I know, I am a few days late, taking some time to reflect on the outcome of this Oscar night was very much needed!
I woke up last Monday morning to find out that Green Book had won as Best Motion Picture. With a perfect timing, I had actually watched that move the night before with a few friends, and one of the first things that I thought while watching it was ‘No, it’s too funny, it is not going to win’, so my bet had fallen on Cuaròn’s Roma. But, God, I was so wrong!
My immediate reaction was really, really, really negative. I don’t think that Green Book is not a movie worthy to win as Best Picture. It is witty, it makes the audience laugh, it easily moves with its banal-but-reassuring happy-ending, and undoubtedly it is a lovely movie to watch. But no, Best Picture is waaaaay too much. And I wasn’t expecting the Oscars to be SO politically correct.
For those of you who haven’t watched Green Book, it is set in the racist United States of the 60s around the real story of Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), an Italo-American living in the Bronx, who becomes the chauffeur, and then friend, of Dr. Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a sophisticated Afro-American piano player.
When I think about last years’ winners, there was something that differentiated the winners from the mass: I didn’t like The Shape of Water, way too sappy and surreal, but at least the direction was something. I could feel that it was going to win, certainly because of the love-wins-over-difference theme but also for other formal and aesthetic arrangements. Same for Moonlight in 2017, it was again the typical, socially engaged story for the Oscars, but at least there was something more.
This time, on the other hand, I didn’t feel Green Book had nothing extraordinary. I liked it, I laughed, it also moved me. It highlights an issue which must never be forgotten, but c’mon, Best Picture?? I would have approved more if The Favourite had won, but sorry, lesbians in the 18th century are not as important as racism in the 60s.
And, from one perspective, the Oscars are an American price, so it is understandable that they give voice to their ‘local’ (if it can be called local, since it is exported in almost the whole world) culture and try to send messages that touch mainly – but not exclusively – Americans. And nowadays, with Trump and the 2020 elections, it is more than necessary to continuously highlight and bring to memory the past in order not to make the same mistakes.
(And it is amazing how, for the past six Oscars editions – excluding in 2016 – the award for best director was always won by a Mexican director: Alfonso Cuaròn in 2013 and 2018, Alejandro G. Iñarritu in 2014 and 2015, Guillermo del Toro in 2017.)
But, on the other hand, isn’t the Academy Award an institution celebrating filmmaking and honoring remarkable artists of the film industry? Is it appropriate to be this politically correct in an institution that, formally, promotes first-class cinema? And then, if the Academy gives so much attention to social and nondiscriminatory themes, why is it that only one woman in history, Kathryn Bigelow in 2008, won an Oscar as Best Director?
I want this to be the starting point for a quiet debate in your minds, as it is happening in mine. I still don’t have an answer, and if half of me is more and more disappointed each year that the Academy rewards movies for the themes and not for the movie itself, on the other hand I don’t feel like I should totally demonize what happens.
As always, I would love to hear what you think!