Oscar Bait – Arrival / Hidden Figures

Last year I made sure to see as many films that had a sniff of Oscar about them in order to cover myself for whichever film won on the night. This year has been no exception and what a year it has been with 9 nominations making the cut.

For the first post collating my thoughts on the nominees I figured I might as well go for a theme: woman in science. It’s rare enough that you get a film with female leads as scientists… then poof two come along in a year.

arrival Title: Arrival
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Year: 2016
Country: USA

Right so this opening paragraph needed a substantial edit considering the colossal snub by the Academy Awards. I know that I am biased when it comes to all things Amy Adams, since I think she is easily one of the great actors working today, but how on Earth could this film have received 8 nominations without one for her. I mean, I wouldn’t say she carries the film. No, she is the film. So yea, really not happy with the Academy right now.

Needless to say, I loved this film. I love a good sci-fi movie, especially when it takes a different perspective. With Arrival we have a movie about first contact with aliens where the lead character is a linguistics professor (Adams) that is roped in to discover the reason for the titular arrival… by working out how to communicate with the aliens.

I love the aliens in this. So often in films we have some sort of human-like biped, but here they actually go with something more along the lines of a squid combined with a tree trunk. Also, these are peaceful aliens. At no point are we led to believe that there is any malicious intent, in fact it’s us humans who make such assumptions (as we would probably do so).

The big selling point for me (other than Amy Adams) is the heavy use of linguistics in this film. It feels like a smart and very well researched story that actually imparts a lot of information about linguistics. Some of the ideas about language pretty much blew my mind, as did Villeneuve’s direction.

This film is already an early favourite of mine, I must say.

hiddenfigures
Title: Hidden Figures
Director: Theodore Melfi
Year: 2016
Country: USA

When you are about to sit and watch a film where the premise is to raise awareness of the forgotten(ish) African American woman that worked for NASA you tend to expect a certain sort of film: A film that’s cliched, heavy-handed and very message heavy. Not the case with Hidden Figures.

Okay sure, this is still very much a film about racism, but it tackles it in a way that I haven’t seen that often. It’s a film about systemic racism and not necessarily racist people. The thing is, it is also a film about systemic sexism. A lot of the problems that the three main characters face are down to both discriminatory factors, which does give this film a different slant.

I know precious little about the early NASA spaceflights. Most of what I know has been cobbled together from Wikipedia and The Right Stuff, so I learnt an awful lot from this film. Not in the least that Janelle Monae is actually a really good actress. I know she’s also done moonlight, but this is an impressive turn by her.

Speaking of impressive, Octavia Spencer is a treasure as always and Taraji P. Henson shows the amazing range she has as an actress. From Benjamin Button to Empire and now this very different role for her. I can see this being the film that ends up picking up a number of Best Cast awards because of the central three as well as the performances of Kevin Costner and Mahershala Ali.

Current Rankings
1) Arrival
2) Hidden Figures

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