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Friday, January 13, 2017

Two Movies

1. A Not-Very-Good Movie, But Worth Seeing  
Hidden Figures (2017)

Within a few minutes, I was groaning. Hidden Figures is an after-school special, a Message movie, based on a true story, about three black female mathematicians who were part of NASA's first space launches. [NPR article on the real women]

As Marz said, It's the sort of movie where everyone's clothes are ironed.

Yes! That exact point bugged me: 
Everyone in the space launch data program had to work overtime, every day, but when the women stand up, their dresses are never smashed flat from their behinds, and the men's crisp white shirts never crumple or get splashed with coffee (though drinking coffee is a small plot point).

It's laughable to see the unit head (Sheldon from Big Bang Theory) demonstrating to experienced aeronautic engineers what John Glenn's orbit will look like, using a little model spaceship
Was this right after he showed them how the Earth goes around the Sun, using an orange and a grapefruit?

The movie leaves no doubt you're dealing with Simplification and Romantification here, which weakens it considerable by making it preachy …and boring.

HOWEVER, it is such an interesting story, I'm glad I went and I recommend seeing it--(at least on Netflix, but it's good to see it in theaters to let the industry know we'll pay to see movies about female nerds of color, or any combo of these factors).
[photo collage ^ via Blavity--more info on the NASA women there too]

A surprise stand-out was Kirsten Dunst, an actor who has never impressed me before. She portrays the white person who doesn't think they're racist, who "has nothing against those people," whose face subtly registers discomfort and disdain. 

No discredit to the other actors:
no other character has much range to work with---the black women are as spotless and smooth as the clothes. 

Oh! I just looked up the writer and director, Theodore Melfi. He made St. Vincent (2014), which was similarly a simplistic & boring hagiography.  Starring Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy, so that took some doing.

II. A Totally Different Kind of Movie


I just happened to have watched London, The Modern Babylon (2012) the night before.  
It's a masterpiece of creating complexity from chaos.
 Director Julien Temple weaves together (mostly but not only documentary) film footage of London, from the earliest days of film up through the London Olympics, showing how the city and its inhabitants ebb and flow like the tideway of the River Thames.

It's the sort of documentary film-making I love: heavily visual, with little explanation, leaving you sometimes in the dark but free to use your own brain to read the images.

Themes that emerge include mobs and musicians, immigration and gentrification, and People with Things on Their Heads

Images ^ from an interview with director Julien Temple at the British Film Institute:
http://www.bfi.org.uk/news/back-time-julien-temple-london-modern-babylon

This was the antidote I needed to watching several episodes of The Crown––Netflix does to the current British monarchy what Hidden Figures does to space travel: 
tells it––sells it––to the children.

8 comments:

ArtSparker said...

Have avoided The Crown and will continue to do so, may wait for hidden figures to be on netflix.

But doesn't the Lemony Snicket Series, with Neil Patrick Harris and Joan Cusack, look promising? I had gotten down to watching reruns of Angel, which the creators essentially blow up after season 3.

Fresca said...

JOAN CUSACK???
My favorite!!!
I hadn't even noticed that series. Thank you.

The Crown is filmed so that Queen Elizabeth II actually glows.

As I say, I do think Hidden Figures is interesting--just wish, wish, wish it had been better made.

Frex said...

But I should add that it's a good idea to see Hidden Figures in the theaters, to send a message that people will pay to see movies about black, female, science nerds.

ArtSparker said...

Then it probably depends on rain, as the theater where it is playing is quite near, and had $5 Tuesdays...that is, a rainy afternoon is fine for this 9with potential for popcorn).

Frex said...

I'll be interested to hear what you think if/when you see it.

Michael Leddy said...

I want to see Hidden Figures, but I’ll wait for Netflix. The St. Vincent connection makes me wary. I told my son your description (“after-school special”) and he said, sadly, “Yeah....” The London film is “Availability unknown” at Netflix. Drat.

Frex said...

MICHAEL: It kind of makes me mad that Hidden Figures is so uninspired--the real life story deserves so much better!

Frex said...

P.S. I got the London film at the public library.