Review: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
By Megan Wirts
I had the pleasure of attending one of the final dress rehearsals for Grant High School Theater’s production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and I suggest you all run out to see it this weekend or next, March 1-2 and 8-9. This show left me in a puddle of emotions. From the instant goosebumps during the opening number to the finale in which we are asked “What makes a monster and what makes a man?”, these kids are phenomenal.
The show is an adaptation of the novel by Victor Hugo and features music from the 1996 animated Disney film. The story takes place in 1482 France where our hero Quasimodo lives his life in the cathedral of Notre Dame. Dom Claude Frollo reluctantly takes Quasimodo in after the death of Frollo’s brother Jehan and is anything but kind to his nephew. He tells him he is ugly, makes him feel worthless and less than human because of his disabilities. Then one day a group of gypsies come to the city and with the urging of his gargoyle friends, Quasimodo leaves the confines of his “sanctuary” and meets the beautiful Esmeralda and his life is forever changed.
I cannot believe these are high school and middle school students.When the lights came up during the intermission the small audience behind me all exclaimed, “WOW!!” in unison. The talent is overflowing in Grant and director Lukas Sweers has turned these kids into musical theater stars. Even with over 2 weeks of rehearsals missed due to snow and ice, these kids are on fire. With an inspiring set and imaginative lighting, Notre Dame and the streets of Paris come to life before your eyes.
The entire cast of Hunchback shines even during the darkest parts of the show. With upbeat songs like “Topsy Turvy” and “Rest and Recreation”, to the sweet and tender “Someday”, the show takes you on an emotional journey. Brighton Fries shows off her powerful vocals as Clopin the leader of the gypsies. Keegan Kendall is fantastic as Phoebus de Martin, the soldier that falls in love with our heroine Esmeralda. The exquisite Zoe Zimmerman plays the part of Esmeralda well, showing us her grace, kindness and a little bit of spunk. During her solo “God Help the Outcasts” we really get to see her shine.
I was impressed with Nic Anderson in the role of Quasimodo. I could feel his isolation and longing to be out in the world as he sang, “Out There”, and I was reduced to tears as I watched him grow to love Esmeralda and become the man he truly was meant to be, even though he was abused and dehumanized by his uncle Frollo. Brendan Carroll plays the heinous Dom Claude Frollo so well that I hated him. Frollo, a priest, is filled with lust when he sees Esmeralda and becomes obsessed with her stopping at nothing to hunt her down. He is staunch and defends his evil acts, by blaming his lustfulness on the woman he desires instead of his own self. Carroll’s rich deep voice is excellent for this role, he is perfectly villainous and I particularly loved his solo “Hellfire”.
The ensemble is rounded out by a delightful chorus of gargoyles, saints, paris citizens and lively, colorful gypsies. I was overwhelmingly impressed with the level of professionalism these kids possess.
This show moved me deeply and left me feeling proud to be from this small town filled with talent beyond my own comprehension. The story of love, lust, obsession and heroism is timeless, and the entire cast and crew of The Hunchback of Notre Dame make this show memorable and moving.
Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults. They are available at the Grant Fine Arts Center box office: Click Here to order online or call (231) 834.5630.
Performances will be at the Grant Fine Arts Center on March 1 and 2 at 7:00 pm, March 8 at 7:00 pm, March 9 at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Do not miss this!
What: Back to the 80’s Murder Mystery Dinner
When: Friday March 15th 5:30pm. (Saturday show sold out)
Where: The Dogwood Center for Performing Arts
Cast Members: Kris Wood Charles Zeldenrust Shelley Harris, Jason Harris, Sandy Siegel, Kay Cummings, Gabe Schillman, and Mary Van Wylen
By Ken DeLaat (aka Guido)
As a veteran of the NCPCA annual plays who has taken to the floorboards more than a few times for the cause there are a few things I can tell you about these thespian adventures where many are called and few respond.
