A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Beautiful Day in the NeighborhoodThe movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood I thought was going to be some sort of biopic about Mr. Fred Rogers. But it really wasn’t.

Rather, the story concentrated on a hard-bitten journalist Tom Junod. He’s called Lloyd Vogel in the film, played by Matthew Rhys (The Americans; Brothers and Sisters). Lloyd is assigned to write a puff piece on the television performer (Tom Hanks). He interviewed Rogers extensively for what was supposed to be a 400-word piece in Esquire magazine. Because of that very clever angle, the story worked.

Tom Hanks, nominated for Best Supporting Actor in the Golden Globes, embodies Fred Rogers without overtly imitating him. I was astounded by a couple of interviewers suggesting to Hanks that playing Mr. Rogers must have been easy. Fred Rogers was nice. Tom Hanks seems nice. Those reporters showed no understanding of the craft in creating a specific persona.

Even though it it less Fred’s story than Lloyd’s, the values of guy in the cardigan sweater are clearly infused. One of the funny moments was in the trailer, but still worked. Lloyd’s wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) says to her husband, “please don’t ruin my childhood.” Chris Cooper is strong as Lloyd’s estranged father.

For its time

As Ken Levine put it in his review: “As I was watching it I thought, if Fred Rogers hadn’t really existed no one would ever buy this film. We’d all be saying, ‘No one is that genuine and kind-hearted.’ But of course he was. And my second thought was ‘Boy, we sure could use him now.'” That last sentiment shows up at least in the subtext of many of the reviews I read.

I’m glad this was not the standard biopic because the 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor, which I loved, already covered that territory. And if it isn’t quite as strong as the doc, the biopic nevertheless stands on its own.

(Conversely, I had a much different feeling after seeing two films about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The documentary RBG was great. The biopic On the Basis of Sex was extraneous unless you’d never seen RBG.)

I recommend A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which did made me feel better about the world. Oh, and check out a piece from the Washington Post: “What happened when I showed vintage Mister Rogers to my 21st-century kids.”

Movie review: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

That seems to be an effective representation of what ministry should be.

Just before my wife and I saw Won’t You Be My Neighbor? at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, I read Ken Levine’s review.

It begins: “Full disclosure: I was not a fan of MR. ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD when it aired. My kids watched it, but I found it oddly creepy.” Next paragraph: “I am now one of those people recommending WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?”

That’s the point: you don’t have to be a fan of Fred Rogers’ long-running children’s program on PBS to appreciate the wonderful individual he was who did appeal to very many kids. Adults didn’t get him because he generally wasn’t talking to them.

Although he pretty much single-handedly secured funding for Public Broadcasting in 1970 through his direct plea to a Congressional committee chair.

The thing about his show was not designed to entertain the parents but to create that one-on-one relationship between the host and every child. It was because he understood child psychology and remembered some of the more painful aspects of his own childhood. Someone suggested that what Fred did was to take the formula of every other idea in children’s programming and do the opposite.

Fred was trained as a Presbyterian minister and was a lifelong Republican, back in the day when there were moderate Republicans such as Governor William Scranton in his native Pennsylvania. But he addressed big issues, such as race relations and violence, while not being preachy, just genuinely good and kind.

I really related to Mr. Rogers’ use of his puppets. I know that the use of inanimate objects can sometimes express ideas and feelings more easily than one can do directly.

The movie touched on some reportage that suggested that suggested that millennials are whiny because Fred Rogers told them they were special. I thought it was nonsense at the time, and the film only reinforced my view.

The Mr. Rogers message was/is that we ALL are special, worthy of being loved. In doing so, he taught them/us we need to be thoughtful and considerate to others. That seems to be an effective representation of what ministry should be.

My wife and I thought the same thing, separately: when African American performer Francois Clemons shared a wading pool with Fred Rogers for the second time in the film, it felt like the narrative of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. I can’t explain why.

Whether or nor you liked MR. ROGERS NEIGHBORHOOD, or even heard of it, you should watch Won’t You Be My Neighbor, directed by Morgan Neville, who also also directed that great documentary about backup singers, 20 Feet from Stardom.

February rambling: snollygoster!

Super Bowl Opening Night; Sheila E., Morris Day, with the niece Rebecca Jade

The Framingham, Massachusetts Public Library rocks!

The US has been downgraded from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy”

John Oliver: America is a ‘beautiful mess of contradictions’

What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns

Gun Control Advocates Look to Connecticut

Does the Exploding Federal Deficit Matter?

Our nation’s theological leaders should be torchbearers for morality, not enablers of ethical decay

Bombshell Exposé; the Affairs and the Coverup

‘Did he “call for bipartisanship”? Of course, he did, the way a carny barker calls for suckers

Satire: Military Refuses to Participate in His Parade, Citing Bone Spurs, plus a real response from a retired army general

Snollygoster: One, especially a politician, who is guided by personal advantage rather than by consistent, respectable principles

Lawsplainer: “Fruit of The Poisonous Tree” And The Special Counsel Investigation

The Sound and the Fury: Inside the Mystery of the Havana Embassy

Gun Reform: Speaking Truth to BS, Practicing Civility, and Affecting Change

CAN YOU SAY…HERO? Fred Rogers has been doing the same small good thing for a very long time… (from Nov 1998)

They slayed Tony the Tiger: Chile’s war on obesity took cartoon icons off junk food boxes and added black warning labels. Could it be a model?

The Science Of Why SWEARING Physically Reduces Pain

“If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything”

What Can’t a Billion Dollars Buy?

in-flight magazine on Norwegian Air


THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES WON THE SUPER BOWL!!!!!!!

Winners Of The 69th Annual George Polk Awards In Journalism

My wife and I saw The Bodyguard at Proctors and liked it a whole lot more than this reviewer

RIP for John Mahoney

Steve Gerber, 10 years gone

Marty Allen, R.I.P.

Film Theory: The Tide Pod Challenge – EXPOSED! (selected by The Daughter)

The SORRY! state of board games

Hangry in the OED

The Things That Come to Those Who Wait: A sociocultural history of the line

The Bronze Medal Which Took Fifty Years to Win and The Wrong Richard at the Wrong Time and What History Smells Like and A Penny Earned and Coming Alive at a Snail’s Pace and The Day Care Fine that Backfired and The Man Who Owned Google for a Minute and The Island with No Garbage

“if you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything”

MUSIC

Super Bowl Opening Night; Sheila E., Morris Day (the niece Rebecca Jade in the very first shot) or here (official version; loads slower)

David Byrne teamed up with Choir! Choir! Choir! to cover Bowie’s ‘Heroes’

Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture

With or Without You – April Meservy

The late composer Johann Johannsson

Puedes Sentir El Amor/Can You Feel The Love Tonight – Adrienne Walker (Nala) and Agustin Arguello (Simba)

The Manhattan Transfer returns!!

Picture Show – John Prine with Tom Petty

Coverville: 1204: Cover Stories for Sarah McLachlan and Lucinda Williams and 1205: Celebrating the music of Neil Diamond, Paul Simon and Elton John and 1206: The Un-Valentine’s Day Episode and 1207: George Harrison for (what would have been) his 75th birthday!

Karl Goldmark’s Sakuntala Overture

Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante

Mardi Gras In New Orleans – DIRTY DOZEN BRASS BAND

This is Getting Old – Young@Heart Chorus (E*TRADE ad during the Super Bowl)

Quincy Jones in conversation