Tag Archives: Taraji P. Henson

Hidden Figures (2016)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Hidden Figures</strong> (2016)

(On Cable TV, September 2017) While I’m convinced that revisionist works such as Hidden Figures are essential in making full sense of history (which doesn’t rely solely on the majority-status figureheads, but also the unnamed masses actually doing the work), I can’t get rid of a feeling of annoyance when the fiction proves to be more revolting than the reality. I am, of course, showing my white privilege when I point out that Hidden Figures manipulates historical facts to make life seem even more terrible for its black female protagonists. (The entire washroom subplot, as infuriating as it is, never happened in real life.)  Still, there is a lot to like in what Hidden Figures actually does. “Coloured computers” packs so much wrongness in two words that it’s almost a relief to see a movie sidestep the heroics of The Right Stuff to show who was behind much of the mathematical grunt work. It helps that Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe make great heroines, and that capable white actors such as Kevin Costner and Kirsten Dunst are (for once!) relegated to support roles. (Meanwhile, there’s Jim Parsons being Jim Parsons—for all of the acclaim that he’s gotten for Sheldon Cooper, the more I see him in other venues the more I’m seeing him in the same role.)  The historical recreation of NASA’s early days (dramatic inaccuracies aside) is also impressive, and Hidden Figures more than finds its way alongside The Right Stuff and Apollo 13 as essential movies for space program enthusiasts. Which makes the inaccuracies worse, in a way—I’d settled for a less dramatic film if it meant a more accurate one: it’s not as if the basic story wasn’t inspiring enough…

The Karate Kid (2010)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Karate Kid</strong> (2010)

(On TV, May 2017) The 1984 version of The Karate Kid is such a cultural fixture that any attempt to remake it was doomed to irrelevancy. This being said, this 2010 remake does try its best, most notably but relocating the action in China where our hero involuntarily immigrates when his mom gets a new job. The change of scenery does much to renew a movie that largely recycles the original film’s structure: The look inside modern China can be interesting at times, as well as highlighting the fish-out-of-water nature of the protagonist. Unfortunately, that same basic decision does have its drawbacks: it removes the quasi-universal nature of the backdrop for American audiences (although, and this is significant, it does open it up to Chinese audiences), making it much harder to empathize with the high-school trials of the (significantly younger) protagonist. It also weakens the impact of Mister Miyagi’s teachings and makes a mush out of the protagonist’s attempts to fit in. Essentially, it transforms the universality of the first film into a very specific situation, and sabotages itself along the way. It doesn’t help that at eleven or twelve, lead actor Jaden Smith looks far too young for an archetypically teenage role. While it’s nice to see Jackie Chan in a decent American movie role, he doesn’t have much to do—far more judicious is seeing Taraji P. Henson in the “mom” role, greatly expanding the original character. To be fair, this Karate Kid remake is decently executed: anyone who hasn’t seen the 1984 film is likely to be moderately satisfied by the result. But for those pesky viewers with fresh memories of the original, this remake has too many small issues to enjoy.