Apollo 13

I have a pet theory that Ron Howard is like Spielberg without all the cinephile love. They’ve both done broad genre work, fantasy adventure and prestige films that earned Oscars. They’ve had giant successes in just about every realm, and they’ve also had monumental failures. They also both continually push to learn new things, both from a content standpoint and technical perspective. It’s also impressive that Howard has evolved so thoroughly that we often don’t even think about him as a child actor who emerged to continued success. For several generations, Howard has always been a sophisticated filmmaker with a wry sense of humor and a keen ability to deliver a fist-pumping moment of Hollywood satisfaction. Every once in a while, the realization that he’s been in the industry since he was six hits home and puts his career into both a surprising and completely sensible context. Of course he’s done what he’s done…and yet how many child actors can make the same claim (or have enjoyed the same enormity of success)? So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a guy who just can’t grow a beard as well as Spielberg.

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GRAVITY

With less than a week left before Alfonso Cuaron‘s Gravity hits theaters, you’re likely to see an increase in the already heaping mound of raves claiming it’s the best original sci-fi film of the year, if not years. The problem is that this is not sci-fi. I’ve been having minor debate about this for weeks now, and there are numerous critics and non-critics, both people who have seen and haven’t seen the film yet, on each of the two sides of this argument. At the end of the day, you can say I’m being too stubbornly semantical. That the genre doesn’t even matter these days. But this is a movie involving science, and science itself deals a lot in classification and semantics, so I feel it perfectly appropriate to stand firm on genre categorization with this one. And I keep cringing every time I see the term sci-fi or words science fiction applied to this film. Gravity features no aliens, no interstellar space travel, no time travel, and it doesn’t take place in the future. In fact, given that it involves a space shuttle as its method of travel into space, it would seem to be set in a past. And while I don’t know all the technological accuracy evident on screen, I do know the production aimed for this to be a realistic film of the world and science that is or was existing. To me, that’s not sci-fi. Just like Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff, never mind their […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? Like the Curiosity Mars rover, it’s out there breaking new ground. Taking panoramic pictures of the red planet and whatnot. Also, collecting links to interesting stories about movies. We begin with a shot from the titles of The Avengers, taken from the expose that Art of the Title has done on the summer’s biggest blockbuster thus far. They brilliantly profile the work of Method Design on the Joss Whedon directed movie. Here’s hoping that Method will get asked back alongside Whedon for the sequel.

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There’s nothing more American than cylindrical projectiles. After all – fireworks are loud, volatile, and smell like ash – much like us. While the whole exploding part is pretty gosh darn boss, really the true wonder comes from the pure act of launching something as goddamn far as we possibly can into the air. We like to know that we can conquer all three dimensions. So in the spirit of good ol’ American propulsion lust, here are some of the more excellent tubes that movies have shot into the sky.

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Culture Warrior

From the second half of the twentieth century onward, our view of NASA and its associated lore in movies have been inseparable. The astronaut, a uniquely American frontier hero whose myth and iconography made them the cowboy of the second half of the 20th century, has a position in our cultural memory that is inseparable from cinematic imagination. From pre-moon landing science fiction that dreamed of potential encounters with distant worlds through an organized space program (Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey) to reenactments of history celebrating the space program and the individuals involved (The Right Stuff, Apollo 13) to NASA/moon landing documentaries (For All Mankind, In the Shadow of the Moon) to later, more divergent science-fiction films that have emerged since the prominence of NASA has lessened (Armageddon and so on), NASA, space exploration, the moon landing, and its imagined associations have retained a prominent place in cinematic mythmaking prompted by continued fascination with the frontier of space and humanity’s place in it. Hell, we’ve wondered about the moon since the beginning of cinema. That our collective experience of space in both fiction (i.e., narrative cinema) and non-fiction has been via the moving image (i.e., watching the moon landing on TV) is perhaps what most thoroughly cements this porous association between NASA and its cinematic myth.

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This Week in Blu-ray, I’m late. Only a day, but late nonetheless. I suppose it has something to do with Kick-Ass Week here on FSR, but that’s no excuse. You need your fill of what’s happening in the ultra-crisp world of high definition home entertainment. Luckily this week is a slow week, with very few titles that have been deemed worthy of your attention.

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aff09-diary1

Saturday at AFF: An Education; Battlestar Galactica: Caprica panel, screening, and Q&A; a downright amazing Apollo 13 screening and panel with Ron Howard, Captain Jim Lovell, and others; and a storytellers panel with Mitch Hurwitz, Ron Howard, and Steve Zaillian. Also, fake blind people.

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apollo13-header

The Austin Film Festival, which kicks off on October 22, will be hosting quite possibly one of the coolest retrospectives that any space nerd could hope for. Ron Howard, Jim Lovell and Apollo 13!

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