Saturday, April 30, 2016

Netflix Queue: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

Three thoughts about E.T., coming up after the trailer....

1. My family watched E.T. tonight — for me, the first full sit-through since I originally saw the movie as a 9-year-old in 1982. Back then, popular movies stuck around in the theaters for a few months; they didn't do all their business the first week or two. So after months of increasing word-of-mouth, my parents took us to see. I remember crying when E.T. died and shouting with joy when the kids took off into the air on their bicycles.

My 7-year-old son didn't get teary-eyed tonight. But the adults did. And when Elliott and ET took the air and sailed "across the moon," my boy did, in fact, shout out with delight. What can I say? It made me happy the movie can still connect, and it made me happy that my blockbuster-blitzed son isn't already jaded.

2. One thing Spielberg does in the movie is create the world as a children's world. Something I'd never noticed before: Except for Dee Wallace, as E.T.'s mother, you never directly see an adult's face for the entire movie until Peter Coyote shows his, three-quarters of the way in, after the family's house has been sealed off and quarantined.

3. Henry Thomas as Elliott: Gives an amazing performance by a child actor, actually. So does Drew Barrymore. They feel real, not like kids acting. Some of that, I'm sure, has to be Spielberg's directing.

Bonus point: Since I obsessively re-watch movies I love, why no return visit to E.T. until now? I'm not sure. I think I was afraid I'd find it overly saccharine as an adult. That didn't turn out to be the case. But it might be also true that I did revisit E.T. obsessively when I was a kid: My uncle owned the movie's novelization — do they still do that? — and I read and re-read that paperback until it literally fell apart. The movie I created in my mind's eye was as rich as what had appeared on screen, and for a long time, it served my purposes.

And yes: For several years, I fantasized about finding my own extra-terrestrial. Never happened.

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