The Oscars are tonight! In my opinion this is the best movie of the year. I have NO IDEA if the Academy will agree – this Top Ten List is reflective of MY OPINION ONLY. That being said, I do think there’s something to be said for a film that helps us overcome the racial divide in this country. That’s why I loved…
1. Drivin’ Mistah Greenbook (dir. Ron Howard)
Drivin’ Mistah Greenbook is the story of a racist chauffeur, Lester Yellen (Viggo Mortensen), who drives an old blues musician Dexter Greenbook (Morgan Freeman) around the Jim Crow South. At first the two are hostile foes, due to Lester Yellen’s unyielding white supremacist beliefs. But over time, the mismatched pair gradually grow to respect and even love one another.
During the first part of the movie, Lester Yellen spouts off his racist claptrap during the long drives between gigs. While Lester’s screaming about whites being the master race and all that hoobajoo, Mistah Greenbook just rolls his eyes and reads the newspaper.
At meal times, Lester eats fried chicken and watermelon in a mocking way while he speaks in an over-the-top impersonation of a shuck-and-jive Uncle Tom type caricature. When Lester says in a mocking jive accent, “Look at me, I’m a drivin’ Mistah Greenbook, yessuh, it’s like he tha massa and I’m the slave, hee-hee-hee! thass a backasswards,” I immediately thought, that must be where they got the title for the movie.
Though Ol’ Mistah Greenbook acts as if all of this racism doesn’t bother him, you can tell it kind of does. Eventually Greenbook boils over and goes on a rant of his own in which he definitively destroys with Facts and Logic everything Lester has said and done. By the end of this monologue, it is clear that Greenbook is far more intelligent and clever than Lester had thought.
Just then, an angry mob of southerners tries to lynch Greenbook for being out in public after the town curfew. Even though he doesn’t really want to, Lester saves Greenbook’s life because it’s part of his job as chauffeur and Lester really believes in duty and honor.
Saving Greenbook’s life brings the chauffeur closer to understanding that racism is ultimately bad and wrong. Lester and Mistah Greenbook try to go back to their old hostile ways of yelling at each other, but soon they are just laughing every time they try. This laughter cements their unlikely friendship.
Drivin’ Mistah Greenbook really illustrates the world we could live in if we would just overcome racial animosities through laughter, friendship, and saving each other’s lives when the going gets tough. Morgan Freeman delivers a tour-de-force performance that really deserves an Oscar, and Viggo Mortensen is even better so it’s too bad one of them will have to lose tonight.
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