Movies: First Man (and why I avoid Oscar movies)

2001? Nope, never heard of that movie.

First man is a potted biography of Neil Armstrong (You might have heard of him) from 1961 to the first moon landing in 1969 (I hope that’s not a spoiler for anyone except those who think he didn’t go).

At times it felt like it was trying to out-odyssey “2001”

It started off shakily. Story wise, that is. The shaky camera work was pretty consistent all the way through, and it was damn annoying. At times it felt like it was trying to out-odyssey 2001: A space odyssey. There were lots of extreme eye close ups, lots of shaking heads and shaking rockets. Despite that, I enjoyed the dive into his character.

This man is so stoical he wouldn’t sweat if he was on fire.

Armstrong was a notoriously reclusive and private man, and the film gets that isolation across. He doesn’t even talk to his wife or his kids, but internalises everything. It’s tough, trying to live with us introverts sometimes, huh?

The background information makes it sounds like this man is so stoical he wouldn’t sweat if he was on fire.

 

 

 

 

 

Well, so much for that, then. He looks pretty happy and emotive to have walked on the moon to me.

It’s not a film I’d go out of my way to re-watch, but it was interesting to see someone who was so private portrayed on the screen. Kudos to Ryan Gosling for trying to act so emotional internally and not externally.

***

It reminded me of why I tend to avoid Oscar-heading movies. (You can always tell: They come out in January and have odd subjects or are biographies). They’re usually like this:

Man: I told you.

(Long, long, long pause in which the camera does not cut away and no one moves)

Woman: About what?

Man: (Inhales)

(Cut to woman who has not moved at all)

(Long, long, long pause in which the camera does not cut away and no one moves)

(Cut back to man)

Man: About Jack.

…and so on, for about three hours or more. Scenes which never end and go on for far too long without dialogue or moving the film forward at all.

First Man was bad for this when it started: We have a shot of Armstrong’s daughter (I’m presuming: It could be his niece for all we’re told) in hospital, some kind of machine looking at her.

We have no clue how the actors are feeling.

We have no idea what’s going on, since there’s no dialogue or exposition going on. Is she dying? We don’t have a clue until we see her being buried. Again, this goes on with minimal dialogue, so we have no clue how the actors are feeling in these scenes.

I don’t mind not being spoon fed for every scene. I don’t mind long scenes that do something for the movie. But Oscar-bait movies always go for these long, endless scenes with no exposition and no explanation of what’s happening. You can make a great movie without the pretention, folks!

Do you watch Oscar laden movies, or tend to avoid them? Let me know!

 

Review: Moondust

2/5

In 1999, Andrew Smith was interviewing Charlie Duke, astronaut and moon walker, when he was interrupted. A fellow moon-walker had died, and now there were only nine of them left. Inspired and motivated by the fact that soon there would be none, Smith set out to track them down and talk to them about their experiences…

The first thing to note about this book is how much harder it would be to write today. Now, instead of nine, there are only four left (October 30, 2018). Soon there will be none, which is an astonishing thought: For three years, mankind sent people to the moon and then never bothered again.

Smith has no idea how to talk to introverts.

I know a fair bit about the Apollo program, but Smith throws facts and information into his mix that I wasn’t aware of. He develops relationships with some of the astronauts, and struggles with others. I was most fascinated by the two introverts – Neil Armstrong and John Young. Armstrong avoided all attempts at a face-to-face interview, but Young was stranger: He sat with Smith at a conference table, not opposite, but one chair offset, and gave his bare replies to the wall.

Smith has no idea how to talk to introverts, which I found amusing, since I am one and he’d presumably have as much trouble talking to me. He seems a pleasant enough fellow, but I wonder about his skill as an interviewer if he can’t get what he wants from his subject.

The most annoying thing about the book is Smith’s writing style. Here’s a sample of his compound, complex sentence structure:

“Houston would never win a beauty contest, but Bean’s neighbourhood on the edge of town is lovely, like a series of causeways cut through a friendly forest, saluted by all manner of towering, weeping trees, no one’s idea of Texas.”

…and he runs these throughout the book. Full stops, man. Use. Them.

Also, Smith drops references to the 1960s and assumes his audience is familiar with them. He talks about “Warhol’s Electric Circus” as though we know what he means. Some context would have been nice.

This is a book as much about Smith’s journey as the astronauts. He wonders why he feels motivated to do this project and shifts from controlling fathers to the astronauts as mirrors for ourselves.

At some point, he realises, the experience stopped being the astronauts and became our expectation of it. We all went to the moon, and we all came back with something different.

But we also all came back with the same thing: How fragile we really are.