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Yes No Maybe So: "First Man"

by Nathaniel R

Raise your hand in the comments if you needed this month of enticing trailers. I sure did. There have been too many weeks this spring and early summer where too few interesting options appeared in movie theaters asking for our money. Suddenly June's onslaught of teasing has led us to hope that 2018 will turn itself into a stellar film year... and thus a competitive Oscar season to come. We've already discussed A Star is Born, White Boy Rick, The Children ActSuspiria, Widows, Mowgli, and Christopher Robin. Now we have the latest from Oscar winning young director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land) and it's the historical drama First Man about Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and the moon landing.

As with A Star is Born before it, this trailer lives up to the movie's 'on paper' promise and will only feed into more pre-release Oscar hype. Let's Yes No and Maybe So™ it after the jump...




  • Ryan Gosling is one of our favorite movie stars and actors so we'll see him in anything
  • We were worried about Claire Foy being saddled with the traditionally thankless "supportive wife" role here (well thankless, artistically, as Oscar often responds to such roles) but she looks genuinely riveting in these short glimpses -- especially when she's yelling at the men "You're a bunch of boys. You don't have anything under control!" Hello, Oscar clip! Hopefully it's an unexpectedly meaty role that she aces and the trailer isn't just overpromising the Foy ascension.
  • Though La La Land has many needless detractors it was stunning to look at, a big leap up from Whiplash in the visual department, and Chazelle continues that growing visual confidence here. We hope he's shaping up to be a director with a sturdy trusted team who churn out one beautiful film after another. For his fourth picture he's kept most of the same key team again: Oscar winners Linus Sandgren behind the camera, Justin Hurwitz in the recording booth, and Tom Cross in the editing room. Mary Zophres who received a well deserved but unusual Oscar nomination for La La Land's contemporary costumes, is also back. The only big change that we're noticing at this early juncture is the production designer. David Wasco won an Oscar for La La Land but for some reason it's Nathan Crowley taking over the production design duties for this Chazelle film. Crowley is also a terrific designer (The Prestige, Dunkirk, Interstellar, and The Dark Knight). This is all a very long way of saying the team on this movie is super gifted and we're excited to see what they'll do with this material.
  • It's always hard to suss out line readings and vocal registers in trailers since the editing is in slivers so it might just be my imagination but Corey Stoll, Patrick Fugit, and Claire Foy in particular sound like they're doing strong vocal work, totally in period and accented.
  • The cinematography looks crazy stunning.




  • We know how the story ends so how will they keep the tension up -- there's a lot of suggestion here that our hero / astronaut could die at any moment but might that feel empty in feature-length form since obviously Neil Armstrong didn't die but walked on the moon.
  • For all his gifts Damien Chazelle has not shown much aptitude in giving his supporting characters anything to do or anything worth doing. His films have generally focused on just two people. This story should technically require a village and we see a lot of famous faces flash by: Patrick Fugit, Pablo Schreiber, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Ciaran Hands, Jason Clarke... and there are still more "names" in the cast list that we didn't spot in the trailer. That's a lot of great actors to waste if Chazelle doesn't up his game in the ensemble department.
  • Both Apollo 13 (1995) and The Right Stuff (1983) really hold up and were Oscar favorites in their years. Those are tall film shadows to live under. Can it measure up?




  • Is Claire Foy the only woman in this movie?! Frustrating.


But we're a total yes. How about you? And how do you think this will fare at the Oscars?

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Reader Comments (28)

This looks incredible though.... I was hoping to hear "Space Oddity".

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Gosh, the Internet moves so fast. Is there any way that I am the first man to suggest that Corey Stoll’s supporting role as Aldrin has Oscar Buzz written all over it?

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBrevity

Watch even if Foy is the only woman in the whole cast she'll still get pushed for Supporting Actress. *sighs*

That negativity aside this does look beautiful to look at and I hope it won't be another paint by numbers biopic. Although having just recently rewatched Apollo 13, a movie that like you said still holds up real well, it'll be difficult for me to accept another space movie without Ed Harris yelling at me that failure is not an option!

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I see this as a crowning of Gosling a bit like DiCaprio a few years ago,infact it seems so designed by committee even the casting of Foy seems on the nose.

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

It looks exciting. I didn't like La La Land at all but I'm still curious to see it. When oh when will Kyle Chandler get an Oscar nomination!?

Also, Nathaniel, sorry to bring this up, but the link to Supporting Actress on each individual predictions page leads to a dead end -- just a heads up!

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark

I've been pissed off at the title of this movie ever since it was first announced.

We had "Hidden Figures" and a new way of looking at NASA and scientific advancement.

Then tone deaf, self absorbed Damian Chazelle wants to put us back on track, focusing on the men involved and the competition between them. Science, space, it's a white man's story, yah! Diversity, women, they have nothing to do with STEM.

