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.

WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR – THE STORY OF FRED ROGERS AND HIS NEIGHBORHOOD

SHORT TAKE:

Lovely, delightful and moving documentary covering the life of both Fred Rogers and his Neighborhood.

WHO SHOULD SEE IT:

Absolutely everyone. No really – unequivocally, no holds barred, universally, unabashedly, and without even the smallest reservation – EVERYONE!!!!

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LONG TAKE:

When I was a kid, I had a brother and sister who were 9 and 10 years older, respectively, than I. Come to think of it, they STILL are 9 and 10 years older. Also, my Dad and I were buddies. I’d go to the hardware store with him, and I would hang around and “help” him with construction projects around our house. He was 40 when I was born. My point is that when we turned on the TV it was “Fractured Fairy Tales” on Rocky and Bullwinkle, Star Trek, Hogan’s Heroes, Abbot and Costello, The Great Escape, Wagon Train and The Magnificent Seven. The quiet and gentle wisdom of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and his cardigan sweaters was just not on my radar. So later, when I had kids, while I respected the show, and thought he was doing something nice for kids, I just wasn’t that interested.

So I was surprised by my own emotional reaction to Won’t You Be My Neighbor. I realized then that Fred Rogers had seeped, ever so slowly, into my consciousness with his gentle, joyful manner over the last 50 years. He was simply a kind and decent man who both advocated as a motto of his show and lived by the personal  ethic: “I like you just the way you are.” Fred Rogers spent his life wisely, as the personification of Jesus' answer to the question which preambled the parable of The Good Samaritan: "Who is my neighbor?" There is no doubt in my mind that the name of his show was intended as an incarnation of that answer – that, to Mr. Rogers, everyone was his neighbor. And Fred Rogers' personal Inspired ministry was to bring God's Love to all people in a very practical, first hand way – by demonstration.

St. Francis famously advocated to: “Preach always, sometimes even with words.” Fred Rogers, through his actions, showed himself to be an avid disciple. Though the subject of Fred Rogers’ specific spiritual beliefs came up sparingly in the documentary, aside from the fact of his ordination as a minister, his adherence to the foundational Christian belief that all men are brothers, beloved of and equal in God’s eyes, comes out boldly and profoundly in everything Fred Rogers did, or said.

The documentary dips into the very deep well of video on which he appears. Not just the copies of almost 1,000 shows, but his personal appearances on interview programs, at schools, and even before Congress! There is no lack of documentation of Fred Rogers’ progress from his early philosophical musings before a piano on teaching children about serious issues, probably filmed by his wife, in 1962, all the way through the blooper video clips from his very last show in 2001 and his PSA in 2002 on 9/11.

The documentary interviews his wife, his sons, John and Jim, his co-workers, friends, associates, and other interviewers. They come from many walks of life, and life styles. But all people were equal in Fred Rogers’ eyes. Rogers maintained a tight ship, monitoring every aspect of the show, and required understandably scrupulous behavior, watching over the reputation of the show with care and affection for everyone involved in the production. Mr. Rogers, for example, forbade one actor from frequenting a particular bar and Betty Aberlin (Lady Aberlin) from appearing in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. However, Rogers’ fatherly supervision of his cast and crew did not discourage a certain level of good-natured juvenile behavior amongst those Mrs. Rogers remembered he called his “playmates”, such as practical jokes on set or a poster made from a tasteless but amusing photo clandestinely left on Rogers’ camera by a mischievous member of the crew.

SPOILERS

Back in the 1960's, there were topics, it was understood, that children’s programming just would not explore. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood’s stock in trade was the places where angels would fear to tread. He tackled issues head on that many adults avoided: death, divorce, lost children, serious illness, and disabilities. He had guest stars, wrote books, made appearances, did interviews, and performed puppet plays intended to translate these complex topics in ways which children could understand, talk about, and express their confusions and concerns.

The cast and crew were close and the show was very personal to everyone involved. Daniel the Tiger, the avatar most close to Fred Roger's heart and personality, according to those who knew him best, often spoke of insecurity and self doubt. King Friday XIII and his Queen dealt frequently with parental concerns. Everyone on the cast was known by a real name. Lady Aberlin's name was Betty Aberlin, Officer Clemmons was, in real life, the powerhouse singer, Francois Scarborough Clemmons, and the name Mr. McFeely, though played by David Newell, was Fred Rogers' middle name.

