Dune – What is the Litany Against Fear (and why should we care)?

dune and the litany against fear
I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer.

Can an old science fiction book from the 60s offer modern man any surfeit from pain? Do we allow fears — both great and small — to rule our lives? Can  we train ourselves to be greater than our anxieties?

I’d say yes, although I’ve yet to achieve this enlightened state myself. But, there’s this: courage is NOT being unafraid. Get that out of your mind now. Courage is about being afraid and going forth anyway. If we can gain mastery of our fears, we can live our lives more aware, more gracefully, and accomplish great things perhaps against great odds. People through history have done it. Wisdom from not so long ago in our literary past can absolutely help us today. And while Dune’s author Frank Herbert might have had a lesson in mind more about planetary politics or the future of humanity than the test of one young human, the Litany he penned resonates now, as it did then, and will continue to touch people newly discovering this great tome of a book. (And yes, there have been several attempts to turn this into film…we’re still waiting for the one to do it right.)

Here is the Litany Against Fear, directly from the (1965) Dune novel, by Frank Herbert:

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Is this the kind of thing anyone should care about? Or use? And why would we?

Well, has fear gone away since 1965? I’d even posit we’ve found more things to be afraid of with the ease we now devour world news and calamitous global misery.

In my college years, the Litany was something I’d scrawled on a Post-it and pasted to my mirror.  I made a best friend after those days, in my old town of Flagstaff, AZ, who I learned kept a copy of the Litany on a note in his wallet. I’d ended up more impressed with him than before: you can have a lot of fun with someone, but also find unplumbed depths together in the strangest moments.

When I got married later on, I found someone who may not have kept the Litany on his person, but for whom the book Dune is his favorite science-fiction touchstone of all time. The Spice must flow, after all.  🙂

I might have forgotten the Litany’s usefulness as the years slipped by, but in my current re-read it’s come to my attention again. It was a pleasant shock to have it re-spool into my neurons; now it’s written on a note in my own wallet, like my friend kept his, long ago.

My paperback copy of Dune was re-published in 1971 and is tattered and torn, with a broken spine. I don’t care — it smells like a real book, and it’s a great reading copy, with the early cover artwork. I want to put it in an archival bag, and probably will when my re-read is done. I’ve also got copies of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune that are older than me. At age 50, finding a 53 year-old novel at a garage sale or thrift store is like finding something precious and rare.

Dune keeps me doing regular re-reads over the decades, and I find something new and exciting every time, stuff I scrawl in my journal and try to remember when times get tough. I’m not really a fearful person (I love things like rock climbing and solo backpacking), but stupid small anxieties master me every day. The Litany is a good balm for the soul, a salve to one’s agitation, and simply a soothing chant to memorize for times of emotional turmoil.

Has Dune affected you? Do you think you can learn from the Litany Against Fear?  Add your insights to the comments below. I won’t judge. We’re all in this together.

Can Dune be done? Should Dune be done? Bringing Long Books to the Screen

Yes, it’s about Dune – The Lyrics to Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

Quiz – Schindler’s List

With the re-showing of Schindler’s List coming out soon, I wanted to do a little refresher course to reacquaint ourselves before the movie release. I would rate the difficulty of this quiz at average to hard. Good Luck.

Schindler’s list

I tried to choose questions that would engage the user to want to know more about this very dark time on planet Earth. Sadly, it’s true; those who don’t study history are bound to repeat it, and even then, there’s always enough idiots who do read history, but who go out there and muck it anyway.

RunPee Mom is our emotional bedrock. Without her, RunPee never would have lasted a decade as an app (which is since the dawn of time in internet years). She’s our biggest cheerleader and an unending source of unconditional love. She works cheerfully and tirelessly, seeing any movie we ask of her, writing interesting reviews, and being our…well…MOM. Her genres of choice: kiddie flicks, animated movies, emotional dramas, historical features, war films, diverse biographies, and even dense, diabolically plotted thrillers. She knows more about famous and infamous figures in history than said figures probably knew about themselves. She’s the Quiz Manager for the RunPee.com blog, and Assistant Facebook Manager for our social media efforts. If you’ve interacted with someone on our Facebook page, you’ve most likely been given a virtual hug by RunPee Mom.

What is a Scaramouch? The Meaning Behind Bohemian Rhapsody

Or is it just fantasy?
Is this the real life?

I love the song Bohemian Rhapsody, and sing it out loud with glee every time I go backpacking (in the woods, no one can hear you sing). But, I have to admit: I don’t understand a lot of the bizarre words in the song. With the new film about Queen, fittingly titled Bohemian Rhapsody, I decided to use the interwebz for a long look at the meaning of this iconic song.

