October Sky

Yep, this one came out nine years ago and was lauded at the time. Many of us weren't motivated to go out and spring for the price of a movie ticket, but it's still available to rent, right? Well, THIS time, don't miss it!

When Sputnik was launched in 1957, the whole world was riveted by the event. A small coal-mining town in West Virginia was no different. A teenage boy, played by Jake Gyllenhaal ("Brokeback Mountain" and "Proof"), transfixed by the sight of that tiny light streaking across the October sky, was a kid named Homer Hickam, Jr. He and two other pals hung out, tried to date girls, made medium grades and generally were grooming themselves to follow in their fathers' footsteps into the coal mines. The sight of Sputnik exploded the size of Homer's universe. He decided he wanted to fire off rockets to see how it was done. He and the other two boys suffered through a series of failures which began when he blew up the fence around his mother's cherished rose garden.

They finally recruited the class "geek" to help them with the more challenging mathematics that seemed to be required. You will have the pleasure of seeing these four boys develop the necessary skills, enjoy encouragement from a science teacher (and DIScouragement from the school principal), make spectacular errors and generally act like normal teenagers who are flirting with a dream. The teacher, played by Laura Dern ("Wild at Heart" and "Rambling Rose") tells Homer that he could get a college scholarship if he won the science fair, and she thinks he and his friends might be on the right track. Homer persists, despite resistance from his father, played by Chris Cooper ("Adaptation" and "Lone Star"), who wants him to play football and get a scholarship THAT way, like his brother.

Homer writes a fan letter to Werner von Braun, which, to his surprise, gets him a signed 8 X 10 photo.

This story has amusing bits, the family conflict bits, the awkward adolescent bits, the hazardous mining bits, and then the BIG setback. The movie serves all of them without a hitch. It captures the sense of a dying one-company mining town, owned by the coal company, lock, stock and barrel. Even the school teachers were employees of the mines. The miners' homes, the stores, everything, belonged to the company! By the time of the big miners' strike in 1959, which was nationwide and included my husband's job in the copper mines of Bisbee, Arizona, it was clear that, like many other mining towns, the little West Virginia town was doomed. We know that that way of life was also doomed. This was a time when people never locked their doors; car keys were left in the ignition; no one expected or experienced any thievery. When Homer goes to Indianapolis to participate in a science fair, he doesn't realize he has to secure the important elements of his display and is absolutely thunderstruck when he comes into the area the next morning and finds it has been cleaned out!

You will LOVE the sound track. They must have spent a fortune for the rights to all the oldies! Elvis Presley, Johnny Ray, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, and many, many more. You will recognize every single song!