How often do we hear that some of the key players within NASA in the sixties were African American women who were still forced to ride in the back of public buses and use separate bathrooms and drinking fountains to white people? For me, it was never until now. Hidden Figures tells of three women and their rise against the odds. There’s Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) who sees that the department she is unofficially managing (Computers – this being at the very start of machines being called computers, so computers means people who doing the calculations, and in this department, black women)is becoming obsolete just as a huge IBM machine is brought in. As she has a skill for mechanics, she steps in to find a future for herself and her fellow employees. Then there’s Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) who is assigned to compute with the engineers and is soon identified as having a brain that is capable of far greater work and is encouraged to take a degree in engineering. Finally, Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) who is put to work with the department working out the mathematics for the re-entry of the first manned mission to space. She is battling not only the attitudes of those around her who see her as a threat, but the politics of the time, with the only bathroom she is allowed to use being quite some distance from her desk. Then there is the love interest, Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali), which I felt was totally unnecessary to the film – in fact, kind of undermined it in a way, because it was as if being extremely intelligent wasn’t enough, you have to have a man too. Still, it’s a great story and a thoroughly enjoyable and funny film.
Hidden Figures was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Octavia Spencer) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi). It was also nominated for Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Octavia Spencer) and Best Original Score – motion Picture and for a BAFTA for Best Screenplay (Adapted ) (Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder).
James Franco plays the self-absorbed adventurer Aron Ralston who, without telling anyone, goes running across a desert and through canyons in Utah only to get his arm trapped under a boulder. He spends 127 hours attempting to free himself, keeping a sporadic video diary, before having an epiphany about his life, cutting off his trapped arm and saving himself.
I say spoiler alerts, but I think almost everyone who sees this film knows in advance that he cuts off his arm. It’s a good film, though I wasn’t totally drawn in. I don’t know if it is just because I knew he was going to be fine, or because I found him really annoying and didn’t really care how he got through. That’s a bit harsh – it was interesting the way his demise was treated, and certainly the way he cut his arm off was fascinating – certainly I couldn’t have even figured out how to do it, much less performing the actual act. But then, I can’t see any situation where I will end up with my arm trapped by a boulder. Touch wood.
127 Hours was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (James Franco), Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy), Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score, best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (If I Rise)
In 2009, pilot Chelsey Sullenberger made an emergency landing of a plane onto the Hudson River in New York and every person on the plane survived. The investigation that followed suggested that he made a bad decision and could have still saved everyone in a far less flashy manner. This film follows the investigation, showing the emergency landing and everything leading up to it in flashback. It’s big and cheesy and Sully is the American hero against adversity. Big government vs the little guy. One guy against the world. A real Clint Eastwood story.
I’ve not been a huge fan of Eastwood’s directing, and this could have been the one that I got into, except for the film Flight just a few years ago. Similar story, only that was fiction. I didn’t really love that one either – although the crash scene was most spectacular. None the less, I got quite irate watching this, thinking how dare they try to prove Sully and his co-pilot wrong when they did such an amazing job? Yeah, one man against the world!
Sully was nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Sound Editing.
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a rabbit who wants to be a cop – the tradition domain of much larger animals with more aggressive natures. And she hates sneaky foxes – until she meets Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) a fox that is more than he appears. Or is he?
It’s a film that explores whether we can change our nature, or whether we should find ways to work within our nature. And I feel like I really should have liked this film. But I found it overly cheesey and annoying, and overall, just a bit crap. Apart from the sloth. He was brilliant.
Zootopia won the Oscar for Best Animated Film of Year.
Cheryl (Reece Witherspoon) has had a tough life – single mother who died quite young, going off the rails, drugs and sex and a failed marriage – and so she walks across American on her own to find herself. That sounds a bit glib, but that’s kind of it.
There will be people who find this inspiring. Apparently, the book is amazingly inspiring. I thought it was good. The problem was that it’s almost impossible for a film of nearly two hours to properly capture such a big event. Yes, I got that she was tired and made mistakes and was injured and was alone and had a terrible life, but I didn’t really feel it. The way the flashbacks were cut in was nice, kept the flow. I think it is a very good movie. I just didn’t really like it.
Wild was nominated for Oscars for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Reese Witherspoon) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Laura Dern), for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama (Reese Witherspoon) and a BAFTA for Best Leading Actress (Reese Witherspoon).
Remember the days when you couldn’t have a differing political stance to those in power or you were considered a danger? When speaking out could risk your job, your livelihood, your life? (Yeah, it does sound like something that could indeed be happening again, all this fear and anger… but I step back).
So, Dalton Tumbo (Bryan Cranston) was a Hollywood screenwriter and a communist. By this, he subscribed to the American communist party and believed in the idea of people supporting each other and a different system to that which America was (and still is) functioning under. He organised protest for increased pay for those working in the film industry until, under the House of Un-American Activities, he and eleven other screenwriters were imprisoned. Things got tough, and Trumbo and his mates had to start working using pseudonyms until the winds changed.
It’s a fascinating film. Showing Trumbo not only as a leader amongst his peers and a family man, but also as a self-centred prick who could not see the contradictions in his own life and existence. And who loved working in the bath – what a man!
Bryan Cranston was nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading role.
Based on the award wining stage play, Fences follows the lives of Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) and his wife Rose (Viola Davis) in their working class existence of 1950s Pittsburgh. They have to deal with the changing world, along with Troy being the most annoying character – and by this, I mean that he feels that the world has treated him bad and will not allow himself to see anyone elses point of view.
I think it would have been an amazing play. I think all of the actors in this film would have been incredible onstage in these roles – looking at Wikipedia, Washington and Davis starred in the remake of the 1983 play on Broadway in 2010 and both won Tonys for their performances. For me, the film does work, but really as a filmed version of the play – which is wonderful for all of us who didn’t get to Broadway to see the remake.
Viola Davis won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Fences, and the film was nominated for Oscars Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Denzel Washington) and Best Adapted Screenplay (August Wilson, nominated posthumously). It was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Denzel Washington) and won the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress for Viola Davis.