Mr. Movie

Mr. Movie: ‘Green Book’, ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Elf’

Watch the official trailer for Green Book

Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga and Mahershala Ali as Dr. Donald Shirley in "Green Book".
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Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga and Mahershala Ali as Dr. Donald Shirley in "Green Book".

‘Green Book’

“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 18-months 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

Film schindlers list
Liam Neeson and Ben Kingsley in “Schindler’s List”. Courtesy photo

‘Schindler’s List’ 25th Anniversary

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. Twenty-five 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’

“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  1/2 out of 5

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