Awards season finally came to a bitter end on Sunday night at the 91st Academy Awards, when Green Book won Best Picture, beating out the heavily beloved Roma to mixed reactions. Some expressed pleasure at the win, others were outraged. Many immediately called it the worst winner since Crash, while others defended it, calling it a “nice” movie and glad that an old-fashioned film took the top prize. Between that and Bohemian Rhapsody picking up the most awards of the night, it felt like a bad dream for some viewers.
But what happens now? The dust has settled, the fighting has mostly ceased, and the campaigns have ended. Green Book will be used in trivia games about Best Picture winners, and there’s nothing that can be done to change that. Sunday’s chaotic night reflects the wild state of the current Academy, and the division within it.
We’ll never see the final voting tallies; we’ll never know just how close Roma or Black Panther or BlacKkKlansman or The Favourite came to winning, but we can look at the winning slate and analyze how the Academy has been changing. If you look at those damned “anonymous Oscar voter ballots”, they show a pattern: many of the voters who supported Green Book voiced displeasure at being told what to like. Ultimately, there is a generational factor in what happened. The old guard lashed out against the new guard, and with Green Book being the only old-school movie in the race that didn’t have an accused pedophile as director, they rallied behind it.
The new guard, the younger, more diverse voters, were likely split. Sure, Roma was likely the overall favorite, but what else did they go for? The Favourite, BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, A Star is Born, or even Vice? There were many films in the race that they could’ve supported, whereas the old guard only had one. This wasn’t like last year, where they had The Post, Darkest Hour, and Dunkirk. It was easy for older voters to throw their weight behind one movie and eke out a victory. You could call it a “Trumpian” backlash to the more recent Best Picture winners like Moonlight and The Shape of Water, selections arguably from the younger voters; the more international voters.
The Academy is in flux right now. It’s changing rapidly, and you can see that in the nominees of each category. A majority of the Best Cinematography nominated films were international; black-and-white foreign language film distributed by Netflix was nominated for ten awards; a film by one of the most bizarre art-house directors currently working became a major contender; Disney/Pixar lost Best Animated Feature; Spike Lee won a competitive Oscar; and Black Panther won three awards, something that would’ve been unimaginable even five years ago. Sunday night may have been the last stand of the old guard, as more and more voters are retired from not working in the past few years.
The Academy is at war with itself at the moment, as Sunday’s night winners proved. What happens next year? Who knows. Maybe the more diverse and younger voting base takes over completely, maybe the older types continue to fight for power. Whatever happens, you can be sure about one thing: Netflix will be back. If voters thought the campaign for Roma was bad, imagine how excessive the campaign for a Martin Scorsese film starring Robert de Niro and Al Pacino is going to be.
Netflix wants that Best Picture Oscar, and they’re gonna get it at all costs. Whenever they get it, it’ll be a sign that the old guard – the voters of Green Book, people like Steven Spielberg who preach against streaming – will have followed the dinosaurs to extinction.