Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

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domino harvey
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Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#1 Post by domino harvey » Thu Aug 18, 2016 1:27 pm

domino harvey wrote:From front runner to guaranteed total snub, wow. Luckily there are apparently quite a few other high profile POC-led films for the Academy to nominate in the wake of recent controversies
Ribs wrote:Yeah, though almost all of them have been rushed through production to come out by the end of the year as far as I can tell so who knows if any of them will actually turn out well (and I'm mildly expecting them to split a 'progressive' vote to marginal nominations too).

(The one I'm putting my chips on is Denzel Washington's Fences though obviously Loving is the kind of story you're surprised they haven't already made an Oscar-nominated biopic about twenty years ago, and there's a few others too)
Hidden Figures seems like a safe bet

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Re: The Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker, 2016)

#2 Post by knives » Thu Aug 18, 2016 3:34 pm

I imagine Hidden Figures will be the biggest one if they do do an oscar qualifying run as even my most non-cinema friendly family and friends are getting very excited for it.

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Re: The Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker, 2016)

#3 Post by domino harvey » Thu Aug 18, 2016 3:38 pm

They are, December 25th before the already scheduled wide release in January

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Re: Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#4 Post by Zot! » Thu Aug 18, 2016 4:21 pm

What is POC?

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knives
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Re: Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#5 Post by knives » Thu Aug 18, 2016 4:24 pm

It means Person of Colour. It's an out of date term that nevertheless has regained popularity with some leftist groups because it is easier to say and explain than non-hegemonic ethnic groupings for American society.

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Re: Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#6 Post by jindianajonz » Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:31 pm

domino harvey wrote:Hidden Figures seems like a safe bet
You'll have to hash that out with this guy over here

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Re: Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#7 Post by domino harvey » Sat Feb 11, 2017 12:32 am

I hope you enjoyed my homage to Walt Whitman

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Re: Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#8 Post by Brian C » Sat Feb 11, 2017 1:53 am

Weird to have this thread for a movie no one's actually talked about. But it's a nice enough movie, it basically does what it sets out to do.

I've got a suspicious eye cast on Melfi, though. This does not strike me as a very well made movie for being an audience-pleasing studio production. As with St. Vincent, the pacing seems slack, the editing is choppy, and every camera set up seems to basically be planned to point right at the person talking or doing something and that's it. I assumed from watching this that Melfi had a background in sitcoms, but looking it up now, that does not seem to be the case.

Like I say, the movie accomplishes its rather meager goals - with this story, it'd have been hard not to - but it's not hard to imagine the inspiring moments soaring a little higher and the dramatic moments being a little more tense and the actors being a little sharper, with direction that was more graceful and that showed a little more craft.

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Re: Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#9 Post by jindianajonz » Sat Feb 11, 2017 12:47 pm

Brian C wrote: every camera set up seems to basically be planned to point right at the person talking or doing something and that's it.
Agreed. The only scene where I noticed interesting camera staging was when
SpoilerShow
Vaughn confronts Mitchell in the bathroom,
and the camera shows these two looking at reflections of eachother in the mirror rather than directly at each other. Other than that, most of the film is constructed in a competent yet conventional way.

For me, the most refreshing thing about this movie is its take on racism. Perhaps this is more common than I think and I just don't see enough movies, but I enjoyed the fact that racism in this movie wasn't slurs and anger, it was surprised looks and people following the system they are used to. I appreciated that there was no racist villain for our heroes to confront and convert; racism seeped in from the environment itself. It would have been easy to have, say,
SpoilerShow
the Paul Stafford character bring in the colored coffee pot, but instead it just appears one the morning, almost as if society itself willed it into existence.
As a result, we get a much more nuanced character from Parsons; instead of being racist, we are never quite sure whether his hostility towards Katherine stems from race, sex, or even just a frustration that a subordinate calculator keeps trying to overstep her bounds and put her name on papers. The movie deftly shows racism as both suffocating and impossible to point to, which is something that is rare in films of this sort.

If anybody comes close to the white embodiment of prejudice, it's Dunst's Mrs Mitchell character. At the very least, Melfi flips conventions and
SpoilerShow
instead of having Mitchell learn the "truth" about black folk before accepting them, we have the aforementioned bathroom scene where she is instead is confronted with and forced to accept the truth about herself.
I enjoyed this deviation from the standard, "by the bootstraps" approach to racism, as it takes the weight off the shoulders of the discriminees and puts the onus for change on the discriminators for a change.

