Truthfully, this should be enough for a movie I view as cinematic comfort food, a “Driving Miss Daisy” for our racially (and sexually) roiled times. That’s all “Green Book” is.
I saw it a second time last week and zeroed in on its problematic moments — the “fried chicken scenes.” They grate, yes they do. But Mahershala Ali is even more impressive on second viewing, an utterly convincing piano virtuouso living a life of aloof isolation because that’s what it takes for him to get the dignity his talent, education and gentility deserve.
White America doesn’t give him that, Black America doesn’t. Not really.
The movie does something that none of the other talked-up nominees manage — it makes you feel something. “Feel good” is both an emotional response and a “We CAN find a way to get along” response. Knock it if you want, but feeling something is what movies are supposed to manage.
“Beale Street” and “Star is Born” are more ambitious, and “The Favourite.” So was “First Man,” but nobody is talking about that one. “Can You Ever Forgive Me,” is a better picture, “Leave No Trace” will have to settle for an Indie Spirit Award or two.
None of them make you “feel” something the way “Green Book” does — at the juke joint, in the jail cell, at Christmas dinner — two men changing their view of each other and the world, in tiny increments.
“Green Book” wins a Golden Globe? Now a PGA award? Probably enough for this picture. Considering the steady drumbeat of “We’re NOT giving this to ‘A Star is Born'” that is starting to drown out one significant competitor’s Gaga-loving backers, I’d hope Farelly & Co. would be happy with the accolades in hand.
“Roma” might still be the Best Picture favorite, but the Producers Guild, at least, knows the game is up when Hollywood/theatrical gives its top honor to a streaming service’s high-minded but kind of “meh” Oscar bait — a black and white fictionalized memoir.
The PGA also honors TV, and that is what sets apart the Oscars from the PGA, SAG, Globes, the BFCA, etc — “We’re about honoring FILMs,” features and shorts and docs, pictures that tell a story in one sitting. If you’re going to keep the honor and the prestige of the Oscars and movies separate from “other media,” “Green Book” may be the safest Best Picture to vote for.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” won best animated feature, and seems more regrettably “inevitable” than ever. Pity.
But all other things matter little. Oscar nominations come Tuesday, and “Green Book” goes back into 1000 theaters Friday.