They are a lot of work, involving a lot of time, and more importantly...
They are a lot of fun.
One reason seems to be the camaraderie that tends to evolve as it does with most theater type experiences. People who are willing to hop on board and join the nearly world famous PCA Players are generally a chummy bunch and when you’re in something like a play you develop a ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality
Another is the notoriety. I am still referred to in some circles as “Guido” a role I evidently captured well enough to be remembered by instead of my real name and a photo of me as an aging hippie (go figure) from another PCA offering has surfaced from time to time.
Then there is the audience. A group who has come out for the express purpose of having fun. The crowd embraces the interactive process of the play and post performance discussion at the tables is lively as each group strives to solve the mysterious murder.
The other thing likeable about the audience, those people who pony up for this good cause, is that they tend to be a generous lot. Beyond attending they often participate in the bidding wars during the silent auction or chinese raffle and have given time and/or monetary support to other PCA ventures.
But the coolest thing?
It is truly a good cause. The NC Prevention of Child Abuse works toward the admirable goal of preventing young people from coming to harm through a number of programs designed to impact factors that often lead to abuse.
NCPCA Executive Director Tara Nelson: “The best way to prepare for the future is to create it. Everyone who is in our community is an active participant in creating our culture. Prevention of child abuse and neglect represents a transformation of culture, one in which families are strong and children thrive because they feel safe, stable, and nurtured. Prevention in our community helps offset adverse childhood experiences and build resiliency.”
The Murder Mystery event is NCPCA’s largest fundraiser of the year. Funds raised allows the continuation and progression of programs to reach more children and families in need in Newaygo County.
Guests who attend this event are encouraged to dress in their 80’s best. They will enjoy a night of laughs, friendships, and a delicious dinner from Ferris State Catering. They will also have opportunities to be part of our fundraising efforts by participating in a silent auction, an instant blitz game, or Chinese raffle.
To sign up visit Newaygocountyprevention.org or call 231-689-5220
Sleeping Beauty Princess Party at Fremont Library
Children will be able to meet Sleeping Beauty at the Fremont Area District Library on Saturday, March 9th from 10:30 to 12:00 p.m. She’ll share a story and song, pose with kids for pictures, and we’ll have crafts and snacks! Feel free to wear your favorite princess or prince costume. Call 231-928-0249 to register. REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. This and all of our children’s events are free.
Scenic White Cloud Park will be the site during the first weekend in May
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”- John Burroughs
Newaygo County is proud of our veterans as well as the current members of our military and grateful for their service.
We also take pride in our many opportunities for outdoor fun including the array of fine campgrounds that dot the county.
In a collaborative enterprise involving the Newaygo County Parks & Recreation and the Newaygo County Department of Veterans Affairs, current and former US Military members are being offered a free camping weekend at the White Cloud County Park the first weekend in May (May 3-5 2019).
Free campsites are available to all Active Duty US Military, Reserve US Military, Retired US Military, and US Military Veterans.
This is a small way of expressing gratitude to those who have served as well as those who are currently serving. The White Cloud site includes many trails including a loop access to the North Country Scenic Trail and borders the White River where many campers can enjoy fishing, kayaking and canoeing.
Interested individuals must contact the Newaygo County Department of Veterans Affairs at (231) 689-7218 to register and then Parks Staff will contact them to reserve their free campsite. The Department of Veterans Affairs is open Monday-Friday 8am to 5pm, with the exception of holidays.
By The N3 Entertainment Analysts
We’re turning the corner my bipeninsular friends we are indeed turning the corner. Next weekend is March and that means winter is on a truly downward slope with it’s much kinder sister Spring waiting in the wings.
In the meantime it is time to get ourselves moving about a bit more. There are still plenty of outside activities (see Charles Chandler’s recent hiking piece https://www.nearnorthnow.com/living-well/winter-hiking-in-newaygo-county)
for those who enjoy the wonder of the winter season but if you’re prone to some indoor fun here are a few suggestions.
Stage Door Theater in the Cloud is offering up their latest production thi s weekend and next. This is a bit of info on the latest show they provided.:
“A Vampire Reflects” Bitingly Funny
Stage Door Players have sunk their teeth into a biting farce featuring a vampire, a damsel (but not in distress), a mad Nazi doctor, bat bombs, a housekeeper who doesn’t keep house, a colonel and his wife (both of whom are easily charmed), and a well-intentioned lieutenant—make that major.
Will Count Zescu turn any or all into the “living dead”? When he is in the form of a wolf, will he succumb to the charms of the labrador retriever down the lane? Do vampires suffer from fleas? These and many more questions will be answered as the cast present the hijinks reminiscent of Carol Burnett, Benny Hill, and Mel Brooks.
The nuttiness will include Jack Millard as Count Zescu, Mara Johnson as Mattie, Melissa Crofoot as Joyce Lyonhart, Nick Empie as Colonel Puddlepont, Tiffany Chase as Mrs. Puddlepont, Denise Gray as Dr. Wolfbane Gunter, and Jaymee Powell as Lieutenant Crisis—later to become a Major Crisis. The director—also known as the asylum keeper—is Ted Mitchell, who has been acting and directing since dirt was invented.
The play opens Friday February 22nd and runs February 23rd and March 1st and 2nd as well.
Tickets:are $12.00 general admission $10.00 Senior Student and $25.00 Family Price.
Friday night the River Stop Saloon is bringing in Mojo/Mustang to fire off some 80’s classic rock. Starts at 8pm
The Newaygo Brewery is hosting a series of events on Thursdays and Saturdays and this Saturday afternoon brings the return of Jack Leaver who will take to the mike from Noon to 4pm.
Leaver is an outstanding entertainer who does not disappoint and there are few finer ways to spend a Saturday afternoon than to listen the live music in a really cool setting while perhaps enjoying an adult beverage or two and some of the finest pizza in town.
More info at:
Plans have you over by the lakeshore Saturday? Well, Delilah DeWylde is at Fetch Brewing in Whitehall and DD is truly one of the best shows around. Her trips to the Dogwood’s Black Box have been nothing short of memorable and it is always a good time with Ms. DeWylde is in the house.
Lots of tunes and a bit of comedic theater as well, so get out there and grab some fun.
Because as Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen once said so succinctly...
“There ‘s a whole lotta things that I ain’t never done
But I ain’t never had too much fun”
Rising country group, Sweet Tea Trio, brings their fresh sound and beautiful country harmonies to the Dogwood Black Box on Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m.
The Nashville-based trio is making their mark on country music. Hailing from three different parts of Alabama, Kate Falcon, Victoria Camp and Savannah Coker have joined forces to give country music fans their first taste of an all-female trio since groups like the Dixie Chicks and the Pistol Annies. Sweet Tea Trio are singers, songwriters and musicians but their trademark is their harmonies.
The trio was named Alabama’s Country Female Artist of the Year for 2016 and have been winning the hearts and catching the eye of fans across the country since then. Their sound is unique, unlike what you hear on country radio today.
Kid Rock and Vector Management signed Sweet Tea Trio via a co-management venture. The trio opened for Kid Rock on his 2018 tour, including Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. 2018. Said Kid Rock in announcing the signing: “These young ladies are some of the most talented, kindhearted and hard-working singers and players I have ever met. They are already becoming fast scholars of the road and writing songs. They are 100% country and I look forward to sharing my 30 years in this business to get them an honest shot at the big time.”
The trio met in January of 2014 through a Birmingham artist development program called Nashville Bound. Each artist sang individually when they initially entered the program but quickly felt an instant vocal connection once they sang together. Sweet Tea Trio has been performing together ever since. For more information and a taste of their music, visit www.sweetteatrio.com.
