I’m a born and bred space nerd, so any movie that tells me a story I don’t already know about NASA’s golden age already has me at hello. Hidden Figures wasn’t as good a film as it was hyped to be, but that doesn’t mean it still wasn’t a great story told exceptionally well with a fantastic ensemble. It’s a both sad and practical problem that there have been so many films about discrimination that it’s sometimes hard to hammer home the vicious indignity of it without borrowing from previous efforts.
What Hidden Figures did so well was to take an everyday reality for every person on the planet-using the restroom-and make it the film’s most poignant moment of the maddening unfairness of segregation. Kevin Costner and Taraji Henson both give fantastic performances in this film, and Henson’s quiet character finally losing her mind over the ridiculousness of having to run 30 minutes to find a “colored restroom” is a wonderfully written and performed monologue. Costner’s response has a lot fewer words in it, but then he got to do his talking with a crowbar.
Among Spielberg’s “important” films, Amistad isn’t the home run that Saving Private Ryan or Schindler’s List is, but it’s still a powerful film and one with an incredible ensemble cast anchored by Anthony Hopkins in an Oscar-nominated performance as former President John Quincy Adams.
In today’s political climate, it’s hard to imagine, but after Adams lost his bid for re-election as President, he ended up running for Congress and returned to the House of Representatives (the only former President to do so) and government service. There, he was enlisted to represent the “cargo” of the slave ship La Amistad before the US Supreme Court. The Africans enslaved by the ship, had escaped the hold and slain their captors before being apprehended when their ship arrived in America. The 1839 case hinged on whether this was a matter of kidnapped human beings rising up and shaking off their chains or human cargo that should be returned to its “owners”. Hopkins arguing on their behalf before the court with a ten-minute dissertation on freedom is one of the most riveting monologues and pieces of acting I’ve ever seen. Hannibal Lecter’s introduction may be the most obvious best scene of Hopkins’ career, but this is every bit as good.
This weekend here in the States most of us have Monday off to honor the memory of slain Civil Rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While I’ve never seen a great biography of King (though Hampton Sides wrote an amazing account of the events surrounding his last days called Hellhound on His Trail), there are many movies in every genre that honor his ideals and showcase aspects of the trials he, and anyone, who has had to fight discrimination, have had to endure. I’ve picked one of my favorites from Law, Politics, War, Sports and Science Fiction that I feel show insight into this troubled area of the human soul. I hope everyone has a great weekend. Continue reading Top 5 Movies for MLK Weekend