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Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

Green Book


Green Book Review by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Director Peter Farrelly is best known for comedies--Dumb and Dumber, Shallow Hal, There's Something About Mary--so we were surprised to learn that he produced, directed, and co-wrote Green Book, one of the prestige films of 2018.  The "Green Book" was a travel guide aimed at African-Americans of the Jim Crow era who found themselves bound for southern states, advising them of safe routes, lodging, and dining.

Green Book is inspired by the true story of a 1962 concert tour arranged by the brilliant African-Amerian pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) that took him through the Deep South.  Given the year and the particulars of the tour, it is understandable that Shirley might seek a driver with an, um, particular skill set.  Enter Tony "Lip" Villalonga (Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer at New York's Copacabana nightclub.  Come to think of it, Farelly is perfect to do a mash-up of a road trip/odd couple movie.  But Green Book is so much more than a Driving Miss Daisy clone, and a lot of the set-up comes from contradictions: Shirley fits in, but is not really accepted into White high society; Tony is accepted (because he is White) but does not fit in.  Shirley is on a mission; Tony just wants to make a few bucks to keep his beloved wife Dolores (Linda Cardellini) and two children in food and shelter.  Shirley is a loner who lives in a chilly apartment above Carnegie Hall, gorgeously appointed with African artifacts; Tony is from a huge and huggy Italian clan that frequents his family's apartment with meatballs on the stove and rotting linoleum on the floor.

Despite all of that and an interview process in which Tony seems to consciously undermine himself, he is hired as Shirley's driver, but only after Shirley seeks and obtains Dolores' permission for Tony to be away from home for two months (the real engagement took a year).  That the tour is not a smooth drive goes without saying, and the contract states that Dr. Shirley must make every performance or the tour is cancelled with no pay for anyone.  While interactions with local denizens at the various performance venues provide dramatic interludes, the interpersonal adjustment to the quirks and foibles of Dr. Shirley and (mostly) Tony delivers most of the laughs and more than a few head-shaking moments.  But the heart of Green Book is in the evolution from an employer-employee relationship to that of two men who have developed deep feeling for each other, and the chemistry between Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen make it work beautifully.

The screenplay crackles with wit and just enough pathos to make important statements without bludgeoning the audience, and the entire cast is excellent, particularly Cardellini.  But the film belongs to the two men.  The guess here is that Ali's reserved, nuanced role finds Supporting Actor nominations while the showier in-your-face bombast of Mortensen is recommended for Best Actor consideration.  This is not to demean the latter's performance; in fact, the Danish Mortensen so inhabits Tony's Italian skin, he may become the favorite in his category.  In many ways, this is the perfect movie for the holidays; it even ends on Christmas Eve, and its present may be a best Picture nomination.  On a down note, the film has faced some backlash with a few deriding its "White Savior" trope.  We would be among the first to detest that, particularly in these times, but in this case we call BS.  Such critics are looking for trouble, based on surface appearances; in fact, we might argue that those critics haven't seen the film.  If the only way one can "save" another is through brute force, then, yes, it is a white savior film.  But Dr. Shirley also "saves" Tony, albeit in quieter, gentler ways.  In sum, each member of this odd couple helps the other; lifts the other up, and in the end, they complete each other.
8.5 out of 10 on both Artistic and Entertainment Scales.

Too Early Academy Award Nomination Predictions


Too Early Academy Award Nomination Predictions by Guy Malone, Researcher

This time of year, we're gnashing our teeth and/or beating our breasts, trying to decide what films are worth seeing as we begin the mad dash toward Awards season.  After all, we're not in the one percent, so we base our movie spending on which ones are the most highly regarded.  If you are the same, you are in the right place, because we have meticulously researched the field.

Some of the films listed below are already available through streaming in the comfort of your home, but many will be crammed into theaters in the next eight weeks, or so.  To get brief plot synopses and release dates, you can cross-reference the movies below with previously published guides on this blog, specifically:
September 1 - September and October Movie Guide
October 31 - Fall and Holiday Movie Guide

Below is our look at the contenders as they stand in 12 of the most high-profile categories.
NB: Within each subgroup, films/individuals are listed alphabetically, not as we predict them to finish:

BEST PICTURE - (maximum of ten nominees)
For a while, even Oscar seemed to have no idea what it was doing in the Best Picture category.  First, it decided to split it into two sub-divisions--ironically referred by some as "blockbusters" and "real films."  For a while, it also looked like there would be a bumper crop of contenders in all major categories, but things are beginning to crystallize as we are beginning to see films.
Potential surprises:  First Man and A Star is Born could face backlash; Roma might be confined to the Foreign Film category; the yet-unseen Mary Poppins Returns could blow everyone away; much beloved Black Panther could overcome the blockbuster stigma and make waves.

(Following each Best Picture candidate, in parentheses, we've included a prediction of the range of total Oscar nominations.)

