When I sat down last season to cook up a list of Steven Spielberg’s best work as a director, I had some hard thinking to do. I had always held “Jaws” in higher esteem than the rest of his filmography for a variety of reasons, but as I dug in on all of his movies one more time, I found myself leaning to “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” for the first time, and it kind of shocked me.
“While they are both masterpieces, I settled on the willful masterpiece for the top spot and the accidental one [in second],” I wrote at the time. “‘Jaws’ was a runaway train that somehow, miraculously, became the sterling piece of cinema it is today…but ‘E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial’ is a perfect film, plain and simple. Every single thing is in its right place, and this, the turning point of Spielberg’s career — igniting his desire to start a family, swinging his thematic pendulum in another direction — marks the end of his early era.”
Spielberg’s work has been slowly getting the Blu-ray treatment and most recently, “Jaws” made the transition on the occasion of the film’s 37th anniversary. I have it sitting on my shelf waiting to finally dig in. And “E.T.” will finally land on Blu in October, but not before the Academy takes a moment to celebrate its 30th anniversary.
Teaming up with the Palo Alto International Film Festival, the Academy will present an anniversary screening of the film on Friday, September 28, at 7:30 pm at the Outdoor Festival Village Stage in Palo Alto, CA. Hosted by Variety tech columnist David S. Cohen, the evening features an onstage discussion with members of the film’s crew. Admission is free.
The event is presented as part of the Science and Technology Council’s “Prime Tech” screening series, which showcases Oscar-nominated and winning films that have been recognized in at least one technical category. “E.T.” has that covered in spades, having been nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects as part of its nine-nod haul. It also, of course, received notices for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
The “Prime Tech” series “features panel discussions that illuminate the art of filmmaking from a science and technology perspective,” the press release notes, “examining how technical elements can augment a film’s narrative capabilities and enrich the overall viewing experience.”
The Palo Alto International Film Festival runs from September 27– 30. “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” is a non-ticketed, free event. Seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, visit paiff.net or call (650) 641-8947. The film hits Blu-ray on October 9.