According to the Wikipedia, Bohemian Rhapsody was written by Freddie Mercury for the band’s 1975 album A Night at the Opera. It’s a six-minute suite, consisting of several sections without a chorus: an intro, a ballad segment, an operatic passage, a hard rock part, and a reflective coda.

Somehow, this random assortment of music genres works brilliantly. But what’s the story about?

Let’s start with the obvious aspects: a young man killed someone, and he’s apparently about to pay for it with death. That’s plain. He’s telling his mother goodbye, and feeling like the devil is waiting for him. (Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me…for me…FOR MEEEEEE!!!)

  • Right then. We’ll start here. Who exactly is Beelzebub? It’s something to do with the devil, sure, but what’s the exact story?

Here’s what Dictionary.com has to say:

Old English Belzebub, Philistine god worshipped at Ekron (2 Kings i:2), from Latin, used in Vulgate for New Testament Greek beelzeboub, from Hebrew ba’al-z’bub “lord of the flies,” from ba’al “lord” + z’bhubh “fly.”

Apparently Freddy Mercury is using this name to signify Lucifer himself, or his demonic equivalent.

  • How about Scaramouch? (Scaramouch, scaramouch, will you do the fandango?)

SongFacts says the word “Scaramouch” means “A stock character that appears as a boastful coward.”

The Wikipedia goes on to say a bit more: Scaramouche (from Italian scaramuccia, literally “little skirmisher”), also known as scaramouch, is a stock clown character of the commedia dell’arte (comic theatrical arts of Italian literature).

  • The Fandango is not just an online movie ticket outlet. The meaning here is that Fandango is a fast Spanish dance. In the song, it’s probably referring to “the hemp fandango,” a delightfully ghastly euphemism for being hanged.

 

  • Next, what’s with Galileo? Does this refer the the early astronomer?  Or is a Galileo Figaro Magnifico something else entirely?

The best explanation I’ve seen is in this music forum, by a poster called, fittingly, Galileo:

“I’ve read somewhere that the line “Gallileo figaro magnifico” in the middle of the “operatic” section of the song, actually, is a slightly corrupted Latin phrase, “Galileo figuro magnifico”, translated as “Magnify the Galilean’s image“.

“It’s a key phrase, which reveals the entire meaning of the song, and usually it isn’t translated by the researchers.

“In fact, “Galileo” was the name of Jesus Christ in the ancient Rome. In other words, the only way to get out of the demonic nightmare of the song is to magnify Jesus Christ and ask Him for help. But the boy can’t believe that God is concerned about him, and refuses the salvation (“Nobody loves me”).”

“But why “Galileo” is repeated five times? In The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini the crowd calls to the town barber five times: Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro! So it’s not difficult to see the analogy.

“Plus, as everybody knows, Galileo is the name of the an Italian physicist and astronomer, who made in the early 17th century the first telescopic observations of the planet Mercury…

“If this is true, what kind of GENIUS Freddie was?”

  • Bismillah….okay: the Wikipedia reports that this is a phrase in Arabic meaning “In the name of God”, and is the first word in the Qur’an,  referring to the Qur’an’s opening phrase (named the basmala).

Let’s back up a little bit and see the entire picture Mercury was trying to evoke.

Quora says this about the song’s title:

It is called “Bohemian Rhapsody” because it depicts the life of a ‘bohemian‘, whose original meaning is ‘artist’ while ‘Rhapsody‘ is a fantasy (literally, it could play in his head) or a vision; within this song Freddie Mercury foresees his life in a symbolic way.

Below are the lyrics for the operatic section of the song — the part that trips everyone up. You can look at it now and understand a little better what Mercury was going for. I think he used macabre themes from old plays and operas to cast an image that was delightfully off-kilter and evocative. He’s talking about death, mostly. Isn’t it strange that so…well…FUN a song is so wrapped up in death and killing? Perhaps in a weird way, Mercury is singing about himself and his own life through this narrative metaphor.

It’s possible that Mercury’s songs Somebody to Love and Under Pressure are also about his inner demons. I’m not the only one thinking along these lines.

Tim Rice, co-creator of Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, as well as a collaborator of Mercury’s, once said, “It’s fairly obvious to me that [‘Bohemian Rhapsody’] was Freddie’s coming-out song.” (From Into.)

Making a bit more sense, now? 

