"s&co" - a photo by Flickr user austinevan
Thoughts on media, culture, and the world-at-large bubbling up from the dusty corners of my cluttered mind
May 15, 2011
The Crew

Bridesmaids was marketed like a raunch-com centered on female friendship and the absurdities of weddings, but there's a whole lot more going on. The film's wide-ranging (and, to some, surprisingly cross-gender) appeal appeal is based on something far more universal.

Posted By Saralyn on/at 4/21/2012 07:57:00 PM


Tonight, Turner Classic Movies turned its eye to classic science fiction from the 1970s, beginning with Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).  Now, there are a million reasons to love this film - Richard Dreyfuss's alternately hilarious and heartbreaking performance, the fact that aliens communicate with us through music, FRANCOIS TRUFFAUT - but I'd like to share with you my personal connection with the movie. 

Photo retrieved from http://www.listal.com/list/film-sets-brigitte-lacombe
Franรงois Truffaut and Steven Spielberg on set. How ridiculously amazing is that?!
Once upon a time - before college and jobs and gas prices got in the way - my family would embark on quintessentially American middle class road trips.  On one of the longer of these trips, we drove by minivan from Southern California up into British Columbia, across to Glacier National Park, then home through Montana and Wyoming.  On that homeward leg of the trip, my parents decided we were going to stay overnight at a KOA campground just outside Devil's Tower.  It was marked as a "gem" in Mom's AAA travel guide (the lord and master of all our trips) and Dad said he'd always wanted to see it, but it had little significance for my sister and I.  I had seen bits and pieces of Close Encounters before and thought it was kind of neat that we were in the same place as the characters, but I had yet to develop the film and sci-fi nerdery that are now so integral to my identity.  Mostly, my sister and I were just kind of bummed to spend another night in a sparse  "cabin" with communal bathrooms.

There was one special thing about the campground, though.  To capitalize on what's probably the main reason anyone come out to the pretty-but-desolate national monument anymore, the camp showed Close Encounters on a regular basis. Outdoors, in the shadow of Devil's Tower.  Obviously, we jumped on the opportunity to drag out our picnic blankets and take advantage of the unique opportunity.

Just imagine watching Richard Dreyfuss run across this field....while you're basically sitting in the field.

It started to drizzle about half or three quarters of the way into the film and people began to leave.  Not us, though.  I was entranced.  Then, just as the clouds gather around Devil's Tower and ships erupt from them like thunder, a giant clap of thunder shook us.  Strike after strike of lightning backlit the real-life Devil's Tower, which we could see behind the screen on which that same landmark was backlit by a massive alien spacecraft.  We were awed, but soon the downpour forced us back into our cabin to watch the remainder of what was a truly spectacular thunderstorm.  I think it was probably years before I got to see how the movie actually ended.

As a science fiction fan and media scholar, I can now appreciate Close Encounters of the Third Kind on so many levels, but it is always that doubled image - of backlit Devil's Tower against backlit Devil's Tower - that comes to mind when I think of the film.  It continues to be one of the clearest and most striking memories from my childhood, and the frequency with which my family brings up the experience testifies to just how much films (and communal filmgoing experiences) can insinuate themselves into the fabric of our lives.