Space Cowboys Ride Into the Sunset

DATELINE:  Elder Stars Shine

  Maverick and Rowdy Yates with Tommy Lee!

How did we miss this action comedy directed by Clint Eastwood with an assemblage of geriatric stars?

Space Cowboysfrom 2000 unites a few genuine TV and movie cowboys (Eastwood and James Garner), but there are ringers in the bunch:  Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland. It does not matter: it is pure golden agers.

They were old then, but it was almost twenty years ago. Yet, only one has passed away since–James Garner.

Starting with a black and white prologue, you have the distinctive voices of the stars superimposed on younger, lookalike actors, which is effective. In the pre-NASA days, they are washed out of the space program and replaced by a monkey (not a first for Clint).

Even a dated late-night show host (Jay Leno) makes an appearance.

What is ineffective is the screenplay, all rather formulaic. Clint also does the story by the numbers: there are some old feuds and fights. He must reunite the old team.

And then in a plot twist that is cruel and nasty, the NASA honchos try to wash out the oldsters by killing them with physical training. Meant to be funny, it is simply unpleasant to watch. The charm of the actors is sorely challenged by the script. But, Clint as director is, as always, pure no-nonsense.

The enemies include William Devane and James Cromwell, which is not exactly chopped liver. This is an actors’ delight. Yet, the actual space trip in the shuttle is almost anti-climactic, and also rekindles the old Cold War.

Old, broken down space shuttles never die.




Parkland Hospital’s Point of View


As Parkland Hospital doctors, Colin Hanks and Zac Efron may surprise you with their performances.


With the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Kennedy, there have been a few minor movies to mark the occasion. Fictionalized film really is nowhere near as compelling as pseudo-documentaries on conspiracy theories.

Yet, this small film takes a look at the helpless doctors and nurses who came face to face with historical horror in their emergency room. It provides a new twist on an old tale that fewer and fewer people actually remember. We were in the Harvard Yards, eerily and unusually quiet when someone ran past us to say at 2pm the President was dead, shot. Like many others, we first disbelieved it.

Life in America was never the same after that moment.

Fifty years is a long time, and the generation that lived the experience and could tell truth from fiction may have soon lost their memories and their minds, unable to tell us whether movies like this can be taken seriously as history or art.

Parkland, starring Zac Efron as a young intern, rises to the challenge. The scenes all seem familiar, yet fresh too. These are the moments before camcorders were mounted everywhere to catch every private moment. You can easily forget that and believe what you see is 100% accurate.

The film becomes the ultimate History Channel re-enactment. It is emotional and depicts the anguish and shock felt by the doctors and nurses at Parkland. It details the personal suffering of Abraham Zapruder who filmed the moment of the murder. It displays the Secret Service and FBI agents who felt guilt they had failed to do their jobs.

This is a remarkable little film with Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Giamatti, and Marcia Gay Harden, giving extraordinary performances. Jacki Weaver plays Oswald’s nutcase mother with a vengeance, and James Badge Dale acts as Robert Oswald with understated dignity.

Mixed with archival footage, this behind-the-scenes drama compels and hypnotizes even if we know the overall outcome. Paul Landesman usually writes movies, but this is his first effort at directing. He has our attention.


 For an interesting backstory on Lee Harvey Oswald’s youth, mother, and sibling, you may want to read BOOTH AND OSWALD that compares two assassins in their boyhoods from hell. Available on in softcover and ebook format.