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Believe the hype: "Green Book" is a true crowd pleaser

Source: The Film Experience.
Found By: Lindi

Our thanks to Lindi for the find.

© Universal.
by Nathaniel R

The final day and a half of the very short but very fun Middleburg Film Festival went by with a whirl. We've since received word on the winners. Though Middleburg is a non-juried festival, the audience votes for a people's choice style prize. The documentary winner was Biggest Little Farm, a film about the director and his wife trying to develop a sustainable farm on 200 acres in California. Farm has been making the festival rounds for the past two months and is aiming for an April 2019 bow in movie theaters.

The narrative feature winner, echoing the crowd-response at TIFF a month earlier, went to Peter Farrelly's Green Book. Green Book was the closing film of the festival and I was able to catch its first screening on Sunday before racing to the airport to return home. The crowd went wild for it and it's worth noting that Middleburg has a more diverse audience than a lot of festivals (that's probably due to the vast social connections of the founder Sheila C Johnson, co-founder of BET who is one of the nation's richest African-American women and very involved in the arts). Sadly I wasn't able to attend the Q&A though I did manage to snap this photo before racing to the airport as the star Viggo Mortensen, the composer Kris Bowers, and director Peter Farrelly entered to a wild standing ovation to discuss the movie...

As mentioned yesterday on the podcast, watching Green Book with a crowd provides strong circumstantial evidence that the movie is going to be both a huge box office hit and a formidable Oscar contender. The movie tells the true 1960s story of a racist Italian boxer (Viggo Mortensen in an against-type comic star turn) with a huge appetite and terrible manners who reluctantly takes a job as a driver/bodyguard for an uptight intellectual Jamaican-American classical musician (Oscar winner Mahershala Ali of Moonlight fame). Together they road trip to the deep south for holiday concerts where the musician suffers more explicit racism than in his relatively privileged life as an elite musician in Manhattan. Along the way the driver becomes far more sympathetic to his employer's circumstances. Both performances are occassionally cartoonishly broad -- not entirely uncalled for given the film's tone -- and it's easy to fault the movie for its simplistic but inspirational implication; racism can be cured by friendship!

Few will mistake the movie for a deep investigation of our country's deeply entrenched race problem -- it's far more old school than that in that it safely condemns the blatant familiar racism of the segregated past with its high risk of violence in the South, and repeated plot points about separate bathrooms and accomodations ("Green Book" refers to an actual guide as to where African-Americans could stay during vacations -- sometimes the musician has to stay in total dive motels despite his wealth).

Yet somehow it all works in a kind of heightened movie-movie way. Mortensen and Ali's oil & water chemistry is a delight and the movie is often very funny, director Peter Farrelly (Dumb & Dumber, There's Something About Mary) being no stranger to pulling off big movie theater laughs. One particularly sweet thread involves Ali helping Viggo write letters to his wife (the always reliable Linda Cardinelli, adding great warmth and sensibility to every scene) while the two men are on the road. Despite that subplot the movie doesn't go the full dread 'magical negro' route, since it's much more balanced than that in what the characters do and become for each other (Mahershala Ali's "supporting" campaign is absurd since it's a two-hander with a little Cardilleni on the side)

With its enjoyable central friendship, clearly drawn lines of good and evil, charismatic actors, chill live-and-let-live vibe (who'da thunk 'live and let live' would feel so progressive in 2018. sigh), holiday scenes, and happy ending it's all very easy but quite satisfying. Given the sorry state of America these days with the White House condoned evils and renewed shamelessness of old school racism, it's possible that Green Book will work just like comfort food for exhausted goodhearted American audiences of many stripes when it opens for Thanksgiving. We'll see.

© The Film Experience. Images © Universal.

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Green Book – One of the Best Films of the Year and a Career High for the Shape Shifter that is Viggo Mortensen

Source: AwardsDaily

Seems Sasha Stone has changed her mind about Viggo since she trashed him a couple of years ago for being an actor with political opinions.


"Just like it’s satisfying nonetheless to watch Gene Hackman kick ignorant cracker ass in Mississippi Burning, it is equally satisfying to watch uneducated but tough guy Tony threaten the hillbillies in Green Book."

© Universal.
by Sasha Stone

Peter Farrelly's Green Book, which surprised everyone when it won in Toronto, is the kind of movie the gives back more than it takes. It's the kind of thing you didn't know you were missing until the credits roll. I've been covering the Oscars from the end of the Bill Clinton era and into the George W. Bush era, through the Obama era, and now into the Trump era. We're living through some dark days, so much so that many of us feel too tender to the touch, as though just waking up to live through another day is a challenge. Going all the way back to its inception, cinema has often been a salve for people in the most desperate of times. Fantasy and superhero franchise films have indeed come to dominate the movie theaters — after all, who can justify spending that kind of money if you don't walk out feeling like you got your money's worth. But there have been times when movies you pay to see give you your money's worth just by telling good stories, stories that can make you feel good.

