‘Green Book’ best picture Oscar provokes backlash from film’s detractors
Given the fraught topic of race and racism in America, it should surprise no one that the best picture Oscar for “Green Book” is now surrounded by controversy.
The movie about an Italian-American bouncer who chauffeurs an African-American pianist around the Jim Crow South — based on a true story — has had its share of critics since its release.
But the reaction was magnified when the movie took best picture honors at Sunday night’s Academy Awards, as well as a best supporting actor award for Mahershala Ali, who played Dr. Donald Shirley, the pianist.
While hailed as a tribute to racial tolerance by its makers and stars, “Green Book” also was widely criticized as an outdated, sentimentalized movie full of racial stereotypes.
what’s funny about the green book win is I’m pretty sure hundreds of ancient white men in the academy voted for it thinking it would send a powerful message against trump
— Natalie Shure (@nataliesurely) February 25, 2019
Some of the musician’s relatives took issue with the story’s accuracy, while others complained that the real Green Book, which helped African-Americans navigate the American South more safely in the Jim Crow era, barely got a mention in the movie.
So it’s disheartening to see something like #GreenBook the film show such blatant disregard for the real Green Book, its creator Victor Hugo Green, Dr. Don Shirley and the countless Black folks who relied on the Green Book.
— Kimberly ??♀️ (@KimberlyWriter) February 25, 2019
Want to learn more about #OscarAwards winning film #GreenBook, check out: https://t.co/WoNn2PXOhq. Also, if you’re in the DC area, @NMAAHC has an interactive display devoted to the history and impact of the guide.
— ?️ Jeannine Hunter (@jeanninehunter) February 25, 2019
“BlacKkKlansman” director Spike Lee was visibly angry when the best picture Oscar went to “Green Book.” Seated in the audience, Lee waved his hands in disgust and appeared to try to walk out of the Dolby Theatre.
"Every time someone’s driving somebody, I lose." For Spike Lee, this year's #Oscars veered from joy to disappointment. @AP's @lynnelber considers the “BlacKkKlansman” director's roller-coaster evening: https://t.co/fDzbGcuyzE pic.twitter.com/XuETcCgTD6
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 25, 2019
BuzzFeed News helpfully summed up all the controversies dogging the movie, including allegations of racism, sexual harassment and Islamophobia on the part of the movie’s creative team.
From Viggo Mortensen using the n-word to writer-producers Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga having to answer for past behavior, #Oscars Best Picture winner "Green Book" has brought quite a few awards season scandals with it https://t.co/fNLOB5GH52
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) February 25, 2019
Other tweets instructed people to skip the movie and see a Smithsonian Channel documentary on the Green Book instead.
— sugar spell it out (@littlelostsunny) February 25, 2019
Others recommended the New York Public Library’s online archive of actual Green Books from the 1930s to the 1960s.
— Cassia Noëlle✨??♀️? (@helloitscassia) February 25, 2019
In a column for the Hollywood Reporter in January, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar defended the movie.
— Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (@kaj33) January 15, 2019
In January, Patrick Bochy, executive administrator at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, gave a presentation on the Green Book at the Lincoln Highway Experience, 3435 U.S. Route 30, Unity.
Green Book listings for Western Pennsylvania were concentrated in Pittsburgh’s Hill District but also included establishments in Washington. Later, the Carlton Motel in North Huntingdon — though listed as Irwin — was added because of its proximity to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter .