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First Rate Contact

Title Shot Movie Arrival

Experts say impatience is bad. That if I don’t stop focusing on the moving goalpost that is the release date for Dune, I’ll develop the “The Kane Madness.”

Maybe they are right. Maybe I should focus on something else. Something different. By Denis Villeneuve. You know. The director of… Arrival.

Movie The Day The Earth Stood Still 1951

As first contact movies go, it’s hard to look past “The Day the Earth Stood Still” or its director, adult prodigy and national treasure Robert Wise. There just aren’t any films in the same league. Or directors. “The Man Who Fell to Earth” by Roeg comes close. “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the 1982 version of “The Thing” are noteworthy.

Refocus the lens on the past quarter of a century and two films stand out. One of the two?

Arrival.

Actress Amy Adams from the movie Arrival

I’m convinced that editors are the unsung heroes of every successful novel. I’m equally convinced that, with movies, the casting director is pivotal. No surprise then that Arrival was cast by Francine Maisler (“The Usual Suspects”, “Stranger Than Fiction”, “Eat Pray Love”. And, yes, “Dune”).

Amy Adams. Jeremy Renner. Forest Whitaker. Tzi Ma. Strong cast achievement unlocked.

Actress Amy Adams from the movie Arrival

“Despite knowing the journey and where it leads, I embrace it and welcome every moment.”

The script is strong as well, pairing linguist Louise Banks (Adams) and supporting physicist (Renner). It has political intrigue, love, pain, hope. It does justice to Ted Chiang’s novella “Story of Your Life.”

Some academics applauded the portrayal of linguists and linguistics. Others felt the film cut corners and dumbed down, soft-scienced the field. Decide for yourself. Me? I found “Arrival” to be a master class in research and thoughtful preparation. Right down to the books on the shelves of Amy Adam’s office.

“…translating subtitles is somewhere closer to translating poetry than novels.”

– Darcy Paquet

Linguists, linguistics sometime get a bad rap in the media. Especially when we talk about subtitles. Controversial for all the right reasons survival drama “Squid Game” was savaged for poor subtitling. Some A-list movies and TV series have given subtitles short shrift. Generally speaking, the industry continues to get better at this critical part of moviemaking.

Experienced translator Darcy Paquet, who subtitled Bong Joon-ho’s film “Parasite”, said “compromise is inevitable in subtitle translation.” He also said that “translating subtitles is somewhere closer to translating poetry than novels.”

Language doesn’t really play a role in my other choice for Best Contact Movie Ever. But it and lead Jodie Foster did spark an internet meme with her “They should have sent a poet.” The movie?

Contact.

Jodie Foster Movie Contact

Palmer Joss: What are you studying up there?

Ellie Arroway: Oh, the usual. Nebulae, quasars, pulsars, stuff like that. What are you writing?

Palmer Joss: The usual. Nouns, adverbs, adjective here and there.

The Movie ‘Contact’


Contact” started in 1979 and hit the big screen twenty years later. It deals more with science and religion than language. Foster is paired with, not physicist, but preacher and author Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey).

There are similarities between Arrival and Robert Zemeckis’s “Contact.” Both films were criticized for being slick and preachy at the expense of action and entertainment. Good.

The core and essence of both films are human stories dressed out as alien encounters. They are celebrations of our capacity to love, to hope. To believe.

And that is why both succeed.

Jodie Foster Movie Contact

Brothers ink rated it the #1 Jodie Foster Film. I have to agree. She doesn’t. In fact, it isn’t even in her top five. That’s okay, Ms. Foster. We still love you. Years later, dated CGI and all, we still really love “Contact.”

Science and Religion. Language and Free Will. Contact and Arrival. Time well spent.


“The foreign phrases and stories of strangers from far away
Somehow were making more sense than familiar words in my day to day”

VERITAS feat.KAREN (カレン) 

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