Venganza Media Gazette

Tech, TV, Movies, Games, and More

40 Year-Old-Critic: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

ET PosterIn The 40-Year-Old Critic, Venganza Media creator and host Arnie Carvalho recalls a memorable film for each year of his life. This series appears daily on the Venganza Media Gazette.

See a list of all reviews

Movies are magic.

The commonplace nature of cinemas in the United States allow us to take for granted the power of cinema. Most of us live close to prolific multiplexes, so no effort is needed, no great journey undertaken, to get to a theater.

But once inside we enter a dark room and are taken far away from our everyday lives. It is so easy to fall into the world of a well-crafted movie that I often find myself lost in the experience. That magic of cinema makes me a movie lover to the point that I spend countless hours each week watching and reviewing films for Now Playing Podcast.

Because cinematic worlds are consumed so easily by moviegoers, it is easy to overlook the talent of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people whose combined work creates a vision from nothing. I know as a very young child I never thought about who made a film. I never envisioned writers trying to sell a spec script, directors scouting for suitable locations, or puppet-makers designing detailed creatures. Despite loving Star Wars I didn’t know the name George Lucas. I just paid my two dollars and was taken to a galaxy far, far away.

But I can very clearly remember the year in my life when that simplistic view of movies changed, and I realized movies were made by people — and certain people made films better than others.

Spielberg and ETI was 7 years old, the year was 1982, and the film that made it clear was Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

I didn’t know Spielberg’s name, nor his work. Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Raiders of the Lost Ark may have been the films that made the director a household name, but as a young child that was lost on me.

The first time I paid attention to his name was a Saturday night in the spring of ‘82. Despite my age, my Saturday night ritual was to watch Siskel & Ebert At The Movies. I was interested in which movies deserved the coveted “Thumbs Up” from the critics, but more than that I loved seeing the clips of so many different movies all in a half-hour.  Through these two iconic critics I was exposed to more movies than my parents would allow me to see.

On this particular Saturday night Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert showed a movie clip from E.T. that fascinated and scared me. It was the scene where Elliott rolls a baseball into the shed, and it comes back out. He runs in and gets his family, and his older brother, Michael, looks down at the alien footprints in the dirt and declares, “The coyote’s come back again, Ma.”

The pre-release materials never allowed audiences to view the alien creature — you had to pay admission to see it — but from that trailer I felt there was something dangerous and wondrous in that shed. I thought E.T. was a horror film and I thought Elliott was in grave danger from the unseen beast, but I wanted to know more.

In their review Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert repeatedly referenced director Steven Spielberg.

ET FingerI remember going to see E.T. opening weekend. Unlike Raider’s of the Lost Ark the year before, I would not miss this film. But I needn’t have feared — going was a family event. For a change it wasn’t just the science-fiction obsessed boy in the house demanding to see the movie. Everyone, from my workaholic, absentee father to my pragmatic mother to all three of my teenaged sisters, wanted to see this movie.

Being a large family with children ranging from 7 to 19, whole-family outings to a movie theater were rare. But this was one of those occasions. I remember the six of us taking up a good portion of the row, and how I was once again transported into the world Spielberg created. I also remember crying at the end, and trying desperately not to.

ET HugAs a child I was very sensitive. I also was not wholly unfamiliar with the idea of a bittersweet ending. My sister Susan helped me remember watching a rerun of the 1978 TV special Puff the Magic Dragon and how at the end Puff flew off, leaving Jackie alone. I didn’t understand then the importance of Jackie’s transformative experience with Puff, I just saw a boy losing his friend. I heard the line, “Dragons live forever, not so little boys” and I cried. Hard. My father, however, had no sympathy and chastised his 4-year-old son for getting emotional over a television show.

Now here it was just a few years later and that Puff ending was replayed with E.T. leaving Elliott, and once more I was crying. My father was sitting just a few seats away, and I tried to hold in the tears. I failed, and left the theater sobbing.

I also left that theater changed. The film had engrossed me, and I’m told I wouldn’t stop talking about it for weeks to come.

More, I kept going back to see it. The second time I saw E.T. I went with Stuart, whom I had met the previous year in grade school. Knowing the ending in advance, I told myself I’d hold it together. I did better, but when the credits rolled my lower lip was quivering and tears streamed down my face. Then I saw it with my godparents, then a babysitter, then my mother’s friend who took me, both to occupy me one afternoon and to see the film herself.

ET MoonGoing to see E.T. became a habit. I ended up seeing it about a dozen times in theaters.

Then I started to seek out more about Spielberg. I started to connect that name with Raiders of the Lost Ark and other films both at the video store and in theaters. Through At The Movies I became more exposed to the people behind the camera, as well as in front of it. But no matter how many names I learned, Spielberg’s was special from that moment with E.T.

That film was a massive success, dethroning Star Wars as the highest-grossing picture of all time. As such, the number of “Spielberg films” exploded, from Gremlins to Goonies, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to Back to the Future, Poltergeist and even An American Tail (which, at 12, I felt far too old to see in theaters, but went for Spielberg). I sought them all out.

