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Hidden Figures

mv5bmjqxotkxoduyn15bml5banbnxkftztgwntu3ntm3ote-_v1_uy1200_cr9006301200_al_-1Hidden Figures

127 minutes

4.75/5

Director: Theodore Melfi

 

Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer)  are three African American scientists who helped put men into space while struggling for equality in 1960s Virginia. Based on true events, Hidden Figures follows Mary fighting for the right to go to an all white school to get an advanced engineering degree, while Dorothy works to keep her job in the face of technological advancements and Katherine is determined to receive the respect she deserves as one of the biggest brains in all of NASA. This is the compelling story of these three brilliant minds, who happen to be African American women and because of that, are not treated as equals.

This film is absolutely wonderful and deserving of it’s many academy award nominations, including best motion picture. I love how it shows just how hard these women’s lives were, and just how much discrimination they faced. They were three highly intelligent women who were treated like garbage because of their gender and the colour of their skin. Katherine had to walk half a mile because there were no “coloured” washrooms anywhere near her desk. Mary had to persuade a judge to get a court order for her to be allowed into school – for night classes! Dorothy was doing all the work of a supervisor, but because she was African American, did not receive the pay or title. On top of that, all three women were moms! Each one of them had at least two children! After watching this film it really reminds you how far respect and nondiscrimination has come.

e154021_t05Another thing that was amazing about this film is that they talk about all the science that was happening during that time in NASA. Due to the race to space between the USA and Russia, the 1960’s were an exciting time for science and technology. This film shows a lot of the cool math and science and technological advancements (like the development of computers) from that decade. What’s even cooler is that they barely dumb it down for the audience! We get to see everyone’s calculations and hear about fortran, the language of the computers, and even technical things like the problems with the heat shield. I really appreciated being able to learn a little bit while watching the film.

I also particularly enjoyed how not every single black person was nice, and not every single white person was mean. There was Mr. Harrison (Kevin Costner); who was the leader of NASA and didn’t care that Katherine a women or that she was African American, he just wanted her to do her work. If there was something impeding her, he would get rid of it, like giving her complete clearance of information or getting rid of all the “coloured” washrooms and just making them “washrooms” so that she could take less time in the bathroom (because she wouldn’t have to run half a mile in heels). Then there was Colonel Jimmy Johnson (Mahershala Ali) who said something pretty sexist the first time he met Katherine. “They let women in the science program?” Ya. He said that, as if he was trying to woo her. Not the best pick up line. This film wasn’t just black and white (for lack of a better metaphor) when it came to good and bad characters. Everyone was their own person with their own opinions.

One thing that was subtle and yet still absolutely wonderful was the soundtrack. It wasn’t loud or what you were meant to focus on, like in a film such as “La La Land” (another Academy Award nominee) and yet it was just as good. It supported the scenes very well, you didn’t focus on it and yet it filled the spaces where there was no dialogue so you could concentrate on the scenery or the intense math sessions. It was very versatile, from the songs that are playing on the radio, to the songs sung in the church scenes, to the scenes that are supposed to be ‘silent’, but you want something to fill that noise gap so it isn’t jarring. This film did all this perfectly and made it sound effortless.

One thing that I didn’t like about this film, is that they kind of glossed over Mary Jackson’s story. We see that she is smart enough to be an engineer but doesn’t have the credentials due to her lack of an advanced engineering degree. What we never see is what she works on at NASA. We see her home life and her hanging out with Dorothy and Katherine, but we rarely get a chance to see just what she normally does at NASA. I for one, would have loved to see what she did because she worked on the more scientific and less mathematical stuff for NASA and that’s something we don’t really see in the film. I think if we got more insight into Mary’s life we would be able to see the cool science things NASA was doing at the time along with the cool math they were doing.

All in all, this movie was near perfect. It had a wonderful story line, was based on true events, had moments of comedy even though it was a very serious film, and even had an amazing original score. I hope the Oscars treat Hidden Figures very well, because this film deserves each and every award it has been nominated for.

 

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Sonita

  sonitahush                                                                                  Sonita

                                                                             90 Minutes

                                                                                    4/5

Sonita is an Afghan immigrant living in Tehran, Iran and just wants to be a rapper. She doesn’t want to have to work as a teenager, she doesn’t want to have to take care of her family and she definitely doesn’t want to have to get married. Her family has some very different opinions. They want to follow Afghan tradition and sell Sonita as a bride so they can get enough money to pay for Sonita’s brother’s bride. This documentary follows Sonita through her journey in becoming a rapper.

name_dateThe community sponsor for this film was the Femme Wave Festival. I think that is super awesome. The fact that an all women’s music festival sponsored a film about a seventeen-year-old girl trying to make music about meaningful subjects is great! The two couldn’t go better together. Be sure to see tonnes of local Calgary women and girls perform at this year’s Femme Wave, Nov. 17-20 (including me).