Tickets are $15.00 and are available through the Dogwood Center Box Office, NCCA-Artsplace in downtown Fremont, or on-line at www.dogwoodcenter.com. For information, phone 231.924.8885. The Dogwood Center is located one mile east of downtown Fremont.
By Tim McGrath
“All you needed was a little push.” - Dell from The Upside
It’s a big quote from the movie. The main character is struggling with the next right thing to do. The sidekick, Dell, comes along, and in one quick phone call alters the outcome of the main character’s life: saves the day, puts all things right, the light at the end of the tunnel. Not quite that straightforward, yet it sets our guy on a new path. By the way, no spoiler alert needed here. Not saying another word; go watch the movie. Just want to point out when someone near and dear, a pal down the hall, or a random stranger takes the time to provide that “…little push”, how they can alter the course of things in someone’s world. Maybe not something that was on anyone’s radar screen, but it can spark something new and fresh. It’s funny how things work out sometimes.
It really wasn’t good, at all. In my second year of college, and not much to show for it. First semester, year one GPA: 0.6, 1.5 second semester, and on track for maybe a 1.8 this time. I did have a killer album collection, yet mom and dad weren’t having it. “Listen, Sam, these grades better come up, or you can get yourself a lunch pail and go to work. Your mom and I aren’t going to subsidize what looks like a big party going on over there.” They were right; it was more Camp Calvin than serious academic pursuit. The trouble was, as with many other nineteen year olds, I really had no idea what to do next. I had gotten an “A” in a psych class, but I’d heard psych majors either lean toward becoming tennis pros, or went to grad school. I wasn’t any good at tennis, and grad school? Forget it.
“Hey, TJ, whatcha doin’?” Bob-from-down-the-hall asked as he stuck his head in my room. “Looks like a big bag of nothin’ to me. C’mon, there’s a meeting for students in the Gezon who wanna get into education. Starts in about fifteen minutes. What do you have to lose, man?”
“Education, like being a teacher?”, I said as I whipped on a coat and trotted down the hall after him. And just as Bob had foreseen, I signed up (what did I have to lose?) as an education major; I was going to be a teacher. Teacher, me, really? C’mon. I wasn’t a great student, except in elementary school I did win the fifth grade spelling bee. And, I was hot stuff at dodgeball. Problem is, spelling whiz and dodgeball ace aren’t usually high up on the list of requirements one needs to be a teacher. As my grandmother would say when things were a little murky: “God works in mysterious ways, honey”. I’ll say.
The good news: I loved it. My first charge as a newly fledged education major was a group of about six fourth grade boys who were struggling with math. My job was to help them catch up with the rest of the class. And, boy howdy, we did it. Their teacher would send us out to another room a couple days a week while the rest of the class worked on the lesson and, after about a month of intensive work, each of boys was caught up. Man, there’s nothing like it: seeing the light bulb come on. What a thrill it was! And, that, as they say, was the very humble beginning of what proved to be a long and wonderful career working with kids. The other good news was my GPA went way up, met a wonderful woman, graduated, got a job that didn’t require a lunch pail: mom and dad were happy as clams.
I’m not sure any of it would’ve happened without Bob-from-down-the-hall’s nudge. Don’t know what prompted him to stick his head in my room that long ago day. But, just like that, he changed the course of my life. One little act was all it took. A tad corny? Maybe, but it sure made my day (and life).
So, what’s the takeaway here? For me, it’s the constant reminder we all count, we matter, we’re important, we’re worth the time it takes. It reminds me, too, I can be that person who’s in the right place and at the right time to give that little nudge; say just the right words, or extend a simple invitation. Could be that’s all it takes. Never know when we run across someone, who like that nineteen year old boy struggling to find his way, needs someone to help them see: “All you needed was a little push”.
Oh, oh. So you didn’t get a reservation on time and the places around these parts are chock full of couples who pre-planned this mid February festival of love, eh?
