By John H. Foote

Walking out of the screening for First Man at TIFF, I was not alone in my effusive praise for this extraordinary film. More than one critic was heard stating they had just seen this year’s Best Picture winner and, quite frankly, I agreed with them.

Yet after several major awards being announced First Man is on the outside looking in. The chance of it winning Best Picture is gone, it would be a huge shock if it did, but I can say with every confidence, First Man is out.


An exceptional, brilliant film, superbly directed by Damien Chazelle, acted perfectly by the cast, in every way it is an outstanding film. So why is it being snubbed? How can a film which explores the complicated and exciting life of Neil Armstrong, the first human being to set foot on another planet, fail? Ryan Gosling is superb as Armstrong, possibly his finest performance, while Claire Foy is equally fine as his wife. The director, Oscar winner (for La La Land) DamienChazelle made the astounding decision to shoot the film from the perspective of the astronauts, so the audience sees what they see. Seeing Armstrong on the moon, staring across the vast, dead planet, staring longingly at earth was the stuff of great cinema, why movies were made.

Here is a superb film, one that explores the greatness of America, what Americans can accomplish when they work with one another, and when they dare to dream big. At the beginning of his Presidency, John F. Kennedy challenged scientists and NASA to be on the moon in ten years, and they were. Today the fool sitting in the White House is a liar, a fraud, a man who has spent his Presidency turning CNN into his own news network though he holds them in contempt, a man who has had secret dealings with Russia which might have assured him the election, continued to hide his taxes, and in general brought nothing but humiliation and shame to America.

Perhaps watching First Man is far too harsh a reminder of what once was, but might never be again. What Trump has done in two years could take literally generations to correct. Has the horror show he has inflicted on America turned filmgoers away from a film that celebrates one of the greatest American accomplishments of the 20th century? Possibly so.

What other reason could there be for the film not finding an audience? There are certainly enough movie goers in North America to make A Star is Born AND First Man huge hits, yet that did not happen.

Right now, the fact is, First Man, which might be the years best film, could very well be left out of the Oscar race. Is it the Trump effect? Is it that audiences are waiting for superhero films and nothing else? Have film audiences dumbed down?

For whatever reason, one of the year’s, one of the decade’s very best films might not be in the race! Has this happened before? Seriously? Has a great film, a film for the ages been snubbed by the Academy?

Oh, let’s see.

City Lights (1931), King Kong (1933), The Searchers (1956), Cool Hand Luke (1967), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Badlands (1974), Manhattan (1979), The Shining (1980) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Blow Out (1981), Do the Right Thing (1989), Thelma and Louise (1991), The Age of Innocence (1993) and The Lion King (1994) to name just a few. When The Dark Knight (2008) was snubbed in 2008, the Academy expanded the number of Best Picture nominees from five to up to 10.

Nothing has changed, and if First Man is not among the up top 10 nominees for Best Picture, then the Academy is filled with Trump-like morons.

The facts? 12 nominations minimum, each deserved, three, maybe four likely to happen.


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