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Re: Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#10 Post by cantinflas » Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:54 pm

Image

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Re: Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#11 Post by whaleallright » Sat Feb 11, 2017 10:47 pm

How long before he's offered a job in the Trump administration?

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Re: Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#12 Post by domino harvey » Sat Feb 11, 2017 10:56 pm

To be fair, no one is better qualified to lead the Department of Requesting Vinessa Shaw's Nudes

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Re: Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#13 Post by Dead or Deader » Sun Feb 12, 2017 2:13 am

KFD wrote:Jeff Wells: Friend of the Common Man. I get what you're saying, but it is that kind of rumination that drove a lot of "wage-earning low-lifes" into the arms of Trump. No, I'm not saying you have any responsibility in Trump being president but the contempt with which you treat people who aren't like you is glaringly similar to those who support cheeto Duce. What, exactly, is contemptible about "wage-earners" as you call them?
Jeffrey Welles wrote:They struck me as insensitive, to put it mildly. They struck me as crude and under-educated. They struck me as the sort of 21st Century Latino moviegoers who aren't even aware of, much less interested in, the movies of Luis Bunuel, Alejandro G. Inarritu, Gerardo Naranjo, Pedro Almodovar, Walter Salles, Fernando Meirelles and Alfonso Cuaron. Want me to go on? I don't have contempt for people "who aren't like" me -- I have contempt for people who live in their grubby little mosh pits -- people can't be bothered to educate themselves and open their hearts and minds to the finer aspects of life. People, in short, who are on a lower evolutionary level...no offense.

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Re: Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#14 Post by mfunk9786 » Sun Mar 05, 2017 7:33 pm

If you would've asked me what movie from 2016 would've made me angriest, I certainly would have put this low on my list. But I'll be damned if it isn't the most execrable insult to American heroes that I could imagine. Written by one of the three scribes behind Mean Girls 2 and writers' room resident of numerous faceless YA television shows comes a picture about some of the most groundbreaking geniuses in this nation's history. And lest you think I'm being unfair, consider the end product. Not a moment goes by without intense sterilization and condescension to the viewer, the film's talented cast, and most importantly of all - its subjects. Theodore Melfi decides to lean into the flaws of the hamfisted screenplay, highlighting every moment with the sorts of hyper-literal flourishes that would make Robert Zemeckis run screaming from the room.

The people in this movie do not have a moment to take a breath. They are too busy crying, speechifying, making bold pronouncements, being dehumanized (or having humanity lent out to them by Kevin Costner, one warm ladle at a time) to be living, breathing women. These were real people who were marginalized, who acheieved, who persevered. These weren't carefully manicured archetypes, only existing to stare doefully at Colored Only signs and read labored exposition to their friends and families so viewers feel comfortably caught up with the social climate of the 1960s. This is a film about groundbreakers made by filmmakers who can't imagine a way to elevate such rich material beyond sub-Disney Direct-to-Video dreck. These people, from Katherine Johnson to Mary Jackson to Dorothy Vaughan to John Glenn - every single one of them deserved so much better than this.

I disagree with Callum Marsh when he said "Does not pass the David Wain test. (The David Wain test is whether a movie would be distinguishable from a David Wain parody of that movie.)" about Hidden Figures - even the best comedy can't reach the absurd lows of the worst sincerity. But I suppose he's got a point.

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Re: Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#15 Post by domino harvey » Sun Mar 05, 2017 7:34 pm

Today I learned there is a Mean Girls 2 and its author has more Oscar nominations than Tina Fey

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Re: Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#16 Post by mfunk9786 » Sun Mar 05, 2017 7:37 pm

domino harvey wrote:Today I learned there is a Mean Girls 2 and its author has more Oscar nominations than Tina Fey
Going to go ahead and guarantee she will not receive another if there is a just God

This film and Moonlight being nominated for Adapted Screenplay in the same year couldn't be a better representation of the differences between a film about African Americans written by African Americans and one written by a white, 38 year old Stanford grad. I can only assume that the goodwill of this movie's fine cast is the only thing that saved it from total ruin. But as far as I'm concerned, it belongs in a clamshell VHS case in 1996, not at the Oscars.

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Re: Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#17 Post by Roger Ryan » Mon Mar 06, 2017 12:10 pm

I find it telling that virtually none of the white characters in Hidden Figures are based on actual people (apart from John Glenn, of course) according to an FAQ page on the NASA website. These characters are stereotypical constructs that overwhelm the film with their easy-to-hate prejudices or, in the form of Kevin Costner's "Al Harrison", heroic gestures. The one real NASA employee highlighted in the film, who inspired the character "Karl Zelinski", was actually from Massachusetts which kind of undercuts the idea of his character surviving a Nazi death camp in Poland.

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Re: Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

#18 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 12:50 pm

Roger Ryan wrote:I find it telling that virtually none of the white characters in Hidden Figures are based on actual people (apart from John Glenn, of course) according to an FAQ page on the NASA website. These characters are stereotypical constructs that overwhelm the film with their easy-to-hate prejudices or, in the form of Kevin Costner's "Al Harrison", heroic gestures. The one real NASA employee highlighted in the film, who inspired the character "Karl Zelinski", was actually from Massachusetts which kind of undercuts the idea of his character surviving a Nazi death camp in Poland.
I want to tread carefully because I don't want to insult an entire genre of media too badly that I know many adults (including posters here) get a lot out of, but the screenplay has a very YA vibe to it. And when I walked out, the first thing I did was look into who wrote it, and what else they'd done, and that observation turned out to be far more accurate than I could've expected. And if it were the best of what YA can offer, that'd be one thing, but sadly, it engages in some of the genre's worst impulses - and this is an Oscar nominated screenplay we're talking about - all of what follows would be more tolerable (though not completely forgivable) if this were an ABC Family series and not a feature film with an excellent cast capable of wrangling much more complex material. The characterizations slot into common YA roles (the women's superiors at NASA share far too much in common with, say, the roster of professors in the Harry Potter series for my liking, to name one example I can speak to directly), usually marked by differentiation that only serves to fill out a diversity of shades of the same general personality, which one can transparently rank from least to most capable of assisting in the protagonists' aims. The personal lives of the leads are just as cardboard - with husbands and relatives and children who are either only kind of hazy in their level of support of their assigned protagonist, or those who are so saintly that Jesus Christ would blush in their presence.

There's a complexity to what the women were up against (and what they were capable of, at their level of mechanics, engineering, and mathematics) that is totally at odds with the film's cookie-cutter scenarios, characters, and music cues (jaunty "Yes we can!" tunes [literally], indicating to the audience that one half of Katherine Johnson's mind was occupied with how many societal obstacles she was overcoming while the other half was rushing to verify extremely important and complex flight trajectory coordinates). Instead of spending time observing these characters engaging with their craft, time is instead lent to a 20th room being walked into to stunned silence. Details like Johnson needing to walk a half mile to use the restroom are fascinating until we've got a 5th montage of it, followed by Kevin Costner nobly smashing the Colored Women sign and declaring heroically that it's the end of segregation at NASA. Appropriate, because the entire film feels like it were written by a sledgehammer rather than a typewriter, with all of the precision its tool can lend.

I don't mean to diminish how unusual and revolutionary these women's contributions were to the progression of social justice by accomplishing these incredible things - in fact, for me, this the area where the flaws in the film were glowing brightest. There were so many sequences where their craft could've been written in three dimensions, but they were set dressing for white characters' discomfort. Scenes were less about what Johnson was writing on the chalkboard than about the white characters' unease while she was writing it. Less about Dorothy Vaughan's ability to find her way around a daunting IBM than about the white men in the room being agog at a black woman being able to do this at all. Less about Mary Jackson's engineering potential than about her ability to lobby a judge to allow her to study it in a fashion that suited that white judge's ego, therefore we waste time learning more about the judge than we do about Jackson.

Missed opportunities up and down, in an effort to get this film to fit into a box that it should've never been forced into in the first place. It should not have ignored the racial or gender component of these women's achievements, but it shouldn't have ignored the achievements themselves, either, when there was such a wide berth of them to draw from. Instead, we got fluff - rewarded for telling an important story instead of for telling it well.

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