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First Man, the new movie written by Josh Singer (Spotlight, The Post) and directed y Damien Chazelle (La La Land) about Neil Armstrong, the first man to step on the moon’s surface, is a counterintuitive approach to the subject. Unlike The Right Stuff, which is a big, sweeping, uplifting movie that remains one of my favorite films ever, First Man is a highly interior movie. There are few big shots of rockets breaking the surly bonds of earth; rather, the camera stays inside the various capsules, experiencing the moment from the inside. You realize how primitive the technology was, and how brave the early astronauts were to ride inside capsules that seemed highly unlikely to hold together.

Armstrong is not portrayed by Ryan Gosling as an explorer with big dreams and ambitions; he’s a science nerd trying to solve what essentially is a math problem. And, he’s an emotionally repressed nerd; early in the movie, he and his wife (played by Claire Foy, fabulous as she shoulders the emotional weight of the relationship and the movie) bury their daughter, who has died of cancer. From that point on, Armstrong seems to exist only in his head, because his heart has been so severely broken.

What this does is add up to a movie that I liked very much, but found hard to connect with … I realized in retrospect that this in part is because movies about exploration - from The Right Stuff to Star Trek - have trained us to think about space travel in terms of a grand adventure, while First Man suggests that in some ways the most treacherous trip Armstrong takes is the one that has him navigating his own emotions.

There are some great business lessons from the movie, the best coming from a line delivered by Armstrong after he’s survived the crash of a test vehicle. His NASA superiors seem to be concerned about how the failures they’re having, but he’s resolute: “We have to fail down here,” he says, “so we don’t fail up there.”

Good one.

I’ve seen the first episode of “The Romanoffs,” the new Amazon series from “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner. It is an ambitious series - eight episodes, each one self contained with as different cast, with the only connective link being that characters in each believe that they are descended from the Russian royal family. Amazon released the first two episodes at the same time, and now is dropping one new one a week.

Episode one, ‘The Violet Hour,” takes place in Paris, and focuses on an aging woman and her nephew, and how their relationship is complicated by the hiring of a Muslim woman to be the aunt’s new caregiver. This also is a case of a story being told from an emotional distance, though I really loved the performances of Marthe Keller (Marathon Man, Black Sunday as the woman, and Inès Melab as the caregiver.

I don’t love ‘The Romanoffs” yet … but I’m intrigued enough by the premise and the structure to give more episodes a shot.

I have a lovely Oregon wine to recommend to you this week - the Primarius 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley - which I had with blackened swordfish and sweet potato hash. Yum.

That’s it for this week.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

KC's View: