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Laramie Movie Scope:
Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood

Houston, we have time warp

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 19, 2023 – This Netflix movie, which depicts growing up in Houston in the 1960s brought back a lot of memories for me, having lived through those times. If you want to know what it was like growing up in a WASP suburban family in the late 1960s, this film will show you what it was like.

This movie, directed by Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”) is loosely based on his own memories of that time. It also reflects the same kind of family life I had growing up, so it really hit home for me, even though I've never been to Houston, and I grew up in a different time and very different place than what is depicted in this movie. The movie seemed very real to me, even though it is an animated film.

The rotoscoping techniques (popularized in 1978 in “The Lord of the Rings” by animator Ralph Bakshi) used in the film are similar to those used in previous Linklater films, “A Scanner Darkly” and “Waking Life.” In addition, this film also uses a variety of other animation techniques to achieve its unique look. Scenes showing real video of President Kennedy and newsman Walter Cronkite, processed into a kind of pseudo animation, somehow look real, and unreal at the same time.

The story is centered on young Stanley, growing up in Houston during the Apollo space missions. His story is narrated by Stanley as an adult (voiced by Jack Black of “School of Rock”). The story shows us Stanley's memories about growing up in this time, everything from taking out the garbage to walking on the moon.

What? Walking on the moon! Well, sort of. Stanley is approached by two NASA officials who ask him to volunteer to test the Saturn V Apollo systems in secret prior to the public space landing. This is Stanley's dream, and maybe he even dreamed it during the actual Apollo 11 landing, but in this movie, it seems real, like the rest of the story.

Stanley goes through all the NASA training for landing on the moon, including centrifuge testing, and how to land the lunar module. This is all done in secret. He can't even tell his parents about it. I knew that none of this actually happened, but this movie makes it seem so real. It is quite a trick.

What really seems real is the movie's depiction of this time and place, from the space program, the Vietnam War, the depiction of Stanley's grandparents, who had lived through the depression, and continued to live as though another depression could happen at any time. The extreme thrift of Stanley's parents reflects a bit of his grandparents' influence as well.

Stanley's father works for NASA, as do the parents of many of Stanley's friends, so all of them are acutely aware of the Apollo program, and they follow its developments very closely. Stanley remembers his mother crying in 1967 when astronauts Gus Grissom, Roger B. Chaffee and Ed White were all killed by fire in an Apollo command module accident.

This movie does a great job of showing what it was like growing up in this place and time. The climax comes in the summer of 1969 when the first men (and Stanley) first walk on the moon. The whole family gathers around the TV set to watch the CBS news coverage of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, headed by Walter Cronkite.

Sleepy from a long day at an amusement park, Stanley, perhaps dreaming that he was piloting the lunar module himself, falls asleep late at night during the moon landing coverage. His mother later says to his father, “Well, you know how memory works. Even if he was asleep, he'll someday think he saw it all.”

Dreams, reality, animation, historical video, here, it all blends together. Did Stanley see the first steps on the moon? Did he sleep through this historic moment? Did he step onto the moon himself? All of this blends together in this movie. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2023 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]