For months we’ve speculated who and what will take home golden statues come Oscar night. Will La La Land continue its awards season domination? Does Moonlight have a shot at winning Best Picture? Is 2017 such a garbage fire that Mel Gibson may actually win a Best Director Academy Award for Hacksaw Ridge? And is Lion really that good, or is it just the Pumpkin Spice Latte of the Oscars? (It is.)
Just when pundits had begun to reduce the Oscar fracas to a two-horse race between toe-tapping populist favorite La La Land and critically-adored downbeat character piece Moonlight, a possible spoiler has come out of nowhere. Last night, the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards gave Hollywood’s union of performers a chance to recognize some of their own whom had done outstanding work over the past year. The most coveted award of the ceremony is the prize for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Motion Picture, regarded by some as a bellweather for Oscar night, and it went to unexpected contender Hidden Figures.
Like many American moviegoers, I caught the new film Hidden Figures over the weekend. And throughout the true-to-life account of three pioneering women of color that broke boundaries at NASA, one thought kept reoccurring to me (well, two, if you count my realization that I am deeply in love with Janelle Monae): that much like the Wu-Tang, Hidden Figures is for the children. The story’s prevailing message that gender or skin color shouldn’t hinder anyone from achieving excellence is precisely what the youth in this country need, arguably now more than ever. The one problem, of course, is the astronomical price of a movie ticket — not everybody wants to or is able to shell out $15 for a day at the movies.
After a neck-and-neck race last weekend, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has officially stepped aside to let Hidden Figures reign supreme. The crowd-pleasing drama about the black female mathematicians who assisted NASA in its early days topped the box office, leading a weekend that was otherwise all about films bursting out of limited release. The bulk of the new releases were not so fortunate.
At the Golden Globes on Sunday night, both Jenna Bush and Michael Keaton made the embarrassing faux pas of conflating new releases Hidden Figures and Fences into the single title Hidden Fences. It’s an easy enough mistake to make — when there are a whopping two movies featuring black ensembles in theaters at the same time, who can expect anyone to keep them straight, least of all people whose one job revolves around the ability to keep them straight? It was a real foot-in-mouth moment for both celebrities, reflective of the minimal attention that white audiences pay to film championing black performers and creators.
La La Land, duh. Manchester By the Sea, right. Moonlight, you better. Deadpool – excuse me? It’s true, Ryan Reynolds’ superhero movie has just been named one of the 10 best films of 2016 by the Producers Guild of America (via Variety). Many of us thought its Golden Globes nominations were just a result of the HFPA’s always wacky taste, but it seems the Deadpool virus has spread across the nation to multiple voting bodies, from the Writer’s Guild of America to the Producers.
Eventually, some movie will unseat Rogue One: A Star Wars Story from its spot at the top of the box office charts. That movie will not be Hidden Figures, but man, it sure came close. Unless the final numbers shift ever-so-slightly, the drama about the African American women behind the math that helped launch NASA's first space missions came this close to unseating the massively successful blockbuster, taking the runner-up position by less than $1 million.
There are few things I’m more excited about right now than the start of Janelle Monae’s acting career. The R&B funk singer made her big screen debut earlier this year in Barry Jenkins Moonlight, which she is wonderful in, and next up she’ll crack some quips in Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures. That film, which also stars Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer, is the next thing I’m most excited about.
It’s still not easy for women in the STEM industry, and it was even harder in the 1960s. It’s rare to get a glimpse behind the scenes of auspicious historical events like the success of Project Mercury, and even rarer for the movie to look like so much fun. The new trailer for Hidden Figures gives us just that, with Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe portraying the real-life women who helped NASA get ahead in the Space Race that seems as honest to history as it is entertaining.