st. vincent st. marys

10

10 couples with personal styles that look oh-so-good together:

1. Abel Tesfaye/The Weeknd + Bella Hadid

2. Zayn Malik + Gigi Hadid

3. Olivier Sarkozy + Mary-Kate Olsen

4. Alexander Skarsgård + Alexa Chung

5. Cara Delevingne + Annie Clark/St Vincent

6. David Beckham + Victoria Beckham

7. Johannes Huebl + Olivia Palermo

8. Daniel Craig + Rachel Weisz

9. Ryan Gosling + Eva Mendes

10. Justin Theroux + Jennifer Aniston

The greatest feminists have also been the greatest lovers. I’m thinking not only of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley, but of Anais Nin, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and of course Sappho. You cannot divide creative juices from human juices. And as long as juicy women are equated with bad women, we will err on the side of being bad.
—  Erica Jong (b. 26 March 1942)
‘Hidden Figures’ reveals powerful forgotten story

“Hidden Figures,” the story of three black women who were instrumental in getting the first American in orbit around Earth, has been nominated for three Academy Awards. It is absolutely worthy of that honor.

Set in 1961, as NASA struggles to figure out the math behind not only sending John Glenn into space but bringing him back, “Hidden Figures” focuses on the largely forgotten story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae).

These women were among the brightest working at NASA at the time, but it was only out of their perseverance and the desperation of NASA that they were able to rise to the top of their respective fields.

Katherine is able to calculate complex equations quickly and see things others can not. It is these abilities that get her into the main room of mathematicians trying to crack the math behind getting the rocket into orbit and back to Earth in one piece.

Dorothy is doing the work of a supervisor but doesn’t have the title or pay associated with the position. When a room-sized IBM computer arrives, she takes it upon herself to learn all she can about it because she knows that it is the future.

Mary is working on the rocket itself but is only allowed to do so much because she doesn’t have a degree in engineering. She must fight to become the first black to take classes at an all-white high school that offers the college courses she needs.

Henson has the slightly bigger role of the three women. She gives a quietly commanding performance. Katherine is a mousy, unassuming woman, but she isn’t afraid to stand up for herself, as when she feels underestimated by a suitor (Mahershala Ali).

Katherine, as with the other women, must suffer in silence as she faces the institutionalized racism that is a part of her daily life. This struggle is most effectively shown by the fact that there isn’t a colored bathroom in the building she works in. Katherine must run half a mile every time she has to go to the bathroom.

In the film’s most potent scene, Katherine finally explodes when she is confronted on where she disappears everyday. Henson is perfect in an emotional scene that she doesn’t overplay. She captures the anger and frustration but doesn’t go into histrionics. The moment is earned. We are show Katherine’s leg twitching from having to hold in the need to go to the bathroom to the last minute, but this recurring image is emblematic of everything she must hold in.

Idiosyncratic pop singer Monae is terrific as the sassiest of the three women. The scene in which she faces the judge, who will ultimately decide if she can take the college courses, is powerfully performed. Monae captures the poise, fire and intelligence of a woman who bravely faced adversity to follow her passion.

Spencer, who is nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, has a strong dynamic with Kirsten Dunst, as a supervisor who refuses to give her a break. Similarly, Jim Parsons, playing against his “Big Bang Theory” persona, is cold and dismissive of Katherine.

Dunst and Spencer share a scene in a bathroom in which it is clear it is the first time either has been in a mixed race bathroom. The scene is subtly performed with very few words, but the awkwardness and reluctant acknowledgement of equality is felt.

Not all the white characters represent the racism of the time. Kevin Costner plays the head of the project Katherine is assigned to. When he sees her value, he treats her as an equal. There are several confrontations between Costner and Parsons, but these scenes don’t give into overwrought drama.

It is to director Theodore Melfi’s credit that “Hidden Figures” isn’t full of cheap emotions. Melfi, who also directed and wrote the Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy film “St. Vincent,” has a way of getting authentic performances out of his actors.

The script by Melfi and Allison Schroeder is smart in the way it shows the quietly accepted racism that was a part of these women’s everyday lives. Moments like when Katherine gets a cup a coffee, and everyone stares at her as if she has committed a heinous crime are far more affecting than a verbal confrontation.

The interactions between Dunst and Spencer or Henson and Parsons could have easily become heavy-handed. Dunst and Parsons aren’t made into villainous caricatures like say Bryce Dallas Howard in “The Help.” Neither are bad people. They are merely a reflection of the ingrained attitudes of the era. That is the right way to handle this material.

Given the tumultuous political environment we are currently in, “Hidden Figures” is a strikingly relevant film that invigorates a forgotten piece of history with humor and emotion, in a way that is both entertaining and vital.