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VINE VOICEon August 28, 2002
I managed to fall asleep on a friend's sofa and missed the moon landing, so I found this film not only gently entertaining but also oddly rewarding. The build-up to the Apollo 11's successful mission, as delivered by this script, is warmly personalized and made remarkably new. This is accomplished by some fine ensemble acting intercut with stock footage from around the world that is almost seamlessly blended into the narrative. Instead of looking very out of place, as most stock footage does, in this case the era is so nicely established by the costumes, the characters, the settings and especially the soundtrack, scenes shot back in July of 1969 seem very timely and appropriate. It's a credit to director Sitch that there's nothing maudlin about the film; it's low-key and sweetly amusing and yet surprisingly gripping. And it's particularly gratifying to see Sam Neill turn in an effectively low-key performance, after appearances in some pretty ghastly American films.
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on October 13, 2001
***1/2 ... I finally broke down and rented "The Dish," a true story about the small group of men working at a satellite dish in a remote section of Australia who, in July 1969, played a major part in helping to transmit the first live images of a man walking on the moon.
I'm happy to report that "The Dish" turns out to be a world-class charmer, a delightful film that captures the high-spirited innocence and optimism of the space race era and vividly recreates a time when people from all over the world could do little but stare in spellbound amazement at the achievements of which mankind proved itself capable - and feel the mutual pride and camaraderie that such events occasioned. The makers of "The Dish" dramatize this feeling of universal connectedness by showing how even the most remote, seemingly "insignificant" people could be made to feel a part of an event happening half a world away and commanding the attention of most of the planet's inhabitants. Here near the small town of Parkes, Australia, nestled in what is little more than a sheep pasture, looms the 1,000-ton satellite dish that will serve as the eye of the world for this event of monumental historic importance. The makers of the film have chosen to take a charming, low-key approach to the material, focusing on the likable, decidedly offbeat people who make up both the team at the dish as well as the citizenry of the nearby town. With the subtle quirkiness common to most Australian comedies, "The Dish" displays a real affection for its characters, showing them as flawed human beings who, nevertheless, learn to accept and cope with the differences that might otherwise separate them. Thus, even the simmering conflict between the American hotshot from NASA assigned to the dish and one of the more sensitive Aussie specialists plays itself out in a believable and touching way. Other characters defy the stereotypes that less gifted filmmakers might have enforced upon them. The mayor of the town, for instance, rather than being a self-congratulatory blowhard (as we fear he will become in the early parts of the film) turns out to be a sweet, gentle, family-loving man who is as overwhelmed by the world's spotlight being shone on his community as are the common folk who make up his constituents. Lending his star quality to the proceedings, Sam Neil gives a beautifully understated performance as Cliff Buxton, a recently widowed technician at the dish who manages to take all this hubbub in stride but who conveys, in gentle ways, the sheer awesomeness of the event in which he finds himself taking part. In fact, it is this sense of ordinary people suddenly finding themselves a part of history that makes "The Dish" more than simply a clever, likable comedy. We find ourselves genuinely touched and moved by much of what we see on screen.
Perhaps, after the tragedy of the World Trade Center attacks - during which people all over the world sat riveted in morbid fascination to their television sets watching that horrifying event unfold - the film attains an added poignancy. It reminds us a bit of our lost innocence as we see the people in this film staring spellbound at their television sets 32 years earlier for a far different purpose - to witness, as a united, worldwide community, the GOOD things mankind can do when he puts his mind to it rather than the evil. By dealing so warmly and gently with the people who make up this little corner of the world, "The Dish" lifts the spirits and renews the faith. ...
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on April 26, 2001
I had a chance to see this movie when I was in Australia over Christmas and would highly recommend it to anybody who likes well-crafted movies. The Dish is fact-based account of the events surrounding Neil Armstrong's historic moonwalk from the perspective of the scientists at the Parkes Radio Telescope (used to relay much of the first moonwalk to the rest of the Earth) and the town of Parkes itself. While some dramatic license was taken with the truth, the movie tells a lovely story that is at once touching, funny, quirky (in a good way) and suspenseful. Although US audiences will likely only recognize Sam Neill and Patrick Warburton, first-rate performances appear throughout the movie. It is apparently being marketed in the US as a comedy, but I don't know if that's an accurate portrayal; the characters were kind of quirky but they also had multiple dimensions, unlike a lot of US comedies - the movie could be seen as a drama as well (the movie poster at the theater in Sydney was much more understated than the US version - I personally think that the promotion in the US doesn't do the film justice). The soundtrack is first rate as well. I was told by a couple of Aussies that those who like "The Castle" (another movie by Rob Sitch) will definitely like "The Dish". In short, I paid to see the movie in a theater twice in Oz, and recommend it highly. At any rate, I'll definitely be buying the DVD when it comes out.
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on May 1, 2001
I just returned from a vacation in Australia, and the hardest thing about leaving was knowing this movie wasn't available on DVD for the US market yet. I saw this twice while I was there.
"The Dish" is a heartwarming story about a small Aussie town's moment of glory. Their radio telescope, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere yet curiously placed in this rural location in the middle of a sheep ranch, becomes the prime communications receiver for Apollo 11 while the moon is on their side of the world.
Americans will certainly recognize Sam Neill, playing someone with an accent closer to his own, and Patrick Warburton. But I'm not trying to downplay the great performances of the actors currently only known down under.
