The film “Green Book” keeps winning awards

By Frederick H. Lowe


It’s not a sure bet, but it looks like “Green Book” could be booked for an Oscar.

The National Board of Review recently named “Green Book,” a film starring 2017 Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali, as 2018’s best picture. In the film, Ali, who won Best-Supporting Actor for “Moonlight,” 2017’s Oscar winner for Best Picture, portrays musician Don Shirley.

Shirley was an African-American classical pianist, arranger and composer who was pushed into playing jazz because whites would not accept him as a classical pianist. This more than frustrated Shirley who lived in an apartment above New York City’s Carnegie Hall, where he gave a solo concert. He was more than highly regarded. Igor Stravinsky, the Russian-born composer who is regarded as the most-important classical composer, said, “His virtuosity is worthy of the Gods.” He also was close friends with Duke Ellington and the two worked together. Shirley could play across all genres : classical, jazz, ballads, showtunes and spirituals.

“We are proud to honor to honor Green Book as our best film–it is a warm and heartfelt look at a remarkable friendship, brought to the screen at a moment where its story of love, compassion, and share humanity deeply resonates,” said Annie Schulhof, president of the National Board of Review, which is based in New York.

Green Book

National Board of Review’s honor for “Green Book” follows the Toronto  International Film Festival People’s Choice of Award, which also named the movie best picture.

The National Board of Review, which honors cinema as art, also named Regina King best supporting actress for her role in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” The  film is based on James Baldwin’s novel. Barry Jenkins won best-adapted screenplay for “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Viggo Mortensen was named best actor for his role in “Green Book.”  Mortensen portrays Tony Lip, an Italian-American chauffeur who drove Shirley to concert venues throughout the Deep South in 1962.

Lip’s son, Nick Vallelonga, wrote the screenplay. Tony Lip was born Frank Vallelonga. He was tagged with the nickname Tony Lip because he could talk his way out of a lot of situations.

Before Lip began chauffeuring Shirley, he was a known racist, according to his son. Lip regularly would call blacks niggers, and he would throw a glass in the garbage if a black man had drunk from it.

In a recent Q&A with Ali, Mortenson said the word nigger, which caused a lot of concern and may have dimmed his chances for an Oscar.

While some critics praise the movie, Shirley’s family’s condemned it  refusing to see it.

The Negro Motorist Green Book (at times styled The Negro Motorist Green-Book or titled The Negro Travelers’ Green Book) provides a foundation for the film.

The Green Book, as it was commonly called, was an annual guidebook for African-American motorists traveling around the country.

Victor Hugo Green, founder and publisher of the Green Book

It was originated and published by mailman Victor Hugo Green from 1936 to 1966, during the era of Jim Crow laws when many restaurants, motels and hotels prominently displayed signs on doors and windows reminding blacks, or Negroes or coloreds as we were called at the time, that the establishments only served whites. Victor Hugo was a famous French writer.

Green’s brother was a musician and he managed his travel schedule. His brother told him about the horrible, racist incidents that occurred on the road, including police stopping black motorists for no reason and sometimes murdering them.

The Green Book provided information about the New York area where it was safe for blacks to stop, buy gas, eat, and spend the night.

In some places, there were no hotels or motels that would accept African American guests, so Green listed “tourist homes,” where families would rent a room to a traveler.




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