Hidden Figures

127 min.
I think it was pretty clear when there were parts and lines added to make (small-minded) white people feel better, but (or maybe because of that, help?) I enjoyed Hidden Figures a lot. An uplifting movie with unlikely heroines that are smart, funny, well dressed and black.
hidden figures poster

‘Based on true life events’ seems to be a forewarning for sappy, Hallmark-like stories that are described as having heart while not really having or showing it. This story about the black, human computers of NASA could have been much more inspirational, much brighter and louder and beautiful and grating. Now it’s largely a show of how people can learn not to be sexist and racist because they’re confronted with smart black women. This happens in the 1960s, and it ends a bit too much with the unsaid message of how all that is very much in the past. While we know it isn’t, of course.

Didn’t I say this movie was uplifting? It is, kind of. The characters move from okay to better, the bad guys are only the confused guys, there’s pictures and blurbs at the end to show you the real life counterparts. There’s a cute soundtrack and as said before, the heroines are lovely. It could have simply been sharper, more vibrant, more honest.

Until we get that story, Hidden Figures is a cleaned up history lesson worth watching.

Hidden Figures, Levantine Films 2016

Miss Sloane

122 min.

Oh yes, yes please. Miss Sloane bulldozes over the idea of how only men can be cutthroat (in politics). Meet Liz, a lobbyist that eats people and causes for breakfast. While being impeccably dressed.

miss-sloane-posterHer lethal skills are moved to an ‘underdog’ when the head honchos of the gun lobby insult her, making her leave for a smaller bureau. Not completely smooth, because the world of lobbyists is full of egos, including her.
What happens next? As another visitor called it “Oh my God, it was only talking”. Miss Sloane talks. To voters, to politicians, on talk shows. She concocts (outrageous) plans, balancing on an ever thinning rope. It’s a thriller without any blood or guts.
That’s something you have to be interested in, be able to watch without losing focus, because Miss Sloane and her colleagues move fast. Keep up, and you might leave pumping your fist.
Miss Sloane, Canal+ Distribution 2016

Beaches

123 min.
Why didn’t I watch this sooner? And why did I had to dig down to the eighties for a Female Friendship Is Awesome kind of movie? How do I get my hair like Bette Midler’s red curls?

beaches-movie-posterBeaches is the story of Hilary Whitney and C.C. Bloom. Two young girls from very different backgrounds start a friendship. Of course, as friendships go, it’s not just roses and happiness. One of them grows up a lot more colourful than the other (Midler’s C.C., who goes all out in outfits and hairdo’s to fit her star studded career path), fights happen and are resolved again. It’s almost completely focused on the two women and how they evolve. Heck, there’s even conversations that aren’t about men, making this a Bechdel-friendly movie.

But? Yes, friendships don’t always end well, even if the people involved don’t want them to. It gives a tad more weight to the happy fluffiness — because it’s so very clear that Hilary and C.C. are the Real Friendship Deal. The movie’s balanced enough to not hurt your teeth, just your heart.  Still, it’s worth the fun and colour of it all. A classic on the softer side of things.
Beaches, Touchstone Pictures 1988

Mrs. Bridge/Mr. Bridge

Maar waarom bespreek ik twee boeken tegelijkertijd? Omdat ik ze alleen als één boek was tegengekomen, tot de Nederlandse versie. Ik ging uit van een twee-kanten-van-dezelfde-munt-verhaal, ondanks dat er tien jaar tussen zit.
Ik had niet helemaal gelijk.

Haar voornaam was India – ze kon er nooit aan wennen.

India Bridge leeft een leven in een gouden kooitje, en niet eens omdat haar man en de samenleving haar daarin hebben opgesloten. Nee, ze is zelf niets, weet niets, heeft geen prikkels om te doen, laten, ontwikkelen. Ze leeft in de jaren dertig van de VS, in een rijke en veilige omgeving. En zodra haar kinderen oud genoeg zijn om voor henzelf te zorgen (en dan is er ook nog de meid), is er niks voor Mrs. Bridge te doen. Het is benauwend en gekmakend. Is zij een creatie van het tijdperk of wordt haar karakter alleen maar versterkt door haar situatie en omgeving? Kan alsjeblieft iemand uit haar cocoon trekken om te ontdekken of er wel een mens in zit? Kleinburgerlijke horror dat zich eigenlijk dus niet eens zo lang geleden afspeelde.

Mrs. Bridge, Evan S. Connell, Viking Press 1959

Vaak dacht hij: mijn leven begon pas toen ik haar leerde kennen.

Is het voor mannen dan veel beter? Nou ja, ze worden in ieder geval niet als porseleinen leeghoofdjes behandeld. Maar het keurslijf van wat moet zit ook aan deze kant goed strak. Is mevrouw Bridge op allerlei momenten emotioneel, meneer Bridge kan alleen met materialisme zijn genegenheid tonen. Opvoeding gaat hem ook niet goed af, want dat is tenslotte een vrouwending. Men leeft naast elkaar, niet met elkaar. Het is een geschiedenisboek dat wederom laat zien dat mannen ook feminisme nodig hebben, dat ‘vroeger was het beter/charmanter’ een term is van mensen die niet verder kijken dan de lak van de mooie auto’s. Eerst de een, dan de ander, of tegelijkertijd met steeds een paar hoofdstukken mixen, beiden zijn het lezen waard.

Mr. Bridge, Evan S. Connell, Knopf 1969

Cherry

To be honest, the sex pact wasn’t always part of the plan.

Female teenagers decide that all of them are going to lose their virginity before graduation. Surely nothing can go wrong (and cringe worthy).

The thing is, it almost doesn’t. For once girls are shown as sexual beings as well, for once there’s focus and care about body positivism, self-development and orgasms. They’re allowed to be characters instead of clichés, and it’s easy to start caring for the group.

So what did go wrong? As usual, the b-word in between homosexuality and heterosexuality seems to be non-existent, and I hope not too many readers get their hopes up about the eagerness of teenage boys performing oral sex. Some chapters are saccharine sweet, but by then you have already been reeled in to support everyone.

It’s a good one for a glance behind the girl teen facade.

Cherry, Lindsey Rosin, Simon Pulse 2016

The Imperfectionists

Lloyd shoves off the bedcovers and hurries to the front door in white underwear and black socks.

Oh boy, a novel involving journalists, editors and media. At least the title vouches for a neutral, not-myth-making point of view?

It definitely does. There (still) seems to be such a charm attached to the media making branch, while at the same time having entire populations look down on it. The Imperfectionists need neither, cocking up and showing human weaknesses all too often themselves.

The story is about the going-ons of an English-language newspaper in Rome. Editors, correspondents, even a loyal reader — all get a chance to share their point of view.  Over fifty years there’s not only the societal changes, but also ones in the branch that show that decades of years at the same company isn’t a good idea for many people.
It makes things (all too) recognisable, funny, sad, and the reader possibly left with a craving for a visit to Italy.

It’s a light, quick read that might make you think differently about media and journalists, but definitely will make you feel less like a stubborn fool. There’s this crowd, after all.

The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman, The Dial Press 2010

Luke Cage

13 episodes, 50 min.

Another Netflix Marvel cooperation? Of course, as long as people watch it.

marvel-luke-cage-posterWas Jessica Jones special because we finally got a female character, this time Marvel goes off the beaten path with a black main character. Heck, the absolute majority of the cast is black, which must have had some people worried about sell-ability. Is the blackness (the surroundings, the cast, the subjects mentioned) the problem of the show? No, it isn’t.

Then what is? The length, and the main actor. As stoic, almost-invisible stubborn hero, Mike Colter is doing fine, but he is surrounded by too much talent to not escape comparison. As usual, the less focus on the main guy, the better.
This season is thirteen episodes, while it would have been tighter and more exciting if it would have ended after episode eight. Now we get a load of new villains that need to provide a cliffhanger that’s just too weak. This has been a problem with the other Marvel Netlix shows as well.

The ladies steal and save the show. Alfre Woodard, Rosario Dawson, Simone Missick and those in smaller parts show that a female part can be more than mother, Maria and whore. For once, I can say that you can pick a Marvel project for the women.

Luke Cage, Marvel 2016