (winner), Academy Award for Best Director, Steven Spielberg (nomination), Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Melinda Dillon (nomination), Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Joe Alves, Daniel A. Lomino, Phil Abramson (nomination), Academy Award for Best Sound, Robert Knudson, Robert Glass, Don MacDougall, Gene S. Cantamessa (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Michael Kahn (nomination), Academy Award for Best Effects, Visual Effects, Roy Arbogast, Douglas Trumbull, Matthew Yuricich, Gregory Jein, Richard Yuricich (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score, John Williams (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Steven Spielberg (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Steven Spielberg (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture, John Williams (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Production Design/Art Direction, Joe Alves (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Steven Spielberg (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography, Vilmos Zsigmond (nomination), BAFTA Award for Film Music, John Williams (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Michael Kahn (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay, Steven Spielberg (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Sound, Robert Knudson, Robert Glass, Don MacDougall, Gene S. Cantamessa (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor, François Truffaut (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Steven Spielberg (nomination), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner) National Board of Review Award for Special Effects (winner), National Film Registry (2007), National Society of of Film Critics Award for Best Film (nomination), National Society of of Film Critics Award for Best Director, Steven Spielberg (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, Steven Spielberg (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen, Steven Spielberg (nomination).

Ways to Watch: Vudu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Hulu, Sling TV, Showtime, DVD Availability.

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