On the ION Television channel, they're showing "The Right Stuff." I have chosen to watch it, even though I have the DVD on my shelf. I do that a lot - watch movies and shows with commercials when the non-commercial version is sitting not 5 feet from the TV.
I saw it in the theater when it was released in 1983, and it's still one of those "stop the clicker" films. It's about a great time in our history, which overshadowed a horrible time in our history. The glamour of the manned space program made us forget about the Vietnam war, major assassinations and a lot of unrest at home.
Films like "The Right Stuff" give dead people short shrift. Particularly, Gus Grissom and Lyndon Johnson, both of whom are not portrayed in a flattering light. One would figure it's because they're incapable of defending themselves, so the filmmaker can ... um ... tell the truth as they see it.
The film makes it appear as though Grissom panicked and blew the hatch of his Liberty Bell 7 craft, thereby sinking it into the Atlantic Ocean. The fact is that it was determined that the hatch was faulty and Grissom was later exonerated. Being dead leaves a guy in the lurch sometimes, and great art seldom allows facts to interfere with telling a great story.
One thing I found interesting is a scene when some of the Mercury Seven are hanging out in a hotel bar when two women walk in who presumably are out to have sex with all of them. One of the women says, "Four down, three to go" as she spies John Glenn and Scott Carpenter sitting together at a table. That's convenient, since it leaves the shadow of doubt upon who is the one remaining astronaut of the three, and gives them all the ability to say "it wasn't me" since they were careful to show just two men at the table.
I remember that the film was released while John Glenn was trying to gain his party's 1984 nomination for president. Since Glenn is portrayed as the central figure of good and patriotism in the film, some believed that it was unfairly casting him in a favorable light. The heartwarming scenes between he and his wife are particularly flattering. Since his candidacy was not successful, that criticism was short-lived. One can only imagine how he would have been portrayed had he been dead when the film was produced.
I watched the film and reflected on the relative innocence of three TV networks, no Internet and merely the daily newspapers and some magazines to report on their activities. Had the same thing been going on now, with the raft of 24/7 news and the over-saturation of ... um ... everything, I figure that those bar scenes would have been on TMZ or one of those cable channels for all the world to see. But, like a lot of things, it's a part of our history that will never be replicated, and whether that's good or bad is up to you to decide. I think the loss of innocence and the awe of achievement is more bad than good. We're numb to such things now, and I wonder what it will take for us to be impressed.
Anyway, there's a big football game on TV tonight. Other than some numbers in an office pool, I couldn't care less who wins the stupid thing. I suppose it matters to a moderately small group of people in Green Bay and Pittsburgh.
When asked who I thought will win, I replied, "Television." It might not be the television in my house, however.