14 May 2002 | baumer
One of the best films ever made and experienced
Everyone gets lost in nostalgia from time to time. Many of us vividly recall the days when the most important thing you had to do that afternoon was find a place to stay cool or to make sure that all of your friends were willing to go on whatever adventure you wanted to embark on. For me, those days were the years between 1980 and 1987. At this time I was between the ages of 8 and 15. This was a time when some of the greatest movies were ever made for a teenaged boy. The genesis of film was started in my life with films like First Blood, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, Ghostbusters, The Goonies, Back To The Future and of course E.T.
Being that movies were such an intricate part of my young life and these experiences shaped me into the man that I am today, it is easy to recall with reverence the entire experience that went with those films. E.T. is a rare film however, because it is an experience that just gets better with age.
There was a theater in Windsor Ontario, where I spent my youth called the Vanity, located on Oullette Street, right near Wyandotte. This one theater was the place to be when the blockbsuters arrived. It was a one celled theater that managed to flourish in a time which pre-dated multi plexes with arcades and Pizza Hut's.
When the sequel to Star Wars arrived, the Vanity proudly played it. Same with Raiders and it's sequels and of course E.T. E.T. was a film that me and my best friend Gary had to see because it was Spielberg. Even though we were ten years old, we knew that Spielberg had given us great films like Jaws, Close Encounters and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I am not sure if it is normal at the age of ten but we rushed out to see E.T. because we knew who directed it. What a phenom this tiny film turned out to be and what a life changing experience the whole film was.
When you are ten and you see a movie with your best friend who watches the A-Team and Conan the Barbarian with you, you expect a certain reaction from him. After all, this same friend enjoys playing football at lunch and enjoys inflicting pain in a barbaric pasttime called the "The Tripping Game", therefore you don't expect a film to affect you and your macho friend the way E.T. did. When you are ten, you go to the movies to see things like lightsabre duels and heroes with bullwhips being lowered into the Well of the Souls and maybe the occasional breast shot. What you don't expect is a film to manipulate your emotional realm thh way E.T. did and still does. Most of my friends who saw E.T. bawled their eyes out at the age of ten. I, for some unexplainable reason did not. I loved the film but it wouldn't be for another six years that I cried in my first film. That was She's Having A Baby when Kate Bush sang Woman's Work and made me sob uncontrollably as I watched Kevin Bacon lose his unborn child. Some things can't be explained.
E.T. became one of my favourite films and I saw it again on its re-release in 1985, bought the poster, purchased the movie on VHS and told everyone who would listen that E.T. got robbed at the 82 Oscars when it lost every major category to (snicker snicker) Gandhi. There have been some Oscar travesties but this ( along with Annie Hall defeating Star Wars and Cuckoo's Nest beating Jaws ) had to be up there as one of the most ridiculous snubs ever. I was peeved. What a joke. But all of the cranky and derelict academy members seethed with contempt and jealousy because they couldn't accept the fact that a man this young could really be this much of a genius. In fact he made the rest of the folks in Hollywood look young compared to himself.
As the years passed I became a film lover, a movie buff and I tried to see any and every film out there. And I did. It's not that E.T. became an after-thought, it's just that it became one of those films that just sat it my collection and wasn't utilized often enough. When I made my revised top 25 list, E.T. would always hover around number 20. That is not an indictment of the quality of E.T., it's just that my tastes became more garnered to horror films and the sheer brilliance of E.T. was stored in the catacombs of my mind. That all changed on March 24th, 2002. This is ironic because my wife and I had the whole day planned. We were going to see E.T. at the theater and then come home and watch the 24 hour Oscar-a-thon. And in a year when an inferior film like A Beautiful Mind takes top honours from the much more ambitious and deserving Lord of the Rings, it reminded me of 20 years ago. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Seeing E.T. after a 17 year hiatus was nothing short of uplifting. My excitement was gushing and when John Williams' ever recognizable score reverberated over the sound system, I was hooked and it felt like I was ten all over again. I also noticed that the audience was an eclectic mix of young kids, 30 somethings like myself and the elderly. All of us were there because we either wanted to experience it for the first time or because we wanted to feel what it was like that first time we saw it 20 years ago.
I think I liked E.T. when I was ten but this time around I developed a deep level of respect for it. E.T. is simply one of the finest films ever made and if you have not seen the film in the theater then you have no idea what you are missing. Everything about this film is perfect, and there really aren't many films around I can say that about. Even some of my personal favourites have moments of weakness but not E.T. There has never really been another movie that has offered the experience that E.T. does. And when I said that I didn't shed a tear while watching E.T., that has all changed. I think there were about five moments in E.T. that had me holding back the tears. You can analyze the film, psychologically deconstruct it and tell me that the reason the film works so well is because of the feeling of loneliness and comradery and I will agree with you. But I don't really care about that. What it comes down to is that E.T. is a film that will touch you in a way that no other film before could do and no other film after it can. 1982 was a different time for film and it was a different time as a civilization. And E.T. encompassed all of that. If I had to make my revised top 25 list, E.T. would be number 2, right behind Jaws and ahead of JFK, Halloween, American Beauty and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
If you have not seen E.T. at the theaters since 1985, please I urge you, go see it again. It is a film experience that is indefeasible. It is also a film that should be looked upon as a paradigm for which all movies should try to emulate. There is a reason that films like E.T. and Star Wars and Raiders make the money they do. And there is also a reason they stay firmly planted in our memories. That is because they mean something and they stand for something. Those are the qualities in film that transcend time and they transcend the generations.
10 out of 10----What more can be said?