The Dish

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Menu Audio
Scene Selection Animation and Audio
Featurette - The Dish on The Dish
Cast & Crew Biographies
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots (2)
Trailer - The Castle
Photo Gallery
Audio Commentary - Rob Sitch (Director), Santo Cilauro (2nd Unit Director)
Audio Commentary - Jane Kennedy (Writer), Tom Gleisner (Writer)
Featurette - The Footage We Loved But Couldn't Use (20)
Featurette - Hidden Dish
Notes - Apollo 11 Diary
Notes - Key Dates In Human Space Flight
DVD Credits
Rating m.gif (1166 bytes)
Year Released 2000
Running Time
97:19 Minutes
(Not 105 minutes as per packaging)
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (10:30)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Rob Sitch
Working Dog Productions
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Sam Neill
Kevin Harrington
Tom Long
Patrick Warburton
Genevieve Mooy
Tayler Kane
Case C(rap)-Button
RPI $34.95 Music Edmund Choi

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 320Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 320Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 320Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9Yes.jpg (4536 bytes)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Annoying Product Placement Yes, extremely so in some eyes (see plot synopsis)
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

Editor's Note: 5th April 2001. For some reason, Dean's original opening paragraph seemed to upset many readers. I cannot see what all the fuss is about myself, but in deference to both readers' sentiments and my committment to publish reviews with as little editing as possible, I have blanked it out so that you will need to actively highlight it with your mouse if you want to read it. If you feel you will be upset by an unusual perspective on the "lucky country" concept, then do not read it.

    A bit of a while ago now, cosmetics baroness Poppy King was quoted in the Sunday Telegraph as stating that, were she to win the Young Australian Of The Year Award today, she would not accept it. The main reason she cited was that she was taken seriously as a businesswoman overseas, while the Australian media and government chose to pat her on the head and say "oh, aren't you cute". Indeed, the indignant reaction of the Australian media at large only served to extend and confirm this, a patronizing manner of dealing with those who disagree with the "lucky country" attitude we are still being force-fed while the lives of the citizenry are more and more being made to resemble the White-Collar-Slavery described in Fight Club. This element of "you will smile and proclaim this country the greatest or else" is the extremely annoying product placement I like to refer to when describing this film.

    This is not to say that The Dish is not an enjoyable film, far from it in fact. A powerful performance from Sam Neill keeps the tone of the film above the normal Australian propaganda that I've sadly come to expect from productions such as these. The chemistry between the four leads makes the film worthy of its viewing time, and I am somewhat glad that I took the time to enjoy the cinematography in the relatively new Hoyts theatre at Merrylands.

    The film begins with an ageing Cliff Buxton (Sam Neill) visiting the satellite dish in Parkes that has now been turned into a historical exhibit. We then wind the clock back to July 1969, with NASA searching for a satellite dish that is big enough to receive the signal which the Apollo 11 crew will be relaying from the surface of the moon. The only dish that fits NASA's requirements, naturally enough, is in the middle of a field outside of Parkes, which was and still is a small rural community located five hours west of Sydney. This particular satellite dish falls under the control of Cliff and his two colleagues - Ross Mitchell (Kevin Harrington) and Glenn Latham (Tom Long). Helping them out is NASA representative Al Burnett (Patrick Warburton), a surprisingly unassuming and likeable man.

    From there, we follow the activities of the four dish operators, the townspeople, and an American diplomat while various problems rear their heads as the clock ticks towards the moment when Apollo 11 lands on the moon. Amazement quickly sets in as the people of Parkes go to Herculean efforts to make sure that a picture is received when Neil Armstrong puts his foot upon the moon and speaks those immortal words. Along the way, we are treated to some moderately funny insights into the way we related to our North American consorts thirty years ago, as well as the courage on the part of the screenwriters to demonstrate that hardware was just as unreliable back then as it is today. Indeed, this is a whimsical look back into the past with a difference, in that it is reasonably interesting and exciting.

