Film – Hidden Figures and Moonlight
It’s a little hard to tell if there’s a sudden resurgence in African-American story telling in Hollywood or if I just haven’t noticed and it’s been there all along.
Director: Theodore Melfi
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe
Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Mahershala Ali, Shariff Earp, Duan Sanderson
Genre: A million miles from La La Land
The appearance of three African-American tales up for best picture at the Academy Awards this year (Hidden Figures, Moonlight, and Fences) is welcome and curious. Their nominations should not have anything to do with last year’s controversy about the absence of black faces at Hollywood’s night of nights if you consider the long lead time from conception through production, marketing and delivery of a movie.
Whatever the reason, maybe, finally, Hollywood is realising that it’s worth the effort to make films with intelligent writing, great acting and complex and/or dramatic stories. Hopefully it’s got nothing to do with the colour of anybody’s skin.
Maybe. Moonlight may have won the Oscar (eventually) but it’s taken by far the least money at the box office of any of the nominated films, black, white, musical or romance (or Mel Gibson even). Perhaps tales of gay black men coming of age are just too challenging despite the worthiness of every gong Moonlight gets.
Hidden Figures also falls into the category of a dramatic story well written and well acted but it’s much more audience friendly. After all, what could be more dramatic than a space launch in 1961? Hidden Figures is the back room story of The Right Stuff (1983) and the until recently little known and critical role that three incredibly intelligent African-American women played in ensuring the Americans could match the Russians and ultimately “win” the space race.
Two great films (sorry, haven’t seen Fences) that couldn’t be more different but will be forever linked. Well, until Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway stole the limelight.
Rating: ****1/2 retractions