Alternative title: “There is no jar of ectoplasm.”
Here is something I learned this week: Dan Aykroyd is an alien conspiracist.
This may be, to me, the most significant facet of his identity. Dan Aykroyd may be anywhere between 25 and 50 percent of the reason that we have such cinematic treasures as Ghostbusters and The Blues Brothers, but more interesting to me is his deep knowledge of Canadian UFOlogy symposia. Without Dan Aykroyd, we would not know that crossing the streams results in total protonic reversal, nor would we appreciate the importance of particle beams in the history of alien encounters.
This is all to say that Dan Ayrkoyd’s greatest gift to humanity is also possibly his least-known contribution: a feature-length documentary by Canadian sham David Sereda entitled Dan Aykroyd Unplugged on UFOs (2005). The production value is at Marianas Trench levels, the special effects were probably made in PowerPoint, the camera operator was likely Sereda’s 6-year-old niece, but this is my favorite movie of the year.
It begins with what looks like a high schooler’s homage to the opening credits sequence form the X-Files. Despite being made a good ten years later, it must be noted that Unplugged does not improve much upon the visual quality of the latter. Then the compelling words appear on the screen: “Millions of people worldwide claim to have seen UFOs. Dan Aykroyd is one of them.”
When we cut to the absurdly close shot of Dan Aykroyd, in what will be the first of many taking heads, it is to find him brooding over a cigarette, squinting just over the camera’s shoulder, and wearing what we can only assume is a getup for his great-aunt’s Christmas buffet: plaid shirt, cherry-red sweater vest, and emerald-green tie. That this outfit is at odds with his otherwise new-noir attitude goes without saying.
Dan begins by aping some sort of Presiidential address, droning in disjointed deadpan: “God evening, my fellow Americans. The sighting over Washington yesterday has alarmed many of you.” The shot is very tight, so that his face fills almost the entire frame. Aykroyd breaks character to ask Sereda, “Are we close?”, to which a disembodied voice says “Yes,” and the camera zooms in even further, presumably to check for melanoma.
There is little else to be said about the visual experience of Unplugged. Though the subject matter is space, that limitless expanse of the unknown above our heads, Sereda prefers to take the viewer between very close shots of his interview subjects (himself included) and micro-inspections of photographs from the 60s and 70s. The result is a feeling of claustrophobia, as much at odds with a discussion of outer space as Aykroyd’s sweater is at odds with his tough-guy alien abductee persona.
Now that I have set the scene for you, the best way I can be of service is simply to recount, in as much detail as possible, the absurdities of the movie. There is nothing my snarky, esoteric commentary could possibly contribute. What will now follow is a series of reactions that I took down while I watched this last night – appreciably drunk and endlessly delighted.
- Aykroyd thinks the aliens’ motives are environmental… surely, upon seeing what we have done to our ozone, extraterrestrials would take a keen interest in “what we’re doing to our atmosphere, and possibly neighboring bodies.” (Later, Ayrkoyd will compare the methods of alien abduction to the scientific practice of animal tagging – perhaps, aliens are only kidnapping and probing people in pursuit of higher knowledge.)
- Asked about how he came to be a UFOlogist (which is a word that these people use often, and which is now irrevocably part of my daily vocabulary), Aykroyd cites two formative experiences: reading the cover of a tabloid as a child, and watching a FOX News story about UFO activity in Mexico in the 80s.
- Sereda claims that we’re going to run out of oil by 2026. Aykroyd nods in agreement, and suggests that aliens come to earth for the purpose of “picking minerals without authorization.”
- APPARENTLY THE PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA IN 2005 BELIEVED IN ALIENS AND WENT PUBLIC ABOUT THEM (EDIT: It was not the prime minister, but Paul Hellyer, a former Defense Minister of Canada. This part of the movie prompted a long conversation where my International Affairs–major friends explained to me how parliaments work.)
- Aykroyd’s rhetoric throughout is emblematic of Orwellian doublespeak, but the kind that’s not smart enough to be intentional – Trumpian, perhaps? This is only to say that he uses many polysyllabic words, but ultimately says nothing at all. Periods do not figure frequently into sentence mapping. “I feel like he writes Donald Trump’s speeches,” Ellyse remarks.
- Example: “One can assume perhaps maybe that there are benovelent beings out there and there are malevolent beings out there… One can only think about the Star Wars system.”
- Ken Storch, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot who flew during the 60s and 70s, is now being interviewed. He has a great mustache, and is telling us about UFO incidents. But the most important part of his interview is when he mentions Nixon at one point, and feels the need to clarify that he’s referring to, “uh, President Richard Milhouse Nixon.”
- Also hey, I now know what def-con means! (Defense condition. It’s short for defense condition.)
- Aykroyd keeps coming back to The Day The Earth Stood Still as a primary source for confirmation about aliens.
- “What,” five-star interviewer David Sereda asks, “would you do if you could speak to aliens on our behalf?” To which Aykroyd gives the following response: “If I were to speak for mankind to these beings, these extraterrestrial beings… I would say to them, to the beings, ‘Let’s go to some neutral place, with scientists and world leaders, and have basically some sort of forum, let’s sit down and kind of get to know each other.'”
- This is not the only hypothetical Sered poses to Aykroyd. Others include:
- If you went into space with other NASA astronauts and found extraterrestrial life, would you keep silent?
- What would you do if you could travel back in time? (Aykroyd diplomatically responds that “that would be a tampering that wouldn’t serve mankind well.”)
- If you could travel interdimensionally, who would you speak to? Aykroyd says, “Feynman, Heisenberg, Bohr, Planck – you know, the quantum physics guys.” (All these guys, I feel compelled to point out, existed very much in this dimension.)
The movie starts to wind down as Sereda gives Aykroyd an increasingly flexible platform upon which to proselytize and speculate. He tells us what he would do if given various positions of power, and cites his near-abduction experience in the 80s as indicative of his expertise. (I say “near-abduction” because he only claims to have woken up in the middle of the night and told his wife, “I have to go. They’re calling me.”)
But Dan Aykroyd knows his value. “I’m not a scientist,” he admits. “I’m not a theosopher or a philosopher.” Instead, he is but a humble UFOlogist – a UFOlogist who has anecdotal evidence that “at least 50 percent” of the people he speaks to have either primary, secondary, or speculative proof of the existence of extraterrestrial sightings on earth.
Dan Aykroyd believes fervently in the potential for extraterrestrial beings to impact our planet for the better. He expresses a final hope that soon, all those who have been impacted by UFOs can unite with all the disbelievers “and feel the energy as part of universal light.”
Serreda credits him as one of the greatest minds in our world at this time, and we cut to black.