    Still, I must admit that the film leaves very little impression upon me, and that its replay value is very limited as far as I am concerned. One of its plusses is that it refrains from broadcasting the usual stereotypes, particularly in the relationship between the Australian and American characters. Showing the American visitors as merely being people from a slightly different society is one thing that keeps my opinion of the plot above the three-star level. The story does get a little slow towards the end, but if historical dramas are your thing, then this will make a worthy addition to your collection.

    You may, however, want to consider waiting until Roadshow Home Entertainment get their head out of the sand and package the disc properly, since the C-button case this disc comes in not only makes it hard to read the chapter listing, but it also almost breaks the disc every time I try to extract the damned thing.

Transfer Quality


    Every now and again, I get stuck for a word that properly describes my feelings or perceptions of a given item, and in this case, I struggled for a word over the course of the film's running length until it suddenly hit me like a bullet. The word I was looking for to sum up my feelings about this transfer, especially having seen the film theatrically, is disappointment.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

    The first point of disappointment about this transfer was the sharpness, with a newspaper at 0:42 so blurred that it takes a great deal of effort to read the headline. This headline was intended to inform the audience that the bookends of the film are set on an unspecified anniversary of the moon landing, so this lack of definition was very disappointing. Thankfully, the rest of the film, save for the archival footage from the actual moon landing, is generally a lot sharper. The shadow detail is good, although not great, and there are no problems with low level noise. Unfortunately, a few scenes are plagued by what looks like background grain, the worst example being a shot at 80:24, where the wall behind the television features a few roaming specks that clearly weren't there during the theatrical exhibit.

    The colour saturation is excellent, with numerous browns and greens that make up the landscapes of Parkes and Forbes (where the film was shot) being well represented. Chalk up another victory for DVD-Video and its component formatting, as the problems with colour bleeding, misregistration, cross-colouration, and dot crawl that are part and parcel of the Very Hazy System were utterly absent.

    MPEG artefacts were not a problem for this transfer, although the backgrounds in most scenes were a lot hazier than was the case during the theatrical exhibit. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some minor problems with aliasing during shots of the dish's exterior, such as at 8:46, as well as in the lights within the dish's control room at 28:14 and 80:44, to name the worst examples. The real disappointing aspect of this transfer was the prevalence of film artefacts, which litter the picture with much greater frequency than can be considered acceptable for such a recent film. There just wasn't a single shot in the picture that didn't seem to have black flecks, white flecks or dirt on the negative, a real disappointment considering how clean other Roadshow Home Entertainment transfers of such recent films have been.

    One interesting feature of the subtitles on this disc is that they are imposed over whichever character is speaking a given line, making them much easier to follow.

    This disc makes use of the RSDL format, with the layer change taking place between Chapters 3 and 4, at 10:30. Aside from being surprisingly early in the film, this layer change was slightly jarring due to its position.


    Thankfully, the audio is in better shape than the video, although it is still not as great as I was expecting when I viewed the film in the theatre. There is a total of four soundtracks on this disc: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 with a bitrate of 448 kilobits per second, a Dolby Digital 2.0 downconversion of the English dialogue with a bitrate of 320 kilobits per second, and two commentaries, both of which are in Dolby Digital 2.0 with a bitrate of 320 kilobits per second. I listened to the Dolby Digital 5.1 rendering of the dialogue and the two commentary tracks.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand, with the exception of some simulated radio communications between the Parkes radio telescope staff and NASA headquarters, which required some effort to understand in the first place. There was occasionally a piece of ADR that sounded rather different in tone to the rest of the dialogue spoken by a given character, but this is also not the fault of the transfer. There were no discernible problems with audio sync.

    The music can be divided into three parts: a collection of contemporary numbers by such artists as Morrisey, live renditions of Jimi Hendrix numbers and the Hawaii Five-O theme (at least they were acted out that way), and a score by Edmund Choi. The score music fits into the film quite well, giving a warm and dramatic feel to many sequences, and the contemporary numbers also serve to enhance the atmosphere of the film.

    The surround channels were used in moderation to support the music and directional effects such as the winds and the reverberated voices in the House Of Representatives, but the soundtrack was noticeably biased towards the front of the soundstage. Given that this film is primarily driven by dialogue, this can be overlooked, although it was still disappointing considering how many opportunities this film presents for sound demonstrations. Still, there were no problems with cluttered channels, so all is well with the soundtrack's clarity.