The plot for Green Book is based loosely on a true story of a Bronx native, raised on racial epithets and segregated cultures of the immigrant working class outside Manhattan (also nicely explored in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, only in Brooklyn, but the same basic idea), who is hired to drive around a highly cultured academic who lives in a ritzy apartment above Carnegie Hall. The white guy is Viggo Mortensen as Tony Lip, and the black guy is Mahershala Ali as pianist Don Shirley.

It goes without saying that I'm a white writer writing about watching a film that is, first and foremost, about friendship, but also one about race. I'm only half the story here, and my reaction can only count for half. I can't possibly know what it feels like to watch the film as a non-white person. I can't pretend to. White-guilt culture has a history of movies that make white people look good in films about race, like Mississippi Burning, like Driving Miss Daisy, like The Help. There is always that one good white person to illustrate that not everyone is racist. Green Book might have a little of that, sure, but it also just gives us two beautifully drawn, brilliantly acted portraits of two people who lived and died in real life.

Green Book is drawn from the memory of Nick Vallelonga (also one of the screenwriters), whose father, Tony Vallelonga ("Tony Lip"), once drove Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) through the Deep South. He was his driver and bodyguard of sorts, keeping the racist jackholes off of him while he went to the places he was invited to play. Playing for rich folks in segregated, still-racist-to-this-day states like Alabama and Mississippi was historically important to Shirley, who knows that just playing there makes a difference, even if they don't allow you to use their restrooms or eat in their dining rooms.

Mortensen is unrecognizable as Tony Lip. As impressed as I've been with his ability to disappear into roles, he's never delivered such a fully realized character as this. There isn't a moment in the entire film where you remember it's an actor playing a part. He IS Tony Lip. Every throwaway glance, every wipe of his mouth, every cigarette smoked, every look, every laugh — all of it readable on his face. For all of Mortensen's gifts in shapeshifting, he has never quite been able to create such an intimate dialogue with the viewer as he does here. If he judged Tony too harshly, he could never have played him with so much innate humanity. Tony means well. He hasn't been taught well, but he means well and where I come from that counts for a lot.

And for everyone who thought Mahershala Ali was "playing himself" in Moonlight can at last see that he too is a versatile shape-shifter who is also unrecognizable as Don Shirley. Where in Moonlight he exuded confidence and sure-handed focus, here Ali is full of self-doubt, despite the careful pretenses he's adopted. His vulnerability peeks through his veneer. The real Don Shirley was raised in Jamaica and thus carried with him a snobbery against classless Americans (I was raised by a Jamaican, so I can attest to this). Ali's Shirley is playing a guy who mostly lives alone, gay in a time when you could not be (even worse, you could be killed for it). And if the movie glides a little too conveniently over Tony Lip's acceptance of Don's sexuality, remember: he worked at the Copacabana — he was used to variety in the sex department.

We're living through the kind of times where you are either good or bad, racist or not racist, homophobic or not, where people dig up decades old tweets as if to uncover, at last, that you really are one of those unforgivables we must purge from our ranks. But there are gray areas, particularly where generational shifts are concerned. We grow up where we grow up. We learn what we learn. But a genuinely good person can learn to open their hearts and their minds. Tony figures out pretty quickly that he really likes Don and Don figures out, a little less quickly, that he really likes Tony. They start there. Through their relationship they grow to be better people by letting the other one in.
Sure, this movie might be a harder sell if these actors weren't so utterly brilliant in their roles. But they are brilliant. They are so good that you end up wishing the movie would never end. From start to finish, Green Book is pleasure to sit through. You can sit almost anyone down in front of it and they will get it if not love it, and you Oscar watchers know what that means. There is always the one movie that comes out in a given year that you can pretty much recommend to just about anyone — and this year, Green Book is that movie. And you know what? We could use a lot more of these films in the film industry and in American culture.

Just like it's satisfying nonetheless to watch Gene Hackman kick ignorant cracker ass in Mississippi Burning, it is equally satisfying to watch uneducated but tough guy Tony threaten the hillbillies in Green Book. Unlike Mississippi Burning, however, the one scolding Tony isn't another white guy — it's Don Shirley, who believes dignity always wins out. Ali's role as Don Shirley is very nearly equal to Mortensen's. Both really are leads. I understand that Ali will "go supporting" because that's the best way to round the bases, Oscar wise, but indeed it's a film about both men: their limitations, their strengths, and how they teach each other a thing a two about a think or two. It is their warmth towards each other, their nimble acting chops, and finally, their ability to reveal the subtle shifts happening internally that makes Green Book such a riveting, moving, and entertaining couple of hours.

It isn't that the job of cinema is to make us feel good. The best films I've seen so far this year do what cinema is meant to do: take you places you've never been, take you into the minds and hearts of good people who do bad things — or make you uncomfortable, weird you out, shift your perspective on the ugly underside of humanity. And they can do the one thing that can sometimes be the difference between living and dying: send you out the door with a smile on your face and a little bit of hope for a better kind of life. That's what Green Book does, not because it's the job of cinema but because it's one thing cinema CAN do.