You can still be a hero.
And Newaygo Brewing Co. is here to help.
They are extending their V-Day special through Sunday (or as long as the victuals in question last) with a Valentine's Day Dinner for Two including 2 drinks, an appetizer, one of their outstanding 3 topping pizzas and one of three homemade desserts.
This weekend? Dam to Dam my friend.
The Croton based, Leinie sponsored angler extravaganza kicks off Saturday at sunrise and runs until 3:30 pm or thereabouts.
This is a serious fun fest and you can get a jump start with the nearly world famous fish fry at the Croton American Legion Post Friday night starting at 5pm. As a bonus Outlaw Express will be on hand to provide the jams starting at 7pm.
On Saturday $5 gets an adult into the ice fishing tourney (kids with an adult are free) and this being a free fishing weekend in our fine state no license is required for those of you who have not even augered a hole, nor set into place a tip-up as yet this season.
Maybe more of a golfer than fisherperson?
There are scads of avid golfers out their who pride themselves on playing at least once a month throughout a bipeninsular year taking to the links when winter sends out one of those all too rare reprieves and snowmelt makes it possible, if not practical, to sneak in a quick nine..
Well here’s your shot at filling up February. There will be an ice golf tournament starting at 10 am. Ok, maybe it’s ice golf but it’s 18 holes and no one could argue that it is any less considered golf than being on frozen course at a traditional site so….
Dam to Dam is also a very cool event (pun unintended because we’re all a little touchy about such references lately) because the TrueMentors program at TrueNorth benefits from the proceeds and it is the kind of youth mentoring program that is absolutely vital to our community and a long term intervention that often makes an immeasurable positive impact on the life of a young person.
Details on the D to D fun can be found on their fb page or by contacting the Croton Trading Post where Michelle can provide info and enter you in the tourneys.
Of course it’s winter and we’ve just been through a meteorological mauling the past couple of weeks, right? Well, most of us live here because when it comes to this sometimes seemingly endless season we know how to thrive during times when others might merely survive. When weather puts a beating on us and drives us inside for a time there’s only one way to cope.
We throw a party.
Revel on, fellow bipeninsularians, revel on.
Blessings in my life are abundant. I could spend all day listing them and not even come close to finding the end. One of those blessings is the group of women with whom I work at Newaygo High School.
For those of you who haven’t been in the school, it is separated into wings. I have taught in all but one of the four wings over the course of my 16 years teaching (wow...that happened fast). Currently I am situated in the EWing. Though my first 10 years did not find a high turnover rate of teachers at the high school, this past few years many teachers have reached their retirement age, including four of the seven teachers from rooms in the EWing!
Change is an inevitable part of life, and along with it comes uncertainty. What this massive amount of change has brought to my life, however, has been nothing short of amazing.
Before I start the explanation of this group of people with whom I so closely work, I have to say that I truly respect, admire, and enjoy all my colleagues at Newaygo High School. That statement is not just for show. My colleagues are genuinely kind, thoughtful, intelligent, unique and respectful individuals. Working for Newaygo, and all of my friends in the school over the years, has been a true honor. I have learned from them, loved with them, celebrated successes with them, and grieved with them. I wouldn’t trade a single person in the school for another (past teacher or present). I do not take for granted what a unique atmosphere I have been able to enjoy at NHS from the beginning of my career.
The women in the EWing and I, however, have a special connection. One that I find to be a fascinating metaphor for what I have come to think of as how groups of women can and should be in the greater world.
Women in this hallway include Bethanie duChemin, Cassie Westgate, Whitney Stratton, Jen Grugett and Gena Dietz. We come from different walks of life, span a large number of years in age (I will refrain from telling you who is oldest), vary greatly in our political beliefs, and all have different interests outside of school. And yet, we love working together, our friendships, and help each other on a daily basis be better teachers, mothers, wives, daughters, friends, and human beings.
