Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 16
Close Encounters of the Third Kind November 16, 1977
Close Encounters of the Third Kind opens

Thirty-three years after its opening on November 16, 1977, you can still hear those five notes. For Close Encounters of the Third Kind, his follow-up to Jaws, Steven Spielberg asked composer John Williams to compose a musical phrase that would represent mankind’s attempt to communicate with the aliens responsible for a rash of UFO sightings. Williams reportedly chafed at the five-note limitation, wanting at least seven or eight notes to work with. But Spielberg argued for five, citing the letters in the word “hello” as inspiration. The scorer went on to listen to “When you Wish Upon a Star” as inspiration for what would be one of his most memorable soundtracks. As for the film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind is one of the director’s best, a weird fusion of the UFO-mania of the time, religious symbolism, and the loopy narrative integrity of a sci-fi obsessed teenage mind. (The film had its origins in a script Spielberg wrote while a teen.) In the Chicago Reader (http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/close-encounters-of-the-third-kind/Film?oid=1068469) Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote, “For better or worse, one of Steven Spielberg's best films, and perhaps still the best expression of his benign, dreamy-eyed vision. Humanity's first contact with alien beings proves to be a cause for celebration and a form of showbiz razzle-dazzle that resembles a slowly descending chandelier in a movie palace..... Very close in overall spirit and nostalgic winsomeness to the fiction of Ray Bradbury, with beautiful cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond that deservedly won an Oscar. This is dopey Hollywood mysticism all right, but thanks to considerable craft and showmanship, it packs an undeniable punch.”


More Flashbacks
November 16, 1945
The Lost Weekend Premieres in NYC

On the train ride from Los Angeles to New York City, Billy Wilder picked up four novels, with Charles Jackson’s harrowing tale of alcoholic writer The Lost Weekend being one them.

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November 16, 1994
Heavenly Apparition

Heavenly Creatures, which opened November 16, 1994 in the U.S., was a departure for New Zealand director Peter Jackson. Best known for horror comedies like Bad Taste, Brain Dead and Meet the Feebles, Jackson mixed zombies and John Waters-style gross-out comedy to build a healthy audience on the midnight and home-video circuit. But Heavenly Creatures, the story of two teenage girls whose obsessive relationship with each other is so intense that they murder the mother who wants to separate them, was going to be something else. For one, it would be based on a true story. (The notorious “Parker Hulme affair” was one of New Zealand’s most notorious crimes as well as a personal fascination of Jackson’s partner Fran Walsh.) Also, the film would not rely on gore but rather on sensitively depicting the mysterious fantasy world that arose from the imaginations of its two protagonists. Basing the screenplay on Parker’s own diaries, interviews with those who knew the two girls and newspaper accounts, Jackson created a “humane” portrait of the young women that was lyrical, literary and which artfully blended special effects with wonderful acting and emotional understanding. Marking the film debut of Kate Winslet, Heavenly Creatures premiered at the Venice Film Festival where it won the Best Screenplay and the Silver Lion. Walsh and Jackson were also nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar.  But, just as importantly, the film changed the industry’s perception of what Jackson would do. Just a few years later, he would begin his career-defining film: The Lord of the Rings.

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