Green Book is Oscar Best Picture

Controversy reigns on the night Spike Lee finally wins a writing award

by Jennie Kermode

Spike Lee celebrates his win for Best Adapted Screenplay
Spike Lee celebrates his win for Best Adapted Screenplay Photo: Phil McCarten / ©A.M.P.A.S.

It's hard to imagine a more controversial choice - out of the nominees available - than Green Book for this year's Oscar Best Picture. The film, which has been condemned by the family of Don Shirley, on whose life it is based, also won the award for Best Original Screenplay and, less controversiall saw Mahershala Ali receive the Best Supporting Actor prize - something most viewers agree was well deserved regardless of the subject matter he was working with. The Best Picture win saw the upbeat and warm-hearted mood of many viewers vanish, ending the night with some saying they were still hoping there'd been a mistake like the one in 2017 when La La Land was announced as the winner only for it to be revealed, moments later, that the award was going to Moonlight.

Amatus Sami-Karim and Best Supporting Actor winner Mahershala Ali
Amatus Sami-Karim and Best Supporting Actor winner Mahershala Ali Photo: Kyusung Gong / ©A.M.P.A.S.

"Don Shirley himself told me to not speak to anyone. He told me the story that he wanted to tell... He told me, If you're going to tell the story, you tell it from your father, me. No one else," said writer Nick Vallelonga backstage later, defending the film. "I just kept my word."

The Best Picture announcement followed a popular win for Alfonso Cuarón in the Best Director category, for Roma. Though that film has also had its critics, with some people arguing that it deprives indigenous characters of agency when it's still very hard for indigenous people to tel their own stories in film, it was generally warmly received. "There are no borders or walls that can restrain ingenuity and talent," said Javier Bardem, presenting it with the award for Best Foreign Language Film to Roma. His words echo those of Guillermo Del Toro upon winning Best Director last year for The Shape Of Water: "I am an immigrant...The greatest thing our art does and our industry does is to erase the lines in the sand. We should continue doing that when the world tells us to make them deeper."

"Glenn Close you are my idol and this is not how I wanted it to be!" declared Olivia Colman, apologising as she accepted the award for Best Actress for her work in The Favourite, but Close beamed back at her, clearly as delighted by her win as most of the audience was. "I used to work as a cleaner and I loved that job," Colman continued, "but I won't deny that I used to dream about this."

Rami Malek seemed lost for words upon winning the award for Best Actor at tonight's Oscar ceremony, for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. "I may not have been the obvious choice but I guess it worked out," he managed eventually. He subsequently stumbled and fell off the stage, but immediately received medical attention and seemed fine later in the night.

The first award of the night went to Regina King, named Best Supporting Actress for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk - a very popular decision with the fans. "I'm an example of what it looks like when support and love is poured into someone," she said as she accepted her prize.

Angela Bassett on the Oscars® red carpet
Angela Bassett on the Oscars® red carpet Photo: Kyusung Gong / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Vice won Best Make-Up and Hairstyling for the impressive achievement of transforming Christian Bale into Dick Cheney and also ageing him through several decades. The actor would be difficult to recognise from the film tonight.

Black Panther has made history for winning in the Best Production Design and Best Costume categories - the first time black women (Hannah Beachler and Ruth Carter) have won in either. "When you think it's impossible, remember to say this... I did my best and my best is good enough," said Beachler.

The most popular win of the night was Spike Lee - five times a nominee - finally getting an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay (for BlackKklansman). Thrilled to bits, he ran up onto the stage, jumped up into the air and threw himself bodily at Samuel L Jackson, who seemed as excited as he was. He then gave a passionate speech about the relevance of his film to the present day. "The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilise. Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing," he said.

There was also a lot of audience love for Shallow, from A Star Is Born, winning Best Original Song. "It's not about winning," said a tearful Lady Gaga, reflecting on how many years she had spent working towards this moment. "it's about not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it. It's about how many times you stand up and fight and keep going."

Emilia Clarke arrives on the red carpet of The 91st Oscars® at the Dolby® Theatre in Hollywood.
Emilia Clarke arrives on the red carpet of The 91st Oscars® at the Dolby® Theatre in Hollywood. Photo: Kyusung Gong / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Earlier we checked out the stars arriving on the red carpet. There was a preponderance of pink and pastels there with Emilia Clarke setting the mood in a shimmering, form-fitting outfit, while Billy Porter went in the opposite direction with a smartly tailored jacket and voluminous black skirt. Marie Kondo, whose presence made the Academy nervous about clutter on the red carpet, combined pink and silver to great effect, whilst Michelle Yeoh looked resplendent in a shimmering silver gown with delicate streaks of colour and a chiffon skirt.

Glenn Close's resplendent golden gown made her look like acting royalty and she really had her eyes on the prize. Regina King was always going to be tough to beat in the Best Supporting Actress category. She made an impact on the red carpet in a sharp-cut white dress and was remarking on the fact that the ceremony has no host tonight - instead we'll be moving directly from one set of prize-givers to the next. The Academy had been wanting to make the show shorter in order to keep worldwide audiences there until the end and this did help to speed it up.

The field for nominations - check out the full list here - was wide open this year and it was anyone's guess who would win the big awards. The fact that Oscar voters had been making bolder choices in recent years instead of sticking with tradition also made it hard to guess - some people on the red carpet thought that Black Panther had a real shot at taking Best Picture, and there was also a possibility that the top prize could go to Roma, a controversial choice because it was made from a streaming network (Netflix) and not for cinemas.

Richard E Grant, fresh from his win at the Independent Spirit Awards last night, was looking dapper in a burgundy suit and said he didn't care if he goes home empty handed as long as he got to meet his idol, Barbra Streisand.

Those awards in full:-

Best Picture

Best Director

  • Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Best Documentary

Best Foreign Language Film

Best Animated Feature Film

Best Animated Short Film

Best Documentary Short

  • Period. End Of Sentence

Best Live Action Short Film

  • Skin

Best Original Screenplay

  • Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly, Green Book

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee, BlackKklansman

Best Cinematography

Best Film Editing

Best Visual Effects

Best Production Design

Best Costume Design

Best Make-Up and Hairstyling

Best Sound Editing

Best Sound Mixing

Best Original Score

Best Original Song

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