Guest Review of the film Hidden Figures (2016), and a bit more

Do you remember those “love is” cartoons from the 70s? I seem to remember “Love is . . . making each other’s side of the bed“. I might have that wrong, but it still runs through my mind whenever that happens in my home.

I’m pretty sure there never was one that read, “Love is . . . giving up your championship golf day to spend time with your wife“, but Bill did just that a couple of weeks back. Of course, Wednesday 22nd February was our wedding anniversary, so it was probably a good call on his behalf.

Last year was our 30th, and we had a few luxury days away, whereas we celebrated at home this year and were both very happy with that.

We eased into the morning, did a bit of together shopping, ate sushi for lunch, and then went to the cinema to see Hidden Figures. We normally support a local independent cinema, but there is another nearby, a Hoyts, which has re-furbished with leather-look reclining armchairs while maintaining seniors special pricing. Oh my goodness. Sipping on a sparkling wine, lazing back, enjoying the big screen and full sound, while watching a film about inequality – well – if I felt any ethical dilemma about that, I managed to hide it. And it is going to be difficult to decide against using that cinema in the future.

In the evening we dined at a restaurant called Rookie Eatery, again, a first time for us. If the owner means the name to suggest that he or she is a novice in the cooking department, then they are selling themselves short. It was a superb meal. We each had two courses: Bill the Hiramasa Kingfish followed by Lamb with shitake mushroom, broadbeans, and miso mustard; and me a warm tuna asian-style salad followed by Duck with pickled nashi (pear), roasted eschalot, warrigal green, lime kosho. As you can read by the descriptions – not the kind of dishes you attempt at home. Lots of delicate flavours and relishes.

Have you seen Hidden Figures? Once again, I have turned to CineMuseFilms for a guest review, and Richard Alaba has given it four stars. I’d probably be prepared to go to five stars, because I can overlook the inevitable Hollywood flourishes. I loved it, and so did Bill, which is a good endorsement, given his predilection for judging whether he will like a film by its running time – 127 minutes in this case. The time flew by, and we could have watched more. I went off for further fact checking at the first opportunity, which is always a sign that the film has got me thinking.

We saw an after lunch mid-week session in a large cinema, so it wasn’t full. But there was a lot of audience participation. Gasps and groans at some of the blatant racism and segregation, and at one point a man yelled out, “That’s not right!” It was at a part on wage inequality, and the white female has said “you should be glad you even have a job.” I was tempted to jump up and say, and how do you think we treated our Aboriginals? Do you know the protection board withheld their wages? How outraged were you then? You may be relieved to know I kept my mouth shut.

Similarly, the movie did not make any reference that the white women would have been underpaid and underemployed in relation to their male colleagues, but it didn’t have to. That wasn’t the purpose of the film. But thinking about that does put into perspective for me that these brilliant black women were even further down the pecking order, and it highlights that those who are discriminated against can just as easily be discriminatory when they get the chance.

My very first experience with computers was as a key-punch operator in the early 70s, when men in white suits would come to take my reels away to “The Computer” which was housed on an entire office floor in a temperature controlled environment. That was followed ten years later working with a company that utilised the largest IBM AS400 mainframe in the southern hemisphere. So I found the scene where they have to knock a wall out to fit in the new-fangled machine, and then they can’t get it to work, very humorous.

I have added the book to my GoodReads list, as I would like to know more of this story than a two hour movie can cover.

And for those of you who might be using this film as a way of encouraging your young daughters and grand-daughters to aspire even though the odds may seem stacked against them, may I also suggest the Facebook site: A Mighty Girl

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HIDDEN FIGURES (2016) – Guest Review

Richard Alaba, CineMuseFilms, Member of the Australian Film Critics Association

Before the feminist era, written history was mostly about men while women were by-lines and coloured women non-existent. In the past several decades, women have been reclaiming their place in history and the film Hidden Figures (2016) is part of this cultural change. It is a story that celebrates the achievements of a hitherto un-acknowledged group of women who were called ‘coloured computers’ before the first mainframe IBM was ready for NASA in the 1960s.

Based on real events, the film is set against the Cold War and the frantic race between America and Russia to put the first man on the Moon. More than space science, it was about competing political systems and bragging rights for aeronautical supremacy. The story centres on three gifted coloured women who joined the space program: mathematician Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) audits the calculations of white male scientists and devises new mathematical solutions for trajectory calculations; Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) teaches herself complex Fortran code to become the expert on the IBM computer and NASA’s first coloured supervisor; and Mary Johnson (Janelle Monae) wins the right to enrol in a segregated engineering course to become NASA’s first coloured female engineer. The trio are part of a scientific group that is under immense political pressure to achieve the successful manned spaceflight which became astronaut John Glenn’s space legacy.

