Something like Grumpy Old Men Go to the Moon, the scenario is amusing in a crusty sort of way. The movie has no shortage of recurring gagsincluding one in which the teammates regularly discover that old pals have passed away. The mode is relaxed and folksy, with occasional heartwarming bits of businessalthough the grinning Marcia Gay Harden, who plays a NASA mission director, seems a bit too thrilled (or is it pained?) with her part in the project. Each actor gets more than ample time to rehearse his identifying quirk and the leisurely regimen includes trading riffs with Jay Leno on TV. Eastwood is in no particular hurry. It's nearly 90 minutes before the guys board the Metamucil Express and blast out into the cosmos to lasso the malevolent fossil of Cold War hardware that's been left floating in space like a Russki time bomb.
The obvious subtext here is that Clint knows not only how to fix an obsolete satellite but how to make an old-fashioned movie. I was particularly impressed by the effectively frugal use of Industrial Light & Magic effectsdespite the somewhat abrupt (and anticlimactic) landing. Eastwood signs off with a blast of generational insouciance, but if he had held off on the Sinatra until the end credits, the final shot would have had a bit more poetic pow.
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by Ken Kauffman and Howard Klausner
A Warner Bros. release
The Films of Jay Rosenblatt
Through August 15
San Francisco-based Jay Rosenblatt has another sort of recycling act. Rosenblatt fashions his short essayistic narratives from '50s classroom films and old home movies, among other sorts of found footage. His assemblages are more prosaic than those of Bruce Conner (who invented the mode back around the time Eastwood's astronaut first trained for outer space). They're also less delirious than the political extravaganzas devised by Rosenblatt's contemporary, Craig Baldwin, another Bay Area practitioner.
According to his biographical notes, Rosenblatt was a mental health counselor before he began making movies, and his interest in therapy remains. The grim 10-minute Short of Breath (1990) uses footage found, he says, in a dumpster outside a mental hospital, to construct a sort of universal psychoanalytic session complete with flashbacks to a primal scene and a climactic suicide; the longer Smell of Burning Ants (1994) culls footage from the insect world and the playground to meditate on the nature of male socialization. (Perhaps it might be shown as a short subject with Hollow Man.) Rosenblatt is not a connoisseur of weirdness. He doesn't liberate the visionary aspects of his found material so much as use it to illustrate a thesis. As straightforward as they are, his movies are scarcely less literal-minded and didactic than the raw material they recast.
Rosenblatt has little interest in film per se, although his most recent works are predicated on the idea of film as history. The 30-minute Human Remains (1998), constructed mainly of newsreels and employing an imaginary first-person voice-over, puts four dictatorsHitler, Stalin, Franco, and Maoon the couch. King of the Jews (2000), Rosenblatt's most intriguing film to date, is a movie about anti-Semitism that marries the filmmaker's account of his childhood fear of Jesus Christ to a dense montage of historical and Hollywood material.
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