The lesson I learned as a 7-year-old took many more years to sink in fully. I spent my teen years following actors instead of filmmakers. I would enjoy a film with Corey Feldman, John Candy, or Eddie Murphy and wanted to see more of them, but I was repeatedly disappointed by the uneven nature of their performances. Finally, later in life, I would relearn the childhood lesson, as I started to appreciate films for those who made them. I would follow the careers of Oliver Stone, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Linklater, Darren Aronofsky, and others.

But Spielberg was the first auteur to excite me — at just 7 years old — as I watched E.T. phone home again and again.

Next — 1983!

Arnie is a movie critic for Now Playing Podcast, a book reviewer for the Books & Nachos podcast, and co-host of the collecting podcasts Star Wars Action News and Marvelicious Toys.  You can follow him on Twitter @thearniec

August 12, 2014 Posted by | 40-Year-Old Critic, Movies, Now Playing Podcast, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 40 Year-Old-Critic: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

The 40-Year-Old Critic – Introduction


40-Year-Old-Arnie-Master-working-CloseUp-2In exactly 40 days I turn 40 years old.

That milestone is not one without heft.  If the actuarial tables for American males are to be believed, I’m likely at least halfway through my time on this planet.  Each day I am probably closer to my death than to my birth.  Now is the time to start measuring life by the things I’ll never do instead of the things I could do.  It’s a time to reflect on what has been and determine what will be for the rest of my days.

The usual things come to mind when I ponder my life thus far:  My loving, supportive, smart, and funny wife, Marjorie.  My long-time best friend, Stuart.  My godparents, who helped raise me and taught me to be analytical.  My sister, who exposed me to literature and deconstructionist themes.  My father, who gave me a cynical view, a strange sense of humor, and a love of classical music.

But what all these people have in common is a strong memory of watching films together; sitting in a dimly lit cinema, absorbed by the images on the screen.

Marjorie and I have seen so many films together that I doubt I could compile a comprehensive list. but a few stand out.  Our first film as a married couple, watched in a midnight release on our honeymoon, was Star Wars:  Attack of the Clones.  The projector broke.  We sat for 3 hours past the planned midnight start time before the movie began.  I can still sing that New Orleans’ theater’s jingle for popcorn and candy, which played on a loop the entire time.

Another memorable movie trip was to see Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset. It was a limited release so we had to drive 4 hours each way just to watch the film, and I was so tired on the return trip we had to get a hotel.

I remember Ocean’s 11 — a movie with such a strong feel-good vibe that it saved our Sunday.  We walked into the theater in the most sour of moods, and left extremely happy.

I remember watching Fight Club on video.  Marjorie was tired so she went to sleep, and the next day all I could talk about was how she had to see that film–the first movie that I felt she and I had to share as a couple versus being able to experience on my own.

Stuart and I have seen films together since 1982.  I remember going with him to see E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Return of the Jedi.  Many more movies followed, but there are standouts. Charlie Sheen’s The Wraith, which we saw hoping for horror but got car races and heavy metal instead.  We hated it at the time, but I later came to love this film for what it was (and the Sherilyn Fenn waterfall scene).  We saw The Gate the weekend it opened, and bemoaned our choice for days.  Not all the movies we watched were terrible — I first saw The Godfather trilogy in Stuart’s Chicago apartment, and he introduced me to Apocalypse Now and Blade Runner as part of a film noir marathon we had together as teens.

For years Stuart and I had a standing Christmas night movie appointment.  He was in town to spend the holiday with family, and so a dinner of Chinese food and a movie viewing was had. Jackie Brown was the most memorable of those Christmas viewings, and we had wildly different reactions to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction follow-up.


But from European Vacation to Jaws 3-D to The Devil’s Rejects, Explorers, JFK, The Lawnmower Man and hundreds more, Stuart and I are still going to movies together.

My sister Susan took me to see my first R-rated film, Beverly Hills Cop.  She also exposed me to many movies I’d have not seen in my youth without her influence, including Ghostbusters and Lady and the Tramp.  She is much older than I, so our movie time together has been sparse, but always memorable, including E.T., Return of the Jedi, and Bridget Jones’ Diary.  (Though she staunchly refused to join me for a Hellraiser marathon.)

Yes, throughout the years my romantic, familial, and friend relationships have all involved, and in some ways been shaped by, movies.  Sometimes there is no quicker way to look into a person’s soul than to ask what films they cherish.  So it seems appropriate that to celebrate my 40th birthday I look back at 40 years of cinema.

Each day, from now until my birthday on September 12th, I will post an article looking back at the one film from each year of my life that impacted me most.  This may not be my favorite film, it may not even be a film I like, but the one that had the longest-lasting impact on me and helped shape my view of the world.

I hope you’ll join me each day as I reflect on my lifetime of cinema.




August 3, 2014 Posted by | 40-Year-Old Critic, Movies, Now Playing Podcast, Podcasts | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments