Commentaries

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

HIDDEN FIGURES



A PALATABLE THEME

Film Review by Fiore 


Originally, I was going to skip HIDDEN FIGURES.  In these final days of the Obama Regime, we have been inundated with racially charged films.  LOVING, MOONLIGHT, LION, and 13th to name a few; and charging back to SELMA, the films dealing with race during the past eight years have all fit the same template; whites are evil, blacks are good.  That’s not the way it is, or was.  It was culture.  It was society.  That culture has changed drastically from over a half century ago.  It only suffered a setback during the past eight years, when, due primarily to stupidity and a pre-established agenda,  the Regime managed to destroy decades of racial equality with the most blatant form of racism exhibited by an American leader in my lifetime. 

After all these films, drumming the same primal beat, I was quite skeptical of viewing another.  It was similar to the Holocaust films.  There are always Holocaust movies released during awards season, and they, too, follow a template.  But many of the films are not well made, and receive accolades simply due to the subject matter from the progressive liberal Hollywood press.  This is the case as our first black president exists office; a plethora of racial themed films all trumpeting the same mantra.

And then, something interesting occurred.  HIDDEN FIGURES dominated the box office for two straight weeks.  That is a feat none of the others could boast.  So, with notebook in hand, I sat and watched HIDDEN FIGURES and came to understand why it could do what all the other could not.  It is a well-made, entertaining movie.

HIDDEN FIGURES is scripted, filmed and edited in a fashion Hollywood, and American audiences love; a celebration of the underdog.  Like Sly Stallone’s original ROCKY, the film’s central figures are real and empathetic.  You find yourself rooting for them, even though there is not a scheduled 15 round bout.

HIDDEN FIGURES is based on the lives of three black women who had a powerful impact on NASA and the space program.  For younger readers, NASA used to be about space exploration: to boldly go where no man has gone before.  That is until Obama changed its mission to concentrate on global warming, which he saw, and continues to see, as the greatest threat to mankind.

It’s the early 1960’s, and America is in a very tight race with Russia to explore space.  To this point, Russia is winning.  Their Sputnik program is embarrassing the U.S. and its collective scientific minds.

Working in NASA are three fresh minds, with enough savvy to make Dr. Sheldon Cooper look silly.  In fact, one of them does just that.  Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson each hold keys to beating the Russians in the space war.  There is one problem; they are black.  In 1960 Virginia, segregation is king.  HIDDEN FIGURES tells the story of how these three women battled their stigma and the existing culture to help America catch, and then surpass, the Russian space program.

Johnson is played by Tafaji Henson.  She is best known for her work in the TV series EMPIRE, and she recently performed in the finale of LIP SYNC BATTLE against her co-star, Terence Howard.  Vaughan is played by Octavia Spencer and Jackson by Janelle Monae.  All three actresses work well off each other presenting a cinematic tour deforce, despite Monae’s rebellious rendition. 

Bolstering the cast is Kevin Costner as Al Harrison, the man who realizes Johnson’s work and comes to understand the pivotal role she will play.  His concern is the program, and not the social mores of the day.  Her nemesis is Paul Stafford, played by Jim Parsons, who has a very big problem with a woman, let alone a black woman, showing him up in the lab.  Rounding out the cast are Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali and Glen Powell as John Glenn.

KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.   THE GOOD NIGHT KISS
2.   THE PICNIC SET UP
3.   THE BLACKBOARD

Cinematographer Mandy Walker utilizes photographic ploys to punctuate the profound cultural differences of the time. In the beginning of the movie, he shoots the black women “below their eyeline, so they would be looking up at these men all the time.  But, as the story develops, we shifted so that the eyeline becomes more similar between the women and men.  Even though the difference is quite subtle, I think it sort of works emotionally.  Sometimes you need people to feel something, rather than just see it.”  (taken from Where to Watch, Jan. issue) Augmenting the film’s look is Walker’s decision to shoot on 35mm film, rather than digital.

HIDDEN FIGURES is directed and scripted by Theodore Melfi.  He is best known for directing and producing commercials, most of which are rather provocative.  HIDDEN FIGURES is his best work to date.  His previous movie was ST. VINCENT, with Bill Murray, which was a waste of time and talent. 

If all race themed films were assembled as well as HIDDEN FIGURES, the story telling would not become like the proverbial hammer beating the dead horse.  If you are a progressive liberal, filled unnecessarily with white guilt, then you will probably see all the race themed films currently available.  If you’re normal, see HIDDEN FIGURES.  It is without question, the best of the lot, and quite entertaining.



THE GRADE FOR HIDDEN FIGURES = B

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