First Man
July 2nd, 2022

First Man

Please join Cultivate Cinema Circle as we screen six films in space. First up is Damien Chazelle’s Oscar-winning (Best Achievement in Visual Effects) film First Man [2018].

Event Sponsors:

Venue Information:

Downtown Central Library Auditorium
1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo, NY 14203
(Enter from Clinton Street between Oak and Washington Streets)
716-858-8900 •
COVID protocol will be followed.

TrailerSynopsisDirector BioLinks

On the heels of their six-time Academy Award®-winning smash, La La Land, Oscar®-winning director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling reteam for Universal Pictures’ First Man, the riveting story behind the first manned mission to the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the decade leading to the historic Apollo 11 flight. A visceral and intimate account told from Armstrong’s perspective, based on the book by James R. Hansen, the film explores the triumphs and the cost—on Armstrong, his family, his colleagues and the nation itself—of one of the most dangerous missions in history.

Written by Academy Award® winner Josh Singer (Spotlight, The Post), the epic drama of leading under the pressure of grace and tragedy is produced by Wyck Godfrey & Marty Bowen (The Twilight Saga, The Fault in Our Stars) through their Temple Hill Entertainment banner, alongside Isaac Klausner (Love, Simon) and Chazelle. Steven Spielberg, Adam Merims and Singer executive produce, while DreamWorks Pictures co-finances the film.


  • Venice Film Festival – 2018
  • Telluride Film Festival – 2018
  • Toronto International Film Festival – 2018
  • Academy Awards – 2019 – Nominee: Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing
  • Academy Awards – 2019 – Winner: Best Visual Effects
  • Golden Globes (USA) – 2019 – Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
  • Golden Globes (USA) – 2019 – Winner: Best Original Score

“There’s sometimes this fallacy in movies that you have to understand what people are doing. If people are at work, you have actually spell out to the audience what they’re doing. In [David Fincher]’s mind—and I agree with this—that actually doesn’t matter at all.”

An American film director, producer, and screenwriter known for his films Whiplash (2014), La La Land (2016), and First Man (2018). Chazelle’s breakout Whiplash began as a proof-of-concept short film, which debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and eventually attracted attention from financiers who helped to finance the full-length version. The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival as the opening film where it won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic and Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic and went on to receive five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, winning three with Chazelle himself nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Soon after, he was finally able to make his dream project, La La Land, which was nominated for fourteen Academy Awards, winning six including Best Director, making him the youngest person to win the award at age 32. His films have received critical and commercial success. Aside from filmmaking, Chazelle has ventured into television with “The Eddy”, an eight-episode Netflix miniseries set in Paris. Chazelle’s next film, Babylon, is set in 1920s Hollywood and will be given a limited release by Paramount Pictures on December 25, 2022, followed by a wide release on January 6, 2023.


  • Babylon (2022)
  • First Man (2018)
  • La La Land (2016)
  • Whiplash (2014)
  • Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009)

Here is a curated selection of links for additional insight/information:

  • Cultivate Cinema Circle info-sheet – link
  • “Chazelle does not simply relate Armstrong’s tale in terms of hero worship. In fact, quite the opposite: First Man could easily be called ‘Neil Before Armstrong.’ The film recontextualizes Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his expedition for what it was: a tool in a political struggle, and one that required long preparation and was subject to intense criticism. The material works well for Chazelle, who always makes movies about artistic searchers who subsume the people around them into their passions—protagonists who are not fully adapted to society and behave as outsiders and individualists. The idea of family is not a recipe for happiness for these characters, although there are some moments of carefree joy here with Armstrong, framed as ’60s-style home movies. The true heart of the film, then, is Armstrong’s wife Janet, played by The Crown’s Claire Foy, who serves as the perfect mediator between her own adolescent sons and the overgrown ‘lost boys’ playing in space. Armstrong’s trip becomes a means for emotional emancipation, a backdrop for an intimate, universal story about dealing with trauma.” – Diana Dabrowska, Cinema Scope [2018] – link
  • “I assume the title The Best Man wasn’t used because it was already taken. In their hagiographic portrayal of astronaut Neil Armstrong, director Damien Chazelle, screenwriter Josh Singer, and star Ryan Gosling depict him as the perfect—no, the only—choice to be the first man on the moon. He’s inherently modest and self-effacing; he’s all about putting the Gemini and Apollo programs first and letting actions speak for themselves. We’re made to understand that Armstrong’s emotional struggle with the cancer death of his and Janet’s two-year-old daughter Karen not only colored all his relationships but also drove him to achieve excellence when he joined NASA in 1962. It’s as if Orson Welles identified Rosebud as Kane’s sled from the beginning and tried to make us sob when it went up in flames at the end. Karen’s loss leads Armstrong to shed tears only in the privacy of his study, or, more cathartically, on the moon. Chazelle and Singer have created a grueling, prosaic, state-of-the-art docudrama (no imagination allowed) with the heart of a male weepie.” – Michael Sragow, Film Comment [2018] – link
  • First Man’s script was adapted from Hansen’s biography by Josh Singer, who also had a hand in the screenplays of both Spotlight and The Post. Those talky, well-populated films felt embedded in their historical moment in a way the much more intimate and sparsely written First Man doesn’t. Though it takes place in between 1961 and 1969, the social upheaval of those years is almost invisible from the screen. Early on, we see a scrap of President John F. Kennedy’s televised speech promising a moon landing in the next decade. Much later, as the Apollo 11 mission is set to begin, there’s an awkwardly wedged-in montage—similar, in fact, to one in the middle of The Post—that juxtaposes Gil Scott-Heron’s proto-rap ‘Whitey on the Moon’ with clips of dissenters, including Kurt Vonnegut, objecting to the cost of the space program. What this brief glimpse of the outside world was meant to add to the film is unclear: Do Vonnegut and Scott-Heron have a point or not? What would Neil have to say about their arguments against space exploration? In a movie that’s usually so locked in to its hero’s point of view—never has a space epic featured this many tight close-ups—it feels strange for the camera to suddenly pull out to reveal a larger social landscape, then zoom back in again without our understanding why.” – Dana Stevens, Slate [2018] – link

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