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Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, still fresh off his prior win in this category, performs utter miracles with the role of jazz pianist Dr. Don Shirley.

Mahershala Ali
Photo: Universal Pictures

We’ve been sniping, tossing asides, throwing shade, and otherwise avoiding actually having to reckon at length with the A Tale of Two Cities portrait that Green Book’s Oscar reception has painted. About Hollywood, about America, about where a specific demographic group of people in 2019 seem hell bent on drawing the line. That its parallels to Driving Miss Daisy were going to make the film a tricky proposition was a foregone conclusion the moment it won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival.

“It alternates big-picture oblivion with aching self-consciousness. It asterisks and footnotes itself obsessively, like a problematic tweet preceded by five tweets trying to anticipate objections to it,” Mark Harris wrote in a Vulture article back in November, when Green Book’s tepid box office returns were starting to resemble the sound Tony Lip’s teal Cadillac DeVille makes just before stalling out alongside a cotton field. Harris’s article, which ran under the title “Who Was Green Book For?,” wondered if “after 50 years, a particular kind of movie about black and white America has, at long last, run its course.”

But ever since, we’ve been repeatedly finding out exactly who Green Book appears to be for, and those people don’t want to be told what kind of movies about black and white America have run their course, and they’re not feeling particularly shy about it. Post-Oscar nominations, the Peter Farrelly film has hit a commercial stride (presumably reaching audiences that not only need their hands held by the filmmakers, but by the cultural gatekeepers telling them what to see), reaching its highest-grossing weekend to date.

Green Book has bucked the skepticism of exit pollsters—er, award prognosticators—by earning not just a few meaningless Golden Globes but also bona fide industry/guild awards. And critics of otherwise basically unimpeachable lefty credentials have been donning their armor to do battle with the social justice warriors on Film Twitter in defense of a film that features a racist white man teaching a self-isolated black man how to eat the food of his people: fried chicken.

Anyone with critical thinking skills recognizes the optics of that and plenty other moments sprinkled throughout Green Book should overshadow the film’s utility as a teaching tool…except among those “I don’t see color” souls who truly believe that having good intentions (and, apparently, black friends) is tantamount to doing the right thing, and that drawing a clear through line to the ways the past and present are conversant does more harm than good, as Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman so mercilessly details.

Don’t get us wrong. Mahershala Ali, still fresh off his prior win in this category, performs utter miracles with the role of jazz pianist Dr. Don Shirley—that is, the role as it’s written on the page, not the very different person his family has claimed Shirley to have been in real life—and on difficulty, merit, and campaign trail performance, he’s rightly blowing the competition away. But his win is also the perfect storm result of Hollywood’s old-school liberal mentality recognizing in Shirley’s broken-down plea “If I’m not black enough, and I’m not white enough, then tell me, Tony, what am I?” mostly their own growing sense of persecution.

Will Win: Mahershala Ali, Green Book

Could Win: Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Should Win: Mahershala Ali, Green Book

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