Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Space Cowboys meet The Over-the-Hill Gang

I often hear people with cell phones or mobile phones or other electronic communication devices complain about "dead zones," where for one reason or another, nothing gets through. The device is dead, useful only as a paper weight. Move it out of the dead zone, and all is well.

Sometimes I wonder if Hollywood is in creative "dead zone." How many films with original ideas or concepts appear every year? How many are clones of last year's box office success? How many are the 6th or 7th or 10th version of a concept that appeared first a decade or so ago--The Day after Halloween IX? How many are remakes of past successful films?

A recent example--

Several nights ago I watched an entertaining film directed by Clint Eastwood--Space Cowboys. It was fun, and I enjoyed it. However, something about the title nagged at me. I didn't know what it was, but there was something about that title....

The next day the title kept popping up at me. Space Cowboys-- a bunch of retired astronauts who lost out on their chance to go into space get a second chance. What was it? It was an unlikely story--some over-the-hill guys get another try at it. And that was it--I remembered a made-for-TV movie titled The Over-the-Hill Gang from several decades ago.

I did a search and found the movie.

Year: The Over-the-Hill Gang movie was made and shown in 1969.
Space Cowboys appeared in 2000

Story Line: The Over-the-Hill Gang. A retired Texas Ranger visits his daughter. While there he discovers his son-in-law is running for mayor against the crooked incumbent, who is backed up by a crooked sheriff and a crooked judge. Shortly after he arrives, the Sheriff and a number of his deputies beat up the son-in-law and wreck the office of his newspaper. Realizing he is outnumbered, the ex-Ranger calls upon three of his fellow Texas Rangers, also retired. The four of them should be enough to handle the sheriff and his deputies. However, once the FOUR of them reunite, it becomes obvious that they are no longer fast enough or physically able to handle the sheriff and his thugs, so they decide to outsmart them instead.

Their plan succeeds, but they are then immediately faced with a new and unexpected challenge which does require some physical activity and brains.

Space Cowboys: A retired NASA astronaut (Clint Eastwood) is visited by friend from NASA, who tells him they have a crisis. A satellite is coming down, and it can't be allowed to do so. It must stay up. Unfortunately since the satellite is a very old one and had never been expected to remain up that long, none of the present engineering staff had any idea of how to work on it. The engineering was designed decades ago by the retired astronaut, which is why they now come to him for help. Eastwood's character blackmails NASA into resurrecting his team, all of whom are now retired, and sending them up in the shuttle to repair the engineering. The FOUR of them are reunited and soon discover that they can't really match up physically any more against today's astronauts, so two younger ones are sent along as backup.

Once they dock with the satellite in the slowly decaying orbit, they discover that there is an unexpected complication--the situation now is far more serious than it was at first, even if they did handle the original problem. A fast and accurate physical response is required to save the day.

What next? Sometime in the near future, FOUR retired telephone linemen are called back to restring lines in a disaster area which has now become a dead zone and communication is possible only with those obsolete land lines.

FOUR retired checkout clerks are called back because they can add and subtract and perform other arithmetical operations with pencil and paper when all electronics are out and nobody is available who can even use a handheld calculator.

Anybody else have some ideas? Perhaps we could bundle them up and send them on to Hollywood. Or should we?


  1. I think we forget that the movie business in Hollywood is just that - a business, first and foremost. If a plot made money once, it'll make money again if they change it just a little. I think the main group they market to is under 25, so maybe they're hoping the current audience didn't see the original, similar movie the first time around.

  2. All we have to do as a society is look in the mirror to see who is at fault for Hollywood not having an original idea.

    There are some great movies with fresh story lines, but they rarely make money.

    When it comes down to it, we will get what people want to go see. Fortunately, some of them are entertaining movies, some are not.

    Space Cowboys, while not original, was still fun and entertaining.

  3. Cheryl,

    Agreed, Hollywood is a business, and it must make money to survive. I haven't forgotten that. What I am saying is that Hollywood should focus a bit more on quality, rather than simply churning out clones and remakes and the 97th episode in a slasher series, on its way to a profit.

    Why can't Hollywood go that extra step rather than always settling for the cheapest way to make a buck?

  4. Scott,

    Hollywood is a part of society, isn't it? Therefore it shares responsibility for the sad state of entertainment in this country.

    People learn to like particular types of material because of what they are exposed to. Hollywood certainly exposes us all to junk, which is why the general audience doesn't know the difference. If the people don't encounter quality films, then they certainly aren't going to demand something they know nothing about.

    What I find interesting is that Hollywood has to spend a considerable amount of money advertising its products in order to convince people to watch films which it insists are exactly what the public wants. If it was giving the public what it wants, it wouldn't need to spend millions of dollars trying to convince people they will like it.

  5. Fred, after reading your ideas for future movies, I think you could have a lucrative future in Hollywood.

  6. Dan,

    Now that's a frightening thought.