Today was a big day for Mr. Spielberg, with opening dates for two of his acknowledged classics. We’ll start with E.T., the story of a lonely little boy (Henry Thomas) who befriends a stranded alien in the woods behind his home. It touched a chord in audiences when it first opened and now stands as perhaps the most “Spielbergian” of the celebrated director’s films… to the point where it’s now part of the logo for his production company. It opened today in 1982.
11 years later, the director scored another massive hit, and if it’s not quite as beloved as E.T., it certainly left a mark of its own. Jurassic Park, based on the Michael Crichton novel about genetically engineered dinosaurs running wild on an island amusement park. Crichton recycled the notion from his earlier effort Westworld, but it took Spielberg’s populist genius to turn the concept into a household phrase. Jurassic Park opened today in 1993.
If indie movies are your thing, there’s Napoleon Dynamite, an ode to an awkward Idaho teenager (Jon Heder) so blissfully unaware of his awkwardness that he becomes cool almost by default. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, but its oddball characters are uniformly charming, and for those who spent high school on the outside looking in, the title character is a champion to rally behind. It opened today in 2004.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is an entirely different kind of high school movie: really more of a fantasy than anything else. The titular character (Matthew Broderick) engineers an escape from high-school drudgery for his best friend (Alan Ruck) and girlfriend (Mia Sara), thanks to a vintage Ferrari and a scheming principal (Jeffrey Jones) who can’t get out of his own way. It’s become a Gen X touchstone, and a friendly reminder to “stop and look around once in a while.” It opened today in 1986.
We’ll close today with the original True Grit, the film that won John Wayne the Oscar and has achieved status as a minor classic in the Duke’s pantheon. I confess that I much prefer the remake from the Coen Brothers, but the original highlights Wayne’s indelible onscreen presence, and is worth a look solely for the star. It opened today in 1969.