While I’m not a fan of the Oscars or award shows generally, it was difficult to drown out the noise the 91st Academy Awards made as it careened its way to the small screens this past Sunday. Beyond the hosting dust-up that engulfed Kevin Hart and saw ABC allegedly considering utilizing the Avengers as the hosts of the show, campaigns for nominated movies were mired in controversy. None so much as Green Book, which took home the tiny statute for Best Picture.
Director Peter Farrelly and writer Nick Vallelonga landed in hot water as the Oscar campaign was heating up. Farrelly, director of There’s Something About Mary, had to address stories that recently surfaced that he’d flashed his penis on the set of the 1998 comedy multiple times. “I was an idiot. I did this decades ago and I thought I was being funny and the truth is I’m embarrassed and it makes me cringe now. I’m deeply sorry,” the director said, both confirming and apologizing for the events.
Nick Vallelonga’s, entire twitter profile disappeared when a 2015 tweet resurfaced, where he supported a debunked urban myth that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims were celebrating in New Jersey after the towers fell on 9/11. Interestingly, Green Book is, in part, about Frank Anthony Vallelonga Sr., Nick’s father, a racist man who was changed by his encounter with a minority.
Lastly, actor Viggo Mortensen faced scrutiny after using the N-word during a Q&A session following a screening of the film last year. He later apologized.
If these issues weren’t bad enough, many critics of the film accuse it of white-washing history, putting a smile on the Jim Crow South and essentially turning this into a buddy comedy that ignores all of the tensions at the time and pushes a “white-savior” narrative. The family of Dr. Shirley, who Mahershala Ali plays in the film, have called it a “symphony of lies.”
Where Spike Lee fell on any of those issues, we’ll likely never know. We do know that he’s had his own tumultuous history with the Academy. Lee has been working in Hollywood for more than 30 years and in that time, despite having written and directed films previously nominated for various Oscars, to include Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, and 4 Little Girls, BlacKkKlansman was his first nomination for Best Director. Ultimately, Lee lost out to Alfonso Cuaron, Director of Roma.
Interestingly, Lee did not seem to put up a fuss during the announcement of the Best Director award. However, when it came time for the best picture, Lee let his feelings be known when Green Book was announced as the winner.
Lee attempted to storm out of the Dolby Theatre after the announcement, but ultimately stopped after having a heated discussion with one of BlacKkKlansmans producers, Jordan Peele, who won Best Director last year for Get Out. Afterward, Lee returned to his seat, but turned his back to the stage during the acceptance speeches.
Later, in the press room for having won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, Lee, who is an avid New York Knicks fan, stated “I thought I was courtside at the [Madison Square] Garden, and the ref made a bad call.”
The noise I’d been attempting to drown out hit me at full blast when I opened the internets this morning. A brief perusal of the voices in the conversation showed a lot of people agreed with Lee. Though I thoroughly enjoyed BlacKkKlansman, I have yet to see Green Book. After last night, I’m actually more interested in seeing it and deciding for myself if I agree with Lee’s assessment.
What do you think? Was Lee right to be upset? Did Green Book deserve Best Picture? Let us know your thoughts down below or on twitter @lrm_exclusive and @sirjonesiest.
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