‘Green Book’ was right to win Best Picture

Alex Helmer

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Before watching “Green Book” in November of 2018, I’d heeded the buzz coming from its Toronto Film Festival People’s Choice Award win. Suffice to say, the film didn’t disappoint. The 2018 Oscars will be remembered as the year “Green Book” withstood all of the controversies and prevailed. I’m happy that the Academy was able to recognize this film’s performances, script, and characters as the best of the year.

First and foremost, “Green Book” tackles multiple themes. The first: friendship. Tony (Viggo Mortensen) and Shirley (Mahershala Ali) are total opposites at the beginning of the film—Mahershala plays a classy African-American pianist and Viggo plays an unsophisticated Italian-American bouncer. The reactions they have to each other’s ways of life adds comedic value to the movie. A prime example of this is the scene in the KFC when Shirley witnesses how Tony vigorously chows down on fried chicken, while Tony is in awe of how Shirley had never eaten fried chicken before. By the end of the film, there are masterful moments just like this scene that illustrate the degree to which both characters have grown to appreciate one another.

The film also expertly portrays the racial tensions in the South during the ’60s. It depicts how initially Tony is overwhelmingly ignorant towards African-American culture but grows to think otherwise because of the horrors he witnessed in the South. Shirley is expertly written as a Black male in the South who imposes on the Black stereotype and performs music for the very people who despise his race. Shirley becomes conflicted because he’s constantly reminded about how he’s not Black or white enough and isn’t quite accepted by anyone.

Another factor that reflects why “Green Book” won Best Picture is the performances given by Mortensen and Ali. Both actors transform into figures distant from other characters they’ve portrayed in the past. The voices, facial expressions, and mannerisms given by the pair lead to characters that are much more investable compared to those in other movies, who seem like afterthoughts. Mortensen and Ali are given wonderful comedic and emotional dialogue that produces interesting characters who you actually care about.

It’s characters like Shirley and moments like the KFC scene that aren’t present in previous Best Picture winners. “Green Book” is everything you desire in a movie: heart, comedy, tension, and emotion. A movie for critics and audiences alike who will adore this film for years to come.