61. E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial

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Movie: E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Release Date: June 11, 1982

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore.

Tag Lines: “He is afraid. He is totally alone. He is 3 million light years from home.”

“A Steven Spielberg film.”

“His Adventure On Earth.”

“He is afraid. He is alone. He is three million light years from home.”

“The mystery. The suspense. The adventure. The call… that started it all.”

Relevance: Growing up as a kid, my family would often visit relatives that lived in New Jersey for summer vacation. We would spend a week with my Aunt, Uncle and three (eventually four) cousins who lived in the southern part of the state usually in the month of June or July. During these trips we would spend time doing various activities like bike riding and Wiffle ball as well as travel to amusement parks, the ocean or the local lake to cool off from the hot summer days. On at least one of those trips I got to spend an extra week.

My cousins and I were pretty close in age and we all played well together. In the summer of 1982, my family went down for our usual trip, but this time I was staying a little bit longer by myself. I was excited because I got extra time playing games and doing fun activities with the family. After my mom and dad headed back home, we had epic baseball games in the backyard, beautiful bike rides around the neighborhood as well as swimming at the lake and hours and hours of playing “school” in the basement. Overall, it was a grand time. near the end of that week my Uncle asked if we wanted to go see “this guy,” pointing to a picture of E.T. in a newspaper. I gleefully said yes.

On one of those summer days, we all packed into their van and headed to one of my favorite places on the planet, the movies. The deal was that my Uncle would pay for the movie tickets but we would have to pay for any snacks that we wanted, teaching us kids the importance of money I suppose. I opted out of the snacks. I am frugal now and I was frugal then. And honestly, I was more excited about seeing the movie and really didn’t care about popcorn or Jujubes. Even at the age of eleven, I was all about the art of cinema.

‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ was released in theaters in June of 1982, immediately becoming a blockbuster hit for director Steven Spielberg. It was acclaimed by critics and the public could not get enough of the adorable alien. The film went on to become the highest grossing film of 1982 as well as the highest grossing film of all time overtaking ‘Star Wars.’ It remained at the top of that list for eleven years until being dethroned by another Spielberg film, ‘Jurassic Park.’ Mr. Spielberg has remained a huge force in Hollywood and has become my favorite director. ‘E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ is Mr. Spielberg’s fourth out of nine films on my list of most influential movies of all time (see 234. Saving Private Ryan, 169. Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 83. The Goonies for the other three) It’s the most of any other director, with seven of those films in the top one hundred and an unprecedented three in my top ten.

As an eleven year old boy, I adored everything about ‘E.T.’ I loved the story and really related to the character of Elliott. At that age, as much as I was loved and wanted for nothing, I was also a very lonely soul. I loved the idea of an extra-terrestrial coming down from above and befriending a lonely, sad boy. If it happened to Elliott, it could happen to me. After seeing the movie and eventually heading home to Pennsylvania, E. T. never left my mind. It was all I talked about. In fact, it was all everybody was talking about. E.T. became an American gold mine and was marketed on everything from Reese’s Pieces, lunchboxes, pajamas, stuffed animals, bed sheets and everything else you could think of. Michael Jackson was getting his picture taken next to him and Neil Diamond was singing about him, It really was the movie and character of the year annd I loved every second of it.

‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ was nominated for nine Academy Awards and although I was already familiar with that award show thanks to my mom, I was even more invested now that my friend, ‘E. T.’ was invited to the party. It did not win Best Picture , however it did win four awards and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Because of ‘E. T.’ my love for the Oscars had been enhanced. Ironically, it was another Steven Spielberg film that catapulted my love for all things “Oscar,” but that is another story for another time on this blog.

My love for ‘E. T.’ has never waned. I have owned both the VHS and the DVD, including the twentieth anniversary edition released in 2002. I have shared the movie with my son thinking he would fall in love with it as much as I did. Wrong. He hated it. To this day, he refers to it as the “worst, most boring” movie about an alien ever made. He has never been more wrong. As a child, the movie gave me hope, dreams and imagination like no other movie was able to do. As an adult, I am quickly returned to my eleven year old self every time that I watch it and fall in love all over again.

Today’s Thoughts: “I’ll be…right…here.”

Yesterday I informed my son that today’s movie was ‘E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial.’ His response was thank goodness I’m working. So, alone in the living room while the two men in my life worked, I sat and watch this Steven Spielberg classic that I love so much.

Despite the film now being close to forty years old, it holds up remarkably well. Yes, I watched the enhanced twentieth anniversary edition, so there had been some visual effect touch-ups already applied, but the story and characters are timeless. Like always, I watch the film through the eyes of an eleven year old Elliott and I get very emotional. It is a movie that makes me both smile and cry. That emotional good-bye scene, with the most beautiful score playing in the background, is one of the best ever put on the screen. It is so well made and always, always makes me reach for a Kleenex.

The cast that Mr. Spielberg assembled is quite remarkable, considering most of them are just young kids. Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore and Robert MacNaughton are so wonderful as the bewildered kids hiding an alien in their house. Dee Wallace as the mom, is equally fantastic and really adds a lot of emotion to the role. “He hates Mexico” is sheer perfection. E. T. is still by far my favorite character though, lovable, cute and the best friend any boy would want. I wish I still had my pajamas and stuffed animal to cling to.

‘E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ is a classic science fiction gem that really only comes along once in a lifetime. There has never been anything like it since and I don’t think there will ever be anything like it again. Filled with joy, heartbreak and fun, it is an entertaining film that all families should enjoy together. Break out the Reese’s Pieces and enjoy my favorite alien of all time.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Sound, Robert Knudson, Robert Glass, Dan Digirolamo, Gene S. Cantamessa (winner), Academy Award for Best Effects, Visual Effects, Carlo Rambaldi, Dennis Muren, Kenneth Smith (winner), Academy Award for Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing, Charles L. Campbell, Ben Burtt (winner), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score, John Williams (winner), Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Director, Steven Spielberg (nomination), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Melissa Mathison (nomination), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Allen Daviau (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Carol Littleton (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama (winner), Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture, John Williams (winner), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Steven Spielberg (nomination), Golden Globe for New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture – Male, Henry Thomas (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Melissa Mathison (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Score, John Williams (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Steven Spielberg (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography, Allen Vaviau (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film Editing, Carol Littleton (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Make Up Artist, Robert Sidell (nomination), BAFTA Award for Most Outstanding Newcomer to Leading Film Roles, Drew Barrymore (nomination), BAFTA Award for Most Outstanding Newcomer to Leading Film Roles, Henry Thomas (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Production Design/Art Direction, Jim Bissell (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay, Melissa Mathison (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Sound, Robert Knudson, Robert Glass, Dan Digirolamo, Gene S. Cantamessa (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Special Visual Effects, Carlo Rambaldi, Dennis Muren (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Steven Spielberg (nomination), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Director, Steven Spielberg (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association New Generation Award, Melissa Mathison (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Music, John Williams (nomination), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Film Registry (1994), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director, Steven Spielberg (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Film (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, Melissa Mathison (winner).

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

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