The
economy has gone to hell, but you can still afford to splurge on the
latest in High Definition treats. The CHUD Home Entertainment Team has
taken upon themselves to draft the Top 25 Blu-Rays released in Region A
thus far. From the 1st of December until Christmas, we’ll count down to
the greatest Blu-Ray release of all-time. Join us and marvel at the
treasures of the 1080p set.



LIST POSITION:
#8
TITLE: Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, Cary Duffey, Bob Balaban, Francois Truffaut
MSRP: $24.95
RATING: PG
BUY IT AT AMAZON!






 


WHY IT’S ON THE LIST


I
have my feel good movies split into two categories. The first is
obvious, the kind everyone has. The kind that always puts you in a grand
mood. The second, I’m not sure everyone has. The kind of movie you put
on after a shitty day where your boss was a dick to you, you had to
listen to all sorts of inane bullshit on a bus, your car got towed by
some brick wall asshole of a man, your significant other got into a
fight about something that really didn’t matter, but you still gave each
other hell over it.

There are several movies I pull out when
faith in myself is shaken and I need to cheer up. There’s only one I
pull out when I lose faith in everyone else. This one.


Spielberg
has very mildly thrown this film under the bus in interviews as being
the kind of movie only a young man could or ever would make. One where a
father distances himself from his family (albeit, a family with 40%
more pain in the ass than the leading competitors) in pursuit of the
divine, of the unknown, of something that’s just plain more than a 9-5
job allows a guy to see is not only a dick move by “real world”
standards, but also more than a little sad, yet it is romanticized here.
The Director’s Cut helps, making Roy a little sadder than his obsession
doesn’t seem to have an end goal, and his wife somehow more sympathetic
and more of a bitch in one fell swoop. But I’ve always taken these
quotes with a pinch of salt, and there’s a more recent interview on this
set with Spielberg where he avoids that pitfall and shows that he still
gets and still gives weight to what this film truly represents: The
most simple and beautiful representation of humanity’s curiosity and
love put to celluloid.

Maybe it would take a younger director to
still have the kind of optimism necessary to really make this play the
way it does, especially with the knowledge that the older, wiser
Spielberg made the cold-blooded 2005 War of the Worlds.
But its message, its agenda is necessary, one that an almost appalling
few directors have dared to attempt to reinforce, at least in the
simple, general terms it really needs to be delivered in. Cameron’s
director’s cut of The Abyss
comes close, but that film is all about humanity at its worst getting a
slap on the wrist from the ETs, thanks to our better natures shining
under adversity. Close Encounters
doesn’t get that on the nose “war is bad, mmkay?” direct. We are
presented with strange phenomenon, sometimes even frightening, but to a
benevolent end and our first true contact has no conflict, no ego, no
resolution of character to speak of, not even Roy Neary’s. To even steal
from Cameron’s lexicon as a matter of fact, they see us. We see them.
And we are not only not afraid, but we are overjoyed.

This is the climax that Close Encounters is walking towards every step of the way. Moreso than ET,
which made the same point, but using the people who would “trust the
light” and learn to love strange and new instinctively anyway; that is
to say, children. Moreso than even 2001,
the film is the crescendo of a grand symphony or color and sound
leading to our first steps outside all the self-destructive needless
bullshit that plagues us and keeps us from evolution, and if anybody
took that literally, it was John Williams, with, for my money, the score
of his career, represented here with the kind of clarity a film like
this requires from a home medium, but never really got until now.
Especially for the final sequence, Williams’ score sails the viewer
through this event, this meeting, and the slightest hint of scratchiness
of age has made that journey mildly bumpy in the past. Not the case
anymore.


There are those that will say that the image quality
takes that hit more than anything, which is also misleading. The film
foreshadows the image effect Spielberg would revisit in earnest with A.I., Minority Report, and War of the Worlds.
There’s moments that are clear as day (the opening desert scenes, much
of the daytime Wyoming materials), but the scenes that sell the mystery,
the blurred line of reality of the film are lent a glow and beatific
haze that may make the film look dated for some, but enhance the feel of
the scenes in which it’s employed. Moreover, what really stands out
from the film in high def isn’t clarity but color. Our world is bright,
yes, but once the aliens are at the forefront, the film becomes a wide
spectrum of colors, and the representation of the several kinds of
camera trickery and optics used to get the kind of light Spielberg
wanted has never been more beautiful and warm than it is here.

Close Encounters
is a film with the faith to believe that, when the time comes, and
we’re ready to meet the unknown, we have nothing to fear. Some people
get that feeling on Sunday morning. I get it from a disc.



WHY DIDN’T IT RANK HIGHER?

If
I wanted to be a dick, the whole “Spielberg doesn’t do commentary”
thing would be a sticking point, but not when the other two major
documentaries on this disc as as extensive as they are. If anything,
since we’ve got to be nitpicky at this point, since this was one of the
first feature-heavy Blu Rays to happen, the organization of the special
features on the second disc could’ve used a bit of polish, especially
since the load times are pretty noticeable. A Play All option is
desperately needed for the Deleted Scenes and while we’re on that
subject, the previous Collector’s DVD had the scene inside the
mothership from the Special Edition relegated here, which was the
perfect fuck-you to a scene that should never have been shot in the
first place. It’s on Disc 1 with the actual Special Edition here, and
granted, since that cut’s actually there, it may have been redundant.
But if you know anyone for whom that’s their preferred cut of the film
still, swear to me you’ll have them beaten with hammers.



THE BEST SUPPLEMENT

The
2-hour Making-Of ported over from the previous Collector’s Edition is
objectively the best feature on the set, which pretty much leaves no
question unanswered about this production, and this time, it’s backed up
by a newer interview with Spielberg in 2007, as mentioned before, which
really has him restating and getting passionate about what made him do
this film to begin with, which is quite heartening to hear, considering
hearing him discount the emotion behind letting Neary run from his
family in the last 5 minutes of the other doc kinda spikes my blood
pressure.

My favorite feature, however, has got to be View From
the Top, represented not just on disc, with a little marker and
thumbnail advising the viewer of changes between the three versions of
the film, but the wonderfully detailed poster that comes in the box with
a timeline of the whole film in its myriad forms. As amazing as that Back To The Future set is, that one extra I wish they had thought of. Which is, of course, why this came out ahead in the race, I suppose.


SCREENSHOTS

Come for the aliens. Stay for the life-size Krull playset.

And so began Roy Neary’s 5 year journey to find the bathroom on this fucking thing.

Truffaut. Recognize.

It’s all oohs and ahhs until you realize that you’re looking at Megatron’s anus.

Her P.R. agents would tell the world Devon Aoki was born in New York to a Japanese father and a white mother. Classified government files tell a different story.