Yes, I liked a movie

We just got back from a showing of Hidden Figures.


I know, I usually have something snarky and dismissive to say about the movies I see, but with this one…I just can’t. It’s inspiring and honest and strong, and it ought to win all the awards, and the actors and writers and director need to be rewarded with great careers, and there ought to be more movies made like this. So yeah, go see it.

OK, maybe I can say something rude: the Sixties were truly screwed up. We have gotten slightly better, even if we now have a gang of awful people running the country who want to roll all our gains right back. See it and feel even more inspired to fight back against the Nazis.


  1. kaleberg says

    It was a great movie, and it didn’t whitewash race relations and Jim Crow like Disney’s ‘The Princess and The Frog’ and too many other movies that might lead one to believe that Negroes, as they called them back then when they were being polite, weren’t treated like third class citizens when they were treated like citizens at all. There’s been too much ret-conning of this evil of the good old days. For all the awfulness of the 1960s, the good guys did win a few back then.

    The only thing I found unbelievable was the part about the IBM installers not measuring the entryway. I’m sorry, I knew and worked with IBM installers, and they were meticulous. They delivered the first word processor used by a professional author to Len Deighton in his London townhouse, and they disassembled his window and lifted the WP in using a crane to do so. They moved and replaced a ventilation unit for an installation I was involved with. There was a whole section in their installers’ guide on how to deal with architectural challenges which described either taking the building apart as needed or taking the computer apart and rebuilding it. Remember, IBM even published its own road maps, via Rand McNally, to take into account road restrictions and the like. These guys, and I’m sorry to say they were all guys, were professionals.

  2. says

    I saw this and Rogue One on the same day, and Hidden Figures kicked Star Wars’ ass.

    Of the actors, I already knew Octavia Spencer and Taraji P. Henson could act, but Janelle Monae was a very pleasant surprise.

  3. bobmunck says

    I loved the movie too. Having worked for NASA directly and indirectly through ESA (Spacelab), I was familiar with a lot of the background and environment.

    HOWEVER, there were two physical objects missing, and one of those really was jarring to me.

    The lesser one: slide rules. Everyone one of those guys in the white shirts and narrow ties should have had one on his desk. Heck, I did, and I was in 10th grade that year.

    The greater one: cigarettes. Nearly half of the general population, white and black, would have been smokers, and more than half of the males, with no significant difference between poor/well-off or uneducated/educated. Ashtrays next to the slide rules on the desks — yes, indoor smoking, while you were working.

    (I’m reminded of a science fiction novel in which one of the characters got rich by writing a program that would delete smoking from an existing movie, but can’t remember any more of it. Arthur Clarke, maybe?)

  4. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    I’ve been planning to see it next weekend when it comes out over here, but now I’m suddenly wondering if your enjoying it means I won’t?!
    I’m so excited about this film… I get very annoyed about the human race’s need to turn every single event in history into some kind of movie, but if each second of effort related to space exploration could be put to film, I would absolutely love that. Well, ok, not every second… there are some quite unpleasant moments related to space exploration, but the non-harrowing moments, certainly.

  5. says

    I’m reminded of a science fiction novel in which one of the characters got rich by writing a program that would delete smoking from an existing movie, but can’t remember any more of it.

    I think it’s David Brin’s Earth.

    You are certainly right about the absence of slide rules. They should have been everywhere.

  6. inflection says

    Where the slide rules all is square and plumb!

    When I was at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta this January we had a discussion panel on Hidden Figures, with the author and a lady from NASA who followed in their footsteps.

    How excited were the attendees? I took <a href=";this beforehand. SRO.

  7. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    So what you’re saying is, seeing the movie without first making up your mind to HATE IT worked for you?

  8. Johnny Vector says

    My only concern, and I brought this up at the talkback with the black NASA woman engineer* after the show, is that the racism and sexism is so blatant that it’s easy to look at it and think “it sure is great we don’t do that any more; I sure feel good about my lack of racism!” I asked how it really is now. She said the overt stuff is mostly (yes, she said mostly) gone, but the subtler racism is still around in plenty. The movie is fantastic anyway, and did begin to touch on the institutional racism with the scene in the bathroom. But maybe we need a sequel that takes place now, showing the less obvious discrimination.

    *Full disclosure: she was Instrument Manager for most of my last project, so I already knew that her engineering talent is unassailable.

  9. numerobis says

    I particularly like the vintage footage that was spliced in, as an unsubtle reminder to the audience that for any artistic license being taken in the movie, all the big themes are very much historical.

    Among the characters, I feel for Paul Stafford. He comes out looking like a complete idiot! All the other white people in the movie come out looking like bigoted assholes who are at best starting to overcome that bullshit, but at least they’re *competent* bigoted assholes.

    The three women are incredibly moving. The Dorothy Vaughn character is my favorite of the three; totally could be my sister.

