It’s a thematic point that is crucial to illuminating not only Close Encounters , but also Spielberg’s work more generally. When Close Encounters becomes a special-effects extravaganza in its final act, Spielberg is, like Roy Neary, reaching for the sublime. It is what blockbuster filmmaking at its best is all about: lifting the audience out of their everyday worries and exposing them to extraordinary events. Close Encounters changes before your eyes into a different kind of movie, and its transformation is a neat metaphor for the shifting preoccupations of American cinema. The early scenes have an affinity with the gritty, working-class realities of the New Hollywood of the ’70s, while the conclusion is pure ’80 special effects blockbuster. This, more than the phenomenal success of Jaws , might be where the lingering resentment of Spielberg really started. To the extent that Hollywood blockbusters have been on an orgy of escapism in years since, they have tended to lose the taste for the low-key and everyday. The result is often distancing, as everything on screen is something the audience would never experience. The strength of Spielberg’s work from Duel to Close Encounters is the way it manages to avoid this trap and get the best of both worlds. The films are grounded in a very real world: unlike many Hollywood films, they don’t turn America into an idealised sitcom version of itself. Having established this strong foothold in reality, they then take their heroes into a heightened level of existence that is more exciting, more spectacular, more emotional than the dull lives they live out each day. Spielberg’s imitators have rarely equalled his gift, in these early years, for matching the satisfactorily ordinary hero with the thrillingly extraordinary situation, which is why so many of the blockbusters that followed – including several of Spielberg’s own – have been so wretched. Yet seen for what they are, rather than what they spawned, the impulse in these early films to look up and yearn for greater things is something to be celebrated, not scorned. In the following years, the transformation from one kind of filmmaking to another that occurs in Close Encounters seemed to permanently transform Spielberg’s work, and his next few movies would play out in unabashedly artificial movie worlds. They would both gain and lose something from the transformation.
She began. “Well, no, Mary Ann, I didn’t know until earlier today. Your father called me, after all these years, to say that he wanted to see how I was doing and wanted to go to lunch. It was during lunch that he said he wanted to reintroduce us. You see, he and I were married a long time ago. It was only after I found out I was pregnant when I realized that I preferred women. I loved being pregnant and loved my baby; I just couldn’t stay with your father. I gave you up when we divorced. I tried to tell him that today was not the best day to tell you, but he insisted.”
The idea of a smartphone app that turns my relationship into a PacMan game is hard for me to handle. To me, location-sharing apps like Find My Friends in romantic relationships amounts to embracing the Orwellian inevitability of smartphones. Yes, with GPS-enabled devices, we can see where anyone is at any given time. No, this innovation does not amount to progress in terms of how we interact with the people we love most. It actually seems rather destructive, since it discourages you from talking to your partner and potentially misleads you about their activity. Just because your smartphone can do this thing does not mean that your should use your smartphone for this purpose.