In the ‘60's, when black people were forced out of public pools, Fred Rogers pointedly invited Francois Clemmons, a black man portraying Mr. Rogers’ local police officer, to come join him on a hot day as he soaked his feet in a child’s plastic pool and to share his towel. Fred Rogers went out of his way to rinse Officer Clemmons' feet with his hose and offer him his towel. There is no mistaking the reference to Jesus' washing of his disciples feet nor of the point Mr. Rogers made. I couldn’t help but laugh as Mr. Rogers looked up at the camera from contemplating their cooling feet. There was an expression I'd never seen on the face of this usually sweet, impeturbable man –  just a glimpse of his righteousness anger at the injustices which inspired this demonstration, as though, for a moment, he was staring down anyone who would dare question his actions. I hoped those at the time, he was silently addressing, had seen and squirmed in shame. Mr. Roger and Mr. Clemmons re-enacted the event some years later.

When Bobby Kennedy was murdered, Fred Rogers’ show had Lady Aberlin and Daniel the Tiger discuss what the word “assassination” meant. When the Challenger blew up in front of millions of kids, Fred Rogers was there to confront the topic with his beloved puppets in ways small children could understand. When the horrific attack on our country was made by Islamic terrorists on 9/11, Fred Rogers came out of retirement, ill with only months left before he would pass away, to offer comfort to 33 years of children who had grown up watching him.

Mr. Rogers was the personification of kindness and the exemplification of Jesus’ instruction to his apostles as he sent them to preach, to be: “…wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Rogers  loved and put at ease everyone he met, but was uncompromising in his beliefs and could talk anybody into anything he believed was right.

Rogers’ powers of persuasion were legendary. Mr. Clemmons, during the documentary, explained that just portraying a police officer as a black man at the time was initially out of his comfort zone, because he had grown up afraid of police. But Clemmons put on the uniform and gave good example, portraying this character for decades. Mr. Rogers could reason anyone into doing the right thing, including convincing an extremely prejudiced and skeptical Congressman Pastore out of the 20 MILLION dollars needed in 1969 to keep a fledgling Public Broadcast System afloat, by simply being reasonable. See the Youtube of Rogers' appearance before the subcommittee here.

Mr. Rogers recognized what a force for good the power of the television medium could be and how its worth was being wasted on frivolous, violent and brainless assaults on children’s senses. His mind set was to minister to children of all ages by taking their feelings and thoughts seriously, and help them cope with the normal struggles of life. He featured everyone from the profoundly physically challenged Jeffrey Erlanger to a young Wynton Marsalis to the famous Julia Child to Koko the Gorilla. Yo Yo Ma, the famous cellist, not only appeared several times on the show, but was a friend, was interviewed for the documentary, and is credited by the director, Morgan Neville, as being the inspiration for the documentary. While interviewing Mr. Ma for a different project, Mr. Neville asked Mr. Ma how he dealt with fame. Ma's response surprised him – that he learned it from Mr. Rogers who, it turned out, assured Mr. Ma that fame was not an inherently bad thing, and mentored him on the appropriate ways to use this gift.

Like Colonel Pickering, who treated even a flower girl like Elisa Doolittle as though she were a lady, Mr. Rogers treated everyone alike, to be valued as a child of God. His love for every man was carried out in his prison ministry, and his outreach to adults, Old Friends, New Friends which aired during the hiatus of his Neighborhood during 1967-8.

He was a missionary of fraternal love to mankind and The Good Samaritan to the world. I am so glad his ministry lives on in his shows, in the memories of his friends, family, co-workers and those children, now adults, who watched him and were positively influenced.  The picture of humility, his wife remembered how on his death bed he wondered if he would be accepted into Jesus' sheepfold. Known world wide, recognized and admired by celebrities, all he thought of himself was God's unworthy servant.

In this, the 50th anniversary year of his show’s debut, not only will a commemorative U.S. postage stamp featuring Fred Rogers be released, but work has begun on a biopic of the legendary minister, starring Tom Hanks, planned for release in 2019.

Jesus said the second half of the greatest law is to: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Rogers was an ordained minister, so it was obviously not a coincidence that in the world of his “Neighborhood,Fred Rogers' declared, by word and action, daily, that he liked his fellow man, with a Christian love, just the way they were. St. Francis should be proud.

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!!!