  10. says

    Paul Stafford deserved to be punished for The Big Bang Theory.

    But I think all the white people were composite characters, weren’t they?

  11. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says


    If you go into Hidden Figures expecting to see a movie about space exploration, I guess that’s what you’ll see. But that kind of misses the point.

  12. nich says


    As for the absence of smoking, one possibility may be the filmmakers were trying to keep the film’s rating at PG here in the States. I believe prominently featuring smoking in a film automatically elevates its rating to PG-13. If removing the smoking to appease the fools at the MPAA allowed this film to gain a wider audience, then I suppose it’s a small price to pay.

  13. HidariMak says

    This is one of those cases where people should both see the movie and read the book. The movie really sells the importance of the “hidden figures” to the space race, but (like with ‘The Imitation Game’ and other historical biography movies) has to omit some of the major players in history due to the time constraints of the movie format.

  14. petesh says

    I loved the movie. It told several stories well, and made several deep points. It’s perfectly fair to say that the Sixties were really screwed up; more than that, it’s true. But one of the things I loved was that it showed the gradual evolution, especially in high-tech society, of attitudes to women and blacks and black women in particular — and did not show the changes as complete or in any sense unqualified successes. Of course it’s a little cartoonish, but it’s really good.

    Before nit-picking, it’s always good to check. Even on the smoking: I don’t know this generally, but bohemians and manual workers smoked like chimneys; scientists (in my limited experience) not so much. And I somehow doubt that John Glenn was jonesing for a quick ciggy while they recalibrated his orbit.

  15. Matrim says

    @11, PZ

    Yeah, all except John Glenn, as far as I know. Certainly Harrison, Michael, and Stafford were.

  16. Matrim says

    I guess there’s also the other Mercury Seven, but they barely count as characters, more glorified extras.

  17. bobmunck says

    @kaleberg “the IBM installers not measuring the entryway”

    Counterexample: in 1967 we took delivery of an IBM 2314 disk unit, approximately the size of five large refrigerators welded together. To get it in the building, we unexpectedly had to take out a huge window and enlarge a doorway. The thing is, that building was donated by and named for an alumnus who tended to micromanage our computing efforts, one Thomas J. Watson Jr, ’37 (Brown U.). I could tell you stories about his monitoring and involvement. If the CEO of IBM wasn’t sufficient to get the measurements right, I don’t know what would do it.

    Btw, the 2314 gave us a fantastic 240 MB of disk storage.

    Another point: John Glenn didn’t wish himself “Godspeed.” Scott Carpenter uttered the now-iconic “Godspeed, John Glenn.” (It’s tough to make a movie about a subject that has large numbers of fanatic fan-boys.)

  18. michaelwbusch says

    For those in Minnesota:
    Professor Duchess Harris at Macalester has a book out, “Hidden Human Computers”, providing more information about the actual historical people upon which “Hidden Figures” is based: They included Harris’ grandmother Miriam Daniel Mann.

    The Science Museum in Saint Paul has put a new exhibit up featuring Harris’ work: , and she’s been doing a local speaking tour:

    1&ref=fb-share . There’s also lesson plans available for teaching elementary school students about the computers’ work: .

    I learned about all of this because a friend of mine, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, wrote the introduction to Harris’ book. Chanda is a theoretical astrophysicist, and was the 63rd black woman from the United States to get a PhD in physics: .

  19. magistramarla says

    I walked out of this film saying that the film, the actors and anyone involved in the making of it should be nominated for awards.
    After last year’s Oscars it is so great to see more films with people of color in leading roles.
    As for the three leading ladies in Hidden Figures – they were phenomenal.

  20. numerobis says

    I was struck at the tension in the John Glenn re-entry scene. Will he make it?

    And then popped into my head that Glenn spoke at my graduation; and that he flew on the shuttle at age 77.

    But that didn’t break the tension at all!

  21. says

    I loved the movie, though it’s far from perfect. The bit where Octavia Spencer’s character magically fixes a car by smacking a wrench on a battery terminal was kinda of suspension-of-disbelief-defying, matched by the later scene in which she glances at the IBM’s backplane wiring for maybe half a second before seeing that the oscilloscope probe was one position off. As a former electronics tech, that bothered me more than it should.

    Also, in odd casting notes, the actor playing John Glenn played a real obnoxious rich frat boy on “Scream Queens” last year, and I was having a hard time taking him seriously as an astronaut.

    This was the first movie we saw in 2017. The next was “Moonlight” which also features Janelle Monae. She’s excellent in both.

  22. Mrdead Inmypocket says

    Haven’t seen Hidden Figures, seems like a good flicker show though. I’ll put it on my list.

    Would it be out of line for me to leave recommendations for some recent films I watched which some might find good? You can find the trailers on youtube easily enough so I won’t put them here.
    Birth of a Nation
    Sunset Song
    I Am Not Your Negro
    I Edward Blake