GREEN BOOK – MUST SEE COMEDY-DRAMA LESSON ON HISTORY AND HUMANITY

AUDIO PODCAST OPTION OF GREEN BOOK REVIEW

 

SHORT TAKE:

Excellent buddy dramedy based closely on the real life friendship between a black gifted but haughty pianist and the thuggish but fundamentally noble white bouncer he hires to chauffeur him during a concert tour through the Deep South in the 1960’s.

WHO SHOULD GO:

Any mature mid-teen and up but with parental discretion due to language, the examination of extreme racism during this time period and some conversation topics.

LONG TAKE:

Green Book is one of the most delightfully charming movies I’ve seen in a long time. The story is about a New York Copacabana bouncer, Tony Vallelonga, conventionally bigoted for the 1960s, hired as the driver for a brilliant black pianist, Dr. Donald Shirley, for a concert tour through the Deep South.

Based on a true story, Tony Vallelonga was already a part of Hollywood. The real Vallelonga appeared in movies like Goodfellas. His son, Nick, wrote and helped produce this movie based upon interviews with him and Dr. Shirley about this road trip taken when Nick was a little boy.

The title refers to the name of the catalogue the men use as a guide for the places that black people were allowed to go – the hotels, vacation spots, tourist areas, bars, and gas stations where black people could stay without fear of harassment from regional authorities and punitive local ordinances. The title comes from its author, Victor Hugo Green, a New York postman and a black man. The book was published yearly from 1936 until 1966, when Civil Rights Law made it, thankfully, obsolete.

The unlikely pair are wonderful to watch. An entire play could have been made just out of their time in the car together as they exchange observations of the world from their own unique perspectives. Tony is white, tough, with a mediocre education, naive in his own way, and world-wise in others, who lives in a simple small house with his devoted wife and two boys,  living somewhat hand to mouth, between jobs, even willing to engage in a hot dog eating contest for an extra $50 towards the soon-to-be due rent. Shirley also grew up poor, but after being recognized for his gifted playing has become an effete, sheltered, black man residing in an artfully appointed apartment literally above Carnegie Hall. He distances himself from his black heritage in particular and most people in general. Both have much to teach the other.

We get a tour of 1960’s Americana, from the gift stands at the local gas stations to the tough bars, and the “coloreds only” seedy hotels to which Dr. Shirley is relegated because of the color of his skin.

The acting is Oscar-worthy. Mortensen, stepping, chameleon-like into the skin of this gruff and uneducated but likeable and protective bodyguard, is almost unrecognizable in physique, mannerisms or even speech patterns from such previous characters as the seduced professor Halder from Good or the incorruptible hero Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. Along with the accent, the body movements and facial expressions of Vallelonga, which surviving son Nick claimed were so accurate they brought him to tears, Mortensen gained 45 pounds to get into character. Mortensen’s Vallelonga is a three-dimensional character from moment one on the screen throughout. Brutal and thoughtful, principled and amoral, loving father, devoted faithful husband, and violent bouncer, Mortensen creates a completely recognizable person from characteristics which could have lent themselves to a cliched caricature.

Mahershala Ali (small parts in Hidden Figures and Hunger Games) does an excellent job of portraying the stiff and defensive Shirley while incorporating the subtle chinks in his armor through which the unassuming Vallelonga connects. His Shirley is sensitive and subtle with a tough core of dignity, principle, and determined courage.

Linda Cardellini (Daddy’s Home) is lovely as Tony’s devoted wife, Dolores. In real life the Vallelongas were happily married for 41 years until her death in 1999.

In addition there is the fantastic music, and delightful songs played in classical mode by Dr. Shirley. The background soundtrack was written by Karol Bowers whose hands, through the miracle of CGI, physically sub for the gifted Dr. Shirley piano performances. Much effort went into blending Ali’s physical performance with Bowers piano playing prowess and it works very convincingly.

Peter Farrelly, whose credits up until now mostly amounted to questionable  movies such as Three Stooges, Movie 43 and Shallow Hal, has really found his inspiration in this script. Green Book is masterfully crafted – balancing the natural humor that comes from people simply interacting with each other against the tragic drama of abuse, condescension and indignities which black people endured all over the country during the 1960’s. Every detail is complete and period – from the gas station gift stands full of trinkets to the chandeliered restaurants and the florid night clubs.

By all accounts the script details both their trip and their characters very accurately, coalescing experiences described in interviews with both Vallelonga and Shirley. The only liberty taken was that the road trip lasted, not two months, but a year and a half! While taken directly and in detail from real life, the story still serves as an allegory. Vallelonga is an  example of the transformation America was making from the caricature perceptions of minorities to the informed friendships and respect which would soon be crafted, blossom and become commonplace all over the country.

