Best Picture of 2018 was announced this evening and the digital ether is clawing over the questionable win. Yet, there’s a reason to support Green Book.
The 91st annual Academy Award celebration is over. Despite all the controversy leading into the ceremony, it actually went off without a hitch. (It still managed to run over the three-hour limit.) In a twist of irony, the least popular film won Best Picture this evening, as certified by the public accounting firm of Facebook, Twitter and Internet.
Paul Haggis must be relieved that his controversial win is no longer the least popular.
Green Book has now taken its place.
The audience has every right to be upset over this win and so does Justin Chang. However, that doesn’t necessarily make them right. It doesn’t make them any less wrong either.
To be sure, the now Oscar-winning original screenplay by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie and director Peter Farrelly is designed to make its audience feel good about themselves. That’s what movies are supposed to do – they are supposed to offer an escape from our own lives. They should make us laugh, if not at what’s on the screen, then definitely at ourselves.
However, a script is only a small fraction of a movie, but it is the most critical piece because without one, there is a blank screen in front of audiences.
I’m sure those who are uncomfortable with the film’s win probably wish there had been an empty screen. That’s not fair though because it dismisses the entire production’s effort.
Even if we don’t agree with the history that the film portrays or the characters as they appear on the screen, the screenplay wouldn’t have existed without the benefit of a solid set of producers and production companies, namely Participant Media and DreamWorks Pictures, nee Amblin Partners.
Yes. Steven Spielberg’s name is indirectly attached to this project. So is Octavia Spencer’s.
More importantly, is the production company, Participant Media who has been around since 2004, having been nominated or won several Oscars for films such as Spotlight, Good Night and Good Luck, Lincoln, A Most Violent Year, Bridge of Spies, The Post, RGB, this years’ Roma and of course, Green Book.
The films they produce are meant to perpetuate socially conscious and entertaining stories. Green Book has those two items checked off their list. Why is it then that the film isn’t resonating with some segments of the audience?
Could it be because we simply looked at the surface of the film, thought it resembled other films, perhaps being a bit too plain in its approach and then just as quickly dismissed it?
Possibly. But, the film’s success has been plagued by charges of racism. The Shirley family condemned the film for their lack of inclusion in how Donald Shirley was portrayed in the film. It could very well be true that the family wasn’t invited to offer their recollections of Dr. Shirley, however depending on what you read and how you feel about the state of race relations in this nation and around the world, we shouldn’t be focused on that, in spite of what the news cycle would have us believe.
Is it possible that a bunch of “old, white Oscar voters” still have their way with the Best Picture selection process and the ultimate voting?
Sure. The change in the voting process over the last few years suggests that’s not possible either. The entire Oscar body votes on Best Picture, by way of preferential voting.
Was this a “safe vote” on the part of the Academy?
Yes. That line of thinking ultimately defeats the purpose of the film’s deeper meaning, that of two men, from disparate backgrounds being able to find the courage to help one another see the best parts of themselves, even in the midst of the racial tensions of the Deep South in the 1960s.
Of the eight films to be nominated for Best Picture, each film had a message. Black Panther for its lush, well-developed culture at the height of its technological growth faces its greatest challenge when the heir to its throne is compromised, in Bohemian Rhapsody, a gay immigrant’s rise to fame by leading a group of nobodies to win the world with its music. In Roma, a maid’s struggle to support a middle-class family as it falls apart during a politically charged time in Mexico. In BlacKkKlansman, a Black cop’s efforts to infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan and to break it apart from within during the most visible and racially charged eras in our history. In The Favourite, a period piece during Queen Anne’s rule that sees a lesbian sexual power struggle that could topple the throne’s rule. In A Star Is Born, a down and out singer finds true love, but cannot overcome his own demons. Finally, in Vice, a power hungry politician rises in the ranks to one of the highest offices in the land and engineers a coup without actually overthrowing anyone, all while having a heart condition.
Each of the eight films has a message. The Best Picture nomination represent a film’s message as equally as important as its individual parts, but not as much as the overall production that brought the film together in the first place.
I thought BlacKkKlansman did a much better job of speaking to the current climate of race relations.
My nature is also extremely positive even in the face of a negative situation which is why I support Green Book’s Best Picture win.
Green Book might make us all feel better about ourselves, but it also leaves us with the one thing that our society severely lacks in itself today: hope. Hope that we can overcome our ugly history marred by violence; that we can ultimately find a common ground, that we can share our common interests and learn from one another.
Am I an ideologue? Yes, I probably am. Does it cloud my judgement? Sure, but then again, I just mentioned that I thought BlacKkKlansman was a more effective message movie, having won Best Adapted Screenplay this evening.
I question Green Book’s Original Screenplay win because of the doubt that still surrounds its source material. This is where most people who malign the film are taking aim at it. (And that’s why Justin Chang is right.)
Mahershala Ali took the best parts of what was on the page and he gave us an amazing performance, that of a gay, black man in the 1960’s, something that went beyond the call of a Supporting Actor. The story was told from Tony Lipp’s vantage point, but this was all Don Shirley’s heart and soul.
Mr. Ali and by extension, Dr. Shirley gave all of us hope that we can be better than the worst part of ourselves.
That’s why I support Green Book’s win. It was a safe choice, because its source material is questionable, or that it is a safe choice amongst many films from 2018 that had a strong showing of stories that explored race relations, all of them better than Green Book.
It is not the best film.
But it does leave us with the best possible human message. And if we choose to stop trying to compartmentalize each other, we might just find the best parts of our collective selves.