on September 24, 2003
The Dish can hold its own as a nice film about AustraliaÕs role in making the world look more like a village by telling the story of its villageÕs decision to build a huge radio dish in its sheep paddock. The larger historical plot tries to be thrilling but is a little anticlimactic. The movie lives up to our attention with stories of the shy & kamikaze young lovers, sarcastic friends & loved ones, wide-eyed kids (of all ages) savoring history, a wife lost and even and officious security guard thinking he is talking to Neil Armstrong. One of my favorite lines in The Dish comes when the mayor comments admiringly and questioningly to and about the enthusiastic uniformed young man seeking his daughterÕs affection. The other line is the response the security guard gets when, during a pivotal blackout, he demands, ÒWho goes there?Ó Patrick Warburton and Sam Neill do a nice job and surprise us with their performances of gentle nerds compared to sexier characters they have played in the past. This is a popcorn movie. You could consider watching it with The Right Stuff (which features Australia in a beautiful, almost mythic scenario), Local Hero, or My Brilliant Career.
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.
on December 17, 2002
On July 20, 1969, one of the most impressive achievements in human history occurred when the entire world witnessed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first two human beings to ever walk upon an extraterrestrial world: Earth's moon. Television images were transmitted from Tranquility Base, the landing point for the Apollo 11 Lunar Module "Eagle", using a small, low-powered television transmitter to send live pictures of the historic event back to Earth. Because the signal was so low-powered, only the largest radio-telescopes on the Earth had the necessary gain to amplify and receive the transmissions. Since the Earth rotates, multiple radio-telescope stations were used on different continents to receive the signals when they were in a position to observe the moon. (This is commonly called "line of sight".)
Films such as "Apollo 13" (1995) and "The Right Stuff" (1983), as well as the TV mini-series "From the Earth to the Moon" (1998), all focused primarily upon the exploits of the astronauts during the early years of NASA, whose primary mission was, as spoken by President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961, "before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." Of course, the astronauts were not the only people responsible for the achievements of the Apollo program; there were engineers, technicians and many other people, including a handful of people working at the radio-telescope station located in a sheep paddock in the small farming community of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia.
Many people are unaware that Australia played a pivotal role with the Apollo 11 moon landing back in July, 1969; but in 2000, director Rob Stitch created a wonderful and entertaining film called "The Dish" capturing the critical contribution that Australia made with its radio-telescope in Parkes. Revisiting the Parkes radio-telescope decades after the historic moon landing is the retired Cliff Buxton (Sam Neill). He thinks back to those critical days in July, 1969 when he managed the radio-telescope and was assisted by technicians Ross 'Mitch' Mitchell (Kevin Harrington), who was responsible for maneuvering the large dish antenna, and the shy Glenn Lathom (Tom Lang), who worked the receiving equipment. NASA also sent a representative, Al Bartnett (Patrick Warburton), to both coordinate the radio-telescope with NASA personnel and supervise the station during the Apollo 11 mission. At NASA's request, a local man is hired to be a security guard, Rudi (Tayler Kane), to protect the station during the mission.
Prior to the Apollo 11 mission, activities at the Parkes radio-telescope are very relaxed. Cliff often climbs onto the dish to relax and smoke his favorite pipe, while Mitch and Glenn practice playing cricket on the dish. In one humorous scene during the Apollo mission, when the U.S. Ambassador (John McMartin) is leaving the station after a visit and the dish antenna is being lowered to point towards the horizon, a cricket ball rolls off the dish antenna in front of Cliff Buxton. Other fun aspects of the film involve the townspeople of Parkes, its mayor & his wife, the U.S. Ambassador and the Australian Prime Minister.
Things heat up considerably at the radio-telescope one night while they are tracking and receiving signals from the Apollo 11 spacecraft en route to the moon: a power outage across the Parkes area causes all of the equipment within at the radio-telescope to shut down because a backup generator fails to come on. After power is restored, all of the eqipment comes back on, but the settings and computer program being used to determine the location of the Apollo 11 spacecraft are lost. Frantic, Glenn and Cliff try for hours to recalculate where the Apollo 11 should be so that they will know where to point the antenna when Parkes has clear line of sight again. Unable to perform their calculations fast enough using slide rules, Al looks out a window and tells them to simply try pointing the dish at the moon, which they can see with their eyes. With no other options, Mitch points the huge antenna towards the moon, then slowly moves the antenna around until they reacquire the signal from Apollo 11.
Things heat up again the next day, July 20, just prior to Parkes again coming into view of the moon in time to receive the all-important moonwalk TV signals. Can the crew of the Parkes radio-telescope keep things together to receive the most important transmission of all? Watch this fun and exciting Australian film and find out!
