Daily Archives: February 8, 2017

Hidden Figures – Director, Ted Melfi

Great movie! I really enjoyed this film. You can just sit back and enjoy a remarkable story about three black women who, in the early 1960’s, did the mathematics that let John Glenn orbit the earth. Math? I hear your cry. A movie about math? Well yes and a true story too. The film is set in Virginia at the NASA space center in the middle of the racist US south. It tells the story of a team of black women mathematicians who solved the problems of launching a manned space vehicle into orbit and brought it back to earth safely. John Glenn’s historic flight was totally dependent on the work of these women who were locked away in a segregated work room and posed the mathematical problems that needed solving before there were computers to do the work. They were called the computers and checked the work of the all male scientists working in another area of the centre. The breaking points came when the mission planning team needed someone who knew analytic geometry, that elevated one of the women to work with the male team (humiliating the men) and then the installation of a new IBM computer (which would take the jobs of the team of female computers) stalled. Again, it was the women who stepped up, learned the programming language and saved the installation and their jobs at the same time. One of the remarkable aspects of the film was the accepted segregation policies at the work place including washrooms, drinking fountains and coffee urns. It is an aspect of life at the time that we now find unbelievable but was common place at the time and is confronted during telling the story. The cast is great: Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe, and Octavia Spencer play the lead roles and are supported by the likes of Jim Parsons (Sheldon Cooper) and Kevin Costner and Kirsten Dunst among many others. The cast won the Screen Actor’s Guild Award for Best Ensemble Cast. Interestingly the film to win the SAG Ensemble Cast award has also won the Oscar’s Best Picture nearly 50 percent of the time. So….if you were looking for a dark horse candidate to beat out Manchester by the Sea or Moonlight this might be it.

Hacksaw Ridge – Director, Mel Gibson

I have to admit I was sceptical about this movie when I went to see it. Mel Gibson has been, let us say, controversial in recent years although I have always been fan from the days of Gallipoli, Mad Max, and Lethal Weapon to name but a few. My philosophy has always been to like the actor’s roles if not the actor’s real persona (i.e. Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey etc). But Directors are something else. Gibson however dazzles in this film. A warning to those who do not like graphic violence or depictions of battle, you may not enjoy some of the scenes. The film tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector in the Second World War who enlisted and served as a medic. He refused to carry a weapon which cost him much respect from his fellow soldiers and commanders during his training and initial deployments. At the battle of Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa, he redeems himself in the eyes of his comrades. As the marines were beaten back by Japanese troops he remained at the top of the ridge and single handedly rescued 75 wounded soldiers one by one including his commanding officer. He is the only medic to receive the Congressional Medal of Honour for bravery under fire. The story of his struggle and the respect he won for his bravery and his refusal to carry a weapon and kill others is exciting and moving. At the end of the film some of the characters who are alive are interviewed and lend reality to what is a remarkable film. It has five nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and three technical awards for Sound and Editing all deserved. The fact that it has not received any acting nominations is somewhat disappointing. I thought the performance of Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss and Hugo Weaving as his father were superb. The editing nomination is also well deserved as you sit on the edge of your seat during the rescue of the 75. Clearly Mel has learned something after all these years of film making.