October Sky (1990)

October Sky. Feature Film. (1990, 108 mins) IMDB
...damn rockets are fun...
O
n average I watch one movie a day--it's better than watching television--and tonight I watched October Sky.

At some point since its release in 1999, I had seen at least part of this movie, but at the time, it didn't do anything for me because I would have remembered more. Not so tonight.
It's the late 1950s in a coal mining town in West Virginia, USA. Homer is in high school facing two options: work in the coal mines or get a football scholarship. Within the first five minutes of the movie, any football dreams are shattered with his failed tryout, but since it's a movie there has to be more and that more is Sputnik.
On October 4, 1957, October Sky, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1. The successful launch of the satellite shocked the US and inspired Homer. He wants to build rockets. It's his way out of the town, his way to avoid working in the mines, and who can blame him. (For students of drama, this is the "inciting incident.")
For the rest of the movie, he battles everything and everyone to reach his dream of building rockets and leaving the mining town. That he does is not a surprise, that a story set in a mining town is fun, is surprising. Rockets are cool.
Some may say it's a battle with his father who only sees the two options: football and coal mining. Rockets are useless to his father's thinking. To that I say, damn, rockets are fun.
I don't know what it is, but watching the many rockets launch was fun. Seeing the boys scatter out of the way of an errant rocket is fun. Seeing them pop up, twirl and twirl out of control and crash, is fun.
But fun isn't drama. The father getting in his way is drama. The police arresting him for arson is drama. The high school principal who gets in his way is drama. The lack of resources to build the rockets creates drama. And from the drama comes a movie.
It's classically structured with a standard American dream plot, and for that, many critics will yawn and say: so what. It's been done.
Yes it's been done. Yes it's melodramatic. But damn, rockets are fun.
Posted 2007/04/30 at 22h54ET in Movie Commentary.

Movies Watched in April 2007

1. 2007/04/01 Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. War. (2003, 138 mins.) ****
2. 2007/04/01 A Month by the Lake. Drama. (1995, 92 mins.) ****
3. 2007/04/01 Must Love Dogs. Romantic Comedy. (2005, 98 mins.) **½
4. 2007/04/01 One Fine Day. Romantic Comedy. (1996, 109 mins.) ***
5. 2007/04/01 Mrs. Dalloway. Drama. (1997, 97 mins.) NR
6. 2007/04/01 Song of the Thin Man. Comedy. (1947, 86 mins.) NR
7. 2007/04/03 Stand By Me. Drama. (1986, 89 mins.) NR
8. 2007/04/04 Stand By Me. Drama. (1986, 89 mins.) NR
9. 2007/04/05 The Razor's Edge. Drama. (1946, 145 mins.) NR
10. 2007/04/06 I Capture The Castle. Drama. (2003, 113 mins.) NR
11. 2007/04/07 Shakespeare In Love. Drama. (1998, 122 mins.) ****
12. 2007/04/08 Stardust Memories. Comedy. (1980, 88 mins.) NR
13. 2007/04/09 My Life as a Dog. Drama. (1985, 101 mins.) ****
14. 2007/04/10 Sullivan's Travels. Comedy. (1941, 90 mins.) NR
15. 2007/04/10 Sullivan's Travels. Comedy. (1941, 90 mins.) NR
16. 2007/04/11 A Star Is Born. Drama. (1954, 181 mins.) NR
17. 2007/04/12 A Star Is Born. Drama. (1954, 181 mins.) NR
18. 2007/04/13 Bright Young Things. Comedy. (2003, 106 mins.) NR
19. 2007/04/13 Bright Young Things. Comedy. (2003, 106 mins.) NR
20. 2007/04/14 After The Thin Man. Comedy. (1936, 112 mins.) NR
21. 2007/04/15 Belongings. Drama. (2004, 96 mins.) NR
22. 2007/04/17 Another Thin Man. Comedy. (1939, 102 mins.) NR
23. 2007/04/20 American Splendor. Horror. (2003, 101 mins.) NR
24. 2007/04/21 Unfaithfully Yours. Drama. (1948, 105 mins.) NR
25. 2007/04/23 Italian for Beginners. Comedy. (2000, 112 mins.) NR
26. 2007/04/24 The Three Faces of Eve. Drama. (1957, 91 mins.) NR
27. 2007/04/25 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Drama. (1966, 131 mins.) NR
28. 2007/04/26 At The Circus. Comedy. (1939, 89 mins.) NR
29. 2007/04/27 The Bridges of Madison County. Drama. (1995, 135 mins.) NR
30. 2007/04/27 Room Service. Comedy. (1938, 78 mins.) NR
31. 2007/04/28 Robinson Crusoe. Drama. (1997, 105 mins.) NR
32. 2007/04/29 White Oleander. Drama. (2002, 109 mins.) NR
33. 2007/04/29 White Oleander. Drama. (2002, 109 mins.) NR
34. 2007/04/30 October Sky. Horror. (1999, 108 mins.) ****

Listed 2012/04/02 at 01h10ET.