I highly recommend "The Dish" to anyone that loves the history NASA, astronomy and the Apollo moon landings, but I'm sure that most people will enjoy this film regardless. Many thanks go to the director, producer, actors and crew that brought this film to life showing the often overlooked and less glamorous people involved with the manned exploration of space.
on August 10, 2002
"Charming" is the word that describes best this little-seen film. "The Dish" is about a small town Parkes, of which greatest pride, a big parabola (= "The Dish"), actually biggest in the southern hemisphere, was selected in 1969 by NASA as the place to receive the signal from Apollo 11, the first spaceship that reaches the moon, and to transmit this epoch-making moment all over the world! "The Dish" follows the behaviors of the people of the town (population about 7,000) where this honourable (but very responsible) task is allotted, and the scientists who work at the anntena station that (still now) stands in the middle of a sheep paddock.
What makes this film very heart-warming and pleasing is the characters it gives; Sam Neil plays the chief of the institute, Cliff, always with a pipe in hand, providing much better and amusing turn than in "Jurassic Park" and other Hollywood films, and beside him, Patrick Warburton, as an American scientist sent from NASA, plays Al (who looks like Dan Ackroyd with Buddy Holly glasses), whose presence at first is disliked by the original stuff, but gradually turns out a good guy. The town's major is busy; his wife (in lemon-colored dress) chatting; and his son always watching TV. An US Ambasssador comes (at the most awkward moment); and then Prime Minister is also coming! The film gives each of these colorful characters a good, funny line or two to speak, and even love interest.
Besides this great merit, to me, the film are interesting in two respects; one is the slight cultural difference between Down Under and America, which is most vividly expressed in some foul words hurled at poor Al. And more interesting is perhaps the reference to culture of the late 1960s, which is twisted with Australian humor (so I thought). One certain guitarist is introduced as "James Hendrix," and one famous TV theme song is mistaken for natinal anthem.
It is almost certain that many of the events in the script are made for the dramatic purpose by the creating team behind the film (though Rob Sitch takes the credit of director, it is rather those five members of popular "Working Dog" team which include Michael Hirsh, Jane Kennedy, Tom Gleisner, Santo Cilauto, and Stich that really should be regarded as the real genius behind the film). Still, they manage the whole drama with a pace, not too fast, not too slow, always engaging.
Probably, the reality of the event was not as dramatic as the way the film shows. But "The Dish" is so delightful that no one would complain of that. And really, it is hard not to love this film, and the charming town and its people in Parkes.
on June 9, 2002
If the Right Stuff was the epic story of the Space Program on a grand scale, then The Dish is the reduction of the story of the Apollo 11 landing to a very human scale. It centers around the role that a radio telescope in Australia played in receiving and relaying the actual television pictures from Apollo 11 to the Earth, and on the few people who actually struggled to get it done.
In a very quiet but moving way, it portrays how Apollo 11 did 'come in peace for all mankind', unifying humanity in a positive way as no other event in my lifetime. Sam Neil is absolutely at the peak of his fine acting abilities as the telescope's director, combining his dedication to the mission with a bittersweet sadness at the loss of his wife, and is supported by excellent performances by the cast. The directing and editing are so subtle as to make one forget it is a dramatization, and involve us in all these frail heroes. There is the initial misunderstanding and distrust between the NASA controller and the telescopes three primary Australian crew, and the artful way that Sam Neil's character overcomes it could serve as a leadership and crisis managment primer in any college curriculum.
Inevitable political grandstanding of the event and the small city of Parkes' role in it are sent up in gentle humor. One of the most elegant aspect's of this lovely "small" movie is that all of the characters are so deftly made real, and there are no shoddy charicatures.
This is a great tribute to Australian film making. If you are looking for a movie that will rejuvinate your faith in humans' ability to work together, this is it.
The visual and sound quality of the DVD are very fine, with a trailer and limited cast information as the only special features.
on May 25, 2002
When this movie came to Houston, I didn't even know it existed. Then, two Aussie friends convinced me to see it with them. I think I was the only American in an audience of perhaps twenty Aussies, in the only theater in Houston showing the movie.
The movie begins with news footage from the 60s and the days of the Apollo moon missions, and as an Apollo buff, I was hooked immediately. The fundamental, factual story line concerns the use of the Parkes Radiotelescope in New South Wales, Australia, as the primary receiving station for Apollo 11's broadcast of Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon.
