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REVIEW: "First Man"

By Eric Hillis, TheMovieWaffler.com

originally published: 10/24/2018

REVIEW: "First Man"

The image that most defines the 20th century is that of a man standing on the surface of the moon. The man is astronaut Neil Armstrong, but we can’t see his face as he’s wearing a helmet, the glass of which reflects our collective achievement back at us. When he took a small step, we all took a giant leap with him, and Armstrong instantly became more than a mere man, a symbol. With First Man, director Damien Chazelle takes us inside the famous helmet, stripping away the symbol to tell the story of Armstrong the man.

Chazelle’s film begins in the early 1960s with the death of Armstrong’s three-year-old daughter from a brain tumor, and it suggests this grief played a large role in Armstrong’s determination to get to the moon. It’s the first of several losses suffered by Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), as the film highlights the literal sacrifices made on the journey to the lunar landing, with many of his fellow astronauts perishing during experimental tests and flights. Each loss seems to push Armstrong harder, to ensure their lives weren’t lost in vain, while in the background, politicians and a disillusioned public begin to debate whether John F. Kennedy’s dream is worth pursuing.

In some ways, First Man might be viewed as a companion piece to Pablo Larrain’s Jackie. Both movies are concerned with the legacy of JFK, are studies of professionalism in the face of grief, and are more concerned with using the tools of cinema to investigate the psychology of their subjects than to tell a straight narrative. As such, it can be difficult to grasp the timeline of events portrayed in First Man, as Chazelle keeps his focus strictly honed on Armstrong’s personal involvement, so if you’re looking for a dummies’ guide to the space race, you’ll have to look elsewhere (Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff is an ideal starting point).

REVIEW: "First Man"

As you might expect from a man of his generation, Armstrong is an emotionally withdrawn figure, which makes him a prime subject for a cinematic biopic. Chazelle and screenwriter Josh Singer never take the easy route of emotional monologues or verbal sparring, entrusting Gosling with the task of illustrating Armstrong’s state of mind visually. The result might be the Canadian star’s finest performance. For much of his screen time only his eyes are visible, and when the visor comes down and we’re left to stare at blackness we realize just how much those eyes have told us.

Gosling’s performance is equalled by that of Claire Foy, as the astronaut’s wife Janet. Many biopics of male figures shoehorn in spouses in a manner that comes off as tokenistic at best, but First Man cleverly uses Janet both as a surrogate for the anxious American public and as a woman who simply wants her children’s father to come home. Watching Janet chewing her nails alone in her living room as her husband sets off on a potentially fatal mission is far more impactful than the usual montages of global crowds gathered around giant screens in city squares.



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With space travel portrayed in numerous movies by some of the most talented of filmmakers, Chazelle faced a tough task of making his sequences stand out, but no previous movie has conveyed just how scary it is to be shot into space inside a tin can. Focusing on the rickety rivets and bolts that hold everything together, First Man reminds us of how limited the technology was a mere six decades after the Wright brothers took to the skies. When Armstrong eventually touches down on the moon itself, any horror gives way to celestial awe, and a small gesture by the astronaut in tribute to his daughter compounds the emotional rush of man’s greatest moment.

First Man

4  stars out of 5

 

Directed by:  Damien Chazelle; Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy,  Jason Clarke, Pablo Schreiber, Christopher Abbot, Kyle Chadler, Ciarán Hinds, Ethan Embry, Corey Stoll, Shea Whigham, Patrick Fugit, Lukas Haas







