Sunday, February 21, 2010

Little Close Encounters of a 2010 KInd

More movies recently watched: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 2010, Little Caesar.

I saw both Close Encounters and 2010 back when they originally aired in 1977 and 1984 respectively, and this was my first time to see the great Edward G. in Caesar.

Well. Close Encounters. What can I say? I remember being greatly interested in it when I was a boy because there was a real paucity of any big time mainstream examinations of UFO phenomenenonnonanonns, er, stuff, even though the 70s was the golden age of UFO mania. This seemed like a Serious examination by Somebody with some clout: that is Little Stevie Spielboig with his follow-up to the already much-worshipped Jaws. I remember having the novel, written by Spielberg, (yeah, right, and George Lucas wrote the novel of Star Wars -Alan Dean Foster-is that you?) I also nabbed the Fotonovel of the movie and a cool baby -pink bendy of the cool alien that "communicates" with Francois Truffaut at the end of the movie. The only problem was...The movie itself is kind of a bore...Oh, it has some great sequences, and some interesting ideas, but ultimately it just kind of is. None of the characters, although all very earnestly played, really touch you in any way, and I think that is the main deficit. It was interesting, too, from a cultural perspective, to see that the work begun in Close and then solidified in E.T. turned the mass perception , via the movies of course, from the aliens being hostile invaders from without, and the government being our saviour-as portrayed in 50s and 60s era sci-fi, to the aliens being friendly and wise ambassadors from beyond being squelched by a fascistic secretive government. Independence Day almost 20 years later reversed the trend again. The special effects are still quite fun to watch. I always found the portrayal of the ships to be quite unique.

2010. The sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not made by Kubrick, but with his blessing. This movie more or less ditched the trippy mysticism of 2001 and portrayed a joint Soviet-US mission to investigate the derelict vessel and the monolith that shared its orbit around Jupiter. Roy Scheider does great work as Dr. Heywood Floyd, intent on finding out how his first project went kerfluey, and Bob Balaban plays the fussy computer programmer whose prodigy,the HAL 3000, or whatever number of HAL it was , also wants to discover why his golden boy went homicidal. The acting is actually excellent throughout, with Helen Mirren portraying a very convincing Soviet pilot, and John Lithgow as an engineer in over his head. This movie suffers from being a victim of its time. For starters, of course, the US and the Soviet Union were still in a global pissing match. There was also a hot-headed Reaganesque President whose excursions into Honduras touch off a military showdown with the Russkies. The political backdrop of the entire story is familiar sturm and drang Cold War anxieties of the early eighties, back when everyone was more worried about THE bomb and not just bombs. So the pay-off that the movie presents, a hope for a larger family of lifeforms, breaking us free from our death spiral of petty tribal warfare, has lost some of its punch. I remember being impressed by the sympathetic portrayal of the crews trying to muddle through the political cloud hanging over their mission and seeing each other as real people, and that still is impressive. But after having exonerated HAL and taking the gas out of the enigmatic monoliths, I found myself kind of missing the elegant mysteries of the original.

Little Ceasar- just a straight-up gangster tale from the 30s with another great nasty performance by Edward G. Robinson in all of his "Yah, see, yah!" glory. It is a familiar tale of a little man with big cojones who climbs to the top of the gang world by out-gunning and out-doing all of the other evil-doers. He is a vain man, not unlike Tony Montana in Scarface, more into the prestige and bling of his position than anything else, who is only brought low by the determined opposition of some equally ambitious lawmen. I hope to snare the original Scarface in my DVR net soon, so I can see the master at work again. "Mother of Mercy-is this the end of Rico?"


Brer said...

By a bizarre chance I watched 2010 and some of 3rd Kind this weekend myself. I too remember watching 2010 when it was still 26 years in the future, and I still think of it as a "new" movie. I can't help but think of the aliens behind the monoliths in the buzzword terms "Imperial" or even worse "paternalistic"--things I'm sure the whole "one big tribe" crowd would otherwise consider A Very Bad Thing, but, hey, they're smarter than us and we believe in Rule by the Intelligent Few now, don't we? These aliens are like crotchetty old men who will let dogs play in their field as long as they don't fight or make a fuss, but stay off the lawn, gol-durn it!

Babel said...

Ha! Perfect way of putting it.