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
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay
This season, Hollywood is invested in celebrating the films they love while dodging the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.
You know, if it weren’t for the show’s producers effectively and repeatedly saying everything about the Academy Awards is terrible and needs to be changed, and the year’s top-tier contenders inadvertently confirming their claims, this would’ve been a comparatively fun and suspenseful Oscar season. None of us who follow the Academy Awards expect great films to win; we just hope the marathon of precursors don’t turn into a Groundhog Day-style rinse and repeat for the same film, ad nauseam.
On that score, mission accomplished. The guilds have been handing their awards out this season as though they met beforehand and assigned each voting body a different title from Oscar’s best picture list so as not to tip the Oscar race too clearly toward any one film. SAG? Black Panther. PGA? Green Book. DGA? Roma. ASC? Cold War. ACE? Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Even awards-season kryptonite A Star Is Born got an award for contemporary makeup from the MUAHS. (That’s the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, not the sound Lady Gaga fans have been making ever since A Star Is Born’s teaser trailer dropped last year.)
Not to be outdone, the Writers Guild of America announced their winners last weekend, and not only did presumed adapted screenplay frontrunner BlacKkKlansman wind up stymied by Can You Ever Forgive Me?, but the original screenplay prize went to Eighth Grade, which wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. Bo Burnham twisted the knife into AMPAS during his acceptance speech: “To the other nominees in the category, have fun at the Oscars, losers!” In both his sarcasm and his surprise, it’s safe to say he speaks on behalf of us all.
As is always the case, WGA’s narrow eligibility rules kept a presumed favorite, The Favourite, out of this crucial trial heat. But as the balloting period comes to a close, the question remains just how much enthusiasm or affection voters have for either of the two films with the most nominations (Roma being the other). As a recent “can’t we all just get along” appeal by Time’s Stephanie Zacharek illustrates, the thing Hollywood is most invested in this season involves bending over backward, Matrix-style, to celebrate the films they love and still dodge the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.
Maybe it’s just tunnel vision from the cultural vacuum Oscar voters all-too-understandably would prefer to live in this year, but doesn’t it seem like The Favourite’s tastefully ribald peppering of posh-accented C-words would be no match for the steady litany of neo-Archie Bunkerisms spewing from Viggo Mortensen’s crooked mouth? Especially with First Reformed’s Paul Schrader siphoning votes from among the academy’s presumably more vanguard new recruits? We’ll fold our words in half and eat them whole if we’re wrong, but Oscar’s old guard, unlike John Wayne, is still alive and, well, pissed.
Will Win: Green Book
Could Win: The Favourite
Should Win: First Reformed
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing
For appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore, one film has the upper hand here.
Given what Eric wrote about the sound editing category yesterday, it now behooves me to not beat around the bush here. Also, it’s my birthday, and there are better things for me to do today than count all the ways that Eric and I talk ourselves out of correct guesses in the two sound categories, as well as step on each other’s toes throughout the entirety of our Oscar-prediction cycle. In short, it’s very noisy. Which is how Oscar likes it when it comes to sound, though maybe not as much the case with sound mixing, where the spoils quite often go to best picture nominees that also happen to be musicals (Les Misérables) or musical-adjacent (Whiplash). Only two films fit that bill this year, and since 2019 is already making a concerted effort to top 2018 as the worst year ever, there’s no reason to believe that the scarcely fat-bottomed mixing of Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody will take this in a walk, for appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore.
Will Win: Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody
Could Win: A Star Is Born
Should Win: First Man
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing
If it were biologically possible to do so, both Ed and I would happily switch places with A Quiet Place’s Emily Blunt.
If it were biologically possible to do so, both Ed and I would happily switch places with A Quiet Place’s Emily Blunt, because we’d much rather give birth in a tub while surrounded by murderous blind creatures than have to once again write our predictions for the sound categories. As adamant as we’ve been that the Academy owes it to the nominees to air every category, which they agreed to after an extended “just kidding,” it might have given us pause had the sound categories been among the four demoted by Oscar. But no, we must now endure our annual bout of penance, aware of the fact that actually knowing what the difference is between sound editing and sound mixing is almost a liability. In other words, we’ve talked ourselves out of correct guesses too many times, doubled down on the same movie taking both categories to hedge our bets too many times, and watched as the two categories split in the opposite way we expected too many times. So, as in A Quiet Place, the less said, the better. And while that film’s soundscapes are as unique and noisy as this category seems to prefer, First Man’s real-word gravitas and cacophonous Agena spin sequence should prevail.
Will Win: First Man
Could Win: A Quiet Place
Should Win: First Man