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First Man - Neil Armstrong Biopic from Damien Chazelle

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 Damien Chazelle's Neil Armstrong biopic has a new trailer, has gotten a warm reception at its opening, and done well with early reviews. I'm quite excited. Chazelle's first two films were excellent, and I have a huge soft spot for everything Apollo related.


First Man opens on October 12.


I also saw a preview of First Man in front of Mission Impossible Fallout in IMAX. I'll put a spoiler tag around my impressions just because.


The segment in IMAX was of the launch sequence and it was intense. We're so used to seeing the outside of these rockets as they launch, shots even included in the trailer above, but the segment I watched was entirely shot from within the capsule. With the booming IMAX sound system it was a riveting and claustrophobic experience. This might seem like a mostly quiet movie, but I think I'll be seeking out a large format to see it in.


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  • 1 month later...

Now at a solid 89% on RT now that pretty much all the reviews are out. I haven't felt the need to read any impressions or reviews, but I've seen a bunch of headlines recommending seeing it in IMAX, so that's what I'm going to do. 


Also, here is a great interview with the screenwriter. A bunch of interesting stuff in there. Apparently a bunch of the space stuff was shot in 16mm, with the ground scenes shot in 35mm, and then IMAX is used on the moon.


I also didn't realize the development timeline. Damien Chazelle reached out to screenwriter Josh Singer right after Whiplash came out. Between when they started writing and when they actually started filming, Singer wrote Spotlight and the Post (winning an Oscar for the former), and Chazelle won an Oscar for La La Land. So while at this point it feels like this was a collaboration between two very talented folks operating at the height of their power, when they started it was a young upstart working with the writer of The Fifth Estate. That's in addition to the Emmy that Claire Foy won and Gosling getting his second Oscar nod.

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I'm taking my kid to this, even though it sounds like it might be pretty heavy on family drama and lighter on space stuff.


The next time he bitches at me about this or that I'll be all like, shut the fuck up, humans went to the moon in a rocket powered trash can... you can pick up some fucking socks.

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4 minutes ago, TheLeon said:

There’s a strong possibility that I’ll be in the minority here, but I didn’t like it much at all. :(

Is it indeed boring Oscar Bait?


To clarify, I'm actually interested in it but feel like I've been subjected to quite a string of not-too-hot cinema experiences as of late. I'm not sure I can stomach yet another mediocre flick without walking out. 

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It doesn’t really fit my usual category of “Oscar Bait”. Claire Foy gets one big “LOOK AT MY ACTING” scene, but other than that everyone plays it pretty low key. The period set/costume design wasn’t very flashy (which is a plus in my book). It didn’t take a historical event and bend over backwards trying to teach us a lesson about something that’s happening today. 


 I did find it just kinda boring though. I can enjoy a slow movie that’s mostly people standing around talking. But here, I just had a hard time connecting to any of the characters. The movie doesn’t really give you much of an opportunity to connect to anyone other than Armstrong, and part of his whole deal is that he is so emotionally guarded, it’s hard to get close to him. 


And to get slightly into spoiler territory, I felt like the best stuff was all in the first 10-15 minutes, both in terms of the family drama and the visceral flight footage. 

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3 minutes ago, ort said:

Do you think it would bore a mature 9 year old?

I actually think I might have liked this more if I saw it when I was around that age. Part of what I found boring is that I felt like I had already seen this movie a million times (not just space missions, but any story where a man leaves his family behind on a dangerous mission - those dramatic points were all too familiar). It starts off with a bang, and the promise of increasing danger might be enough to keep him engaged during the slower bits. It is over 2 hours long though, and I really felt  it. 

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I think I'm still gonna go. I've heard mixed things. I'm okay with slow. I think I would have to see it in the theater, because a movie like this is hard to watch with distractions of the home.


He's learned a little bit about the moon landing, but I want him to see just how insane it was to attempt something so outlandish and daring at the time. To understand just how big of a deal it was.

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I liked the film quite a bit, but it's not what I was expecting. I plan on seeing it again to see if my first impressions stick. Here's my review:


As grand an exercise in engineering and exploration as history has to offer, films about the early days of human spaceflight rightly tend to focus on process and teamwork; the ingenuity of those on the ground, the courage of those shot into the sky. Films like The Right Stuff, Apollo 13, and Hidden Figures walk us through various aspects of early efforts in space, but First Man largely eschews the process, using it as background to focus on the emotional burden of one man.

Quiet and reserved, First Man is a fitting portrait of Neil Armstrong. Even while portraying actual heroics, this is a film that shys from the word or even the concept. Armstrong's feats are not presented as super human, and he certainly doesn't seem to think that of himself. Here he's presented as a cog in a great machine; a vital one, and one eminently capable, but a small part of a larger, unexamined, whole. 

Ryan Gosling was a natural pick for a such a subdued character, and he effectively applies his trademark reserve. As Armstrong's wife Janet, Claire Foy is asked to do more emotional lifting, and she too is easily up to the task. The ensemble is full of notable, or at least recognizable faces that breathe a life into the depth of the space programs many characters, even as First Man choses largely to ignore them.

The filmmaking is a significant departure from Chazelle's previous work. Gone are the perfectly choreographed whip pans and smooth dolly shots, First Man is almost entirely hand held. Shot on a variety of grainy films and in a documentary style that seemingly struggles with focus, Chazelle pushes for an authentic, personal, take on the era. In the quiet moments, I sometimes found it on the edge of distracting, but the various flight sequences are payoff for the dedication to the style. Each flight is shot differently, but all effectively accentuate the intensity of the experience.

First Man is a curiosity in its unflinching focus on the emotional state of one man. In the face of such grand events, it largely resists the temptation to expand its purview. For someone with an intense curiosity about NASA's early days, it's at times a frustratingly narrow window, but it's an effective one. While perhaps not his finest work, Damien Chazelle continues to be one of our most exciting and capable filmmakers, and First Man is as much a testament to its subject as it is the director's range. 

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I loved it. I know space flight is still risky today, but I think the movie effectively captures just how experimental and dangerous this all was back then. One of the characters has a line in the movie telling one of the NASA directors "You're just boys playing with models" or something like that. Pretty much... The flight sequences are absolutely stunning--the sound design of the rocket engines pushing and pushing, all the metal constraining and twisting under the g-forces, etc. So well done.

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