Stream On: Busting barriers, a few at a time—’Green Book’ and ‘North Country’

By on November 4, 2021

“It is ever thus.” –a fatalist

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” –Albert Einstein


/Amazon.com /Prime Video /Streaming /Trailer /2018 [PG13]

Mahershala Ali (The 4400) and Viggo Mortenson have a terrific chemistry as classical and jazz pianist and composer Don Shirley and Bronx actor and bouncer Tony Vallelonga (who later played Carmine Lupertazzi on The Sopranos) on a road trip into the deep south of America in 1962.

In 1962, Vallelonga (known as “Tony Lip”) was working as a bouncer but had been idled when the Copacabana closed for renovations. He was contacted through the club by a representative for Don Shirley, a classical pianist who, after playing with Arthur Fiedler, had been composing and playing jazz informed by classical traditions. Dr. Shirley needed a driver—and bodyguard—for a concert tour of the midwest and deep south.

When blue-collar Tony goes to Shirley’s rooms above Carnegie Hall to interview for the job, he’s nonplussed by Shirley’s apartment, which was opulently furnished in an African motif, and gobsmacked when Dr. Shirley appears, an elegantly patrician black man in a flowing robe. Tony, who had been annoyed by a pair of black repairmen in his apartment, nevertheless was civil to him, and brought up what would likely go wrong. Shirley was aware; one of his goals, apart from exposing audiences to his unique music, was to change hearts and minds in those parts of the country where it might be needed.

Tony, as employee, was actually more conciliatory than the distant pianist, but by the end of their adventures, the two men had formed a lifelong friendship and learned that racial discrimination in the USA had been but one of their problems.

Green Book was written by director Peter Farrelly, Brian Hayes Currie and Vallelonga’s son, Nick Vallelonga, based on interviews with his father and Shirley, as well as letters his father wrote to his mother.[^] It won enough awards for an entire Wikipedia article.


/Amazon.com /Prime Video /Streaming /Trailer /2005 [R]

In 1989, Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) flees from her abusive husband back to her hometown in northern Minnesota with her children, Sammy and Karen, and moves in with her parents, Alice (Sissy Spacek, Castle Rock) and Hank (Richard Jenkins, Six Feet Under). While working a job washing hair, Josey reconnects with an old acquaintance, Glory Dodge (Frances McDormand), who works at the local iron mine and suggests Josey do the same, as a job there pays six times more than what Josey’s making now. Josey gets the job, further straining her relationship with her dad, who also works at the mine and believes women shouldn’t be working there, so she and her children move in with Glory and her husband, Kyle (Sean Bean, The Frankenstein Chronicles).

Josey befriends other female workers at the mine and soon realizes the women are constant targets for sexual harassment and humiliation by most of their male co-workers, who, like Hank, believe the women are taking jobs more appropriate for men, viz., their jobs.

The screenplay was inspired by the 2002 book Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler, which chronicled the case of Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Company.[^] It’s predictable but surprising; happy and sad; funny and tragic, and a fine and engaging two hours’ entertainment. 76% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)

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