I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, scaramouch, will you do the fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening me
Galileo, Galileo,
Galileo, Galileo,
Galileo Figaro – magnifico
But I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Easy come easy go, will you let me go
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go – let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go – let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go – let me go
Will not let you go – let me go (never)
Never let you go – let me go
Never let me go ooo
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia, let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me…

Lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody

Queen at Live Aid

Movie Review – Bohemian Rhapsody

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

How to Dress Like Queen: Freddie Mercury and Classic Rock Bands

Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury
Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury

With the new Queen movie Bohemian Rhapsody splashing across theaters, you might want to have a little fun dressing up like the members of the iconic rock band, led by Freddie Mercury.

It’s a simple matter to dress like you’re a male band member from the 80s era. As with many costumes, the key is the hair. You’ll be most recognizable if you find a wig featuring long, big hair. You can wear it straight like Roger Taylor (blonde), or curly like Brian May (dark). An afro works too, like John Deacon’s wild do. Tease the hair up and out, and spray the heck out if it for full effect. Add mutton chops for the fun of it.

Alternatively, find a wig with a mullet: short in the front, long in the back. Or cut up any long wig into that style. (If you’re too young to remember mullets, you’re better off.)

If you’re lucky enough to have three fun friends, you can form the entire band. Divvy up the roles to achieve the right quartet of looks from Queen.

Here’s the kind of clothes you need to dress like a band from the 80s: (Pick these things up cheaply at your local Goodwill or thrift store.)

  • A red or blue bandana around the head, or on your ankle (and over the boots).
  • A rock band teeshirt (worn tucked in) and artfully ripped.
  • Tight, slim cut blue jeans, or tight shiny vinyl pants.
  • Any leather, spiked, or studded accessories.
  • Black boots.
  • Bring a guitar, drum sticks, or tambourine.
  • Maybe stick some old Queen sheet music in your back pocket. Bring a small  notebook to scrawl down off-the-cuff lyrics as they come to you. ANYTHING can be a song lyric. Remember, this is Queen we’re talking about. (Scaramouch, scaramouch, will you do the fandango?)
  • A cigarette for one hand and a glass of beer in the other. (You don’t have to actually smoke or drink.)
  • Bonus Points: If you want to find one of the more flamboyant 80s looks, just do a quick search for Band Members Of Queen. You’ll find loads of looks the fashion police would fine you for. Go nuts and wear a silk or velour bathrobe over your outrageous attire.

If you want to dress specifically as Freddie Mercury, the short-hair-and-porno-mustache look will be most recognizable. For the full ensemble, add the following: 

  • Slick your hair back with gel. (Use a wash-out dye to color it black.)
  • Wear some big front teeth.
  • Wear mirrored, metal-rimmed sunglasses all day and night.
  • Slap on a big fake mustache that curves down the sides of your mouth. Possibly grow out your own, if you have the time and feel adventurous.
  • Find a leather arm-band with studs. (Look on Amazon or eBay.)
  • Wear a white, tight tank top and slim-cut blue jeans.
  • Find a black leather belt.
  • Finish the look off with black boots.
  • Dangle a cigarette from your lips.
  • Consider putting a silky Asian robe over it all.

If you want to really be recognized, bring along a microphone and a section of  mic stand, like Freddie did. Remember that Freddie had a larger than life persona! Call everybody darling; flounce around and give out hugs. Pass out Tic-Tacs and tell people they are Quaaludes. Sing some of your favorite Queen — or at least do the stomp and clap anthem We Will Rock You (if you can’t sing). Make everyone around you stomp right along. You’ll probably get the whole room chanting the lyrics with you, so memorize the words. Here are the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody, if you have the stamina for the world’s most outrageous six-minute song.

Movie Review – Bohemian Rhapsody

Lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody

 

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

How Close to First Man is Armstrong’s Real Story?

Hi. My name is Neil Armstrong, and that’s all you’re going to know about me.

First Man is a surprising film. It’s surprisingly devoid of excitement, I mean. Instead of a rousing tale of man’s journey to the moon, it focuses narrowly on life through the eyes of the taciturn and insular Neil Armstrong.

He’s a strange choice to be awarded the honor of the first person to set foot on another world. Buzz Aldrin was right behind him, but I guess being the second  man lacks cache. Even in Apollo 13, Jim Lovell and crew joke around, saying, “Armstrong? Really?”

Laying aside the fact that this man is very personal, I’d have thought he would have gone home and met with colleges, children, UN Summits, or otherwise directed his limelight to the service of NASA’s educational promotion. Nope. Not his gig.

