The LAMB Devours The Oscars 2017: Best Picture Nominee: Hidden Figures

by Jay Cluitt · February 16, 2017 · Featured, LAMB Devours the Oscars · No Comments

Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far:

For today’s post, Le Anne Lindsay from Tinsel & Tine calculates the chances for Best Picture nominee Hidden Figures:

Hidden Figures is the incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) – brilliant African-American women working at NASA, alongside white male counter-parts and completely pulling their weight in the race to get the first man to the moon. The film unfolds during a crucial time in American history: JFK is president, the Cold War is in full freeze, and racial segregation is a fact of life. Against this backdrop, Hidden Figures tells the story of three women who broke down barriers of sex and race, but with a light touch, giving weight to the women’s accomplishments while not being too heavy handed on matters of discrimination, injustice and inequality.

There’s a running (pun intended) montage of Katherine, wearing figure hugging dresses and kitten heels sprinting from the Space Task Group of NASA, where she’s been assigned to work as a mathematician (although the term used for these women with amazing STEM skill was “a Computer”) to get back to the area of NASA where there are Colored bathrooms, a little under a mile away – it’s hard to figure why she takes her work with her, when she only needs to relieve herself and race right back. However, rather than making these scenes about anger and resentment, they are undercut with humor and music, which more powerfully underlines the ridiculousness of segregation.

Mary fights for her right to be qualified as an engineer, using a very clever tactic to get her chance. While Dorothy is subjected to ongoing put-downs from the condescending Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst) in her job application as supervisor, a role for which she is already fulfilling without the pay or acknowledgement. She also uses ingenuity to rise to a new level. In fact, all three women are extremely proactive, where there’s a window they all make a door.

Kevin Costner is terrific as her open-minded boss, who recognizes Katherine for her extraordinary mind and abilities; yet at the same time, realistically, she’s just a means to an end for him, he’s respectful, but he’s not her champion. There is a touch of romance too, with Colonel Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali) courting Katherine and looking to be a father figure for her three daughters.

Oscar chances: I don’t think anything has a chance against La La Land this year, that’s just moving full steam ahead throughout the awards season. It’s also not a good sign that neither Hidden Figures director Theodore Melfi, nor the lead actress, Taraji P. Henson have been nominated. And although the subject matter of acknowledging the existence of these impressive women of color in American history is Oscar worthy, the overall feel-good experience of the movie prevents it from being a serious contender for a gold statue. But that’s OK, because more importantly, it’s making money at the box office and best of all Hidden Figures reminds us that anything, regardless of how unlikely it seems, is possible.

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