No Host? No Problem. And A Passionate Defense of “Green Book”

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The Long Road Here

The 91st Academy Awards ceremony was held on Sunday Feb. 24th once again, inside the Dolby Theater and it had the same glitz and glamour it always has. But there was something different in the air this night, as controversy surrounded the entire night like a shroud. First the Academy tried to blow off some of the biggest blockbuster films of the year by creating a new award for popular films that was greeted with protest and a strong cold shoulder.  So much so, the academy backed off that idea rather quickly. Then the Academy blew their chances of having a host when they demanded comedian Kevin Hart apologize for decades-old homophobic tweets he’d already apologized for, and when he (legitimately) refused, he also stepped down from hosting duties.  This left a stink on the Academy they couldn’t brush off, because after this public clash, no one was willing to step in and fill the job.  So the Oscars would go on without a host.

This veered the show into dangerous territory as an Oscars ceremony without a host hadn’t happened since 1989, and it was not a very good year.  Then the Academy couldn’t keep from shooting themselves in the foot when they announced they would cut the performances of the Best Song nominees down to one –the clear front-runner– Lady Gaga.  Naturally, Gaga protested and made sure all the nominees would get their chance to perform.  All except Kendrick Lamar who suddenly had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t attend to perform “All The Stars” from the Black Panther Soundtrack at the ceremony.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the producers tried to cut the Live Action Short, Makeup and Hairstyling, Cinematography and Editing awards from the Live broadcast, which was resoundingly rejected by fans and nominees alike.

So here it was time, a host-less, 3-hour-long broadcast of the Academy Awards and how did it go: Pretty darn well.

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Smooth Sailing

The noticeable difference in not having a host meant the audience didn’t have to feign  laughter when the comedian inevitably decides to poke fun at them.  It made for a much more relaxing show, an easy going atmosphere, and as Kevin Hart wanted, drew more focus on the actual films. The smooth transitions between awards, performances, glimpses at the best picture nominees, and an awesome show opening by Adam Lambert and Queen made the show move a lot faster than it had in recent years.

The Oscars had been criticized, deservingly so, for its over-politicized nature in past years.  With nominees, presenters, winners and especially the hosts, going seemingly out of their way to address the political climate in the country. On a night that is a celebration of film, this was a tactic that always felt unnecessary, and at least on this night, the producers were wise enough to make sure there was very little mention of the Orange guy in the White House or his terrible policies. And much of that credit is mostly due to not having a host steering the conversation all night in that direction. (I’m looking at you, Kimmel.)

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The Right Choice

But of course, no annual Oscar ceremony is without its criticisms, and this one certainly got its fair share by the end of the night when it selected the Peter Farrelly directed, “Green Book” as the Best Picture. The film has been criticized for having a “White Savior” complex and appealing to the people who would say, “I’m not racist, I have a black friend!”

And to that I would say, then why are you surprised it won?

The Best Picture category is an amalgamation of the film and culture climate of the year.  When race relations are looking more and more tender these days, a film like “Green Book” shows the power and strength involved in breaking the tide of resentment, anger, and prejudice to find our common ground and our humanity.

“By the time the credits rolled, I knew it was the Best Picture”

Mahershala Ali, Viggo Mortensen

The people putting race at the center of this film are perpetuating the very thing they are rallying against: that one race has to be dominate over the other and that’s not true.  I believe if this story involved two white men, or two black women, or one white male and a Mexican woman, it would still be the Best Picture because it is not about the race of the man that matters, but about his character.  About who he is and what his values are. That was the takeaway I got from “Green Book” because I’m not hung up on race, and I thought it was nice to see a story from a different perspective that wasn’t riddled in the pain and strife of slavery and Jim Crow that were used to seeing ala “MudBound” or “Selma”.

Then there were the claims that the family of Doctor Don Shirley said the film was inaccurate to which I say, of course it was. It was a film, not a documentary.  In a film, you take liberties with the actual story because it’s what makes the film move forward. Maybe this scene didn’t happen in that exact city or at that precise place.  Maybe he said this line a little differently than it was said in the movie.  Maybe someone else said it instead of him, but that doesn’t work in the film, so you change it.  It’s the same liberties that every film based on a true story has done.  Do you think everything happened the way it happened in “Straight Outta Compton”? Do you think Spike Lee didn’t take any liberties with Ron Stallworth’s story in “Blackkklansman”? Or how about the inaccuracies in “Bohemian Rhapsody”?

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“Green Book” was a solid film about friendship of two people from a different race, who’s journey together helps us understand the challenges our society creates to keep two people apart and the ways we can overcome them.  By the time the credits rolled, I knew it was the Best Picture.  And I was right.

On Hollywood’s biggest night, yeah the glitz and glamour were there, but the focus was all on the films. You don’t have to like it, most people never do, but the best picture did indeed win.

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