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JulyDiaz

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

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I was going to ask what you all thought about the alternate interpretations.  I like Paul's take of E.T. being sort of an absent father.  It's strange to think about it that way, but I think it works?

Honestly though, I'm not sure I buy Spielberg's thing about it being all 'accept your neighbors and other cultures' though.

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19 minutes ago, CameronH said:

I wouldn’t go so far as to say ET represents a father figure, but his presence does help ameliorate some of the pain they feel at that loss. I feel like, at the beginning, each one of them is dealing with the father in a different way. They’re at a crossroads. They could easily be driven apart. Instead, ET comes in and strengthens their familial bond. ET is a reminder that they still have each other and that selfless love still exists.

Right, he's definitely not a father figure. He is a new subject of love: someone who Elliott loves and who loves him in return. And then like Elliott's father, E.T. has to go away . . . but this time Elliott understands why. That doesn't make it easier, but it does mean he now has a way to process it.

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But isn't "strengthening their familial bond" what we mean by "father figure"?  I mean, sure, E.T. isn't raising Elliott to be an adult; as sycasey said it's more abstract.  He's just a presence in the family which teaches some lessons to one particular family, makes them all closer, then leaves.  It is for sure a strong contrast with the actual father, who did the opposite: left the family a mess. 

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1 hour ago, AlmostAGhost said:

 

Honestly though, I'm not sure I buy Spielberg's thing about it being all 'accept your neighbors and other cultures' though.

Oh, that’s a bunch of hooey - lol.

I think that’s a decent interpretation, but certainly not one that I believe was intended when it was being made. There’s just no evidence of that anywhere. I think it’s like if you’ve ever written a poem or story about something and when you’re re-reading it you’re like, “I thought I was writing about this, but now that I look at it, it could also mean this other thing, and I think I kind of like that other thing better...”

That whole interpretation feels very “after the fact” to me.

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36 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

But isn't "strengthening their familial bond" what we mean by "father figure"?  I mean, sure, E.T. isn't raising Elliott to be an adult; as sycasey said it's more abstract.  He's just a presence in the family which teaches some lessons to one particular family, makes them all closer, then leaves.  It is for sure a strong contrast with the actual father, who did the opposite: left the family a mess. 

Maybe we’re saying the same thing, but what I mean is he shows them that they can still be family without the father. They’re kind of feeling like something is missing from their lives, and E.T. makes them realize that they have all that they need - each other.

If anything, to me anyway, he’s kind of an anti-father figure ;)

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Well, looks like I'm in the minority here.  I get the appeal of this film as a kids movie.  I watched the VHS of E.T. a bunch when I was a kid, but I can't say it was one of my most rewatched movies back then.  This was the first time I'd watched it in probably 25 years, and I had very little emotional reaction this time.  Furthermore, I would say the emotions I did have were almost completely due to the score, which is definitely one of Williams's top 5 scores in his career.

Maybe when I have kids, I'll watch it again and love it.  Maybe I won't find Elliott as shrill, the green screen effects as dated, and the whole second act so largely silly.  But for now, I have it slotted it at #15 out of 18 on my list.  Blame my cold, dead heart I guess.

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1 hour ago, CameronH said:

Maybe we’re saying the same thing, but what I mean is he shows them that they can still be family without the father. They’re kind of feeling like something is missing from their lives, and E.T. makes them realize that they have all that they need - each other.

If anything, to me anyway, he’s kind of an anti-father figure ;)

Yea we probably are in agreement.  I think it's a good interp tho.  I initially took it just as sort of 'friends' (and I think that's the common interp) but I do think there's definitely something more 'family' about it all. 

E.T. is the crazy uncle

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1 hour ago, bleary said:

Well, looks like I'm in the minority here.  I get the appeal of this film as a kids movie.  I watched the VHS of E.T. a bunch when I was a kid, but I can't say it was one of my most rewatched movies back then.  This was the first time I'd watched it in probably 25 years, and I had very little emotional reaction this time.  Furthermore, I would say the emotions I did have were almost completely due to the score, which is definitely one of Williams's top 5 scores in his career.

