Five Oscar statuettes, displaying the various stages of the plating process, are displayed at the R.S. Owens factory in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. (Photographer: Tim Boyle/Bloomberg News)

Outcry over ‘First Man’ Signals Controversial Award Season for Films

(Bloomberg) -- It’s not even September yet, and likely Oscar contenders are already stirring up controversy.

“First Man,” a Neil Armstrong biopic starring Ryan Gosling, was slammed by Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio for not including a scene where the astronaut plants a flag on the moon. That led Armstrong’s sons, Rick and Mark, to put out a statement defending the film. They noted that there are several shots of the American flag on the moon, but the filmmakers “chose to focus on Neil looking back at the Earth.”

The film, which will be released nationally by Universal Pictures in October, was just screened for the first time at the Venice Film Festival. And it’s unlikely to be the only Oscar hopeful to spur an outcry as film industry’s award season approaches. This year’s crop of movies includes several with political themes.

Already released is Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” which includes 2017 footage from the Charlottesville protests. The director of last year’s winner “Moonlight” will debut “If Beale Street Could Talk,” based on the James Baldwin novel about racial injustice in America. And Michael Moore returns with “Fahrenheit 11/9,” a documentary about the Trump presidency. “Boy Erased” is about gay conversion therapy in a small American town.

Movies based on true stories can be especially contentious. In recent years, “Selma” and “Hidden Figures” were attacked for taking liberties with history.

With “First Man,” Armstrong’s sons say the idea was to depict their father’s personal journey.

“Although Neil didn’t see himself that way, he was an American hero. He was also an engineer and a pilot, a father and a friend, a man who suffered privately through great tragedies with incredible grace,” they said. “We do not feel this movie is anti-American.”

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