News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Oscars 2019: Reaction To Best Picture Award For 'Green Book'


The Monday after the Oscars is full of red carpet recaps, Twitter threads and think pieces and occasionally some big snub or snafu that has everybody talking. Last night, it was a surprise win in the final category, Best Picture.


JULIA ROBERTS: And the Oscar goes to "Green Book."


SHAPIRO: Many film critics criticized that decision, and so did director Spike Lee. His film, "BlacKkKlansman," was also in the running for Best Picture last night. Thirty years ago, his film "Do The Right Thing" didn't get a nomination the year the Best Picture Oscar went to "Driving Miss Daisy." Here's what Spike Lee said to reporters after the ceremony.


SPIKE LEE: I'm snake bit. I mean, every time somebody's driving somebody, I lose.

SHAPIRO: Twice a story of racial reconciliation told through a white person's perspective won in a year that Lee offered a much sharper critique of race in America. For more, we have reached film and TV critic Rebecca Theodore-Vachon. She has written for The New York Times and Forbes among others. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

REBECCA THEODORE-VACHON: Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: What was your reaction when you heard Julia Roberts say those words, "Green Book"?

THEODORE-VACHON: I actually wasn't surprised. I had tweeted earlier a few hours before the broadcast for people to prepare themselves for the fact that "Green Book" could, in fact, win Best Picture - and it did.

SHAPIRO: Put this into context for us in the broader picture of last night's Oscars because the winners included Regina King, Rami Malek, Alfonso Cuaron, Spike Lee - a group of people from very different backgrounds representing films that tell nuanced stories about diverse experiences.

And then the top honor is given to a film that many people have criticized for being an overly simplistic story about race told from the perspective of a white savior. So how do you put that one award into the broader context of the entire Oscar ceremony last night?

THEODORE-VACHON: (Laughter) Well, I think, you know, there's a lot of things going on. I mean, as far as the acting wins for major categories, we had three people of color. So there's definitely been some gains as far as the representation of people of color winning. But as far as "Green Book," I think this is a reflection of the type of movies people want to see when it comes to racism or racial conciliation.

"Green Book" is a feel-good movie. It doesn't really require a lot of critical thinking or self-analysis. You know, people walk out of the movie feeling that, oh, well, racism is over, we're good. So I think those are the things that are going on.

SHAPIRO: History was made in other ways last night, too. Hannah Beachler won for production design. Ruth Carter won for costume design. Both of them worked on the movie "Black Panther." They were the first African-American women to win Oscars in those categories. In fact, only one other African-American woman in history has won in a non-acting category. Do those breakthroughs in any way balance your disappointment at the final award given out last night?

THEODORE-VACHON: Well, for me, it balances it out. Like I said, I pretty much expected "Green Book" to win, so I pretty much made peace with that. But I do feel that the wins for Ruth Carter and Hannah Beachler were especially significant, having two black women winning in non-acting categories. And I feel that, you know, Hannah's acceptance speech was so beautiful and really highlighted the importance of how male creatives - Ryan Coogler, who is the director of "Black Panther" - hired both Hannah and Ruth to do the costume design and the production design.

And it really opens up a larger conversation of how, you know, I see it as a call of action. We have, you know, Ryan Coogler, Barry Jenkins, who has been, you know, a very vocal advocate for women directors and for black women, behind the camera and in front of the camera, as well as Jordan Peele.

These three black creatives are using their platform and using their influence to really give black women and women in general opportunities. And I think that is very important. I think that's something that - a conversation that definitely needs to go past the Oscar wins.

SHAPIRO: There's a long history of the Oscars giving the Best Picture award to a movie that in hindsight, consensus says, was probably the wrong pick. So if that turns out to be the case with the 2019 Oscars, can people just kind of shrug and say, well, that's what the Oscars do, they pick a movie that a few years later everybody thinks was the wrong one?

THEODORE-VACHON: Right. I mean, because it's all subjective, right? I mean, the movies that we love, the movies that we hate. I mean, I know there were a lot of people that were rooting for "A Star Is Born." There were people that were rooting for "Bohemian Rhapsody." And, you know, this happens every year with the Oscars.

Whichever picture wins Best Picture, there are always people who will feel that the movie that they loved should have won. But yeah, we'll have to see. I think time will tell. History will show if "Green Book" was, in fact, the correct pick for Best Picture.

SHAPIRO: That's film and TV critic Rebecca Theodore-Vachon. Thank you so much.

THEODORE-VACHON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.