Look, I Didn’t Even See GREEN BOOK, But I Can Already Tell You It’s Not A Better Movie Than BLACK PANTHER 2

I jest, of course, with the false equivalency; some films are meant to spawn sequels and some aren’t. There probably will never be a ROMA II or a RETURN OF THE BLACKkKLANSMAN. It is all but certain there will be a BLACK PANTHER 2, and provided that the world doesn’t blow up + Ryan Coogler stays on the project, it will be a very good movie. I’m confident in that as future fact, just as I’m confident that climate change is real, the next BATMAN movie will show us his parents dying again, and Starfleet Academy will be founded in the San Francisco Bay Area sometime in the mid-22nd Century.

The Academy Awards is not a functioning democracy, and we shouldn’t expect it to be. It is not a strategically-located nation-state, it’s a frakking awards show. It need not be held to any standard of fairness, because it’s a show where people wear evening gowns which cost as much as a house and that’s literally the best thing about the show.

But GREEN BOOK? Really? Are you sure? Are you sure it’s not like that time when LA LA LAND’s name was called but the winner turned out to be MOONLIGHT?

This year I saw 1/4 of the Best Picture nominees, which is more of ’em than I usually see, yet still insufficient to make any claim that I know what I’m talking about as far as responsible film critique goes. BUT! Without even watching those other six flicks, one can reasonably assess the pros and cons and handicap the odds for each nominee, based on, y’know, how the Oscars usually work:

BLACK PANTHER*
Pro: Made a gazillion dollars, changed history
Con: Is a comic book movie

BLACKkKLANSMAN
Pro: Is a Spike Lee Joint, and is about some real serious stuff
Con: Is a Spike Lee Joint (that’s just how it is for people who strongly brand themselves; the perception of their brand is always gonna subsume any objective assessment of the work)

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
Pro: Is a biopic about that famous rock band who do that song that everybody knows
Con: It’s about rock stars. Let me guess, do they have creative differences and then sing a big song in the end? Big whoop.

THE FAVOURITE
Pro: Fancy and British, and the Brits are good at making Best Pictures
Con: The title itself suggests favoritism and possibly collusion

GREEN BOOK
Pro: Has two really good lead actors in it, looks feel-good-ish
Con: Was clearly pitched as “DRIVING MISS DAISY but the opposite”

ROMA*
Pro: Is a startling excellent film
Con: Has no star actors, is kind of a bummer

A STAR IS BORN
Pro: Looks delightful, and is on its third remake, so it must be good, right?
Con: But exactly HOW DELIGHTFUL IS IT? I need hard data points.

VICE
Pro: Classy cast, important topic
Con: Dick Cheney’s antics look kinda quaint compared to our current reality/reality-show, do they not?

* – indicates “I actually properly saw this one

To me, the charisma of Ali and Mortensen couldn’t overcome the fact that GREEN BOOK looked re-treaded AF. Plus, it was directed by one of the Farrelly Brothers, the team who gave us such important cultural gifts as DUMB & DUMBER and SHALLOW HAL. But it won. So that’s history now. But let’s look at some of the Much More Important History that also got made last night in Los Angeles Land:

Spike Lee should and hopefully will one day win Best Director for his body of work. The Oscars sometimes give out those “body of work” awards to someone who’s been making great stuff for a long time, irrespective of the movie they actually made that particular year. And he really should’ve won it because of this:

Respect.

How can you not want the guy in the Prince-inspired purple outfit to get on stage as often as possible!?!? But I’m happy that he and his co-writers won the Best Screenplay award, even though, again, didn’t see the movie. Alfonso Cuaron fully deserved the Best Director award, both because he is consistently excellent and man, he directed the shit out of that ROMA film. So that in no way counts as a snub, and I still believe Spike will have his day, because of DO THE RIGHT THING, BAMBOOZLED, HE GOT GAME, INSIDE MAN, and on and on, and yes, GIRL 6 (a personal #FavoriteFilmNoOneElseLikes).

Didn’t see BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (personal bias due to karaoke over-exposure) but am happy for Remi Malek: I am a fan of his acting, and a bigger fan of Freddy Mercury. It’s just that one song, honestly. Also pleased to see BAO win, if only because “bao” is one of those words in the Mandarin language that is associated with pure joy. (Kondo Level 10+ kind of joy, I’m saying). And also:

SPIDER-MAN WON AN OSCAR. IN FACT, ALL THE SPIDER-PEOPLE WON AN OSCAR! I BELIEVE IT IS THE FIRST SPIDER-THING EVER TO DO THAT!

Lastly and most importantly, let’s revisit those awards that BLACK PANTHER did win, because as a film fan/maker/critic I was going in full #TeamWakanda and #OscarsSoBlackPanther despite the Best Pic award being a long longshot for Ryan Coogler & Company. But they sure as heck did not lose:

ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN
Ruth E. Carter

If something is Afro-Futurist AF, is it acceptable to call it AFAF? AAVE experts, anyone?
Yup. Got all those costumes exactly perfectly right, NBD.

ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN
Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart

I really dug M’Baku’s throne room.
Shuri’s wonderful workspace.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Ludwig Göransson

In BLACK PANTHER, the sense of community and craftspersonship emanates from nearly every frame of the film. There’s a reason it’s called a film CREW, and in an ideal filmmaking world, this is what the crew does: Conceive the story. Build a set. Dress the actors in something beautiful. Make sure there’s a cool-looking gadget back there in the corner of Shuri’s lab, ’cause the shot won’t be the same without it. Choose not just the serviceable mask, but the mask that is exactly right. Give huge respect to the stuntmen (who absolutely should have their own prime-time Oscar award category) who supervise the fights and the movement and all the really dangerous activity. Light that sucker, roll sound, roll camera, and ACTION.

That’s how it’s supposed to work, that’s what Coogler and crew achieved. Barring the end of the world, I’m sure BLACK PANTHER 2 will be more of the same, but better.


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