The Space Between Us

The movie “The Space Between Us” seems to be on odd mash-up. It is about a boy who grew up on Mars, and gets a chance to visit Earth and fall in love. It takes parts from a science fiction movie, a young-adult romance, a story of person with a severe medical condition who wants to hit his bucket list, a cross-country journey film genre and puts it all together. Kind of a cross between “The Martian” and “The Fault in out Stars”, maybe call it: “The Fault in our Mars”…

Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) is a billionaire who personally sponsors the NASA space program to live on Mars. The flight crew gets there, and on the way Astronaut Elliot discovers she is pregnant. She gives birth on Mars and promptly dies. Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) is her son whose very existence is kept a total secret. But when he is 16, he finds a way to contact a high-school age girl named Tulsa (Britt Robertson). She has been in a series of unhappy foster homes, but she is resourceful and finds a way to have chat sessions with Gardner.

Kendra Wyndham (Carla Gugino) is a fellow Astronaut on Mars, Gardner ‘s mehtor and mother figure. But she knows that Gardner needs to get away. NASA Director Tom Chen (B. D. Wong) decides to bring Gardner and Kendra back to Earth. Gardner must undergo some physical training and special medical treatment to reinforce his undersized bones. Living with Mars gravity is tough, when you leave and go to Earth. He explains to Tulsa that he will go on a trip and vows to here that they will meet up soon.

 

Once on Earth, Gardner finds a way to conveniently escape the NASA medical facility and work his way to meet Tulsa. She is upset that he did not communicate for the past few months, but he says he was on a long trip. Nathaniel, Tom Chen and Kendra go after Gardner, with the help of the authorities. Tulsa sees that Gardner could be in trouble. She uses her near-criminal skills to keep ahead of the group chasing them. Gardner really wants to find his father, and he has a couple of clues.

They ‘borrow’ a biplane, a BMW and a truck to get far away. They travel to New Mexico, the Grand Canyon (lovely), Sedona (beautiful), and they finally end up at a beach house on the California coast. Gardner is expecting to find his dad, but he finds out something different. Tulsa has a solidly cynical view of the world, yet she starts to believe that there is something unusual about Gardner. The time that they spend together makes both of them happy. Yet, the past is not far behind, and the group finally discovers where Gardner and Tulsa are located.

 

So to break this movie down, I think it came about by somebody listing to the lyrics of Elton John’s song “Rocket Man”:

Mars ain’t the kind of place

To raise your kids

In fact, it’s cold as hell

And there’s no one there to raise them

If you did

And from that, this movie was born. Perhaps not on Mars, but the lyrics might explain it a bit more. So this movie was right for the intended audience: teenage girls. The acting was just OK, but Britt Robertson does a more convincing role. Asa Butterfield is very tall and lean and lanky, so he might have been born on Mars. The script was ham-fisted at times, and made some very clunky character transitions.

So if you want real sci-fi adventure, look elsewhere. If you want an honest young adult style romance, look elsewhere. If you want a somewhat jammed together version of both, “The Space Between Us” is your launching pad…

Hidden Figures

In the early days of the Space Race, when the USA and the USSR both worked to be the first in space, there was limited technology. The only ‘computer’ available was a person who excelled in math and could handle very complex calculations. The math experts and engineers who ran NASA in the early 1960’s were brilliant people. Almost all of then were men, and even more were White. That’s why this true story of three Black women is so outstanding.

When a Black person (‘Negro’ was the phrase used back then) was the best ‘computer’, and that person was also a woman – well that could lead to whole lot of trouble. Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) was a complete master of math, and could calculate complex re-entry points down a few hundred yards. She was needed for her skills in doing the computations, but the NASA engineers all looked down on her. She was not like them, so they did not think she was quite as good…

Katherine also had two good friends at the NASA facility, Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer). Mary had the skills and the desire to become an engineer, but the schooling was not available to ‘colored folks’. That is, until she challenged the local rulings and was permitted to take night classes at the all-White school. Dorothy was the leader of several talented Black women who were on staff at NASA. Yet she was not permitted to have the title of Supervisor. The White office manager Vivian (Kirsten Dunst) would not help Dorothy to advance, because she was Black, and therefore, unqualified.

 

Katherine had to face countless times when bigotry and low expectations hindered her progress. The chief of the lab was Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons). He would give Katherine work to review that was incomplete because sections had been removed, since she did not have the security clearance. But when the Manager of the NASA facility Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) found out how smart Katherine was, he made sure she got all the information that she would need. He even removed the limitations of ‘Colored’ bathrooms, so that Katherine would not need to run across the campus.

Also, the lab obtained its first IBM mainframe computer system, and Dorothy Vaughan had been teaching herself how to code programs on the new device. She became an expert and she was in charge of several other women and became a real Supervisor. Mary Jackson earned her degree in engineering and also continued to work at NASA on the space program.

Seeing that this is a true story of real people involved at the early stages of NASA, this movie shows the struggles that many of these women had to overcome. Before any Equal Rights laws were passed, these smart and powerful women showed that they were equal to the White men. They did that just by being able to perform at their highest levels. They did not allow the racism and sexism to fester and make them bitter. The fought back in the best way they knew how – they excelled at what they did.

 

The three main characters are played by three fantastic actresses: Janelle Monáe, Octavia Spencer and Taraji P. Henson. They all handle the character with grace and with dignity, even when the White world around them is harsh and cruel. They all show a deep courage and persistence to achieve great things. Also, Kevin Costner is a great addition, because he shows an understanding that success shows no ‘Color Line’. His character would not allow bigotry to stand in the way of getting the best results.

“Hidden Figures” does a terrific job in bringing to light a little-known aspect of the early days of NASA. The social norms of that era were broken so that some very talented Black women could have a chance to make a big difference in the success of the program. It is great story to tell, and it does it in a quiet, dignified manner.

Hidden Figures Advance Screening

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.

Find your chance to receive special advance movie screening passes below. 

Phoenix, Arizona

Date: Wednesday, January 6
Location: Harkins Tempe Marketplace
Time: 7:00pm
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Las Vegas, Nevada

Date: Wednesday, January 6
Location: Brendan Palms
Time: 7:00pm


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