We are fans of Hidden Figures around here, and while, as Michael Shannon puts it, the work is the work regardless of recognition, there’s still something nice about professional validation. And today Hidden Figures got validated with three Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Taraji P. Henson got shut out of the actress race, but that’s the most competitive category this year and I don’t think it’s really a snub when you’re a semi-finalist among such stellar women doing such stellar work. There were enough truly good performances this year that we can argue forever over whom should have been included—justify your fave—and when that is the case, I don’t really go for “snubs”. It’s just too many top notch women, being top notch. Although Hidden Figures is the kind of movie that makes me wish the Oscars had an ensemble cast award.
I don’t think anything can upset the La La Land train at this point, but Hidden Figures is benefitting from a New Year surge, thanks to great box office and audience enthusiasm. This was a late release, one of the last films crammed into Christmas Day release frame that didn’t even hit wide release until a couple weeks ago. It’s not like Figures had months to build word of mouth or buzz from multiple festival appearances. There was a sneak peek at TIFF with some footage shown, but the film itself only just now landed.
And even with a relatively late release and a very short nomination period this year, Hidden Figures was so immediately and so enthusiastically embraced by everyone that it has been propelled to multiple Oscar nominations, all in major categories. The fear is that Figures will be seen as a fluke, as is usually the case when a movie about women is a success. But Hidden Figures isn’t a fluke, it’s part of a movement. There are stories waiting to be told, and people waiting to hear them.
Here is Janelle Monae at the Women’s March on Washington on the weekend, at the Atlanta premiere of I Am Not Your Negro yesterday, and Octavia Spencer attending a SAG-AFTRA conversation yesterday in LA.