Bethanie, Jen and Whitney all teach math. Cassie is our resident government and psychology expert. And Gena and I teach Spanish and English. We love that all of us come to the EWing with a wide perspective of book knowledge. Our students benefit from this. When I have a question about something political as it relates to Spanish, Cassie is my go-to. When my students are struggling with a math concept and I don’t know how to help, we walk together to whichever math teacher is available so we can learn together. We do not close our doors and teach to our own subject; instead we enrich each others’ classrooms with our perspectives.
Perhaps how the depth of our friendship started was during Homecoming Spirit Week, where students and staff are invited to dress up to earn points for their class. We are full of spirit in the EWing, so we started collaborating on our outfits. Each day we all participated and took a picture of our efforts. We had so much fun, and the collaboration hasn’t stopped since then. This week is Snowcoming spirit week and one of the days was ‘Celebrity Day’ where you had to choose a celebrity and dress like them. We all dressed as Ms. Rodriguez, our assistant principal who will be retiring at the end of the year. It was a riot.
When one of us has to be gone for an illness, conference or family issue, the others step up. Just last week Gena had to attend a funeral, but was also ill, so she wasn’t able to come in to make copies, get lesson plans on the desk and feel her students would be set for the day. She texted our EWing group, and as the day went on, each one of us covered something that needed to happen in order for her students to be best served despite her absence.
I believe our students benefit greatly from this group of women who are so supportive of each other in ways other than when one teacher is gone. I feel I am a better teacher because I know I can step out in the hallway between hours and have any number of my colleagues standing there waiting to pick me up, answer questions, help me in any way I need. Sometimes it’s as small a gesture as standing by my class while I run to the copy machine to pick up the copies I sent during my prep but never had time to go get. Other times it is bigger, offering a listening ear and suggestions for how to help a struggling student or sharing in the pain of another student’s situation that can’t be helped despite our desire to have all kids cared for and loved in every way possible.
Watching my colleagues interact with students has helped me grow in my own connections with students. I witness these teachers plopping down on the ground in the hallway to sit and cry with students, cheering in excitement and joy with those experiencing happiness, standing firm and setting boundaries for students who so desperately need them, and challenging students to become the best they can be academically and socially on a daily basis. I am a better teacher because of these amazing teachers around me.
Politically, we span the board from what I would consider ultra conservative to ultra liberal. This disparity does not cause us to hate, disrespect or pull away from each other. Instead, at least for me, it has caused us to understand how the world works in all its diverse glory. We are a melting pot of political ideas, both in the EWing and the United States. We, as women who respect others’ opinions, listen to each other with open hearts and minds. We don’t necessarily agree. But we are able to see how someone on the other side of the issue feels and can respect that not everyone is the same.
One of the greatest aspects of our friendship has been the support we receive from each other when it comes to bettering ourselves physically. I have written many pages about my running endeavors here for Near North Now. These women have been some of my biggest supporters in those miles. Encouraging me when I would feel exhausted, pushing me when I felt good. When one of us goes out to run, the others cheer that person on. When one of us doesn’t feel like running, receiving pictures of another person having completed her run gets us out the door.
Just as with our politics, we all have varying athletic interests. Gena loves to take classes at Bassai in Newaygo. Cassie is the obstacle course guru. Whitney teaches physical education and comes from a background playing softball. Jen enjoyed running for many years, but had struggled as of late with knees that weren’t cooperating (that happens when the cartilage is all gone). She is now running more days a week than I do, so she is back in the game. Bethanie is a volleyball player and former coach who now enjoys Jillian Michaels shred videos and shoveling snow...because we have plenty of that.
With all of these interests, we help each other to open our minds to trying new things. Jen and I enjoyed a day of snow shoeing together during the first of the many snow storms that hit Michigan this winter. We texted pictures to the group and immediately everyone said they would love to try it together. Now we have plans to enjoy a group snowshoe afternoon together.
Recently, we have been thinking about races we could run together. This communication and desire to better ourselves has led to three of us signing up for the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon in May. At the end of January, Cassie and Whitney ran together in the Fremont Frostbite 5k, crushing their goal times despite the frigid temperatures and gusting wind.
For all six of us, life is busy. Some work more than one job, all of us have children, families and friends outside of school. We walk out the door after a hard day of working with students to separate lives. The joy that we share inside the walls, and occasionally outside enjoying activities that enrich our lives, is immeasurable.
I hope that our students observe this friendship we six share and understand that this is exactly how life can, and should, be with women everywhere. Life is short. Full of ups and downs, twists and turns, unexpecteds. Each day is that much easier knowing I get to walk through the doors of NHS feeling supported, loved and not judged by those around me. There is no tearing down, putting up metaphorical walls, or anger. It is just the opposite.We are empathetic with each other and our circumstances. We enrich each others’ lives - and that is a blessing I can put at the top of my list each day.
By Charles Chandler
There is a solid sheet of ice on my driveway and the City Sand Truck went flying by so it must be February in Newaygo County. Not to despair because we are walking this ole winter on out of here and spring is right around the corner. This has to be true because last Monday when fishing for winter steelhead on the Muskegon the Cardinals were singing.
The month of February is all about perspective and hope. We have Groundhog day with hope for an early spring. We have Valentine's day and for the guys, we hope we find that perfect card and gift for our sweeties. The great college basketball games are underway and all the coaches are hoping for a spot on the bracket that will take them to March Madness. One of my favorites February events is the Academy Awards Ceremony. This is the event where all the beautiful and talented people hope they get to walk up those stairs and grasp that small golden statue.
The year the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences has nominated eight movies and the nominees are:
Kevin Feige, Producer
Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, Jordan Peele, and Spike Lee, Producers
Graham King, Producer
Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday and Yorgos Lanthimos, Producers
Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly, and Nick Vallelonga, Producers
Gabriela Rodríguez and Alfonso Cuarón, Producers
A STAR IS BORN
Bill Gerber, Bradley Cooper, and Lynette Howell Taylor, Producers
Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay, and Kevin Messick, Producers
We are big movie fans and usually try to see about three or four of the nominees before the Academy Awards on February 24th. “The “Green Book”” was first up because this correspondent grew up in the segregated south and is all too familiar with the racism that is presented in this movie. I wanted to see how Hollywood would portray that Jim Crow world where an African American could be jailed for being in a particular town after dark. Another reason for choosing this movie first is because the subject is so timely and hopefully it is a reminder of our collective progress against racism. A supporting argument that we have made some progress is watching the State of Virginia’s leadership struggling with a political and moral crisis because Gov. Ralph Northam and the State's Attorney General, Mark Herring, admitted to wearing blackface for some college photos.
Many in the Academy and the movie industry have considerable expectations and hope for this movie and the cast. “The “Green Book” has already developed a serious resume, as it has received five Academy Award nominations, for best picture, best original screenplay, best editing, best lead actor (Mortensen) and best supporting actor (Mahershala Ali). Three wins, in the best comedy, best supporting actor and best screenplay categories at the Golden Globe Awards and won the Producers Guild's Darryl F. Zanuck Award for the top feature film of 2018.
Apparently the critics like this movie and by the box office count so do the fans.
“The Green Book” has a rating of PG-13 and is inspired by a true story. It is about a road trip that takes place around 1962. The movie begins in New York at the Copacabana nightclub where Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), works as a bouncer. Tony is a streetwise but lovable family man from a myopic and racist Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx. He appears to enjoy his job of pitching troublesome patrons out on their head. However, he is soon out of work as the famous night club closes for a little remodeling. This puts Tony on the street where he demonstrates he is a “standup guy” with strong family values. You see this when he pawns his watch and gives it to his beautiful and progressive wife (Linda Cardellini) for grocery money rather than taking a job “doing things” for the local mob.
