106. Contact

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Movie: Contact

Release Date: July 11, 1997

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Starring: Jodi Foster, Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Angela Bassett.

Tag Lines: “Get ready to take a chance on something that just might end up being the most profoundly impactful moment for humanity, for the history… of history.”

“From the Academy Award-winning director of “Forrest Gump” and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Contact” take you on a journey to the heart of the universe.”

“A message from deep space. Who will be the first to go? A journey to the heart of the universe.”

“If it’s just us, it seems like an awful waste of space.”

“Get ready for human’s biggest discovery ever!”

Relevance: As mentioned numerous times on this blog, I was born and raised strict Catholic. I was the church going, altar boy, choir slash folk group, youth group kind of a kid. Not to mention I attended Catholic school from first grade through high school as well. Between the ages of six and eighteen, the church monopolized a lot of my time. I didn’t mind though. It was my life and it was all I knew. However by the time I reached high school, I was buying less and less of what the church teachings had to offer, but I continued to go along with it. If I had mentioned anything like that at the time, my mother would have killed me. So I kept quiet about my doubts.

Once I went to college, I let that part of my life slowly drift away. The older I got, the less I believed. There were some arguments and rebelling against my mother, but eventually that subsided when she realized that I wasn’t going to cave on my new belief system (or lack thereof). We got to the point where we were able to have honest and open discussions about religion and faith without arguing. We were even able to joke with each other about it. I always asked how her cult was doing and she told me she prayed for me every Sunday.

Now despite my ire toward the church and my lack of belief in its teaching, there has always and will always be an interest in the topic of religion. As they say, once you are a Catholic, you are always a Catholic. I expanded my knowledge on other belief systems, religions, sciences and constructs by reading about and studying their themes, ideas and values as well. However, I was never able to connect to anything else and by the time I was twenty-five, I found myself to be an atheist in a theocratic world.

‘Contact’ was released in the summer of 1997 to critical praise and moderate box office success. I was a fan of both its star, Jodie Foster, as well as its director, Robert Zemeckis, but was unable to catch the film during its theatrical run. I finally watched the film around the 1997 holiday season when it was released to home media. I was in complete awe. I really didn’t know what to expect from it based on the trailers except that it in some way shape or form involved aliens. Yes, there was an extraterrestrial element to the film, but with so much more to offer. At the heart of the film was a constant battle between science and religion. It was presented in a fascinating, fair, open minded way that kept me riveted for the entire two and a half hours.

One of the things I loved most about the film was that its lead character, beautifully portrayed by Jodie Foster, was an atheist. It was the first time that I saw a true representation of an atheistic character on the big screen. We are usually shown has maniacal, evil, devil worshiping sinners out to drag everyone down to hell. What a lot of people think, including filmmakers in Hollywood, isn’t true. You see, atheists don’t believe in anything, including hell and the devil. This movie explored not only her beliefs, but the many ideas that would surface if the world were come to the realization that we were not alone in the universe. The movie was smart, made you think and didn’t answer all of the questions it asked.

I was influenced by art countless times throughout the years, and ‘Contact’ was a grand example. It was a movie that I studied. I watched it over and over again and picked apart every character and scene. Like the Catholic Church did for a bulk of my childhood, the movie monopolized my time for quite awhile. I eventually read the book “Contact” by Carl Sagan of which the film is based. I just couldn’t get enough of it. For a good year, my life was all about finding out the meaning of life. It was a good year spent as it prepared me for 1998, which happened to be one of the worst years of my existence. I never figured out what life was all about, but it gave me thicker skin to stand up for what I believed in when everyone else around you was telling you that you were wrong. And for that, I will always be thankful.

Today’s Thoughts: “So what’s more likely? That an all-powerful, mysterious God created the Universe, and decided not to give any proof of his existence? Or, that He simply doesn’t exist at all, and that we created Him, so that we wouldn’t have to feel so small and alone?”

I love this movie. I probably have not watched ‘Contact’ in over twenty years and was very excited to revisit Jodie Foster and company today. It is a film that I loved so much when I first watched it, I was curious of how well it has stood the test of time.

“Yes it does” is the answer to that question. Now over twenty-three years old, ‘Contact’ both in substance and style holds up remarkably well. The special effects are still pretty amazing as is the acting from pretty much the entire cast. Jodie Foster gives quite a remarkable performance as does Matthew McConaughey, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt and Angela Bassett.

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, especially those that believe in facts over fiction and science over versus religion. I completely blame the orange orangutan-in-chief and all his minions for that. Robert Zemeckis and crew really do handle those themes remarkably well by presenting all points of view and never once giving an answer, just asking a lot of questions. It’s a smart film.

When it comes to science fiction films, ‘Contact’ sometime gets lost in the shuffle. It shouldn’t. It is a remarkable film with a fascinating story and characters that leaves you thinking a long time after the credits roll. It comes highly recommended to anyone regardless of where you might fall on the faith meter.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Sound, Randy Thom, Tom Johnson, Dennis S. Sands, William B. Kaplan (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, Jodie Foster (nomination).

Ways to Watch: HBO Max, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, DVD Availability.

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