Monday, April 04, 2016

100 Must-See Films! -- Contact

The Hierarchy of Foreignness by author Orson Scott Card:

"the stranger we recognize as being a human of our world, but of another city or country."

"the stranger we recognize as human, but of another world."

"the stranger we recognize as human, but of another species."

"the true alien, which includes all of the animals, for with them no conversation is possible. They live, but we cannot guess what purpose or causes make them act. They might be intelligent, they might be self-aware, but we cannot know it."

Ufology classification by UFO researcher J. Allen Hynek:

Close encounter of the first kind:
in which a person witnesses an unidentified flying object.

Close encounter of the second kind:
a UFO event in which physical evidence is alleged.

Close encounter of the third kind:

8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, USA)
Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Fran├žois Truffaut, Melinda Dillon, Cary Guffey

Steven Spielberg has been described as “Undoubtedly one of the most influential personalities in the history of film.” This one comes smack in the middle of his early big-grossing hay day; on the heels of Jaws and just ahead of blockbusters Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. 

What sets this masterpiece apart from the others, I feel, is the mature, patient methods he cleverly employs, revving up tension and suspense around the hints he throws out; strange happenings, a disappeared child, the iconic musical signals, the haunting shape in the mind of hydro worker (Dreyfuss) Roy Neary – and in his pillow and his mashed potatoes and eventually, as his mind appears to be in jeopardy, in his heap of landscaping features maniacally relocated to the living room floor.

But all this darkness is wonderfully offset against an inspirational message and dynamite performances throughout, full of energy and humor. It’s one of those perfect bonds of chemistry between script, direction and acting. I wonder why I’m even plugging films like this when surely everyone has seen it already! But perhaps there are younger folk who have not (and who definitely should!)

The film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and added to the National Film Registry for preservation. It has won more awards than God, who, by the way, some suggest is represented allegorically here by aliens, while Moses and Mt. Sinai are found in Roy Neary and the Devil’s Tower of Wyoming. So there.

Science Official, Claude Lacombe [Showing image of Devil’s Tower]: “Look at this.”

Roy Neary: “Yeah, I've got one just like it in my living room. WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE!”

Writer/Director: Stephen Spielberg (Schindler’s List)
Budget: $19,400,870
IMDB rating: 7.7

Don’t leave Earth without it…

9. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005, UK, USA)
Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell, Warwick Davis, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, John Malkovich

Douglas Adams, brilliant author of this series of books, co-wrote the screenplay before succumbing to a heart attack in 2001, prior to production. I like to think he would have been thrilled with the final result which in my interpretation, joyfully captures the lively spirit and humour of the first book. I think this is by far the funniest major sci-fi comedy ever filmed. It’s a riot from start to finish. Freeman is adorable as the permanently-confused everyman Arthur Dent. Rockwell is amusingly off-balance as the snide jackass president of the universe and the various alien puppetry is delightfully expressive.

This scene features the Infinite Probability Drive which powers the Heart of Gold spacecraft:

Do you need to read the book in order to appreciate the movie? No, but it’s a great read either way! Will they make a sequel film or films for the other books? I doubt it very much.  This episode tells a very proper tale while the other volumes are a bit thin in that way. Regardless, MTV and Martin Freeman have each dismissed such rumors.

Writer: Douglas Adams, Karey Kirkpatrick (The Spiderwick Chronicles)
Director: Garth Jennings (Son of Rambow)
Budget: $50,000,000
IMDB rating: 6.8

In 1864 a man went looking for America… and found himself.

10. Dances With Wolves (1990, USA, UK)
Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant, Tantoo Cardinal, Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman

Young Kevin Costner was the only one interested in Michael Blake’s initial screenplay. He convinced him to write, and get it published, as a novel in order to make the project more marketable as an adaptation. When this was finally achieved, Costner bought up the movie rights and went to work as producer, director and leading actor. He made the “mistakes” which rookie directors are not supposed to attempt: shooting outdoors and working with children or animals. He took on wolves and wild bison (no CGI here) which are among the most difficult to employ. He had to add three million bucks from his own pocket to the fifteen million original budget.  At three hours-plus running time, Costner had every Hollywood critic and pundit laughing at him before the film hit the screen.

