You can’t say I didn’t call it.
Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book” has won Best Picture at the Oscars, and it wholeheartedly deserves it. That is, if you want to reward the film that most delighted audiences out of the 8 nominees. Its 8.3 IMDB user rating and A+ CinemaScore was far better than any of the other nominated movies in the category.
However, within moments of “Green Book” winning the Oscar, the Los Angeles Times published a story by critic Justin Chang with the the headline: “‘Green Book’ is the worst best picture winner since ‘Crash.’” Obviously, this was timed and pre-written just in case the film was awarded the grand prize instead of Alfonso Cuaron’s more artfully delivered “Roma.”
Chang wrote that “Green Book” is “insultingly glib and hucksterish, a self-satisfied crock masquerading as an olive branch.”
Calling it “an embarrassment,” he added: “It reduces the long, barbaric and ongoing history of American racism to a problem, a formula, a dramatic equation that can be balanced and solved.”
Fine, but the backlash further continued with The New York Times’ Manhola Dargis tweeting “Remember that this is the same organization that gave its top honor to ‘Crash’ – so not surprising but still, f— it.” Manhola clearly took this win to heart.
“No one is happier than [‘Crash’ director] Paul Haggis right now,” RogerEbert.com editor Brian Tallerico wrote on Twitter. Whereas IndieWire’s David Ehrlich snarkily tweeted a scene from “First Reformed” with the tag “Will God Forgive Us?"
“Green Book” has been a rather problematic film in progressive circles, with the racially-themed buddy dramedy spouting a message of hope, which critics deemed to be too old-fashioned, even going as far as to say it is a step backwards for the current racial zeitgeist in America, with a film industry that is trying to have a more fully-fleshed and personal approach to African-American storytelling.
All this negativity only added to the smear campaign lashed onto the film this awards season, with old stories emerging about Peter Farrelly flashing his penis on the set of “Something About Mary” and an old tweet by screenwriter Nick Vallelonga, where he agreed that Muslims had celebrated in New Jersey after 9/11, suddenly reappearing. This had the Green Book PR campaign ready to self-destruct, but it never did.
The win is a clear message from Oscar voters that they will not abide by mob rule, which is what social media seems to be about these days, as the film triumphed tonight, with even Vallelonga himself sharing a screenwriting Oscar for his adaptation of Shirley and his late father’s story.
The film’s detractors are comparing “Green Book” to “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Crash,” both films that used all-too-facile depictions of racial tolerance, but I firmly stand by my belief that Farrelly’s film is a much more energetic affair than these lackluster films and will age fairly well with what is bound to be a perfectly fitting movie for the television set and repeat viewings, much like what happened with “The Shawshank Redemption.”