best films: #16: E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982)
The visual spectacle, the heart-warming story, that adorably slimy little mug of an unusual little alien, that incredible score – all of this adds up to what’s probably the best fantasy kids flick ever, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Say what you will about the now-slightly-hokey ’80s effects (I for one am still dizzied into fits of childlike wonder every time I rewatch this film) and the sentimental storyline (wallflower kid meets alien, they become friends, alien teaches kid valuable lesson, etc.), but dammit if it doesn’t still pack the same emotional and visual punch that it did for me as a child. Henry Thomas is still astounding to me as the one carrying this movie for the actors – it’s truly a shame his career really didn’t go much of anywhere. Speaking of – or rather quite the opposite result, I’m a sucker for little Drew Barrymore spouting off adorable zingers, particularly the famously ad-libbed, “I don’t like his feet,” said with hearty relish. In my mind, the girl has never been more effective on-screen than in this, her breakthrough role (not to harp on Barrymore’s career per se, as I’m a secret fan of Ever After and Never Been Kissed). What this film truly boasts is that magnificent and majestic John Williams score (I know, I know… it’d so overplayed for me to lump so much love on the man, but I simply cannot help myself), which sits high atop my all-time favorites list right alongside his later work in Jurassic Park. You see, this is what I really miss in Steven Spielberg’s filmography – he’s gotten so caught up in delivering sure-thing commercial efforts (i.e. War of the Worlds, Indiana Jones 4, etc.) and war epics (the upcoming War Horse), he’s forgotten that the reason he became so well-regarded as a movie magician were his whimsical, imaginative works that boasted a strong message. A.I. was a refreshing return to form, but he really needs to go back to E.T. territory this decade. It truly is, in my eyes, a perfect combination of style and substance.