This is a man that after an entire bladder-busting 2 & 1/2 hour movie, remains a cipher to the audience. Clearly, the had the Right Stuff to be a test pilot and astronaut, but had the personality of a Stoic.  And, well, the movie reflects this. Who was Armstrong? Did he even care about his wife…or the moon, even? All I can tell is he deeply loved his daughter, who sadly died as a toddler from brain cancer.

First Man spoilers ahead!

If you’ve seen the film, you’re probably wondering about Karen’s baby bracelet. Did he leave it on the moon? Is it still there, a testament to loving and grieving and family? It’s been a topic of some speculation. It’s known Armstrong deviated a bit from his walk plan, and stood over the Little West Crater for a few minutes. The movie chooses to show him definitively tossing the precious bracelet into the crater. If he did this, I hope he was able to excoriate some of his demons and find a measure of personal peace. Because, well, walking on the FREAKING moon seemed, to him, a casual matter. Compare his still introspection on the Sea of Tranquility, versus Aldrin hopping joyfully along the surface. Sometimes I think singularly amazing moments are wasted on some people.  I don’t dislike Armstrong, but have to still wonder, like Lovell and crew:  WHY HIM?

So. Does First Man hew closely to what we do know of Armstrong’s life and vision? This excellent article from History Vs Hollywood covers the issue in a very readable fashion — no need for me to repeat it here.

Suffice to say the director kept the biography as rigorously accurate as possible. We can feel the authenticity and sincerity bursting through the film. The science was spot on, but the characterizations of the astronauts were a bit one-sided (ie — how Armstrong saw them), making for a possibly unreliable narrator. For example, Aldrin comes across as a somewhat offensive jerk in the film. Was he really? I imagine these things are in the eye of the beholder.

But back to the bracelet commentary — James Hanson, author of Armstrong’s autobiography First Man, reports that after many hours of personally interviewing him, he’s sure Armstrong left something behind.  He never said what, or admitted to it, but it’s known he did report his personal manifest list as missing to NASA. Then, he later donated his manifest to Purdue University, so it wasn’t so missing after all. There’s a lineage for astronauts leaving things behind. According to this article:

“For instance, Charlie Duke, who in 1972 became the tenth person to walk on the moon, left a photo of his family there, according to Singer. Buzz Aldrin brought a pouch that belonged to the Apollo 1 astronauts as a memorial to them.”

Armstrong’s manifest will be sealed until 2020, so we don’t have too long to know if Karen’s bracelet was on the list. His family hopes and believes he did leave that memento behind. We’ll see. It seems like a logical choice to me. But it did make for a nice bookmark to the movie, either way.

Last thoughts for First Man: It doesn’t feel like a prequel to the (IMO) far superior Apollo 13 at all: keep in mind it’s NOT an adventure film. There are exciting moments for sure, but most of the runtime is silent and clouded with grief. I did enjoy the space scenes, what we got of them. But we also had to endure a lot of sorrow, silence, and unpleasantness between the space action. That might have highlighted the power of the rocket scenes, which were undeniably cool. I wish the movie had more of that powerful imagery.

Should you see First Man in the theater? I saw it in IMAX, which made the rocket scenes rumble, and the quiet scenes more tense. If you’re a real fan of NASA and the space program, it’s a must-see,  just to experience it properly. For everyone else, wait for the DVD.

 

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

Quiz – How well do you know Queen’s music history?

I’ve tried to touch on most aspects of Queen’s career, but as prolific as this group was, it would take a quiz of a thousand questions to even come close to paying homage to this band’s talents.

History of Queen Quiz

I dug deep for some of these questions, however any devotee of Queen's music should 'rock' this quiz.

I certainly enjoyed making this quiz and discovering that this band has a very rich history, and learning much they changed the world of rock and roll.

RunPee Mom is our emotional bedrock. Without her, RunPee never would have lasted a decade as an app (which is since the dawn of time in internet years). She’s our biggest cheerleader and an unending source of unconditional love. She works cheerfully and tirelessly, seeing any movie we ask of her, writing interesting reviews, and being our…well…MOM. Her genres of choice: kiddie flicks, animated movies, emotional dramas, historical features, war films, diverse biographies, and even dense, diabolically plotted thrillers. She knows more about famous and infamous figures in history than said figures probably knew about themselves. She’s the Quiz Manager for the RunPee.com blog, and Assistant Facebook Manager for our social media efforts. If you’ve interacted with someone on our Facebook page, you’ve most likely been given a virtual hug by RunPee Mom.