Historically educational, were it not for the rough language, admittedly appropriate to the characters, their occupations, times and places, and one scene depicting a massive character flaw of Shirley, this movie would be family-appropriate. As it is, while I very highly recommend this movie, it is only for midteens and up and even then only upon the discretion of a pre-informed parent. The language is not confined to profanity, but is littered with historically accurate racial epithets often casually included in conversation.

This is a movie both men should be very proud of having made. It touches on very sensitive racial issues from the ’60’s but does so with politically incorrect good natured humor, an acknowledgement of the past with both its virtues and its mistakes, and attention to detail in authenticity which would have made any history professor proud.

With its slice of the past, the inspirational character learning curves, the marvelous music, and the splendid performances, time going to see Green Book is time well spent.

A WRINKLE IN TIME – RE-REVIEW – A GLOWING EXAMPLE OF LIBERAL COMMON NON-SENSE

I have long maintained that liberals in Hollywood were willing to throw money away on financing abyssmal movies if they think it will further whatever agenda they are after: socialism, destruction of the definition of marriage, sexualization of children, artifically inflammed racial divisiveness, atheism. I have had a lot of conversations with people who don't believe me – that they think "Hollywood" will learn their lesson when this or that movie fails.

I hate to disabuse them of the notion that liberals have the slightest bit of common sense but one only needs to read the following article on the deserved thrashing A Wrinkle in Time is getting to understand how far liberals will go: A Wrinkle in Time:…$100 million…Disney…Bomb

In this article you will read quotes by the sneering and smug Ava DuVernay, a stridently vociferous anti-Trump liberal and the director of this $100 million turkey. “I don’t care what anybody thinks about it,” she told the Times. “I know it’s $100 million for the studio. They’ll be fine.” In typical liberalese – she doesn't care that Disney may have just lost $100 million so she could display her little propaganda tantrum – why SHOULD she care? It's not her money she is wasting.

For a more detailed review about the movie in general go to my previous review of this waste of celluloid at: A Wrinkle in Time – Disturbing and Repulsive

I don't feel sorry for Disney. After all they knew what they were getting into when they funded this bomb. But let's be clear about what it is they have done.

Many of the reviewers went right along with Ms. DuVernay's sentiment, bending themselves into pretzels attempting to avoid saying A W.I.T. is a BAD movie:

Marie Claire of the Hollywood Reporter: ’A Wrinkle in Time’ isn’t a great movie, but that’s completely irrelevant.”

Yolanda Machado, a free lance film journalist said, “Because of this film, my daughter will never question that she can be strong.”

The FOX article reads: "One reviewer called it a 'big bold beautiful mess' before praising DuVernay for 'swinging for the fences' with a 'not great' script.'"

Ms. DuVernay CLAIMS she is trying to demonstrate that black women can be shown as strong leaders. This is all a massive load of what Biff Tannen and his relatives kept falling head first into in the Back to the Future movies.

For the purpose of the following points some acquaintance of the original book's story is necessary – check out: Wikipedia Synopsis of: A Wrinkle in Time

First, Meg's race is irrelevant. Storm Reid is terrific as Meg. The only ones who care what race she is are the liberal racists. The story of A Wrinkle in Time depends on a daughter's love for her family and not at all on the race of the family members. As long as the genetics are logical or there is a mention of adoption, the young lady could be Chinese, Hispanic, white, black, Indonesian, Aleusian or any combination. (As in, if two white people have a black baby or two black people have a white baby some mention of adoption would need to be thrown into the script for the sake of practicality.) Meg being black has NOTHING to do with the story one way or the other and I couldn't have cared less. All that is required is acting ability which Ms. Reid has. Meg's race is irrelevant.

Second, the original story HAD a strong female character that everyone followed. At the risk of SPOILERS, in the end, not even Meg's father could go back and save Charles Wallace. ONLY – and I repeat this emphasized emphatically ONLY Meg could or was even allowed by the Mrs. W's to return for her younger brother. Meg was the only one whose love was strong enough. (It was explained that her father had not seen his son in four years and Calvin had only just met him.) Calvin, in the book, followed Meg like a puppy the entire way. He was a strong character in and of himself, but recognized Meg's purpose and inner vigorous soul. What Ms. DuVernay proposed was nothing Madeleine L'Engle had not already put in the original source material. In other words DUVERNAY IS TAKING PLAGERISTIC CREDIT FOR SOMETHING ALREADY IN THE BOOK!

Third, and most importantly, even if what Ms. DuVernay said was true or even believed was true – that she had sought to make a movie which showed a strong black woman in the lead – there was ZERO reason to make the single change which has made this movie such a spectacular BOMB. Ms. DuVernay has stripped the flesh off of the reason the story was written. She deliberately, and I believe with malice, removed every iota of Christianity there was to be found in what is essentially a Christian allegory.

I really didn't care one way or another about The Golden CompassThe Golden Compass was another child's story which was filmed as an anti-religious tome and bombed. The G.C. was written by Philip Pullman, a self-described atheist, as an atheistic yawner and was so filmed, receiving the attention it deserved – earning less than half of its production budget.

