E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (The 20th Anniversary)

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (The 20th Anniversary)

John Williams' music for Steven Spielberg's innocence-drenched 1982 blockbuster (it went unchallenged as all-time box office champ until Titanic) won him his third Best Original Score Oscar. But it also seemed to mark the point where the critical backlash against the composer began — hardly surprising, given his world-beating string of contemporary hits in service of Spielberg and George Lucas. But comparing the alternately effervescent and introspective adolescent emotions Williams successfully evokes here to the thunder of his Star Wars and Indiana Jones scores is a ludicrous exercise — even if his cues here are rooted in similar 20th century Russian romanticism. It's music that tugs unashamedly at the heartstrings, just as its filmmakers intended, with the closing arc of "Escape/Chase/Saying Goodbye" showcasing Williams' emotional writing at its pinnacle. Spielberg often termed ET a loose sequel to his previous alien-themed Close Encounters of the Third Kind; his composer responded with a score that could as well be a second, more nakedly romantic movement to his CE3K soundtrack.

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