Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hidden Figures

Yesterday morning I saw Hidden Figures, starring Tajari P. Henson and Octavia Spencer.

Katherine Johnson (Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) are friends who share something in common: brilliance. All three women helped NASA develop the space program at its most critical time and all three women were black. Did I mention it was the early 60s?

This film tells the story of these amazing ladies (several decades too late, if you ask me) and reaffirms what we already know: we need more women—and diversity—in tech! In every industry, really.

Despite it's overdue nature, it's refreshing to watch a story unfold that features such badass characters and know that they're based on truth. Even more gratifying? One of them (Mrs. Johnson) is still alive, well into her 90s! I can only hope she'll reap some of the glory she's so deserved all these years.

Anyhow, the three leads are charming and passionate and perfect in their roles; supporting actors like Kevin Costner and Kirsten Dunst are also fabulous. I'd love to find fault with the film so it would sound less like I'm gushing, but really I enjoyed it immensely from start to finish, so I'd be lying if I tried to nitpick.

It's light enough to bring a smile during the ladies' sassiest moments; sad enough to shed tears when one of the characters finally breaks down; inspiring enough to make you want to stop what you're doing and go change the world.

So, go see it. Then go change the world.


Saturday, January 07, 2017

My Golden Globe Picks

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Should Win: Sterling K. Brown
Will Win: Sterling K. Brown

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Should Win: Chrissy Metz
Will Win: Chrissy Metz

Best Performance by an Actor TV Series—Comedy or Musical

Should Win: Gael Garcia Bernal
Will Win: Jeffrey Tambor

Best Performance by an Actress TV Series—Comedy or Musical

Should Win: Rachel Bloom
Will Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Best Performance by an Actor TV Series—Drama

Should Win: Matthew Rhys
Will Win: Rami Malek

Best Performance by an Actress TV Series—Drama

Should Win: Keri Russell
Will Win: Evan Rachel Wood

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Should Win: Tom Hiddleston
Will Win: Riz Ahmed

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Should Win: Sarah Paulson
Will Win: Sarah Paulson

Best Limited TV Series—Motion Picture Made for Television

Should Win: The People Vs. OJ Simpson
Will Win: The People Vs. OJ Simpson

Best TV Series—Comedy or Musical

Should Win: Mozart in the Jungle
Will Win: Transparent

Best TV Series—Drama 

Should Win: Stranger Things
Will Win: Game of Thrones

Best Original Song—Motion Picture 

Should Win: How Far I'll Go
Will Win: How Far I'll Go

Best Original Score—Motion Picture 

Should Win: Dustin O'Halloran, Hauschka
Will Win: Justin Hurwitz

Best Motion Picture—Foreign Language

Should Win: Elle
Will Win: Elle

Best Motion Picture—Animated

Should Win: Moana
Will Win: Moana

Best Screenplay—Motion Picture

Should Win: Kenneth Lonergan
Will Win: Kenneth Longergan

Best Director—Motion Picture

Should Win: Tom Ford
Will Win: Damien Chazelle

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role—Motion Picture Drama

Should Win: Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Will Win: Mahershala Ali

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role—Motion Picture Drama

Should Win: Nicole Kidman
Will Win: Viola Davis

Best Performance by an Actor—Motion Picture Drama

Should Win: Colin Farrell
Will Win: Ryan Gosling

Best Performance by an Actress—Musical or Comedy

Should Win: Meryl Streep
Will Win: Emma Stone

Best Performance by an Actor—Motion Picture Drama

Should Win: Joel Edgerton
Will Win: Casey Affleck

Best Performance by an Actress—Motion Picture Drama

Should Win: Ruth Negga
Will Win: Natalie Portman

Best Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy

Should Win: 20th Century Women
Will Win: La La Land

Best Motion Picture—Drama

Should Win: Manchester By The Sea
Will Win: Manchester By The Sea



This morning I saw Lion, starring Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel.

As a young boy, Saroo (Pawar - young; Patel - present day) helps his mother carry rocks in the tiny village in India where they reside. Their family is living in poverty, but he and his brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) find work where they can get it. One night, Guddu sets out for a job and Saroo begs to tag along. After at first protesting, Guddu gives in and they set out by train for their journey.

