Sunday, February 05, 2017
It's America at our best. Always evolving, willing to right our wrongs. In today's political climate, this is an especially important and moving message.
Hidden Figures is a hit, nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture. It's the story of three women who performed the calculations at Langley that led to John Glenn's orbit around the earth.
In 1962, women were not allowed to attend Cabinet meetings, even though the information disseminated was vital to the work they were doing. There were restrictions on what they could wear -- no slacks, of course, and minimal jewelry (only Jackie-esque pearls). It was worse for these women. Being black, they couldn't attend the classes required to progress in their careers or even use the nearby "whites only" ladies' room. It only seemed like the system was conspiring against them because it was.
So what did they do? More. They worked harder, and better. They overcame. They succeeded. And they made history.
Of the Oscar-nominated movies I've seen, Hidden Figures is by far the most conventional.* But that makes it the most accessible. I've read that middle school girls in St. Louis and Milwaukee have gone to the movies to see this and received class credit. Taraji P. Henson, who plays "the girl" John Glenn depended on and trusted, spends a great deal of time here in Chicago filming Empire and recently bought out a Southwest Side theater to allow those who can't afford a ticket a chance to see it.
That makes me happy, too.
*Of the Best Picture nominees I've seen, Hell or High Water is still my favorite. It's available OnDemand. Like Hidden Figures, it's a uniquely American story, with a tragic inevitability that reminded me of Bonnie and Clyde or In Cold Blood. And it has a pair of wonderful performances at its center -- Oscar nominee Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine are the antagonists on a collision course. See it, see it, see it. Warning, though: It's more violent than I would have liked.