"First Man" has been surrounded by idiotic controversies ever since its world premiere at Venice this past August. A common complaint about Damien Chazelle's film, albeit mostly from conservative pundits, was that you never actually see Armstrong planting the flag on the moon. Of course, the flag actually appears in the film numerous times, including an actual shot of the flag waving on the moon and Neil Armstrong's son putting up a flag in front of the Armstrong household.
The flag is there. I've seen "First Man" twice now, and although you don't see Armstrong's iconic planting of it on the moon ground, it is subtly shown. Anyways, why are we even arguing about this in the first place? Who cares?!
Ok, so the flag controversy is a non-issue, but film critics have been shooting darts at Chazelle's film for other reasons. Take for example Richard Brody's “why is First Man so white?” critique. The New Yorker film critic's write-up, entitled “Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong Biopic Is an Accidental Right-Wing Fetish Object," is a perfect example of why film criticism is going to hell. And this is coming from someone who admires Brody's writings and believes that, most of the time, when he doesn't delve into SJW territory, his film criticism is among some of the best around.
However, this 'First Man' review from Brody rather irked me, especially a particularly ridiculous statement saying, “First Man is whiter than a Fred-and-Ginger ballroom set."
With Brody it's all about inclusion and representation. This addition of identity politics into movie reviewing is very dangerous. It fits into a current trend of film criticism that has writers putting politics and cultural sensitivities ahead of pure honesty. Sometimes art and politics should really just be two separate entities, but there are many who refuse to do that. Post-Modernism and Political Theory have snuck into film criticism and it looks like they're here to stay.
Brody's issues were doubled down by RealClear’s Thelma Adams in her own review of "First Man":
“Fifty years [after NASA’s first manned flight to the moon] America doesn’t do such an out-of-this-world job when it comes to racial inclusivity,” Adams has written. “First Man is a reminder of such inequality.
“Under the National Review headline “First Man is the movie of the Year,” my friend and former New York Post colleague Kyle Smith joined with the majority who found the biopic 82 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. He crowed “First Man is why we go to the movies.” To that I ask, ‘What do you mean we, white man?’
Ugh. Then, of course, Adams goes into a diatribe about the last month in politics.
“Nothing like the last month in America shows the cracks in the American melting pot, and the impossibility of a cultural ‘we.’ Most semi-woke individuals sometime during the 141-minute movie will notice the absence of people of color in speaking roles. Not there on the mammoth screen. Not there historically. Not in space. And possibly absent from the audience.”
I didn't particularly think “First Man” was that impressive, but these reactions are maddening. So with all of this backlash occurring, is it no surprise that Chazelle's film is all but tanking at the weekend box-office? It's headed towards a tepid domestic debut of $16.8 million after earning $5.9 million on Friday in 3,640 theaters.