There's much more to this movie than a sidebar on Apollo 11, however. The primary characters are the people who run the telescope, and they're a very human, if not subtly quirky lot. The movie has several story angles including Aussie pride, Aussie politics, Aussie humor, and a little bit of innocent romance. Throughout the movie, the team manning Parkes grapples with technical problems, both self-inflicted and from Mother Nature, leaving you wondering if they'll actually pull off their small but not insignificant contribution to history. More importantly, the movie brings back memories of the awe the world felt as we watched two brave men become the first to set foot on another world.
Sam Neill is just right as Cliff, the fatherly radioastronomer who is the Parkes director. Since I saw the movie with Aussies, I learned that many of the bit parts are played by classic Aussie character actors. Everytime one of them appeared in a cameo role, the audience cooed with delight.
The cinematography is great and shows the rural New South Wales countryside at its best. The soundtrack contains numerous hits from the 60s and fits into the story well.
The movie is great for children, though I think it does contain a small amount of strong language (generally uttered in a classic, low-key, Aussie fashion).
Recently, I watched the movie again in high definition on HBO and was just as enthralled the second time as I was the first. I strongly recommend it.
on April 4, 2002
Luckily this movie didn't turn out to be the "comedy" that it is billed as. The humor is very subtle and is just potrayed as a part of everyday life for these guys down under at "The Dish". For anyone who grew up in the 1960's with there eyes glued to the TV for every space shot this movie will certainly bring back the memories. Great music used in the background to set the mood. Maybe not 100% historically accurate, but it does get accross the riskiness of the entire chain of technology devoted to the lunar landings. The scenes and dialog in the dish control room during signal acquisition and tracking got the technological details right, which is always an area that most movies either screw up or blow way out of proportion. An example of this is when they try to acquire the video feed as early as possible as the moon is coming above the horizon. The moon is shown exactly where is should be, not at the horizon but considerably above it, and then the comment is made that the dish would be hitting concrete if it is positioned any lower, showing that the dish cannot physically point its axis at the horizon. A mention is then made to use the offset feed horn to skew the beam slighly lower. I just love it when they actually get this stuff right! As an aerospace engineer who devoted my life to this type of work due in a large part to the space program, I can highly recommend this movie!
on February 12, 2002
After July 20, 1969, we now live in a world where man has walked on the moon. And on that day, most of the human race gathered around televisions to watch the event never able to truly grasp its complexities and dangers. Also, nobody was aware that the television signal was almost unavailable which in itself would have been a catastrophe.
THE DISH is a wonderfully charming film that looks at an Australian radio transmitter and its small but dedicated crew as they try to work with the NASA big boys. The result is a human comedy that's success seems effortless. The rag-tag crew is led by an aging widower (Sam Neill of JURASSIC PARK and THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER). His crew includes an overzealous security guard, a love-struck signal tracer and an ornery dish manipulator. They are joined by an American from NASA (Patrick Warburton).
Even with the true event as a skeleton for the story, it is character driven. Especially as the small town of Parkes begins to attract attention it so sorely wants. Above all, the film thematically catches the nostalgic feeling that teh world felt over 3o years ago. This along with the RIGHT STUFF, FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, and APOLLO 13 makes for a great rainy weekend marathon.
The DVD has a nice audio/video transfer with only a trailer and cast and crew filmographies as extras.
on February 8, 2002
...then, hooo-boy did you pick the wrong movie.
This is a quiet, charming little character piece with no sex, no explosion, and real people doing real things.
For anyone born after 1962, it will be a revelation of how important the world thought it was to land on the moon. A history lesson, of a time out of memory or before you were born.
For those born earlier, this movie fulfills a dual function. It is a delightfully funny movie with dozens of interesting offbeat characters, and an intelligent plot. It is also the only film I've ever seen that accurately captures the often miserable broadcast quality of the moon landings. Most documentaries and films use footage that the astronauts themselves took on either film or better quality video. The actual broadcast we baby boomers saw live was a shadowy, grainy, nearly indecipherable mess.
Filmed on location on the 200-ft wide dish where the events took place, this movie scores big on the little touches: the security guard who is convinced that's Neil Armstrong on his walkie-talkie, the rather unusual selection for the American National Anthem, the cadet hopelessly infatuated with the mayor's rebel daughter, the father who has to keep asking his 8-year old son about the technical details of the moon launch. (Anyone who lived through the time knows how spot on that situation was.) The music choices, ranging from the Australian classic "The Real Thing" by Russel Morris to "Good Morning Starshine" by Oliver, are accurate for the era and appropriate.
Give yourself about 10 minutes into the film to get adjusted to the sometimes thick Australian accents, and you be pleasantly rewarded for your investment.
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.