    The subwoofer was used quite heavily to support the sounds of the dish's movements, which often sounded like a truck crashing into the ground floor of the house. Given that the dish shown in the film weighs better than a thousand tons, this is strangely appropriate in spite of the nature of the film. The subwoofer also supported the music and the movements of cars, all without calling attention to itself.



    The menu features an animated introduction and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. It is 16x9 Enhanced and easy to navigate.

Audio Commentary - Rob Sitch (Director), Santo Cilauro (2nd Unit Director)

    This audio commentary is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 with the film's soundtrack mixed into the background while Rob Sitch and Santo Cilauro speak quite loudly. Rob and Santo speak about the experience of making the film and dealing with the reactions of Parkes locals with enthusiasm, although they are not the most interesting speakers I've ever heard.

Audio Commentary - Jane Kennedy (Writer), Tom Gleisner (Writer)

    This audio commentary is also presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 with the film's soundtrack mixed into the background. Jane Kennedy and Tom Gleisner speak about how the finished film compares with the script they wrote, among other things. This commentary is a little more interesting than the previous one, and it reveals more about the technical process behind the film in my view.

Featurette - The Dish on The Dish

    Clocking in at eleven minutes and twenty seconds, this featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. A simple making-of with narration by some of the actors and crew who worked on the film.

Featurette - The Footage We Loved But Couldn't Use (20)

    A featurette consisting of twenty pieces of archival footage that couldn't be used in the final film, presented with a choice between Dolby Digital 2.0 sound or commentary by Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch in the same format. The total running length of this featurette is seventy minutes and thirty-five seconds, and it is chaptered. Background hiss and video quality problems are a prominent feature, but the footage shown here is generally of better quality than the archival footage that actually made it into the film.

Featurette - Hidden Dish

    A one minute and twenty-five second featurette of the archival footage that was used during the credits sequence, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 Enhancement, Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and the presence of a radar dish icon. Pressing the enter key on the remote when this icon appears will take you to a menu from which explanations of what is being shown in these archival snippets can be obtained.

Theatrical Trailer

    This theatrical trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Essentially, it is a condensation of all the best parts in the film into two minutes and thirty-two seconds.

TV Spots (2)

    Consisting of two TV Spots entitled Sometimes and Four Men, these TV spots are, surprisingly, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and 16x9 Enhancement.

Trailer - The Castle

    Referred to as "Bonus Trailer" in the menu (hah! I think not), this two-minute and fifty-three second trailer reminds me of all the reasons I simply cannot stand this film. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Biographies for Sam Neill, Kevin Harrington, Tom Long, Patrick Warburton, Roy Billing, Genevieve Mooy, Eliza Szonert, Tayler Kane, Billie Brown, Andrew S. Gilbert, Lenka Kripac, Matthew Moore, John McMartin, Carl Snell, and the people behind Working Dog Productions. They are mildly interesting, but readability is a slight problem.


    A collection of storyboards for the viewer's edification, each detailing key sequences in the film.

Photo Gallery

    A collection of unannotated stills from the film, only of mild interest.

Notes - Apollo 11 Diary

    A listing of dates in the Apollo 11 mission, arranged according to Parkes time, explaining exactly what happened at what time on what day, complete with sound samples that can be accessed from each page. The text sorely needs to have been made larger.

Notes - Key Dates In Human Space Flight

    A listing of events in the history of space flight, starting with the bitter rivalry between the United States and the Russians, and ending with the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, which actually makes for interesting reading.

DVD Credits

    From the special features menu, select the DVD-Video logo to get a listing of the people who worked upon this presentation. The presentation needs a bit of improvement, as it is rather annoying to turn one's head to the side in order to read a credits list.


    Being that this is a locally-made film which has even passed the UK censors without so much as a batted eyelid, there are no censorship issues with this title.

R4 vs R1

    This disc is not currently available anywhere else.


    The Dish, for me, was worth the once-over, but it loses its replay value very quickly.

    The video quality is good, but should have been better.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are comprehensive.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
March 30, 2001
Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NS-C120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer