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Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Disappointment of a Green Book Best Picture Win

We were told this version of The Academy is different. This version is younger, this version is more diverse, and this version is more in sync with Hollywood and culture. That's why we saw films like Get Out and Lady Bird earn major Oscar nominations last year like Best Picture and Best Director. Now we still ended up with another terrible Best Picture winner in The Shape of Water, but hey, they're trying and they're getting better!

The narrative around Get Out felt like that of "you should just happy to be here" but there was no reason it couldn't or shouldn't have won it all. It's widely original and entertaining, it's artfully done, it resonated with the youth and taste-makers in this Country, and it forever cemented itself among the ranks of Brokeback Mountain and Pulp Fiction on the annual lists of "which films deserved to win Best Picture but didn't" that gets written every year.

Yet even in an age where this new version of The Academy, The Academy 2.0, where the younger, hipper kids can get a film like Get Out major Oscar nominations, they still fawned over Guillermo Del Toro's "passion for film making" - whatever the fuck that means. During a Vulture round-table with a handful of these new Academy voters, one person stated, "Guillermo is literally the loveliest fucking person ever... The del Toro talk-back specifically gave me a lot more respect for what he was doing. Those can sway you, when you really understand the filmmaker's vision." I find it hard to believe that Jordan Peele was any less passionate making his film, but * shrug emoji *. While The Shape of Water was a film that was able to appeal to both the older voters, and the younger and newer voters, that it felt like a "safe" film that a preferential ballot favors, ultimately the consensus of The Academy 2.0 chose a the arty-fartiness of a film over a film that explored racism in a creative and nuanced way.

Cut to a year later where the Best Picture race seems to be Roma versus Green Book: an arty farty film expertly made by a well-respected Mexican filmmaker versus an old schooled, cliched look at racism told through tired Hollywood tropes made by one of the white dudes who made There's Something About Mary. And it is this frustratingly clear example of hypocrisy that would make a Best Picture win for Green Book extremely disappointing.

Obviously the comparison between Get Out vs. The Shape of Water is not the same thing as comparing Green Book vs. Roma, but the broad similarities are there. If the obvious cinematic depth of an auteur's vision is that important to you one year, it should remain that important to you 12 months later. The main knock on Roma at this moment is that it was produced by Netflix, a knock that should be even more irrelevant to the newest members of The Academy 2.0. If you looked at The Shape of Water and were in awe of a master filmmaker's vision, you can't then look a blind eye to something like Roma. Even worse, you can't honor a  film about race that would have played exactly like it would have in the 1950's in 2019. You can't overlook an obvious masterpiece that takes such a unique look at racism like Get Out one year, and then honor a milquetoast film like Green Book. The Academy 2.0 is supposed to be better than that.