Friday, June 23, 2017

3 Short Paragraphs: Hidden Figures

2016, Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) -- download

The current state of race relations in the US is tragic. So many white Americans are so busy patting themselves on the back for being progressive, they are turning a blind eye to what is going on now, right now, right this minute. But that cannot discount that there was progress made in the past. The funny thing is though, that's not what the movie is about. Hidden Figures is not about some white men helping their downtrodden black coworkers succeed. Oh, that is in the movie, but its not the focus, its not the purpose of the movie. The purpose is to show that anyone could be the most impressive person you will ever know, even the friendly, affable housewife.

In case you don't know, the movie is about a small group of black American women who worked as computers for NASA. As in, they computed things. Before machines were embraced, they needed powerful minds to calculate intricate things such as fuel consumption and trajectories. Katherine Johnson, along with her two close friends,  Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson not only succeed at their roles, but contribute greatly to the first major rocket flight in the US. The movie takes great liberty with history for the sake of palatable, Oscar worthy drama, but that doesn't degrade the impact.

The movie is cringe worthy -- that's pithy for it having many scenes that one should be cringing at, as it establishes the social injustices of the era. But even without the grand, sweeping changes we have experienced its not like we have complete progress. Women still make less and are looked down on, black people may be allowed to use any bathroom (doesn't just having to say that sound wrong?) but that doesn't stop them from being shot at traffic stops. But even putting these messages aside, the movie just has some great performances. I will never stop being a Taraji P. Henson fan, but Octavia Spenser won me over as her character learns FORTRAN, my first computer language. And Janelle Monáe, is stunningly beautiful, even beguiling as she takes on the role as the engineer. Its a Hollywood movie, glossy, pretty, skillfully toned to have exactly the right impact, but damn I liked it.