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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"Keep on walking, preacherman."
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April 15 2012

The film that changed my life by Joss Whedon. Find out how 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' made Joss an existentialist.

My favourite part of this article is when his best friend handed him a Satre book.
Anyone remember that Buffy episode, I think was early season 3, where Angel was reading Nausea? So awesome when I saw it and recognised the nod to Joss's past. And I'm pretty sure he describes this experience in the Objects in Space commentary, which in turn changed my thinking quite a bit.
I had much the same experience as Joss, and for many years this remained my favorite movie, But it has sadly dated, and it no longer quite resonates as much as it once did.
I dunno, Dana. I saw this movie for the first time two years ago in college, and it really struck home for me. Thought it was fantastic, and maybe Spielberg's best. Loved hearing Joss's thoughts on it.
If this sounded familiar to anyone, it's because he also told the story at Harvard when he was given that humanism award.
See, jobo, that's the problem. I saw it for the first time nearly 35 years ago, and have seen it hundreds of times since...
That blew the brains out of my head and I wore them on my shoulders as epaulettes.

How can anybody be so funny so often?
As b!X said, Joss gave a much fuller version of this story starting around 7:30 of the video of his acceptance of the 2009 Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism at Harvard University, available here.

Here's my transcript of the relevant section:
“I discovered existentialism at that time during a Spielberg film, which is just so sad and typical of me. It was Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the special edition. I went by myself and literally just had an epiphany, came out of the theater with an understanding of the concept of existence and time and life and humanity that I could not contain, I could hardly... I couldn't stop moving. I remember very specifically, I was renting a tiny room in London by myself, and I, I was about 17 and I was just going back and forth going, “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,” I was just freaking out. So I want back and saw the movie again. 'Cause I also loved the movie, it was really good. This is the story of me self-actualizing and Spielberg getting rich 'cause I'd go and I'd go and eventually I went and just sat there, three times in a row, until they said “We've sold all the seats, you have to leave.” And the reason I bring this up in particular is that I understood right away that what I was doing was not just watching a movie that I liked, or even loved, was not just revisiting this experience that I'd had, this extraordinary epiphany of the nature and reality and magnitude and ecstasy of pure, meaningless existence, but I was also creating a ritual. Very consciously, like, I said to myself 'Oh, I seem to be creating a ritual' […], and the ritual grew and I went to see the movie more and more and it became sort of a way to codify my joy and my terror and my misery at this extraordinary change that my brain had undergone, this sort of becoming of a grownup.”
Anyone have a video or transcript of his entire Harvard speech would be my best friend forever. I'm an alright person to have as a friend. (Except I'm broke.) So... Ever see Steven Speilberg being interviewed by James Lipton? He mentions that Speilberg's dad was a scientist & his mom was a musician & if that influenced Close Encounters & Speilberg was dumbfounded. He never realized the connection himself.
Awesome! Thanks. :)

Also: can't believe I missed the link linked in previous comment that I responded too. I'm blaming poor eyesite. Of which I have.

[ edited by NYPinTA on 2012-04-16 05:21 ]

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