Movie Review: Roma

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Award season for the film industry is well underway. The announcement of the Best Picture nominated movies sets the stage for this year’s Academy Awards, scheduled to air Sunday, February 24.

Here are the nominees:

For the first time in many years, I have already seen half of the nominees. Previous reviews are linked above to those films, although I just discovered that I failed to post a review for Black Panther. Fortunately, I’ll have an opportunity to rectify that!

Up for review tonight is Roma, a foreign language film out of Mexico.

Movie Review Roma

Roma Cast

Roma stars Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Marco Graf, Nancy Garcia, Fernando Grediaga and Jorge Antonio Guerrero. This drama, written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron, carries an R rating, for language and a graphic nudity scene, and has a run time of 2 hours and 15 minutes. This Netflix movie is in Spanish, with English subtitles.

Roma is nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Actress for Yalitza, Best Supporting Actress for de Tavira, and a host of technical awards.

Movie Review Roma

Movie Review: Roma

Set in 1970s Mexico City, in the Colonia Roma neighborhood, this film tells the story of a domestic worker, Cleo (Yalitza), who works for an upper middle class family. Cleo, and the other housekeeper, Adele (Garcia) clean house, cook, run errands and care for the family’s four children. Cleo is especially close to the youngest son, Pepe (Graf).

Both of the young women live in the family complex, sharing an upstairs room across the courtyard. Their tasks are often menial and their days are long. However, there is a genuine bond of affection between the family members and the hardworking girls.

When tension between the couple, Sofia (de Tavira) and Antonio (Grediaga), escalates, Antonio moves out. His departure frightens Sofia at first, and then frees her to begin to build a different life.

Amid caring for the children and scooping up dog poop and washing countless dishes, Cleo dates a young man, Fermin (Guerrero). However, their relationship seems destined to follow the same path as her employers. Fermin leaves when he learns Cleo is pregnant.

In this slice of life film, the story unfolds, in stops and starts, over the course of a year, with unrest in Mexico City providing the backdrop. The women in the story, Sofia and Cleo, must find their places in the new world they find themselves thrust into. They must discover who they are and in doing so, create a stronger future for the children.

Movie Review Roma

My Thoughts on Roma

I found Roma to be an intriguing film. Shot in black and white, the cinematography is beautiful with interesting angles and camera positions. The focus is on Cleo, who represents a woman named Libo, who raised Alfonso Cuaron, in the Colonia Roma suburb of Mexico City. This isn’t his story though. It is hers, making this movie a touching tribute to Libo.

Roma isn’t an action packed movie filled with special effects. Rather it explores relationships and the bonds that can form between people with vastly different backgrounds. Cleo’s family is from a poor rural village. Sofia has known no lack, financially, however her marriage does not turn out the way she imagined it would.

Some will feel impatient with the movie’s slower pace. However, for me it feels just right. The scenes allow for immersion into the story and, most importantly, to form a bond as well with these women.

Movie Review Roma

My Predictions for Roma

Roma has already done well in early award shows, picking up Golden Globes for Best Director for Cuaron and Best Foreign Film. It is the type of artsy-yet-gritty film that the Academy loves, fresh and imaginative with an intimacy that draws the viewer in.  Roma offers an unapologetic peek into the personal life of Cleo, and to a lesser extent, into Sofia’s.

With 10 nominations, I expect Roma to do well at the Oscars. Will it take home the top award, for Best Picture? I’m not sure, with the strength Bohemian Rhapsody has gathered at the recent award shows. Best Director is almost a sure thing for this film, along with Best Foreign Film. I’ll be watching to see just how far Alfonso Cuaron can take his latest masterpiece.

Movie Review Roma

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Movie Review: Hidden Figures

I have looked forward to watching today’s best picture nominated film. The rainy afternoon presented the perfect opportunity to stay indoors and view film 7 of 9 on my list, Hidden Figures.

Movie Review: Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures stars Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons and Kirsten Dunst. This historical drama was directed by Theodore Melfi and carries a PG rating for mild language. It has a run time of 2 hours and 7 minutes. Hidden Figures was nominated for three Oscars including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress for Spencer and Best Picture. It did not win in any category.

