Posts Tagged ‘Octavia Spencer’

‘Hidden Figures’ combines science, melodrama and social justice in a charming and lively movie

January 23, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 23, 2017

Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures is a touching historical drama about trail-blazing NASA mathematicians who fought racial and gender stereotypes at the dawn of the space age as the nation was still reluctantly moving to endorse the promise of the civil rights movement.

The movie, based on the 2016 history book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, focuses on three women who worked at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., as computers — laborers who performed a wide variety of mathematical calculations at a time when the most powerful computers filled rooms and accepted input from punch cards. They are gifted mathematician Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), pioneering computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer, who played a concerned mother in Snowpiercer) and ground-breaking engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe).

Goble, a widowed mother of three, has the best-developed story. Her facility with abstruse, high-level mathematics wins her assignment to the Space Task Group. This group of about two dozen eggheads led by Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) is charged with developing the math that will help American rocket ships and their astronauts safely journey where no man has gone before.

Goble, one of only two women in the group, and the lone non-white person in the room, struggles to win the respect of peers like Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons, best known as Sheldon from TV’s The Big Bang Theory), who initially take her to be a secretary, janitor or worse. She also has a budding romance with Col. Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali), despite the two of them getting off on the wrong foot.

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Bong Joon Ho’s unusual ‘Snowpiercer’ is a harrowing and haunting post-apocalyptic science fiction film

December 23, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 23, 2015

When Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer came out in 2013, the science fiction film was widely acclaimed. I hesitated to see it, however, because the premise — a new Ice Age has caused the extinction of all life on Earth but for the passengers and crew of Snowpiercer, a nuclear-powered train that endlessly circles the planet — and the plot — brutal oppression incites a violent revolt — seemed dour and depressing.

I was right, but so were the critics: Snowpiercer is a harrowing, haunting and beautiful movie. Its protagonist is Curtis (Chris Evans, best known for playing Captain America), a man in his mid-30s who has spent half his life aboard the train. Curtis is widely respected among the downtrodden proletariat who are packed into the car at the end of the titular snow-piercing train. The movement is nominally commanded by Gilliam (John Hurt), but everyone except the man himself recognizes Curtis as the rebellion’s true leader.

With the aid of a mysterious mole among the elite classes who inhabit the posh cars at the front of the train, Curtis and Gilliam devise a plan that will help them gain control of the very front of Snowpiercer — specifically, of the engine that powers the train. They begin by foiling the gates that keep the huddled masses (literally) compartmentalized and contained at the rear of the train. This allows them to liberate Namgoong (Song Kang Ho, also known as Kang-ho Song), the technician–cum–drug addict who designed the train’s security system.

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