Monday, February 25, 2019

My Thoughts on Last Night's Oscars or, How we were Given the Worst Film to Win Best Picture Since Crash...Maybe Even Worse

So, another Oscar ceremony is in the books. I went 17 for 24 in my predictions (a fairly average night...i've done better tho), but this post is not about that. This post is about the good things and the bad things of the night. So here we go.

The highlights of the show began with the opening number by Queen...or at least what poses as Queen these days. You see, the highlight was not Queen itself. Sure Brian May on guitar was always...and Roger Taylor on drums (and in one of many velvet suits being worn last night) was fantastic. Adam Lambert, taking Freddie's place tho...well, that is a horse of a different colour. The guy has an average voice, replacing one of the greatest voices (if not THE greatest) of all-time, and even singing two of the band's "easier" songs, he was just bland as ever. No, Queen themselves were not the highlight. The highlight was watching all these big Holywood stars singing along and rocking out to We Will Rock You and We are the Champions.

Other highlights included Spike Lee !! FINALLY !! winning an Oscar. Granted, it was for screenplay and not for directing his brilliant BlacKkKlansman, but it was an Oscar. Spike's excitement was fantastic, as he leapt into Samuel L. Jackson's arms.  A wonderful moment. Another wonderful moment is when the ever wonderful Olivia Colman surprised everyone, herself very much included, by winning Best Actress for her role in the little seen, but fantastic The Favourite. Granted, her role was more supporting than lead, but who cares...she won, and it was one of the best moments of the night, and one of the best acceptance speeches in Oscar history.  Many, myself included, were expecting Glenn Close to take home the Oscar (in her seventh attempt) or perhaps even Lady Gaga to surprise. But not last night. In a rare Oscar occurrence, the Oscar went to the correct person.

Other highlights included the mini-monologue by non-hosts Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, & Maya Rudolph (they should have just let them host the damn show already); Black Panther's technical wins (i am not a big fan of the film, but it did look and sound incredible, and for it's importance in mainstream moviemaking, it needed to win something); Rami Malek's Oscar for Best Actor (Bohemian Rhapsody was a mediocre film, but Malik's channelling of Freddie was remarkable); Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse winning Best Animated Feature; Barbra Striesand's moment with Spike Lee; Alfonso Cuarón's three Oscar wins; blue velvet suited Chris 'Captain America' Evans gentlemenly assisting Best Supporting Actress winner Regina King to the stage: and all the velvet (the aforementioned Roger Taylor & Chris Evans, the pink velvet suited Jason Mamoa) as well as Spike Lee's awesome purple Prince inspired suit. But then came Best Picture.

Most Oscar pundits were predicting Roma to take home the top honour. It would have been the first time a foreign film took the top prize. And it being a Mexican film, it would have pissed off trump and all his trumpsters. Although the shit gibbon in charge did have something to angrily tweet about, as he claims Spike Lee dissed him. But, whatever the reason, Roma was expected to win. Cuarón had just won Best Director moments before, making it a Mexican director winning that award 5 out of the last 6 Oscars. True, some thought perhaps Black Panther might surprise, but that did not happen either. Instead we got the most mediocre film of the bunch. When Julia Roberts announced the winner, you could hear the disappointment in her voice as she lacklusterly mumbled, Green Book.

So, there it is. Green Book, Best Picture of 2018. Not in any 2018 i was part of. Before we even get into the racial nonsense that this film spewed, let's look at the film from a purely cinematic angle. It's production design was ordinary, as was the cinematography. The look and feel of the film were bland as bland can be. Yes, Mahershala Ali, who took home Best Supporting Actor, and Viggo Mortensen, both gave solid performances, but they were against a backdrop so bland and pedestrian, that no one with any cinematic sense would consider this a great film. And then there is that godawful screenplay...which won an Oscar as well. Yes, Roma's eventual loss (it did win Foreign Film, Cinematography, and Director...all going to Cuarón himself) could be partly due to many in the industry not accepting a Netflix product as one of their own, and perhaps the progressive vote splitting of Roma and BlacKkKlansman, but in the end it still comes down to a mediocre (in a cinematic aspect) and repugnant (in a socio-political aspect) movie taking home the top prize.

In case you do not know, the titular Green Book was a travel guide for African Americans back in the days of segregation. It told them the safe (and safe is a relative term here) places to stay and eat if they were travelling in the old south. So, naturally, if one were to make a film about this, one would of course cast a white man as the lead. Wait...what? Yup, in the vein of films like Hidden Figures and The Help, Green Book is just another white savior film from Hollywood. Playing out as a sort of reverse Driving Miss Daisy, we wtch in horror as racism is fixed by yhe white guy and the black guy having dinner together. Praise the lord! Racism is over! Um...yeah, whatever.

You would think that in the nearly thirty year divide, the insulting race relations of Driving Miss Daisy would not still be around for Green Book, but there it is up on the big screen...and now apparently Oscar worthy to boot. Spike Lee was upset about the outcome too. 29 years after Driving Miss Daisy won, beating out his non-nominated masterpiece on race, Do the Right Thing (Kim Basinger announced her ire over Spike's snub on the live telecast itself), Green Book comes and beats out his latest masterpiece on race. What an opposite way to go Academy. It is especially disheartening in a year with so many powerful films telling the stories of people of color. Films like BlacKkKlansman & If Beale Street Could Talk & Blindspotting & Black Panther & The Hate U Give & Sorry to Bother You, and is is again disheartening after an evening where the first people of color, and women at that, won Oscars for Production Design and Costume Design. It is just disheartening in general. And i haven't even mentioned the parts about the original director being let go over sexual assault allegations, or the (now Oscar winning) screenwriter tweeting out Islamophobic tweets.

Then again, why should we be surprised. The Oscar tends to go to a mediocre product. In the 91 years of the Academy, i can only think of a handful of masterpieces that took the honour (Casablanca, All About Eve, On the Waterfront, Annie Hall, and the Godfather films) and only a few other truly great films. Usually it goes to lackluster, eventually forgotten mediocrities such as Chariots of Fire or Dances with Wolves or The King's Speech. But this goes beyond mere mediocrity. This is a slap in the face to all people of colour. Just like Driving Miss Daisy, and 2005's Crash, another terrible film getting the ideas of race insipidly wrong, Green Book is more than just a poorly made film, it is an insult to the fight against racism. And in this day and age, we should be past such things. At least when it comes to the more liberal minded Hollywood crowd, we should be. But alas, there are still many older or conservative minded people working behind the scenes in the otherwise left leaning, open minded industry, that would not see something like Green Book as just another fucking white savior film to demean the cause.

In his acceptance speech, Spike Lee said we need to help love triumph over hate. He got, rightfully so, thunderous applause for this statement. But then, within an hour, Green Book's victory takes us back down the road of hate once more. Hopefully, we in the know, know better.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.


  1. I still have to see GreenBook, Roma, The Favourite, and Vice but, so far, my favourite is BlacKkKlansman. I know there is a lot of flack about Greenbook but I do have to point out that Octavia Spencer and Mahershala Ali are in this film that they must have felt was not being dismissive to their race. I know it’s about a white man helping the African American once more but it is a true story even though I don’t know the story at all. I wonder if Ali should have been up for Best Actor though and maybe he would have won over Rami Malik who was good but I was not blown away by that at all.

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