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May 21, 2018 12:34 pm  #1


Hidden Figures

The movie is about three computers working for NASA - yes, once upon a time a computer was a mathematician who did calculations during the space race. Actually, computers were women (men with the same qualification were working as engineers, getting paid twice as much and their names on the reports), and the heroines of the movie are afro-american, which makes life even more difficult for them. 

But the movie is entertaining rather than depressing, because Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson are brilliant on all levels, very good at their jobs and thus successful - the Civil Rights Movement, its conflicts and violence is only seen in passing. The problems of segregation are not glossed over, but things are changing for the batter even during the events. It's a very watcheable film and I was happy to get to see a little bit of female history that would have been forgotten if Margot Lee Shetterly hadn't dug it up and written down in a book (and somebody in Hollywood had had the sense to film it).
 

 

May 21, 2018 4:17 pm  #2


Re: Hidden Figures

I saw this film when it came out and thought it was great. I already liked Octavia Spencer, and the film is what got me interested in Janelle Monae's work, too.

I think it's great that the stories of these women are finally known, since the male astronauts are not the whole story.

My dad actually read part of the book that the film is based on. The book does not only cover the role of women in the space race, but in other historical events before that time. It was a lot of material in one book and my dad says that the beginning of the book is not that great, so it was clearly also a smart move by whoever was involved in the script to choose just one story to portray in this film.


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May 22, 2018 10:45 am  #3


Re: Hidden Figures

I have just started the book, and so far I find it interesting enough. (It's also a pleasure to read something that's written in correct English...)

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May 22, 2018 11:04 pm  #4


Re: Hidden Figures

Well, i haven't read it myself, so I'm relying on my dad's opinion, who said that the author relays too many personal details in some parts instead of moving on. I hope you continue to enjoy it.


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May 24, 2018 9:25 am  #5


Re: Hidden Figures

So far I do, and I'd recommend you to have a look at it for yourself. The book could have done with more stringent editing (though I'm more bothered by the flowery language - too many adjectives at times - than by the personal details, which I suppose are not misplaced in a biography.) but most of what is relayed I find very interesting - from Hamton's boom during the war to the idiocies of racial segregation.

The one thing this book is NOT is a (his)story of the space race, if people read it expecting that, they will be disappointed. Maybe the marketing was wrong...

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May 27, 2018 8:18 am  #6


Re: Hidden Figures

Halfway through the book (NACA has just become NASA) I have to say that unfortunately every single detail in the movie - apart from the three women's names - is wrong... I'm so happy that I watched the movie before reading the book, as otherwise I would have hated it.

On the other hand, the book, as written, would be unfilmable. It's not the most compelling read either, you probably need to be a woman and/or black to enjoy it.

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May 27, 2018 9:24 pm  #7


Re: Hidden Figures

What would you say is wrong about the film?


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May 28, 2018 8:22 am  #8


Re: Hidden Figures

ALL the details. Some of the differences, off the top of my head:

NASA was not as backwards as is shown in the movie: Dorothy Vaughan became the first black femal supervisor in 1952 - ten years before the film. Katherine Coleman did not run half a mile to the bathroom for years - Mary Jackson did it once, exploded on her way back when asked by an engineer how she was and was offered to work with him. Katherine quite logically concluded that "Ladies Restroom" included her and never bothered to look for a "Coloured Girls Bathroom" (assuming that's how the signs were labelled...)

Dorothy, Mary and Katherine never worked together for any length of time in the computing pool and didn't share a car either - that was Eugenie Smith and Katherine Coleman. Mary Jackson didn't go to court to get permission to attend evenig classes at a "white" school - she simple asked the school's director for dispensation, which she got. Katherine authored her first report - with her name on it - in 1958. And the meetings from which she was excluded at first weren't Pentagon meetings (I must have lost hairs scratching my head wondering how to get from Langley Air Field, Hampton, to the Pentagon!) but editorial meetings for the publications of technical reports. Her children are much older than shown in the film. Her second husband did not work for the National Guard.

Do I even have to say that Dorothy did not sneak into the IBM mainframe room and secretly got the machine running when nobody else could? And she probably never stole the FORTRAN book from the library either... Dorothy Vaughan quite officially took the courses offered by NACA/NASA on  computing machines (I haven't yet come to the details of her further career). Also mechanical computers didn't appear in 1961, but much earlier (1948?)

