Al and Linda Lerner review “Fences” and “Hidden Figures” on Movies and Shakers

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“HIDDEN FIGURES”

This story should have been widely known long ago. It is based on the true lives of the women behind the scenes who were the human equivalent of computational computers. They are the smart African-American women  who used their mathematical skills to help NASA and the US launch a comeback into the space race getting astronauts John Glenn in orbit and then on to the moon.

This is more than a space history film, although the archival films showing the space program at that time are fascinating. And there is archival footage of the civil rights movement, too. This is also a sociology lesson in racial attitudes during the Mad Men era of the 1960’s.Women had a tough enough time proving themselves worthy, let alone equal to men in ability and intelligence. But for Black women, as portrayed in this film, it was almost impossible to get accepted, let alone recognized for a job well done.

“FENCES”

Combine the lyrical writing of Pulitzer prize winner, August Wilson, with the acting power of Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Add direction by Denzel himself, and the result is an emotional experience that stays with you long after the lights come back up in the theater.

Washington and Davis won Tony awards playing these same roles more than 100 times on Broadway. That doesn’t always translate to the big screen, but this time, it does. And it was shot in sequence, like the play. Washington says the words are the music. At one point, Troy doesn’t stop talking for 46 minutes! Denzel says we get to know how strongly he feels and violence is not necessary to express it.

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