Why First Man fell off this years Oscar race.
With Academy award winning director at the helm, Damien Chazelle's Biopic drama was supposed to make a big splash during this year's award season, instead, it has completely fallen by the wayside. Sputtering out of the sky like one of NASA's early test vehicles. So what happened? How did this space opera directed by the same man who brought us La La Land and Whiplash, and featuring Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy fail? It made an abysmal box office return, and even managed to pick up controversy along the way. Although, that was not it's fault.
The film had all the makings of an Oscar Contender. It was based on a true story, it had a proven filmmaker, and powerhouse performances from its two leads, and though it may still be nominated, hype for the movie has died completely. I will give you three reasons of why this movie's Oscar changes have diminished.
Reason Number One: Bad Timing
How could it be bad timing, it came out in September? Yes, this is true, but September can be considered too early even though it marks the beginning of award season, especially when November through December is when the bulk of Oscar contenders are released. Since late October we have seen a barrage of Oscar-bait films such as A Star is Born, Green Book, Boy Erased, The Favourite, and Roma. First Man stands all by itself in what seems like a long time ago now that it is no longer fresh in our minds. And even though Black Panther is creating Oscar buzz for itself despite a February release. It was one of the biggest movies of the year, it is hard to escape it no matter how hard you try. "Wakanda Forever!"
Reason Number Two: Controversy
Now this one is just silly, but it was something that has hurt the film. It had originally come out during the film festival curcuit that the movie did not show the American Flag planting moment during the first moon landing. Well before the movie came out, a lot of red-blooded Americans decided to protest the film because they felt the movie was trying to force a liberal agenda. The fact of the matter is, Neil Armstrong never planted the flag on the moon. Buzz Aldrin did, and this not a movie about Buzz Aldrin, or American/Russian space race. This is a movie about the man, Neil Armstrong. His life, his tragedies, his family, and his accomplishments. If people had just watched the movie they would see that the flag is still shown on the surface of the moon. There is a wide shot showing both men, the Lunar Module and the flag. Twice. Instead a whole lot was made out of nothing. The damage was done. People had made up their minds that they were not going to watch the movie, and that is exactly what happened.
Reason Number Three: It Was Boring
Even though it is a beautiful film to look at, and it does have two of the best performances of the year, it has the beat of a two-hour long college lecture, in where your just looking at the clock waiting to leave. The moments of sheer space terror were executed perfectly. Everything in between, not so much. There were even moments were Chazelle felt the need to make the movie as gritty as possible, channeling Steven Spielberg's, Saving Private Ryan by using a steady-cam in every scene, trying to make it as shaky and as de-saturated as possible. Instead it was distracting and nauseating. With more compelling and heartbreaking stories such as A Star is Born and Green Book, people already see First Man as cold, and calculating film.
All these reasons may also be the reason why Universal is pushing for the film. Around this time you should see a slew of "For Your Consideration" ads, and yet there is none for First Man. There may be, but I haven't seen any. There is no longer any excitement for what was supposed to be one of the biggest contenders going into in award season. Maybe it will find new life on DVD and beyond. Certain movies take a few years before people discover them.