Quiz – Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen Of Scots has long been my favorite monarch. The life she led was both exciting and tragic. With the new movie coming out — Mary Queen of Scots — this is the perfect time to brush up on your knowledge of her fascinating  life.

How well do you know this complex queen? Take this quiz, and good luck!

How well do you know Mary Queen of Scots?

The tragedy of her death was compounded by the fact that, upon the removal of her remains from the block, Skye (her small dog), was found covered in blood and hiding under her voluminous skirts. Mary’s Ladies-in-Waiting retrieved the small animal and bathed it. There’s no more mention of Skye in history, but I’d like to think that he lived out the rest of his life in comfort.

RunPee Mom is our emotional bedrock. Without her, RunPee never would have lasted a decade as an app (which is since the dawn of time in internet years). She’s our biggest cheerleader and an unending source of unconditional love. She works cheerfully and tirelessly, seeing any movie we ask of her, writing interesting reviews, and being our…well…MOM. Her genres of choice: kiddie flicks, animated movies, emotional dramas, historical features, war films, diverse biographies, and even dense, diabolically plotted thrillers. She knows more about famous and infamous figures in history than said figures probably knew about themselves. She’s the Quiz Manager for the RunPee.com blog, and Assistant Facebook Manager for our social media efforts. If you’ve interacted with someone on our Facebook page, you’ve most likely been given a virtual hug by RunPee Mom.

Quiz – Queen Elizabeth I

The story of Queen Elizabeth l is an inspiration for women determined to make their own path through life. She possessed strength, wisdom, and courage, something normally not often seen in women during the time of her reign.

We’ve had a few movies over the years about Elizabeth, and those are worth rewatching to get ready for the upcoming  Mary Queen of Scotts (both ladies figure prominently in this film).

So, how much do you know about this amazing woman?

Queen Elizabeth l

How much do you know about Queen Elizabeth l? 

Queen Elizabeth’s life was filled with danger; there seemed to always be one conspiracy or another to remove her from the throne. She even had to face the possibility that her sister, Mary l, would have her executed — just because Elizabeth embraced the Protestant religion. History has shown us that Mary was willing to dispose of anyone who dared to practiced this new religion. Hence the name, Bloody Mary. (I bet you didn’t know that.)

Poor Elizabeth’s family was more dysfunctional than anything you’ll see on Desperate Housewives, and that’s a fact.

RunPee Mom is our emotional bedrock. Without her, RunPee never would have lasted a decade as an app (which is since the dawn of time in internet years). She’s our biggest cheerleader and an unending source of unconditional love. She works cheerfully and tirelessly, seeing any movie we ask of her, writing interesting reviews, and being our…well…MOM. Her genres of choice: kiddie flicks, animated movies, emotional dramas, historical features, war films, diverse biographies, and even dense, diabolically plotted thrillers. She knows more about famous and infamous figures in history than said figures probably knew about themselves. She’s the Quiz Manager for the RunPee.com blog, and Assistant Facebook Manager for our social media efforts. If you’ve interacted with someone on our Facebook page, you’ve most likely been given a virtual hug by RunPee Mom.

Quiz – Queen Elizabeth l and Mary Queen of Scots

Just in time for the new movie, Mary Queen of Scots, this quiz addresses the relationship between Mary herself, and Queen Elizabeth l. Mary and Elizabeth were both powerful queens, ruling at the same time, it’s no wonder that there would be the occasional cat fight between these two monarchs. Good luck with this somewhat challenging quiz!

Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots

How much do you know about the relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots?

RunPee Mom is our emotional bedrock. Without her, RunPee never would have lasted a decade as an app (which is since the dawn of time in internet years). She’s our biggest cheerleader and an unending source of unconditional love. She works cheerfully and tirelessly, seeing any movie we ask of her, writing interesting reviews, and being our…well…MOM. Her genres of choice: kiddie flicks, animated movies, emotional dramas, historical features, war films, diverse biographies, and even dense, diabolically plotted thrillers. She knows more about famous and infamous figures in history than said figures probably knew about themselves. She’s the Quiz Manager for the RunPee.com blog, and Assistant Facebook Manager for our social media efforts. If you’ve interacted with someone on our Facebook page, you’ve most likely been given a virtual hug by RunPee Mom.