This based on true events story follows three amazing African American women as they offer their brilliance to NASA during America’s race to space in the early 1960s. While bringing their intellect to the space program they struggle with racial discrimination, gender inequality, and long hours spent working away from their families.

Movie Review: Hidden Figures
Katherine G Johnson (Henson) was a child mathematical genius who graduated from college at age 18 with degrees in mathematics and French. She works with her friends Mary (Monáe) and Dorothy (Spencer) in West Area Computing division, which is segregated from the rest of the Langley Research Center Campus. The women are computers, doing complex math computations and calculations on paper.

Because of her ability to do analytical geometry, Katherine is moved to the Space Task Group, headed by Al Harrison (Costner). He has been charged with the monumental task of getting a man into space as quickly as possible, as Russia is already there. She works closely with head engineer, Paul Stafford (Parsons), who resents Katherine joining the all white, all male team.

Movie Review: Hidden Figures The real Katherine Johnson and Taraji Henson, who plays her. 

Movie Review: Hidden Figures

Mary Jackson wants to be an engineer. She is reassigned to work with male engineers as they figure out how to protect the space capsule from overheating upon re-entry into the atmosphere. Her supervisor encourages Mary to get her engineering degree even though there isn’t a school in Virginia that will allow her to complete the classes she needs. Her only option is to petition the court to allow her to be accepted.

Movie Review: Hidden Figures The real Mary Jackson and Janelle Monáe as her

Movie Review: Hidden Figures

And Dorothy Vaughn is working as the supervisor of West Area Computing, without the official title or the compensation. She has frequent conversations with her supervisor, Vivian (Durst), about being recognized for her work and paid accordingly, to no avail. She is told it just is what it is. Dorothy recognizes the threat that the newly installed IBM computer poses to her future at NASA, as well as to her team of female computers, and sets about learning to program the massive machine by reading a library book and studying the computer at night.

Movie Review: Hidden Figures The real Dorothy Vaughn and Octavia Spencer as her

As these women give their best to NASA, they encounter injustices such as having to use “colored bathrooms”, even when the nearest facility is half a mile away, segregated coffee pots, and constantly being told “women aren’t allowed…”. All the while, the clock is ticking as the date approaches when the first American astronaut is scheduled to orbit Earth.

This was a phenomenal story that kept me engaged and hopeful throughout the movie. I am amazed that I had not heard of Katherine, Mary and Dorothy before the release of this movie. I was a wee girl during these events and grew up with a fascination for the space program.

Movie Review: Hidden Figures

It grieves me that these incredible women endured so much discrimination because of the color of their skin and their gender. I realize it wasn’t just these women. Sadly, such injustices was directed toward all people of color. I greatly admired the attitudes presented by these female geniuses at NASA. They abided by the “rules” as best they could, while quietly, and sometimes not so quietly, working to bring about change.

And so Katherine challenged the “no women allowed” rules by appealing to her supervisor, whom she knew to be a fair man. She used the bathroom that was half a mile away until an opportunity arose to explain her long breaks, and then she spoke with searing passion.

Movie Review: Hidden Figures
Mary spoke up when some thought she should remain quiet. And took her desire to attend a white school, to receive the credits needed to be an engineer, all the way to court. She won that right. Dorothy took it upon herself to step into the future she knew was coming, and learn a new way to compute. She not only prepared herself for what was coming, she secured the future for the other women as well, at last earning the title of supervisor.

I appreciated that at the end of the film, we learn what happened to Katherine, Mary and Dorothy after astronaut John Glenn made his historical orbits around the earth. I cared about these women by then. I wanted to know.

I loved this film. I will watch the final two best picture nominated movies, one of which I have already seen, but I am leaning toward calling Hidden Figures my favorite. I cheered. I teared up. I smiled. This is a powerful film made even more so by being true.

Everyone can learn from Hidden Figures…to be who you are and shine brightly, to allow everyone else to be who they are and shine brilliantly too, to fight against injustice wherever it is found, to see beyond color and gender and perceptions. Hidden Figures is a gem worth uncovering.

Movie Review: Hidden Figures
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