Sunday, February 26, 2017

It only took fourteen years for the Oscars to catch up with reality.

Hear ye, hear ye: (click here) The Oscars are upon us once again. Jimmy Kimmel will be hosting the 89th annual Academy Awards ceremony, which airs Sunday, February 26, at 8:30 pm EST on ABC. The event will officially conclude a long awards season marked by repeat winners (we see you, La La Land) and increasingly incendiary acceptance speeches wrapping politics into the usual glitz and glamour (hello, Meryl Streep!).

In 2003 the USA crossed a line and everyone stood by and looked for favor to make films about war. In order for a female film director to win an Oscar the topic had to be war. Then the "Hurt Locker" went on to win Best Picture as well. I never saw that picture and won't. 

"Fences" is an incredible picture that won't win nearly as many awards as it should. Denzel Washington was every bit the man he had to be. Viola Davis was magnificent. 

"Fences" is not the usual gangsta picture affiliated with African American stereotypes. It is a respectful picture of real life. Viola Davis gave life to a strong woman with vulnerabilities she was not allowed to question. She only knew how to measure herself against reality after any dream proved unrealistic for an African American woman in the USA.

The flip side of Ms. Davis are the entire crew of African American actresses in "Hidden Figures." That picture was magnificently done, but, it infuriated me to realize where we are in race relations today. I have expect an executive order to arrive at NASA to change the name of the building graced with Katherine Johnson's name.

Hundreds of people turned out May 5 to attend the naming ceremony for the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Chief among those in attendance was Johnson herself. Now 97, Johnson was once a "human computer" at NASA Langley. Among many other impressive feats, she famously calculated the flight trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space.

All the films in every category were exceptional this year. It will be a difficult choice to the winners, but, I sincerely hope this is the year films with African American heritage win in large measure. 

Margot Lee Shetterly (click here) is the author of Hidden Figures and founder of The Human Computer Project, which seeks to uncover the history of the women who worked in the early days of the U.S. space program.

I thank Ms. Shetterly for bringing this book to a film. Regardless, of the building the sincere meaning was better felt when put on a movie screen. Thank you, it was very long overdue.

Until tomorrow...