Hidden Figures reviews

Sabin
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Re: Hidden Figures reviews

Postby Sabin » Sat Feb 04, 2017 4:38 pm

The girl I'm dating wanted to see this one with me, so I saw it again...

I found myself more and less impressed by the film's major selling point: it's a civil rights crowd-pleaser that adopts an almost post-racial attitude. Racism doesn't disappear from this film but Hidden Figures is the story of mostly white men and black women who put race behind them to do something extraordinary. I don't really have a problem with that, and any 2+ hour historical drama movie that you can watch twice and not be bored is doing something right. On the other hand, it feels more like a marketing campaign than a film. It's the most mathless film about mathematicians I've ever seen. It doesn't even attempt to wedge in a hacky, real-life demonstration like in The Imitation Game or A Beautiful Mind. We're told of Katherine's genius from her childhood and her glasses. And yet I have a small amount of affection for this film because it's wiki-filmmaking done very well. There's something optimistic about how it wants to solve racism, solve sexism, and send a man into space within the span of two hours and change. But more than anything, it proves to me that one of the unsung selling points of a film is timing.

I still have no idea why Octavia Spencer got her nomination. There's nothing wrong with her performance but I think she's nominated because one would imagine that she would have some good juicy scenes in this film that do not appear. On the other hand, I'm a little surprised that Kevin Costner picked up no traction whatsoever.
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danfrank
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Re: Hidden Figures reviews

Postby danfrank » Tue Jan 31, 2017 6:44 pm

I won't disagree with anything you said, Tee, except that my guess is that a documentary or even a non-Hollywoodized telling of the story would have reached maybe one-tenth (one-fifth?) of the audience that this is reaching. That just seems to be a reality these days, and I'm glad that this particular story is reaching a big audience. If Hollywood is going to continue to crank out movies filled with audience-comforting clichés--and they will--, I would much rather they make more movies like this one that serve to inspire and to broaden audiences' notions of history and social justice. As I said in my earlier post, Hidden Figures doesn't belong in any award conversation, but I give it a pass.

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Re: Hidden Figures reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Jan 31, 2017 3:12 pm

Sassy Ladies Save the Space Program!

Look: everybody's right that this is a perfectly watchable, likable two hours, and it enshrines people who deserve to be enshrined. But I think I'd rather have read the nonfiction book about it -- or watched a documentary -- than to endure the complete Hollywoodization of the story. In style, this movie is not much different from The Blind Side: it tells an uplifting story in a succession of scenes where our heroines suffer temporary setbacks but always get the best zingers in (as in that scene BJ sort of references, Dunst/Spencer in the ladies' room), and triumph pretty completely in the end (when Henson had the room door closed on her near the end, I counted the seconds till it reopened).

I hasten to add, this film is MUCH BETTER than The Blind Side -- despite all the Hollywood gloss, there was only one scene that made me actively cringe (the marriage proposal, which was not only pure phoniness, but phoniness at excruciating length). But the writer/director still need to be held accountable for the lack of believability virtually throughout. It's not like it would have been impossible to achieve some greater level of verisimilitude -- even a mediocre film like Deepwater Horizon felt more like real life, because it didn't feel the need to evoke audience applause and "You go, girl!" chants throughout. But the creators here didn't even try for that; every scene was written with audience-effect in mind, emotional truth be damned. (Henson's big reached-my-limit monologue was kind of the epitome of this. It gave her a big scene, but I couldn't help thinking, if she'd delivered a diatribe that over the top in real life, she'd have been sent packing.)

Two little things:

I actually found the fact that the main characters suffered both racism and sexism muddied the film a bit -- at times I couldn't figure which was more in play in certain reactions (of course, it could have been both, but again, it was never very clear).

I mildly disagree with dws on John Glenn. I thought the film was trying to show that this guy, even back that far, was a budding politician, and he knew potential votes when he saw them (i.e., when he crossed to shake hands with the ladies). I actually thought this was one of the witter moments in the film.

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Re: Hidden Figures reviews

Postby dws1982 » Sun Jan 08, 2017 7:23 pm

It's a likable movie, and that's it's saving grace, or at least one of them. It gets plenty of mileage based off of that, and it may even get a Best Picture nomination on that basis. (It's also the kind of movie that could get no nominations and no one would really be upset.)

Characters register more strongly than in The Help, and I like that each of the three protagonists face different kinds of opposition. For Octavia Spencer, it's that subtle type of racism that isn't out and open about itself; for Janelle Monae, she's pretty well accepted by her co-workers, but she faces hurdles getting the proper education credentials; for Henson it's both racism and sexism. It's well-acted overall, although I think I liked Kevin Costner the best. John Glenn's character is straight out of one of those MGM Great Man biopics of the 40's and 50's. I don't think they could've made him seem more friendly or good-natured if they had tried. The actor who played him was pretty good, even if he was a good fifteen years too young for the role.

A few parts really stood out for making no sense whatsoever--one scene seems to be setting up the Taraji Henson and Mahershala Ali romance via a music montage, but then the song cuts out after about fifteen seconds. Another scene shows Janelle Monae picking her kids up from school. Someone shouts, "there's something wrong with John Glenn", so she and her kids walk across the street where a department store has a TV with a newscast playing in the window. The sound of the newscast comes on the soundtrack, and they stand there for a long time, even though they're just watching a man move his mouth, because there's no way they could actually be hearing it. I'm not usually the guy who notices those things, but that was a heck of a distraction.

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Re: Hidden Figures reviews

Postby danfrank » Sun Jan 08, 2017 7:04 pm

Hidden Figures is designed to appeal to the masses, and apparently it's done just that with its boffo box office numbers this weekend. I usually can't stomach movies such as this because they're either too corny or way too dumbed down. Hidden Figures is just a little corny and a little dumbed down, but it's a very entertaining ride throughout. It's an inspiring story with very appealing actors and a snappy score. It's not art and it shouldn't be in any awards conversation, but it's one of very few middlebrow movies that I truly liked.

Sabin
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Re: Hidden Figures reviews

Postby Sabin » Wed Jan 04, 2017 11:35 pm

I largely agree. Hidden Figures is a movie that exists to show these figures to an upbeat soundtrack. Obstacle, comeuppance, repeat.
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Hidden Figures reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:16 pm

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.


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