Sto­ries of in­no­cence lost

The Covington News - - Opinion - BAR­BARA MOR­GAN COLUM­NIST

This year, as we know, is de­fined by the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign: the nom­i­na­tion bat­tles of the Repub­li­can party; the re­lent­less at­tack ads in which both sides writhe in the mud and facts are road kill; mem­ory and at­ten­tion spans are three beats long; the blus­tery po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tions; the care­fully staged speeches; and fi­nally the face-off on Novem­ber 6th, af­ter which pun­dits of both stripes pre­dict the end of the world as we know it if their can­di­date loses. Not a few Republicans be­lieve Obama, if re-elected, is go­ing to turn this sov­er­eign na­tion over to the con­trol of the United Nations and forcibly con­fis­cate all per­sonal arms. Democrats can’t quite match that level of crazi­ness. Still, lev­el­headed folks have to look hard for safe haven in these po­lit­i­cal climes.

Oh, but, the year mer­its an­other look. Let’s put a lit­tle spin on it, as the can­di­dates do daily.

Have you by chance noted this is the 30th an­niver­sary of the block­buster 1982 sci-fi film “E.T.: the Ex­tra Ter­res­trial”? Film­maker Steven Spiel­berger is re-re­leas­ing the film on Oct. 3rd for a one-time only view­ing in theatres around the coun­try to mark the oc­ca­sion. Wasn’t the movie just magic? And you didn’t have to be a kid to find it so. It en­chanted both kids and adults then and maybe even more so to­day when its child-like view of the world still de­nies the fears and va­garies of the world we get up to 30 years later.

In the film, a lit­tle guy named El­liott, reel­ing from his par­ents’ di­vorce, adopts and names a child­like alien left be­hind on a scout­ing ex­pe­di­tion from an­other planet. The story is told through the eyes and phys­i­cal per­spec­tive of a child knee-high to the adults in charge. El­liott learns to care for this aban­doned crea­ture, de­vel­op­ing un­canny men­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion with it, and vows to help E.T. get home.

The story is based on the imag­i­nary friend Spiel­berger con­cocted when his par­ents di­vorced. “He was a friend who could be the brother I never had and a fa­ther I didn’t feel I had any­more,” he’s been quoted. The cu­ri­ous face de­vised for E.T. on the re­tractable neck is an amal­gam of the faces of the Amer­i­can poet Carl Sand­burg, the sci­en­tist Al­bert Ein­stein and the lit­er­ary game-changer Ernest Hem­ing­way. E.T. cost $1.5 mil­lion to de­velop. In this film, any­thing is pos­si­ble: an alien can be­come a brother and lit­tle boys on bi­cy­cles can fly air­borne across the face of the har­vest moon. The movie, a cel­e­bra­tion of in­no­cence, shows how com­mon ground can be found be­tween cul­tures “alien” to each other.

An­other film with piv­otal stand­ing in Amer­i­can movie his­tory – as well as in the minds of any woman who was ever a teenager – is mark­ing its own mile­stone this year. It’s been 25 years since the siz­zling Patrick Swazye air­lifted the eyes-wideopen in­génue Jen­nifer Grey in a breath-tak­ing move to the un­for­get­table tune “I’ve Had the Time of My Life.” Set in a Catskills Moun­tains re­sort peo­pled by wealthy New York­ers in the ‘60’s, the story tells how the pam­pered but high-minded “Baby” falls un­der the thrall of a tough Ir­ish kid, Johnny, the lead dancer in the re­sort’s dance corps. Its sound­track of throb­bing and sen­su­ous teen mu­sic of the day sets the stage for a ro­man­tic drama in which in­no­cence comes face-to-face with adult is­sues and the mat­ter of class. “Dirty Danc­ing” is a com­ing of age movie, not un­like the ul­ti­mate theme of “E.T.: the Ex­tra Ter­res­trial.”

A re­make of “Dirty Danc­ing” has been in the works for sev­eral years, and 2014 is now the tar­get date for re­lease. Re­views say the prob­lem has been in find­ing cast mem­bers who can re-cre­ate the roles played by Grey and Swazye. I hardly see any way a re­make could come close to repli­cat­ing the orig­i­nal. The film is a clas­sic, and you can’t make some­thing al­ready great, greater. There’s also the prob­lem of try­ing to find ac­tors who can bring the chem­istry to the screen that Grey and Swazye ex­hib­ited. But here’s a funny thing. Off cam­era, the two were very much out of sync and had trou­ble re­lat­ing, de­spite a screen test that crack­led with po­ten­tial. While we’d like to be­lieve the two char­ac­ters were meant for each other on and off the screen, the fact is that they were “act­ing,” in the truest sense of the word. There went my in­no­cence.

Bar­bara Mor­gan is a Cov­ing­ton res­i­dent with a back­ground in news­pa­per jour­nal­ism, state gov­ern­ment and pol­i­tics.

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