First Man

I want to write a review of a film that has yet to come out. OK then, a preview…

I am a child of the 1960s really. I was into The Beatles, I had granny glasses and a fringed jacket and could tell you anything about the space race. I remember when man first landed on the Moon. It was middle of the night in the UK and I was not allowed to watch it live, one of the greatest events in the history of humanity, spoilt by my parents under threat of punishment.

There are many shameful things about this world. One is that people do not remember the names of the astronauts who walked on the Moon. Another is that we no longer have the technology to get us there, this 50 years after the main event. Of course, as soon as Apollo 11/Eagle landed, people began to complain it was too expensive, a waste of money. Money that could be spent on wars. Three missions were cancelled. Scientific enquiry counts for nothing.

Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on our satellite. As such, he must go down as one of the most famous men in history. But let’s not forget the courage, skill and achievements of the others who went to the Moon though.

Why was Armstrong chosen? I think, for two reasons, one his incredible skill, the other, his ability to cope under pressure. During the flight and afterwards. For the rest of his life he was bugged by people wanting to meet him, ask questions, have a little piece of his life. In the end, for Armstrong, it got too much. He hated it, and became a recluse. By the time the excellent documentary In The Shadow Of The Moon was made, he refused to participate. He wanted a quiet life. And, of course, in 2012 he died.

There have been feature films about space, especially Apollo 13. There have been documentaries. Now there is a new one coming up, First Man.

Trailers indicate it is to be released in IMAX.

It centres on Armstrong. Presumably the climax will be the trip to the Moon.

Watching space footage on a big screen is as close as most of us will ever get. I hope their cgi footage is correct, and watchable.

I am worried. These types of ‘biography’ take liberties with the facts, for no reason. I am hoping Mr Armstrong will not be portrayed as some kind of swashbuckling space pioneer, just a guy doing his job exceptionally well. If they alter the facts to keep it ‘interesting’, that will be depressing.

2001

It is fifty years and a little bit since 2001: A Space Odyssey was released. 1968.

So many books and articles have been written about this film over the years, you wonder if there is anything left to say.

But I have a few thoughts.

When it came out, man was nowhere near landing on the Moon. There was no cinema cgi. Nowadays, every film has a wash of cgi on it, but not one frame of this film. It was all actual models, hand animation and other rather ingenious special effects. It was craftsmanship and patience and skill. And it shows on the screen, setting a visual standard that films nowadays cannot match.

I know people who hate science fiction and have never seen it. This is actually probably good. It is a film made for the cinema, a true film. I first saw it in my home town on a small screen, but when I moved to London, it was on in 70mm (or Cinerama) at the Casino theatre (now the Prince Edward). On a big screen, with a good print (film, not digital) it is an experience never to be forgotten. Those huge, glorious images, and that wonderful detail. And let’s not forget the choice of classical music.

It is a film unlike any other. Whatever you may think of the story, and it is just a story, 2001 is one of the greatest films ever. The story is told mostly through the images. There are occasional patches of expository speech, once on the Moon about the object they have discovered and again at the end, as HAL is being lobotomised.

Kubrick is dead. Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood are alive, and will talk about the film, though I think Mr Lockwood thinks it’s “just a film” in the end, and that there’s a lot of popmpous nonsense said about it. Douglas Rain, who voiced HAL, is still alive but does not seem to want to talk about it any more.

2001 represents a high point in cinema history. Yes, people can point out mistakes – Pan Am has gone, Howard Johnson’s too, and 2001 the year is long gone and manned space travel is more restricted now than it was in 1968, which is sad.

Oscars

It seems to be Oscar season again. Some of my chums make an effort to see every film nominated, but I don’t bother.

I do occasionally look at the listings, but all you see are blurays or dvds projected on a slightly bigger screen than my tv.

I was watching Stanley Kramer’s comedy It’s a Mad, Mad etc  World on bluray the other day. When it came out, it must have looked fantastic, on a super wide curved screen, a real immersive experience. Film makers rarely use film these days. J J Abrams does and Christopher Nolan, I believe, and that’s about it.