Make time dur­ing hol­i­days to see ‘Green Book,’ Mr. Movie says

Tri-City Herald - - Front Page - BY GARY WOL­COTT Mr. Movie


“Green Book” is ba­si­cally a two-per­son movie. There are sup­port­ing char­ac­ters here and there, but the film’s fo­cus is a short trip that Dr. Don Shirley and his body­guard Tony “Lip” Val­le­longa took in the deep South in 1962. It is about how two vastly dif­fer­ent men en­counter and deal with the racism that ex­isted in the deep South as well as the sup­pos­edly non-racist North.

The trip by the African-Amer­i­can jazz pian­ist is con­sid­ered his­toric. Dou­ble that when you con­sider the per­son driv­ing him and ba­si­cally act­ing as a chauf­feur is a racist Ital­ian bouncer. Mak­ing the trip even more un­usual when con­sid­er­ing Shirley is ed­u­cated, re­fined, el­e­gant and very tal­ented and Val­le­longa is a crude, un­so­phis­ti­cated goon with Mafia ties.

Os­car win­ner Ma­her­shala Ali stars as Shirley and Viggo Mortensen plays Val­le­longa. They give two of the best male per­for­mances of the year.

Ali does Shirley as a guy wound up as tight as one of his piano wires. He’s a clearly un­happy man that doesn’t fit in any­one’s world, not black, not white, not any­where. He ap­pears con­trolled and con­trol­ling but what lit­tle control he ac­tu­ally has hap­pens with the mu­sic he plays.

And even that isn’t pleas­ing. Mortensen’s Val­le­longa is ex­actly the op­po­site. He’s crude and is clearly out­classed by class. Out of his com­fort zone and han­dling the driv­ing chores for Shirley, he and his boss deal with the racism tossed at Shirley on the trip.

Look for one — or both — to get award nom­i­na­tions at year’s end. By the way, Ali’s act­ing is so good that you ac­tu­ally be­lieve he is play­ing the piano with the skill of a concert pian­ist. The mu­sic and play­ing of the piano — how­ever — is done by Kris Bow­ers who did the movie’s score.

“Green Book” — true or not — will give you thoughts that this is “Driv­ing Miss Daisy” in re­verse. It will also have you run­ning down the list all of the buddy movies you’ve ever seen and draw­ing com­par­isons.

At first Shirley and Val­le­longa — pre­dictably — get along about as well as oil and wa­ter. As the film pro­gresses, the bond gets tighter and — presto — you have 2018’s best feel good movie. For some, it might be this year’s best pic­ture.

While I hate the pre­dictabil­ity of feel good flicks, they are not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing. These days — af­ter the non-stop bad news me­dia bom­bard­ment we’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing lately — it’s kind of nice to leave a the­ater with a big smile on the face.

An­other plus, un­like most films “based” on true events, my re­search says this story — while con­densed from 18months to a cou­ple — is fairly ac­cu­rate. It is what hap­pened to these two, ex­tra­or­di­nary in­di­vid­u­als at a time with the coun­try was suf­fer­ing through the birth pangs of the Civil Rights move­ment. Or so says screen­play writer Nick Val­le­longa, who just hap­pens to be Tony’s son.

Book “Green Book” on your list of hol­i­day movies. It’s worth the trip.

Rated PG-13 for ma­ture themes. It’s play­ing at the Fairchild Queens­gate 12.

Rat­ing: 5 out of 5


Steven Spiel­berg’s “Schindler’s List” is in the­aters again for a brief run. The film is cel­e­brat­ing the 25th an­niver­sary of its re­lease. By 1993, we all al­ready knew Spiel­berg was a great di­rec­tor and sto­ry­teller. He’d wowed us with “Jaws,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “E.T. the Ex­tra Ter­res­trial,” “Close En­coun­ters of the Third Kind” and ear­lier in 1993, “Juras­sic Park.”

How­ever, it is “Schindler’s List” — and later 1998’s “Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan” — that for­ever ce­mented his place as one of the great di­rec­tors of all time.

Most con­sid­ered it 1993’s best pic­ture and Spiel­berg the best di­rec­tor. Many of us — in­clud­ing me — con­sider it to be one of the best movies ever. The film won dozens of de­served awards in­clud­ing seven Os­cars and three Golden Globes. Liam Nee­son and Ralph Fi­ennes picked up act­ing nom­i­na­tions. Nei­ther won.

As for Spiel­berg, his de­ci­sion to do the movie in black and white was bril­liant. It adds a stark, hope­less­ness to the plight of the film’s vic­tims.

You’re go­ing to find it odd that I sum up what’s im­por­tant about one movie by quot­ing a line from an­other. How­ever, in this case, it fits. In the movie “Star­man” Jeff Bridges’ alien char­ac­ter makes a state­ment about what his species finds in­ter­est­ing about the Earth.

“Shall I tell you what I find beau­ti­ful about you?” he asks. “You are at your very best when things are worst.” And that per­fectly de­fines the rea­son “Schindler’s List” res­onated 25-years ago in 1993 and why it res­onates with us to­day.

The “very best” from the quote was Oskar Schindler and oth­ers like him. They were the best at the time when hu­mans may have been their worst ever.

While we must not — and can­not — ever for­get what the Nazis and Adolph Hitler did to seven mil­lion Jews, we must also never for­get the thou­sands of oth­ers who at­tempted to pro­tect them.

In ev­ery hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis there is an Oskar Schindler. That was true in the 1940s. It was also true in 1993 and is true in 2018.

I made my youngest son — who was 12 a the time — go with me to the see the film. Twen­ty­five years ago, “Schindler’s List” was a very im­por­tant movie. It is a very im­por­tant movie to­day. Maybe you’ve never seen the film. Or maybe your 12-year old hasn’t seen it ei­ther.

This is a great time to see it and to­day you can see it — once again — where it be­longs, on the big screen.

Rated R for ma­ture themes, vi­o­lence, lan­guage and nu­dity. It’s play­ing at the AMC Clas­sic Ken­newick 12.

Rat­ing: 5 out of 5


“Elf” fa­nat­ics this one is for you. The movie is in the­aters again for a lim­ited re­lease. It’s been 15 years since Will Far­rell did “Elf” and moved from just mak­ing com­edy movies to be­ing a com­edy movie le­gend whose films are an al­most au­to­matic box of­fice hit.

In the lists com­piled by var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions on the most pop­u­lar Christ­mas movies, “Elf” al­ways finds its way into the

top-10. Most have the movie in the five best. I’m not a Far­rell fan. I guess I can see what makes him pop­u­lar with the masses and what makes this movie his most pop­u­lar film ever.

It didn’t work for me in 2003 and doesn’t work for me to­day. It will — how­ever — likely work for you.

Rated PG for ma­ture themes. It’s play­ing at the AMC Clas­sic Ken­newick 12.

Rat­ing: 2 1⁄ out of 5



Viggo Mortensen, left, and Os­car win­ner Ma­her­shala Ali give two of the best male per­for­mances of the year in “Green Book.”

Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures via AP

“Green Book” tells about Dr. Don Shirley (Ma­her­shala Ali, right) and his body­guard Tony “Lip” Val­le­longa (Viggo Mortensen) in 1962.

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