TV & Film Review: Drama

Film Review: Hidden Figures

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4 of 5 stars to Hidden Figures, a drama released in 2017 about three African-American women who fought for the ability to work in a NASA program during the 1960s on the team calculating important formulas and equations being used to help the US launch an astronaut into space. Originally a book by Margot Lee Shetterly, you can read more about it here.

Why This Movie?

The story is fascinating… not only are three women, but three African-American women, fighting for a fair chance to participate when (1) it should have always been an option [don’t get me started on my frustration with all people not having equal rights in the past] and (2) they were the smartest people in the country at the time.

It received several Oscar nominations, but unfortunately didn’t win any of the major ones. It won a few other award shows for acting, etc. And it’s based on reality… where all 3 women are real people, some still alive today.

I usually prefer to read the book before I watch the movie, but I’ve got a backlog of books on my TBR (To Be Read) shelf with some deadlines, and my other half wanted to see the movie. We don’t often go to the movies and it was released last week onto our cable providers “movies on demand.” It became last Saturday evening’s movie of choice.

It is often compared to “The Help,” particularly because of it being the same rough time period, having Octavia Spencer and it being about African-American women fighting for equal rights. But it’s really quite different. You don’t see a lot of victimization in this movie; it’s certainly there, but the overall theme and message is more about how smart they were and what successes they had.

Overview

Katherine, Dorothy and Mary live in Virginia and work at the NASA offices in the computer room, but they don’t work on computers: they are human computers who have vast mathematical skills beyond any reasonable norm. Katherine has a particular genius for being able to calculate extensive formulas using advanced geometry and other sorts of equations. Dorothy, hoping to get the supervisor role she’s acting in but without the title and pay, is very easily able to understand computer languages and engineering, and when the first IBM comes to town, she is the one who makes it work properly. Mary’s specific skills are never volunteered, but she wanted to be an engineer and needed to get advanced degrees at a local university when it was an all-white school. Each of the women struggle in their personal lives (widow, less than supportive family and single mother) as well as at work, but they band together to help fight for the right to be part of the team to help launch John Glenn into space, especially after the Russians beat the US. The movie follows about a 6-month arc of their lives when they are first told “no” all the way to when they get their “yes.”

Notable Stars

  • MY FAVORITE
    • It was a toss up… I love Octavia Spencer, but I think Taraji P. Henson beat her out in this one.
    • Taraji is probably best known currently for her role of Cookie on “Empire.”
    • Taraji plays Katherine, a single mother of three, who lives with her own mother, so someone is raising the girls. She is the smartest in the group and eventually gets a chance to prove it when she gets put on the team to launch John Glenn.
    • Taraji’s performance was very simple and understated for 90% of the film; she was very consistent and conveyed through body language every hurt and frustration over the lack of equal and civil rights, in particular around her scenes when needing to find a “colored bathroom.” When she’s finally pushed to the edge, she unleashes in a verbal storm for about two minutes and really showcases how awful it was for women and for African-Americans during this time period.

  • OTHERS
    • Octavia Spencer plays Dorothy, and has her normal comedic timing down to perfection. Her role is probably a bit more supporting, but she is very strong.
    • Janelle Monae plays Mary, who fights for her right, and all future African Americans and women, to attend an all-white university. She is best known as the singer of “We are young,” a song I think is absolutely beautiful.
    • Kirsten Dunst plays Vivian, a supervisor who stands the line on what the company will allow its “colored” employees to do or not do. She plays her typical character, but did it well.
    • Kevin Costner plays Al, head of the division working on the space launch. He’s very strong in this role. Um… I think everyone knows who Costner is, but he plays a similar role as he always does!
    • Jim Parsons plays Paul, Al’s right hand who struggles with partnering on or stealing Katherine’s work. He’s very different than his role on The Big Bang Theory.
    • Glen Powell plays John Glenn. Glen’s best known for his role on Scream Queens. But he is very different this time – not silly humor as in the past. I liked him a lot.
    • Lots of other strong supporting cast members… in all, a good group.

