In lieu of the normal two reviews every month, the Indie Prof reviews here one new film and highlights a new film series in our neighborhood.
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The Farthest: Voyager in Space (2017)
If you grew up in ’70s/’80s and you had the slightest bit of geek in you, there were two space programs that probably kept your attention: the space shuttle and the Voyager probes. The space shuttle speaks for itself and most of us still burn with the memory of the Challenger. The Voyagers, however, were less publicized but much more fruitful in terms of their scientific importance and discoveries. The two Voyager probes were launched weeks apart in 1977. Their journey continues today.
A new documentary, The Farthest: Voyager in Space, chronicles the entire life of the Voyager probes, from inception, to construction, to launch, to all of their many discoveries along the way. It is both a fascinating study of the science and the people and the probes, and at the same time, it is a very good film. You know from these pages that I believe a documentary film is judged not only on the story and its importance but also on the professionalism of the film and its artistic merits. It is an art form. The Farthest: Voyager in Space checks all the boxes, and ultimately the film is thrilling, interesting, well made, and informative. It does everything a good documentary should do.
The film intersperses raw footage from the ’70s and ’80s, the actual pictures from the probes in space, press conferences as the Voyagers reached milestones, and current interviews with many of the scientists involved in the program. The interviews are fascinating and illuminating, the raw footage is pure gold, and the dynamic cinematography interspersed between all of the other footage adds depth and texture to the film. This is excellent and important filmmaking.
Now playing at on-demand outlets and on PBS. Check the PBS schedule for show times.
You will like this film if you enjoyed The Last Man on the Moon, Chasing Ice, and/or Apollo 13.
The month of October brings the Alfred Hitchcock film series at The Cube in Northfield. We will screen four films, every Friday at 6pm, and I will lead a discussion about each film. If you haven’t seen any of these films from the master filmmaker, or if you haven’t seen them in a while, come join us for a fun and illuminating series. Check the MCA for ticket information.
Friday, Oct. 6: Rear Window (1954)
When we think of Alfred Hitchcock, we think of suspense, and no film better gives us that edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting suspense than Rear Window. It tells the story of a photographer (Jimmy Stewart) with a broken leg who has to idly sit in his apartment and watch his neighbors through the courtyard of his building. When he thinks he has seen a murder in one of those apartments, he enlists his girlfriend (a sparkling Grace Kelly) and his nurse (a snappy Thelma Ritter) to help him crack the case. It is wonderful filmmaking (the entire film takes place in his apartment), tautly plotted, and it extends out to highlight real-word themes that are still pertinent today.
Friday, Oct. 13: Vertigo (1958)
Every 10 years, the magazine Sight & Sound does a poll of filmmakers, film critics, and film historians all over the world to determine the 10 best films of all time. The poll started in 1952, and the latest poll was in 2012.
Every year since 1952, Citizen Kane was voted the greatest film ever made. Until 2012. The top spot that year went to Vertigo. This is master filmmaking from one of the great directors of all time at the peak of his powers; it is simultaneously thrilling and disturbing. Want to know why this film is considered one of the greatest ever made? Join us for what should be an illuminating discussion.
Friday, Oct. 20: The Birds (1963)
Disturbing. That is the first word that pops into my mind when thinking about Hitchcock’s psychological thriller. It is a film that haunts my childhood—it seems that it was on TV every week on one of the five channels available to us in the ’70s. The images of schoolchildren running away as a flock of birds attacks them is something I will never forget, and it made me avoid birds at all costs. I still don’t trust birds.
Friday, Oct. 27: Psycho (1960)
Come enjoy some grown-up Halloween fun with one of the scariest films of all time. It started out as a small B-movie that Hitchcock made in black and white on a small budget, an outgrowth of his popular TV series of the time. It turned into one of the most thrilling movie-going experiences of all time, one that changed the way we go to the movies. It also paved the way for changes in movie censorship, and as some think, it saved the movies from virtual extinction in the ’60s. And oh yeah, it’s terrifying. (I know the soundtrack is playing in your head right now.)
Vincent Piturro, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Cinema Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.