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Katherine Johnson, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the last century (and still going at age 98), gets the movie she deserves with Hidden Figures, an entertaining, enlightening and educational look at the contributions she and her cohorts made to NASA and space flight in the late 1950s and beyond.

Johnson was part of a segregated division at NASA in the 1950s, a wing of mathematicians who did the work that computers do today. The movie depicts the humiliation she and two other African-American women (Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson) went through while solving equations that helped put men safely into space—and got them back home to their families.

The women had to put up with a lot of racist bullshit, and the film shows their hardships, albeit in PG fashion. There was a stretch when Johnson was making monumental calculations for the likes of Alan Shepard, yet she wasn’t allowed to use the bathrooms in her building or drink from the same coffee pot as her white counterparts.

Taraji P. Henson plays Johnson, the “smart one” who John Glenn personally demanded check the coordinates before his historical flight launched. Henson is perfection in the role, depicting Johnson as the super-awesome nerd she is. She has a scene in which she takes her fellow mathematicians at NASA to task for their racist ways, and it’s a stunner. Henson gives the film, and Johnson, the true sense of majesty they deserve.

Octavia Spencer is her usual great self as Vaughan, doing the work of a supervisor without the title; she’s also curious about that new IBM thing they just installed down the hall. Vaughan would become crucial to the implementation of computers at NASA, and became the agency’s first African-American supervisor.

As Jackson, NASA’s first female African-American aeronautical engineer, singer Janelle Monae is so good that it’s easy to forget that this is just her second movie role. (She was also excellent in 2016’s Moonlight.) Monae acts with the confidence of somebody who has been at it for decades. She is undoubtedly one of 2016’s great acting discoveries.

As a composite, fictional character named Al Harrison, Kevin Costner does some of his best acting in years. He shows America’s drive to reach space before the Russians, while realistically depicting the kind of progressive change men like him would have to make in the name of civil rights. He’s also one of very few actors who can chew gum onscreen without annoying the hell out of me.

Not only is Hidden Figures a movie you can put alongside The Right Stuff and Apollo 13 as an authentic, captivating depiction of the space race; it stands alongside 2016’s The Birth of a Nation and Loving as an important cinematic time capsule regarding the Civil Rights Movement. I suspect this movie doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson accomplished and endured, but it does bring their historical significance to light.

Director Theodore Melfi’s sophomore effort (after the likable St. Vincent) is a large step forward in scope and significance. He treats the subject respectfully, finding moments for humor while not letting up on the injustices showered upon the trio. His movie looks good—it’s a convincing simulation of what the inner workings of NASA must’ve looked like back in the day. Hans Zimmer contributes one of the 2016’s most rousing and satisfying scores.

Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons and Mahershala Ali (Monae’s co-star in Moonlight) all contribute admirably in supporting roles. Ali plays Johnson’s second husband, Col. Jim Johnson, who is still alive and living with Katherine in Hampton, Va. Katherine and Jim are proof that math power is better than broccoli!

Going into Hidden Figures, I had no knowledge of these three women and what they meant to the space race. Learning about them and, consequently, appreciating them makes this film worthwhile. The three leads and Costner make the whole thing tremendously entertaining, too.

Hidden Figures opens Friday, Jan. 6, at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

It’s time to celebrate the beginning of the end of summer with some great events!

