A case against Best Picture

There were many worthy nominees for the 2019 award of Best Picture.

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There were many worthy nominees for the 2019 award of Best Picture.

Tala Trad, Memorial Staff Writer

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The 2019 Academy Awards ceremony was one for the books, but not in the traditional sense, as perhaps it is one most people would like to forget. With no host for the first time in 30 years, a best picture nomination for a Marvel movie and the decision to not air the awards for film editing, cinematography, makeup and hairstyling and live action shorts- which the Academy reversed after the Hollywood backlash- this year’s Oscars have been nothing short of an abundance of controversies.

Although the ceremony went fairly well, exceeding my expectations for an absolute mess, it was the final award of the night that was a bit of a shock: the Best Picture win for Peter Farrelly’s Green Book.

I stand by my initial review of Green Book. It was an unexpected crowd pleaser and met my expectations in terms of acting, music and editing, but that is easy to do when one sets the bar low. The movie was nothing more than good with basic cinematography, simply written characters and a score one could easily forget about, which is not saying much for a movie driven by it, but it was nothing less than good, mostly due to its amazing band of actors and a heartfelt story.

In my review, I also touched on how any significant moments in the story that would have given the movie depth were glazed over, something that cannot be ignored for a movie dealing with a subject as serious as race. However, that’s not much of a surprise when an African American’s experience in the Jim Crow era deep-south is told through the eyes of a white man and directed by one as well.

Green Book was a safe decision for the Academy, but when they presented the award to director Peter Farrelly and the cast and crew, I was anticipating for someone to come on stage and claim it was a mistake and announce who the real winner was (a la Moonlight). A win for BlackkKlansman, Roma or my personal preference, The Favourite, would have been a more sensible decision.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite, starring now Academy Award Winner Olivia Colman, was an obscure dark comedy loosely based on Queen Anne of England in the early 18th century. The cinematography was outstanding with cool toned color grading and the unique use of a fish-eyed lens, and the movie kept audiences entertained.

Spike Lee’s BlackkKlansman is about Ron Stallsworth, the first African American officer and detective on the Colorado Springs Police Department, who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s in an attempt take them down. The film is a verified true story, unlike Green Book where some of the events have been adamantly denied as being true by the family of the late Don Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali. If the Academy was really trying to stray from “Oscars so White” of 2016, they would have chosen a film like BlackkKlansman that better represented people of color instead of one with the “White Savior” conceit.

However, if it was about trying to move away from the “Oscars so White,” the Academy would have gone with Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, a drama centered on a domestic worker in 1970s Mexico City. It was a critical hit and the predicted winner of the Best Picture awards. It would have been the first foreign film to win in the category, making a much larger political statement that Green Book. Yet, none of these significant, well casted and beautiful movies won.

The win for Green Book poses many questions for the Academy and how a movie barely above average takes home an award like Best Picture. The Academy Awards tells movie goers what movies are the best with no explanation. Academy members can make a vote for any movie without actually watching the film, something bound to happen amongst the over 6,000 Academy members.

If we consider the Academy as the highest honor for a movie, the voting system and the Academy as a whole needs to be drastically reconstructed for better representation and acknowledgement of truly great films.

Contact Tala Trad at [email protected]

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