By Andrew Smith
Ah, the Oscars. A time of year when most people can sit back, go to bed at a reasonable hour and live a perfectly content life having seen one to maybe two of the best picture nominations at most. I am not one of those people.
About two years ago, I started substituting cinematic obsession for a personality, and I made it my mission to always know the what’s what of the film industry. This year was no different.
Even though a host never came through, and there was a ton of controversy in the weeks prior about presenting certain categories during commercial breaks (a decision they almost immediately redacted following outcry from the various branches) for the most part, the whole thing went pretty smoothly.
To me, some of the most moving moments were the wins for those who worked on “Black Panther”, a film that was nominated in six categories including best picture. The craft awards in particular stood out, with Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler winning for costume and production design respectively. If you’ve seen the movie, there’s no question about the validity of those victories, but it’s especially exciting because the two of them were also the first African American women to win those categories.
The win of Spike Lee and company for Best Adapted Screenplay “Blackkklansman” was a joy to watch and while some might criticize his speech as too political, I thought it illustrated how he has absolutely no qualms about practicing what he preaches.
Olivia Coleman’s surprise Best Actress win for her role of Queen Anne in “The Favourite” was one of my personal highlights since her performance was one of my favorites of 2018. Her speech was one of the best, because you could tell how genuinely surprised she was to have won.
Finally, Alfonso Cuarón’s victory for Cinematography was groundbreaking, because he was the first person to win the Oscar in that category for a film he also directed.
Despite all these exciting events unfolding, there is one stain that will tarnish the 2019 Oscars for years to come. No, I’m not talking about Rami Malek falling off the stage after winning Best Actor, although let the record show I was team Christian Bale for the category.
I am talking about the cinematic atrocity that is Green Book.
Quick plug, I also host a podcast on WHUS called “Statue Chat” where I did a far more in-depth dive to the nominees and their array of representation. I did an episode on African American representation where I did my best to eviscerate “Green Book’s” white savior narrative, but clearly the academy has better things to do than to listen to me. If you want a more fleshed out explanation, please check out that podcast episode.
Getting back to the movies, bluntly, this film presents a one-dimensional portrayal of race relations clearly filtered through a dominantly white lens, and it ends feeling as though racism is a thing of the past, because let’s face it, it’s 2019 and nowadays everything is all sunshine and daisies.
However, if you live in the real world you know that is not the case. For the academy to award such a film that fails to capture the complex experience of marginalized populations in an era when nationalism and hate crimes are on the rise is a complete and utter failure on their part.
In a year of films that offer multifaceted and exciting portrayals of diverse leads such as “Roma”, “If Beale Street Could Talk”, and the aforementioned “Blackkklansman”, I can’t help but be more aware than ever of the overwhelmingly white male demographic who maintain the power structures of Hollywood.
“Green Book” is a film that encourages complacency, and I want to encourage everyone listening to reject that narrative and seek out films that challenge your worldview and force you to be an active participant in social dialogues. Refuse to sit back and accept what movies tell us we are “supposed” to value.
Those were my big takeaways from the 2019 Oscars, but then again, I’m just a guy who watches a bunch of movie, so take or leave what I have to say as you will.