Monday, March 10, 2008


A moon with a view

By Edward Copeland
Each year seems to bring a higher and higher volume of quality documentaries. Almost as routinely, many of the best fail to even make the short list for Oscar consideration. I finally caught up with another of 2007's "rejects," In the Shadow of the Moon, and it's another notable omission. Then again, three of the five 2007 nominees for documentary feature I haven't seen, so maybe it's not a case of the Academy ignoring the best but a situation where there were just too many damn good documentaries from which to choose.

In a strange way, In the Shadow of the Moon reminds me of No End in Sight: it's basically a "talking heads" documentary recounting many things I already knew but doing so in a way that makes it riveting and fresh.

Listening to the first-hand accounts of most of the Apollo astronauts still alive, Shadow manages to recapture that sense of wonder that used to be a given when thinking of the early U.S. space program. In fact, it's not even an easy movie to talk about in great detail since its power comes purely from the act of watching it.

There are fascinating nuggets here and there, such as the former jet fighter pilot who became an astronaut and still carries guilt that he was exploring space while his former colleagues were fighting and dying in Vietnam. It's one of the many points where In the Shadow of the Moon goes beyond just being about space exploration and paints a vivid portrait of what was happening on Earth at the same time.

There really isn't anything groundbreaking about In the Shadow of the Moon but it does what any great documentary should: Make you feel as if you've got a new perspective, even if the subject is a well-traveled one. Really, you shouldn't ask for anything more.

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