The historical facts frame the story but it is the treatment of the facts that makes the film interesting. It could have been a tense drama or dry bio-pic but instead it is full of comedic moments and under-stated racial vignettes. For example, on her first day Katherine is mistaken for a janitor and all the coloured women must walk half a mile to use the segregated bathroom. Despite the best available “white brains” only a coloured woman can work out the new IBM computer and astronaut John Glenn will not ‘lift off’ unless Katherine first checks the IBM trajectory calculations. The ironies are not designed to get laughs, but to show how even the nation’s finest scientific minds were locked into systemic racial discrimination in a NASA culture that was blind to its own prejudices.  

This is a great film on many levels. As a bio-pic, it carries the weight of history in telling a story that must be told. The acting is outstanding, with a perfect balance between depicting the ugly side of racial oppression and the women’s determination to contribute to aeronautical science. Character development is on the light side as the focus is not on personality but on achievement. The trio of stars all portray dignity under duress and their repressed anger saves the film from turning into a lecture. It achieves what any bio-pic drama can hope for: it entertains while informing about a remarkable episode in history.  

Director: Theodore Melfi

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Stars:  Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner

 

27 thoughts on “Guest Review of the film Hidden Figures (2016), and a bit more

  1. Thought I was reading one of Derricks posts there for a moment, knew I wasn’t when there was no mention of the grog consumed.
    I’m still trying to find out what ‘eschalot’s’ are; the Oxford dictionary doesn’t know, even the word checker here queries the word.
    I do believe it is one of our Australian trying to be ‘posh’ words; and what is really meant, are spring onions, not shallots but those little white onions with the long green bits.
    Eschalots? No such thing as far as I am aware or can tell. Just a case of cooks/chefs inverted snobbery methinks.
    Until such time as I can find an eschalot I’ll stick to cooking with spring onions, leeks & shallots
    😈 🐻

    Liked by 1 person

    • By the bye, I’ve actually been considering going to a movie picture theatre to see this moving picture show, I do believe that’s what they are called, and I have heard they actually have colour and talk.
      That will be a treat! 😄 🐻

      Liked by 1 person

    • I did forget to mention the grog, but we shared a Brown Brothers red, and the best part was, we had one of those Entertainment Book discount vouchers, so the wine – at $47 / bottle, was free!

      As for word checker, etc. No, eschalots are like little onions. They are nice in a casserole too.Here’s a link to a picture. http://www.taste.com.au/healthy/articles/eschalots/US7NUExh.

      Spring onions, and shallots, are different again.

      I have been to some restaurants that are so snobby you have to ask the waiter to translate, even though the menu is in English! They are a worry!

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      • They probably buy it in bulk from Dan Murphy’s for 10 bucks a pop, like most restaurants, they have to make a quid somewhere and where better than a bottle of rough red. Me? I settle for a tuppenny dark anytime, can’t tell the difference 😄

        Liked by 1 person

        • I double checked and this is actually what we drank: Clare Wine Co. Cabernet Sauvignon (Clare Valley, SA) 2012. Looks as if it is an on-line sale only. So they marked it up double + a bit. That’s okay. First of all, it was not a readily available wine, it was served beautifully, and they do have to wash the glasses, account for breakages, etc, etc. https://www.nicks.com.au/2012-clare-wine-co-cabernet-sauvignon.

          At home though, it is the 20% off if you buy 6, that make it into our house, so that we normally max out at around $10/bottle.

          Having said that, I did ask Bill to stop buying wine since the beginning of the year. I don’t drink beer, and he is happy to, so that is all we have purchased.

          The other day though, I did grab him and demand “where are you hiding the wine! I know you bought six when we had visitors – and they brought a bottle – so we MUST HAVE FIVE HIDDEN SOMEWHERE!!!” Like a good husband, he “found” one, and I promptly tasted it and said, “I don’t like this, never buy it again.” But I finished it over the next couple of days. Never a dull moment in our house.