Enter Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a reclusive world-class pianist that lives in an opulent apartment over Carnegie Hall. “Doc” Shirley an African-American is about to set out on a concert tour through the Deep South where he’ll perform in concert halls, country clubs and private homes. He needs a driver, valet, and fixer and is aware of Tony Lip’s reputation. Sparks fly when these two polar opposites meet to work out the terms and conditions of Tony Lip’s employment. Soon they sort things out, load into a 1962 Cadillac Sedan Deville, are handed the “The “Green Book” and begin their road trip.
This famous “Green Book” is the guide that African Americans used to help them travel safely across a segregated and racist America. Ali brings elegance to the role and presents as a quiet sophisticated, driven man with and underlying vulnerability. Mortensen brings Tony the Lip alive as the very unsophisticated, chain smoking, presumptuous and streetwise New Yorker. Tony has a big appetite and prattles endlessly while he constantly mangles the English language. A match made in heaven.
Given my personal experience with the subject, I probably have too much baggage to give this movie an objective review. My expectations that Hollywood could use a Comedic Drama formula to cover the emotional and cultural depth of this event were unrealistic. In my humble opinion, I felt like I had already seen the movie. It felt like a mash-up of Driving Miss Daisy and the Odd Couple. The theme song for this movie should have been “Getting to Know You." There were way too many stereotypes and predictability for my liking. For example, seeing a white man driving an elegant African American down a narrow southern asphalt road in a Cadillac Sedan Deville eating fried chicken seemed a bit too much and would have been trolling for trouble during those days.
I also argue that the movie should have been for Adults Only rather than PG 13 because of the examples of the role models in the movie. Tony Lip is a lovable lug but he is also, a chain-smoking, functionally illiterate, pistol-packing, police hitting racist. (When will Hollywood say no to Big Tobacco?) Dr. Don Shirley is a recluse that doesn’t appear to fit in any world except on the concert stage.
And, who drinks a fifth of scotch every night and gets up and plays jazz and classical music the next day?
The scene where Tony Lip has to rescue a nude Doc from the cops down at the local ‘Y’ is complicated and would probably be a challenge to explain to a 13-year-old. Not addressed in that scene was the fact that The American Public Health Association mandated that from 1926 until 1962, males would swim in the nude, not only at YMCA, but also in thousands of high school pools around the country.
The name “Green Book” is a also a big red herring. Director Peter Farrelly, writers Nick Vallelonga, Peter Farrelly, and Brian Currie missed a wonderful opportunity to stress how important the “Green Book” was to the African American Travelling Public.“From 1936 to 1967 this book was a most popular travel guide and by 1962 it included information on all 50 states and had a circulation of about 2 million people.
The “Green Book” was not just about lodging and restaurants. It was a survival guide and included information about Beauty shops, sanitariums, drug stores, haberdashers, liquor stores, nightclubs, gas stations, Sundown Towns and so one." Another example of misuse of the primary plot device was that Dr. Don Shirley only glanced at the “Green Book” and driver Tony L only used occasionally when trying to find lodging.
Further I feel that this movie is dated and has missed many opportunities to be a great movie. "After all we have had an African American President and the “Black Panther” a Marvel superhero has been a box office smash. I truly felt it was way behind the curve and its treatment of racism reflects the Academy’s ongoing challenges with voter diversity. However, it appears that a lot of Academy voters still like these types of period movies.
As stated earlier “The Green Book” has developed a serious resume and scored big wins at the Producers Guild and the Golden Globes. In the 29 years, the Producers Guild's award has correctly named the Best Picture Academy Award winner 21 times.
But enough from me already, it is February the month of hope. I hope this movie doesn’t get the award for Best Picture and also hope we have an early spring.
You go and see this movie and see what you think. A soft theater seat and a bag of warm popcorn is a great way to wait out this little February cold snap.
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