Since it's emerged as something of a contender, I'll say a few words on Hidden Figures.
I think this is the kind of movie that 1) accomplishes what it sets out to do fairly well, but 2) must be downgraded simply because what it sets out to do simply isn't as ambitious or original as the best pieces of work out there.
Which is to say, Hidden Figures is a totally watchable, pleasing entertainment. I think the film exists a lot more in movie-movie land than reality, but I think it mostly earns its crowd-pleasing moments. And the movie's tact in its depiction of racism is admirable -- the exchange between Kirsten Dunst and Octavia Spencer in the bathroom portrays the former as clearly racist while clearly believing she isn't, which is a lot more complicated a portrayal than her just being an outright bigot. And a lot of the white men in the movie, while aware of the systems of racism and sexism that have benefited them at the expense of others, also know damn well they need to work with and trust the most qualified individuals, whoever they may be, if they want their mission to succeed. While certainly intended to be inspirational, this wasn't (for me at least) a movie that wallowed excessively in the cornball.
And yet...I can't say that there were a lot of scenes that didn't remind me of scenes I'd seen in other movies. What's fresh here is the combination of elements -- civil rights drama and space race saga -- put together in a way that tells the stories of individuals that haven't been told before. But the thing is, you can put The Help and The Right Stuff in a blender and call it a new drink, but I've still seen those movies, and seen their themes explored, and even seen the same literal events depicted (i.e. John Glenn's flight around the Earth). So while I think Hidden Figures is quite a bit more lively and fun than Loving, it shares a similar problem, which is that it ultimately doesn't get at anything much more interesting than simply sharing a heretofore untold-on-film story about a significant moment in civil rights history. (Which, I should add, is not an unworthy goal, it just doesn't mean it's a great-great movie.)
I wouldn't be talking Oscar for any of the actors, but the cast is a large part of what makes the movie appealing. Taraji P. Henson is very charming in the central role, and gets one memorable dramatic outburst. Octavia Spencer is basically just reprising her character from The Help, but that's obviously a part that's well within her wheelhouse, and she does embittered but determined perfectly well. And Janelle Monáe, in probably the most emotionally resonant part, continues after Moonlight to suggest she could have a decent film career ahead of her.
I'd say a Best Picture nomination would be really overstating the movie's merits, but I also think it's a harmless enough watch, and of course, I'm certainly happy to root for the rare drama about women of color to become a box office success.
Last edited by The Original BJ
on Wed Jan 04, 2017 11:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.