FRONTRUNNERS:
The Favourite  (7-9)
First Man  (5-7)
Green Book  (4-6)
Roma  (6-7)
A Star is Born   (8-10)
Vice  (6-7)
Widows  (5-6)

CONTENDERS:
BlacKkKlansman  (4-6)
Black Panther  (3-5)
If Beale Street Could Talk  (4-6)
Mary Poppins Returns  (2-4)

HOPEFULS:
Boy Erased  (1-3)
Can You Ever Forgive Me?  (1-4)
Crazy Rich Asians  (1-4)
Eighth Grade  (1-2)
First Reformed  (1-2)


DIRECTOR - (five nominees)
This is a crowded field that bears watching over the upcoming weeks as some films push to the forefront and others fall off.  Right now, critics anticipate great things from many films, but audience reaction to these directors' movies will have something to say about it.  Regrettably, so will industry politics and the dreaded backlash.  Right now, it looks like there are eleven contenders, and frankly, we wouldn't be surprised if any of them receive nominations.

FRONTRUNNERS:
Damien Chazelle - First Man
Bradley Cooper - A Star is Born
Alfonse Cuaron - Roma
Yorgos Lanthimos - The Favourite
Spike Lee - BlacKkKlansman

CONTENDERS:
Ryan Coogler - Black Panther
Peter Farrelly - Green Book
Marielle Heller - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Barry Jenkins - If Beale Street Could Talk
Adam McKay - Vice
Steve McQueen - Widows


ACTRESS - (five nominees)
The big questions here: how much love will Roma get and thus carry Aparicio upward; can the Academy voters overlook genre and acknowledge Collette's incredible performance; will Nicole Kidman be recognized for several dynamic 2018 roles; will Blunt's as yet unseen Mary Poppins catapult her into frontrunner status?

FRONTRUNNERS:
Yalitza Aparicio - Roma
Glenn Close - The Wife
Olivia Colman - The Favourite
Viola Davis - Widows
Lady Gaga - A Star is Born

CONTENDERS:
Emily Blunt - Mary Poppins Returns
Toni Collette - Hereditary
Nicole Kidman - Destroyer
Melissa McCarthy - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Julia Roberts - Ben is Back


ACTOR - (five nominees)
Bradley Cooper is the only lock here, and Ethan Hawke or Lucas Hedges could slip in and replace one of the frontrunners.  Dafoe won the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival, but few have seen his film here, and no one has seen Eastwood yet.  Mediocre reviews from TIFF could hurt Jackman.

FRONTRUNNERS:
Christian Bale - Vice
Bradley Cooper - A Star is Born
Willem Dafoe - At Eternity's Gate
Ryan Gosling - First Man
Viggo Mortensen - Green Book

CONTENDERS:
Clint Eastwood - The Mule
Ethan Hawke - First Reformed
Lucas Hedges - Boy Erased
Hugh Jackman - The Front Runner
Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody
Robert Redford - The Old Man and a Gun


SUPPORTING ACTRESS - (five nominees)
Some of these choices are speculation.  That may be because we haven't seen most of the contenders yet.  Adams, Stone, and Weisz are usual suspects here and King is getting a lot of positive buzz, but only Foy is a known quantity.  At this point, any of the contenders could move up.

FRONTRUNNERS
Amy Adams - Vice
Claire Foy - First Man
Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone - The Favourite
Rachel Weisz - The Favourite

CONTENDERS
Elizabeth Debicki - Widows
Nicole Kidman - Boy Erased
Natalie Portman - Vox Lux
Michelle Yeoh - Crazy Rich Asians


SUPPORTING ACTOR - (five nominees)
The general consensus has Chalamet among the favorites, but our gut sees other favorites.  The only shoo-in is Ali, but industry love of Elliott is strong, and word of mouth for Grant is exuberant.  We thought BlacKkKlansman was Driver's best performance to date.  Jordan is always terrific, and we hear that Kaluuya is chilling in Widows.

FRONTRUNNERS
Mahershala Ali - Green Book
Adam Driver - BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott - A Star is Born
Richard E. Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell - Vice

CONTENDERS
Timothee Chalamet - Beautiful Boy
Michael B. Jordan - Black Panther
Daniel Kaluuya - Widows


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY - (five nominees)
Conventional wisdom predicts A Star is Born to be a nominee, if not a favorite, in this category.  Considering that this is the fourth go-round for this film, we don't really follow the wisdom here.  We're feeling pretty good about our frontrunners as the final group of nominees, but hey, we've been wrong before.

FRONTRUNNERS
BlacKkKlansman
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
First Man
If Beale Street Could Talk
Widows

CONTENDERS
Beautiful Boy
Crazy Rich Asians
The Front Runner
A Star is Born


ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - (five nominees)
The Favourite and Green Book seem like certainties, and Eighth Grade is a festival and critical darling that could get a nomination here as a nod to the fondness with which it is held.  Again, Paul Schrader's First Reformed is believed by many to be headed for a nomination, but we're thinking Adam McKay (Vice) better hits the zeitgeist.  A Quiet Place is a very cool movie and it deserves recognition, but it seems like the experts touting it are being ironic.

