"... if Green Book wins and you (have) a movie like BlacKkKlansman nominated for best picture, what on earth is that telling you about where the Academy is as a body and what its priorities are in terms of whose point of view matters to the most people?"
- Wesley Morris
"And the Oscar goes to...Green Book."
As NYU film school graduates, my husband and I are self proclaimed
filmgeeks and quite proud of it. Each year we make it a point to see all the movies nominated for Best Picture. Since the Academy increased the number of films that could be
ted for the top category, it's been quite a feat to do this each year but we stay focused, plan ahead, and get it done. Some people train for marathons. We prepare for the Academy Aw
ards. Both take discipline but I get to eat a lot of popcorn along the way.
Out of the eight films nominated for best picture this year, four of them were based on true stories (five if you consider
based on the director's life), one was a remake, and one was based on a comic book.
was the only original fiction. Isn't that interesting?
made me think a lot about what "based on a true story" means. With
, I let myself disappear into Adam McKay's interpretation of Dick Cheney. However, I was furious that the writers of
completely fabricated the dramatic arc by building in a break up of the band that never happened. Interpretation vs. fabrication. Where is the line drawn? Does the freedom of artistic expression outweigh any responsibility movie makers have to at least try to tell the truth?
And what if the story is about race? It may not matter all that much to the world whether people know the true story of Queen. However, it's really important that we handle stories about race carefully and honestly especially in our current political and cultural climate.
Black Panther, and
Green Book all involve race in very different ways.
BlacKkKlansman was my favorite of all the films nominated.* I've never before been in a theater where the entire audience was absolutely silent as the credits rolled. No one moved. It took everyone's breath away. (It doesn't hurt that it was a Spike Lee Joint. See reference to NYU film school above.) I loved the film. The way the story was told. The performances. The power. It was stunning, and it made me think. But I knew it wouldn't win Best Picture. I knew the Academy would more likely award a film like
Green Book with the top honor. And therein lies the problem, right?
I quote Wesley Morris from the New York Times above. Wesley is a critic at large for The Times and host of the podcast "Still Processing". In the episode of "The Daily" from February 26, Michael Barbaro spends a half hour with Wesley discussing the fact that
won Best Picture. Do me (and yourself) a favor and take 30 minutes to listen to this episode. It does a brilliant job at explaining not only why
won but what the results of the Oscars say about how we deal with race in this country.
Here's a snippet:
If anything the enthusiasm for a movie like Green Book only makes - it kinda makes the problem worse in some ways. Because it makes it seem like the movies don't care about the way that racism actually works. They just want to make racism go away.
The movies have an obligation to entertain us but I think they also have an obligation to be fair to certain aspects of social reality because people take lessons from this stuff.
Indeed, people sure do take lessons from this stuff. What lessons do we want them to learn?
I'd be so curious to hear what you have to say about Green Book winning the Oscar for Best Picture. Did it surprise you? What do you think it tells us about racism today? Please reach out with your thoughts.
When you are done listening to the podcast and sending me your thoughts, take a moment to register for the June NAMLE conference.
Early Bird Registration is now open!
The NAMLE conference is an amazing opportunity to spend a few days with people as passionate about media literacy as you are. Bookmark our conference website and keep checking for updates!
Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, Executive Director
*For the record, I thought Ben is Back, Boy Erased and If Beale Street Could Talk were all better than every other best picture nominee besides BlacKkKlansman.