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Laramie Movie Scope:
October Sky

The best film of the year, so far

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 21, 1999 -- "October Sky" is the best film of the year, so far. It is about four kids who build rockets, but it is a lot more than that. It is about having the guts to go for your dreams and not worrying about what other people think.

The main character is Homer Hickam (well played by Jake Gyllenhaal of "Josh and Sam"), who after seeing Sputnik race across the October sky, decides he wants to build rockets. He talks his friends, Quentin, (Chris Owen of "Can't Hardly Wait"), Roy Lee, (William Lee Scott of "The Opposite of Sex") and O'Dell, (Chad Lindberg of "Mercury Rising") to join him in the effort. They do, despite the fact that Quentin is the school geek and people will make fun of them if they associate with him.

The group's first attempts at rocket building are hilarious. Dangerous unguided missiles threaten life and limb, but the group persists. Aided by an advanced rocket science book given to him by their high school physics teacher, Miss Riley (Laura Dern of "Jurassic Park"), they are soon building better rocket nozzles with the surreptitious aid of metal shop workers from the coal mine.

The coal mine dominates the Appalachian town and Hickam's father, John (Chris Cooper of "Lonesome Dove") dominates the mine. He opposes his son's every move to build rockets or do anything else but work in the mine. His son, however, is just as stubborn as he is. That, plus the opposition of school administrators and even the police, threaten to scuttle the project.

The way that the boys manage to succeed, with the help of many people in the small town is very inspirational. The movie works because of a very solid ensemble cast and the believable relationship between Homer, his father and his mother, played by Natalie Canerday ("Sling Blade"). I didn't cry during "Message in a Bottle," but I did when that final rocket soared miles up into the sky. This film rates an A.

It turns out that in real life these boys, these hillbillies, were building rockets more advanced than any rockets being built in the United States at that time (except for professionals). They had to learn how to do differential equations and advanced calculus to design the right kind of combustion chambers.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. 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 © 1999 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]