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4.4 out of 5 stars
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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.
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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.
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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 December 11, 2001
If you don't appreciate subtle humor and require that you must be 'hit over the head' to submit a laugh, you can stop reading now. If you're a fan of Australian cinema, a space movie buff, or a Sam Neill fan, you truly need this DVD in your collection. This movie, which won multiple awards in Australia, was just about overlooked in the US. This is quite unfortunate, because I feel that on so many levels, this flick is a true gem.
This movie, in short, tells the story of the Apollo 13 moon landing from the point of view of the men that ran a giant radio telescope, known as 'The Dish', in Australia. This massive dish exists in a small town, and is situated in the middle of a sheep paddock. As this group of ragtag scientists begins to deal with the faraway NASA and the newfound publicity, much hillarity insues.
Sam Neill plays the leader of this group of scientists. As always, he's brilliant, his quiet yet intense style of acting very enjoyable and dryly humorous at times. He's backed up by a fantastic cast: Hevin Harrington, Tom Long, and Patrick Warburton. There's not a weak one in the bunch, and the strength of this ensemble film is one of the movie's high points.
I suggest giving this movie a shot - you'll certainly be in for a charming surprise. It's a well-written, witty film that will certainly please space movie and Australian film fans alike.
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on September 28, 2001
At times, we as Americans forget about some of our greatest heritage. We forget that at times the world has looked in awe and shared in our successes. "The Dish" is a story about one of those times. A family oriented - Australian placed- dromedy (drama-comedy) that reminds us of a time when people around the world were proud as human beings. That pride was given to the world from the United States.
Placed in Parkes Australia, in the middle of a sheep paddock, stands a 240 foot in diameter radio telescope. It was through this antenna alone that you and I were able to watch mans first steps on the moon. "The Dish" will renew your spirit and feelings of exhilaration experienced while watching mans first steps on the moon. The movie reaches into that hard to get, lost place in your heart by allowing us to see the moon landing from another perspective; The Pride of Parkes Australia.
For one priceless moment, all the people of this planet were truly one......Wouldn't it be nice to feel that way again today?
Do yourself a favor, watch "The Dish" and find that deep rooted American - Human Pride.
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on September 4, 2001
A not-particularly-funny comedy about the Moon Landing in '69, focusing on the Parkes Radio Telescope and the eggheads who worked there. Who knows how much of it is true -- some reviewers here insist it's basically fiction, which I rather doubt. Clearly, the big radio dish on the sheep farm in Parkes, NSW brought us the first images of Men Walking on the Moon -- why nitpick? The movie is at least gently educational for most Americans who probably never realized Australia's contribution to one of humanity's seminal moments. Problem is, *The Dish* doesn't do much of anything else besides gently educate. Once again we have the cute locals, always bumbling, always well-meaning . . . and always irritatingly, unrealistically, eccentric. This type of movie has practically become a genre for the art-house crowd. (I call it the "Ned Devine Syndrome.") The tone of the thing wavers between tearful pride and bunny-rabbit cuteness -- not a happy combination. And without well-drawn characters (Sam Neill's stoically mushy performance and Patrick Warburton's mannered performance do not mitigate what are, after all, very light sketches), the lack of focus is only more evident.
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on August 30, 2001
While the movie is billed as based on "a true story," the producers totally fabricated their accounts of the Parkes radio telescope support of Apollo 11. After viewing "The Dish" one might think that Parkes was critical to the Moon landing mission. It was NOT!
The Parkes 210-foot antenna DID provide the best TV coverage of the Apollo 11 Moon walk. However, Parkes was not the only station in Australia to track Apollo 11. The primary support was provided by the Honeysuckle Creek Manned Space Flight station located in Canberra. Honeysuckle Creek handled the telemetry, command and voice communications with all Apollo spacecraft. Parkes was only used to provide slightly better TV coverage than obtainable with HSK's smaller 85-foot antenna.
Later, during Apollo 13, Parkes did play a very important role in recovering voice and telemetry data while the astronauts were stretching their battery life to safely return to Earth.
If one does not take this film for more than Aussie entertainment, it makes for a good 101 minutes of DVD enjoyment. Just keep in mind that it is FICTION.
Bill Wood
Retired Apollo Tracking Systems Engineer
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on August 16, 2001
"The Dish" is a square-jawed, by the numbers, small-budget but Hollywood-styled look at a small town making good. However, there are several elements that elevate it above its more pedestrian brethren.
The film focuses on a very global (or, more appropriately, universal) story from an odd angle. Its Australian sheep paddock and surrounding small town is, both literally and figuratively, a half a world away from the scientists at NASA. And yet they manage to be right there in the middle of a historic moment. Now, I don't know the veracity of the narrative's claims, but frankly that doesn't matter. It all seemed real (helped by substantial additions to the famous moonwalk footage, prior to the "One small step for man" line).
I'll refrain from using the cliché that the dish itself was a character. It's enough to say that it *has* character, stemming from the people who operate it. There's a delicious scene near the beginning where two of the engineers have set up a cricket pitch at its hub. This scene also does wonders in illustrating the enormous size of the thing, for the ball never comes close to going over the side, but rather rolls languidly back to the centre for another whack. Director Rob Sitch has a wonderful time giving us odd angle views of the dish, whether it is shining in the afternoon sun against a backdrop of sheep, or lit up majestically in the night. It is a wonderful visual centrepiece for the film.
There is a remarkable subtleness in the way the characters are revealed here. One shining example is the revelation that Sam Neill's character makes about his past. It is hinted at in several different moments, before he corroborates the evidence well into the movie. The audience gets to know the character, intimately, before it can be trusted with his secret. Not that the secret is by any means sordid. It is just the kind of thing that another movie would use to manipulate the audience. Here, you get none of that manipulation. You just get another way of understanding the character better.
In speaking of character, I am reminded of my preconceptions regarding the movie. It was marketed as a wacky and kooky Aussie romp. Don't be fooled; it is none of that. Rather, it is a simple comedy where much of the humour comes from character. There's Janine, the pretty girl whose daily sojourns to the dish to bring lunch are nearly halted by her complete inability to drive. There's the mayor, who does his best to reign in his passion even while the eyes of the world are on his little burg. There's the next door neighbour, a young man with military dreams, who goes through single-man formations in the backyard. There's the security guard at the dish, who is equal parts determination and awkwardness. And then there are the dish keepers themselves. Four men who are different in demeanor (and in one case citizenship) but share an intimate dedication to the dish. Sam Neill and Patrick Warburton are the faces you'll recognize here. The other actors are unfamiliar to me, but all do bang-up jobs, especially Kevin Harrington as the possessive dish operator, and Tom Long as a terminally shy engineer with a crush on the comely Janine.
"The Dish" will not stay with you for long after it's over. But while you're watching, you won't be able keep the grin off your face.
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on October 14, 2002
This film is simply a joy to watch. Finally, someone writes a script that shows man's heroic nature, and being successful on a grand scale!
I guess that's why it was ignored by Hollywood. I would have never known of this film had it not been for a philosopher (!) writing about his flight that this film was shown on. His review inspired me to try and find it.
If you are looking for explosions, car chases/crashes and machine guns spitting endless bullets, don't bother with this work of art. If you are looking for inspiration, for 'spiritual fuel' then go get this film immediately!
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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.
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