Maybe when I have kids, I'll watch it again and love it.  Maybe I won't find Elliott as shrill, the green screen effects as dated, and the whole second act so largely silly.  But for now, I have it slotted it at #15 out of 18 on my list.  Blame my cold, dead heart I guess.

Nah I'm much closer to you here (I think I have it #12 or 13).  Like I said, I've been turned off the film since it initially scared me; I can't imagine ever really loving it after that.  I do get the nostalgia people have, but it wasn't mine.  It was warmer than I remembered when watching it last night, but there's still a lot of things about the story that I question as basic nonsense, and I know the score is everyone's favorite, but I prefer a minimal style there myself.

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I just wanted to take a moment to thank Amy for reminding me about When Harry Met Sally! I was just about to watch it the other day when something came up. I’m totally watching it this weekend, and I would gladly take it over either Raging Bull or Goodfellas😉

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Love this movie, love the podcast!

I DO disagree with the idea that Spielberg only plays with a handful of themes in his films, such as "daddy issues." It's why I think he's a more interesting filmmaker than James Cameron. Even though I love James Cameron, he still mostly sticks to science fiction and adventure stories (with a notable exception of "Titanic). Whereas Spielberg has made a variety of films from many different genres including horror, science fiction, fantasy, and adventure films, a David Lean-esque historical epic, a war film, a legislative thriller, a disaster film, animation, a terrorism thriller, a dialogue-heavy spy thriller, and a melancholy retro caper. His films involve ideas of empathy, scientific responsibility, whether revenge corrupts the soul, the search for a family, what true freedom means, how the democratic system can be used to awesome effect, and how a single person, choosing to do the right thing, can dramatically alter the lives for the better of a miniscule amount of people in his own little corner of the world.

Again, this isn't a diss on Cameron, or anyone else plays in the sandbox of genre. I love James Cameron just like I love Joe Dante and John Carpenter and Sam Raimi.  It's just an affirmation of Spielberg's range as a director (especially in the 2000's), and the fact that, like Hitchcock, we often take him for granted because he's been so omnipresent and so popular for so long. But, the dude's pushing 72! How much longer are we going to get to see new films from one of the great cinematic artists of 20th century? Let's all enjoy it while we still can.

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Growing up, my mom worked opposite hours of my dad so someone was always home. One weekend, she told my dad to take my sister and me to see E.T at the theater. My dad haaaaaates kid-related entertainment, so instead he took us to see Poltergeist (which, interestingly, was also rated PG). BUT we got there late -- right at the part where Steve Freeling was arguing with his neighbor about the television. Anyway, we missed the titles...and I mustn't have gotten the memo that we were no longer going to see E.T. So I'm watching Poltergeist, thinking it's E.T. and being like "Why is E.T. doing all this terrible stuff??!"

I was 6 years old. 😂

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I haven't had a chance to rewatch E.T. again but I probably have not seen this movie since I was 8, so I'm very eager to see how I feel about it now.

As previously mentioned I believe in the Titanic thread there is a popular term that some of us her have coined as the "Goonies Conundrum" as a way to describe a movie that people who watched in childhood seem to love and those that saw it for the first time out of childhood do not enjoy. You could say it is a form of nostalgia but I don't think that E.T. necessarily falls into the Goonies Conundrum. From what I can recall and what I've heard, read, and know this is a well crafted movie. Good effects, acting, etc. so empirically it is a good movie and not just a cause of "I liked it as a kid." As mentioned there seems to be a lot of backlash on the FB group over this movie. I don't go there but from what Sycasey said some of the complaints are that people are looking back at this too nostalgically. I would say I'm shocked but this is not the first time I've heard backlash for E.T. and specifically this critic. It makes me wonder if there is a certain layer of people just fighting back against it because it is something they've been told is great which either puts a different set of expectations on it or creates the "so impress me" attitude of viewing while going in.  However, another part of me wonders if it is the victim of 80s over saturation. The 80s is hot right now with things like Stranger Things, movie and tv remakes and reboots, Atomic Blond, etc. that all cash in on this nostalgia for the 80s. Stranger Things lifts a lot from E.T. in particular, so I wonder if people that are viewing it now and disliking it is because they've seen it all repeated and copied that they are just tired of it.

