Oscars: 'First Man' Warmly Greeted At Packed First Academy Screening

First Man - Still 7 - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Universal Studios

Ryan Gosling in First Man.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' first West Coast members' screening of First Man took place on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. It was exactly one week since the Academy's screening of A Star Is Born drew the first full house of the season at the organization's Samuel Goldwyn Theatre (which seats 1,010), receiving enthusiastic applause (albeit no standing ovation). And First Man generated a comparably unusual turnout and noteworthy response.

In fact, Academy sources tell THR, even more members and their guests were turned away from this screening of Damien Chazelle's Neil Armstrong drama than were turned away from A Star Is Born — although, it must be noted, members were allowed to bring as many as three guests to First Man, as opposed to just one to A Star Is Born. Regardless, those fortunate enough to get in acknowledged the film with a similarly hearty dose of applause, both when the end credits began to roll and when Chazelle, stars Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, writer Josh Singer, composer Justin Hurwitz and sound designer, supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer Ai-Ling Lee were introduced for a post-screening Q&A.

First Man is angling to follow in the footsteps of its 33-year-old filmmaker's two preceding films, 2014's Whiplash and 2016's La La Land, both of which wound up with best picture Oscar nominations, among numerous other noms. (For La La Land, Chazelle became the youngest best director Oscar winner in history.) The film had its world premiere on the opening night of the Venice Film Festival and then its North American debut at the Telluride Film Festival, quickly accumulating solid reviews that have propelled it to an 88 percent favorable rating on RottenTomatoes.com. Universal released it nationwide on Friday, and it registered No. 3 at the box office for the weekend with a $16.5 million haul, trailing Venom and A Star Is Born, which held steady at No. 1 and No. 2 for the second consecutive weekend.

Even so, some pundits, including ardent admirers of First Man, are concerned about its Oscar prospects, since many responses to the film have been respectful but not impassioned (with some griping that it is too long, at two hours and twenty-one minutes, and/or too emotionally "cold"), and Oscar ballots are weighted to reward passion. Universal itself has another contender this season, Green Book, that is not nearly as ambitious as First Man, but wears its heart much more on its sleeve and could therefore resonate with Academy members even more — although First Man seemed to lift off just fine on Saturday night, even if that is just one small step on the road to the Dolby.