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Apollo 10 1/2 Review: Love Letter to the Space Age by Richard Linklater

Growing up during the space race and in a part of the country where everything is brand new to accommodate it, Stanley’s memories are thus inextricably linked with the American zeitgeist of the time, even if Stan admits in voiceover (lovingly provided by Jack Black) that he didn’t quite feel a part of it. Stan is unconcerned by the “youth gap” that his elder sisters complain about since their parents support the Vietnam War on television; he is more concerned with watching Dark Shadows after school and avoiding his principal’s corporal penalties for misbehaving in the classroom.

Nonetheless, Stan is secretly connected with NASA, something his family is unaware of. There’s a subplot about Stan working on the side for NASA; he’s part of their clandestine Apollo 10 1/2 mission—the result of NASA accidentally building a space module that was too small and, instead of scrapping it, deciding to recruit a local fifth grader to pilot it to the moon one week before the Apollo 11 mission.

The way Linklater seamlessly transitions between joyful vignettes of his pint-sized doppelgänger visiting Astroworld (a now-defunct local theme park) and the same kid being an ace pilot who’s so calm under pressure that he’s reading MAD Magazine during launch, speaks to the wonderful simplicity of a child’s logic and understanding of the world. However, the adult perspective of the film’s intellect is derived from its wisdom not to talk down to those fantasies or apologetically mock their naivety. Apollo 10 1/2 recalls them with the same sincere rhythm as it chronicles Stan’s regular diet of ’60s television, recognising value in soberly and honestly appreciating delusions alongside memories of one-season TV wonders that only someone who was nine at the time would remember 50 years later.

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The ease with which Linklater seems to access his subconscious, summoning with clear eyes the music and glories that linger in the back of any adult’s dream life, has been an impressive staple of many of his films, from the 12-year passion project Boyhood to the high school delirium Dazed and Confused.

In some ways, Apollo 10 1/2 may be considered a predecessor to the latter. Yet it’s the film’s determination on retaining that era’s innocence, even as it recognises “Stanley” was a sheltered white child clearly living in turbulent times, that sets it apart and finds fresh value in its rotoscope designs—even cheekily animating over the actual cartoons Linklater grew up watching.

In its own right, Apollo 10 1/2 is a wonderful addition to the seemingly new genre of directors’ trips down memory lane. So far, this critic has enjoyed all of the recent films that have addressed these themes, each proving how amazingly diverse and individual formative experiences may be. As a result, the films are as diverse as the guys who created them.

Duration: 97 min

Release:

IMDb: N/A

Apollo 10 1/2 Review: Love Letter to the Space Age by Richard Linklater
Apollo 10 1/2 Review: Love Letter to the Space Age by Richard Linklater
Apollo 10 1/2 Review: Love Letter to the Space Age by Richard Linklater
Apollo 10 1/2 Review: Love Letter to the Space Age by Richard Linklater
Apollo 10 1/2 Review: Love Letter to the Space Age by Richard Linklater
Apollo 10 1/2 Review: Love Letter to the Space Age by Richard Linklater

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