But A Wrinkle in Time was created as a CHRISTIAN allegory by a devout CHRISTIAN and DuVernay has gone out of her way to brutalize it. You'd think Disney, if not the agenda-driven Ms. DuVernay, would have exercised more foresight and not dumped quite so much money into a movie which shoves a middle finger in the face of the very demographic who made the source book a children's classic. I mean – from a business P.O.V. alone you'd think they would have filmed it with the intent with which it was written to bring in the moolah from the audience who liked the book in the first place! But, in keeping with longstanding liberal "ethics," as long as it is someone else's money, they do not care if it is thoughtlessly and carelessly fizzled away.

Yes, make the lead child a black girl – make her Tibetan or Hawaiian – who cares one way or the other?  I LOVED Storm Reid as Meg. She brought a fierce intensity to the role as the determined and dogged young lady who devotedly goes to rescue her father in the face of tremendous uncertainities and great evil. It is a tragedy that DuVernay took a great performance and threw it away on her trash fire of New Age proselytizing.

DuVernay is a poster child for my now proven assertion that Hollywood is willing to throw away a fortune to foist their own ungrateful dystopian indoctrination into the very culture that tolerates them the way no other culture would. And until and unless they manage to chokehold us into sponsoring their ideologies through taxation or forced attendance, the movie going public will likely continue to vote with their closed pocketbook.

To sum up – Ms DuVernay is using the race of this lovely child actress as a smoke screen to hide her anti-Christian agenda. And to me this is not just nonsense – it a demonstration of racism, child abuse and religious bigotry. SHAME ON YOU MS. DUVERNAY!!!

MARSHALL – WELL DONE STEP BACK INTO HISTORY

SHORT TAKE:

Fascinating re-creation of one of Justice Thurgood Marshall's early cases and brilliant home runs for both Chadwick Boseman "Black Panther" (the superhero, not the violent political group) as Marshall and Josh Gad as his reluctant Jewish co-counsel.

LONG TAKE:

When you make a movie about a figure as historically significant as Thurgood Marshall (the first black United States Supreme Court Justice), it is tempting for the filmmakers to want to cover his entire life story. The creators of Marshall, however, wisely and cleverly instead, focus on one of his early cases, The State of Connecticutt vs. Joseph Spell, and use it as a microcosm of Justice Marshall’s life’s work and legal career.

The story which plays out during the course of the movie like an episode of Perry Mason, is the little known but real case of Eleanor Strubing who accused her back chauffeur Joseph Spell of raping, binding, then throwing her in the reservoir. Spell claimed he was innocent.

Chadwick (Black Panther) Boseman steps into the shoes of the young Thurgood Marshall with the self confidence that makes him believable portraying both the man who would eventually be appointed as a Justice to the United States Supreme Court as well as leader of the Black Panther Clan and King of Wakanda in the upcoming Black Panther franchise.

And in a surprise turn Josh (Murder on the Orient Express) Gad hits his second homerun as Sam Friedman, a Jewish lawyer, familiar with being the target of bigotry himself, who normally only did insurance civil cases but was dragged into this controversy magnet legal team with extreme reluctance by the necessity to have a local co-counsel for Marshall, the unwanted and out of state lawyer.

The story examines the bigotry and prejudice in the high society and northern judicial system rampant in Connecticut, which institutional racism was not only aimed at blacks but also towards the tragically frightened Jews of the pre-World War II community who are just beginning to hear the horror stories coming out of Germany.

Kate (Goldie Hawn’s daughter, Nine, Raising Helen, You, Me & Dupree) Hudson plays Eleanor Strubing, the socialite ice queen around whom the turmoil spins. Dan (Beauty and the Beast, Night at the Museum) Stevens is Loren Willis, the aristocratic, well connected prosecuting attorney. And James (Babe, I Robot) Cromwell presides as Judge Foster, a man not a stranger to expressing racism himself.

Gad and Boseman hit all the marks of good chemistry, bringing a comfortable and occasionally humorous friendly-antagonistic buddy movie element to the story, as well as embody the rich history of those who were not respected in the autocratic northern communities. Bonded by the common state of being accomplished men who were nonetheless outcasts, they begin from polar opposite goals – Friedman from a desire initially to keep his head down and not connected to this highly charged case, and Marshall who seeks to frankly use Spell to further the "greater good" goals of the fledgling N.A.A.C.P. Boseman and Friedman inform each other during the course of the movie into operating outside of their normal comfort zones, and the result is a team I would enjoy seeing work together again.

There is much more food for fodder in the life of Justice Marshall and it would be interesting to see it played out if done as well as this first installment.

There are adult themes in Marshall, involving sexuality both visually and discussed, including some graphic but necessary courtroom descriptions. There are demonstrations of institutionalized racism, some profanity and some violence. But the value of the story for older teens and up is well worth the discussions which will inevitably arise from the watching of this movie, especially between parents and children.