Hidden Figures – A Movie Review


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hidden-figures-posterI have a soft spot for “based on true stories” that illuminate some incident that has not been fully understood or feature some individual whose contributions to history have been largely forgotten, and, while I concede the term “based on a true story” covers a multitude of sins, the women whose story is told in Hidden Figures deserve to be in the spotlight.

Featuring brilliant and fully realized performances by Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures tells the story of three African American women whose careers at NASA influenced not only the burgeoning Space Race, but the history of automated computers. Set during the heady days of the race with the USSR to get man into space, the movie connects with its audience both by casting powerhouse actors in its central roles and by expertly playing patriotic notes to the fullest.

The lead cast is truly wonderful. Taraji P. Henson plays Katherine Johnson, the character around whom most of the story revolves. A widowed mother of 3 little girls, Johnson works at NASA as a “human computer.” Identified by her teachers as a gifted mathematics student, Johnson was able to go to college early thanks to the generosity of her teachers and people from her town, and she was able to develop her amazing mind. Henson plays her as brilliant but unassuming, aware of her reality and her responsibilities. She knows she is a black woman in a white man’s world and, until the inevitable moment of crisis emerges, Henson’s Johnson is willing to follow those rules, unjust though they may be.

Though Henson’s is the film’s central character, Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer is equally compelling as Dorothy Vaughn, a woman whose contributions assisting NASA in moving from human computers to actual IBM computers were invaluable. Dorothy is also more involved in the Civil Rights struggle as we see her character explain the Montgomery Rides and the lunch counter sit in scenarios to her sons. Spencer brings a quiet dignity to the character, and a knowing wit. She is excellent, as always.

But Janelle Monae almost steals the movie as Mary Jackson, an engineer on the space capsule who seeks a court order to allow her to attend college night classes held at a local high school. The movie is deliberate – and that is a fine thing for this type of film – but when Monae’s Jackson is on the screen, the energy picks up considerably. Like the other performances, Monae’s is pitch perfect and charismatic.

Kevin Costner (I LOVE me some Kevin Costner) is on hand as the no-nonsense supervisor of the program attempting to get an American in orbit before the Russians do and, for my money, there are few who play earnest exasperation as well as he. Though his Al Harrison may be a little too good (a scene where he discusses “white” and “colored” bathrooms seems a bit over-the-top), Costner balances this almost unreal morality with a very real passion: to work as hard as possible as long as possible to achieve the goals of the Space Race.

Jim Parsons, best known as Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory is along as well and, in a smart career move, plays a fairly unlikable character as does the talented Kirsten Dunst. Both are very good here, too.

If there was a thing that bothered me (and it was a small thing) it was this: the movie seems very sanitized. The language is fairly PG, the situations relatively simple and, for a movie that takes place in the mid-to-late 1960, there is surprisingly little smoking – in that there is none. Clearly the film makers are aiming for the widest audience they can get, and I don’t blame this. Hidden Figures is a story that should be told and, while this sanitized view of the 60s took me out of the film, I understand the choice.

It is not surprising that black women can do math spectacularly well. It is not surprising that black women are smart, smarter than some of their white peers. It is not surprising that, in the time this movie took place, the obstacles and barriers placed in front of black women were far more difficult to navigate and far higher than those placed in front of their white counterparts. What is also not surprising but sounds a note of hopefulness in this particular moment of American history, is that there were people, black and white women and men, who saw past color and gender, who knew that good ideas come from everywhere and everyone and who championed the concept that color and gender were secondary considerations to competence and quality.

Hidden Figures is a wonderful film and a worthy one. It seems to have found an audience and, on this particular weekend at this particular point in time, that makes me very, very hopeful.

 

HIDDEN FIGURES receives FOUR AND A HALF DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS out of a possible FIVE. 

