August 27, 2012
A Trip to the Moon
When Neil Armstrong’s family suggested that every time we caught sight of the moon we “give Neil a wink” in remembrance, I immediately pictured Georges Melies’ moon in this famed short film – which in turn gave me the idea for compiling this list. So let’s start with that wink, shall we?
The Right Stuff
Next up, Philip Kaufman’s 1983 film, which focuses on the lives of the original Mercury astronauts during the formation of America’s space program, has it all: the cast (Sam Shepard, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Dennis Quaid), the bravado, the humanity, and, most importantly, the walk.
I dare you to watch the launch scene from Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 without getting all verklmept. Goose-bumps at the very least. Go ahead. I dare you:
And for a little film-geeky fun, check out Rob Legato’s TED Talk, “The Art of Creating Awe,” in which Legato, who was the visual effects supervisor for Apollo 13, discusses exactly how he ensured that scene would be particularly goose-bump inducing.
This is one film on the list which doesn’t take place in outer space, but the promise of outer space is there, looming in a blue speck that grows closer and closer to reveal itself as a duplicate of earth and everyone on it. Rhoda Williams (played by Brit Marling, who co-wrote the film with director Mike Cahill) tries to get on a spaceflight out in hopes of reversing the downward spiral of her life.
A group of eighties NASA Space Camp kids get launched into outer space by mistake, and one of them is an adorable little smarty-pants Joaquin Phoenix. It’s on this list for the kitsch factor … and the mall hair.
Tommy Lee Jones, Clint Eastwood, James Garner, and Donald Sutherland star in this Eastwood-directed 2000 film about elderly astronauts given a second chance. All this movie needs is Robert Duvall to round out my grandpa crushes.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Ah, the space films all space films since owe a little something to, whether it’s for the effects, the look (I’m convinced this film is the reason most sci-fi interiors are white), the epic scope, or the story. Few of those films, though, achieve Stanley Kubrick’s level of mastery.
Say you make that trip to the moon. Say you have to stay there, alone, for three years. Say you find someone who looks exactly like you who’s a bit of an asshole. That’s about all I can tell you regarding Duncan Jones’ moody and cerebral Moon, starring Sam Rockwell, without spoiling it.
The tagline for Moonraker in 1979 was, “Other movies may promise you the moon, but we deliver!” And where else would Bond go in the year of Alien and Star Trek: The Motion Picture but after a stolen space shuttle?
Hey, The Right Stuff, I will see your astronauts-in-cool-space-suits-slo-mo-walking-scene-to-the-launch-pad and raise you one ginormous American flag, a Bible verse, double the rockets, and Bruce Effing Willis.