Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hidden Figures - 3 nominations

Best Picture - Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams and Theodore Melfi
Supporting Actress - Octavia Spencer
Adapted Screenplay - Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi

Hidden Figures is the incredible story of the space race through the lens of a story that nobody knew and everybody should.  When the United States was working to put a man on the moon "not because it was easy, but because it was hard" (and because that made America somehow superior to the Russians), there were large teams of brilliant African American women who served as human computers for the scientists and engineers on the project.  This in a time when African Americans were still sitting at the back of the bus and using "colored" bathrooms.  We see in the film how undervalued these women are, but we watch as the world inside NASA begins to change, as it becomes understood how much these women have to contribute. 

Taraji B. Henson plays Katharnie Johnson, whose natural abilities in math catapults the engineers into being able to calculate the ascent into orbit and the ability to come home safely.  Octavia Spencer plays Dorothy Vaughan, the first African American woman to be promoted to the rank of supervisor at NASA, and who is the first to decipher the newfangled IBM computer.  And Janelle Monae ably becomes Mary Jackson, who pursues her dreams to become an engineer, even if she has to battle in court to be admitted to the all white school where the teaching is happening.

I'm frankly tired of having to describe African American women characters as teeming with dignity, as though that wouldn't be their natural state.  But in the context of the constant degradations they are subjected to in 1960's Virginia, the incredible poise and unflappability stands out, and the portrayal by these three spectacular actresses is immeasurable.  The dignity seeps from their pores.  And they find unlikely allies throughout the film, who begin to understand what white privilege means in the age of Jim Crow laws, and moreover, how that privilege it to the detriment of their own goals.

I'm hesitant to give too much away that the trailer doesn't portray, but I'm proud to share that this film is in my top three favorites of the season, and I can assure you that if you only have time (or inclination) to see a small handful of the movies with nominees, this should be one of your choices.

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