Sam Neill, Kevin Harrington and Tom Long star
Sam Neill, Kevin Harrington and Tom Long star
2001 - MM The Dish Film Productions Pty Ltd.

THE DISH A Working Dog Production / Roadshow Pictures. 
Review by Bob Eggleton

US Release: March 9th, 2001

Starring Sam Neill,Kevin Harrington,Tom Long,Patrick Warburton,Genevieve Moody,Tayler Kane, Bille Brown and John McMartin. Music by Edmund Choi. Written, Produced and Concieved by Santo Gleisner,Jane Kennedy,Rob Sitch . Directed by Rob Sitch. 1 hour 35 minutes.

The Dish is one of those wonderful, nostalgia films that come along once in a blue moon. And indeed we are talking about the moon here. More specifically, the role Australia's Parkes Radio Telescope played, in l969 in relaying back those immortal pictures of Neil Armstrong setting foot upon the lunar surface. Partly based on a true story and somewhat fleshed out with a great drama-comedic script, THE DISH recalls that summer of l969 when NASA determined that Parkes was the largest Southern Hemisphere Radio Dish that, was for all intents and purposes, sitting in the middle of a huge sheep paddock in a town that is, to this day, a small country town in NSW Australia. Sam Neill, plays Paul Buxton, a scientist who at the time was assigned to oversee the telescope. He and two younger whiz kids must deal with an at-first anal retentive NASA representative sent there to oversee the US interest. Well, the town of Parkes has never seen any action-even remotely as important as this and, all the local politicians are first to take credit for the choosing of "their" telescope. They don't count on much beyond being a back-up, as because of the sleep cycle of the astronauts in relation to the position of the moon as they make the first moonwalk, Goldstone in the Northern Hemisphere would be the receiver of those all important TV pictures. Armstrong decides, as we all know, to skip the sleep period and he and Aldrin go for the walk -nine hours early!!! This leaves Parkes with the job of relaying those pictures. At one point, a power outage blinds the telescope and all the programmed information-like communications with and the position of the Apollo spacecraft-is gone. When the US ambassador (John McMartin) shows up, and wants to LISTEN to the Nasa/Apollo communication, the panicked Parkes team must-hilariously-pull the wool over his eyes otherwise if word got back to NASA they might be downgraded. There's also a love story woven into all this, and a cast of Australian characters that are just that-characters!!! The humor is terrific and very funny. In fact, some Americans may have trouble with the Aussie slang -"Ockerisms" as they are known. It also makes terrific fun of the politicians (and their wives) of the time. It also has fun with rather uptight by-the-book Americans. Another nice touch is that you believe you are seeing a window into l969-the fashions, cars and kitchen furniture and appliances are all bang on to the point you'll be taken back to memories of your own surroundings as I was. The film is shot in golden, sunset tones which give an air of a warm memory, when all our lives were less complex-despite the turbulent 60's-which is given more than a tip of the hat via the idealogically opposed son & daughter of Parke's mayor. One is a young army recruit with eyes on Viet Nam and the other a lone flower child convinced the whole moon landing is a US/CIA conspiracy. It's quite wonderful to watch. Sam Neill does an excellent job as usual. He also plays the same character-but in his 80's in present day-as he goes back to Parkes and we see the movie as a flashback-the whole film as a quick dream-in a framing element that starts and ends the film. Another factor that pulls our nostalgic heartstrings is the use of music of the time-songs by The Moody Blues, Mason Williams, Steppenwolf, The Youngbloods, Blood Sweat& Tears, Oliver, Thunderclap Newman and Russell Morris-makes it like the soundtrack of our lives in a sense. We see the entire Apollo mission-liftoff to moonlanding-as many saw it, in grainy TV footage (black&white and color) and news footage of a whole world that stood still to watch one of Man's greatest achievements. I loved the film so much I saw it twice in Australia and intend to see it again in the US a couple of times. It was also made on quite a low budget and because of attention to details and the cinematography, outstrips APOLLO 13(l995) which in comparison, just doesn't leave you with that same wonderful feeling. Treat yourself to this one. You'll wish they made more.