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Recommended movies: Hidden Figures

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Joined: 30 Apr 2005
Posts: 2371
Location: L.A., California

PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 2:18 am    Post subject: Recommended movies: Hidden Figures Reply with quote


YOU MUST SEE THIS! "'Hidden Figures' is a Grade-A Hollywood crowd-pleaser in the best way"

Los Angeles Times
Review: "Hidden Figures"
Kenneth Turan

Like the calculating women whose lives it celebrates, "Hidden Figures"
knows what it's doing.

A Grade-A Hollywood crowd-pleaser that happily celebrates its shameless
moments, "Hidden Figures" can be teased but it can't be ignored. The film
may not be restrained but stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and
Janelle Monáe are powerfully effective and its little-known true story is
so flabbergasting that resistance is all but futile.

Before the word "computer" referred to a machine, it was a job description
used for people, often women, who ran the numbers and did the heavy
mathematical lifting serious science required.

As detailed in Margot Lee Shetterly's book *** (which veteran producer
Donna Gigliotti purchased just from an outline), not only were a group of
these African American women “computers” working in the segregated
South, they turned out to be critical to getting America's 1960s space
program off the ground.

Shetterly writes in the book's introduction that the never-before-told
story "defies our expectations and challenges much of what we think we
knew about American history."

"Hidden Figures" never misses a chance to go for the heart-tugging and the
obvious as scripted by Allison Schroeder and directed by Theodore Melfi, a
veteran commercial director who corralled Bill Murray in "St. Vincent."
But, frankly, if the film's aesthetic standards were more rigorous, the
end product might not be as out-and-out effective as the result undeniably
is here.

"Hidden Figures" begins with a brief 1926 prologue introducing us to a
young black girl who is a math prodigy inspiring awe in all who know her.
"I've never seen," a teacher tells her parents, "a mind like your daughter

Thirty-five years later we meet that girl as the adult Katherine Johnson,
one of three women carpooling to work at NASA's Langley Memorial Research
Lab in Hampton, Va. Or at least trying to: Their sturdy Chevrolet has
broken down.

Momentarily stranded, the three women soon reveal their core
personalities. Johnson (Henson), is still the brainy one, a complete whiz
with numbers. Dorothy Vaughan (Spencer) is the practical one, looking
under the hood to see what the problem is. Mary Jackson (Monáe),
momentarily occupied with her lipstick, is charismatic and ambitious.

These three are part of what is known at Langley as the West Computing
section, a group of some 20 mathematicians who were all African American
women. As Jeff Nichols' film "Loving" made clear this year, Virginia in
1961 was as segregated as any state in the Deep South. These women could
not eat in the same restaurants, drink from the same water fountains or
even, as brazenly becomes a major plot point, use the same restrooms as
their white colleagues.

Though they all work at Langley, each of the three has a different job
challenge and a different way they have to contend with the inescapable
racism of the time and place. Super-capable Vaughan, for instance, wants
to be made a supervisor, but NASA is dragging its feet and her white boss
Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst) is not going out of her way to help.

Jackson wants to become an engineer, and despite how bleak her chances are
(no African American woman has achieved that title to date) she is
determined to make the attempt.

The most interesting trajectory, so to speak, turns out to be Johnson's.
NASA is in a dog-eat-dog race with the Soviets to put people into space,
and the man in charge of the Space Task Group, crusty Al Harrison (a
composite figure deftly played by Kevin Costner), is a tough nut known to
eat computers for lunch.

Out of desperation as much as anything else, Johnson is given a shot at a
place on his staff, and though we know that she is as much of a wizard as
Albus Dumbledore, "Hidden Figures" milks the situation for all its worth.

"Hidden Figures" also provides glimpses of the personal lives of its
characters. Mary, for instance, is married to the civil rights firebrand
Levi (Aldis Hodge), who initially does not see her struggles as
significant. Johnson, for her part, a widow raising three daughters,
catches the eye of Col. Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali, a star, like Monáe,
of "Moonlight"), a good man who discovers that she is more impressive than
he realized.

Understandably excited to be playing significant women, the trio of lead
actresses are uniformly excellent, but the film's script is structured to
make Henson the first among equals, and she takes advantage of her

She has a showstopping speech (hint: it involves those bathrooms) and the
actress' ability to put enormously complex equations on a huge chalkboard
is impressive because the numbers and symbols had to be faultlessly
memorized. The real Katherine Johnson, still alive and vibrant at age 98
and a recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, couldn’t
have done it any better.

***The book is also available in a Young Readers' Edition! "This is the
amazing true story of four African-American female mathematicians at NASA
who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program"
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Joined: 30 Apr 2005
Posts: 2371
Location: L.A., California

PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2017 1:24 am    Post subject: Recommended movies: La La Land Reply with quote

La La Land: the inside story on the feel-good film of the year

Story, videos, etc.:

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