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Link’n’Blogs – 1.20.17: RIGOR! MORTIS? AND THE TRADITIONAL JESUIT EDUCATION


Related Content from And There Came A Day


I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

I am blessed to have many, many friends in the education game, friends who are far more intelligent than I. One of them is Jim Broderick King whom I have referred to on this blog as “the Magister.” He is also the mythical “Best” Friend we all should be so blessed to have. His reflections here are critical, considered and correct. Happy to have read them, happy to know him.

RIGOR! MORTIS? AND THE TRADITIONAL JESUIT EDUCATION

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Me and Jim Broderick King almost a decade ago. Friends then, friends now. 

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: January 11 – 17, 2017


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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.
Then I read them.
Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

COMICS I READ LAST WEEK

 

 

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The best comic I read last week was All Star Batman #6.


Writer: Scott Snyder

Artist: Jock

This might be the best comic I’ve read in months. It is certainly the most creative main stream, superhero comic I’ve read in months. Written by the all but peerless Scott Snyder in prose, this book would be more short story than comic if not for the gorgeous art by Jock.

Let me come back to the style here: this comic was in prose, quoted Robert Frost, played two or three clever narrative tricks and demanded a re-read as soon as I’d finished it.

This is the type of work that should win awards. Anyone who thinks superheroes and comic books are for kids has not picked up a book like this.

Outside of Love Is Love, which was in a class by itself, this is the absolute best thing I’ve read in quite a while.

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Link’n’Blogs – 1.13.17: Sherlock Holmes and Christ


Related Content from And There Came A Day


I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

Did that headline grab you? If you like Sherlock on PBS, Sherlock Holmes in general or a deep dive into the religious overtones of the character, specifically how he is Christ-like, you’ll love the below article from America Magazine.

The Smartest Guy in Any Room

Sherlock

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: January 4 – 10, 2017


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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.
Then I read them.
Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

COMICS I READ LAST WEEK

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comics-1-10

 

The best comic I read last week was Superman #14.


Writer: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

Artist: Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

 

Ever since DC Rebirth, the comic giant has embraced its roots. It has embraced its legacy characters and it has embraced the idea that stories which appeared in the past can have influence on stories being published today.

Further, and, perhaps, counter intuitively, the company has taken risks with longstanding characters and sacred cows – the inclusion of the Watchmen in the standard DC universe being a great example of this.

Now, in Superman, arguably the best title of the Rebirth bunch, readers are treated to a bevy of Supermen, none of whom the New 52 version, and all of whom come from different realities. They band together because some force is trying to eliminate or capture specific Supermen – a force that seems tied to Rebirth itself.

Very, very cool, stuff, even noting the similarities to Marvel’s Spider Verse from a few years back. The writing is solid. The art is grand. The story is fun.

Superman has been a great and fun title. It’s been an unexpected pleasure. It’s great to see the Man of Steel’s eponymous title as a must read twice a month.

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Link’n’Blogs – 1.6.17 – Pretty Testy


Related Content from And There Came A Day


I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

If you are worried about standardized testing (and you should be), this article… well, this article won’t make you feel any better, but it’s an important read. Thanks very much to my friend The Junior Senator for pointing this one out.

I Can’t Answer These Texas Standardized Test Questions About My Own Poems

test%20form

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: December 28, 2016 – January 3, 2017


Related Content from And There Came A Day:


I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.
Then I read them.
Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

COMICS I READ LAST WEEK

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The best comic I read last week was Love is Love.

loveislove-cv1
Writer: Various

Artist: Various

Far and away, this was the best book I read last week. And I figured it would be. The reason it doesn’t show up in the images above is I purchased it in hard copy. And I am quite glad I did. Beautifully written by some incredibly talented people, lovingly illustrated by an all star cast of artists, Love Is Love is an experience everyone – not every comic reader – should have.

It’s 144 pages. I read it in one night. Powerful. Depressing. Shocking. Uplifting. This book developed in the aftermath of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shootings will make you feel. It will also make you think.

It’s a beautiful work and its title says it all.

Love. Is. Love.

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