'The Right Stuff': Space Race

The Right Stuff by Philip KaufmanScreenwriter-director Philip Kaufman's 1983 best picture nominee, The Right Stuff, will be the next feature in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' “Great To Be Nominated” series. The screening will take place on Monday, June 11, at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Cast members Kathy Baker, Veronica Cartwright, and Mary Jo Deschanel, producer Irwin Winkler, editors Glenn Farr and Lisa Fruchtman, sound technicians Mark Berger and David MacMillan, sound effects editor Jay Boekelheide, and art director W. Stewart Campbell will take part in a panel discussion.

Though not quite a great film, as far as I'm concerned the technically flawless The Right Stuff is far superior to all the other best picture nominees of 1983. (The winner that year was Terms of Endearment; the other nominees were The Big Chill, The Dresser, and Tender Mercies.) Based on Tom Wolfe's account of NASA's first attempt to develop a space program, Kaufman's film suffers from an over-reliance on iconic symbolisms – the screenwriter-director mythologizes the American astronauts the way previous Hollywood filmmakers had mythologized the American Man of the West. (William Goldman wrote an initial draft of the screenplay, but quit the project after disagreements with Kaufman.) On the other hand, Kaufman doesn't shy away from some sharp sociopolitical commentary, and although his space saga clocks in at more than three hours it is never dull.

Of the ensemble cast, only Sam Shepard received an Oscar nod for his laconic, Clint Eastwood-like portrayal of aviator Chuck Yeager – he of the Good Old Days when men were men (i.e., loners, silent, fearless, un-lustful) and flyers never left the Earth's atmosphere. In my view, however, The Right Stuff belongs to Ed Harris (as astronaut-turned-politician John Glenn), Mary Jo Deschanel (Glenn's wife on screen; cinematographer Caleb Deschanel's wife in life), and to what should have been a star-making turn by the charismatic Dennis Quaid. It's unfortunate that the career of this likable, highly capable actor failed to get the boost it deserved from this effort – which turned out to be a major box office disappointment.

Others in the cast are Barbara Hershey, Fred Ward, Scott Glenn, Pamela Reed, and stage star Kim Stanley in one of her rare screen appearances. Additionally, Yeager himself has a small role in the film.

The Right Stuff won Oscars for Film Editing (Farr, Fruchtman, Stephen A. Rotter, Douglas Stewart, Tom Rolf); Music – Original Score (Bill Conti); Sound (Berger, Tom Scott, Randy Thom, MacMillan) and Sound Effects Editing (Boekelheide). The film also received nominations for Best Picture (Winkler and Robert Chartoff, producers); Actor in a Supporting Role (Shepard); Art Direction (Geoffrey Kirkland, Richard J. Lawrence, Campbell, Peter Romero; Set Decoration: Pat Pending, George R. Nelson); and Cinematography (Deschanel).

Jon Bloom's Oscar-nominated live action short Overnight Sensation will be screened prior to the feature. A modern-day adaptation of Somerset Maugham's short story “The Colonel's Lady,” Overnight Sensation chronicles a couple's marital problems following the unexpected success of the wife's first novel. The short film stars Louise Fletcher, Robert Loggia, and Shari Belafonte. (As per the Oscar Site, Bloom is currently a Governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and chair of its Short Films and Feature Animation Branch.)

Passes for the remaining screenings in part four of “Great To Be Nominated” are $30 for the general public and $25 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. A $5 discount is available for those who wish to renew their passes from parts one, two or three of the series. Individual tickets are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Passes and tickets may be purchased by mail, in person at the Academy during regular business hours or, depending on availability, on the night of the screening when the doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets may also now be purchased online at www.oscars.org/events. There are no minimum order requirements and no transaction or processing fees. Tickets may be purchased online until noon PST on the day of the event.

Curtain time for all features is 7:30 p.m., and pre-show elements will begin at 7 p.m. The Academy is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 247-3600.


TOOTSIE: Great To Be Nominated


Catherine Breillat's MISTRESS at Cannes

Kevin Brownlow's Essential Silents


  'The Right Stuff': Space Race © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
Text NOT to be reproduced without prior written consent.

Leave a comment about “'The Right Stuff': Space Race”

NOTE: Comments are moderated before publication. *Thoughtfulness* and *at least a modicum of sanity* are imperative. Abusive/bigoted, trollish/inflammatory, baseless (spreading misinformation), spammy, and/or just plain deranged comments will be zapped. Links found in comments will generally be deleted.