Movie Review – First Man

 

Movie Review - First ManFirst Man is a thoughtfully crafted, well-made film that a lot of reviewers seemed to love. Ryan Gosling definitely dove into the part. The nostalgia of returning to the 1960s was neat, and the scenes in actual space were close to brilliant at times.  It felt like being there, as the Saturn V thundered out of our atmosphere. There was a sense of transcendence, viewing the Earthrise from orbit, and it was a sight that made even the  generally reticent Armstrong crack a big old smile (more on him, later). The space shots looked very real, albeit coupled with a slightly grainy film quality, making it feel more like the 60s.

The space images alone made seeing this in IMAX worth the extra price. I wish there were more scenes in space and on the moon, but you can’t have everything you want in a movie, now can you?

Some thoughts: a lot of the purposefully jiggly hand-held camera work was distracting, especially in the many long, quiet interpersonal scenes. It underscored the “documentary” feel, but I noticed it too much, taking me out of the moment.

I understand the story is supposed to be a deeply personal and intimate story of one man’s journey to overcome his emotional pain, and eventually do something extraordinary.

The “one man” in question is Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) –the first man to walk in the moon. It was an amazing moment for mankind, but make no mistake: this is not an exciting movie. It’s a slow burn of a tale, and takes a long time to get anywhere. We spend relatively little movie-time in space, and barely any on the moon. For a 2 hour and 20 minute film, there’s surprisingly little story to tell.

From the perspective of the film, it seems like the moon landing was incidental to the plot, instead focusing quite narrowly on Armstrong’s inability to move on emotionally from the death of his daughter (and his colleagues in the space program). It seemed to me that 1/3 of the movie was devoted to extreme closeups of Gosling’s face, who did a great job showing almost no emotion behind his cold, blue eyes. I saw these close eye shots of him so many times that I started tracking it in my Peetime notes. It happened so often I eventually gave up. But, as with the hand-held camera jiggling, noticing the trick pulled me out of the story.

So then, with all this attention lavished on Armstrong, why do I feel we never got to know him? It’s a long movie, but Armstrong is still a cipher by the end. I understand he wasn’t a demonstrative or friendly man in real life. That’s got to be hard to base a long movie around. The viewers never get past his eyes and into his head. A few expositional scenes from others were used to describe him, instead of letting us, the viewers, get to empathize with him ourselves.

So, yes, the critics loved this movie. You can see that on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience score, however, seems a lot more evenly divided, with a middling overall grade. Basically, First Man was competently done, but not stirring or thrilling. I don’t know how Apollo 13 was such a fantastic film, and this one (taking place in an overlapping time frame with the same historical figures) fell short.

Here’s my conclusion. This film is, first and foremost, a biographical drama. The space program is merely a framework for telling Armstrong’s private story. In that sense, it’s a success. Nicely done within those parameters.

But if you’re looking for a rousing space epic, this isn’t your film. In my theater, people hopped up all over the place to hit the bathrooms — even during the climax of the moon landing scene. As the credits began, a few people started a halfhearted attempt to clap, but gave up quickly when no one else seemed to care.

The science and history seemed rigorously accurate (although the ‘bracelet’ thing might be a storytelling liberty). It’s just unfortunate  the first man walking on the moon was too distracted by personal demons to enjoy the experience. I mean, it’s THE MOON, MAN! You’re going where no man has gone before! Enjoy it a little.  🙂

Grade: B

One Last Note: There were some good ‘action’ moments here and there —  the flight of the Gemini, the tragedy of the Apollo 1 astronauts trapped by the door, the awe-inspiring Earthrise, the sequence with the Saturn V blasting off, and docking with the LEM. (Dan and I visited a real Saturn V at the Kennedy Space Center, and walking under it was a total highlight. And it was sweet to see the VAB here, which really impressed me in person. It’s bigger than the brain wants to accept.) So, I’d say those were the standout moments. The moon scene was surprisingly underwhelming. I know why they filmed it this way — to focus exclusively on Armstrong’s experience — but I wish it had been an ensemble with the three men instead.

(Learn how closely the movie followed Neil Armstrong’s real life, and enjoy the photos showing the differences between the real historical figures, vs the actors’ faces.)

About The Peetimes: Here are 3 good Peetimes, nicely spaced out. You won’t miss any action, or even much dialog, during any of them. The middle one, at 1 hour and 7 minutes, gives you a whole 5 minutes to run and pee, so try to shoot for that. It’s a long film, so you should definitely use a Peetime to stay comfortable through the lunar landing climax. A lot of people got up and down at bad times during the opening showing. .

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of First Man. (What we mean by Anything Extra)

First Man Opinion — Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Apollo 11 Trivia Quiz

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)