The Good or The Bad

  • It’s a great film. The story is strong. The acting is good. The setting and scenery is fantastic, especially given they were recreating something almost 60 years old.
  • It got a 4 instead of a 5 only because there weren’t any major stand-out components, where I thought “OMG, new star is born, this is amazing, everyone must see it…” It was a solid movie, depicting a very sad part of American history with great aplomb. A few more dramatic scenes may have pushed it up to a 5 for me. But still very much worth watching.
  • Never any slow scenes where it felt over-played.
  • Although the mathematical formulas were critical, they were downplayed. You could see the characters calculating, but you didn’t worry about it being too advanced. It was minimal screen time. The film was more about what was going on in people’s heads over everything.

What’s Next?

  • I don’t know if I’ll go back to read the book. As much as I loved the film, I get the gist. I’d rather read something else by this author.
  • I would be interested in seeing something else with Taraji P. Nelson in it. It was a very good performance and very different from her other roles from what I understand.
  • I might consider a biography about these women… if it exists. I need to look that up!
  • I don’t know a lot about the “underground railroad.” It might be time to get more educated on this even earlier historical fight for freedom.

About Me

I’m Jay. I am 40 and live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. Each week, I will post a summary of a trip I’ve taken somewhere in the world. I’ll cover the transportation, hotel, restaurants, activities, who, what, when, where and why… and let you decide for yourself if it’s a trip worth taking.

Once you hit my site “ThisIsMyTruthNow” at https://thisismytruthnow.com, you can join the fun and see my blog and various site content. You’ll find book reviews, published and in-progress fiction, TV/Film reviews, favorite vacation spots and my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge.” Since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life… see how you compare!

Feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Tell me what you think. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

 

Film Review: All About Eve

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4+ of 5 stars to All About Eve, a drama about an aspiring actress and her obsession with a famous star set in NYC in the 1950s, starring many famous actors and actresses of the decade. The film is also highly praised and considered one of the best movies of the 20th century, which makes it a classic everyone must enjoy.

Why This Movie?

Several weeks ago, I began watching “Feud,” Ryan Murphy’s TV series about the famous feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. I’m a big fan of Ryan’s shows, and I’d also seen “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” many years ago, enjoying Bette Davis’ performance. And then there’s that time I took a a trip to visit Houmas House, the Louisiana plantation where “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” the follow-up to “Baby Jane” also starring Bette Davis, was filmed.

It was Saturday night, last night, and we had plans for an old movie and some friends. And by friends, I mean drinks. Started with Jack Daniels and Ginger Ale. Later switched over to a nice Cabernet Sauvignon to go with the skirt steak chimichurri I made. I was searching for “Rebecca,” but couldn’t find it, so we settled on continuing the Bette Davis experience; hence, we chose “All About Eve.”

Film Overview

Margo Channing is a famous Broadway actress dating her director, Bill Simpson, and currently starring in “Aged in Wood.” Her playwright, Lloyd Richards, writes the parts for her, but most of the time, the main character is mid-20s, despite Margo recently turning 40. Margo’s best friend, Karen Richards, stumbles upon a beautiful young girl, Eve Harrington, standing outside the theatre, claiming she likes watching Margo leave each evening. Karen likes her and brings her inside to meet Margo, and they all quickly become friends. Eve moves in with Margo as her second personal assistant, as Margo already has right hand woman, Birdie.

Over a few months, Eve becomes an essential part of Margo’s life, handling everything from remembering Bill’s birthday to dealing with all Margo’s fans. Birdie suspects something is funny about Eve, but no one believes her. Soon after, Margo finds Eve starting to get too close to Margo’s life and tries to put up a few road blocks. Margo’s friends, Bill, Lloyd and Karen, start seeing the jealous side of Margo and set up a trap to teach her a lesson. Unfortunately, Eve ends up the winner as a result, suddenly finding herself as Margo’s understudy and starring for Margo one evening when Margo’s stuck in the country. Eve’s popularity quickly rises with the help of a critic, Addison DeWitt, and Addison later catches on to Eve’s tricks.

