Monday, July 22, 2024

First Reactions To “First Man” From The Venice Film Festival

By Matt Neglia 

Nearly 50 years ago, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and now Damien Chazelle’s much anticipated follow up to his Oscar winning films “Whiplash” and “La La Land” has landed at the 2018 Venice Film Festival and the reactions are strong, signaling that this could be a major Oscar contender for the still unbelievably talented and young Oscar winning director.

David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter writes about Ryan Gosling’s performance…

“Gosling downplays his natural charisma here to portray a man simply intent on doing a job, approaching it with the utmost seriousness and without ego. Armstrong shows zero willingness to consider what he’s doing in any self-aggrandizing historical context, his taciturn demeanor proving frustrating to the press, who want uplifting soundbites. That makes the characterization almost antithetical to the standard Hollywood conception of a historically significant figure of this type.

Instead, Gosling pulls you in on an intimate level, whether Neil is tackling life-or-death situations mid-mission or simply staring at the moon from his backyard, as if the distant image somehow holds the secret to a successful landing. It’s a subdued, almost self-effacing performance that nonetheless provides the drama with a commanding center.”

Michael Nordine from Indiewire writes about Claire Foy bringing attention to the outstanding year the acclaimed actress has had…

“It’s been something of an annus mirabilis for Foy, whose lauded two-season arc on “The Crown” also led to leading roles in this year’s “Unsane” and the upcoming “The Girl in the Spider’s Web.” Though it may be difficult for royalists to see her without her accent or her crown, the Brit is as American as apple pie here — even if, as is so often the case in movies of this sort, she’s relegated to simply being the concerned wife. Foy does her utmost to bring something new to that familiar role, though, imbuing it with a tenacity befitting her pedigree.”

Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian gives us more insight into Gosling’s take on Neil Armstrong…

“Gosling gives a performance of muscular intelligence and decency as Armstrong, a man of calm and restraint, lacking what no one in the 1960s called emotional intelligence. The film suggests that this absence of a normal human boiling point is vital to his success: he stays cool and focused in the spacecraft under conditions that would reduce most people to a blinding panic.”

Owen Gleiberman from Variety writes about Chazelle’s approach to the story

“The fact that space travel, viewed from the inside, could look and feel so much more abrasive and hazardous than we might ever have thought is part of the raw dramatic power of “First Man.” Yet what ultimately gets to you about the movie, and makes it as haunting an experience as it is gripping, is that the quivery peril of being aboard a rocket ship incarnates something indelible about what the space program was about: not just a “new frontier,” but a culture’s way of defying death. The movie captures that death was always part of it. The steep risk factor, the sheer number of pilots and astronauts who lost their lives, the scary macabre thrust of the voyages — it was all a dream poised on the edge of an abyss. “First Man” bears the same relation to the space dramas that have come before it that “Saving Private Ryan” did to previous war films. The movie redefines what space travel is — the way it lives inside our imagination — by capturing, for the first time, what the stakes really were.”

​And here are some more reactions from Twitter…


All and all, it looks like Chazelle has another winner on his hands after achieving Oscar success with his last two films. My own personal gut feeling is that this will be a film which will get a respectable amount of nominations (It could go as high as 10) and win one or two tech awards in the end like “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Zero Dark Thirty” did. Time will only tell. But one thing is for sure…the Oscar race has lifted off!

Stay tuned for more!

You can follow Matt and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars & Film on Twitter at @NextBestPicture

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Matt Neglia
Matt Neglia
Obsessed about the Oscars, Criterion Collection and all things film 24/7. Critics Choice Member.

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