Commas Matter

...the power of the comma...

I

f you've ever thought that punctuation doesn't matter, is too restrictive, too pedantic then consider these two sentences.

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

The same words in the same order. Replace a comma with a colon, move the other comma and the meaning is startling different.

Posted 2007/04/25 at 13h32ET in Writing.

Crosby to the Worlds?

...Crosby only has two choices about the World championship and saying I'm not going isn't one of them...

W

hen the Pittsburgh Penguins lost their fourth game of the first round of the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs to Ottawa the obvious question became: Would Sidney Crosby play at the World Championships?

There's no doubt Steve Yzerman, this year's General Manager for Team Canada, would love to see him on the team.

The are only two options for Crosby: play or feign an injury.

He can't say no. For good or bad, if he declined to play, said "I don't want to go", many wouldn't forget it and many would use it to take shots at him and since he has the potential for a Wayne Gretzky like career, he has to avoid a backlash.

I am therefore not surprised to see today he announced he won't be going. He's been playing with a fracture in his foot.

To be expected.

Posted 2007/04/21 at 18h29ET in Hockey.

Roulette Wheel Odds

...Even David Mamet makes mistakes...

I

started reading David Mamet's Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business.

In his chapter on producers, he compares a movie producer to a casino gambler who bets black on a roulette wheel. After the first loss, he bets black again but with twice the money and keeps this up until he wins.

Movie producers keep betting more money on the tent pole movies with the hopes it will be the next JAWS or STAR WARS. If the movie fails, the producer can't be blamed because he didn't cut any corners. "We doubled our budget."

The strategy he insists is doomed to fail just like the gambler.

When he writes that there is a limited bankroll for both the gambler and producer, it's easy to understand even for a multibillion dollar company. They may very well run out of funds before their strategy pays off.

And he's correct when he writes about the independent nature of each roll of the wheel. That it came up black on the last roll has no bearing on whether it will be black or red the next time. The odds on each spin of the wheel are the same each time unlike the draw of a card in blackjack or poker.

But he's wrong about the odds on black or red coming up.

The odds of its appearance on the next spin are still 50-50.

Close, but no. In a Las Vegas roulette wheel there are 18 red numbers, 18 black numbers and 2 green numbers for a total of 38.

The odds for a fair coin toss is 50-50 since there are only two outcomes: heads or tails. To get the same odds for red or black on a roulette wheel, the green pocket would have to be removed, but since it's there, the chance of getting red or black is slightly less than 50% of the time. It's exactly 47.3684% (18/38).

In Europe, your chance of winning with black or red increase since they use one green pocket, zero, and don't have the second double-zero green.

P.S. I've never been to Las Vegas and I'm not a casino gambler. I don't get seduced by the possibility of hitting a jackpot.

I remember during a summer trip when I was in my early teens where on a ferry between Maine and Nova Scotia there were slot machines. I watched what was going on instead of playing. I remember two men who started with a couple of rolls of quarters, played until they doubled or tripled their money, they were all giddy, then lost it all and looked deflated. I imagine that happens everyday.

Posted 2007/04/21 at 17h58ET in Movies.

Media & Violence

...new limit to what television newscasts will broadcast...

O

n April 16, 2007 I clicked on a Toronto newspaper's web site and learnt about the shootings in Virginia earlier that day. Two days later when I clicked on the same site, I saw a photo, the size of a paperback, of a man pointing a gun at me. A second newspaper had the same image. I wasn't pleased.

The saying goes: don't point a gun at someone unless you intend to shot. I don't intend to get shot and I don't like the idea of a gun pointed at me even if it is a photograph.

How many movies have you seen where an actor points a gun directly, in close-up, at the audience? Rarely. There is a famous early sound film where that stunt took place, but it failed miserable as people keeled over from freight.

Why did The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail think the photos were appropriate? Money.

Today I read in the G&M that TV news broadcasts were playing video of this killer over and over. A backlash started. Good. (See G&M article.) But where's the backlash at the newspapers? I'm doing my part.

I suppose there is one thing for which I'm thankful, I rarely watch TV so I didn't have to endure video of this killer.

Posted 2007/04/20 at 06h57ET in Current Events.