The movie has some great laughs and great characters. Anyone with half a mind for technical things and a little sense of humor should love this movie. If you have ever consoled yourself in an at-work disaster by telling yourself "hey, this isn't rocket science", you'll appreciate the scope staff's reaction to some "technical difficulties" encountered while trying to keep Apollo 11's radio transmissions going. In order to save the plot details for the viewing, I'll have to suffice it to say that the Aussies were a little too proud to say "Houston, we have a problem." But no worries, it all worked out in the end.
Americans may have some trouble understanding the Aussie accents and slang, but that's what the captions are for, right?
The sound track is full of great sixties tunes. The movie also brings back great memories to those old enough to remember where they were when the Apollo astronauts first walked on the moon.
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on May 7, 2001
The television signal from the moonwalk was not carried to earth by carrier pigeon, it was beamed through a big dish in the middle of Australian sheep country.
The story of the Australian involvement in the moonwalk is told in a uniquely quirky and funny manner that only Rob Sitch and the rest of the ex-DGen team could do. With a budget bigger than that of their first feature film, The Castle, the resources where there for the production team's creative dreams to be fulfilled. The product is a well-crafted and clever piece of cinematography. Australian viewers will enjoy local acting talent in Tom Long, Kevin Harrington and even ex-Neighbour Eliza Szonert, while others will enjoy the entertaining real-life based storyline and intelligent, genuinely funny humour.
The movie evokes nostalgic reminscing amongst those who were glued to their TV sets that day in 1969 (largely through a awesome movie soundtrack). Those, like myself, who weren't around at the time of the moonwalk will enjoy the somewhat abstract history lesson.
The Dish is a fantasic, light-hearted yet thoughtful film. I strong recommend it to all.
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on January 6, 2003
A very good film. Sam Neill stars as the head man at an Australian tracking station responsible for transmitting the first live television images from the lunar surface in July 1969.
In this writer's estimation, Mr. Neill gives a very solid, understated performance here. The perfect touch given Neill by the filmmakers was the addition of his ever-present pipe. He's rarely without his trusty companion. IMO, that pipe gives his character more "character", if you will. It seems the perfect prop for this characterization.
An assortment of adept supporting players are on hand here as well, providing genuine moments of humor, and tenderness, throughout. The neighborhood "boy soldier" (who's dying to get into some sort of military duty) is a howling treat!
This film offers a near-perfect blend of laughs and drama. Plus a very nice 60s musical score to boot!
I thoroughly enjoyed this 101-minute ride to the moon on "The Dish"!
Although offering little in the way of extra features (save the trailer and some cast notes), I would also give the DVD performance a thumbs-up as well. Nice full 5.1 surround sound, and an excellent anamorphic widescreen picture are on tap here.
If you haven't yet, check out "The Dish"! It's an amazing little gem.
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on May 2, 2001
It's a delightful film about teamwork and all the tensions and secrets not worth mentioning once you achieve success. It's not simply a comedy. You'll find yourself getting caught up in the enthusiasm of the characters as the time for the moonwalk approaches. The old footage and audio from the era and the 60's soundtrack add to the spirit of the movie. It's very touching to think that so many of us on the planet were united in common interest, hope and amazement in that historic event. The Dish made you realize (or remember) what a remarkable scientific achievement was unfolding right before your eyes. The quirky characters will make you laugh and the sense of comedic timing is masterful. The movie is very well put together. Not a scene is wasted. You'll enjoy yourself.
Was I the only one who missed the "strong language"? I've heard far worse on the playground.
Thank you Parkes, Australia!
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on August 7, 2004
I love this movie. The story is about a small town in Australia that supplies sattelite transmissions for the first moon landing in 1969. The movie involves the citizens of this town and how they try to maintain their normal routine while cognitive of the events that have descended on them. There is not a mean bone in this movie's body. It loves the people in this town and does not condescend to them one bit. A high point is a comic vignette involving a reception for the American ambassador where the local high school band is asked to perform the American national anthem. They don't know it so they break into the theme from "Hawaii Five-O".
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on January 11, 2002
Most of us who were over 5 years old at the time, remember where they were when Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon. This monumentally emotional moment for mankind, albeit thoroughly superfluous scientific achievement, is the background for this beautifully constructed film.
The thing that makes this film so special is the fact that there isn't a character that appears on screen that you don't care about, regardless how small the role. That takes true writing and directing talent!
The entire small town of Parks, New South Wales, Australia is all atwitter, because their radio observatory dish has been chosen to be NASA's official link to the Apollo 11 mission in the southern hemisphere. The mayor's wife comments, while serving her joint of lamb, that man being moments away from landing on the moon makes their problems seem mundane... That's the beauty of the film, you care so much about these people; their problems are anything but mundane - you cheer-on the techno-nerd asking the town beauty to go out with him; you ache inside because the head of the observatory lost his wife a year ago and she can't be there to revel in his glory; you love the fact that the out-of-place NASA official is the only one who realizes that all the mayor's rebellious teenage daughter really needs to chill-out is an ounce of respect.
This is the best kind of feel-good film. An absolute jewel that you'll want to watch more than just once.
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on August 29, 2005
This is Apollo 11, our first step on the moon. This is also, quite simply, the best movie ever made about the space program. I say this from the vantage point of one who was there. I was lucky enough to work for NASA in those wonderful years of Apollo, and for many years after that. This movie, like the better known and grand "Apollo 13", captures those years and those moments with grace, humor, joy and a loving tenderness that still bring tears to my eyes every time I watch it. And I watch it several times a year, particularly on 20 July. Great casting, acting, music, cinematography and the original dish and computer equipment! Watch it and live those amazing times again. This is not just what happened; it's how it felt.
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