This film was never boring. Sometimes documentaries can get a little boring, but this one was very well paced and the audience was always captivated. Something was always happening and you could hear the laughter, gasps, or sniffles from the other people in the theater.

sonita-studioI thought it was really cool how much of Sonita’s life they shared. They talked about how her family wanted to use her for money and the fact her family doesn’t really care about what she wants to do. They also talked about the tradition in Afghanistan of selling daughters to be brides and about how you need permission from the government to record songs that talk about controversial subjects. It really brought awareness to how hard Sonita and people like Sonita’s lives really are.

I also really liked how humbling this film was. The longer the film went on, the more and more I was grateful for the life I have. I can say what I want. I can go to school for however long I want. I don’t have to work if I don’t want to. It really makes you think about how great our lives are here in Canada compared to Afghanistan and Iran.

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On the left is Sonita Alezadeh and on the right is Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami.

My favourite part of the film was when it was just the director, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, and Sonita sitting in Sonita’s bedroom. As they’re talking, Sonita asks if she can use Ghaemmaghami’s camera. Sonita is pretty mystified with the camera at first, but then starts getting the hang of it and begins asking Rokhsareh some pretty meaningful questions. This is one of the first scenes you see that you can tell Sonita is not some ordinary girl and she has the potential of going places in life.

I’ll admit this movie left me pretty speechless. I came out of the theater completely dumbfounded and without words. I thought this film was amazing and I definitely recommend this movie. If you’d like to go see it, it is playing at Eau Claire On October 2nd at 7:30 pm!

Cheer Up – CIFF 2016

cheer-up-jpg-size-custom-crop-1086x612Cheer Up

86 minutes

4.75

This documentary is about the Arctic Circle Spirit Cheerleaders, also known as the Ice Queens, and their competitive journey in Finland. At the beginning of the film we see that they have always finished in last place. Through the stories of cheerleaders Patu and Aino, and their coach Miia, we discover just how hard it is to be a cheerleader.

I have to say, I had some really low expectations for this film. First of all, it’s about cheerleading. Second of all, it’s a documentary about cheerleading. Lastly, it’s a documentary about cheerleading in Finland! It sounded so strange that I had to see it. I assumed it would be a Finnish version of Bring it On – I was wrong.

I loved how this film didn’t just focus on cheerleading, but also on the lives of the cheerleaders and how tough a sport it is to do competitively. You can tell how much they want to be the best! By the end, the whole team is  gritting their teeth because they can almost taste the championship. The one who wants it the most is the coach Miia; you feel for her because you can see that she knows her team isn’t very good, but she loves them anyways, she makes them work so hard so that they can win.

This documentary is really relateable. It shows the cheerleading team working hard (they practiced everyday for two hours) trying to get better. Their hard work is rewarded with eyelashes falling out and broken noses. Still, they never give up through all of the curveballs life throws at this team, they keep practicing. I think that is so inspirational. They love what they’re doing so they are working so incredibly hard at it, in the sheer hopes of getting better.  

The only thing that I didn’t really like was that the beginning was a little slow. Nothing really happened until 20-30 minutes into the film. During the Q & A that happened after the screening, Christy Garland (the director) talked about how the cheerleaders were very shy around her for the first bit of shooting. I can only assume that’s why things heated up only after the first bit. That is such a minor thing though, so I can barely fault the film for it.

I brought my friend Satchi to the screening because she is in competitive violin with me and we both could relate so much to the emotions they all felt. We understood how they felt when they got last place, how they felt when they practiced everyday for two hours, when they hurt their bodies from practicing so hard. We understood it all.

All in all, this movie was great. It was engaging, it was captivating and it wasn’t just any movie about cheerleading. I really recommend this film and it’s playing again on Saturday October 1st at 11:15am at Eau Claire for CIFF 2016. I highly suggest everyone go and see it.

Considering Love and Other Magic – CIFF 2016

photo_3187-mdConsidering Love and Other Magic

93 minutes

4/5

On Tuesday night, I went to go see the world premiere of Considering Love and Other Magic.

