richard dreyfuss

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 8 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Supporting Actress (Melinda Dillon), Art Direction (Joe Alves, Dan LominoPhil Abramson), Directing (Steven Spielberg), Film Editing (Michael Kahn), Music-Original (John Williams), Sound (Robert Knudson, Robert J. Glass, Don MacDougallGene S. Cantamessa), Visual Effects (Roy Arbogast, Douglas Trumbull, Matthew Yuricich, Gregory Jein, Richard Yuricich).
Won Cinematography (Vilmos Zsigmond).
Watched October 22, 2012.



[This review contains spoilers.]


Close Encounters of the Third Kind, like Star Wars, is another sci-fi film released in 1977 that was nominated and won awards for its achievements.  It was also the second-highest grossing film of the year and held records for a good while.  This is, of course, thanks to Steven Spielberg, his incredible understanding of the craft, and his abilities as a story teller.  I, for one, will forever be a fan of Spielberg, not necessarily for his out-of-this-world artistic abilities, but for his all encompassing domination of filmmaking as a whole.  Although certain aspects of Close Encounters are dated, the majority of it withstands the test of time far more than its counterpart, Star Wars.


If you have guessed correctly, like I did, Close Encounters is a film about aliens.  Similarly to other such films where extra terrestrial life visits Earth, you don’t actually see the aliens themselves until the end of the film, although you see a good amount of their ships.  Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) is your average blue collar worker with a wife Ronnie (Teri Garr) and three children.  When there is a huge power outage one night, he is called into the field, but once he has a unique encounter with one of the ships, he turns off his radio and decides to chase down the aliens.  He is completely obsessed, even once they have gone, preoccupied with a pyramid shape that he can’t place.  A woman he met the same night, Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon) is just as preoccupied, but when her son Barry (Cary Guffey) is taken, her terror leads her to chase down her visions of the mountain.  Roy’s obsession eventually makes him so crazy that his wife leaves with the children.


Meanwhile, a group of scientists have been tracking and communicating with the aliens and have discovered that the lifeforms have been sending them direct coordinates to Devils Tower in Wyoming.  They immediately evacuate the area, and it is the television coverage of the panic that clues Roy and Jillian in on what their visions have been of.  They both rush to the area, of course meeting up and driving recklessly into the military protected national park.


Unlike many alien movies of our day, Steven Spielberg’s aliens are friendly and curious.  Although they have taken many people over the years, as well as accepted voluntary travelers, they seem like they too are merely scientists wishing to understand, explore, and experience.  This also differs from the films in the 70s and before.  The typical storyline is, of course, that their world is dying, they are feeding, or they simply want to terrorize the planet.  Spielberg’s creation, although also suspenseful, is much different with much better special effects, which are perhaps two of its best traits.


As far as performances and characters, I thought everyone was phenomenal.  Dreyfuss is very convincing–his crazy is very realistic and because we know his experience was legitimate it is probably less weird to the audience than his wife, although at the climax of his meltdown it is easy to understand and sympathize with Ronnie.  She begins as very loving and supportive, although clearly worried.  At first I was surprised that she might actually be so loving that she completely upholds her “in sickness and in health” vows without question, but she eventually cracks and opts to protect her children by removing them from the situation.


I would definitely recommend this film.  It is more lighthearted than recently viewed films, but certainly has more depth than Star Wars.  Even if you have seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind before, it would definitely be a good choice for this Halloween evening!

Sources: Classic MoviesZap 2 ItIMDBRotten TomatoesHorror NewsNY Times

The Goodbye Girl (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

“The Goodbye Girl” (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 5 Academy Awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Best Actress (Marsha Mason), Best Supporting Actress (Quinn Cummings), Best Picture (Ray Stark), and Writing – Original Screenplay (Neil Simon).
Won Best Actor (Richard Dreyfuss).
Watched August 14, 2012.


A large part of me loves everything about the writing, the characters, and the acting in “The Goodbye GIrl.”  There are witty monologues, predictability that only a romantic comedy can bring, and plenty of tears.  The film begins with Paula (Marsha Mason) and her daughter (Quinn Cummings) coming home to discover that Paula’s live-in boyfriend has skipped town to be in a film in Italy.  Devastated by being “dumped on” by another actor, Paula immediately jumps into dancing, trying to get back in shape so that she can get a job to feed her daughter.  Adding insult to injury, she later finds out that her now ex-boyfriend sublet their apartment to an actor from Chicago for the next three months.  Incensed when Elliot (Richard Dreyfuss), shows up on her doorstep in the middle of the night, they make a deal with one another.  They will share the apartment.  This in itself opens the door to both comedy and predictability.


Because Paula had been previously hurt by an actor (or two… or three), she is incredibly hesitant to put any positive feelings into her strained relationship with Elliot.  He is an eccentric person who sleeps in the nude, plays guitar at midnight, meditates (loudly) at 6am, and eats only health food.  He does very little to help the situation by always pointing out that it is technically his apartment since he paid for it, and he doesn’t have to abide by any of her rules.  This continues until one afternoon, when Paula is robbed and Elliot semi-attempts to get her bag back.  For the first time, we see a truly good side of Dreyfuss’ character, as well as the crushingly realistic devastation of Mason.


I’ll leave the rest for you to discover, as I am sure you can probably figure it out for yourselves.


I see “The Goodbye Girl” as typical 70s filmmaking.  Granted, in the future, I will be much more educated on this decade, but the film stood out to me as something very similar to most of what I have already seen from the era.  In that sense, I enjoyed it.  It isn’t necessarily something that stands the test of time, with the ever changing American movie taste being what it is, but in terms of the majority of its nominations, I can agree with them.


If we take away the witty, unrealistic dialogue, and watch the scenes together instead of admiring them separately, the story as a whole does not flow in a likely pattern.  Things happen either too quickly or too slowly, and Paula’s behavior toward Elliot for most of the film has me wondering how he ever fell for a woman like her.  Granted, many of her personality “faults” are rooted deeply within her and make sense due to her character’s past. Something about Elliot makes me feel as if he doesn’t take that sort of nonsense lightly.  The rate at which he falls for her threw me completely off guard, so much so that I couldn’t even enjoy the end of the movie–you know, the romantic bit, which is something I normally go gaga over.


Because of this, I gave the film 3 out of 5 stars.  If you are a fan of classics from the 70s and have somehow missed this one, please add “The Goodbye Girl” to your list!


Sources: IMDBRotten TomatoesRoger Ebert.Suntimes