Sunday, November 25, 2018

First Man review

Are new cinematic takes on particular subjects already covered advisable? Or should it be that a different look at a subject or genre will work? Because that's what director Damen Chazelle's First Man is. It's a different, unusual  take on America's space program, this time it's the story of the first man on the moon, Neil Armstorng.

Based on the biography, First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James Hansen, the film starts out with test pilot Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) struggling to fly and land the NASA test spacecraft X-15. It's harrowing and one of the constant reminders that astronauts would face death at every turn. The movie then shows Armstrong's other struggle. His child daughter Karen is suffering from cancer. She succumbs to it and her memory haunts Armstrong for the rest of his life. At the same time, his wife Janet (Claire Foy) cares for Armstrong's two sons. After the X-15 test flights, Armstrong applies for astronaut and makes the cut. He is befriended by astronaut Ed White. (Jason Clarke) The rest of the film is the story of Armstrong's participation in NASA's Gemini and Apollo space programs. The last which leads to Apollo 11 and the moon landing.

Armstrong was quiet.  He was an enigma.  Gosling plays a man who maintains an even strain while suppressing his emotions.  He's even more Spock than Spock.  Janet (Claire Foy) struggles with raising a family and dealing with the idea that her husband may not come back from work.

Director Chazelle and screenwriter Josh Singer have decided to make this movie an indie like take on an legendary  story.  Whereas, the  predictable way of doing this movie would be similar to another film on the space program, The Right Stuff. (1983)  That movie had an epic feel.  Chazelle's approach is a swing and miss.  First Man feels small compared to the titanic   subject matter.

This small approach to an epic leads to a dull film.  First, Chazelle keeps the lighting dim, diffuse and strained.  The Armstrong home looks like a set in an indie movie..  Second, many times he films the astronauts from a first person view or from within the spaceship.  Yeah, it gives the movie a claustrophobic vibe but the audience doesn't get what is happening because you don't see the ships from the outside.  For example, during a Gemini mission, Armstrong's ship starts to spin out of control.  But because the focus is on Armstrong, we don't really have a good feel of what is happening with the ship. That's drama draining.

Then there is the music score.  Composer Justin Hurwitz's melodic talents which were vividly demonstrated in La La Land (2016) are set aside.  This movie demands the fanfare of The Right Stuff's Bill Conti. Hurtwitz decides to go Philip Glass.  Any emotional boost is non-existent.  His score is musical wallpaper.

The saving grace of this movie is that it is competently made.  I can admire the craft but not it's emotional impact  If you're looking for a dramatic telling of the Apollo project, you should try to find the HBO mini-series From the Earth to the Moon.  (1998) First Man can be as barren as the moon.  The grade is C Plus.

 .  . .   

Monday, November 5, 2018

Conservative Republicans have become racists

Conservative President Donald Trump is the head of the Republican Party. He and his conservative Republican allies have been making racists statements over the last month to motivate bigots in the party. And I have not seen any push back from other conservatives. They have embraced racism. Don't believe me? Let's go over some of them.

In the Florida Governor's race, Conservative Republican Ron DeSantis has described his African American opponent, Democrat Andrew Gillum with this phrase. Don't "monkey this up" by electing Gillum. (The Hill) I've never heard the phrase "monkey" something up. I have heard racists compare blacks to monkeys and apes.

Trump then called Gillum a "thief" (Trump tweet below.) There is not one shred of evidence that Gillum is a thief. (CNN) And too often, it is what racist whites use to describe African Americans.

Then, conservative Republican Sonny Purdue who's also the Agriculture Secretary said that the Florida gubernatorial race was too "cotton pickin'" important to be messed up. (Vox) "Cotton pickin'" is a phrase used to associate with Afircan American slaves who were forced to pick cotton.

And since there is another African American running for governor in the United States, Trump felt the need as head of the Republican Party to again drop another racist charge. In Georgia, African American woman and Democrat, Stacey Abrams is running for governor. Trump on Sunday called her "unqualified." Now, this is an old insult against African Americans by racists who question their intelligence. Ms. Abrams is a Yale Law School graduate and was minority house leader in the Georgia House of Representatives. (CNN Report)

If you wish to reject this bigotry, stop voting conservative Republican. Vote Democratic.