FRONTRUNNERS
Eighth Grade
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma
Vice

CONTENDERS
First Reformed
A Quiet Place


CINEMATOGRAPHY - (five nominees)
The favorite is, of course, The Favourite; period pieces always have a leg up in this category.  First Man makes us feel as if we were in the '60s, in space, on the Moon.  A Star is Born is immersive.

FRONTRUNNERS
The Favourite
First Man
If Beale Street Could Talk
Roma
A Star is Born

CONTENDERS
At Eternity's Gate
Black Panther
Cold War
Green Book
Widows


EDITING - (five nominees)


FRONTRUNNERS
The Favourite
First Man
Roma
A Star is Born
Vice

CONTENDERS
BlacKkKlansman
Black Panther
If Beale Street Could Talk
Mission Impossible: Fallout
Widows


PRODUCTION DESIGN - (five nominees)
Again, the well-done period piece has an advantage here, thus The Favourite.  But we also give props to the world building in the other films.  This will be an interesting race.

FRONTRUNNERS
Black Panther
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
The Favourite
First Man
Mary Poppins Returns

CONTENDERS
Crazy Rich Asians
If Beale Street Could Talk
Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Mary Queen of Scots
Roma
A Star is Born


ORIGINAL SCORE - (five nominees)
Whether it's stirring us, mesmerizing us, or setting the atmosphere of the film, we have some clear-cut delineations among the competing films.

FRONTRUNNERS
Black Panther
First Man
If Beale Street Could Talk
Isle of Dogs
Mary Poppins Returns

CONTENDERS
BlacKkKlansman
TheNutcracker and the Four Realms





A Star is Born at the El Royale


A Star is Born at the El Royale by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Welp, we're going to talk briefly--very briefly-- about two movies, one you've probably already seen and one you've probably shoved to the back seat until it becomes available via streaming.  We were probably the last Americans to see A Star is Born.  FilmZ and the Czarina dragged me along as their driver and note-taker.  Then, a few days later, the Serfers got together for Bad Times at the El Royale.  We're going to attempt summarizing both in capsule accounts.

A Star is Born
As there is an obscure federal law that requires this movie to be remade every decade or so, we needn't go into great depth describing the plot, but here's the gist: Established but troubled megastar makes chance discovery of young talent of the opposite sex.  Artistically and romantically smitten, megastar gives newbie's career a boost, and newbie takes country by storm.  Newbie rockets to stardom as megastar's career spirals downward in a swirl of alcohol and drugs.
Bradley Cooper produced, directed, and stars as Jack, a megastar singer-songwriter; Lady Gaga is Ally, the newbie, and Sam Elliott is Jack's brother, Bobby.  Cooper's acting is superb, his singing serviceable; Gaga's singing superb, her acting serviceable, and the two were involved in many of the songs on the terrific soundtrack. Elliott is his typically excellent self.  And it would be no surprise if ASIB leads all contenders in nominations, as it has received both critical and audience acclaim.  The question is, will this film suffer the same late-season backlash as did La La Land, or will it maintain its momentum?
8.5 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
9.5 out of 10 on an Awards Scale--8 to 10 nominations would not surprise

Bad Times at the El Royale
In 1969, a group of strangers converge on a glitzy but run-down hotel that straddles the California-Nevada border.  Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), a sweet soul singer on her way to a gig in Reno; Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a curious but troubled man with a taste for whiskey; Laramie Sullivan (John Hamm), a jovially grating salesman who is even more curious; Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson) a sullen Hippie with a strange cargo.  Seemingly the sole El Royale employee is Miles (Lewis Pullman), a twitchy fellow who can't repent enough for past misdeeds, some of which are attached to the El Royale, with its secret passages and seamy criminal history.  When Manson-wannabe Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) shows up, things go from intriguing to catastrophic.
Cynthia Erivo is a revelation as both an actress and as a singer (a star is born?); keep an eye on her.  The rest of the cast gets with the spirit of the show, too.  Writer-Director Drew Goddard has the tacky noir hotel atmospherics right--a la the Coen's Barton Fink--and he brings together cool characters whose back stories and motivations reveal themselves through a non-linear time warp--a la Tarantino. These two elements, though derivative, work winningly for two acts.  But with Billy Lee's arrival on screen, Goddard dials Coens and Tarantino to "11", to the film's detriment, and lasting a hefty 2:22, time is not on his side.  There is one MacGuffin on top of the real MacGuffin, a film reel Goddard seems to have included for the sole purpose of spiking conspiracy theories.  El Royale is a good movie, and we recommend it, but for real, and reel, thrills and chills we recommend the film that seems to have influenced Goddard more than anything, 2003's Identity.
7.0 out of 10; not an Awards player



 
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