The Oscar win of the Green Paper proves that the Academy, like America, still has a long way to go


The 91st Academy Awards ceremony ended not with a bang but with a groan. That's at least the sound I heard – and emitted, and inferred from Twitter's reactions – when Julia Roberts, America's eternal darling, tore up the last envelope and announced the big winner. It was a discouraging end to what had been, all told, a reasonably bearable Oscar night. Yes, Bohemian Rhapsody picked up four awards, which is embarrassing. But the ceremony itself was lively and enjoyable. The absence of an organizer did not hurt him, as did the absence of viral comedy routines and spooky montages. In addition, a wide range of films ended up winning, with the Academy awarding prizes to Black Panther, Roma, Spider-Man: Towards the Spider-Verse, First man, If Beale Street could speakand, in the shock of the most welcome night, the sublime tragicomic performance of Olivia Colman in The favourite. Everything was going as well as expected. And then they had to go and give the best picture to Green paper, this street drama comedy about racism, a zinger and a bucket of KFC at a time.

It would be an exaggeration to call the victory a big surprise. Whoever was paying attention to this seemingly endless season of rewards knew that Green paper was always a real threat, especially in a year without any clear candidate. (The fact that the eight best film nominees ended up winning at least one Oscar is a testament to the closeness of this race, the excitement that reigned around him.) In the end, he was probably naive to think, like many others The Academy was going to yield its first prize to a black and white film in foreign language released by Netflix. But fearing and accepting the very real possibility of a Green paper The victory did not lessen the spur of what is really happening.

To these eyes, Green paper is not a horrible film. The two main performances by Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, twice winner of the Best Supporting Actor Award, are more nuanced than they were. And as a long time fan of the Farrelly brothers, I will personally admit that I found it very difficult. little fun to see a film about social problems Hollywood self-congratulating with a main character big enough and clumsy enough to have appeared in, say, Kingpin. Hell, it's probably not even the bottom of Best Picture 2019 barrel; this disgrace is reserved to Bohemian Rhapsody, glorified parody of biopic clichés, accidental Walking hard… trying to pretend to be the real thing. But if Green paper It was not the worst of the eight films, it was certainly the most retrograde, in his ideas and in his cinema. You look at it and think, "I thought we had gone beyond that kind of thing" – an appalling feeling in 2019.

Green paper
Photo: Universal Pictures

In one way or another, and not just for comparison, many other candidates felt intrinsically modern. Green paperThe most obvious counterpoint of the range, the yin to its yang, was the BlacKkKlansman, a very different era article on racism in America – and that was almost felt, in the final flash of Charlottesville, as a preventive corrective of the more implicit description of intolerance in Peter Farrelly's film. But the Academy did not need to hand out Best Picture to Lee to celebrate a movie more like the here and now, to honor something more relevant. They could have gone with Black Panther, or The favourite, or Roma-New films in perspective, angle, style and / or publication strategy. same Vice, for its flaws, looks like a movie that speaks to the present. And A star is born, at the very least, is built around the supernova charisma of a contemporary pop star.

Faced with these options, the Academy has instead opted for the comfort of a step back. Some have already compared Green paper among the most notorious winners of the best film, Paul Haggis' 2005 crash, which also revolves around an unspoken and simplistic "can not we all get along?" But Farrelly's film is closer to the tone and spirit of a Hollywood racial drama of the late 1980s, the genre designed to reinforce the so-called road as a country by inventing or dramatizing inspiring stories of racism overcome – think Driving Miss Daisy redux, like Spike basically joked last night. It's the last century, the way Green paper puts his famous black subject, Don Shirley, not only at the heart of his story, but also figuratively, giving priority to the emotional journey of his white employee, Tony The Lip. (That no one mentions Shirley in Best Picture's acceptance speech, noting that "It all started with Viggo Mortensen," betrays where the interests are.) Similarly, Tony is not a white savior figure in the broad sense of the term Doc's ass again and again? If the film has a philosophy, intentional or not, is that the old man saw a racist whose prejudices are broken by a person of color really exceptional, a fantasy Lee himself dismantled in a conversation about the black stars in Do the right thingand that does not exactly correspond to the reaction of this country to the election of its first black president, a man quite exceptional in many respects.

There is something wrong with Trumpian at home Green paperVictory – and not only because Oscar-winning screenwriter Nick Vallelonga is a spirit related to anti-Muslim conspiracy theory. As our current president, the film went through a controversial campaign: beyond these tweets suppressed, the public relations team had to face the movie star who was pronouncing the word N on stage, the contesting Shirley family publicly characterize the central role. and with the discovery discovered that Farrelly used to whip his penis on the set as a joke. Any other year, only one of these scandals could have reversed the chances of the film at the Oscars. But Green paper has survived everything. Sounds familiar?

To be clear, I do not mean that it's a film with a sensitivity of right, exactly. In any case, it is well intentional – against intolerance and for equality, with few things that could be called explicitly racist (even if these are scenes where Tony reproaches the Doc for not know ").[his] people's music or forcing him to try fried chicken are very worthy of cringe). If something, Green paper feels like a very centralizing Democrat choice: a film for people who consider themselves as liberal, but who also feel nervous about a "radical" identity politics This is a film that Bradley Whitford's character get out to boast of seeing three times in the theaters.

Green paper
Photo: Universal Pictures

No, if the election of 2016 until the end of last night's Oscars has a strong smell, it is rather the rejection of progress and the reaffirmation of old-school, cinematographic and cultural values. When Moonlight won two years ago, it seemed revolutionary, as a turning point for the Academy. Here is a truly independent film, made with a small budget, about black identity and the strange desire – the kind of film, in other words, that never wins the award for best film and is generally considered as lucky to have even been nominated. (This is also the rare case where the Oscars honored what could be the best film of the year, which is a real revolution for this organization.) Now, I doubt that those who voted for Green paper this year staged something like a conscious revolt or a reaction against Moonlight and all his victory was destined for the film culture and the apparently evolving preferences of the Academy. But to choose Green paper among a range of cooler, more daring films is to express unconsciously the nostalgia of another time – of a film that captures the sensation, but also perhaps the outdated cultural attitudes, of the cinema of yesterday. Even if you do not see anything political in the victory, it represents at least a regression taste: Make good movies again, etc.

There has been a lot of talk, both here and elsewhere, about the "new academy" – about how the organization reorganized following the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, inviting members from around the world to try to give at least the appearance of diversifying its older, white and male members. Many, including myself, probably attributed MoonlightThe victory for these new voices, including a group of international writers with sensations supposedly much colder than those who have selected Oscar winners for decades. Finally, we thought that the Academy would go beyond outdated ideas about what makes a movie worth. Without knowing who voted for what and why, Green paperThe victory suggests that the new Academy is not so different, at least as far as voting habits are concerned, from the old Academy. This suggests that this group still has a long way to go – and perhaps the Oscars, like the country they are standing in, are slowly moving forward, taking a step backward for every step forward. For more than one reason, let's hope the results will be better in 2020.

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