Stray Takes: ‘Apollo 11’

I grew up going to San Diego’s La Paloma Theatre.

Scratch that. More like:

I grew up at the La Paloma Theatre.

And now, too many years later, I’m writing for them.

Every cinephile (at least those born before the streaming epoch) probably holds a special place in their heart for a local art-house cinema that introduced them to the wonderful world of movies beyond the spectacle-ridden multiplexes.

La Paloma, along with a handful of others (Bruce bless the olds that support independent films and keep these theaters afloat in the Whale’s Vagina), played that role for me. So when they asked me…


…when I offered to cover the flicks this single-screen beachside palace rotates through every week, they…accepted.

Since people have a very different relationship to reviews when reading them online versus outside in front of a theater, the ones I write for La Paloma often won’t conform to Write All Nite’s usual, unusual style you’ve come to know and love tolerate. As such, I’ll often split these pieces in two: a tidier analysis to be displayed outside the theater for the Dove’s clientele — which you can find right here for Apollo 11 — and internet-only stray takes that may prove tiresome on the feet for anyone standing and reading.

In the spirit of showing, not telling — here are Apollo 11‘s stray takes that wouldn’t have fit comfortably in yesterday’s concision:

Despite Apollo 11 avoiding the talking-heads cliche, it still relies on a too-familiar crutch: the overbearing, overwrought, thumping score. While the images leave room for our interpretations, the music basically screams, “THESE WERE THE INTENSE MOMENTS!!!” Given the aforementioned lack of specified context, we’re never told what could’ve gone wrong, what downfalls all involved were worried about avoiding (besides the obvious catastrophes). And yet, this mystery bolsters the suspense, and our engagement; we fear, and are in awe of the unknown — AKA the push-pull allure of the cosmos, and the cosmic questions intrinsic to our ruminative projections onto space itself. But the score leaves nothing to the imagination. Like, it needed to relax, or take a chill pill, or something. Or — if they were feeling particularly experimental — it could’ve gone away entirely. Why not trust the images and how they’re edited together; they’re more than enough on their own. Music that make it too obvious how the documentary wants us to feel at any given moment is a common problem for the form.

Does Apollo 11 look like First Manor does First Man look like Apollo 11? Kudos to Apollo 11 for restoring its footage to a level of clarity that could be mistaken for Hollywood production values, and props to Hollywood’s First Man for so-expertly recreating this aesthetic.

Not to plug La Paloma even more, but if you’re debating watching Apollo 11 at home…um…don’t. Please try to seek out as ginormous a screen as possible; our eyes interact with images differently when they’re projected writ-large.

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