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          • I buy from Cellarmasters from time to time; the last dozen I bought I got extra cheap as PayPal had given me a $50 voucher on Cellarmasters, (I use them for all payments on line where possible) The mixed doz was listed somewhere around $125-130 and I got the 50 off, in amongst the lot was two bottles that probably got thrown in by mistake. They were a Saltram Mamre Brook CabSav 2010; which normally retails around $30 or more at Dan Murphy’s, if you can buy it still, so the other 10 costs me around $2 a bottle, couple of Rothbury Estate were in the mix.
            Doubt if I can be that lucky next time.
            I need to place another order, only got 2 left 1 each of the above,I mostly drink Bourbon, still having the Guinness. My wife can take wine or leave it, she’s not much of a drinker, mind you she can hold her liquor in 43 years I’ve never seen her tipsy, she enjoys a, 1 beer, once in a while sometimes even enjoys 2

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Going to the film on Wednesday – thanks for your insightful comments.

    We celebrate our 25th this year – been together 37 years though – AND both been married three times!!
    Definitely got it right on the third!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations, Gwen and Bill, on your 30th anniversary.
    Nice review on a film I and my wife have to see. Here in America there was an still is a gross misjustice in a lot of jobs in paying women and minorities less than white males. I take pride in the fact that this difference in pay does not carry over in jobs under union contracts.
    As far as those ‘Love is etc..’ they probably got started from the book and the movie, LOVE STORY.
    Segal wrote ‘Love is never having to say you are sorry.’ Well I disagree. My wife and I will be celebrating our 56 anniversary in a month, and believe me, I have said I am sorry many, many times.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh gosh, now there’s a flashback. I must have been about fifteen when I saw it. I can still remember the soundtrack . . . “Where do I begin – to tell the story of how great a love can be, etc, etc”. Good on you for being able to own up to “sorry” at appropriate times. It’s not every man who can do that. And it puts such a good deposit in the emotional bank account between couples. As for equal pay, well, it is still a fight here, although much better than when I started out in the 70s. Even as a manager, I used to encourage the staff to join the union. Unfortunately many of the younger people are so confident in their individual talents that they spurn the idea of collective bargaining. It’s short-sighted, but it’s not until the economy downturns that they realise the truth of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy anniversary to you and Bill. Something to be said for 31 years especially in today’s world. We will celebrate 29th this year. Must be thinking about making plans! Honestly, I haven’t been to a movie theater in quite some time as find myself fidgety and much more comfortable at home but with the thought of a reclining chair….. I might could give it another try. With the Academy Awards just recently behind I realized I had not seen even one nominated movie! I guess living a mere forty miles or so from Hollywood makes no difference!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Isn’t it always the way that you don’t take notice of things that are on your own doorstep? Familiarity breeding contempt and all that sort of thing. Or perhaps the glitz and hype of Hollywood simply does not fit your more meaningful lifestyle.

      Like

  5. Good for Bill. We just acknowledged our wedding anniversary three days ago. It is a bit confusing because although it was in 1968, after four years together we spent almost 40 years apart. Do we celebrate that, or getting together again in 2009? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lovely to hear about your 30th Anniversary; well done. We had our 30th in January so beat ya, yah! We spent it in Bateman’s Bay and saw La La Land which I reviewed early in December but my wife had not seen it. I’m always wary of unilaterally recommending a film to anyone, even my wife, but I was confident with this one. Sure enough, she loved it and still talks about it. Hidden Figures is another sleeping gem of a film; the only few minutes of it that made me squirm was when the head NASA honcho smashed down the Coloured Bathroom sign. Talk about cinematic implausibility; that scene could never happen. A man of science would have organised a spanner and taken it down cleanly rather that wreck the walls by smashing out bolts with such force, let alone the risk of injury to his admiring audience. But great theatrics.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, this one was our 31st. The 30th was last year with the trip to Lilianfels 🙂 But we also went to Batemans Bay for a previous one. Stayed in a B&B on a hill just north of the town. Ran into a previous boss of my husband’s who was also staying there. . . That scene is exactly the one I was going to remark on, and also that the character is a composite and how can we be sure all three head honchos had such liberal ideas. But then I thought I would read the book first, and get the original context. Is it possible he was making a point? Because as a man of science, surely he would have given the order for some underling to go find a spanner and do the job 🙂 I’ve also been reading up on the equal employment manifesto specific to NASA which enabled the computers to get jobs in the first place. Hopefully the book will reveal more of that.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Well – it is an American film, and, fine as it is, they still have to embellish. They just can’t help themselves. Such as when Mary Jackson’s heel gets caught in the mesh. As if she would be walking around stroking the capsule in the first place! And then the head engineer tells her to run for her life. But I really was prepared to overlook these, a bit like letting your naughty children off the hook for a minor indiscretion. It is a fine film, and I hope has a great after-life.

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