Enjoy this Monday with Mildred and A 241 Review!
Based on a book by Margot Lee Shetterly, this film follows the much condensed and foreshortened story of three computers in the early stage of NASA’s history, when only (as we’ve ever seen from Hollywood) white men wearing white shirts and narrow black ties worked their genius to throw other white men with crew cuts into space. This was an honest to goodness heroic effort in American history, and one I fear we will never see again.
Actual people were called computers in those days, because except in a very few static situations large scale computing was still done “by hand”. One of my first bosses was an early computer man and used to tell fascinating and amusing stories about the room sized mechanical computers he worked with in the 50s that had less power than your – well, there are no computers left of any size in today’s world with that little power. The IBM (with the wrong kind of printer attached and wrong logo, but oh well) used to compute flight numbers portrays the most dynamic use of computing at that time and was only one of the things geek me enjoyed about the film.
The three women whose stories are told in Hidden Figures are massively intelligent, hard working, decent, and an essential component in the space race. I had the math bug beaten out of me in the fifth grade (my first male teacher), so the abilities these women possess floors me. I could probably do a quadratic equation but someone would have to hold my hand, and give me a cheat sheet. I also tried to learn Fortran way back when in an equally laughable attempt. Katherine Johnson makes figuring incomprehensible, room-sized equations look sexy and easy. I could watch the math parts all day long.
The women are also African-American in the Jim Crow south, and the film opens with them broken down on the side of a road and a state cop roaring up with sirens blaring. It’s a scary and very effective opening for setting the tone of the film, which explores race relations in a fraught time as much as it gives us multiple history lessons and a patriotic shot in the arm. Time and story lines are tweaked quite a bit and characters merged for brevity and dramatic effect, but for the most part (as Hollywood films go) this is a true story and one that will make you alternately cringe in shame and swell with pride. America is a weird place.
I found this to be a well made movie that introduced a lot of historical themes that may be unfamiliar to younger audiences. Race relations were actually more fraught than portrayed in the film, but to really go there would be too much for a modern audience, I think. The actresses were all wonderful, and I will admit to not recognizing Janelle Monáe because I’ve only ever seen concert video of her. As you might expect from a story about the early sixties, the soundtrack was wicked fun and the film is beautifully shot, with clever color themes and cues throughout.
If you have even the tiniest interest in science history, space program history, women’s history, or race relation history go see this film or rent it as soon as it’s available. Hidden Figures fills as important a role in portraying early NASA history as The Right Stuff and Apollo 13, and will go on the shelf next to my copy of these films as soon as possible.
Hidden Figures | Teaser Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX
See more videos at the bottom of CFR review.
OVERALL: Go see Hidden Figures. Yes. It is all that.
POINTS: Wow, just wow. I don’t know how they took this subject matter and made it such an incredibly good movie but they did. Wow! I salute everyone involved in this movie.
PITFALLS: Nope. Ok the movie could have been three hours longer and I would have been three hours happier.
FEMALE CHARACTER(S): Taraji P. Henson is Katherine G. Johnson. Octavia Spencer is Dorothy Vaughan. Janelle Monáe is Mary Jackson. Stand up and cheer for these wonderful actresses and even more so for the utterly amazing women they portrayed! Just WOW and YES!
CULTURAL PITFALL(S): Nope. This movie smacks racism and sexism in the face and that is good. Check out High Points below.
1.) Odd High Point: Passive-Aggressive Racist BS. This is an odd high point because I loathe racism. I think this movie was very instructional because it showed the small microaggressive racist BS that black people – and others – have had to deal with. The closing doors on the women instead of letting them in, as we would do today. The looks of horror when getting coffee. The inability of the white characters to address the black characters with respect. And OMG WTF is up the Colored cafeteria?!?! I knew about the restrooms and water fountains and GRRRRR… So it was good for people to see the nonsense theses women, and others, had to endure. Let that be a lesson.
2.) The history lesson. Wow. I pride myself on knowing the forgotten people of history. I knew nothing of these amazing women – and there were many of them – and what they contributed to our amazing space program. Huzzah! I am glad they will no longer be hidden.
BECHDEL TEST (Website): 3 of 3. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!
RACIAL BECHDEL TEST (Website): 3 of 3. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!
OFFICIAL MOVIE WEBSITE: Hidden Figures (2016)
DVD/BLU-RAY WORTHY: YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
LION PAW PRINTS: 4 of 5.
Hidden Figures | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX
Hidden Figures | Featurette: Achieving The Impossible |
Hidden Figures Cast: Acceptance Speech | 23rd Annual SAG Awards | TNT
Katherine Johnson Presents with Cast of HIDDEN FIGURES
NASA Invites Media to Talk with Cast of Hidden Figures
NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson Makes People’s List of 25 Women Changing the World | People