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