‘Green Book’ won Best Picture?

Alex Holmes

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There are many different criteria for judging a film. However, any way you spin it, this year’s Best Picture winner, “Green Book,” was the safest, blandest, and most jaw-droppingly backward film the Academy could have possibly picked.

There are two problems with this telling other than the driver’s story simply being less compelling. First, it perpetuates the “white savior” narrative that has plagued Hollywood for decades, where a non-white character is helped by a heroic white character to achieve their goals.

Shirley is portrayed as disconnected from both Black and white communities. More troubling, though, is that Vallelonga appears to “save” Shirley, introducing him to Black culture and welcoming him into his home when Shirley’s own community would not.

The second issue is the film’s message about racism in America. Race is at the heart of the film because of the unlikely friendship between a white racist and a Black man. By the end of the movie, Shirley and Vallelonga are essentially best buds.

But the deeper message is that everyone can get along. The film doesn’t confront racism: it ignores it.

All that being said, “Green Book” is not a bad movie. It’s well-paced, enjoyable, and features superb acting by Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen. Being an entertaining movie, however, doesn’t mean it’s the best movie of the year.

“Green Book” is set in 1962, but unlike so many current period pieces that seem to be more timely than ever, it is stuck in the past. It feels like a movie that would have been made 30 years ago when Hollywood was beginning to diversify superficially but when they weren’t ready to confront the deep-seated issue of racism.

In fact, Hollywood did make this movie 30 years ago. It’s called “Driving Miss Daisy”, and it too won Best Picture. And that was the year that Spike Lee’s seminal “Do the Right Thing” was released and wasn’t even nominated.

Even if that blunder wasn’t exactly acceptable, it was understandable in an era when Oscar voters were mostly old, white men. Now it’s 2019, and the same thing just happened again. Lee’s latest masterwork, “BlacKkKlansman,” was up for Best Picture. Voters not only snubbed Lee but added insult to injury by allowing the very antithesis of his socially-aware film to win the industry’s top prize.

Ultimately, “Green Book” is a backward-looking film, one that relishes in traditional values of right and wrong and is eager to please everyone. Thirty years from now, “Green Book” will be remembered not only for being the wrong pick, but a shameful one.