© AwardsDaily. Images © Universal.

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Universal Looks To Impact The Oscar Race With Two Potential Hits

Source: LRM Online

More Oscar buzz from LRM Online.

© Universal.
The other film said to be making an impact for Universal is the comedy-drama Green Book, starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. The film is a change of pace for director Peter Farrelly, known for his work on Dumb & Dumber, There's Something About Mary, and Me, Myself & Irene. Green Book tells the story of New York bouncer Tony Lip (Mortensen) who is tasked with driving and protecting Jamaican-American classical pianist Don Shirley (Ali) as he tours the Deep South in the 1960s. According to Deadline, the film is filled with humor, strong emotion and humanity in a way that will connect with critics, audiences and especially the Academy.

© LRM Online. Images © Universal.

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Toronto: 'Green Book' May Be the Contender No One Saw Coming

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Make room for new contenders in the races for lead actor (Viggo Mortensen), supporting actor (Mahershala Ali) and maybe even best picture.

© Universal.
by Scott Feinberg

The awards race received an unexpected jolt on Tuesday night when Green Book, a dramedy about the African-American piano virtuoso Don Shirley (Oscar winner Mahershala Ali) and his unsophisticated Italian-American driver Tony Lip (Oscar nominee Viggo Mortensen) touring the South during the Civil Rights era, had its first screenings at the Toronto International Film Festival and blew the roof off Roy Thomson Hall and then the Elgin Theatre in quick succession.

I say "unexpected" because the film's director, Peter Farrelly, is best known for laugh-out-loud but decidedly un-Oscar-friendly comedies like Dumb & Dumber and There's Something About Mary, and also because the film's distributor, Universal, which will release the film Nov. 21, has deliberately underhyped this one. In any event, by the time the first end credits started to roll at the Elgin screening, which I attended, the audience burst into a standing ovation that continued and only grew louder as the talent behind the film was introduced to the stage for a Q&A.

Green Book is not edgy or unpredictable or unlike anything you've seen before — it's essentially a road movie about opposites attracting and learning from each other (almost an inverse Driving Miss Daisy, the best picture Oscar winner 29 years ago). But it charmingly evokes laughs and tears in all the right places, thanks in no small part to the original screenplay by Tony Lip's son Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie and Farrelly, but more than anything to the winning performances by Mortensen and Ali, two of the most versatile and likable actors in the biz, who are perfectly cast in this film.

Expect a groundswell of awards support for Mortensen in the lead actor category and Ali in the supporting actor category that he won just two seasons ago for Moonlight — and maybe even for best picture, too. Indeed, we live in an era in which more than five films (up to 10) can be nominated for best picture, and in recent years other populist studio fare — movies that played better with audiences than critics, because they have heart and don't pretend to be more profound than they are — have made the cut, from The Blind Side to The Help, both of which also happened to deal with matters related to race.

There is no reason why Green Book can't join that list.

© The Hollywood Reporter. Images © Universal.

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TIFF: 'Green Book' stars have amazing chemistry

Source: Toronto Star

This review from the Toronto Star.


There’s no accounting for film chemistry but Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali definitely have that special something in Green Book.

© Universal.
by Jane Stevenson

The movie is based on the true story of New York Italian tough guy Tony "Lip" Vallelonga, who drove African-American classical-jazz pianist Don Shirley on an eight-week tour through the deep south in 1962.

It turns out Mortensen and Ali met a year earlier at cocktail party during awards season when they were nominated for Captain Fantastic and Moonlight (Ali won), respectively.

"All of sudden we found ourselves in this one corner," said Mortensen on the TIFF red carpet on Tuesday night at Roy Thomson Hall. "We talked for about a half an hour, just about life, and also about the fact that we liked each other's work and would like to hopefully do something one day.

"You know the chances of that are, not that it's impossible, but it's unlikely that it's going to happen right away," he added. "Well, our next job for both of us was this so you never know. So I knew that I liked him … From the first day, he was meticulous, he was well prepared, he had a good sense of humour."

Green Book director-writer Peter Farrelly, known with his brother, Bobby, for comedies like Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary, says Mortensen was cast first and then he lucked out with Ali who's going to be seen next in the third season of True Detective.

"I don't know if there are two better actors in the same movie this year," said Farrelly. "Viggo and Mahershala are at the top of their game. You can't believe how lucky you are.

Farrelly said he didn't get a sneak peek of Ali in True Detective, "but I can't wait. I'm really looking forward to this one. It was just a thrill to get him (in my movie.)"

Green Book, by the way, refers to the Negro Motorist Green Book which guides the duo in the movie to hotels and restaurants in the segregated South.

© Toronto Star. Images © Universal.

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Last edited: 21 April 2019 12:44:59