When Green Book was announced as the Best Picture winner at the 2019 Oscars, disappointment settled in rather quickly. The Academy had just voted the most mediocre movie of 2018 as the best. But then it got worse.
As the relatively all-white cast walked up the steps to the Dolby Theater stage, the producers thanked Viggo Mortensen, who played the Italian-American protagonist. The film followed driver Tony Vallelonga (Mortensen) and black pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) through the1960s South. The film painted the real-life relationship as one of friendship, which the family of Shirley said was false. The Academy gave the Oscar to a film that painted race relations through the sanitized view of a white man.
The script was written by the Tony Vallelonga’s son, Nick Vallelonga, which brings a slew of problems to the forefront. The film does not seem to dive deep into what it is like to be a black person in the South and makes the white man out to be the hero of the story. Even if that was exactly what happened in real life, the film should have been told through Shirley’s perspective. It would have made for an interesting story and one that could have served more purpose in today’s society.
But all controversies aside, Green Book was just a very meh movie. The acting was on par with Mortensen’s and Ali’s past work, the dialogue was cheesy but OK and the overall story was interesting. There was nothing spectacular about the film, and if the Academy wanted to give the statue to a film about race relations, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman would have been a better choice.
Lee’s take on the true story of Colorado Springs Police Department’s first black detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan was a complex depiction of race relations that echoed in the 21st century. The film did more for the art of cinema than Green Book ever could.
Green Book’s win raises a lot of questions about the Academy’s criteria for the coveted category. If considered properly, the Best Picture winner should comprise most aspects of the Oscar categories — acting, directing, cinematography, scriptwriting and editing at least — and be the best at implementing them. The film that wins Best Picture might not win all of those awards or even be nominated, but it should exemplify the best cinema has to offer.
The film should also say something about the current state of film and challenge the industry intellectually and technically. Films that did that this year included Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite and Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. If the Academy were to base its choice solely on which makes the most sense for the current landscape of cinema, Black Panther should have won. On a technical and cinematic level, Roma should have taken the top prize. Artistically and socially speaking, The Favourite was the one to beat. Instead, the award went to the film that made no advancements in film whatsoever.
Years from now when people are looking back at the Best Picture winners, they are not going to remember Green Book. They might not even remember the controversies surrounding it. But people will remember Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born and Black Panther and even Bohemian Rhapsody. If the Academy wants to become more relevant, it should start prioritizing films that will define the year in which it was nominated and not films that no one will remember.
Georgia Davis is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What film do you think should have won Best Picture? Tell Georgia by tweeting her at @georgiadee35.