What local film experts had to say about ‘Green Book’ winning the Best Picture Oscar

The top prize winner has been the subject of several controversies this awards season.

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in a scene from "Green Book."

One of the more surprising moments at Sunday’s 2019 Oscars ceremony came at the very end of the night, when “Green Book” was awarded Best Picture. The comedy-drama managed to win three of the five Academy Awards it was nominated for; beyond Best Picture, it took home Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali and Best Original Screenplay for the co-writing trio of Rhode Island native and onetime Massachusetts resident Peter Farrelly, Peabody native Brian Currie, and Nick Vallelonga.

“Green Book” has been the subject of several controversies this awards season and has had its share of detractors. Spike Lee, whose film “BlacKkKlansman” also was up for Best Picture, let his displeasure with the film be known both during the ceremony and in interviews afterward.

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We reached out to three local film experts immediately following the Oscars for their reactions to the film’s win.

(Note: Responses have been condensed and edited for length and clarity.)

Sean Burns, staff writer for WBUR’s The ARTery

“We probably should have just assumed that after putting together one of their most diverse and accomplished rosters of nominees that the Academy was gonna blow it in such spectacular fashion. ‘Green Book’ would have looked clueless and dated in 1986, and choosing it as Best Picture in 2019 can’t help but feel like a deliberate affront.

“How many more films about the heroic kindness and bravery of white folks during the civil rights era do we need before fragile viewers will finally feel reassured that ‘they would have been one of the good ones back then’ so Hollywood can move on and try to tell a different story for a change? The belligerence of ‘Green Book’ supporters in the face of such criticism suggests we still have a depressingly long way to go.

“I am, however, impressed that ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ managed to score two sound awards by playing some old records.”

Brian Tamm, executive director of the Independent Film Festival – Boston

“I know ‘Green Book’ was a popular film. I know at the Coolidge people enjoyed it. There’s clearly an audience for that movie, and that audience is clearly the predominant voting bloc of the Academy. To me, the weirdest thing was the screenplay awards, where one goes to ‘BlacKkKlansman,’ and one goes to ‘Green Book,’ which are movies that are total opposites of each other in terms of their message.

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“The fact that Spike Lee won his first Oscar is a positive sign, and I choose to focus on that, rather than some of the retrograde nonsense the Academy supported. There were a lot of other good awards that went out, so I think the Academy is changing, but not as fast we had hoped.”

Loren King, member and former president of the Boston Society of Film Critics, and freelance film writer

“‘Green Book’ was talked about as a Best Picture possibility for a long time. But I think the way the night was going, with a lot of surprises and a lot of firsts, to end with that award felt like such an anticlimactic moment. It felt like one step forward and a big step back.

“Out of the eight that were nominated, I would have probably voted for ‘Roma’ or ‘The Favourite.’ I would have been totally fine with ‘BlacKkKlansman,’ I would have been totally fine with ‘Black Panther.’ They weren’t only better films, but they were more part of the cultural moment. They would have made a bold statement.

“I don’t think ‘Green Book’ is a bad movie, but to say that’s the best film of the year in a year that had ‘Black Panther,’ ‘BlackKKlansman,’ ‘Roma’ — with all the allusions to what’s happening with Mexico — they felt of the moment, they felt timely. And then we got ‘Green Book.’ Perfectly fine, but perfectly boring.”

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