Once they arrive, Guddu goes to look for the job site and the brothers become separated. Saroo falls asleep on a train and wakes up in an unfamiliar place: Calcutta. He's traveled over 1200 miles. There, he forages for food, escapes a gang that's rounding up street kids and finally lands in the care of authorities, who arrange for him to be adopted.

He wants to go home, but they don't understand the pronunciation of his town and he doesn't know his mother's name. His mother doesn't read or write, so she doesn't see the newspapers printing the reports of Saroo being found. Adoption is his best chance at resuming a normal life.

His adoptive parents, Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John (David Wenham), are a kind, financially comfortable Australian couple. They love him the instant he arrives and he loves them right back. Soon they adopt another Indian child and Saroo has a new brother, all the while missing his real family.

Sunny Pawar, who plays the young version of Saroo melted my heart instantly. His sweet little face, conveying every ounce of horror and pain he was enduring was almost too much to take, but incredibly well done. Is he too young to qualify for an Oscar nomination? I hope not.

Speaking of nominations, I think this is Kidman's best performance in years. Perhaps her own experience of being an adoptive mother helped her prepare for the role, or she just embraced the story so fully she aced it; whatever the reason, her time on-screen is amazing.

But I digress; this true story unfolds in the most tender of ways and to say that I got a little weepy toward the end would be a gross understatement. As Oprah would say, I went into "the ugly cry." And so did most of the folks around me.

What a beautiful film about a beautiful story.


Friday, January 06, 2017


Tonight I saw Loving, starring Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton.

It was the summer of 1958 when Richard Loving (Edgerton) married the love of his life, Mildred (Negga). They had the ceremony in Washington, D.C. because their home state of Virginia had banned interracial marriage, and they were two different races: Richard, white; Mildred, black.

Just five weeks after their happy nuptials, the couple were arrested in their own bedroom for violating the Racial Integrity Act. Their choice from the judge, after pleading guilty, was to either serve a year in prison or flee the state. So, they packed up and moved a few hours away to Washington.

But life wasn't the same in the city as it was in the country. They weren't near their families; their three children had no yard to play in. They lived there for nine years, before their fight made any progress. Mrs. Loving wrote a letter to Bobby Kennedy, who was the Attorney General at the time, and he referred her to the American Civil Liberties Union. Lawyers with the ACLU took the case, and the rest is history.

What's wonderful about this film is the authentic feel it brings to the memory of this true-life couple. They were good, decent, simple people who just fell in love and wanted to do right by their feelings. No matter what hostility they faced from the law or from racists in their town, their decision to stay together was never in question. They were the very definition of the perfect American family: Dad had a respectable blue-collar job, Mom was an excellent homemaker, the kids were smart and well-behaved.

What Jeff Nichols conveys so well in both his screenplay and his direction is the very absurdity of the situation. While real crimes are being committed and a nation is struggling to recover from a beloved president's assassination, small-minded folks are concerned about a squeaky-clean family simply living their lives. He builds tension when they are hunted and displays tenderness in their quiet moments, all the while making you feel like you're surviving along with them in the humid summer heat. It's absolutely superb.

The performances from the leads are brilliant and a nice cameo from Michael Shannon as a Life Magazine photographer is a welcome addition.

Please go see this film. Especially in our country's current political climate—it unfortunately couldn't be more timely.


Tuesday, January 03, 2017


Tonight I saw Arrival, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner.

Louise (Adams) is a language professor whose class is interrupted one day when news breaks that UFOs have landed in 12 locations around the world. There's one in the U.S. and it's hovering over Montana.

Because of her incredible capabilities as a linguist, Louise is soon recruited by the government to help them decipher the language of the aliens that arrived with the spacecraft. There she works with Ian (Renner), a scientist.

Instead of going on the attack, the U.S. and several of its allies decide to try to reason with the beings—to discover their purpose before jumping to conclusions. After what feels like weeks of decoding, some of the enemy countries have other ideas and jeopardize the relationship that's been built. Louise takes risks others aren't willing to take to get real answers.

To tell you anymore would be to spoil the film.

What I can tell you:

1) The pace is slow, even when the narrative is interesting.
2) Linguists have difficult jobs.
3) Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner are both wonderful actors, but sadly don't have a lot of chemistry here.
4) The movie falls just shy of getting preachy with its metaphors and messages.

It's entertaining, but not earth-shattering. Adams is always a pleasure to watch, even if it's amidst a haze of octopus-like goo.

And most importantly, we should always think before we act.