Friday, July 22, 2011

The Flight of the Gossamer Condor (1978)

1 Nomination, 1 Win

Win: Best Documentary, Short Subject

Sometimes, writing about short films is easy. Despite, or perhaps because of their abbreviated length, they often have an immense amount of drama and plot packed into just a few reels. Other times, however, there just isn't much meat on the bone, and there isn't much to say about a short film. "The Flight of the Gossamer Condor" falls into the latter category.

The film details the creation and first flight of the world's first human powered airplane. The filmmakers capably document the development and first flight, and though the event is quite remarkable, the lack of conflict or drama makes the film little more than a bland historical record. The film doesn't have much to say, nor does it offer anything new, and I can't imagine it appealing to anyone who doesn't have a keen interest in the subject matter. The best documentaries make even the most specialized topics seem fascinating (see The King of Kong for an example of this), but "The Flight of the Gossamer Condor" is unable to rise to this challenge.

Remaining: 3154 films, 876 Oscars, 5431 nominations


  1. Interesting review. What would conflict, drama, or newness look like to you? Is perhaps the technical nature of the accomplishment the main turn-off? It seems that airplane crashes (the film has at least two) and achieving a (supposedly) millennia-long dream would constitute drama and newness. Would a deeper look into the personalities involved have had more appeal?

    Thanks for the review.

  2. Mr. Allen,

    Thank you for reading my review and taking the time to comment. I definitely understand your comments, and would like to clarify. As you said, the story is very much full of drama, and your accomplishment was quite remarkable. What I attempted (perhaps unsuccessfully) to convey in my review was that the film takes a surface-level look at the events, instead of diving in more deeply. It was such a remarkable story and accomplishment that I don't think it was well suited to the medium of the short film. I thought the film handled the crashes very dryly, and didn't really express the importance of the accomplishment.

    Basically, I just wasn't as drawn into the film as I expected to be based on the nature of your accomplishment.

    I hope you find this explanation to be fair, and if not I would be more than happy to continue to converse about it.