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The Right Stuff(1983)

Thirty-five years ago, Philip Kaufman’s unvarnished depiction of the space program and its move from top-secret government project to PR bonanza was too far ahead of its time to succeed at the box office. Audiences weren’t ready for the layers of irony behind the historical re-creation, although the Academy recognized its technical prowess garnering wins for Best Sound, Editing, Sound Effects Editing and Score. It is now considered a classic for its deft direction, script, ensemble acting and convincing special effects. Tom Wolfe wrote the original book based on his encounters with pioneering aviator Chuck Yeager and the first astronauts. Originally, screenwriter William Goldman jettisoned the Yeager segment, but Kaufman insisted on keeping it and eventually wrote the script on his own. Those opening scenes, with Sam Shepard as Yeager, give the film a mythic quality. As the space program becomes more public, the film moves into more humorous territory, depicting the search for the first astronaut trainees, their jockeying for position during training and the PR circus that followed their first flights. The result is a cinematic mosaic that invokes not just the space program but the changes in American life over the course of almost two decades. (d. Phillip Kaufman, 193m, Digital)

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