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Oscar Best Picture Review: Hidden Figures

Written by tha - bang from the blog Movies and Things with Thabang on 08 Feb 2017
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Some movies get the Oscar because they are well crafted films technically with a good story. The Departed, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Titanic and Avatar won their Oscars because the story they tell is so important and it is well told. Glory, Philadelphia, The Dallas Buyers Club and Schindlers list ...10 guesses which camp Hidden Figures falls into...? Let's dig in.

Theodore Melfi, writer, director and producer takes the remarkable story of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson's (Janelle Monáe) involvement with the NASA during its early years of the American space program and brings it to the big screen.

The film is set in the racist and sexist world of American 1950's and 60's. This is the time of Martin Luther King Jnr agitating for change, Malcolm X talking about freedom "by any means necessary", black folks in the South being terrorized by the KKK and the racially divisive law still intact in the US where black women were seen more as the help than mathematicians and career women.

It is during this context that we get a tale about ladies who have to rise above racism and sexism (from their own kind and die ou baas) to get ahead. Although some facts have been blurred a bit and some stories blend into each other, the film packs a punch. 

It's great seeing Taraji Henson play a different role to her Cookie persona of Empire. Octavia Spencer has long cemented herself as an A list actor and this role is a walk in a park for her. Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson has the same spunk that one Jada Pinkett-Smith used to bring to roles.

My only crit of films like Hidden Figures is that although they deal with race and racism, the films always make it seem as if racism was sorted within the time period the movie is based on. Only last year's Race shows how the lingering issues raised in the film still affect African Americans in today's America.

Yet I loved the film for having an all-female black lead with a positive story to tell about black women and black families. Portraying black ladies as intelligent, assertive and game changers. Not just the nurturers or the enablers of other people's dreams. Folks with their own agency and working towards their own goals.

I loved that the film did not hide that us black men tend to be very sexist towards black women. Although the film also tries to show a more positive ending on that front too. Yet sexism amongst marginalized groups still continues today. Even though we may all agree that racism is bad, most of us black men have internalized sexist ideologies and are blind to it and the film pokes holes at our blindness.

Yet the film does not come across as cynical at all even though it deals with real world issues. Characters are forced to confront their different issues. Yet does all this rainbow kumbaya-ness Oscar Best Picture make? ...mmmmh, I think the film is beautiful and has a great message but it does nothing new for this sub genre of feel good movies based on overcoming racism.

The only fresh angle is that it is centred round the ladies whom it should be celebrated more often for, but I do think the competition from La La Land, The Arrival, Moonlight and Lion may be a bit too strong come voting time but this does not take away what a great important story Hidden Figures is hence the nomination it got.

*rotten ,rotten oh so rotten **if you add some aromat you may survive it *** not bad ****Almost Perfect
***** Instant Classic,buy the blu ray

Actors in this post: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer


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