This film is about a seventeen year old girl named Jessie who’s trying to come to terms with the suicide of her younger brother. It’s been very difficult. She has to see a psychologist two times a week, she’s failing almost all of her courses and she thought her shrink’s chair was red, until she told Jessie that it was actually white. When Jessie’s best friend Bridget finds out that Jessie is failing, she signs Jessie up to tutor kids for extra credit. The first boy Jessie has to tutor thinks he’s a work of fiction. With the help of Bridget, this new mysterious boy and a potential crush, Jessie will try to overcome her brother’s death.

Typically in a young adult film about real life, only one character has a compelling story arc and learns to grow as a character. In Considering Love and Other Magic, almost everyone learns something by the end. For example; Jessie learns to ask for help from others, Steven learns it’s okay to tell people your problems, Uncle Jasper learns that honesty is the best policy, Jessie’s mom learns its ok to let go,   etc…throughout the film it seemed like maturity was contagious.

Jessie had some great inner monologues throughout the film. I like the way she talks to the audience. The use of the monologues allows us to tell exactly what Jessie was thinking or feeling, you didn’t have to rely on what she actually says and does during a scene.

consideringlove-photo2This film is one of the first movies I’ve seen so far at the Calgary International Film Festival in 2016 that I think is truly directed to my age group. This film wasn’t just another teen movie about how hard the life of a teenager is, but it does talk about some of the struggles. It also doesn’t seem like the actors are trying too hard to be “your average teenager”, they just tried to be their characters, flaws and all. 

I also really enjoyed Maddie Phillips performance as Jessie. She brought Jessie to life as a three-dimensional character. Plus, she took teenage angst to the next level.

I took my friend Reatha to this movie because she’s around the same age as me and I thought she’d like this take at an abnormal teenage life. She also really liked it!

In conclusion, this film was great. It wasn’t trying to be a teen movie, it was trying to be a movie about teens, and I felt that was the secret to its success. It was entertaining; it had some light hearted parts like when Tommy is recreating a landing from space to earth,and some sad parts too like when they’re showing Jessie’s brother’s suicide. The entire audience was engaged and paid attention throughout. I really recommend this film for anyone of the over age of 12 (there´s some swearing.) 

It’s playing again at CIFF  Sunday, October 2nd at 11:45 am! Get your friends and go see it!

The Adventure Club at CIFF 2016

55The Adventure Club

Director: Geoff Anderson

3/5

Ricky, the leader of the Adventure Club really just wants to go on an adventure, just like his grandfather did before he died. One night, while Ricky is going through his late grandfather’s things, he finds a mysterious key in his grandfather’s office. Ricky then summons an emergency meeting of the Adventure Club, to go and solve all the secrets this key might unlock.

I enjoyed the way this film was  shot. Each scene seemed well planned. Perhaps the cinematographers could have taken more risks, but for a family audience it was comfortable. Everyone in the audience really liked this one scene in particular which was in the museum. The Adventure Club gang had to hide from the security guard in the museum and every time the security guard walked through the scene the kids were cleverly hiding in plain sight!

This film was also comedic. There were moments in the movie where the kids in the audience laughed, and others when it was the parents chuckling. That is super important when it comes to making a family film, there should be something for everyone. The fact that the cast includes members of the cast of the TV show Corner Gas and  Billy Zane definitely helped make the adults laugh, and the Adventure Club’s adult friend (played by Canadian acting legend Kim Coates!) was so crazy that the kids couldn’t help but laugh at his ridiculousness. 

Most of the time the adult actors were big scene stealers (because most of them were comedians) and sometimes it seemed like they were trying to out funny each other! Sometimes the fact that they were trying so hard took the spotlight away from the main characters of the film; the kids!

On the down side, older kids may find this film predictable. You have your typical trio of kids (the leader boy, the smart girl and the goofball boy) who find this magical item that some bad guys are looking for. With the help of a kooky adult they must stop the evil guys from acquiring the magical item. It was nice to see the great acting job done by young lead actor Sam Ashe Arnold as Ricky. Ricky learned some valuable lessons and brought his club closer together.  

Sam Ashe Arnold who plays Ricky decided drop by for the screening and I asked him a couple questions:

Q: Do plan on becoming an actor as a full time career?

A: Ya, I’ve already done around nine other films and short films. I really love acting, it’s what I want to do for life.

Q: What is your favourite part about acting?

A: I’ve always loved storytelling, so that’s my favourite part for sure.

Q: Do you have any upcoming films?

A: Ya, I have a film called High Rise Rescue which is going to be on Super Channel!

To conclude, this film was entertaining for many of the young kids in the audience and the parents that they brought along.

