Hidden Figures (movie)

This movie is okay.

My wife said it was hard to imagine that the adults in this movie were all people from our parents’ generation and I think she’s got a good point. I didn’t recognize any of the lead women, but they were all fine. Costner did a good job, too.

I wonder how much of the movie was fictionalized. I wonder especially if the Costner guy really knocked down the “colored only” bathroom sign and single-handedly desegregated NASA. I hate to sound so cynical, but there was one scene that involved a white guy running to get Kathryn, the mathematical genius, so that John Glenn could orbit the earth, and this white guy is running along the same path Kathryn used to get to the colored only bathrooms, and it just made me cringe. I’m not even sure why it was so uncomfortable. I suppose it was meant to heighten the drama and involve Kathryn in the plot in a meaningful way, but it just felt like such an add-on scene, like it should have had Yakkity Sax as the background score.

I think I might see this, the reviews looked strong, but cynically I was worried that was more about the message than how good a film it is (and Kevin Costner always gives me pause—I think of him as the actor you fall back on if the prestigious one you were hoping to cast doesn’t work out).

Your opinions make me think I should go with my gut and skip it.

I saw this today and thought it was really well done. The performances were all good (with the exception of Jin Parsons, who does nothing with the role of an engineer whose status is threatened by the black female math whiz). I thought the screenwriters avoided the pitfalls of a movie about doing math or a standard civil rights drama by presenting three distinct stories of overcoming obstacles of race and gender while surrounded by people who are essentially well-meaning but oblivious. The parts that Tim saw as over-the-top I saw as possessing the idiosyncrasy of true events seen through the filter of anecdote. It is designed to appeal to a wide audience, clearly, but Hidden Figures is smart nonetheless.

That’s a good way of putting it, antlers. I agree with much pretty much all of what you’re saying. There was some smart storytelling and the emotional core seemed solid. I choked up a bit when Kathryn blasted her colleagues about the coffee mess. The actress who performed that scene was pitch perfect.

And if the Costner and Yakkity Sax stuff was over-the-top, the characters for the three lead women all had real life counterparts who are each pictured at the end. Those stories are true.

I haven’t seen the movie, but the book it’s based on (also called Hidden Figures) is very good. It covers a much broader swathe in time, going back to WW2, when NASA’s predecessor started hiring women (black and white) as “computers.” It’s much more history than science, so you won’t get much detail on Katherine Johnson’s calculations for the Apollo 11 lunar lander ascent trajectory, but it’s a fun read regardless.

That was Taraji Henson (Person of Interest, of course).

Saw this with my family and really liked it. It may have chosen the family friendly path over grittiness or accuracy or cheese, but I thought it was well done.

My wife and I saw this last night and, overall, thought it was inspiring. It wasn’t the overarching look at the Mercury program as shown by The Right Stuff or the definitive look of the NASA supernerds figuring out how to save Apollo 13, but I really liked the spotlight it shone on the movie’s main characters.

While some of the dialogue is clunky, because they are jamming historical context into the mouths of regular people that were Tim Elhajj’s parents’ age, or because they are dumbing down math being explained by mathematicians to mathematicians, there were two passages that I thought were just fantastic. They laid out the themes of the movie without completely underscoring, italicising, and bolding them. The first bit was Dorothy (the woman that because the Fortran wizard) bitching to her friends about not getting the supervisor position she was more than qualified for:

What’s not fair is having the 
responsibility of a Supervisor, but not 
the title or the money.  Watching you all 
get moved on.  Now don’t get me wrong, 
any upward movement is movement for us 
all.  It just isn’t movement for me.

Now of course the movie is about the enormous struggles these women had to face during a dark and long stretch of time in our nation’s history, where they couldn’t just be brilliant to succeed. But it’s also a movie about the space race. And damn, to me, “any upward movement is movement for us all” isn’t just about women of color fighting for ground in the workplace (which is super important, then and now!!!), it’s also about humanity exploring space. Any upward movement by a guy in a rocket is a victory for our genome.

The second passage was, sigh, Costner speechifying as the top dog white guy in the movie, complaining about how much better the Russkies were than us.

I want to thank everyone for staying.  I 
know it’s late and after what we just 
saw, I think everyone’s probably anxious 
to go home.  But before we do, I just 
have to ask... how can it be that we’re 
in second place in a two man race?  
Anybody?  Paul?