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You could say it is a form of nostalgia but I don't think that E.T. necessarily falls into the Goonies Conundrum. 

 I also agree that E.T. rises above the Goonies Conundrum, though I may need to reiterate my steadfast belief that I've always thought the Goonies was shit.

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50 minutes ago, Crummy Scrimmage said:

 I also agree that E.T. rises above the Goonies Conundrum, though I may need to reiterate my steadfast belief that I've always thought the Goonies was shit.

Hah, same. I've never understood my own generation's fascination with that movie.

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14 hours ago, Chasequarius said:

I DO disagree with the idea that Spielberg only plays with a handful of themes in his films, such as "daddy issues."

I agree that Spielberg's career has been more varied than people think (he's like Scorsese, in that people only remember the biggest hits and forget about the breadth of his filmography), but that said . . . daddy issues do show up a lot.

That's not a criticism, just an observation. Most great filmmakers tend to return to the same pet themes.

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1 hour ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

I agree that Spielberg's career has been more varied than people think (he's like Scorsese, in that people only remember the biggest hits and forget about the breadth of his filmography), but that said . . . daddy issues do show up a lot.

That's not a criticism, just an observation. Most great filmmakers tend to return to the same pet themes.

In regards to “daddy issues,” I think the saving grace for me is that with Spielberg it definitely feels like a running theme rather than a formula. It also helps that he always tackles it from a different angle. Honestly, if you look at Close Encounters and ET they could be themetic sequels. The former about a man becoming increasingly distant and leaving his family and the latter the repercussions of his abandonment on that family...and also aliens.

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4 minutes ago, CameronH said:

In regards to “daddy issues,” I think the saving grace for me is that with Spielberg it definitely feels like a running theme rather than a formula. It also helps that he always tackles it from a different angle. Honestly, if you look at Close Encounters and ET could be themetic sequels. The former about a man becoming increasingly distant and leaving his family and the latter the repercussions of his abandonment on that family...and also aliens.

Oh yeah, they're super-interesting companion movies. Family separation from the dad's perspective and then one from the kid's.

I was also thinking about E.T. as sort of the bellwether for a new era of children's entertainment. Before this I don't think there were many movies that told stories from the kids' perspective. In fact, most movies with kids in major roles were either scary movies about kids with weird powers (The Shining) or literal demon children (The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby), or where the kids basically acted like miniature adults (Paper Moon). In the 80s and beyond there was a lot more kid-focused entertainment, much of it in an effort to replicate the success of E.T., which is a story very clearly and resolutely shown through a child's eyes.

People who study generations tend to look at this (how the country views children) as evidence of a generational shift. Perhaps it's not an accident that what is usually cited as the first birth year for Millennials is . . . 1982.

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9 hours ago, Cam Bert said:

You could say it is a form of nostalgia but I don't think that E.T. necessarily falls into the Goonies Conundrum. 

Hot take: Hook is Spielberg's Goonies.  I loved that movie as a kid, but I think it's pretty objectively bad.  Hook also continued Spielberg's "daddy issues" theme, though it might be the nadir of those films. 

Speaking of Spielberg's "daddy issues", I do wonder though if Spielberg's reconciliation with his father in the mid-90s had an effect on the quality of his films.  I'm of the mind that Jurassic Park and Schindler's List were his last true masterpieces, though I anticipate that will be debated on the Saving Private Ryan episode when they get to it.

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2 hours ago, bleary said:

Hot take: Hook is Spielberg's Goonies.

This is a correct opinion.

"Masterpice" is a tough standard, but the last Spielberg movie that I thought was "great" was Catch Me If You Can, and that's got daddy issues all over it.

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I remember seeing ET as a kid and being quite affected by his lifeless body in the storm drain. I also remember not "getting" it, like there was a lot going on that other people seemed to understand, but I was left just getting it on an emotional level. Maybe I was too young to see it?

But that does elevate it beyond "just" a kids movie. There's a lot of stuff that doesn't get answered, or gets answered very late. For example, the audience can make inferences about Eliot/ET's empathy bond but it doesn't explicitly get stated by a character into well into the act three. It feels like something that would have been forced by executive notes if it were a simple kids' movie. 

