Hey, there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in my corner of Florida on Friday, June 25, 2021. Currently, the temperature is 78˚F (25˚C) under cloudy skies. With humidity at 71% and the wind blowing from the east-northeast at 7 MPH (14 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 76˚F (25˚C). Today’s forecast advises us to watch for scattered rain showers. The high will be 85˚F (29˚C). Tonight, we can expect light rain and a low of 73˚F (23˚C). Today’s Air Quality Index (AQI) reading is 28 or Good.
Last night, a few thunderstorms rolled through New Hometown between 7 and 8 PM. Happily, they were neither severe or danger-close, and they dissipated quicker than they did night before last. I’d planned to go to the living room with one of the many books on my Currently Reading Rotation, but when I noticed that the weather had improved, I decided to watch one of the movies in my new Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection Blu-ray box set.
At first I thought I’d watch 1971’s Duel, Steven Spielberg’s TV movie about an Everyman protagonist who is in the sights of a murderous – and mostly unseen – semi-truck driver on a highway in the California desert. I have never seen it; my family lived in Bogota, Colombia in ’71 when Duel aired on ABC as a Movie of the Week, and I don’t remember it being broadcast over Inravision before we moved back to the States a year later. As big a fan that I am of Steven Spielberg and his filmography, Duel is one of the few titles I tend to put on the “low priority” category in my viewing list. (Hook and The Color Purple also fall into this category, even though I’ve seen them both once.)
However, it turns out that I was not in the mood for a suspense story. I did put the Duel Blu-ray in the player, and I watched the bonus features, including an interview with author Richard Matheson, who wrote both the novelette and the teleplay for Duel. I found the behind-the-scenes story to be compelling (Spielberg was only 25 when he made Duel for ABC, a project which turned out to be his “graduation project” (my term, not Spielberg’s) from his apprenticeship as a TV director to the larger world of feature films. (His next film, which is also in the Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection set, was 1974’s The Sugarland Express.)
Even so, when I finished watching the extra features, I swapped the Blu-ray of Duel with that of Always, a 1989 romantic fantasy drama that is a remake of 1943’s A Guy Named Joe.
Always is a 1989 American romantic fantasy drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, Brad Johnson and Audrey Hepburn in her final film role.
Always is a remake of the 1943 romantic drama A Guy Named Joe set during World War II. The main departure from the 1943 film is the changing of the setting from wartime to a modern aerial firefighting operation. The film, however, follows the same basic plot line: the spirit of a recently dead expert pilot mentors a newer pilot, while watching him fall in love with the girlfriend he left behind. The names of the four principal characters of the earlier film are all the same, with the exception of the Ted Randall character, who is called Ted Baker in the remake, and Pete’s last name is Sandich instead of Sandidge.
I saw Always in its theatrical run in December 1989; it was the “serious” movie bookend to Spielberg’s summer blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I didn’t remember much of it because I fell asleep in the theater while watching it – a rare occurrence for me, since I’ve only fallen asleep at the movies four times in my lifetime.
Considering that the friends I went to see Always with were not all that impressed with the movie and the general consensus was that I had not missed much, I always gave Always a wide berth whenever I bought Steven Spielberg movies on home media. My reasoning was. “Well, if it didn’t catch my interest when I went to see it in a theater, even though it was made by Spielberg, why should I waste good money on a (VHS tape, DVD, Blu-ray)?”
But as the son of a pilot and a former flight attendant, I have always loved planes and movies about aviators (except Top Gun, which I find to be absurd) and aerial derring-do. And Always has plenty of great aerial scenes and modified WWII aircraft repurposed for fire-fighting in the Western U.S. Seeing that it was one of the eight films in the Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection set, I thought, Well, I’ll watch the first 20 minutes of this movie. If I don’t like it, I’ll stop watching and watch Duel or read a book.
To my surprise, I ended up watching the entire movie. Always is not a slow-paced or dull story, even though it is a throwback to the films of the 1940s (even though its “present day” was 1989 and not 1943) and the dialogue is written in the style of Dalton Trumbo and Frederick Hazlitt Brennan’s script for A Guy Named Joe. Its blend of romance, drama, action, and supernatural fantasy is captivating enough if you go into Always with an open mind and don’t expect it to be like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Schindler’s List.
Pete Sandich: [Speaking to Dorinda after he’s dead] I know now that the love we hold back is the only pain that follows us here.
And maybe it’s because of my current situation – living with someone I was romantically involved with till last year and missing my old life in Miami – or my penchant for schmaltz, but I was moved to tears at the film’s conclusion. Always might be one of Spielberg’s most underrated films (along with 1987’s Empire of the Sun), but it’s not a demonstrably bad movie.
I went to sleep far too late (I think it was 12 AM by the time I finished the movie) and woke up at 6:30 AM, so I’m a bit tired now. And since I don’t have much in the way of news – I’m obviously not dating anyone, nor have I heard any news about my older half-sister Vicky, from whom I have been estranged since our mother died six summers ago – I think I’ll close for now so I can publish this narrative on WordPress.
So, until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
 The other three times: December 1979 while watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture; July 1987 at a screening of The Living Daylights; and December 1991 while watching Hook by Steven Spielberg.