Hidden Figures is a drama about the African-American women who performed critical mathematical calculations for NASA's early space programs. It centers on three actual women who were known as "computers" when that term described a job, not a machine. Taraji P. Henson stars as Katherine G. Johnson, perhaps the most brilliant team member, whose outstanding service was later honored by NASA. The strong supporting cast includes Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe as fellow math whizzes, and Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Jim Parsons as their white supervisors. Although this film is fairly accurate in portraying the early space program and the racism these women had to overcome, it needlessly exaggerates some incidents and presents some composite characters as one-dimensional people. Overall, it's a little too formulaic, but it tells an enjoyable story that needs to be told.
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Manchester by the Sea is an almost flawless tearjerker with excellent writing and acting. Casey Affleck stars as Lee Chandler, a handyman whose brother dies prematurely, leaving behind a teenage son (Lucas Hedges) and a will naming Lee as the legal guardian. But Lee's tragic past has left him a broken soul, reluctant to assume the responsibility. This film is unusual in portraying both the uncle and nephew as sympathetic but rather unlikable characters thrust into an uncomfortable situation. And it's realistictoo much so for some viewers. The only artistic flaws are a few needlessly confusing flashbacks. Nonlinear storytelling is often a device to disguise poor filmmaking, but this artful movie doesn't need it.
La La Land is a lively modern-day musical that echoes the style of classic Hollywood musicals from the 1940s and 1950s. Ryan Gosling stars as a jazz pianist who yearns to open his own nightclub in Los Angeles. Emma Stone co-stars as a young actress struggling to win her first role in Hollywood. Their paths keep crossing until finally they join in a dance routine that's notable for being filmed in one long takenot a string of cherry-picked cuts spliced together to highlight their best moves. What's even more impressive is that Gosling spent hours learning to play piano so he could mimic his keyboard performances, although a pro dubbed the music. The plot is a classic Hollywood tale of two young lovers seeking fameuntil the conclusion, which is a bit more modern. This film is for musical aficionados who miss Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Collateral Beauty seems buried by other Oscar-worthy films released during Christmas season, but it merits attention. Will Smith stars as a father grieving the loss of his young daughter. He's so emotionally paralyzed he can no longer run his advertising agency, so his sympathetic but desperate business partners resort to extreme measures to gain control. They concoct a bizarre scheme in which actors playing the roles of Love, Time, and Death visit him to document his paralysis. Although this movie is painfully emotional at times and defies logic, it's redeemed by excellent performances from Smith and a brilliant supporting cast, including Naomie Harris, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Pena, and Jacob Latimore. The twister ending makes a good turn, too.
>> See more mini-reviews, including Hacksaw Ridge ... Loving ... Arrival ... Snowden ... Sully ... Star Trek Beyond ... Finding Dory ... The Jungle Book ... Eye in the Sky ... Hello, My Name is Doris ... Whiskey Tango Foxtrot ... and many more!
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Here is an index to more than 180 of Tom's computer articles from BYTE Magazine published from 1992 to 1998. (BYTE ceased publication in June 1998.) Most articles are still available online and include the original photographs, figures, and screen shots.
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- The Death of BYTE Magazine. In 1998, after 23 years of operation, BYTE Magazine was shut down by its new owner, CMP Media. A year later, CMP launched BYTE.com as a very different web-only publication. To learn the inside story about what happened to the world's second personal computer magazine, see Tom's Unofficial BYTE FAQ: The Death of BYTE Magazine.
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