And of course he silenced them with a stunning result. The film was loved instantly; described as a “sweeping epic” and a  “tale of love, loyalty, friendship, and self-realization” and of course, the scenery is nothing short of legendary; It swept the Oscars as global box office sales approached half a billion.

Of course the critical element is the lesson that when we make the leap and open ourselves to our supposed enemies, be they wolves or Natives (or Arabs perhaps?) we find that we have more in common than of difference. And where difference does exist, there lies our opportunity to learn.

Dunbar: “You always want to know how many more [white men] are coming. There will be a lot, my friend. More than can be counted.”

Kicking Bird: “How many?”

Dunbar: “Like the stars.”

Writer: Michael Blake (Stacy's Knights)
Director: Kevin Costner (Open Range)
Budget: $19,000,000
IMDB rating: 8.0

11. Contact (1997, USA)
Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaghey, Tom Skerritt, David Morse, Jena Malone, Geoffrey Blake, William Fichtner, Max Martini, Angela Bassett, James Woods, John Hurt

Award-winning astronomer, cosmologist and author Carl Sagan (with all due respect to Stephen Hawking of the general relativity field) is a hero of science and of the delivery of science to the mainstream. Like Hawking, he has moved mountains in terms of inspiring millions of people all over the world. And like Douglas Adams he penned both the novel and screenplay for a great film and did not live to see its release, succumbing to myelodysplasia-related illness just six months prior.

I could watch Contact weekly for the rest of my life and probably never tire of it. The only handful of films I possibly rate higher are those which contain incredibly wise insights which are fundamental to the survival of the human race! And this one is not altogether estranged from that criteria.

It has been called at par with Close Encounters of the Third Kind and with Kubrick’s  2001: A Space Odyssey by premier film critics including Roger Ebert who said, “Movies like Contact help explain why movies like Independence Day leave me feeling empty and unsatisfied.”  The San Francisco Chronicle called it “a forceful reminder that Hollywood is still capable of making magic."

It offers plenty of philosophical material to play with for those inclined, while remaining a dynamite entertainment for those who ask nothing more. It’s a joy to experience the most breath-taking scenario mankind has imagined, created in such a convincing, intelligent manner. It’s a thrilling ride with a heart-wrenching father-daughter love story to boot. The extra-long tracking sequences at the films more critical moments are genius! The special effects, for those with an eye for it, were heralded in ’97 and still hold up today.

Unless the only thing about the universe that interests you is the zero per cent of it occupied by planet Earth, you cannot go wrong with this amazing film. It is probably the only movie I would recommend viewing prior to reading the book.

Panel member: If you were to meet these Vegans, and were permitted only one question to ask of them, what would it be?
Ellie Arroway: Well, I suppose it would be, how did you do it? How did you evolve, how did you survive this technological adolescence without destroying yourself?

Writer: Carl Sagan
Director: Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future)
Budget: $90,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.4

Short List:
At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991, USA, Brazil) Tom Berenger, John Lithgow, Daryl Hannah, Kathy Bates


Natasha Duncan-Drake said...

So that's why it's called Close Encounters of the Third Kind! Y'know, I never realised I needed to know that until you just explained it :). I love Hitchkiker's Guide - even though some purists don't like it.
Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

Fantasy Writer Guy said...

Yeah, some of my Adams fan friends really disliked it! I don't know why! But with any adaptation there are always the book lovers who can't be satisfied.

The Mommies Reviews said...

Great list of movies and lots of ones I hadn't heard of
but will see if my family wants to check them out. As
they love movies of all kinds. As for me not so much.