The Dish
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In 1969, I was 14 years old.  I told my parents that there was no way I was going to go to summer camp in July unless I had access to a TV to watch the Apollo 11 mission. So my wonderful parents arranged with the head of the camp that I could go up to his cabin whenever I wanted to watch.  Thirty-two years later, I still can't watch a replay of Neil Armstrong stepping out onto the Moon without tears welling up in my eyes.  This explains why I was sitting watching the end of The Dish, another quirky film from Australia, with tears streaming down my face.  The Dish tells the story of the ground station in Australia that actually received the TV signals from the Moon that were beamed around the world so that a 14 year-old kid at Camp Kagawong could see them.  The ground station is the Parkes Radio Telescope which is still in use today by astronomers. Beyond these basic facts,  The Dish is a flight of fancy and a very funny one.  In the days leading up to the Moon landing, the  Parkes Radio Telescope  as part of NASA's network of ground stations is being run by a motley crew of characters from down under lead by Sam Neill and including Kevin Harrington and Tom Long.  They are joined by a NASA representative played by Patrick Warburton.  The telescope is situated in rural Australia in a sheep paddock. In the nearby town, the celebration of the Moon landing is being organized by the Mayor (Roy Billing) who has to deal with visiting dignitaries including the American Ambassador (John McMartin) and the Prime Minister (Bille Brown).  The tone of the film is set when the high school band which has been practicing hard for the arrival of the US Ambassador plays the theme from Hawaii Five-O.  The film follows the ups and downs of these characters through the Apollo 11 mission as they survive a power failure and complete loss of the spacecraft signal just before the landing on the Moon. Most of the cast were new to me but come from the seemingly endless supply of excellent Australian comic character actors.  Sam Neill, who is well known, is excellent as the grieving, recently widowed, head of the observatory.  Patrick Warburton does a very funny turn as the NASA guy.  He is one of the most famous bit players from a sitcom after his memorable work as "Puddy", Elaine's dim boyfriend on Seinfeld.  The soundtrack is very nice featuring many of the hits from 1969.  The filming which was done on location at the Parkes Radio Telescope makes good use of the "dish" which is large enough to play cricket on.  The humor here isn't rocket science but it is funny and the story has an endearing quality. And, of course, it guaranteed tears from me. Go see it.