The movie closes with Eve winning an award for her performance in Lloyd’s newest play, finally starring an “age-appropriate actress” according to DeWitt’s newspaper column. But Eve realizes not everything she’s gone after is worth the trouble it’s caused her, leaving her open to another young ingenue who begins to play the same game with Eve — now in the role of woman blind to someone clearly ready to pounce.

Notable Stars

  • MY FAVORITE (in this movie)
    • Bette Davis plays Margo Channing. Bette was fantastic. Now seeing her in two movies, and Susan Sarandon’s performance of Bette in Feud, it seems like Bette always plays the same roles. She’s fantastic at them, but it makes me wonder if she was typecast. I remember Madonna’s song “Vogue” mentioning Bette Davis, and there was the song “Bette Davis Eyes,” which had a number of popular versions by various singers in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Unfortunately, Bette didn’t win the award for this role, but she was nominated for a Best Lead Actress Oscar. Rumor has it, the results were impacted because her co-star, Anne Baxter, was also in the category and split the votes. I’m gonna have to look that up…

  • OTHERS
    • Anne Baxter plays Eve Harrington. She’s really good and I could very easily see the line she toed playing obsessed but sane, loving but a charlatan, coy but venomous. Was nominated for the Lead Actress Oscar.
    • Celeste Holm plays Karen Richards. Good performance. First exposure to her. Was nominated for the Supporting Actress Oscar.
    • Gary Merrill plays Bill Simpson. Good performance. First exposure to him.
    • George Sanders plays Addison DeWitt. Good performance. First exposure to him. Won Best Supporting Acting Oscar.
    • Hugh Marlowe plays Lloyd Richards. Good performance. First exposure to him.
    • Thelma Ritter plays Birdie. She was funny. I liken her to Joan Crawford’s assistant, Mamacita. Was nominated for the Support Actress Oscar.
    • Marilyn Monroe has a small role — nothing to really comment about.

The Good and The Bad

  • All About Eve is based on a short story, ‘The Wisdom of Eve’, written by American author Mary Orr [1910-2006]. Thanks IMDB!
  • It’s in black and white, so you have a certain amount of charm and imagination.
  • For a film nearly 70 years old, it had tons of drama and caustic dialogue.

  • The plot was very strong, and it had a few side-stories which kept everything moving along. Never felt bored. Had a few moments of “are you serious,” but then I realized it was 70 years old… so it was a bit of a pioneer.
  • The whole “Eve wins an award” plot seemed a little far-fetched, as well as why Addison chose to support her, knowing she was playing a game the whole time. I thought he had more honesty about him.
  • I’d have liked to see what happens to Margo afterwards… did she have more plays? Did she move to a different playwright? Did she and Bill get married? Why was she OK with Bill working on the play with Eve?
  • I thought we should have seen a fight between Margo and Karen, especially since Karen’s the root of all the evil: Karen brought Eve to meet Margo, Karen told everyone to trust Eve and Karen setup the situation which led to Eve starring in Margo’s play.

What’s Next?

  • Since I’m on a Bette Davis kick, I think I’ll take a look at another film she starred in, “Dark Victory.” And of course, “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.”
  • Anne Baxter’s performance was also really strong. I will probably see what other movies she made…
  • This is a movie with powerful and strong women, especially for the 1950s. I think it’s got lots of chutzpah.
  • It’s not about crying when someone takes something that belongs to you. It’s about standing up and fight for yourself. I like it!

About Me

For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I watch TV A LOT. I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. This site, https://thisismytruthnow.com, is where you’ll find TV & Film reviews, book reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.