Then again, some things I can't really answer, like ...
why does this family own so many stuffed animals? 
do biology classes really cut out STILL BEATING HEARTS like the teacher says? 
why did the mom leave Gertie alone in the house to go pick up Eliot when he got in trouble?
how did the mom and Dr Keys arrive at the farewell scene? why together? and with the dog? 
  

It might have been nice to have a few minutes of denouement. ET gets on the ship, and.... movie's over! Some sense of how Eliot is changed or the family is somehow better because of their shared experience would be appreciated. 

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Henry Thomas also starred in my absolute-favorite-as-a-kid film, Cloak and Dagger. Which, talk about daddy issues... 

I don't disagree that there's a motif of "daddy issues" in Speilberg films, but I think there's still a lot of nuance to the approach. It's more like a hero's journey-kind of thing, where mentors either arrive, must pass on, or both, in order for the hero to pass through/overcome/etc. In ET's case, it's a coming-of-age drama that has trappings of sci fi and kid flicks. 

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1 minute ago, DannytheWall said:

Henry Thomas also starred in my absolute-favorite-as-a-kid film, Cloak and Dagger. Which, talk about daddy issues... 

I don't disagree that there's a motif of "daddy issues" in Speilberg films, but I think there's still a lot of nuance to the approach. It's more like a hero's journey-kind of thing, where mentors either arrive, must pass on, or both, in order for the hero to pass through/overcome/etc. In ET's case, it's a coming-of-age drama that has trappings of sci fi and kid flicks. 

Cloak and Dagger was one of my favorites as a kid too. Henry Thomas was also in The Quest (AKA Frog Dreaming) which may fall a bit into Goonies conundrum but I think it sorely underseen.

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3 hours ago, DannytheWall said:


It might have been nice to have a few minutes of denouement. ET gets on the ship, and.... movie's over! Some sense of how Eliot is changed or the family is somehow better because of their shared experience would be appreciated. 

Hard disagree. I think the movie draws power from the fact that it ends on the emotional climax. It wants to leave you in that place.

As for the stuffed animals, my sister probably had that many at one point so I didn't question that. Elliott's class did seem a little young to be dissecting a frog, though.

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11 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

"Masterpice" is a tough standard, but the last Spielberg movie that I thought was "great" was Catch Me If You Can, and that's got daddy issues all over it.

Completely agree.  Somehow, I think Catch Me If You Can is just about as good as a movie can be without it being at all essential.  I love catching bits of it on cable over and over, and yet I never feel the urge to tell someone that they must see it, and I feel like if I never saw it again, I wouldn't throw a fit.

It's an interesting point about the daddy issues in Catch Me If You Can, because it seems like that was portrayed mostly true to life.  From Wikipedia:

Quote

 

In November 2001 Abagnale reported, "I've never met nor spoken to Steven Spielberg and I have not read the script. I prefer not to. I understand that they now portray my father in a better light, as he really was. Steven Spielberg has told the screenplay writer (Jeff Nathanson) that he wants complete accuracy in the relationships and actual scams that I perpetrated. I hope in the end the movie will be entertaining, exciting, funny and bring home an important message about family, childhood and divorce".

The real Abagnale never saw his father again after he ran away from home. Spielberg "wanted to continue to have that connection where Frank kept trying to please his father; by making him proud of him; by seeing him in the uniform, the Pan-American uniform". However, Abagnale praised the idea. "Even though I didn't see my dad again, every night after living a brilliant day and meeting many women, and making much money, I'd come back alone to a hotel room and I would just think of my mom and dad and fantasize about getting them back together again, and cry. It's the justification of a fantasy."

 

So story-wise, Spielberg was tied by the truth.  I do think he portrays the father-son relationship in a more positive light than he did in Close Encounters and E.T.  Moving forward in his career to War of the Worlds, the dad there is an outright hero.  Then I think Bridge of Spies shows what he would have wanted his relationship with his father to be if they'd never gotten divorced, as the father there is a workaholic as Spielberg's father was, but he understands the importance of family and is someone that his kids can look up to and be proud of.

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