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‘Green Book’ Wins Best Picture Oscar Despite Rocky Campaign

Peter Farrelly's Universal Pictures release about a road trip in the early 1960s American South had won top prizes at the Golden Globes and PGA Awards.

“Green Book”

Universal Pictures

Green Book,” directed by Peter Farrelly, has won Best Picture at the 91st Academy Awards. It’s the expected culmination of an awards season that the Universal Pictures release, about the relationship between jazz artist Doctor Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his driver Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), has largely dominated. It won Best Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes and took the top prize at the Producers Guild Awards.

Farrelly’s film won three Oscars on the night, including Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali and Best Original Screenplay. Despite the Globes and PGA wins, a rocky awards season campaign suggested that “Green Book” might falter before Oscar night. Mortensen’s use the N-word at a post-screening Q&A, the repeated complaints of Shirley’s family about the film’s inaccuracies and the lack of outreach to them by the filmmakers, and the revelation of co-screenwriter Nick Vallelonga (who originated the story of “Green Book,” based on the life of his father) supported Donald Trump’s claim that thousands of Muslims in Jersey City cheered as the Twin Towers fell on 9/11 all spelled disaster. But none of that could derail the film’s path to Best Picture.

“Green Book” beat out seven other nominees for Best Picture: “Black Panther,” “BlacKkKlansman,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Favourite,” “Roma,” “A Star Is Born,” and “Vice.” It received five nominations — its closest rival for the Best Picture prize, “Roma” tied with “The Favourite” for the most nominations of the night, as each scored 10 nods.

The biggest takeaway from this year’s slate of Best Picture nominees is how well the big studios fared, with Disney-Marvel Studios (“Black Panther”), 20th Century Fox (“Bohemian Rhapsody”), Universal Pictures (“Green Book”), and Warner Bros. (“A Star Is Born”) all represented — five, if you include Netflix for “Roma,” which, though barely removed from being an upstart, may be the biggest player of all. The other three nominees had boutique distributors in Focus Features (“BlacKkKlansman”), Fox Searchlight (“The Favourite”), and Annapurna Pictures (“Vice”).

The Oscar season’s agenda was largely set from the two-week span of the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals in early September. “Roma” won the Golden Lion, the top prize at Venice, while “Green Book” won the Grolsch People’s Voice Award at TIFF. With some variations here and there, the awards season largely remained a horse race between those two winners.

The 2019 Academy Awards returned to their usual home at the Dolby Theatre in the Hollywood and Highland Center on Hollywood Blvd., on Sunday, February 24.

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