First Man – When promotion is not enough

firstmanOne of the films I most anticipate this year, FIRST MAN, turned out to be one that left me the most wanting. I am a huge fan of Damien Chazelle (Director), Josh Singer (screenplay), and the cast of Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy. The union of the guy who directed LA LA LAND with the guy who wrote THE POST and SPOTLIGHT was a Hollywood marriage like no other. What could possibly go wrong?

There were several surprised faces when the 2019 Golden Globe nominations were announced on December 6th. No best picture, no best director, no best writer… in fact only two nominations in total for FIRST MAN. Claire Foy (Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role) and Justin Hurwitz (Best Original Score). Justin won two Oscars in 2017 for his work on LA LA LAND. Claire is no surprise either since she had tow things going for her. One she did a fantastic job in the film and two she is from England and the Hollywood Foreign Press love her; with good reason.

Sadly I think that as other nominations are announced – Critics Choice, Academy Awards – we are going to see a repeat of the Globes. I made sure I saw FIRST MAN as it was intended; in IMAX with all the bells and whistles. This was one film I was not going to rely on the end of year small screen as a guide. I remember walking back to the car feeling bored, depressed, and not the least bit impressed. I sat in the parking lot for a few minutes trying to make sense of it all. I texted a handful of my critic friends to see if maybe I had just missed something. It would not be the first time that I just caught a film on the wrong day. But the feedback was the same as mine. This film had no connection.

Was this completely panned by critics and movie goers? No. But in a year of stand out films it doesn’t measure up. I think the studios are trying to do anything they can to get critics to take notice. The end of year consideration pieces have been stellar. It was either a last ditch effort or they had them planned from the start.

The hard bound, annotated screenplay signed by Josh Singer was the first sign that the studio needed us to pay attention. Then the five volume Journey books arrived and there was no denying that there was a lot of coin being thrown at this film. I wish I had liked the movie more. I wish that the somber tone and dark cloud that hung over each scene didn’t exist. But it did. I sincerely applaud Damien and his team for the work they put forth. But this year my ballot is sans First Man.