NY Times Front Page: 'Green Book' Racially 'Retrograde,' 'Borderline Bigoted'

February 26th, 2019 8:05 PM

New York Times Hollywood reporter Brooks Barnes made Tuesday’s front page with a petulant look at the Academy Awards and the “borderline bigoted” Oscar-winning movie Green Book, in “Diversity Ruled at the Oscars. Then Came a Final Plot Twist.”

Barnes sucked up to director Spike Lee, who made a public scene upon hearing that “Green Book” won (and his film lost), leaving an unanswered question: Where does Spike Lee’s concern for representation end and his self-interest in winning Best Picture begin (click “expand”):

Something seismic was happening during the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night. The Hollywood establishment, excoriated for its longtime exclusion of women and minorities, recognized African-American production design and costume virtuosos for the first time. Asian-American filmmakers were honored. A movie about a gay rock star collected four trophies.


But then came “Green Book.”

In a choice that prompted immediate blowback -- from, among others, the director Spike Lee, who threw up his hands in frustration and started to walk out of the theater -- the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave the best-picture Oscar to a segregation-era buddy film. While admired by some as a feel-good depiction of people uniting against the odds, the movie was criticized by others as a simplistic take on race relations, both woefully retrograde and borderline bigoted.

It was the ultimate Lucy-pulling-away-the-football moment for those who had hoped the film academy was going to reveal itself as a definitively progressive organization. That the 2017 selection of “Moonlight” as best picture wasn’t a fluke. That the efforts to diversify its membership -- albeit still 69 percent male and 84 percent white -- had been transformational.

Barnes replaced questions of artistic excellence with angles on intersectionality with another air kiss in the direction of Spike Lee:

Adding to the anger over “Green Book” were the other choices available. Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther” was a cultural and commercial phenomenon, shattering a myth about the overseas viability of movies with Afrocentric story lines. “Roma,” a nuanced examination of class that was made by an almost entirely Latino cast and crew, had been showered with honors at the pre-Oscars award shows.

And Mr. Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” about an African-American police officer who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan with the help of a Jewish surrogate, was a chance for the academy to recognize one of cinema’s singular, groundbreaking filmmakers -- one who had been repeatedly overlooked in the past.

After noting many black figures praised the movie, Barnes forwarded some insults of the flick from Twitter and elsewhere:

Frustration over the celebration of “Green Book” was intensified by the racial makeup of the people who made it. The filmmaking team was predominantly white -- director, writers, lead producers.

“Green Book is an inspirational tale of how we can end racism if everyone, regardless of background, just works together,” Jason O. Gilbert, a television writer and an author, said on Twitter. “So please welcome the stage the producers of Green Book: 1000 white guys who were all born in 1961.”


Dr. Boyd, the U.S.C. professor, said that, in part, he saw the selection of “Green Book” as pushback by older, more conservative voters.

“There are inherently people in the academy who think the organization’s diversity efforts are going too far,” he said by phone on Monday.

Barnes continued the racial bean-counting:

It was Mr. Lee’s first Oscar win. He shared the prize with his fellow writers Kevin Willmott, who is black, and Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz, who are both white.

Apparently, Spike Lee is  the only person whose opinion matters:

Mr. Lee added, however, that the academy was changing, noting the organization’s aggressive efforts to diversify its membership after the #OscarsSoWhite outcries of 2015 and 2016. At least “BlacKkKlansman” was nominated this time, he said, so it wasn’t a complete example of history’s repeating itself.

Barnes has long been on P.C. patrol, scolding movies for offending the ever-shifting liberal zeitgeist. In a July 2011 brief on box-office receipts: “....it was the unexpectedly strong performance of ‘Horrible Bosses’ -- noted by critics for its homophobia and misogyny -- that caught Hollywood’s attention.”

In August 2017 he accused Kathryn Bigelow, director of “Detroit,” of directing while white: “Ms. Bigelow’s film has received ecstatic reviews over all, but a large part of the conversation so far has focused on the appropriateness of a mostly white filmmaking team tackling such a painful moment in African-American history.