Why Arrival Looks So Different After COVID-19
Ilana Masad in Conversation with Mychal Denzel Smith on Open Form
Welcome to Open Form, a new weekly film podcast hosted by award-winning writer Mychal Denzel Smith. Each week, a different author chooses a movie: a movie they love, a movie they hate, a movie they hate to love. Something nostalgic from their childhood. A brand-new obsession. Something they’ve been dying to talk about for ages and their friends are constantly annoyed by them bringing it up.
In this episode, Mychal talks to Ilana Masad about the 2016 film Arrival, starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker, directed by Denis Villeneuve, and based on a short story by Ted Chiang.
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From the episode:
Ilana: It’s interesting that they do show us some of that panic happening in the world, which again, as we know, is not probably what would happen. And it’s especially interesting thinking about the fact that it’s not what has happened. By which I mean we’ve now had several times in the last few years of the government stepping forward and saying, look, these UFOs exist, we don’t know what these Navy pilots are seeing. Nothing has changed. Nothing! People are not out there believing in aliens more. No one has quit their job to go become—I mean, maybe some people have.
The majority of us are still doing the same shit that we were doing yesterday and the same shit we’ll be doing tomorrow. The most unrealistic thing about the movie, I think, is that, the idea that people would be panicking in the streets. Especially if these alien ships are hovering there not doing anything. After a week, people would forget about it. It would occasionally be a thing on the news of like, oh yeah, it’s still there, huh? And everything else would go on the same. Is what I think would happen at least.
Mychal: I mean, a theory borne out by the way we’ve experienced COVID. It’s a thing on the news for a couple of months, and then it’s like, well, I’m done with that. I’m done dealing with that. Time to move on with my life. And it doesn’t go away. It’s just like we incorporate the new information, the new context for which we live, into our lives in some way.
Ilana: Right, exactly. We totally do. And we don’t panic about it.
Mychal: Even though sometimes we should.
Ilana Masad is a fiction writer, essayist, and book critic whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Paris Review, NPR, BuzzFeed, Catapult, StoryQuarterly, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, as well as several others. All My Mother’s Lovers is Masad’s debut novel.