It is no secret that Thanksgiving is the kickoff to a season of fabulous movies. I know I can’t wait to watch no fewer than four new movies with my family and friends when we get together for Thanksgiving this year. The Grand is a cozy place to spend time with your newly reunited family and friends during the holidays. Is there truly anything better than experiencing a fantastic film and getting the chance to chat about it with a bunch of your loved ones afterwards? I didn’t think so.
So which movies will you feast on to complement your Thanksgiving? We have a couple suggestions.
First up, the iconic film The Wiz. This classic musical was an immediate hit when it came out in 1978, and this year, we celebrate its 40th anniversary. The story transplants the classic Wizard of Oz story into 1970s New York City featuring an entirely African-American, star-studded cast including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Richard Pryor. Not only is The Wiz a total hoot, it’s vital to the history of Black excellence and canonical to US pop culture.
Check out this excellent blog about The Wiz’s metaphors for being Black in America. The author, Nadirah Simmons, explains how The Wiz is not only a depiction of a Black experience in the US, but a powerful critique of anti-Blackness and racism in America. She discusses the film’s metaphors for gentrification, the Jim Crow era, and hypermasculinity. The Wiz portrays Black existence as full of struggle, determination, and beauty.
I have yet to see The Wiz, and Nadirah Simmons’ explanation is what made me most excited to experience it. I am truly looking forward to seeing a Black perspective presented through musical theater, plus I can’t wait to see Michael Jackson break into song while dressed as the scarecrow!
The combination of The Wiz’s dazzling energy and its conversation-provoking nature makes it perfect for a sweet family hang out before you get down to grubbin’. Also, it will be so fun to take anyone who hasn’t experienced the film before to see it on the big screen!
Next up, Green Book also opens this Thanksgiving. Based on a true story set in the 1960s, this new film shares the story of a white working class bouncer from the Bronx who is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley, a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South. They must rely on The Negro Motorist Green Book (known as The Green Book), a travel guide created to help African American motorists navigate the segregated South, in order to perform at the few establishments that were then safe for African Americans. Confronted with racism, danger–as well as unexpected humanity and humor–they are forced to set aside differences.
First of all, this film just seems cool! It stars Mahershala Ali (yes, the Academy Award winner from Moonlight and star of the next season of True Detective!) and the always brilliant Viggo Mortensen, and weaves a tale of comradery and acceptance. Secondly, it is certainly important. Green Book portrays this historic time with grace and accuracy, and The Green Book itself is a definitive aspect of the US’s history of racial violence and segregation.
Green Book also explores just who pianist Don Shirley was. While this film is not a biopic, it does delve into the inner workings of the piano prodigy. I learned more about Shirley’s life in this New York Times article, which explores how Shirley became a legendary musician and how his career was impeded by racism. I can’t wait for all of the great music that will be in this film!
While it seriously explores a complex character and even more complex racial tensions, Green Book is heartwarming and funny. The film’s commentary on race and class segue smoothly into a conversation about love and acceptance—just in time for families to get together and remember the importance of embracing each other over a big meal.
See you at the movies!