Just a thought… Art is the closest we can come to understanding how a stranger feels. [Roger Ebert]
Welcome to a brand new week! Here on Vancouver Island, we’ve been treated over the past few days to blue skies and temperatures in the low teens: chilly enough for a spring day, but warm enough in the fall that you can’t resist the call of the convertible!
Where is 2018 going? I almost tossed my rice cakes the other night when Rob and I were watching an episode of The Good Doctor taped on October 1st, and saw an ad luring people to spend Christmas at Disney World. We’re not even at Halloween yet, for heaven’s sake! Then again, keeping in mind that some radio stations in the US start running Christmas music at this time of year – or even sooner – who am I to be the judge and jury over when people start thinking about the holidays?
I’ve found myself doing some last minute shopping, two months before the holidays, myself! Rob and I are going to be snowbirds this year for the first time, so any gifts we’re giving in person in Canada will have to be done by November 4th, when we fly to Ontario (and then I go on to Halifax before heading south). It’s so much to get straight in our heads: Toronto, Ottawa, Toronto, Halifax, then sun. I’ll tell you more about the wheres and wherefores later on.
With few exceptions, you can’t go wrong with movie passes. It was just such a gift from my aunt and uncle last Christmas that came in handy Friday when Rob and I went to see First Man starring Ryan Gosling and The Crown‘s Claire Foy. We decided to splurge and see it in IMAX. Am I glad we did?
Well, I’m glad I asked! I don’t know what it is with me lately, but I want more from my movies. As much as I liked A Star is Born and plan to see it again soon on the big screen, it didn’t GRAB me. Maybe I want to laugh ’til I cry, or cry ’til I can’t cry anymore, but where is the movie that’s going to take me on the ride that some of the best pictures did last year? Three Billboards, Shape of Water…movies like that. And before that, the whimsy of La La Land or the depth of Moonlight?
First Man is saddled with the task of making a quiet, private man like Neil Armstrong into someone audiences can connect with. A family tragedy that precedes his moonwalk sets a backdrop for the film whose emotional climax may just be a case of dramatic license. (I won’t give away here; of course, it’s connected to the moonwalk, but that’s not the entire picture.)
Speaking of picture, IMAX is indeed a fitting format for the subject of this film: space. But so much of it is done in extreme closeups: the capsule itself, the faces of its occupants, the Vitamix-like jostling that these brave men endured. All of that wasn’t enough to sell me on the total necessity of seeing First Man in that format in order to fully appreciate it.
Contrary to what Faux News and ill-informed politicians like Marco Rubio were ranting about, there are plenty of American flags that appear in this film. They don’t have a flag-planting scene per se, but there are plenty of stars and stripes.
At the risk of nitpicking, the film could have used subtitles for many of the radio conversations between the astronauts and mission control. That would have helped a lot (not that I think we missed a whole bunch because the dialogue was drowned out by static and soundtrack). There is little character development outside of the Armstrong household, unlike films like The Right Stuff, where we not only knew the astronauts’ names, but we knew more of their backstories as well.
Just as comparing versions of A Star is Born is impossible to avoid but still unwise, First Man is its own film and director Damien Chazelle has done a masterful job. I expect technical and arts Oscars to go this film’s way, but for my money, there’s no better picture (yet) than A Star is Born. However, as fast as time flies, there’s a lot of time yet before those statues are handed out on February 24th, 2019.
Have a great day and I’ll be back with you here tomorrow.