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Monmouth Arts Presents Sneak Peek Screening of “Never Look Away”
(RED BANK, NJ) -- See the movie before New York or Los Angeles! Monmouth Arts will provide another installation of its “Film Sneak Peek” series with Never Look Away, an epic tale of art and history spanning three turbulent decades of 20th-century Germany, on November 29 at Bow Tie Cinemas in Red Bank at 7:00pm. 
"The Brighton Bar - Home Of Original Music" Documentary To Be Screened In Long Branch
(LONG BRANCH, NJ) -- From the 1970s to today the Brighton Bar has been a live music venue and a staple of the New Jersey music scene.  On Wednesday, November 28th at 7:00pm, a free showing of The Brighton Bar - Home Of Original Music  - a documentary about the venue will be screened at The NJ Rep West End Arts Center.
Westfield IFF and James Ward Mansion Host Pop-Up Gin Joint with Movies at the Mansion
(WESTFIELD, NJ) -- Big Dreams & Silver Screens, the organization responsible for the Westfield International Film Festival, is happy to announce their end-of-year celebration and fundraiser, “Of All the Gin Joints” on December 6 at the James Ward Mansion. The evening is a Casablanca-inspired party that will feature a pop-up gin bar, light bites by Feast Catering, live music by Tony Mowatt, and a screening of Casablanca.  Westfield native, Francesca Rizzo will also be screening a complementary independent noir short film, Sullivan’s Last Call – “a sexy little film about celibacy.”
2018 International Film Festival Brings 4 Award Winning Foreign Films To Vineland
(VINELAND, NJ) -- Enjoy four highly-acclaimed award-winning recent foreign films representing diverse cultures at the 2018 International Film Festival, starting Monday, November 26, at the Levoy Theatre, 126-130 N. High St., Millville, NJ. The four films—A Fantastic Woman, The Interpreter, 1945, and Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me—will introduce the theatergoer to the universality of themes that are common to Jewish and other international themes. They are representative of the finest of today’s international cinematographic art.
NJSO presents Star Wars: A New Hope in concert on Thanksgiving weekend
(NEWARK, NJ) --The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra presents screenings of the complete film Star Wars: A New Hope with Oscar-winning composer John Williams’ musical scores performed live on Thanksgiving weekend, November 23–25. Performances take place in Red Bank, Newark, and New Brunswick.


REVIEW: "First Man"
The image that most defines the 20th century is that of a man standing on the surface of the moon. The man is astronaut Neil Armstrong, but we can’t see his face as he’s wearing a helmet, the glass of which reflects our collective achievement back at us. When he took a small step, we all took a giant leap with him, and Armstrong instantly became more than a mere man, a symbol. With First Man, director Damien Chazelle takes us inside the famous helmet, stripping away the symbol to tell the story of Armstrong the man.
REVIEW: "Halloween"
In 2013, John Carpenter’s Halloween received a 35th anniversary blu-ray release. The accompanying booklet credited the following line of dialogue to Jamie Lee Curtis’s babysitting heroine Laurie Strode: “Was it the boogeyman?” Of course, that’s a misquote. In the scene in question, Laurie admits to herself that “It WAS the boogeyman,” to which Donald Pleasence’s Doctor Loomis solemnly replies, “As a matter of fact, it was.”
REVIEW: "Cold War"
Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help viewing the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.
Baba Babee Skazala
Among the many intriguing films being screened at New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018, one title immediately caught our eye — Baba Babee Skazala: Grandmother Told Grandmother.  
NJ Film Fest Preview: October 2018
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 runs from September 14 to October 26 on the Rutgers University Campus in New Brunswick, NJ. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will feature over 30 film screenings.  

From Our Magazine

REVIEW: "First Man"

REVIEW: "First Man"

The image that most defines the 20th century is that of a man standing on the surface of the moon. The man is astronaut Neil Armstrong, but we can’t see his face as he’s wearing a helmet, the glass of which reflects our collective achievement back at us. When he took a small step, we all took a giant leap with him, and Armstrong instantly became more than a mere man, a symbol. With First Man, director Damien Chazelle takes us inside the famous helmet, stripping away the symbol to tell the story of Armstrong the man.


REVIEW: "Halloween"

REVIEW: "Halloween"

In 2013, John Carpenter’s Halloween received a 35th anniversary blu-ray release. The accompanying booklet credited the following line of dialogue to Jamie Lee Curtis’s babysitting heroine Laurie Strode: “Was it the boogeyman?” Of course, that’s a misquote. In the scene in question, Laurie admits to herself that “It WAS the boogeyman,” to which Donald Pleasence’s Doctor Loomis solemnly replies, “As a matter of fact, it was.”


REVIEW: "Cold War"

REVIEW: "Cold War"

Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help viewing the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.


Baba Babee Skazala

Baba Babee Skazala

Among the many intriguing films being screened at New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018, one title immediately caught our eye — Baba Babee Skazala: Grandmother Told Grandmother.  








Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


MUSIC

New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


THEATRE

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm







DANCE

PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


FILM

Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

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