Spike Lee isn't a fan of the newly-crowned Best Picture Oscar winner Green Book and isn't afraid of letting everyone know, either. Peter Farrelly's historical drama is already being dubbed "the new Crash", following its victory at the 2019 Oscars ceremony last night and its additional wins for screenwriting and Mahershala Ali's supporting performance. The film was generally well-received by critics on the film festival circuit, but was later criticized for changing the facts about its subjects, especially pianist Don Shirley (Ali), to better suit a feel-good, yet otherwise retrograde and hollow narrative about racism in America.
Things didn't improve for Green Book after the Oscar race started heating up either, as the movie found itself plagued with controversies involving an anti-Muslim tweet posted by cowriter Nick Vallelonga, a much older incident where Farrelly flashed Cameron Diaz prior to making their hit 1998 comedy There's Something About Mary, and costar Viggo Mortensen saying the n-word during a Q&A after a screening of the film. Despite all that, Green Book went on to win big prizes at events like the Golden Globes and BAFTAs, before ultimately being dubbed Best Picture by the Academy, ahead of films like Black Panther, Roma, and Lee's own historical drama BlacKkKlansman.
Lee infamously went through a similar experience thirty years ago, when his film Do the Right Thing - now regarded as a landmark piece of commentary on racism in America - was largely overlooked during awards season in favor of Driving Miss Daisy, a movie that Green Book has often been compared to in an unflattering manner. The filmmaker made it no secret that he isn't a fan of Farrelly's memoir ahead of the Oscar ceremony and, according to Deadline, was clearly upset when Green Book won Best Picture. He reportedly stood up and tried to storm out of the auditorium, before getting into what seemed like a terse conversation with Jordan Peele (who produced BlacKkKlansman and followed Lee when he walked off). Lee returned thereafter, but had his back turned to the stage during the Green Book team's acceptance speech.
After the Oscars show, however, Lee expressed his displeasure with Green Book by cracking jokes about the film and saluting people like April Reign (the founder of the #OscarsSoWhite movement) and Cheryl Boone Isaacs (former president of the Academy and head of its PR branch) for helping to diversify the Oscar nominee lineups in recent years. For more, watch the clips below.
Interviewer: is there something about Green Book that offends you?— two yards ahead in the brain (@mxr_ly_) February 25, 2019
Spike Lee: pic.twitter.com/fXy2TLM7yc
All in all, Green Book's Best Picture win concluded what was a pretty rough Oscar season across the board - one in which the Academy made several mistakes in an attempt to battle the annual Oscar show's dwindling TV ratings over the last decade especially. At the same time, there were a number of welcome developments that transpired during the Oscar ceremony itself, including Lee winning his first Academy Award for cowriting BlacKkKlansman. Other noteworthy victories at the event include Black Panther becoming the first Marvel Studios film to win any Oscars, with costume designer Ruth E. Carter and production designer Hannah Beachler among those who took home the gold on Sunday night. Meanwhile, Alfonso Cuarón won Oscars for his cinematography and direction on Roma, marking his second win for Best Director and making him the latest Mexican filmmaker to take home the honor in the last several years.
As for Green Book: Lee certainly wasn't the only one unimpressed by its Best Picture win and, as mentioned, the film is already being dismissed as the weakest Oscar champion in some time by many journalists and movie critics. Time will tell how history looks back on this year's Oscars showdown but, for the time being, it really does feel like a repeat of what happened thirty years ago, and not in a good way.