Oscars Nomination Controversy

By The Elm - Mar 07,2019@12:00 am

By Emma Campbell

Elm Staff Writer

The 91st Academy Awards concluded on Feb. 24 with a controversial Best Picture win. “Green Book,” having already snagged the awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay, ended the evening by winning the most coveted trophy in Hollywood. e award was accepted by producers Jim Burke and Charles B. Wessler, writers Brian Currie and Nick Vallelonga, and director Peter Farrelly.

“Green Book” tells the story of real-life African-American jazz musician Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his driver and bodyguard Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortenson) as they embark together on a tour of the Deep South in the 1960s. The film was named after “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a guidebook designed to point African-American travelers toward non-segregated hotels and restaurants.

Since its release in November 2018, “Green Book” has come under fire for the “white savior” narrative it seems to portray, as well as the fact that the film was written, produced, and directed entirely by white men.

It received fervent criticism from Don Shirley’s surviving family members. “We know the truth of our loved one… they decided to create a story of a white man’s redemption and self-realization using an extraordinary black life and a history of black oppression in this country as their backdrop. Many viewers are simply tired of that devalu- ing narrative,” Yyvonne Shirley, the great-niece of Don Shirley, told the Hollywood Reporter.

Objectively, the premise of “Green Book” is heartwarming. During a time of hatred, two men from different walks of life come together under unique circumstances, forming a bond of friendship and learning a few poignant life lessons along the way. This is an Oscar-worthy narrative in that it’s derivative, vaguely poetic, and seemingly harmless. But when all of the film’s controversy is taken into account, is “Green Book” really deserving of an Oscar for Best Picture?

Some famous members of the Oscars audience seemed to think not. Chadwick Boseman could be seen giving what appeared to be an exasperated look to his “Black Panther” co-star, Michael B. Jordan, just after Best Picture was announced — an exchange that has since gone viral. Spike Lee, whose lm “BlacKKKlansman” was also nominated for Best Picture, reportedly tried to storm out of the auditorium before being stopped at the doors. Lee returned to his seat and turned his back to the stage as Farrelly and his colleagues gave their acceptance speeches. Later, Lee told reporters, “I thought I was courtside at the Garden and the ref made a bad call.”

Lee’s fury wasn’t born entirely from a case of sour grapes. It is more likely that he was expressing outrage at the triumph of a project where the controversy devalues its message —a message that’s already weak, and one that we’ve seen before.

“‘Green Book’ is not edgy or unpredictable or unlike anything you’ve seen before — it’s essentially a road movie about opposites attracting and learning from each other. Almost an inverse ‘Driving Miss Daisy,’” The Hollywood Reporter said in a review of the film.

A more satisfactory awards ceremony would have ended with Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” winning Best Picture. The movie is not only uniquely beautiful, it is also universal and relatable, painting ordinary life as complex. Most people, critics and everyday viewers alike, are in agreement that “Roma” was the best picture of the year. So why didn’t it win the Oscar for that category?

Perhaps it’s because films like “Green Book” have a formula that movie-goers have become overly comfortable with: describing an unlikely friendship between a black man and a white man, full of archetypes and clichés — one that paints such a rosy picture of American history that viewers are unable to fully recognize it as factual. Movies of this type should not be escapism, they should be truthful. is is where “Green Book” misses the mark of an Oscar-worthy lm most widely, instead entering the realm of forgettable flicks.

The Elm

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