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Until someone makes a biopic of Don Shirley, 'Green Book' will do

Matt Shiverdecker Special to the American-Statesman

Here is an interesting new release available now from cable and digital providers as well as a title that has recently become available for streaming.

Video on Demand

"Green Book": Despite being one of the more polarizing movies in the race, Peter Farrelly's drama about an unlikely friendship in the early 1960s pulled off a best picture win at the recent Academy Awards. It certainly isn't because the movie was the best film released last year (it isn't, by a long shot), but it does prove the power of the Oscar's preferential ballot system for voting. Viggo Mortensen stars as Tony Vallelonga, a rough-and-tumble Italian-American living in the Bronx with his family and working as a nightclub bouncer. Mahershala Ali (who won his second Oscar for this film) is Dr. Don Shirley, an eccentric and highly cultured African-American jazz musician who lives above Carnegie Hall. Their lives are polar opposite in every way, but when Don is asked to tour across the American South, he needs Tony's help to make the journey a reality. The title comes from "The Negro Motorist Green Book," which was a publication black travelers needed in the segregated South so that they knew what hotels and restaurants they could safely stop at while on a road trip. The lead performances are strong enough to help look past the historical inaccuracies (and the fact that Shirley's own family has called the film a "symphony of lies"), but your ability to accept the white savior narrative (co-written by Tony's son Nick Vallelonga) may vary. Another small bright spot in all of this mess? Linda Cardellini ("Freaks and Geeks") is terrific as Tony's wife, Dolores. It's a very small part, but she helps to ground his character and make him appear (at least slightly) like less of a walking stereotype. Until somebody wants to counter with a proper biopic of Dr. Shirley, this will have to do. Anything that introduces a new audience to his art can't be all bad. (Cable and digital VOD, 4K Ultra HD available)

Also on streaming services

"Three Identical Strangers": Tim Wardle's acclaimed documentary won a special jury award for storytelling at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Three triplets, born in 1961, were separated at birth as part of a medical study. Each child was adopted by a different family and unaware that they had identical siblings. It wasn't until the boys went to college that they discovered something was amiss and their lives changed forever. You'll be forgiven for thinking you're watching a suspense thriller instead of a documentary as the story unravels. This is truly a very dark exploration that takes a deep dive into medical ethics and the ties that bind. (Hulu)