Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Last Man on the Moon: One of Twelve Americans
now seems hard to believe given Russia’s current domination of space travel,
but the Soviets never landed on the Moon. Captain Eugene Cernan was the
eleventh man to walk on the lunar surface, but he was the last to leave. It is
a notable distinction, but one he would rather not hold indefinitely. Cernan
reflects on his career as an Apollo astronaut and offers some advice for the
future in Mark Craig’s The Last Man on
the Moon (trailer
which opens this Friday in New York.
all the best astronauts, Cernan had been a real deal Naval aviator before Deke
Slayton recruited him for the second wave of Apollo astronauts. It seems
everything you remember from The Right Stuff
was true. The Apollo astronauts worked hard, studied hard, and played hard.
Competition to be on each historic flight was fierce, but mostly collegial.
Cernan would know better than most. When budget cuts forced NASA to slash its
planned Moon expeditions in half, he found himself jockeying with Dick Gordon to
command the final Apollo 17.
you would expect, there are a number of terrific behind-the-scenes stories of
our nation’s space program. In addition to Cernan, Craig scored interviews with
his fellow astronauts, Alan Bean, Charlie Duke, Jim Lovell, and the still only
slightly disappointed Gordon, as well as legendary NASA flight director Gene
Kranz, and head of mission operations, Dr. Chris Kraft. Cernan’s current and
former wives also get to have their say, but he is always the first to admit he
neglected his family duties during the Apollo years.
now overlooked Gemini program also gets its due, particularly Gemini IX, which
Cernan still considers a troubling failure, but Kraft defends as a valuable
learning experience. Without question, Last
Man offers plenty for space program buffs, but Craig’s execution will pleasantly
surprise cineastes. He and cinematographer Tim Cragg capture some striking
visuals and he knows when to pull back to appreciate a quiet moment when it is
appropriate. Indeed, watching the somber Cernan walk through the ghostly former
Apollo launch site speaks volumes about the state of the current American space
some reason Moon landing conspiracy theories are enjoying a spat of fringe
popularity, popping up in the dumb comedy Moonwalkers
and Operation Avalanche, Matt
Johnson’s disappointing found footage follow-up to The Dirties. Last Man (co-executive
produced by racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart) arrives like a breath of fresh
air, celebrating the courage and adventurous spirit of the first and second
generation of NASA astronauts. It is also a timely wake-up call for renewing our
space-faring capabilities or be beholden to the Russian program for the
long-term. Highly recommended as both cinema and oral history, The Last Man on the Moon opens this
Friday (2/26) in New York, at the Cinema Village.
Labels: Documentary, Gene Cernan