Sunday, March 04, 2007

Not because they are easy

Last night's lunar eclipseThe rather grainy image right is from a few hours after last night’s eclipse. We sat in the Dolphin and peered out the window as the moon turned eerily red. Nimbos nimbly explained why it does that, using empty pint glasses as props. This is the best of my pictures. Oh well.

In timely fashion, I’ve got three episodes into the lavish Tom-Hanks funded dramatisation of the Apollo missions, From the Earth to the Moon.

S. who knows about technical specifications, offered the Region 2 discs cheap having just bought the Region 1 versions. There’s apparently a slightly judder in the NTSC transfer that spoiled the whole thing for him. I explained I forget to change the aspect ratio watching Droo DVDs, and am quite content with Logopolis in widescreen. He went a bit pale at that.

Haven’t noticed any problem with my inferior version. It’s an extraordinarily sumptuous series, the sort of prestigious thing that over here David Attenborough might have commissioned. You can see the money that’s been bunged at it. The first episode is especially grandstanding, a bold fanfare from start to finish.

Hair-raising at times, you can’t help but be wowed by the ballsiness of all those involved. Episode 2 gets is much more involving as things start to go horribly wrong. Death and disaster and steely-jawed jokes really help ratchet up the drama.

It also avoids repeating too much of the stuff covered in The Right Stuff, so – at least to me – feels fresh and surprising. The third episode has also spun a new angle on the format, by telling its bit of the story through the eyes of a documentary team. The hippy director in his rose-tinted specs gives a much better sense of context than the news footage. I also realise now I come to write it that episode two is about two guys eaten up by the system, which helps to convince us of the scale of everything involved.

That said, it’s a pity it’s so US-centric and less about all the players in the space race. There’s no effort (at least so far) to deny that the whole mission is an exercise in pissing higher than the Russians. I’d have liked to have seen more of the Russian programme, comparing their struggles with NASA’s. Appreciate that’s not really in the brief.

In fact it reminds me of The West Wing a lot: brave and idyllic and with exemplary performances, but a little naïve about foreigners. You can play spot the West Wing cast, too.


Rob Stradling said...

I've been banging on about FTETTM for ages. Still haven't found a DVD copy for a sensible price though...

The Apollo XIII ep is also good for avoiding rehashing what's gone before - which, when you consider they had already spent a whole movie on it, is some achievement. Just like aforementioned movie, this series is chick-flick for guys, pushing all the buttons that make us well up and feel cosy. Watch out for the George Melie ep at the end, that's a peach.

bjrwo bain't a proper name.

Rob Stradling said...

Oh yeah - here's a nice eclipse pic.

Anonymous said...

Unforunately when telling a story, the facts often have to be taken out of the story itself -- based in truth or not.