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Thoughts While Watching E.T.

We belong to a children’s film club.  It’s $5 per kid for the month, and they show two films every Saturday in this old theater.  They clear the area in front of the screen and toss down some bean bag chairs.  No one cares if the kids talk through the film and the M&Ms are free-flowing.  It’s just about 3000 kinds of perfect.

Every Thursday, they send out an email with the two films, and we decide whether or not we feel like going (since, did I mention that it’s only $5 for the whole month?).  This weekend, one of the choices was E.T., and once I saw that, I had to go.

Before we went, we ran through the major plot points with the kids because we were a bit worried that the scenes at the end would be scary or that they would simply not understand 90% of what was happening on the screen.  They both wanted to sit in our laps for the film, which made it easy to whisper the Cliff Notes version of each scene in their ear as the action unfolded.  All was well in the world.

Until the end.  I thought the ending would be scary, and I actually predicted that we’d leave the theater before NASA stormed the house.  But that wasn’t the problem.  As the boys rode through the development, trying to get E.T. to his spaceship, I started bawling with happiness as the bikes lifted into the air.  It’s that quintessential E.T. moment — the image of the bicycles passing in front of the setting sun — and it was sort of mind-blowing to be in a theater holding my child and remember how I felt sitting in the theater as a kid watching E.T. for the first time (the theater I saw it in has been turned into a DSW shoes…)

So all the adults are internally (or, in my case, externally) cheering, and the Wolvog begins to cry this animalistic, gasping cry because he is so sad that E.T. is going home and Elliott won’t be able to see him anymore.  His crying sets off the ChickieNob, which sets off a chain reaction through the kids.  So the entire theater is filled with sniffling children, wailing about how they don’t want E.T. to go home.

And I was struck with this thought: this theater of children all have this intense empathy for Elliott, mourning the loss of this being known pretty much only to Elliott and his siblings for the majority of his duration on earth.  So where did adults lose that empathy?  The kids in the theater couldn’t imagine saying to Elliott that this was life’s plan or that he should be happy that E.T. is in a better place or that he can always be on the lookout again for another alien.  And yet… some adults think this is a way to speak about pregnancy loss or stillbirth or neonatal death.  At what point do people step over the line from being these amazingly empathetic kids to being the assholes who comment on infertility-related articles in the New York Times?

Whoa… where did that come from?

As we left the theater, we asked if they already knew what would be showing next weekend, and the woman said that they didn’t know yet, but they were open to ideas.  What did we want to show our kids on the big screen — something from our childhood that we wanted to experience again.

In the moment, I couldn’t think of anything.  At home, I came up with Freaky Friday and the original Parent Trap.  I would love to see the original Tron again and see Pete’s Dragon on the big screen.

What movie would you love to see from childhood playing on the big screen of a theater?  With really good popcorn and $2 beer and M&Ms.


1 Ashley { 02.13.11 at 7:53 am }

Wow. Very cool kids. It’s lovely when you know you’re part of a collection of people feeling the same thing.

I didn’t appreciate E.T. until I was older. It used to scare me.

2 HereWeGoAJen { 02.13.11 at 8:10 am }

Yes, the original Parent Trap! Hmm, what else? Anything with Haley Mills. And the Muppet Movie.

3 BigP's Heather { 02.13.11 at 8:48 am }

The first two, besides what you mentioned, are Annie and Grease. And probably some Shirley Temple and Little Rascals.

4 Meg { 02.13.11 at 8:58 am }

I agree w/ HereWeGoAJen – anything w/ Hayley Mills (I loved getting her movies out of the library as a kid). I’d also say Mary Poppins, Swiss Family Robinson, Anne of Green Gables, and Charlotte’s Web (the animated version from 20+ years ago).

5 manymanymoons { 02.13.11 at 9:51 am }

There is no movie I loved more as a child (and adult) than Savannah Smiles. It is so sweet/sad/funny you could just weep (and probably will). We watched that movie over and over as a child. The Wizard is also a great one.

That movie club sounds awesome. Do you have to have kids to join? 🙂 I could see me being the 30ish women with no children sitting in a bean bag chair eating M&M’s like a nut.

6 Tara { 02.13.11 at 9:55 am }

I’d love to see the 1st Muppet Movie…

7 Dr. Blondie { 02.13.11 at 10:01 am }

Pete’s Dragon! It’s the first movie I remember seeing in the theater (I think I was around 4) and I cried the rest of the day after the movie because the Dragon left Pete at the end. My parents had no idea that the ending would make me so sad and they felt bad for taking me to the movie.

