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‘E.T.’ leaves Netflix

| Wednesday, November 2, 2016

ET_bannerLINDSEY MEYERS | The Observer


“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” was the first DVD my family ever owned. The first time we watched it together, my parents made a huge deal about it. My siblings and I squished onto the same couch as my dad fussed over the DVD — gingerly placing the seemingly fragile disc into our newly purchased DVD player, which I remember as sleek and exciting. As the opening credits rolled, my mom leaned over and whispered excitedly, “Just wait to see what kind of candy Elliott uses in the forest!”

Unlike my little five-year-old self, my mom had already experienced the sensation that was “E.T.” She knew, for example, that when it came out in 1982, the film was an instant blockbuster. The impact of the film was immediate: When Elliott used Reese’s Pieces as breadcrumbs to gain the trust of his strange little alien friend, the Hershey Company witnessed sales in the candy skyrocket.

“E.T.” left Netflix yesterday. In a decade when consumers are turning increasingly toward streaming services and computer companies are doing away with built-in CD players, this comes as a significant loss. It also prompts me to reminisce on the film’s persistent relevance in my life, as well as its enduring artistic and cultural significance.

“E.T.” is an uncommonly beautiful film. Produced by Steven Spielberg at the peak of his career, it’s an exemplary model of how films can tell rich stories simply through the power of images. It’s rife with memorable and stunning scenes: curious alien fingers curl around the edge of the door of the moonlit shed. Elliott carelessly puts a hand to his face — E.T. mimics the motion, and viewers realize in a breathless instant just how intuitive the small alien is. The moment of contact when E.T. touches a lighted finger to his human counterpart’s draws direct parallels to Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”, echoing the idea of an intimate connection across time and space between two like creatures. The striking silhouette of Elliott and E.T. flying on a bike, silhouetted against a gigantic moon, has transformed into an iconic image in pop-culture history and generated countless tributes, parodies and reproductions.

The stunning visuals are poignant in large part because of the themes they represent. “E.T.” contrasts the loving, perceptive acceptance of E.T. by Elliott against an army of faceless adults — the scientists hunting E.T., signified by the threatening jangle of keys and revving of a car engine, view the creature not as another being to be understood but as a thing to be feared and clinically examined through layers of protective plastic. Implicit in the plot is a celebration of familial love, acceptance of the foreign, the power of friendship and an endorsement of childlike wonder and sensitivity.

Since my first encounter with E.T. as a five-year-old, I’ve watched the film too many times to count. The poignancy of the loving connection between the lonely, perceptive child and his lonely, perceptive extraterrestrial still resonates deeply — even this past weekend, streaming the movie in my college dorm room, I found myself embarrassingly teary-eyed when E.T. croakily echoes the ultimate declaration of sure friendship: “I’ll be right here.”

Having “E.T.” available on Netflix was a treasure — one that I took for granted. That being said, the more I think about it, the more I realize that I’m going to make my children watch this movie. Maybe it would be worth it to go out and buy a copy of my own.

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