Hidden Figures (2016)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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Hidden Figures (2016) from Levantine Films, Chernin Entertainment, Fox 2000 Pictures
Rated PG. Drama, African American Actors/Issues, Biography/Historical

Description (from the film trailer): Hidden Figures is the incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe)—brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.

My thoughts: This story was all the more enlightening for me, since I’ll admit that NASA and all matters of space aren’t exactly the highest matters on my radar. And when I think of “computers,” I (like most people these days, I expect) automatically think of “machines” as opposed to human beings who, well, compute. This may be the most interesting that computing and mathematics have ever been to me. Albeit I’ll be sticking with writing and leave the numbers up to the folks who work well with those. 🙂

This is a well-rounded film, maybe a tad corny in spots, but so well cast. It’s the little stuff that makes a movie great, otherwise the big stuff feels like schmaltz, doesn’t feel earned. This movie earns its big stuff.

I was cautious beforehand, since sometimes when a movie knows what it’s supposed to do, it tries too hard to get there. (Like the movie Belle, for instance.) But, no, Hidden Figures knows what it’s supposed to do and just does it.

Truly inspiring.

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Yella’s Prayers: Meet the Model!

shanelle-cover-model-2

A new edition of my coming of age novel, Yella’s Prayers, would naturally mean a new book cover. Sure, my book covers include stock photo models, as countless covers do. But for the rerelease of the first book I ever wrote, I knew precisely which model I wanted to represent the novel’s heroine.

actress-shanelle-nicole-leonard

I’m privileged to know the multitalented Shanelle Nicole Leonard—my favorite stage actress. We’ve sung and danced on a couple of the same teams (we’ve even been in a music video before!), but she’s a far better singer and dancer than I’ll ever be. 😀

nelly-and-nettles

Shanelle has performed on a number of stages and has worked with the Seattle Shakespeare Company, Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, and more. She recently played the leading role in The Noise Made by People, an award-winning short film at the Northwest Film Forum’s Local Sightings Film Festival. And my favorite role of hers was that of Luna C in Oo-Bla-Dee, performed at Cornish College of the Arts, where she graduated in 2012.

Shanelle is currently in the Professional Actor Training Program in the Department of Dramatic Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her latest production is at the Playmakers Repertory Company at UNC-CH.

Keep it up, Shanelle! 🙂

The Canadian West Series by Janette Oke

when-calls-the-heart When Comes the Spring When Breaks the Dawn When Hope Springs New

As a longtime fan of author Janette Oke, I just felt it necessary to chronicle that I finally finished the original four novels of the Canadian West series, the story of Elizabeth and the Canadian Mountie she marries, Wynn. I was determined to finish these books before I started watching the connected television series from Hallmark, When Calls the Heart. The CW series closes out with When Hope Springs New, which I gave three stars and said in my Goodreads review:

“The way Elizabeth really comes into her own in this novel makes for a nice enough ending to the original four-book series. Yet, it doesn’t exactly seem to end so much as it just finds a place to stop, eventually. There isn’t much of a climax, and after a significant change about three quarters into the novel, I couldn’t really connect with a whole different setting and a new bunch of characters when the book was almost over, bringing a new set of problems that would have to be rushed through. An ending like this one would need more added to it, sometime, to make something more of it.”

The first four novels were published in the 80s, and the series continued much later with Elizabeth and Wynn’s grown children in Books Five and Six. I actually read and enjoyed those two books first, when they released in 2000 and 2001.

Beyond the Gathering Storm When Tomorrow Comes

Time will tell if I’ll read the newer Return to the Canadian West books that Janette has co-authored with her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan. Despite taking its name and some elements from Janette’s first CW novel, I think the television series is more heavily based on the Return to the Canadian West books from 2014-2016.

Where Courage Calls (Return to the Canadian West #1) Where Trust Lies (Return to the Canadian West, #2) Where Hope Prevails (Return to the Canadian West #3)

Still, I chose not to wait any longer before starting the show. I’m about halfway through Season One, and I’m getting quite a kick out of it so far. It’s sweet and uplifting and somewhat corny, which I expected, but it also packs a little more punch and, um, “swoon-worthiness” than I imagined it’d have. I’ve posted the trailer from the show’s premiere before, and, hey, I feel like posting it again. 🙂

It’s a Wonderful Life: I Met Zuzu Bailey!

books-by-karolyn-zuzu-grimes

Karolyn Grimes, actress and author

Karolyn Grimes, actress and author

That’s right! Zuzu, one of the daughters of George and Mary Bailey from my all-time favorite Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life–classic, iconic, superb, and such a holiday staple.

Zuzu is actually actress and author Karolyn Grimes. I had the pleasure and honor of meeting her at this year’s Tacoma Holiday Food and Gift Festival in Washington. And I came away with two of Karolyn’s books!

I picked up Celebrating It’s a Wonderful Life: How the Movie’s Message of Hope Lives On, since, yes, I’m all about hope and inspiration in life. Karolyn was also super-kind to share a copy of her brand new children’s book, Zuzu’s Petals: A Dream of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ with beautiful illustrations by author and illustrator Karen Deming.

An autograph from "Zuzu"!

An autograph from “Zuzu”!

And, yes, I’m still reeling over this, folks. Never in my life would I have imagined meeting someone from the film I’ve watched and enjoyed every year for as long as I can remember. In a sense, I’m still growing into the 1946 film as an adult, as its powerful message unfolds for me on new levels, the more times I watch it.

You can learn about Karolyn, her books, and more at her website, and also check out Karen Deming’s books and artwork here.

Now, then. I suppose I can consider this my unofficial and early kick off of Christmas this year. 😀 The official kick off will be next week, when I announce my annual Christmas Book Picks!

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“Look, Daddy! Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” ~Zuzu Bailey

Celebrating It's A Wonderful Life: How the Movie’s Message of Hope Lives On Zuzu's Petals, A Dream of 'It's a Wonderful Life'