Parents, take your kids to the festival on Saturday October 1st at 2:15 at Eau Claire if you’d like to go see a movie that’s actually kid friendly! 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me_and_Earl_and_the_Dying_GirlMe And Earl and The Dying Girl

Jesse Andrews

304 Pages

4/5

Greg Gaines doesn’t want to stick out in High School, he just wants to make movies. By senior year he has accomplished just that by being almost friends with everyone in High School, that is until his mom forces him to hang out with a girl named Rachel Kushner who has just been diagnosed with leukemia. When Greg starts to spend more and more time with Rachel, his grades start to plummet and College opportunities start to disappear. Can Greg fix his life while still trying to make Rachel’s better at the same time?

I really liked this book. I liked how funny it was. It’s told in first person in the perspective of Greg and Greg’s one funny guy. He’ll write some events in his life in script format or, if someone gave him a long lecture, he’ll write it in bullet form. Plus, he’s pretty honest about what he writes; he’ll call his writing garbage or himself lame or a situation super awkward.

My favourite character is Earl. He is Greg’s closest thing to a friend, but he’s mostly just a business partner and coworker.  He’s the guy that Greg works with on his films.  I liked Earl because the world dealt him the worst deck of cards in the game of life, but he still did his best. He had a dad worked in Texas (they’re living in Pittsburgh), has a step dad in jail, a mom that is an alcoholic and doesn’t leave her room, his multiple brothers and stepbrothers are in gangs and are drug dealers. Plus, he’s really short so no one will take him seriously. That kind of life doesn’t sound very fun at all.

Earl also has a very different sense of humour than Greg. Due to Earl’s upbringing, he is definitely not the brightest crayon in the box and does not have the linguistics of your average high schooler, but he always gets his point across. Whether he wants to be heartfelt, funny or disgusting, everyone always understands Earl.

What I wasn’t a big fan of, was the way the story flowed. The entire book kept building and building on how Greg’s life was changing because of Rachel. It always felt like the climax was coming, but it never came until the last few pages . I’m no story teller, but I took grade seven English, so I know the climax is supposed to be around the middle, not the end.

I also didn’t like how Rachel did end up dying. I know that the entire novel was leading up to her dying, but I still wanted her to live, or at least die more elaborately or in a more significant way.

Despite that, I really enjoyed this novel, I liked the humour, characters and writing style, but like life, it wasn’t perfect. It was still a good read though. I read it in less than a week because I couldn’t put it down!

Teen Frankenstein

Two People in Silhouete; Shutterstock ID 1733613

Teen Frankenstein

Chandler Baker

325 Pages

3/5 Stars

Victoria Frankenstein and her best friend Owen Bloch have been working on reanimating animals in hope of good marks for their high school science project. They’ve gone through several incarnations of Mr. Bubbles with no results. Then, one day, while Victoria was driving down the highway, Owen texted her the word “Eureka” – the universal code of scientists for a massive breakthrough. Victoria glanced at her phone for only two seconds, then hit a boy. She didn’t just grazed him, but killed him. Not knowing what else to do, Victoria picked him off of the ground, put him in her car and drove back to her house where she called Owen and they attempted to reanimate the body. What a miracle! It worked! Now all they have to do is get him to blend into high school as “Adam Smith”.

This novel had a bunch of super cool science in it! From talking about the reanimation process, to their experiment procedure, and explaining theoretic memory retrieval. It really made the book enjoyable and believable. I also liked how at the beginning of every chapter there was a blurb about the science of the next chapter. I always looked forward to those.

My favourite character was Victoria. I liked her wit and cleverness. She knew very well how smart she was and was not afraid to show it. She was also very proud of her status as a nerd, and not just any nerd, but the Queen of the Nerds – although, she’d probably rather be called the president.

I also enjoyed the growth she demonstrated throughout the novel. At the beginning she truly thought she was a genius and was incapable of making mistakes, but as the plot went along she realized that she was capable of making some giant sized mistakes and that realization made her more humble.

I did not like how there was a secondary conflict aside from the dead boy involving murders going on in their town of Hollow Pines, Texas. I thought that the murders drew the reader’s attention away from the main conflict. The serial killing mystery wasn’t even written very well. All of a sudden there would be random clues coming in with little to no foreshadowing. You can’t have a mystery without foreshadowing!

Another thing I was not a fan of was the character Meg. She is a friend from Adam’s past, but I didn’t like what the author did with her.  Also, she brought out all the bad that Adam was capable of doing and I didn’t like it when Adam got violent. He was too much of like a toddler to kill people.

In conclusion, this book had so much great potential, but it just wasn’t executed very well.