×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Oscars: ‘First Man’ Aims for Academy Crafts Races, but Can It Hit Higher?

While Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle’s “First Man” has come up shy with industry groups like the producers and directors guilds so far this season, it has been moving right along with crafts organizations.

The American Society of Cinematographers, American Cinema Editors, Art Directors Guild and Cinema Audio Society have all singled out Universal’s Neil Armstrong biopic for its exquisite parts. It seems assured similar attention from the Academy, and perhaps more if voters can look beyond disappointing box office returns that may or may not be owed to a bogus early controversy. It’s one of the year’s top cinematic achievements, daring in its intimacy, rousing in its emotional pull, so an assessment on its own merits shouldn’t be out of the question. (An uptick in the BAFTA nominations is a good sign that filmmakers are taking note.)

After the film’s North American premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in September, I caught up with Chazelle, screenwriter Josh Singer, cinematographer Linus Sandgren and composer Justin Hurwitz for a deep dive into the making of it all. Now Universal is taking stronger aim in these areas as Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book” emerges as the studio’s best picture heavy.

“Damien’s filmmaking, I think, is viscerally experiential,” Singer says in a new featurette focused on the film’s craft. “He is a true believer in giving people a ride.”

With a mix of 16mm, 35mm and Imax photography, Chazelle and Sandgren brought viewers to the hearth and the cosmos with equal aplomb. It’s a thematic conceit not unlike Christopher Nolan’s approach to “Interstellar,” which emphasized the weight of the micro in the face of the macro. (Nolan in fact penned a first-rate appreciation of Chazelle’s work as part of Variety‘s Directors on Directors feature this season.)

“Linus is able to not just plan out and pre-visualize very complicated types of shooting, but he also just has an eye for the little things in life that can augment what you’re shooting,” Chazelle says.

Production designer Nathan Crowley was an apt choice to tackle the project, given his work with tactile elements on films like, well, “Interstellar.” Here he and his team recreated NASA interiors, spacecrafts and, of course, the moon itself, while also utilizing a blend of miniatures, “bigatures” and full-scale mock-ups.

“[Damien] wanted to get it all in-camera, which was difficult,” Crowley says. “These things are never easy!” With a portfolio of works from a director, Nolan, notorious for his insistence on the practical over the computer generated, Crowley ought to know.

Costume designer Mary Zophres, meanwhile, was able to be bolder with her use of color on “First Man” than Crowley and his department. She engaged the palette to help code Armstrong’s singular journey. “There’s more color in the beginning,” she says. “It sort of becomes less saturated toward the end as the quest for the moon becomes a more driven, focused drive.”

For more, check out the video above.

*It turns out if you want to stare at an American flag, it turns out “First Man” actually gives you ample opportunity to do so.

More Film

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Box Office: 'Us' on Track for Second-Highest Debut of 2019 With $67 Million

    Jordan Peele’s “Us” is on its way to scaring up one of the biggest debuts of 2019, with an estimated $67 million from 3,741 North American locations. Should estimates hold, “Us” will be able to claim several milestones: the highest debut for an original horror movie (the biggest launch for any horror pic goes to [...]

  • 'The Dirt' Review: A Mötley Crüe

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

  • Zac Efron Amanda Seyfried

    Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried Join Animated Scooby-Doo Film as Fred and Daphne

    Zac Efron has signed on to voice Fred Jones while Amanda Seyfried will voice Daphne Blake in Warner Bros.’ animated Scooby-Doo feature film “Scoob.” It was revealed earlier this month that Will Forte had been set to voice Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, while Gina Rodriguez would be voicing Velma Dinkley. The mystery-solving teens and their talking [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content