Sunday, August 22, 2010
Apollo 13 Revisited
The one BD that I bought and received so far is a BBC nature show, Nature's Most Amazing Events, and the action, scenery, cinematography, and visual quality did not disappoint. The new Blu-Ray player also does a nice job "upconverting" DVD's so I watched a couple of old favorites, Memphis Belle and Apollo 13. I have the 2-disc anniversary edition of Apollo 13, but for some reason I had never watched the making-of special or listened to Jim and Marilyn Lovell's commentary, both great. I really love that movie, both for the many authentic details of the Apollo era and for the emotional intensity. 13 was to be the fifth manned lunar voyage and the third landing, and the public and the media in 1970 had already come to think of it as routine (e.g., the networks didn't interrupt prime time to televise the crew's live color TV "en route to the moon" broadcast - that was so 1969!). But of course the oxygen tank explosion soon made it anything but routine, and the drama of three astronauts' lives hanging by a thread in the "LM lifeboat" captured the world's attention for almost a week. Riveting stuff even though you know the ending.
The making-of special shows what a great combination Tom Hanks and Ron Howard were for this film. Hanks was a space fanatic and astronaut wannabe. Howard wasn't so much, but he is a fanatic for detail and authenticity (technical and emotional) in all of his films. The fact that they were able to get NASA's cooperation to film parts of the film in sets installed in the KC-135 "vomit comet" was an amazing coup and added tremendously to the you-are-there feeling. All that filming had to be done in 30 second segments as the zero-G training jet flew parabolas over and over. All of the "whole body" shots were done this way, but in many scenes where only the actors' heads or torsos were visible, they had to mime the zero-G effects by swaying their bodies to simulate it. It all looks real to me!
I'm sure I will quickly recalibrate my technology "normal meter" so in a couple of weeks, HDTV will just be routine, and I'll go back to not watching much TV. This happens with all technology (except the iPod Touch - I use it extensively every day, and it still amazes me). But I'm glad it's giving me a reason to revisit some space favorites like Apollo 13 and 2001.