Sunday, October 26, 2014

Family Movie Night: E.T.

Title: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Director: Stephen Spielberg
Original Release: 1982
Choice: Mine
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia
This week's choice was a controversial one at our house.  My Wife and I have very different feelings about E.T.  For me, it came into my world when escapist fantasy ruled my being.  The idea of an alien from outer space befriending a young boy was powerful indeed.  While I wouldn't say it's one of my favorite movies (in fact, I'm not entirely sure I'd watched it since its original theatrical run), I did feel it was an important film to share with our daughter while she is still, in fact, a child.
via Wikipedia
For My Wife, who first saw E.T. a little later in life than I did, it was the film that turned her off from Stephen Spielberg.  She was old enough to recognize and resent the overt emotional manipulation in the story's final act.  Watching as an adult, I can appreciate her objections.  As E.T. and his buddy Elliott were struggling to survive, I wanted to reassure my daughter that both would be okay.  I resisted, knowing that would compromise her sense of relief in the ending.  I still enjoy the magic of the story and I think my daughter did, too.


I'd forgotten about all of the Star Wars references.  I remembered E.T. running into Yoda on Halloween but I'd forgotten the snippet of "Yoda's Theme" used for that scene.  I had also forgotten the scene in which Elliott introduces E.T. to all of his Star Wars action figures, many of which I had myself.

John Williams won his fourth Oscar for the E.T. score.  The movie won four Oscars in total, also nabbing the top prize for Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects.  It was the highest grossing film of the 1980s and consistently finds its way onto various all-time bests lists.  For all of that critical and commercial success, E.T. never had a sequel - quite amazing considering the era, when nearly all successful movies had at least one.  Even Grease had one, for crying out loud.  One half-expected Gandhi II: Nehru's Revenge. Spielberg and screenwriter Melissa Mathison wrote a sequel but Spielberg decided against pursuing it, for fear of corrupting the purity of the original.  E.T.'s species, however, did have a memorable cameo as representatives to the Galactic Senate in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

23 comments:

  1. I don't mind the emotional manipulation, because that's what movies are about. All of them. Or, at least, any movie that is trying to get its audience to like it.
    -- This is where we want you to be excited.
    -- This is where we want you to be scared.
    -- This is where we want you to cry.
    -- This is where we want you to laugh.
    Every movie ever made. Because that's what stories are for.

    I love ET. We own. It's one of our Halloween movies.

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    1. I think a good storyteller trusts their story and trusts their reader. They recognize that the surest way to a bad story is thinking about exactly where the audience should be excited or scared, etc. They take the audience along with them on the story instead of treating them as an other than can't be trusted. And they know if their story is good enough then they don't need to throw everything but the kitchen sink at it to elicit an emotional reactions.

      Watching the death and goodbye scenes in ET just leaves me with the impression that either Spielberg did not believe in his story or did not trust the viewer. Either way, it leaves me as the viewer unable to trust him as a storyteller knowing that he will throw in the kitchen sink to get an emotional reaction because of a lack in his story.

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    2. The "death" is drawn out quite a bit. I don't mind a storyteller pulling me around a bit, though.

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  2. When I finally saw it a decade or so ago, I appreciated how it was one of the few movies to drive me to a genuine emotional reaction. (Also, I think Gremlins is what resulted from the intended sequel.)

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    1. Spielberg's sequel idea took the story back to E.T.'s home planet.

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  3. I thought E.T. was a lovely film.

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    1. It is. Not every movie works for everyone, though.

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  4. I guess it was pretty heavy on the shmaltz, but it works.

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  5. While never a favorite, I saw it in theaters when I was a teen, and yeah, emotional reaction. Must've been allergies...

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    1. No tears for me. I'm not too proud to admit to waterworks but E.T. doesn't do it.

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  6. Someone gave us E.T. when it first came out on video. We watched it once with the kids. We all hated it. We sold it at a garage sale.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Like I said, it clearly doesn't work for everyone.

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    2. I think we were probably the only people in America who didn't like E.T. and didn't go around saying "phone home" in a weird robotic voice. I think Spielberg is a great director in spite of E.T. Dee Wallace Stone, who played the mom in E.T., went to my high school. Not when I was there. I think she's considerably older than I am.

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    3. Love the high school connection. I've got one along those lines for you. I'll e-mail you separately...

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  7. When E.T. was in the theaters a giant laborer visited my field house for lunch and told me he'd seen it the night before with his family. I asked how he liked it and he said,"Man, I laughed...and uh, I guess I cried a little too." This was one of the toughest guys I've ever known, so I took my family to see it too. Then I bought the vhs tape when it came out --still have it!

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  8. I didn't really care for E.T. I may be the only one! I found it cheesy and overly sentimental...but I was 11 when I saw it. Maybe it was just hormones!

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    1. Definitely not the only one! You, my wife and Janie's family should do coffee sometime.

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  9. Okay- reading this review tells me I need to rewatch ET. I haven't seen it since I was growing up. I loved it then and will be curious about the things I notice now. Thanks for sharing. :)
    ~Jess

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    1. My pleasure, Jess. Please let me know your reaction to the re-watch.

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  10. Chiming in super later here, but thought I'd add my two cents anyway. E.T. is an old favorite of mine. It's not a 5 for me, but a 4 with lasting power. I always assumed the emotional manipulation was just part of the movie. I love the fact the you point out the Star Wars references. I have friends who ,to this day, refuse to beleive that an E.T. like character was in Phantom Menance. They think I'm reaching for connections and think they should stop pretending to be sci-fi fans.

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    1. I think it's a wonderful touch in Phantom Menace.

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