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some big names scheduled for September. Funny man George Lopez will be stopping by at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 6. The Mexican-American comedian’s impressive career has included his own talk show, several sitcoms and various other acting credits. Tickets are $39 to $99. If that’s not a big enough name for you, sit down, because Diana Ross will be returning to the Coachella Valley for a performance at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 20. The former Supremes singer is a Motown legend and R&B powerhouse. At 70 years old, she’s still going strong. Tickets are $49 to $109. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a couple of excellent events worth mentioning. The first one: Janelle Monae is performing at 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 12. The psychedelic soul singer has performed at Coachella, won six Grammy awards, and supported many artists on various tours. Hers is not typical R&B music by any means. Tickets are $45 to $75. Peter Frampton (right) will take the stage at 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 19. If you were a child of the ’70s, you definitely were enveloped in the music of Peter Frampton. It’s been said that everyone once owned his record Frampton Comes Alive, because it came with free samples of Tide in the mail. Tickets are $50 to $70. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has an event in September that you definitely shouldn’t miss: The legendary Engelbert Humperdinck (below) will be appearing at 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 19. The British crooner’s career goes back to 1956, and he enjoys a large following of female fans of all different ages. Legend says that he has more notches on his bedpost than Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead and Gene Simmons of KISS. Tickets are $59 to $69. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club has some great things going on during September. On Friday, Sept. 12, and Saturday, Sept. 13, the Ace Hotel will host Beer Culture: Craft Beer Weekend. There will be more than 20 craft breweries on hand, including the local big three: Coachella Valley Brewing Company, La Quinta Brewing Co., and Babe’s. There will be live music from Tijuana Panthers, Beach Party, RT n the 44s, and Pearl Charles and the Pipes Canyon Band. Prices vary. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The Copa in Palm Springs is offering an impressive lineup in September. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 6, the Copa will host American Idol contestant Melinda Doolittle. Doolittle finished third during the show’s sixth season and almost always received praise from the judges. Tickets are $27.50 to $37.50. Drag legend Charles Busch will be stopping by at 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 19, and Saturday, Sept. 20. Busch is also known as a playwright and a singer. Tickets are $35 to $65. Nita Whitaker, a vocalist who has shared the stage with Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand, will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 27. Tickets are $25 to $40. The Copa Palm Springs, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.coparoomps.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has had an excellent summer and has an awesome schedule coming up for the fall. In September, Pappy’s is hosting one event you don’t want to miss: The reunited Cibo Matto will be appearing at 8 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 28. The indie-rock band fronted by two Japanese women, Yuka Honda and Miho Matori, reunited in 2011 after almost a decade-long breakup. Yuka Honda worked with Damon Albarn as part of the animated band Gorillaz. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has a big fall and winter ahead, according to The Hood’s booking man, Jack Kohler. John Garcia of Kyuss will be having his album-release party at 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 5. This is the celebration of his self-titled solo album, which has been getting good reviews. Admission is $15. Now for some shameless self promotion (although it’s for a good cause): My second NestEggg Food Bank Benefit Show will happen at 9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13. Scheduled performers include The Yip Yops, Burning Bettie, Sunday Funeral and The Hellions. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is suggested. The Voodoo Glow Skulls will be returning to The Hood at 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 19. Also on the bill will be local band Machin’. Admission is $5. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 27, Arizona punk outfit Authority Zero will be dropping in. Admission is $10. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

Published in Previews

Film

Cinema Diverse: The Palm Springs Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

A varied combination of feature films, documentaries and short films created by and/or about thematic issues related to the LGBT community is shown Thursday, Sept. 18, through Sunday, Sept. 21. Individual screenings $13; all-access $149. Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs. 760-325-6565; cinemadiverse.org.

Comedy

Comedy Night Palm Springs

Shelagh Ratner, of Lifetime TV’s Prank My Mom, and Matthew Moore, of Caroline’s on Broadway in New York, perform at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 20. $20. The Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

George Lopez

The multi-talented entertainer whose career encompasses television, film, standup comedy and late-night television performs at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 6. $39 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio. 888-331-5645; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Michael Walters as Dame Edna

Get ready, possums! Back by popular demand, celebrity impersonator Michael Walters as Dame Edna returns to the Purple Room. Barry Humphries, the original creator of Dame Edna, calls Walter’s show “spectacular.” 5:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Sept. 5 and 6; 5 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 7; 5:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 12; and 5 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 14. $25. The Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Music

Burger Records Presents Burger Oasis

Burger Records heads to the desert for Burger Oasis, a full weekend of sundrenched vibrations and garage-rock sounds with live sets by the pool and in the Amigo Room. Music starts at 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Sept. 5 and 6, in the Amigo Room; and goes from noon to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 6 and 7, poolside. Free; pool parties open to hotel guests only. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com.

Fantasy Springs Rock Yard Concert Series

At 7:30 p.m., full-throttle rock music fires up with a cover band to get audience members out of their seats. At 9 p.m., the tribute band takes over and plays audience favorites. At 10:30 p.m., the cover band comes back out and continues the live music until midnight. Friday, Sept. 6: Tribute to AC/DC. Friday, Sept. 13: Tribute to Led Zeppelin. Friday, Sept. 20: Tribute to Pink Floyd. Friday, Sept. 27: Tribute to Journey. Free. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio. 888-331-5645; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Friday Night Tribute Concerts

Spotlight 29 Casino invites everyone to come out and enjoy Friday-night tribute concerts. Guests must be 21 years and older. 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 19: Van Halen. Friday, Sept. 26: Journey. Free. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella. 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

God Save the Queen: A Celebration of Queen

The legendary band is given tribute at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 6. $20. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella. 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Janelle Monae

The soul/R&B singer performs at 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 12. $45 to $75. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage. 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com/TheShow.

Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano

The Grammy Award-winning ensemble performs at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13. $25 to $45. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage. 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com/TheShow.

Peter Frampton

The 1970s legend performs at 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 19. $50 to $70. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage. 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com/TheShow.

Ramon Ayala

The norteño legend takes the stage at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13. $35 to $55. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella. 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Special Events

Beer Culture: Craft Beer Weekend

The third annual Beer Culture: Craft Beer Weekend celebrates the microbrewers, hop heads, cask masters and maltsters who make the world a better place for beer-lovers. Friday night includes a five-course feast with beer pairings. Saturday afternoon is a pool party and barbecue with craft beer tastings and live music. Dinner at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 12 ($50); pool party from noon to 10 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13 ($15, or $30 with beer-tasting). Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com.

Club Fore Kids Golf Tournament

This fourth annual golf tournament, sponsored by the Palm Springs Hospitality Association, benefits the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Springs. Lunch and raffle prizes included. 8 a.m., Monday, Sept. 15. $195. Escena Golf Club, 1100 Clubhouse View Drive, Palm Springs. $195. Palmspringshospitality.org/events.htm.

Desert Haiku Writing in Joshua Tree National Park

Be inspired by the power and beauty of the desert setting to learn how to write haiku and other types of poetry in this writing-intensive field seminar. Participants will take brief walks and be introduced to the ecologic and cultural/historical richness of the desert. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13. $70 regular; $60 Joshua Tree National Park Association members. Joshua Tree Visitor Center, 6554 Park Blvd., Joshua Tree. 760-367-5525; www.joshuatree.org.

Fine Art Photography in Joshua Tree National Park

Immerse yourself in the wonders of Joshua Tree National Park and connect with the enchantment to be found there. The content of this workshop will focus not only on the mechanics of photography, but also on personal interpretation and expression. Bring camera equipment, camping equipment and enthusiasm. Friday, Sept. 19, through Sunday, Sept. 21. $170 regular; $160 for Joshua Tree National Park Association members. Oasis Visitor Center, 74485 National Park Drive, Joshua Tree. 760-367-5525; www.joshuatree.org.

Palm Springs Cultural Art, Food and Wine Festival

The event provides cultural art, exotic foods, eclectic jewelry, music and wine. 10 a.m., Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 13 and 14. Call for admission information; VIP tickets $25. Renaissance Palm Springs, 888 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way. 760-413-1125.

Synchronicity: Matter and Psyche Symposium

A landmark celebration with visionary leaders whose work has pioneered our understanding of the unity of psyche and matter. Embrace a heart-shaped world through science, art, psychology and embodied practice. The weekend features Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock. Friday, Sept. 12, through Sunday, Sept. 14. $327 to $347. Joshua Tree Retreat Center, 59700 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree. Matterpsyche.net.

Visual Arts

A Grand Adventure: American Art in the West

The epic 19th-century landscape paintings of Yosemite and Yellowstone by Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran introduced the American public to the grandeur of the West. By the turn of the century, a new genre of Western art had developed. A Grand Adventure brings together 40 significant classic and traditional artworks from private collections. The artworks span nearly 100 years, dating from the latter half of the 19th century through the early decades of the 20th century. The exhibit opens Saturday, Sept. 27, and will remain on display through Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015. Included with regular admission prices. Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert, 72567 Highway 111, Palm Desert. 760-346-5600; www.psmuseum.org/palm-desert.

Backstreet Art District Art Walk

Galleries and studios featuring modern and contemporary fine art are open the first Wednesday of every month from 6 to 9 p.m. Experience the thrill of interacting with working artists. Find paintings, sculptures, ceramics, jewelry, photography and more, in one location. Free. Backstreet Art District, Cherokee Way and Matthew Drive, Palm Springs. 760-202-1208; www.backstreetartdistrict.com.

Submit your free arts listings at calendar.artsoasis.org. The listings presented above were all posted on the ArtsOasis calendar, and formatted/edited by Coachella Valley Independent staff. The Independent recommends calling to confirm all events information presented here.

Published in Local Fun