8 It is what it is { 02.13.11 at 10:25 am }

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (also rated PG). I was mesmerized by that movie.

In the file marked Stupid Sh*t People Say, not sure if you saw this video by Mompetition (adoption themed):

9 N { 02.13.11 at 10:43 am }

I still get so sad at ET. It’s probably the favorite movie of my childhood, but I can only very rarely watch it.

(what movie club??)

10 Blanche { 02.13.11 at 11:14 am }

ET scared me. I still can’t watch it for fear of bringing back those memories.

Movies I’d like to see on the big screen: Bedknobs and Broomsticks and The Rescuers.

11 Denver Laura { 02.13.11 at 11:27 am }

The hubs an I saw Lost Boys last year at Red Rocks. Good times. So with the Coreys in mind, I’d say Goonies.

12 Mrs. Gamgee { 02.13.11 at 12:31 pm }

Without a doubt Disney’s ‘Fox & The Hound’… The ultimate in tear-jerkers!

13 Michelle { 02.13.11 at 12:32 pm }

Oh soooo many memories.

I loved E.T. But , like the munchkins, totally remember crying because he was so sick and had to go.

As soon as I saw Goonies above, I TOTALLY agree. Great flick that still inspires, encourages discovery and empathy! I always show it to my 6 and 7 graders and they love it!!! Of course, we always have a good laugh at the fashion too. Great, awesome film!!!

14 sushigirl { 02.13.11 at 1:09 pm }

Ooh, the Goonies, definitely. Also, and possibly not in order:

1) Any Disney classic animated film; funnily enough, was thinking of getting Robin Hood or the Sword in the Stone on DVD.
2) Watcher in the Woods; I can barely remember the plot but I remember it was quite scary.
3) That 80s film with the monster in a quarry that turned out to be a crane (or something)
4) Flight of Dragons, an animated film about, uhm, dragons. It was really good, but is difficult to get hold of. The copy I’d taped onto VHS stopped 5 mins before the end, which is still faintly annoying 22 years later. Although not as much as my Mum taping a lame, boring hillwalking programme over Raiders of the Lost Ark.
5) Willow
6) Neverending Story
7) Return to Oz (But the “Dooorrrooothy Gaaaaale” bit is still terrifying)

I wasn’t keen on the Parent Trap, but then it didn’t have dragons/monsters/pirates and wasn’t a cartoon.

15 Lollipopgoldstein { 02.13.11 at 1:11 pm }

I don’t know what just reminded me of it from this comment, but what about The Dark Crystal? That movie was so good. I wanted to have one thin braid in my hair due to that girl puppet in the film.

16 sushigirl { 02.13.11 at 1:15 pm }

Ooh, and Labyrinth. Although now I am more disturbed by David Bowie’s tights than the monsters!

17 Esperanza { 02.13.11 at 1:34 pm }

Oh, so, so many films. I see many of them listed above by PPs already! I would have to say, Flight of the Navigator, The Last Unicorn, Goonies, Space Camp, Batteries Not Included and Labyrinth. And a shout out to the above picks of Neverending Story and Return to Oz, although she’s right, a lot of that is creepy. I also love most of the old Disney Classics, including but not limited to Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, and kind of a random one, The Great Mouse Detective. Of course the Golden Age Disneys are a must, Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Lion King. I CANNOT WAIT to watch all these movies with my kids. Seriously, I’m counting the days. I already own them all on DVD (plus many, many more). Thanks for making me think of all of this.

PS I’d probably still cry if I watched E.T. For sure.

18 loribeth { 02.13.11 at 1:39 pm }

The original Parent Trap is one of my all-time favourites. : )

Technically, not a kids’ movie — but I would love the experience of seeing one of the Beach Party movies (Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello) on the big screen again. They used to show them at the Saturday matinee when I was a kid in late 1960s Saskatchewan. Elvis movies too. Along with the usual Disney, etc.

I would love to see Mary Poppins in the theatre again too.

19 Dana { 02.13.11 at 1:46 pm }

I’d love to know more about this club (I’m pretty sure we relatively close). Would you mind sharing? E-mail me maybe?
As for the movie I’d love to see in the theater again? Star Wars, of course. It was one of the only movies my entire family went to see together.

20 Tireegal { 02.13.11 at 1:54 pm }

The Railway Children and Swallows and Amazons!! Two very British kids films!

