I don’t understand why DVD Beaver’s Gary Tooze has listed his review of the 2007 Blu-ray of Steven Spielberg‘s Close Encounters of the Third Kind as one of his latest, since the 30th anniversary edition came out two and one-third years ago.
I read it anyway, and looking it over recalled a piece I wrote on 11.19.07 that attempted to explain why I can never watch this film again, ever. Because it drives me crazy. Because the human activity/behavior in the film is relentlessly idiotic or dumbfounding or manic or cloying (except for that African-American air-traffic controller at the very beginning — a cool dude). Because I wanted to jump off a 20-story building after seeing CE the last time, which was maybe twelve years ago.
But at least this hatched a good reader-feedback idea. Which bad or annoying films have most often inspired home-video viewers to never again watch them under any circumstance? Movies that project such a forbidding after-vibe that you actually feel a bit nauseous when you see them on a shelf or online somewhere? Movies so bad that you would refuse to see them even if a guy promised to add 1000 American Air Lines air-miles to your tally.
Here’s the original CE article:
“A 30th anniversary, 3-disc, triple-dip Close Encounters of the Third Kind DVD came out on 11.13. It’s a Blade Runner package in that it has the original ’77 version, that awful extra-footage, inside-the-mother-ship version that came out in ’80, and the director’s cut that came out in ’98 or thereabouts. Reading about it reminded me to never, ever see this film again.
“I’ll always love the opening seconds of Steven Spielberg‘s once-legendary film, which I saw on opening day at Manhattan’s Zeigfeld theatre on 11.16.77. (I wasn’t a journalist or even a New Yorker at that stage — I took the train in from Connecticut that morning.) I still get chills thinking about that black-screen silence as the main credits fade in and out. And then John Williams‘ organish space-music sounding faintly, and then a bit more…slowly building, louder and louder. And then that huge orchestral CRASH! at the exact split second that the screen turns the color of warm desert sand, and we’re suddenly in the Sonoran desert looking for those pristine WW II planes without the pilots.
“That was probably Spielberg’s finest creative wow-stroke. He never delivered a more thrilling moment after that, and sometimes I think it may have been all downhill from then on, even during the unfolding of Close Encounters itself.
“I saw it three times during the initial run, but when I saw it again on laser disc in the early ’90s I began to realize how consistently irritating and assaultive it is from beginning to end. There are so many moments that are either stylistically affected or irritating or impossible to swallow, I’m starting to conclude that there isn’t a single scene in that film that doesn’t offend in some way. I could write 100 pages on all the things that irk me about Close Encounters. I can’t watch it now without gritting my teeth. Everything about that film that seemed delightful or stunning or even breathtaking in ’77 (excepting those first few seconds and the mothership arrival at the end) now makes me want to jump out of a window.
Melinda Dillon going “Bahahahhahhreee!” That idiotic invisible poison gas scare around Devil’s Tower. That awful actor playing that senior Army officer who denies it’s a charade. The way the electricity comes back on in Muncie, Indiana, at the same moment that those three small UFOs drones disappear in the heavens. The mule-like resistance of Teri Garr‘s character to believe even a little bit in Richard Dreyfuss‘s sightings.
“It’s one unlikely, implausible, baldly manipulative Spielbergian crap move after another. I’ve come to despise those looks of awe on this government guys’ faces at the end, and yet these and other Close Encounters brushstrokes blissed me out 33 years ago — go figure.
“If only Spielberg had the talent to blend his fertile imaginings with a semblance of half-believable realism…but he doesn’t. Or didn’t back then.
“The worst element of all is the way Spielberg has those guys who are supposed to board the mother ship wearing the same red jumpsuits and sunglasses and acting like total robots. Why? No reason. Spielberg just liked the idea of them looking and acting that way. This is a prime example of why his considerable gifts don’t overcome the fact that he’s a hack. He knows how to get you but there’s never anything under the ‘get’.”