The 91st Academy Awards took place last night, and despite the controversy of there being no host, the ceremony was actually really good … until the end of the night, when Green Book took home Best Picture.
While this win itself is deserving of controversy, it must be said that last night was a big win for diversity at the Oscars overall: Regina King took home her first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress; Spike Lee was the co-winner of Best Adapted Screenplay; Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor; Rami Malek took Best Actor; Alfonso Cuarón got Best Director; Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won Best Animated Film; Free Solo won Best Documentary; Period. End of Sentence. won Best Documentary Short; Bao won Best Animated Short for Domee Shi and Becky Neiman-Cobb; and Hannah Beachler and Ruth E. Carter both took home Oscar for their individual Best Design categories for their work on Black Panther, becoming the first two Black women to win in those categories.
That kind of night, with men and women of color winning and being highlighted at the Oscars, would not have happened without the work of people online like April Reign, who created the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag that’s so well known by now, bringing to everyone’s attention that there is a problem with awards shows that fail to highlight the diversity of the industry.
Still, the center continued to hold when Green Book took home both Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture. During the announcement of the win, Spike Lee is reported to have stormed out in a fit of purple suited frustration, and honestly … same.
As many people have stated online, the dual wins of Green Book for Best Picture and BlackKklansman for Best Screenplay are telling. Green Book represents the same kind of “come together” race movies like Crash, The Blind Side, and Driving Miss Daisy. Regardless of how you may feel about Spike Lee’s films since Do The Right Thing, Lee has been making movies about America’s complex relationship with race and has never shied away from the dark honesty of those stories—the opposite of Green Book.
Associated Press reporter Andrew Dalton tweeted out that “Spike Lee was visibly angry when Green Book was announced as the winner of Best Picture at the Oscars, waving his arms in disgust and appearing to try to storm out of the Dolby Theatre before he was stopped at the doors. He returned to his seat when the speeches were over.”
There was also his reaction to being asked about the win, when he asked for more champaign instead:
Asked about “Green Book,” Spike Lee decided it was time for more champagne.
— AP Entertainment (@APEntertainment) February 25, 2019
Green Book‘s failures as a movie are compounded by the fact that, as more and more information comes out, it’s clear that writer/producer Nick Vallelonga and co. really wanted to tell the story of Vallelonga’s father featuring Don Shirley. Vallelonga claimed that the real Shirley asked him not to contact his family, that he didn’t really know they existed, and a bunch of other crap that just makes my eyes roll.
Backstage at the #Oscars, #GreenBook‘s Nick Vallelonga says Don Shirley asked him not to reach out to the Shirley family: “I didn’t even know they really existed until after we were making the film.” https://t.co/ZuoOGuBHmV pic.twitter.com/N3gOfXcmFi
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) February 25, 2019
In most years, Green Book winning would be a meh choice, but in 2019, it’s especially trying, and with movies like Black Panther that lean into Afrofuturism and the hope of Black people across the diaspora, and BlackKklansman which, while imperfect, does feature a Black/white team-up in which the white cop reconnects with his Jewish heritage and realizes he has skin in the game when it comes to defeating white supremacy.
That still leaves movies like Sorry To Bother You, Blindspotting, and If Beale Street Could Talk, all with bold stories that the Academy mostly snubbed. For Lee’s most tame movie about race, a movie that is pro-cop, to still get passed over for the Driving Miss Daisy throwback of Green Book is exhausting.
If this year’s Best Picture win tells us anything about the year it came out it, it shows that people of color can make strides and break barriers, but the highest award will still go to the white guys telling a mediocre story about themselves.
(image: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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