21 Megan { 02.13.11 at 3:28 pm }

Um, perhaps the adults’ empathy is for E.T. After all, he doesn’t belong to Elliot, and E.T. would obviously rather go home, so I don’t think it makes adults lacking in empathy — let alone assholes — to be happy that E.T. gets to go home, to cheer for Elliot in his success in helping E.T. get to where he wants to be. It’s just a different, more expanded perspective.

I would want to see… The NeverEnding Story.

22 Betty M { 02.13.11 at 3:38 pm }

Bugsy Malone for me!

23 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 02.13.11 at 9:24 pm }

Some great suggestions above.

For kids that age, obviously not from my era, but I enjoyed Shirley Temple movies at that age. And Doris Day — I was singing Don’t Eat the Daisies to my twins the other day, because there was in fact daisy-eating going on.

Lest you think I was a horribly square kid, I also watched R-rated movies at Chickienob and Wolvog’s age, but I won’t be recommending any of those.

24 Barb { 02.13.11 at 10:36 pm }

Neverending Story
American Tale

25 a { 02.13.11 at 10:39 pm }

I had that odd combination of happy and sad at the end of ET…

Short Circuit – that seems like one that would appeal to your technology boy.

26 Katie { 02.14.11 at 8:54 am }

Reading that brought me to tears. I love ET.

The original Parent Trap is a good one. I also love Neverending Story, Mary Poppins, and The Goonies. There’s a wonderful story in each of those movies.

27 Warrior Woman { 02.14.11 at 9:09 am }

The original Star Wars trilogy, the Neverending Story, Mary Poppins, maybe some Disney films from the 90’s like The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast. This sounds like so much fun!

28 Kir { 02.14.11 at 9:32 am }

I think I would actually feel exactly the way you did about what happened at the movies, when did we lose our empathy for things? It was well put, Mel.

I think I’d love to see Mary Poppins in the theatre or maybe the Sandlot…it was on the other day and the boys were just loving it, kept asking to “see the big doggie” again…so I DVRd it. 🙂

also, I’d love to see anything by disney, they are always my favorite.

your movie club sounds awesome, I am thinking of writing to the city of Bethlehem to do this. We would LOVE this.

29 Somewhat Ordinary { 02.14.11 at 12:42 pm }

I love your kids! When I saw ET I was actually glad that he went back because the thought of him being here on Earth with me scared the shit out of 5 year old me. That movie did permanent damage to my psyche. My parents took me because they thought I would love it. I sat terrified the entire movie and from that point on had to check my closet every night for an alien. I still to this day have to have every closet in the house closed when I sleep. My dad thinks it is hilarious and teases me that I’m still scared. I’m not, I promise, but I still don’t get excited to watch the movie.

I would love to see The Muppet Movie or The Never Ending Story on the big screen.

30 Carla { 02.14.11 at 1:06 pm }

I still know every word to every song in the original Muppet Movie, so I’d have to go with that! The Goonies and The Rescuers too, I’d love to see them again.

31 Colorado Dreamer { 02.14.11 at 1:31 pm }

Ooh! PIPPY LONGSTOCKING – probably the first movie. Such an adventurous little girl!

32 Ellen K. { 02.14.11 at 4:26 pm }

The Goonies really has held up well over the years. The kids are funny, the story is well paced, and it would be even more appealing to contemporary kids because of the pirate craze, which my 2yo twins have already joined (saying “Arrr, matey” while looking through a toilet paper tube). Plus it was one of the first movies I saw w/o my parents vetting it first, which they did with ET. And it has eye candy: Josh Brolin and Corey Feldman. So it gets my vote.

33 Missy { 02.15.11 at 3:27 am }

I always used to watch Pollyanna with my grandma. I own the vhs version. Yikes! I would love to sit and watch it with her again!

34 Battynurse { 02.18.11 at 9:47 pm }

I loved ET. And as a child yes, I cried that he was leaving. As far as movies I’d love to see? I have seen some pretty good recommendations. Goonies is a favorite. So is Neverending Story although I didn’t love the follow up one. One of my favorite movies as a teen was Xanadu (I’ve watched it since though and it was beyond corny).

35 Pat W { 02.19.11 at 1:19 pm }

It would be great to see Breakfast At Tiffany’s again, and The Man Who Knew Too much; Rear Window; the beach party movies with Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello. And anything with Sandra Dee.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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