Sunday night Nancy and I went to see Space Cowboys -- and I'm only getting around to writing about it now. We enjoyed it. Should it receive an academy award? Oh, c'mon, it's just light entertainment, no pretensions of being Movie of the Year. (On the other hand, the special effects in some of the orbital scenes were excellent.) The movie opens (in black and white) in 1958 with Right Stuff Chuck Yeager type rocket plane exploits followed by the announcement that space flight was being taken away from the Air Force and given to a new, civilian agency, NASA... and the first American into space would be a chimp. Cut to "Present Day" where we learn that a Russian satellite is undergoing orbital decay due to a problem with its guidance system and it will soon hit the atmosphere and burn up. (The dangers posed by this are not made clear until much later in the movie, but that doesn't really matter, the important thing is the excuse to get our aging heroes into the action.) The guidance system, which seems to have been copied from the one for Sky Lab, proves to be too antique to be understood by current day engineers. The only solution is to turn to the original design engineer... yes, retired rocket scientist Clint Eastwood. He says he will save the day... but only if he can do it with his original crew: Tommy Lee Jones, now doing crop dusting and teaching aerobatics; Donald Sutherland, now designing and building roller coasters (and chasing women); and James Garner, now a Baptist preacher.
So, we get all of the requisite geezer jokes as these aging ex-rocket jocks have to train for a shuttle mission. Throw in a May-December romance for Tommy Lee Jones plus a bitterly antagonistic long-running feud between Clint Eastwood and the NASA bureaucrat running the program, ancient acts of espionage, the not very surprising revelation that this supposed communication satellite secretly contains nuclear missiles... Okay, so there really aren't many surprises and things unfold in a fairly predicable fashion. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable and entertaining movie with, as I mentioned, some great special effects. Strangely, the shuttle interior scenes did not do as good a job of suggesting weightlessness as I would have expected, but the exterior shots were visual marvels. However, it would be nice if film makers would realize that (as indicated by the line "In space no one can hear you scream!") sound is not propagated in a vacuum so we should not be subjected to the sounds of rocket engines and full dolby surround sound bangs and crashes and clanging metal, etc.
The shuttle launch did take me by surprise. It was a straight forward view of the launch, raw flame and smoke and sound and power -- and it choked me up. Oh, how I long for the chance to go into space. A childhood dream. An adult dream. I was startled to find tears in my eyes at liftoff. Next year is 2001 and we are not even close to the space capability depicted in 2001 the movie -- for which we can assign some blame to Lyndon Johnson and his arrogant adventures in Vietnam, much more blame on that miserable son-of-a-bitch Nixon who did all he could to destroy our space program (even as he attempted to get some relected glory by talking live with the astronauts on the moon he was having the space budget gutted), and let's not forget NASA's bureaucratic empire builders who have accomplished so little with so much. (Hell, let's not forget to spread some blame on those congress-swine who only care about pork projects for their districts and screw the nation.)
One night this week my daughter rented Dogma and settled down in the living room with friends to watch it. I had been curious about it -- so many people had praised it while others hated it -- so I thought I would watch the beginning to see if I thought it would be worth renting to watch sometime. (It was after ten p.m. when they started to watch and I did not want to stay up too late.) Well, I got hooked and watched the whole thing. I have to count myself as having enjoyed it. I was quite surprised at how much I did like it. I found it to be a surprisingly sweet natured film. I had expected it to be vulgar and gross... well, it was certainly vulgar... but it was not harsh or vicious... and, at its heart, it was a film that took religion seriously and that really cared about its characters and their moral dilemas. The production values were a bit uneven and, despite the star value of its cast, it was obviously not a big budget film... I might debate the success of this scene or that scene, but overall it was a good film.
One week ago -- last Friday -- Nancy and I rented American Pie. Yes, yes, I know, low down, bad taste, boobs and bodily fluids, teen humor, etc., etc. But, the damned thing was really funny!
"Last summer, at band camp..." ROLF!