Sunday, February 26, 2012

An Oscar Night Request

I've tried pretty hard to keep this blog focused on all the omics, but occasionally take the license to stray to my other interests, primarily one of them.  Tonight is the Oscars, and I have a plea for the movie industry.  Now, I realize the overlap between readership of this space and the big wigs in Hollywood is tiny, but perhaps a friend-of-a-cousin-of-a-spouse-of-a-sibling of a reader can make a difference.  It is this simple: you have less than two years to get off your rears and launch a Blu-Ray 30th anniversary edition of an Oscar-winning picture.
The movie I have in mind is one of the two great movies made about man's greatest technological adventure.  Indeed, I think they're the only historical dramas based on the space program, which hasn't spawned much pure fiction either.  Sure, there are lots of science fiction pieces set far in the future, but only a few set in the near future (such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, which of course is no longer the near future and turned out to be wildly optimistic as to our progress in that time).  

Now, I'll be the first to confess my taste in movies is somewhere just north of middle-brow.  I'll watch a lot of movies as a group, but left to my own devices I'll generally pick movies with spectacular cinematography, or at least that's what I remember.  Ask me about Thelma & Louise, and I'll remember wanting to leap in a car to go see those amazing western vistas.  I loved Ratatouille on many levels, but they could have really gotten me with a travel agency at the exit line.  I do also like movies based on books I liked; I finally got to see the new version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy yesterday.  So take a movie based on a favorite book with spectacular vistas and an opportunity to envision myself in place of some the characters, and you have a sure winner.

Despite being nominated in major categories, it pickup up only a bunch of technical Oscars in 1984.  Not to knock them; I'm a relative-by-marriage to someone with a technical Oscar (Logan's Run, 1977).  But to lose out to run-of-the-mill tear jerker (though admittedly, Jack Nicholson playing a fictional astronaut might have been a match for Sam Shepard as real test pilot)?  And Amadeus was fun, but was the cinematography really as good?  

Indeed, while the movie got generally good reviews, it fared poorly at the box office.  Worse, it seems to expose many persons' inattention to detail.  Roger Ebert gives a great review, but doesn't seem to realize that it would be impossible to have the 1964 Democratic Convention before Gordo Cooper's 1963 Mercury flight, Worse, when the Oscar-winning soundtrack was finally released in partial form as an absurd limited release (without eBay, I'd never have snagged it) the liner notes can't keep straight which flight "Sunrise in Space" is found in.  

Of course, it isn't perfect (what movie is?).  The comic elements are often a bit too broad, perhaps in part due to picking some much too talented comic actors (Jeff Goldblum and Harry Shearer) in some key bit parts.  Various critics, particularly astronauts, have picked at various historical inaccuracies or the movie coming down hard on Gus Grissom for the loss of his capsule. Author Tom Wolfe hated the adaptation of his work.  Original screenwriter William Goldman left the project after it was clear his vision and that of director Phillip Kaufmann's was completely different (Goldman's two memoirs on screenwriting are a treat for anyone who goes to the movies).

But, in any case, it is a worthy movie of a Blu-Ray disc, considering all the dreck that gets that treatment.  Sure, it would be nice to have the F-104 in the movie digitally upgraded to the NF-104 it claims to be.  I'm surprised Tom Hanks hasn't followed through with a desire to turn the book into a mini-series.  It would be great if Kaufmann could get his take on Challenger actually funded.  But for now, all I'm asking is this: Launch a Blu-Ray, and thereby do right by The Right Stuff.


SteveW said...

Great, great movie--well worthy of a Criterion Blu-Ray release. Kaufman worked wonders with the highly risky source material (epic, sprawling, serio-comic history, plus Wolfe's Olympian jokey tone--see how his "Bonfire of the Vanities" crashed and burned as a move). But I don't see any reissue benefiting from digital enhancement. One of the great charms of that movie was the quirky, homemade quality of the special effects. Thanks for the appreciation.

Dale Yuzuki said...

Thank you for the movie recommendation Keith. I am not an avid movie-person (and when we do see one they tend toward romantic comedies, and that choice is generally out of my control), but growing up in west Los Angeles I do have a number of friends 'in the business'. I missed this movie (and any news around it) and will be sure to catch it before it leaves the theatre.

That being said it is too bad that so much is driven by box office results, but it is a business.

You mentioned your two favorite space movies - so is it TTSS and The Right Stuff, or TTSS and something else?

(Oh, and by the way, keep up the great work on the blog, it is one of my 'must-reads' in my RSS.)

Keith Robison said...

Apologies for this getting held up in the moderation queue.

I'm chagrined I never explicitly mentioned the other movie I was thinking about: Apollo 13. It is amazing that with all the drama in the space programs, only two good movies have come out. 2001 is in another category: imagining what the near future might look like in space. Of course, it turned out to be wildly optimistic.