In the view of Vulture‘s Mark Harris, Green Book’s Oscar campaign hasn’t necessarily derailed. Which is another way of saying it may be on track. Harris actually allows that the film’s A+ CinemaScore “suggests that the audience (at least the primarily older, largely white audience that showed up) is loving what it sees.”
HE to Harris #1: That’s been obvious from the get-go, bruh. I was there for the first big Toronto Film Festival screening, and people were levitating when it ended. I was told yesterday that a paying audience somewhere in the Hartford area clapped when it ended. Last month my 30 year-old son and his 29 year-old wife told me they “LOVED” it. And look at what just happened with the National Board of Review! But you know what I love? The way you indicate that the film’s admirers are behind the curve…on the slightly doddering, fuddy-dud side.
Harris says that Universal is hoping to ape the award-season success of last year’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, “which made more than half its money after its ninth week of release and earned Academy Awards for Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. There were loud critical complaints that in Three Billboards, the black characters were plot devices, abstractions designed to facilitate the growth curve of the white protagonists. That didn’t matter to Academy voters, nor will it matter to some of them that Green Book is a movie that could have been made 30 years ago.”
HE to Harris #2: That was one of the first things out of my mouth last September, Mark. That except for the material dealing with Don Shirley being gay, Green Book could have been made in 1987. But — hello? — it’s still a really good film. It walks softly and uses a deft touch, applying just the right English and timing to make this kind of story deliver just so. And it doesn’t harm anyone. And it believes in mutual respect and compassion. And it isn’t selling a “white savior” or a “magic negro” story. It’s just about a couple of 1962 guys, one of them being a blustery old-school racist and the other being on the priggish, constipated side. It delivers in low-key fashion from start to finish, and it believes in modesty and hugs and the taking of small steps.
“But Academy voters themselves, almost 30 percent of whom have joined only in the last four years, are changing, too, so who knows?,” Harris writes with a note of hope and optimism. He means that the New Academy Kidz might push back against Green Book while embracing, say, Barry Jenkins‘ If Beale Street Could Talk, a movie that muses along and winds up flatlining toward the end, like a Wong Kar Wai flick that’s run out of gas.
“It used to be a certainty that you’d never go broke selling white people stories of their own redemption, and that may still be true,” Harris allows. “But in 2018, it suddenly seems possible that you’ll never get rich that way either.”