Friday, June 30, 2017

A Hugo Review: Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) - Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures is about three women making history.

Wow. Wow wow wow. This was really very good. We have some real history (a bit altered) and some real people telling a story that made me literally growl at some of the minor characters. I felt a great deal of joy from seeing those women succeed against the odds.

This movie brings attention to three women who ought not to be forgotten - Katherine Goble Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan. Working as "computers" at a time before our futuristic machines existed, these were women who contributed heavily to a field dominated by white guys in ties. The problems they faced and handled should not be forgotten. The math they did should inspire little girls everywhere of any ethnicity.

On the personal side, I once interviewed a woman who had worked a bit with John Glenn, and said he was the nicest guy she'd ever met. His portrayal in the movie certainly seems to back that up.

The good: Lovely acting by the three leads, who manage that perfect blend of endurance and strength that any female mathematician would have to have - and that they, in particular, would have to have in spades. The story was told at a relatively brisk pace, keeping most of the focus on Katherine, but not neglecting Mary and Dorothy too much. The drama surrounding Glenn's capsule was enough to make me hold my breath for a moment until I remembered that Glenn became a Senator and definitely survived the flight.

The bad: The movie tried to cover too much, and so gave us less on some interesting stories. I really wanted to see more on how Mary got along with her group and what she actually did with them. There were a lot of things happening in the world at the time, and while they are mentioned, at times I felt like there was too much of a disconnect. It was an ambitious movie, and I'm not entirely sure it succeeded in getting everything about those three women and that time across. This is a nitpick, by the way - please don't think I didn't enjoy it.

The other flaw involves where the story diverges from real history. I hope the movie inspires people to read the book it's based on and to look for the truth about what happened, because there were enough changes to make this fiction and not fact. I get the need to condense and dramatize, but NASA was considerably more integrated than this movie made it appear, and there were a lot more people involved that couldn't get screen time.

Conclusion: This isn't going to be an easy category for me to rank. I already changed my rankings twice since sitting down to write the review... I'm not at all sure where this movie will end up.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): I've watched all the entries. Check them out in my Reviews of 2017 Hugo Finalists.