I like Ryan Gosling, but I'm not going to this movie, to be sucked back into a non-diverse narrative as though it were the truth.

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Love this. Can't wait!

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I thought it looked really bland. I can't imagine it will measure up to The Right Stuff or Apollo 13.

Even innovative biopics have had trouble gaining traction with the Academy in recent years (Jackie, Steve Jobs) and this straightforward retelling of a cis white man's story, so soon after Hidden Figures, does seem rather ripe for a backlash, FWIW.

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Absolutely not!!!

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

Adri, nail on head about Chazelle being tone deaf and self-absorbed! This yawn-inducing spiels Ryan Gosling gave about jazz in BLAH BLAH BLAH was whitesplaining at its most insufferable, and clearly a mouthpiece for what Chazelle felt needed to be said, because his voice is oh-so-unique.

Allow that!

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEmma

I don't have any interest in even watching the trailer so I'm a no unless I have to for Oscar completion or if it gets raves from the right people.

And I found La La Land charming, if problematic.

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Chazelle's too Oscar-inclined currently not to see it (it's going to be in the conversation), but I'm not thrilled. I haven't liked his previous two films even if I see their merits, and nothing feels new here.

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Looks good and Oscar worthy, I hope they have the "Fly Me to Moon Song" in it. Also when are you going to update more of your Oscar nominations predictions? You got Best Actor, Supporting Actor, Actress and Foreign Film complete, can we see the rest please?

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Hartsell

i don't know, y'all. claire foy's role seems like the prototypical "supporting wife" role in this trailer. from just these 2.5 minutes, i can't imagine a way in which her role will be structurally important. of course, it's only a first trailer...

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCharles O

It looks pretty, but it also looks like a paint-by-numbers biopic about someone who really doesn’t need one. And the dialogue in the trailer is painfully clichéd. I might give Chazelle another chance because I liked Whiplash, but La La Land was hokey, generic, and offensive.

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Looks pretty bland.

Incredibly unsurprised the lack of women is a point of contention. Jesus, one day at a time... Are they supposed to fabricate the women going up to the moon now too? Although if they do, they should totally cast Yolande Moreau as Valentina Tereshkova! :D

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterManny

I'm not going to this movie, to be sucked back into a non-diverse narrative as though it were the truth.

^ Amen to that.

(And final fast editing enhanced by music doesn't make a movie exciting, just predictable)

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

The comment of this thread... I mean, this is based on a biographical book. But it's interesting to hear what people want in a movie these days. Though where are these type of comments for the others YNMS trailer posts?

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterguest

Yes! Gosling is not just a good actor but a genuine movie star and after "La La Land" which should have one the best picture- this looks like another Oscar winner from Mr Chazelle

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I think I’m actually on board for the these-people-all-thought-they-were-going-to-die narrative. I actually don’t think that gets enough play in our public consciousness. We’ve been in space long enough that it’s a foregone conclusion. I think that’s an important supplement to our public narrative.

I’m just not super on board for Damien Chazelle. I was not the right audience for La La Land. I literally kissed the floor when the Moonlight surprise happened. This looks kind of clunky to me, esp. the dialogue.

But also the moon landing was fake so this is fiction lol

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterG

Firmly pro.

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Looks stilted and predictable.

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJono

Come on Claire Foy get that token supportive wife Oscar nom!

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSTFU

Given that next year is the 50th anniversary of that first walk on the moon, it would seem odd if films weren't commemorating it. The trailer has some overly predicatble beats, but that doesn't mean the film won't be tense and well done. As for the white man focus, well, we are each free to decide, of course, if that interests us or not. I would say, though, let's not demonise something simply for focusing on a white man. White men are not the enemy. Abuse of power is the enemy.

June 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

FICTION! We did not land on the moon.

S. Kubrick

June 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSK


June 13, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterdomgogo

I don't think the issue is so much that the movie focuses on a white man (I just saw First Reformed, which focuses on a white man, and it's a masterpiece; I wish it would get as much attention as First Man) so much that Damian Chazelle seems unable to write complex characters who are not triumphant middle-class white men. I've seen people call him the greatest filmmaker of his generation, but perhaps in 2018 we should demand expand their reach.

And yes, I realize he directed a woman to a Best Actress Oscar, but that was in a film in which his white male lead had to mansplain jazz, an African-American art form, to her, which was odd and offensive on multiple counts.

June 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Suzanne: Fair enough, although this is only Chazelle's fourth film, and he's still young. Plenty of time for him to diversify! Also, Chazelle hasn't written First Man (though I thought he had at first too). It's written by Josh Singer (who co-wrote excellent female roles in Spotlight and The Post).

I can't wait to see First Reformed. I adore Schrader's work and have a lot of time for Hawke too, so it's great to hear so many positive things about it.

June 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

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