OSCAR WATCH: Hidden Figures Review

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The hidden gem of the Oscars?

I recently did an Oscar predictions article which you can read here.  At the time I was only familiar with a few of the Best Picture Nominees, so in an effort to get myself and everyone else more familiar with these movies, I’m reviewing all of them before the big day this coming Sunday.  You can check out reviews for La La Land, Moonlight, and Hell or High Water by following the hyperlinks on their names. We will be addressing Hidden Figures in this review.

Hidden Figures is the true story of how three African American women were critical for NASA in the space race between the United States and Russia in the 60’s.  That sounds like a really great story but it’s not one that really popped out to me in terms of excitement.  I thought it would be a bland movie with an uplifting message.  It sounded sappy to me. Well, I was wrong and also very pleasantly surprised.

The movie starts off by introducing us to the three main characters…Katherine Johnson (Taraji Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae).  These women are clearly very intelligent and they work for NASA.  They are also African American which poses all sorts of…difficulties.  While they are treated semi-respectfully, they are looked at as subordinate inferiors to their white counterparts at NASA.  However NASA is pressed for time as they are looking to match and even outclass Russia in the race to get a man into space.  NASA needs all the brainpower they can get, wherever they can get it.  They find that all three of these women provide something that can help them elevate to where they need to be.  Katherine is a genius mathmetician, Mary has an exceptional engineering mind, and Dorothy ability to learn fast propels her to being a computer programming expert.  All three of these women overcome hardships to help NASA get astronaut John Glenn into space and achieve individual success for themselves as well.

As this movie progressed, I found myself getting more and more interested in what was going on.  Not only is this film shot beautifully, but the pacing of the story is very smooth.  The directing of this movie keeps you engaged and invested in what will happen next.  There were some romantic interludes that take you away from the main draw but this is a story about these women’s lives and it was nice to see this part of it.  The whole plot revolving around NASA was so thoroughly fascinating.  You can’t help but root for all these characters as they are all so likeable.  All three of our main actors are incredible in their performances, especially Taraji Henson playing Katherine.  This story focuses more on Katherine but the other two are also showcased very nicely.  Kevin Coster plays the lead NASA director, Al Harrison. He does a fine job playing a no nonsense boss who wants to get the job done and demands excellence from his team.  His ability to recognize Katherine’s genius as essential to what he needed to do was really amazing stuff.  Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory plays Paul Stafford, a mathematician who works with Katherine and does a good job at playing an unlikeable obnoxious character who somewhat redeems himself towards the end.  The space sequences in this movie are also very powerful.

This movie is so emotionally moving.  It was also very inspirational.  This was a story that I’m glad was told. Sometimes these tales can get lost in the historical footnotes so it is important that it gets brought to our attention by this type of film.  We also would never know how enjoyable something like this is to see if weren’t for movies like this.  I can see why Hidden Figures garnered a Best Picture Nomination. Whether it will win is a different story.  We shall see. Perhaps this underdog story will translate into real life during the Academy Awards.  In the meantime, you should still make it a point to watch this movie. I’m glad I did. This is one the whole family will enjoy.

Grade: A

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