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“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” – Morgan Neville: Hollywood Film Tribute

Today we are recognizing Won’t You Be My Neighbor, as well as director Morgan Neville. Our Hollywood Film Tributes recognize films and talent for their excellence in the art of filmmaking.

One of the biggest injustices when the Academy Awards were announced was the fact that this film was snubbed in Best Documentary Features. One of 2018’s best movies overall, Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a modern documentary classic. So, in lieu of Oscar citing Morgan Neville, instead, we’ll be paying tribute to him and Fred Rogers today…

Here is a bit from our sob filled rave review that went up in June:

For millions of people, when they were kids, Mr. Rogers was a notable influence in their lives. Fred Rogers was not just a children’s entertainer. He was a protector of sorts, someone who actually cared. This week, a documentary about his life hits screens. It’s called Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and not just is the best doc in years (since the Roger Ebert one Life Itself), it’s one of the very best movies of 2018 overall. There simply isn’t anything else out there like it. Bring your tissues too, ladies and gentlemen, because you will cry. I teared up on multiple occasions.

The documentary is a biographical look at Fred Rogers, the mastermind behind the classic children’s television show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. The IMDb synopsis is brief, just stating the following: “An exploration of the life, lessons, and legacy of iconic children’s television host, Fred Rogers.” That’s pretty on point though, as Rogers is depicted as a genuine good soul, someone who wanted to educate, protect, and support the development of the world’s youth population. In some ways, Rogers is a relic, though in others, he’s needed now more than ever. One doesn’t have to think hard to imagine him taking the current President to task for his behavior. Oscar winning documentarian Morgan Neville directs, and this is his best work to date, bar none.

I loved this doc, and am not ashamed to say that I cried quite a bit during the film’s running time. For me, Mr. Rogers was there as I grew up. The ambitious lessons he was teaching were so ahead of his time. Plus, just the way he would say he likes you just the way you are. Even now, thinking of that while writing this, just brings a tear to my eye. There’s video out there of an elderly Rogers, shortly before his death, speaking to his adult fans, the ones who grew up with him, and telling them how proud he is of you. If you don’t turn into a puddle hearing his genuine pride at giving you the tools to be a happy person, well, you just might not be human.

There’s a scene that, despite being available elsewhere, you have to see in order to believe. Rogers actually testifies before a Senate Subcommittee when Public Television is risking having their funding cut. The Senator he needs to convince is almost cartoonish, seemingly having made up his mind. In about five minutes, speaking from the heart, he turns him around. It’s magic, showcasing how much he cared, his passion, and the legitimate desire he had to do right by children.

Photos Courtesy Focus Features

Hollywood Film Tributes recognizing films and talent for their excellence in the art of filmmaking.
Editors: Carlos de Abreu and Joey Magidson [Tomatometer-approved critic]
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About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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