Apollo 13 Moves Toward My Top Ten

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Recently AMC showed their DVD_TV version of Apollo 13. This is one of those movies that I watch pretty much whenever it’s on. It doesn’t matter what part of the movie I come in at, I will always watch it. I’ve found Ron Howard’s movies to be enjoyable for a while. They’re not usually critical smashes they are pretty solid “hollywood” style movies. there’s sort of a warm glow that surrounds them. But there’s something different about Apollo 13. The emotional core of it is stronger than any other Howard movie. Plus there is a palpable sense of the passion the people working on this movie had for the story. If what scrolled across the bottom of my screen while watching DVD_TV is true it must have been one hell of a shoot. Dozens of rides in the vomit comet so they could film weightless segments 23 seconds at a time, slowly bobbing up and down on set to appear weightless, trying to act in a cramped duplicate of a space capsule with a camera only a foot or two away. Movie sets in general aren’t all that fun but this goes beyond waking up at odd hours and having to act to a tennis ball in front of a green screen. Heck, they even used giant air conditioners to chill the set so the actors breath could be seen. I could only imagine what it would be like to be a grip or a PA on a set where you have to wear a parka indoors. Like the space program itself, they did it not because it was easy but because it was hard. And if there is any story worth going through all that for it’s the story of the early space mission and the Apollo 13 mission in particular.

Being born in the late 70’s I grew up not realizing the accomplishments or the enormity of the space program. I took for granted that we put a man on the moon (actually we put 12 there), bounced around, played some golf and came back. Other than that all I knew was Chairface Chippendale tried to write his name on it on The Tick. I don’t think I quite “got” it for a while. I was still waiting for things to be like they were in The Jetsons; high rises in the skies, jetpacks for everyone, flying cars,robot dogs (which we do have now…sort of) and of course Orbity. It wasn’t until a few years ago while working on a video shot where I met John Glenn, who was there to be interviewed, that it started to sink in. Listening to him talk about the beginning of the space program was when I started to think about what it would be like to be one of the first astronauts. To me they were the guys who drank Tang, I never realized that at the beginning they were test pilots. Just normal guys who volunteered to be strapped to rockets and attempt to ride off the planet. Think about that for a minute. That’s a little F-ed up. The fact that so few people have died in the quest to push the limits is a bit astounding.

The thing about Apollo 13 (the movie) is that it completely captures the energy of the space program in its glory. It makes you feel like you are there watching the missions live on tv. Between that and the recent Discovery mini-series, When We Left Earth, I have a new appreciation for the space program and what it was (and is) trying to accomplish. When a movie can make me feel that way I know it’s doing its job.

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