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Green Book (2018)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/12/2019
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/26/2019
Many people see storytelling solely as a form of entertainment, and that’s just fine. But, a well told tale, be that in a movie, a book, or a story told ‘round the campfire, can carry a message, one which holds a mirror up to the listener and to society. These yarns can take something which is happening in another time or place and make it very relevant to the here and now. That’s what we get with Green Book, a film which not only unveils a very interesting chapter from America’s past, but one which makes us look at what is happening in our country today.
It’s 1962 and Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) has just lost his job at New York City’s fabled Copacabana night club. As he needs to support his wife (Linda Cardellini) and children, he accepts an invitation to meet with a doctor who is looking for a driver. Tony is surprised when he finds that the doctor lives above Carnegie Hall. He’s even more surprised when he learns that Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is not only a Phd, not an MD, but that he’s black. At first, Tony balks at the idea of driving Dr. Shirley on a tour of the deep south, but he soon changes his mind and the two set off on their journey together. These two men are complete opposites. Tony is an ignorant, street-wise loud-mouth, while Dr. Shirley is a worldly man who puts great thought into everything that he says. However, the two will have to form an alliance when they face the deep-seated racism which they encounter on the road.
Green Book joins a list of films which pull no punches when depicting the kind of racism which existed in America during the Jim Crow era. The film’s title comes from an actual publication which provided African-American motorists with a guide to hotels, restaurants, and other businesses which would welcome patrons who were black. The thing which makes this film different is the levels of racism which are shown. We aren’t surprised when a group of “good old boys” accost Dr. Shirley in a bar. However, on this tour, he has bene invited to play in first-class venues and even in the homes of wealthy white people. And while these individuals marvel at Dr. Shirley’s talent and seemingly welcome him with open arms, we clearly see that they still treat him as a second-class citizen. It’s these scenes which take Green Book to a different level. Of course, moments like this would have been powerful at any time, but in today’s political climate, the movie seems to carry even more weight, and it’s distressing that after nearly sixty years, some things haven’t changed.
Beyond the very important political message, Green Book also works as a solid road movie. Again, Tony and Dr. Shirley are complete opposites and are world’s apart in their behavior and their views of the world. In the beginning, Tony, who clearly has some prejudicial thoughts, only sees this as a job. But, he soon finds himself fascinated with Dr. Shirley’s musical talent and the man’s views. It’s not clear if Dr. Shirley is surprised by the attitudes in the south, but Tony certainly is and as the trip continues, he begins to take his job as a bodyguard very seriously. The relationship between Tony and Dr. Shirley is an interesting one and it’s touching to see the two warm up to one another.
Green Book was recently awarded the Oscar for Best Picture. And while it wasn’t the best movie released in 2018 (that honor goes to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), it’s easy to see why Academy voters went with this movie. It’s a message film which doesn’t skew too controversial and it continues the recent trend of Oscar’s love affair with movies based on real-life characters. (And that last point has come under some scrutiny, as Dr. Shirley’s family claim that much of the film is inaccurate.) As noted above, the strength of Green Book is that is goes beyond the typical racism presented in movies and takes things to a new level. The opposites-attract road movie feels less fresh, but is still solid. The end result is an historical drama which will make you think, but, like many recent movies like this, isn’t truly touching until they show the real people during the credits.
Green Book actually was directed by one of the directors of Dumb & Dumber on 4K UHD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 60 Mbps. This is what every 4K should look like! The picture is absolutely gorgeous, showing a clarity and crispness which will be even be obvious to those who don’t care about quality video. The picture shows no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic and realistic and the image is never overly dark or bright. Nor does it go from light to dark as some 4K’s do. The level of detail is phenomenal and the depth gives the image a quasi-3D look. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a drama, we don’t get a ton of dynamic effects here, but the concert scenes do a fine job of placing the applause in the rear channels. The driving scenes also deliver nice surround sound effects, and the sounds from passing cars move nicely from the front to the rear channels.
The Green Book 4K UHD contains only a few extras. “Virtuoso Performances” (4 minutes) focuses on Mortensen and Ali’s acting. We hear from the creative team how the casting was done and how the actors approached the parts. “An Unforgettable Friendship” (5 minutes) will surely garner controversy as it looks at the real-life story, something which has come into question. Nick Vallelonga shares how he took his father’s story and turned it into a script. The actual Green Book guide is examined and discussed in “Going Beyond The Green Book” (4 minutes). We hear from historians who describe Victor Hugo Green and his creation of the guide.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long