Archive for the ‘Wednesday Movies’ Category

Movie Wednesday: Hidden Figures

Movie Wednesday: Hidden Figures

Take three brilliant minds, add vision, humor, determination, and extraordinary math skills and what do you get? Katherine G. Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan’s inspiring true story, Hidden Figures! This uplifting film depicts these women’s lives and their mathematical contributions to NASA that helped launch John Glenn into orbit and revolutionize the Space Race.

In 1961, unique, sought-after skills and exceptional intelligence couldn’t protect Black mathematicians from racism, segregation, and sexism faced both at work and in their daily lives. When the system fails to recognize the merits of their work, Katherine, Mary, and Dorothy create opportunities for themselves and go on to exceed the expectations of their peers.

The 2016 film was directed by Theodore Melfi and based loosely on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book by the same name.

The movie was well-received, and the National Board of Review marked it as one of the top ten films of 2016. Hidden Figures received three nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

Despite multiple honors, the film’s reception wasn’t all positive. Concern that the movie featured a White savior narrative that deflated the women’s accomplishments was voiced. You can discuss this point with your kids. Find out what they think.

Bill Barry, NASA’s chief historian, worked with Melfi, the film’s director, to ensure the film was as accurate as possible. As is often the case in film adaptations, not every detail is historically accurate. Moments are added to drive home specific points, ramp up tension and drama, and move the plot forward. Before or after you watch the film, look up these fictional flourishes by searching online for Hidden Figures’ historical inaccuracies. Reflect on the ways they enhance or compromise the power of the story.

Sometimes a title says it all! Hidden Figures has a double meaning referring both to the women themselves, who went unknown for many years, and to the numbers they worked with. Taraji P. Henson (Katherine) drives home the title’s merit in a comment to a reporter in which she notes that prior to making the film, she had never heard of Katherine, Mary, or Dorothy. “And I went to an historically black university, where Ron McNair—who died in the launch to space—had attended. I actually studied electrical engineering. I failed, but I was there. And this man has a building named after him. If it wasn’t for Katherine Johnson, there would have been no Ron. But hey, who am I? Never heard of her. I was annoyed. I was mad. And this became my passion project. I was like, ‘I have to do this movie.’”

This highly discussable film provides a bounty of material for you and your teen to ponder together. So have at it! Get out the popcorn, put up your feet, and enjoy the show!


A note to parents

In one good-natured scene, Mary drinks alcohol and gets a little silly with friends. There is mild kissing and flirtatious language. This film is rated PG.


Discussion Questions

1. Describe the NASA workplace and the racial tension depicted in the film. How did the women navigate this discrimination? How do you think such obstacles might have impacted their work?

2. Ultimately, why do you think Al Harrison gave Katherine access to the information she needed to work on trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard’s mission? Beyond her talents as a mathematician, what other qualities convinced Harrison she was the right person for this important job?

3. After a heartbreaking scene in which she and her sons are escorted out of the library, Dorothy notes that “separate but equal are two different things. Just because it’s the way don’t make it right.” What did she mean?

4. What do Kennedy’s words “We choose to go to the moon and do the other things not because they are easy but because they are hard” mean to you? Have you ever taken on a challenge, perhaps in sports or the arts, that felt all the more worthwhile because it was difficult? Describe that experience and what it felt like to take on that challenge.

5. At the end of the film, Katherine is gifted with a pearl necklace. What was the significance of this act? What did the pearl necklace symbolize? 

Take Flight with this Extension Activity

Invite your kids to experiment! Search the internet for DIY paper airplanes. Try out a variety of designs and conduct a series of flight tests. Observe the distance, speed, and flight trajectory of each plane. Experiment with design elements such as flaps, tails, and extra weight. 

Book Club Class
Give your teen the chance to discuss the Hidden Figures: Young Readers Edition in the Brave Writer virtual coffee house we call the Boomerang Book Club! Registration is open now!

Learn language arts naturally with the Hidden Figures: Young Readers Edition Boomerang (available February 1, 2022)

The Boomerang is a digital downloadable product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel. It is geared toward teens ages 13–14) and is the indispensable tool for Brave Writer parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.


Movie Wednesday Master List


Brave Writer

Movie Fun for the Whole Family

Brave Writer Movie Fun

Have you ever thought of a movie as a text to study just as you would a novel? 

Movies have all of the elements found in a book:

  • plot,
  • character development,
  • setting,
  • dialogue, and
  • writer’s craft (including literary devices).

And you can explore it all in under two hours! 

While movies are not a one-to-one replacement for reading books, they have their own value.

Movies can: 

  • expand cultural literacy. 
  • offer fuel for big juicy conversations.
  • allow for a quick look at the unfolding of a plot arc.
  • reveal the plot and basic story elements so, later, the reader can sink into the genre and writing style of a difficult-to-read author. 
  • enrich the reading experience. 
  • provide an opportunity to compare and contrast. 
  • inspire insights about both necessary and unnecessary changes made to fit the new medium (film). 

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the power of movies!

Did you know you can provide your child with a rich learning experience by watching a movie and just selecting a few passages from the corresponding book to study?

You can! And what a way to wrap up the school year!

To make it easy, we’ve curated a list of books with movie companions and either a Dart, Arrow, or Boomerang to help you explore the book:


Find the complete Movie Wednesday Master List here.


Brave Writer Guide to the Movies

FREE Guide: Brave Writer Goes to the Movies

Calling All Stargirl Fans

Calling Stargirl Fans

Stargirl fans! Grab your ukuleles, Stargirl is coming to the silver screen!

Well, okay—the small screen in your living room, but that’s not nearly as dramatic.

The Stargirl movie will release on Disney+ March 13th!

Tip: Find a friend with Disney+ and have a watch party with your teens.


[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


Not a Stargirl fan yet?

Prepare for the movie by reading the book —and dig deeper into the book with the Stargirl Boomerang (literature-based language arts guide)!

Brave Writer mom Christyn shared her experience working through the Stargirl Boomerang with her daughter:

Stargirl was a book and Boomerang selected on a whim, a last-minute addition to our fall semester…and I’m so glad I made that choice. The story of this smart and whimsical homeschooled teenager fit perfectly with our overarching theme of “identity” this year and opened up some poignant conversations, especially when paired with the Think Piece Questions.

My daughter and I both enjoyed the “Try It!” sections: Week One’s playing with metaphors was a favorite.

The Boomerang guided us deep into the book, drawing our attention to figurative language, setting, and dialogue, and a discussion of how the author’s specific choices enhanced the story.

The “Inside Scoop” and “Beyond the Passage” sections added another layer of insight and discussion. To paraphrase from the Week One dictation passage, I was perpetually astonished at the depth of the story that the Boomerang unlocked for us, but I never had to wonder what we might be missing: the Boomerang’s attention to detail covered everything the story had to offer.

We <3 Stargirl — and immediately ordered the sequel, “Love, Stargirl”!

Note: The “Inside Scoop” and “Beyond the Passage” sections were added to the Boomerangs in August 2019. 

Stargirl is a quick read with lots of topics to inspire Big Juicy Conversations with teens!

Grab the Stargirl Boomerang


What’s a Boomerang? Read on to learn more!

The Boomerang is your boots-on-the-ground master tour guide, intrepidly leading you through the challenging terrain of high school literature.

Our language arts field guides:

  • Choose a powerful novel to read
  • Select four insightful passages for copywork and dictation
  • Offer expert, easy-to-understand language notes for you and your teen
  • Guide students in literary analysis
  • Plan book club parties so you don’t have to (select issues)!

Boomerangs are available as

  • single issues or
  • a discounted 10 month program which includes a skills tracker, a weekly planner, and access to a private Facebook group for support and training.

Psst: The Boomerang program is also available in our bundles for teens!


Brave Writer Arrow and Boomerang Programs

Movie Wednesday: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Brave Writer Movie Wednesday Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum

After the planet Earth is destroyed by Vogons to make way for an intergalactic bypass, Arthur Dent, the last surviving human man, hitchhikes to safety along with his alien friend, Ford, aboard the Vogon ship. Soon afterwards, they are dumped into space by the Vogons, where they once again hitchhike aboard the ship of Trillian (the last human woman) and the President of the Galaxy (who also happens to have two heads), Zaphod Beeblebrox, and they become immediately swept up into the quest to find the ultimate question of the universe.


[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


Originally a radio comedy series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams was published in 1979 and has become a science fiction classic.

In 2005 a major motion picture adaptation was released with a screenplay co-written by Douglas Adams, who sadly passed away before the film was completed.

Under the guise of absurdist humor, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy deals with themes of bureaucracy, callousness, whether life has meaning, and seeing things from someone else’s point of view.

Discussion Questions

  • Arthur Dent is the Every Man, meant to stand in for the audience members. But if you were in Arthur Dent’s position as one of the last surviving humans, how do you think you would react? Would you react like Arthur or in some other way?
  • Trillian is the only female member of the main cast. How do you think the story might change if more of the characters were women?
  • If you could custom build a planet as we see in the film, what would your planet be like?
  • If you were to write a chapter on yourself in the Hitchhiker’s Guide, what would it say?

Additional Resources

DIY Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Towel Bag (YouTube video)

Brave Writer’s FREE movie discussion guide

Brave Writer’s January 2020 Book/Movie Duo online class (recommended for ages 11-14) will explore the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!


BoomerangLearn language arts with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Boomerang!

The Boomerang is a monthly digital downloadable product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel. It is geared toward 8th to 10th graders (ages 12—advanced, 13-15) and is the indispensable tool for Brave Writer parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.

Movie Wednesday: Sense and Sensibility

Brave Writer Movie Wednesday Sense and Sensibility

by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum

The Dashwood sisters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, are left penniless when Mr. Dashwood passes away, leaving everything to their half-brother who forces them to move out of their own home and live meagerly with distant relatives. In the country, the young women encounter love and heartache as they navigate their new social status.


[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen was originally published in 1811. It’s original by line read: “By a Lady.” But today Jane Austen might be one of the most recognizable author names on any given shelf in a bookstore.

In 1995 Austen’s novel was adapted to the big screen as a major motion picture. Directed by Ang Lee, the film stars Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant.

Much of Austen’s work, if not all of it, falls under the genre of novels of manners. Novels of manners are deeply concerned with, well, manners. That is to say, the social conventions, restrictions, and behaviors that “define a class.”

In Sense and Sensibility, a lot of emphasis is given to how characters behave when interacting with others, sometimes in juxtaposition with how society feels they ought to behave. Characters who behave “improperly” are sneered at or judged by those around them.

A central struggle many characters face is how to forge meaningful relationships around the restrictions on class and gender interactions put on them by society, and much of both the comedy and drama arises from how awkward following these conventions can make a conversation.

Discussion Questions

  • At the time during which Sense and Sensibility is set only men could inherit property, so the Dashwood sisters and their mother are deprived of their home and forced to live in the countryside. What other examples from the story can you think of that show the different social restrictions and expectations placed on men and women?
  • Do you think the film provides sufficient evidence of the change in Marianne’s affections towards Colonel Brandon at the end of the film or does it feel too sudden? Explain your answer.
  • Of the Dashwood sisters, whom do you relate to the most and why?
  • A character arc is when a character fundamentally changes as a result of their experiences. Example: Marianne journeys from innocent naivety to a more subdued practicality after her heart is broken by Willoughby. Do you think Elinor has a character arc? And if so, in what ways do you think she demonstrates growth over the course of the story?

Additional Resources

Brave Writer Boomerang Book ClubSign up now for our online Boomerang Book Club for Sense and Sensibility (class begins January 1, 2019).

Our book discussions are drawn from rich works of fiction that will easily fulfill the English credit requirement for literature for a year of high school.

Also check out our Brave Writer ideas for a Jane Austen Deep Dive including:

  • novels,
  • films,
  • writing
  • prompts,
  • tutorials, and more!

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