The "spirit" of the book is preserved - the idiocies of discrimination (against blacks and/or women), female/black solidarity which helped overcome them, the genius of the protagonists - but practically all the facts are misrepresented. The film is fiction, the book a historical document. Which would bother me a lot less if I wasn't pretty sure that quite a few people probably think that what they saw in the movie is the true story - after all, it says "based on the untold true story" on the cover. Instead of "loosely inspired by a true story" which would be much more accurate. And if there weren't Amazon reviews that complain that the book spans much more than the story of the film...

As I didn't know all that when I watched the film, I could enjoy the film on its own merits It's very entertaining, but it does not show what happened.


 

Last edited by Kittyhawk (May 28, 2018 8:26 am)

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May 28, 2018 3:46 pm  #9


Re: Hidden Figures

From what you describe, it seems as though that the characters in the film represent both the real people that they're based on and others in similar situations. I think it makes sense in a film to condense those things from multiple people in just a few characters, because too many characters can make things difficult to follow. It also makes for rich film characters.

I actually think it was a good thing, for a dramatic film, that they only focused on one aspect of the book. They wouldn't have been able to get into as many details if they tried to turn the whole book into one film. It might work as a documentary (or documentary series) to cover all of them.

Last edited by Yitzock (May 28, 2018 3:58 pm)


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May 28, 2018 5:33 pm  #10


Re: Hidden Figures

The book as written is unfilmable, I don't doubt that (it's not the most compelling read, either, but I find it interesting - because the subject matters interest me). The thing that bothers me is the "based on a true story" on the DVD cover. I'd much prefer if they'd put "loosely inspired by the book .... written by .... - go read it if you want to know the true story" - that would be honest! I'd also like for the bonus material to explain about the differences, and the reasoning behind the changes (they did it for LOTR in several places!) - firstly so I'd know how things truly happened, and secondly because I'm always interested in how films are made. But from the commentary to Hidden Figures it sounds as if neither the director nor the actress who plays Katherine had read the book...

And what really worries me is that too many people will think that things happened as they are shown in the movie...
 

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May 29, 2018 6:40 pm  #11


Re: Hidden Figures

Well, if that's the case about the commentary of the director and of Taraji P Henson, then maybe it would have been interesting to hear from the screenwriter, who would have absolutely read the book! Have you done any searches to see if you can find anything about that?


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May 30, 2018 6:30 am  #12


Re: Hidden Figures

What do you think should I find out? I know for sure that only the director and the actress are talking in the commentary track on the DVD...

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June 7, 2018 11:27 pm  #13


Re: Hidden Figures

I don't know. I posted what I said because you seemed interested in the writing process of the film, so if you investigate the screenwriter you might be able to find out about how certain changes or portrayals were chosen.


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June 9, 2018 6:38 pm  #14


Re: Hidden Figures

Actually, I'm more interested in why the changes were not acknowledged in the DVD bonus material. The changes themselves seem pretty straightforward to me and fulfill the purpose of turning a sometimes confusing several hundred pages of history book into two hours of entertainment. But I feel that if reality is skewed for the purposes of entertainment, the viewer should be informed at some point, and the DVD bonus material offers ample opportunity. Which is too often missed - I had the same complaint about Imitation Game.

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June 9, 2018 11:21 pm  #15


Re: Hidden Figures

I guess they could have done that, if they didn't already do so. But I think everyone knows with a dramatic film that it's not going to be exactly as things happened in real life.


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June 11, 2018 10:32 am  #16


Re: Hidden Figures

But the question is how much of "not exactly" is acceptable...

I mean, didn't you wonder even when you watched the movie the first time why Katherine didn't discuss the restroom problem with anybody? Time is money and that's a pretty good argument for integration... For me it also makes a difference whether NASA promotes the first black woman to supervisor in 1962 or 1952... - and that's something I did not suspect upon watching the movie.

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June 11, 2018 4:14 pm  #17


Re: Hidden Figures

To be honest, I didn't wonder about that. I was just taking in the story.
While the 60s were a time when people were fighting for civil rights, someone like Katherine might not want to jeopardize her job by complaining about segregation, not knowing how someone above her (who is white) would respond. Making it to her position,she wouldn't have wanted to jeopardize everything she worked for.


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June 12, 2018 9:16 am  #18


Re: Hidden Figures

Well, fortunately the real Katherine was a bit more daring than that...
 

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