Stafford doesn’t have the answer.  Shakes his head.

Then I think Glenn said it pretty well.  
They’re just outworking us.  And the 
reason I have to think that is because I 
refuse to believe that the Russians are 
smarter than us, or because they have 
more technology.  Or that they care more.  
But I don’t know?  Is that possible?  Is 
it possible that it actually means more 
to them?

Well, if this movie is anything to go by, the US didn’t start succeeding in the space race until we first started pushing back against the stupid, petty, spiteful, hateful policies that meaninglessly hamstrung some of our brightest minds. Once we did that, we started outworking the Russians. And maybe if we hadn’t had Jim Crow hanging like a jim albatross around our necks, we’d have been to the Moon by 1962 or 1863 or something. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the arc of human history is long, but it bends towards space.

I’m definitely glad I saw the film, and no doubt I’ll be playing Kerbal Space Program again in the near future.

Oh, that did anyone else think that the scene where Costner took a crowbar to the “Colored Ladies’ Toilet” was a little overdone and likely frightening to the computers watching him? “This white man is taking down our bathroom sign? We can’t go to the bathroom anywhere anymore?”

Just saw it this weekend and loved it. I was really surprised Taraj Henson didn’t get an Oscar nod; I thought she was superb in this.

Costner’s character was a composite, and the sign-knocking-down probably didn’t happen, as they actually switched which woman had to deal with the “colored bathroom” issue.

From History vs. Hollwyood:

In Margot Lee Shetterly’s book, this is something that is experienced more by Mary Jackson (portrayed by Janelle Monáe) than Katherine Johnson…

As for Katherine Johnson herself, Shetterly writes that when Katherine started working there, she didn’t even realize that the bathrooms at Langley were segregated. This is because the bathrooms for white employees were unmarked and there weren’t many colored bathrooms to be seen. It took a couple years before she was confronted with her mistake, but she simply ignored the comment and continued to use the white restrooms. No one brought it up again and she refused to enter the colored bathrooms.

Interestingly, the scene that I thought was added for effect, the John Glenn pre-launch request, was straight out of the history transcripts. NASA records confirmed the “Get the girl to check the numbers… If she says the numbers are good… I’m ready to go” call.

Overall a great movie. The nitpick that bugged me more than anything was the wooden model of a 747 on Costner’s shelf – it hadn’t been designed in 1961. :)

Just saw it. Overall a very good movie, about my favorite subject.

Not too surprised that bathroom scene was fake.

I’ve only seen a few Oscar nominated films this year, so I’ll be pleased if Hidden Figures picks up an Oscar or two.

I finally saw this movie with my mom today. It’s a good movie, well-acted, mostly factual, and a great reminder of what was… the was being on the horizon in the back of the mirror, not centuries or generations ago… like yesterday in history.

I watched this over the weekend (thanks Game of Thrones for pushing me into a month of HBO subscription), and I really enjoyed it. Of course I’m a sucker for most anything to do with space travel, but I thought they did a fine job with the portrayal of the times - the casual racism and sexism, as well as the Cold War mentality. The stories of all three women are inspiring, and I enjoyed the portrayal even though some of it was overly dramatized (bathroom sign destruction being the obvious example). It would be impossible to capture all the nuances of any one of those themes, much less all of them, in two hours - but I think they did good work on all fronts in the time they had.

I enjoyed this too; saw it with friends on HBO this weekend.

A little disheartened that the featured review on the IMDB page for this movie is essentially: “Actually, not all men/not all white people…”

Ah well.

I watched this last night. What a lovely movie. All 3 women’s stories were really inspiring. I thought for sure that they were composites, and made up for the movie based on other people or something, so I was really surprised at the end when the movie showed the real world counterparts to the actresses in the movie.

Overall the story did a great job exploring both race relations at the time and the cold war space race. It did a good job with the math scenes on the blackboard too, not getting too detailed to turn off a general audience, but not dumbing it down too much either.

Also, holy shit, I always thought of “computer” as a noun that’s a name for a thing, not as “someone who computes”, but it makes sense now in retrospect. The first time you see the “colored computers” sign, it clicks immediately.

Wow, this is really surprising too.