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Man on the Moon, mate
by Asa Butcher
2009-07-20 10:54:32
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The Dish
Directed by Rob Sitch
2000, Village Roadshow Pictures

Like so many others, I wasn't born in time to witness the day that man first walked on the Moon so I have been forced to live vicariously through the memories and experiences of those lucky enough to have sat and watched that momentous moment in July 1969. Strangely, there have been very few films made about or based on the Moon Landing, yet the successful failure of Apollo 13 demanded its own film and the origins of the journey into space were documented in the superb The Right Stuff.

It may come as a surprise to learn that one of the best films documenting the Moon Landing is a product of the Australian Film Industry and it is also one of the funniest films you will see this year. The Dish, directed by relatively unknown director Rob Sitch, follows the technicians of the Parkes radio telescope, which is located in the middle of a sheep paddock, and their involvement in the Moon Landing, or as one local reporter summarises at the start of the film: “NASA spends fifteen years, hundreds of millions of dollars so that we can watch man walk on the moon and in the end it falls to you blokes!

The 'you blokes' consist of Cliff Buxton (Sam Neill), Ross 'Mitch' Mitchell (Kevin Harrington) and Glenn Latham (Tom Long), plus Al Burnett (Patrick Warburton), an American NASA representative. You probably only recognise one name from that list of four actors and I doubt you would know many more from the remaining cast list, but I can reassure you that the film benefits from a lack of A-List stars. The unfamiliar faces not only accentuate the small town feel of the film, but also amplify the 'real' emotion of 'real' people directly involved in such a momentous occasion.

I couldn't guess at the amount of times The Dish has been watched in my home, but it has become one of those films that never fails to entertain and always manages to brighten the mood of its viewers. You can't help but love every character; the main cast encompass rivalry, comedy, drama and camaraderie, while reminding you that even the engineers and technicians are human:

Al Burnett: Not everyone at NASA is a hotshot college genius. The guy I most admire is from a one-horse town in Ohio.
Ross 'Mitch' Mitchell: And what's he do?
Al Burnett: Tomorrow he's gonna walk on the moon.
Glenn Latham: ...Who's the guy?

However, this has to be one of the first films I have seen where every member of the cast, even the extras who only have a single line of dialogue, are memorable and even lovable! The small town spirit bubbles off of the screen and you can't help but feel a part of the whole experience. We are treated to the American Ambassador asking two locals where the nearest toilet is, we have the local band mistakenly playing the "Hawaii Five-O" theme as the US National Anthem and eagle-eyed viewers will spot the misspelt welcome banner for the visiting Prime Minister… there's lots more, but I won't spoil the whole film for you!

The Dish is a slightly fictionalised and exaggerated account of Parkes' role in the Moon Landing (see here for The Truth about The Dish), but this doesn't detract from the film at all - I'm sure, like me, you stopped believing film's approach to history a long time ago. The Dish follows the anxiety of the technicians, the comical dealings of the local politicians, the bemusement of the locals, the cultural misunderstandings between Australians and Americans, and even manages to gently throw in a humorous romantic sub-plot. The soundtrack is brilliant and - save for the use of a single F-word - it is a great family film that you will want to watch time and time again, especially if you want to live history vicariously!

Did you know that NASA delayed the Parkes' pictures by six seconds in the event of an accident, so Australian viewers saw the Moonwalk 6.3 seconds earlier than the rest of the world?

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Thanos2009-07-20 14:36:06
Fine, I must watch this movie!!! ;)

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